Three months ago I posted about my Goodreads giveaway experiment. At the end of the post, I declared the experiment a success.
Now, with further data to hand, I’m qualifying that declaration.
Yes, 873 people entered the draw to receive one of two free copies of Ghosts Can Bleed (I had originally said 881 people, but rechecking the Goodreads stats, 8 of those people have disappeared). But what of the people who won?
One recipient had this to say:
I couldnt finish this book so I dont think it is fair to rate it. It was the first short story book of this type, science fiction/horror,that I have read and it just didnt appeal to me. The stories were good enough but not riveting and exciting enough for me to want to keep reading.
On Facebook, I often see writers, particularly indie writers, drawing more attention to their unfavourable reviews than they do to their positive ones. Often they launch into a counter-attack on the reviewer, even going so far as to enlist the aid of friends and colleagues to persecute the offender (“Do me a favour and click “No” on “Did you find this review helpful?” And while you’re at it, do the same on every other review they’ve ever written. Kthxbai”).
My personal approach is the complete opposite – when receiving a bad review, say nothing, pretend it doesn’t exist, and hope that it will soon get buried under the weight of all your other overwhelmingly positive reviews. I only draw attention to this one to highlight a potential flaw in the Goodreads giveaway scheme; I was given to understand that the winner would be drawn from a pool of entrants with a particular interest in and familiarity with the stated genre. Turns out, Goodreads’ definition of genre is so broad, it’s virtually useless. To give a collection of speculative fiction short stories and poetry to someone who has never read any and expect a balanced and informed review in return is unrealistic.
As for the reviewer, I can only speculate on what was going through her head when she clicked on “Enter to win”. My guess is it was something along the lines of, “Not my usual choice of reading material, but I’ll give it a go. After all, it’s not costing ME anything…”
And the other recipient? The book was sent out in early October 2011, shortly after the draw closed. And there has been no review yet. Perhaps the book got lost in the post. Perhaps something terrible befell the recipient before she had a chance to read it. Or perhaps she just thought, “Oh cool, free book,” and didn’t bother to fulfil her end of the bargain.
From the other side of the Goodreads giveaway experience, I have entered the draw for many books on Goodreads, and been successful in winning one. “Successful” is a relative term in this case; it was a collection of four novellas about werewolves, which would have been right up my alley had I actually received the book (I’ve been waiting for nearly three months). I reported to Goodreads that I hadn’t received it, because I don’t want to be labelled a Bad Reviewer, and that’s as far as it’s got. And I’m not about to go nagging the publisher for something that they were giving away, because that, in my opinion, is Bad Form (round about now you’ll be getting the entirely accurate impression that I have a lot of strongly-held opinions about what constitutes Bad Form…).
So what am I trying to say here? I’m not saying “Boycott the Goodreads giveaway programme”, because you can’t base a judgement on one person’s experience. For all I know, the majority of Goodreads giveaway participants on both sides of the fence are delighted with the results. I’m interested to get feedback from other writers who have used Goodreads giveaways to promote their titles, and from other readers who have won books via the programme. In the meantime, I still advocate the Goodreads giveaway as a tool in the emerging writer’s self-promotion toolbox, with one cautioning rider; hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.