Last week Goodreads announced that they were rolling out a new giveaway program for authors starting in January. With your choice of two packages, one costing $119 and the other costing $599, you can get prime placement on the giveaways page (something you already had the first two and last two weeks of your giveaway), have email notifications sent about the giveaway (already happened), forcibly add the book to people’s want list (totally worked for U2 on Apple, I can see this working here), and all sorts of “exposure” on Goodreads.
So here’s the thing. I ran a couple of giveaways through Goodreads and they were good for attention. DIAMOND CRIER got on a lot of people’s want lists. People noticed it. But you know what it didn’t generate? Sales. Not a one. You know how many books I have on my want list? Over 600, some of them having been there since I joined the site nearly a decade ago. So what am I paying for again? To give away books? I don’t . . . what?
A small handful of authors have been successful using the giveaway tool on Goodreads and more power to them. But for the most part indie authors use it simply to get noticed in the overwhelming sea of books out there. It was free advertising, which is nice because you got to reach a ton of people for no money, which many indie authors don’t have. From a business standpoint I totally see why Goodreads/Amazon monetized this function. I really do. This is not a charity; it’s a business.
But . . .
Don’t tell me that section of the website wasn’t completely automated and required very little hands-on maintenance to run. Authors set up the giveaway and they foot the bill for shipping (unless run by the publisher, obviously). There should be very little effort on Goodreads’ part here. Instead they monetize a popular program on their website used by money-short indie authors, offering little more than what the free program offered, for an exorbitant fee, simply because they can. Are they going to use that money to upgrade the website that hasn’t seen an interface upgrade in nearly the entire time I’ve been a member?
As an indie author my marketing bills totaled about $1500 when all was said and done. In the grander scheme of marketing that’s not a lot. But it is to someone who has no backing, who’s trying to do this all on their own. And I have a good day job. I can afford that. But for all my paid efforts, very little actually paid off. And now a cost-free avenue is being taken away. Great.
And the fact that they’re opening up giveaways for eBooks but only for Kindle books. Ugh. More of Amazon trying to monopolize the publishing industry. This is just slimy. And I don’t hate capitalism. I’m a fan. I’m just not a fan of people and companies who abuse it. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. To take an otherwise free service largely used by independent authors and monetize it, offering little more than what was offered before, and acting like you’re doing us a favor? No. Will they lose people over this? Yes. Will people buy into it? Absolutely. Doesn’t make it any less shitty.
This makes me want to pull out of Goodreads as an author. My book’s going to be on the site regardless of whether I put it there or not. I don’t need to funnel my reader interactions through that website. I have plenty of other options for that, along with plenty of other options for advertising that will actually generate sales. It’s also a business for me too and I need to put my money where it’s most useful. So putting it into an “advertising program” that never actually generated me any sales is not an optimal use of my money. I refuse to me herded into Goodreads and Amazon alone as an author. Refuse.