Monday, May 09, 2016

Goodreads, Ebooks, and an Unexpected Price to Pay

If you are an author on Goodreads (or an extremely voracious reader like myself) you may have notice over the past couple days that ebook giveaways are starting to roll out. Goodreads giveaways have always been close to my heart--it's what got me started on the road to semi-pro book reviews (not totally pro--I still only get paid in free books). And I own a Kindle, so ebook giveaways just seem to fit perfectly.

Until it doesn't.

There are a lot of people that benefit from the new arrangement, most importantly the readers. The person that gets the short end of the bookmark? Writers. Specifically, independent writers who may have a small or nonexistent marketing budget for their book. Why am I talking about marketing budgets? Because Goodreads charges a flat $119 fee for listing an ebook giveaway for up to 100 copies (print giveaways are still free because the giveaway host has to purchase and ship the books themselves).

What do you get for this fee? The convenience of not having to deal with the whole giveaway thing once you pay up. You don't have to go into Amazon and gift the books, you don't have to do anything but flash the cash. Sounds like a sweet deal... if you have never bothered to do any marketing for your book before. What independent authors know is that this is just another exploitative fee: "Pay us and we'll do it all for you!" When in fact it would probably be easier to gift ebooks myself, if I chose to host a giveaway--and I wouldn't have to give away 100 copies just to get my money's worth.

But surely you get something more for $119, right? These 100 copies will show up as sales!
Uh... nope. Not going to happen.

Okay. Then at least if the giveaway winner reviews the book on Amazon, it will be marked as a verified review!
Again, probably not. If KOLL/KU reviews aren't marked as verified, these won't be either (and reviewers can turn this label off if they choose).

Normally I wouldn't be this outspoken about something like this, because if it isn't for me, I just wouldn't use it. But I want independent authors to be aware of what they are really getting for this fee. Take the case of my haiku collection Unfolding Life. I published it on Amazon and within the first 90 days hosted free days through Kindle Unlimited. Those first free days yielded around 90 downloads, and they counted as sales (only in the free store, but still...). I didn't have to spend time contacting each person to give them a copy, I didn't have to pay any money to promote it, and I was working only with social media promotion as a completely unknown writer. I'll tell you that subsequent free days for this book and my other works have not yielded this high of download numbers, but my point is that you don't need to, nor should you, pay someone to give away your work. Because let's be honest, how many of those 100 giveaway winners are really going to review your book on Goodreads and Amazon? I know I make an effort to read and review all the free books I get, but I am probably in the minority.

This new rollout isn't entirely without merit. It does give authors and readers another option for participating in book giveaways. But it's comparable to traditional publishing deals where authors get cents on the dollar in royalties for ebook sales when it costs the publisher practically nothing to produce and sell. It can get your book exposure, but it's not going to do any favors for your wallet.

These last couple weeks have sucked in general. And when I saw this, I thought I could have another tool to happily add to my marketing bag. Sadly, this news just sucks too. 

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