D.I.Y Advertising on Goodreads

The DIY bug has bitten me, and the infection is spreading. It started with my renovation; my mission to create an environment in which to create,  a fortress of solitude if you will. But it went deeper than paint and plaster. If renovating was going to take up all my book 2 writing time, the least I could do was use the first few months of the year advertising book 1.

So I made an add at the end of January, and what follows is a bit of a first time guide to what an add campaign on Goodreads is, how it works, and whether it is worth it.

Step one (step zero was writing the book and spamming the universe with its presence -- including GR) is to setup your author dashboard in Goodreads. I had a lot of trouble with this, but all was resolved after I emailed the help desk and sent them a sample of my DNA to prove authorship of my novel (there is a database) This dashboard is the command central for everything related to your book(s) and before you go to step 2 I highly recommend integrating all the social media you can into your GR author profile.

Step two, setting up your add. I started simple, with the title of my book as the add title, and a stripped back pitch line as the copy. I have seen many adds on goodreads that take the telemarketing approach and have titles like "Want a book that will make love to you slowly?" with the copy quoting happy customer testimonials, but I just couldn't bring myself to stoop so low, even though the aforementioned statement does apply to my book;)

This is what my first setup looked like:

I don't see why anyone would either a) link to your book on a site outside of Goodreads, or b) not choose to select the "engagement stat" -- but the choice is your's to make. Good guy goodreads.

Step three, Target audience So the nest step is to decide who gets to see your add. This is not rocket science, and given that you are still reading this, you have no doubt gone through the hellfire of step zero, so know all about how to pitch your book. This is where you hope you got it right. (Hint, do not choose "all users")  Here is what I chose: 

Note that you can target specific authors, but I have about as much idea as how helpful that would be as I do selecting all the available genres.

Step four: Money, money, money. GR will now ask how much you are willing to spend, and politely suggest that $5 a day for a month, with an average of 10 cents a click is a good place to start. But I didn't feel like throwing away hundreds on my first go, so I settled on these figures:

It all comes down to three figures: Daily budget, bid amount and total time (multiply by daily to get total spend) As you can see I like symmetry and the number 11 and I let that be my guide in the absence of any experience with this kind of thing.

Step five: Tinkering. So then you sign up your credit card and within a day or so your add goes live. Goodreads starts to collect data at the same time as they collect your money, and you get a daily summary of how everything is going. The first day it went live I got excited that my add had been viewed nearly 2000 times -- then I saw that of those views, only one person had clicked, and that mystery person had ended his journey there.

As the days rolled by I noticed a rhythm to the stats. The GR add machine no doubts works by giving preference to the higher "click bids" and my paltry 11 cents was not getting me anywhere fast. So I upped my bid, then upped it again. Things still came in waves however, even when I upped my bid for a day to 55 cents a click. But the good news is that your campaign is a problem you can throw more than money at. At the same time I changed the copy of my add, and got my publisher to upload my ebook into the goodreads ecosystem, a crucial step that allows you to embed a sample link in your add.

This is what my add ended up looking like:

I took my click bid back to 33 cents and then got back to creating my fortress. 

For anyone who likes data, here are my stats for the campaign:

So at the end of this campaign what has changed? Well to put it bluntly, I don't think I sold any books. I do however have 38 people who have listed The Dragon and the Crow as a book they want to read, but most of these amazing people have over a hundred "to read" books already, so I'm not holding my breath.

I do think that it has been worth it though. These things are slow burners. If even one of those 38 people get around to reading my book I am happy. The question is, should I do it again?

So should I? Is it essentially worth paying a dollar to have someone say publicly that they want to read your book?

Please share any thoughts on this as well as any advice for better salesmanship in the comments.

Now I have just enough time to put one more coat of paint on the walls before watching episode three of "Awake" (best thing on TV right now -- until season two of GOT starts.)



  1. Thankyou T.B. for an informative post! I have published my first book last year and I have been happy with its progress of sales so far, especially for an unknown author's first book! I have found Barnes and Noble is my best outlet of all the sites my book is listed in! (I publish through Smashwords and Lulu - who distribute to a number of sellers including Amazon!
    I have just recently joined the Goodreads site and only just worked out how to upload the cover of my book and my personal photo to that site today and agree with you that I found it complicated!
    I have not as yet outlaid any money on publicity for my book and was contemplating advertising on the Goodreads site!
    I thankyou for your advice and will re-think my intentions, for the moment!

    1. C.M, I hope I did not put you off advertising with GR. All in all I think it is the best way to spend money getting the word out -- if you have money to spend. I have been running a facebook add this whole time and that has been a complete waste of time.

      I just wish goodreads would allow an embedded video as the content of the add, as I think my trailer is my best promotional material I have.

  2. Thank you for such an detailed post. I would never have guessed it was this involved.

    Sadly, I don't really have any useful feedback for you. I generally get my to reads from a) friends who recommend, or b) friends who add a to read or review to a book they've already read.

    I do think you thought it out well, and that your approach was rational and budgeted. I hope those 38 people DO buy your book and that more of their friends add it to their to read pile.

    Have you tried a give away?

    1. K.T, a giveaway is imminent. I am going to run another add and tie in a free ebook with it. I think this will work better (I hope)

      As you say, if those "to reads" turn into "have reads", then I think a bit of momentum will start to build.

  3. I found this really interesting although, sadly, I can't add anything useful to the discussion. I didn't even know Goodreads did Ads. That could be because I'm guilty of using it as little more than a place to store my tbr list.

    1. Sarah, I think we writers get lost preaching to the choir so to speak. These blogs and tweets are all great. but I think goodreads has more potential to find new readers.... Potential, I did mention I have not sold a book through their ebook store yet, or turned one TBR into a Have read. We live in hope.


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