My first Goodreads giveaway for two signed copies of Merlin’s Knot closed Sunday night. I confirmed a suspicion that I’d had about the entry pattern for this giveaway. This may not be news to those who’ve done several of them, but since this was my first, I wanted to see what I could learn. While the shape of the entry curve (I’ll discuss that below) is about what I expected, I was surprised to discover that almost half of all entries came the last day.
My giveaway for two books stayed open to entry for four weeks. In the course of the contest, I noted every two or three days how many had entered the contest, and how many had marked my book as to read. During the final days, I pulled the numbers daily*. The final count was 576 entering the giveaway. Given that I am an unknown, new author, I was satisfied (but not ecstatic) with that total.
This plot shows the cumulative numbers by date. If you have published similar data, please let me know by commenting on this blog.
I’ve divided the response into three regions. This is based on the shape of the curve, but also on how Goodreads lists the giveaway books on their web site. Now, under the assumption that browsing readers will not look at all 90+ pages of giveaways, the earlier a book appears in the listing, the more likely it is that a reader will discover it. They offer sorted views by four methods: Ending Soon; Most Requested; Popular Authors; and Recently Listed. For a new author, the two middle methods are unlikely to draw many viewers. The default view, at least on my Goodreads page, is the Ending Soon sort.
People who choose the Recently Listed option are shown new book giveaways, regardless of how long the giveaway will last. Based on my results, 15% of the entries came the first two days, and almost 23% the first week.
Browsers searching by the Ending Soon option see the countdown to the end of the contest, adding urgency to their selections. In my case, about 70% of all entries appeared in the final week, with almost 45% signing up the final day*.
Between the end of the first week and the start of the last week, the entry rate remained relatively constant at about 0.5%/day. Over those middle two weeks, only 7% of all entrants signed up. This isn’t surprising, since at that point my book was lost in the middle (to tail end) of all the lists.
I have ignored the ability to add an additional search by genre. I suspect most of the entries made while my book was lost in the middle came from people searching by genre, but I have no way to determine that. I suspect it is so because restricting to my genre (fantasy) dropped the number of pages of giveaways from 90+ down to about 11. It still takes some time and patience to wade through 300+ books, but not as much as it takes to go through almost 3,000.
The number of entrants who left the to read box checked on their entry started at almost 50% of the entrants, then trailed down to about 40% during the final week. Although this seems encouraging, it requires the entrant to make an extra click during the entry process to disable that option. Random checks of some of the people who left my book marked to read indicated to read lists of hundreds to thousands (even 20,000+) books. Nonetheless, since I decided to use a Goodreads giveaway to increase visibility, having lots of people listing it does that. And hopefully there are some on that list that actually will read the book. Someday.
The biggest conclusion: for an unknown author, a longer entry period is not necessarily a positive thing. Cutting the length of the contest by 50% would lose me only 7% of the viewers. During the period of the contest, those who entered are unlikely to buy the book.
It’s too early to tell whether the winners of the contest will follow through and read the book and (fingers crossed) review it, or to see whether there is any bump in sales. I’ll probably run another Goodreads giveaway, but I’ll use what I learned in this one to set the timing.
I’d love to hear about other writer’s experience on ideal time length for giveaways.
* I have to give a caveat to those who want precision. I did not pull the numbers at the end of the contest day (midnight Pacific time), but at a time that was convenient for me. The numbers of the final day of the contest are the only ones that represent the exact end of the contest day. Thus, although I indicate 45% signing up the final day, it is probably less than that, because that final day probably lasted 30 hours. However, for my purposes, that imprecision doesn’t bother me. It is the slow middle part that catches my attention as a trend I need to do something about.