Saturday 2 February 2013

Running an ad on Goodreads: my experience

Goodreads ad

Goodreads is a social network I have been trying to get to grips with for some time. For those of you who have yet to delve into its wonders, it can be summarised as Facebook for book lovers. It has all the trappings of a social network (profiles, timelines, comments, 'likes', friends and so on) but is exclusively about books. It has a large number of members and most books available today are listed on the site, so it's a brilliant tool both for book discovery and--theoretically--book promotion.

The great thing about Goodreads is that when someone adds a book to their 'to read' shelf, or reviews it, that information is propagated to their network (potentially via Facebook and Twitter as well). This can create a viral ripple effect through which hundreds or thousands of new readers can discover a book.

I set up the Goodreads page for my novel on publication day, and on a whim decided to drop $28 on an advert to drive traffic to the page. Goodreads ads are 'pay per click', which means your funds are only used up when people actually click on the advert. The goal of this exercise was to get people to add the book to their 'to read' shelf.

My Goodreads page
Goodreads is starting to work out well for me. Eleven readers have added the book to their shelves, which is a great start, and I have received a total of eight ratings (of which five are full-blown reviews). My average score is 4.38, which is brilliant. I have seen direct evidence of at least two readers discovering and buying the book thanks to seeing it on Goodreads, which is nowhere near the level of success I am experiencing with Twitter (which has been directly responsible for well over a hundred sales to date), but it's still positive.

However (and this is a big one), my advert campaign is proving to be completely useless.

None of the people who have added my book on Goodreads have done so because of my advert. I get a daily email telling me how many people have clicked on the ad, and the figures are pretty dire.

7,608 people have viewed the advert since publication day on October the 21st. Two people have clicked on it, and neither of them have added the book.

So far, the Goodreads ad has been a complete waste of money. There are several possible reasons why this may be the case.

  1. Evidence would seem to be mounting that paid adverts simply don't work for selling books. People are becoming desensitised to online adverts. That elusive 'word of mouth' virality that we all hope to achieve is still the best way of getting new readers on board.
  2. The advert may simply need longer to run in order to be effective; after all, it's still relatively early days yet.
  3. I may have made a mistake in targeting the book as a mountaineering novel, but then again my book fits in an awkward gap between genres. So far it has been enjoyed by loads of general readers but the trick is convincing the general reader it will be for them. Difficult to do in such a short slot!
Will I be paying for another Goodreads advert in future? I doubt it, as for an indie author with limited funds it simply is not cost effective. However, I will continue to put effort into Goodreads as I believe it's one of the best tools we have at our disposal for finding new readers.

Authors: please share your experiences with Goodreads ads! Have you used them? Did your campaign work out better than mine, and if so, do you have any tips to share?


Michael Brookes said...

While I would agree that Goodreads ads (and in fairness most ads) result in few sales there is also a more intangible benefit. For new authors like myself any mechanism for just getting your name out there helps in a small way.

I'be also found the Goodreads community the most effective medium for letting people know about my related news.

My take is if you're looking to ads to directly increase sales then unless you're already a known author it is unlikely to help much. However it is a good way to keep shoving your name in front of people so that down the line they start recognising your name.

Good post by the way!

Rosen Trevithick said...

Regular Goodreads users know where to look for content and which areas of the screen are likely to be full of paid adverts. I think people just filter them out.

I have found Goodreads giveaways very effective in getting people to add your book to their TBR list. You give away a paperback as a competition prize and in return you get excellent exposure. They've changed the rules recently to only allow books that are just coming out - perfect for you. I recommend offer one copy as a prize only, run the promo for six weeks and make it open to applicants worldwide.

It costs you the author price of one paperback plus P&P to anywhere in the world. So ~£12. Much cheaper than an ad and much greater exposure.

Alex Roddie said...

Guys, thanks for your thoughts--really useful stuff.

Rosen, I think I will be running a giveaway, just need to plan it =) Looks like a great way to increase exposure.

I'm also constantly promising myself I will get more involved in the discussion boards, but they still seem a little overwhelming! I'm already spending more time doing social networky things than writing as it is...

Michael Brookes said...

I agree with Rosen on the giveaways, I saw increased interest after running one. I will be doing it again for the new book.