RSS Feed

How To Promote Your Self-published Book – Unorthodox Advice! Part One.

After ten months promoting my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale” I’ve reached the conclusion that most of the promotion suggestions you can find on the internet are pretty irrelevant and little more than formulaic. Even worse, the things that do matter are either never mentioned or not mentioned in detail and, as I have laboriously found out, the devil really is in the detail.

So I decided to write a series of articles on how to promote self-published books. Here is the first instalment:


If you don’t know what Goodreads is, check it out HERE (Wikipedia)

Here are my suggestions:

a) Don’t follow Goodreads’ advice and offer ten books, two books is more than enough

b) Start your giveaway on a Monday and end it on a Thursday (Friday to Sunday are usually the lowest traffic days on Goodreads and what matters most are the first three and the last three days of the giveaway, as explained further on).

c) make sure that there are no public holidays near the start and end dates. 70% of the entries will be during the first and the last three days, when your giveaway is visible on the “recently listed” and “ending soon” tabs. The month or so inbetween won’t have much effect.

Very important detail: I found out that different Goodreads’ users will see different books on the “recently listed” and “ending soon” tabs. I assume Goodreads has so many users and so many giveaways going on at the same time that they split them into groups and show different groups of giveaways to different groups of users. So when promoting your giveaway, don’t just tell your friends that your giveaway is visible on the “recently listed” tab. Most of them won’t be able to find it. You have to give people the direct link to your giveaway.

Also don’t forget that the book cover and the book blurb are the main things that determine whether people become interested in your book or not. A good or bad book blurb can be the difference between having 300 entries or 2000 entries (a future post on book blurbs is planned on this blog).

If you do everything right, you’ll get say around 1000 entries, which attracts a reasonable amount of attention to your book. If are lucky that the two winners both live in the USA and you use Createspace’s special price for authors the two books will cost you next to nothing.

After the Goodreads’ giveaway is finished and you’ve sent the two books to the winners, you’re left with 998 people who did not win your book but have shown an interest in it.

Now go to Smashwords and create a coupon for a download with a 100% discount (a free download). Send each of the 998 people on Goodreads the following message (adapted to reflect your book, obviously)

“Unfortunately, I see that you did not win a copy of my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale” on the giveaway that ended some days ago. May I compensate you by offering a coupon for a free download of the digital edition of the book? Just go to this site and use coupon code “xxxxx” at the check out: . I hope you enjoy the book. Regards”

I don’t consider this to be spam as your are sending messages to people who have already shown an interest in your book and you are offering them a free copy even though they did not win the giveaway. I’ve never received any complaints.

This will generate a lot of (free) downloads for your book on the Smashwords site and, in time, some reviews, which you’ll need to give your book visibility and credibility. A minimum number of reviews and a rating average above 4.0 is also a requirement for some types of marketing that I’ll discuss in a future blog post.

Whenever you get a good review on Smashwords or on Goodreads, contact the reviewer and kindly ask him/her to repeat the review on Amazon. When you get a bad review, do nothing. This way your reviews on Amazon will have a better average than on other sites and Amazon is what really counts, so you’ll be using Smashwords and Goodreads to “filter” the good reviews for Amazon.

© 2013 Pedro Barrento

I would love to know your opinion about this post so don’t be shy and do leave a comment. Also please feel free to check out my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale”. It is a book with one big advantage, you only need to read the first 50 lines to know whether you’re going to like the story or not. If you’re not hooked after 50 lines then my book is not for you.

If you enjoyed this post don’t forget to press the “follow” button to be automatically notified of future postings.

Disclaimer: Please note that English is not my mother language and that this series of articles has not been revised by a native speaker. The quality of these articles therefore in no way reflects the quality of my book “The Prince and the Singularity – A Circular Tale” which went through an exhaustive process of revisions, editing and proofreading by a professional literary consultant (whose services I strongly recommend, by the way).

IMPORTANT NOTE ADDED NOV 7: Some people are reporting receiving a message from Goodreads teling them that they’ve exceeded the number of messages they can send per day. I’ve never seen such a limit before but I’ve just tried sending a message to an “also ran” of one of my giveaways and I was faced with an “insert the following code” anti-bot confirmation screen. I’m starting to suspect that Goodreads have read my blog and didn’t like it.

47 responses »

  1. This is great advice! thanks, Pedro!

  2. I’m looking forward to your future posts.

  3. This is the most realistic and useful post I have yet encountered for indie authors trying to self-promote. Thank you for taking time to keep us informed.

    As a token of my appreciation, I am offering free Smashwords coupon code MM97Z for my latest short story, Sevenfold. The coupon code can be shared, re-posted, and used unlimited times until it expires December 31, 2013. Enter the coupon code during checkout at:
    For anyone not familiar with Smashwords, you can join free and download eBooks in all formats to your computer and mobile device.

    • I’m new to Smashwords, so I’m a bit confused. I’ve had my books published with createspace, so to get the coupons, do I have to be published with smashwords as well? I’m always worried about doing something wrong and getting into trouble with legalities.

      • Obviously in order to use Smashwords’ coupons you must have your book on Smashwords, which is not a problem, unless you’ve opted for some exclusive deal like Amazon KDP Select, in which case you shouldn’t have your book available anywhere else except on Amazon / Createspace (Createspace belongs to Amazon).

  4. Excellent. I will try this with my next book.

  5. Thank you for the step-by-step instructions. If only more advice was this concise. I feel overwhelmed by promotion, but this made it seem very managable. I don’t like Goodreads, but I will be looking for your next entry to see what else you have to offer.

  6. That’s pretty brilliant, actually. I thought at first that it would violate Goodreads terms for giveaways, but the only contact it states you can’t make is to the winners after the giveaway ends. I’m looking forward to your other articles! =)

  7. Thanks for the advise, I will definitely give it a try. I look forward to your next post

  8. And there I was, thinking I had thought of everything! Thank you.

  9. tottielimejuice2013

    Sounds like very good advice, thanks.

  10. Super idea! Thank you for sharing this with us. I think your sugestions re: Smashwords is brilliant.

  11. Ah, make that suggestions ‘are.” Ugh. Need more coffee!

  12. Is there a one-or-few-click method of sending this message to the postulated 998 interested readers?

    • Not that I know of. Goodreads in no way encourages you to chain send messages. Also in the case of books which are disliked by specific groups of readers (like mine) one wants to check each person’s profile / reading tastes before sending the coupon.

  13. I was skeptical about the title of this post, but clicked anyway. Glad I did. Your advice here IS more creative than average, and I look forward to your future posts.

  14. So gracious of you to contribute your real-world expertise to the rest of us. Keep churning it out, and I’ll continue to lap it up and share widely. 🙂

  15. Great idea — except the fact that Goodread limits the number of messages you can send in a day – maxed out after 20 or 25…500 more to go…

    • Very odd. Goodreads has a very low limit for the number of friend requests you can send in a day (although every time a friend request is approved you can send a new one out) but I never hit any limit on the number of messages. Are you sure you were sending messages and not friend requests?

  16. Very good advice. I’m about at the same place as you in both time and efforts. I’ve discovered many of the same things. I’ve NOT thought of the Smashwords angle though. But I have been trying to think of a way to interest the non-winners and you’ve hit it. Thank you!

    Peace, Seeley

  17. James H Jenkins

    This is just what I needed at the right moment. Thank you.

  18. Well, it’s something I haven’t tried, that’s for sure. Of course, I only sell ebooks… so I might have to alter the plan to make the 100% off coupon a 50-75% off coupon, and not just give the ebooks away…

    • Well, this post kind of assumes the author is in the first stages of promotion. He’s self-published, this is probably his first book and he’s just trying to get some initial reviews. If you do not want to give books away then this post doesn’t apply to you. You can’t send a discount coupon to the “also rans” on Goodreads because that would be spam, some of them will complain and you will receive a message from Goodreads telling you to stop or else…

  19. I found this very informative, and I’d never have known English was not your native tongue!

  20. Well worked out but the end result remains that you are GIVING AWAY your work. What ever happened to making SALES and earning some financial return for your creative effort? Freebies mean nothing, either in terms of acceptance or income.

    • This article was written to help self-published authors get the initial reviews they need to make their book look credible. IMO selling from day one is an impossible marketing plan for self-published authors, but I accept that it’s just an opinion.

    • Tony, I agree with you in principle that a blanket give-away is a bad idea. My 30 years in sales and marketing tells me that people ascribe a value to things in accordance to what they paid for them.

      However, Goodreads is a different animal in general and brjnica’s plan works this way: offers of a freebie to people who tried to get it free engenders some good will (as opposed to a general, anyone-who-wants-one-gets-one); you will get a higher acceptance which we’ll guess at 50 out of 100 for the math here. Of those 50, 10 will read & review and 9 of those 10 will review favorably (the world is full of malcontents, 1:10). Each of those 9 reviews will be seen/read by 3-5 more people. That math works like this: 1000 offers, 500 acceptances, 90 good reviews x ~4 new eyeballs = 360 potential buyers who now have a good impression.

      For what amounts to a ten minutes a day, a fair return.

      Peace, Seeley

  21. Good advice, Pedro. Thanks for posting. I did a “traditional” GR giveaway and was less than thrilled with the results. I think I’ll try it again your way.

  22. Another tip I would add to the Goodreads giveaway – there is a widget option for you to post the giveaway on your blog or website. Anyone can add the widget to their site, so I ask friends if they’ll add my Goodreads widget to their site.

  23. You may find yourself in violation of Goodreads Terms of Service or reported to support as a spammer for PMing people after a giveaway. With my reader hat on I’m unsure how I’d feel about getting a message… I’d probably send the following information to the author as that’s what I’ve done in the past when contacted in a way that I believe might get an author in trouble:

    From Author Guidelines: “Don’t spam. Do not contact (via comments/messages/friend requests) all or most of the people who add your book or a related work. You should also avoid tactics like thanking everyone who has added your book. Do not send unwanted messages or friend requests. While well intentioned, these kinds of behaviors will result in people flagging you as a spammer, and we will have to take action.”


    • In my opinion it’s on the border of what’s admissible. Anyway you are OFFERING for free a book which people wanted to win and didn’t. It would be odd if anyone complained of that and no one ever has in my personnal experience. The question is theoretical now because Goodreads reacted to my blog post by changing the rules and putting a low cap on the number of messages people can send each day. They also blacklisted me personally, which means that I now can’t send messages to anyone who’s not on my friend’s list on Goodreads as I always have to go through an anti-bot screen. Anyway these policies are ever changing and the gist of my article remains valid. Personally I think Goodreads are being very short sighted because Amazon bought Goodreads because studies say books are not discovered on Amazon’s site, they are discovered in shops. As Amazon is killing shops at an alarming rate they probably thought of using Goodreads for people to discover books and then buy them on Amazon. If they then go restrictive on authors’ methods to publicize their book then books can’t be discovered at all and Amazon’s sales will go down. It’s their business to manage, not mine, but I don’t think they are being very intelligent.

      • As I said I was just sharing a cautionary piece of information as not all readers will respond well. One would think they’d be thrilled to get a book for free. But I’ve spent time in a number of groups where readers talk about how much they hate being contacted by an author unless they’ve had a fair amount of interaction with them in a group. So I wouldn’t be surprised if some readers flagged the message and one found themselves limited in who they could contact or suspended or banned from Goodreads.

      • BRJNICA, do you mean GR blacklisted you in the last few days? That’s not good. It makes me believe not that they’re protecting readers (these people claimed to have an interest in your book), but that they’re protecting access to those readers.

        Did you contact all those people at once? Or in a short span? And how long a gap was there between sending messages and this post?

        Peace, Seeley

      • The last time I did a giveaway on Goodreads and used “my method” was some months ago and I never received any complaint or hit any limit on the number of messages I could send. Goodreads have blacklisted me two or three days ago because they read my blog and didn’t like it (not that they told me so but it’s obvious). I haven’t sent more than a couple of messages PER WEEK for more than two months now.

      • Just to clarify.

        You are NOT sending a free book coupon to everyone who adds your book to their “to-read” list on goodreads, as Tasha seems to think that you are.

        You are only contacting people who have entered your giveaway contest. It seems a very petty thing to me if a person would think it was spam. Basically, they have taken the time to personally enter their name into the giveaway pot and can’t therefore complain if their name is selected…along with everyone else’s name in the pot. It’s kind of like a person who is standing in line to get their book autographed and then becoming enraged because “Hey, someone wrote in my book”. But then I rarely think like most people.

      • Auslag “You are NOT sending a free book coupon to everyone who adds your book to their “to-read” list on goodreads, as Tasha seems to think that you are.”

        Read the entire rule I posted. Whether I think its right or wrong was not the point. What I was saying is some people being contacted may flag the message & report it as spam. If several of them do it the author will get in trouble. It’s the reader feelings and Goodreads whether the message from an author is WANTED or UNWANTED. It’s not up to us authors to make that decision. We can guess, we can hope, the message is wanted.

        Again I’m simply pointing out how such a message might be received. I don’t work for Goodreads but right now a couple of complaints are taken more seriously than they were 6 months ago. I believe people should make informed decisions so they can look at pros and cons.

  24. Well, this post has more comments than my book has reviews! Well done. I like your strategy and will use it for my book. Thank you, Pedro.

  25. Pingback: Book Bits: Lore Segal, Doris Lessing, Hercule Poirot, ‘Hild,’ Syd Field | The Sun Singer's Travels

  26. I live in Key West, Florida. I have tried the various eBook sites for sales and a few years ago settled on Kindle and use its exclusive agreement and take advantage of it promo programs. Please keep up the idea of self promo for independently published authors but if you can focus on Kindle as well, that would be good. Thanks for taking the time to write your column.

  27. This is some good advice. Thanks. Hope to read more of your future blogs. I’ll go check out Smashwords and the rest. Thumbs up!!!

  28. What if they don’t use either Createspace or Smashwords? Your advice is under the assumption that they use both for their self-publishing needs. This is where this advice falls short.

  29. Great advice and a well written article. I can’t wait to read the rest of your ideas!

  30. Pingback: Indie Author Marketing Guide: Goodreads

  31. Pingback: Indie Author Marketing Guide: Goodreads | Musings and Marvels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: