Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A look at Goodreads ads (long)

I have to preface this post about my experience with a Goodreads advertisement by saying, I know a lot of authors don't like Goodreads. They don't like the mean-spirited reviews that are allowed, the bad language that's allowed, the sorting system that can put one of those horrible, mean-spirited reviews at the top because a bunch of people "like" it, and more.

And I get it. I do. There was huge thread about it on Verla's message board awhile back, and I know some authors have really strong feelings about Goodreads, and have encouraged other authors to leave the site to send a message to the people managing the site. If you are one of those authors, please don't be mad at me for supporting the site.

I guess my take on it is that anywhere that books can be reviewed, bad things can and will be said. It's the nature of the beast. I have read some terrible reviews on Amazon. Mean reviews. It's not just Goodreads where this happens.

I'm not saying I agree with it. And I'm certainly not saying I like negative reviews. Ugh, no, I am as sensitive as the next guy. Probably even more so.

But stepping back, and looking at it from a different perspective, Goodreads is a popular site with readers. And in my opinion, there are too few places for readers to gather and discuss books. And whether I like it or not, readers are there. And so, knowing that, I decided I wanted to try and reach some of them.

When THE DAY BEFORE came out, I spent $45.00 to run a small ad on the site. They call it a "campaign." I was curious if an ad on Goodreads would help get my book exposure it might not otherwise get, and I was willing to spend around fifty dollars as an experiment, of sorts. Now I'm going to share the results of that experiment with you.

When you set up a campaign, you decide how much you are willing to spend per click. Apparently the higher the amount of the click, the better your chances of getting your ad seen. I set the amount per click at 20 cents, which is on the lower end. I wanted a long life for my ad versus a ton of exposure for a short time. As you'll see in a minute, this amount got me plenty of visibility. You can also set a cap as to how much you spend per day. I think I set the amount at $2.00 per day, but now that I've done this, I know your chances of getting even a click or two per day are pretty small.

After you figure out the money part of your ad - how much you are willing to spend, how much you want your "per click" rate to be, etc., then it's time to figure out the targeting of your ad. I think this is HUGE, and I wonder how many authors err on the side of a wide audience. I didn't want a wide audience. I wanted a narrow one. I wanted my ad to target readers who would be most likely to like my book.

I left age blank, chose United States as the country, turned off "target specific genres" and selected about twenty YA authors to target. What does that mean? Let's say someone goes to the site to look up books by NYT bestselling author Jenny Han. Along the side, that person will see ads for books as she pokes around, reading reviews for Jenny Han's books or perhaps logging her own reviews. I decided I would like the ad for my book to be one that potentially shows up around that author. To make this feature work well, you want to think like a librarian. If a reader likes THESE books, she might also like THESE books. Where would your books fit well? If you write fantasy, think of other fantasy writers. If you write contemporary, probably want to target other contemporary authors. One of the best things about this strategy is I can list myself. That way, if someone goes to review another one of my books, hopefully they might see the ad and discover that I have a new book out.

Please know, the ad won't show up *every* time. My understanding is ads are rotated, trying to give everyone a share of the ad time. You have campaign stats you can see at any time on your author page if you set up an ad. You also get e-mails sent on a daily basis that show how many clicks your ad received that day, and how many times readers added your book. Because they may see the ad, not click on it, and still add the book.

For me, it wasn't about the clicks. It was about the cover of my book popping up for people to see. If they saw it enough, maybe they'd want to check out. It was all about exposure!

In November, the graph shows that sometimes my ad was shown 700 times, other days it was shown 2,500 times. The most clicks (that is, where someone clicks on the ad and goes to the goodreads page of that book to read more about the book and read reviews) was 5.

It's almost December, and I have just a few dollars left in my "campaign." Yes, that $45.00 lasted about six months. So now the question... was it worth it? I believe it was. Would I do it again? Absolutely. And here's why.

Right now, out of all my books, including I Heart You, You Haunt Me, which has been out for almost 4 years and was recently available through Scholastic book fairs and clubs, The Day Before has the highest number of people marking it as "to read." Of course I realize, marking a book "to read" doesn't mean a person will actually buy it or read it. In fact, most won't. To me it means, I'm thinking about it. I might like to pick it up at some point. Something about the book intrigues me enough to remember it.

Out of all the thousands of books, a reader has decided she wants to remember mine. I'll take that!!! Because maybe in the future, she'll see my book mentioned again, and this time she'll decide to act and pick up the book. Again, it's about exposure, and helping people to notice my book.

So let's look at my "to read" numbers for all of my YA novels.

Far From You: 1,831 people
Chasing Brooklyn: 3,697 people
I Heart You, You Haunt Me: 4,612 people
The Day Before: 6,359 people

But what about sales, Lisa? That's what you're thinking, right? We will never be able to know for certain how many books were sold because of an ad on Goodreads. I do know that almost 1,000 have "rated" the book (which, in my mind, means they read it). I think that's a decent number. Not phenomenal, mind you. Maybe not even great. But decent. Compare that to Far From You, which has been out for a couple of years and hasn't sold all that well, with only 919 ratings. And I Heart You, You Haunt Me, which has sold very well, has been out four years and is in its tenth printing, and has 3,555 ratings.

Sorry this got so long, but I hope you found some helpful information here, if you've been considering an ad on Goodreads. I certainly think it's worth a try, given that you can spend a small amount of money for quite a bit of exposure. I should also mention you can change the campaign at any time, if you decide you want to change the text of your ad, who you're targeting, the cost per click, etc. I actually changed the text of my ad after a couple of months, and I do think it helped get me more clicks.

Any questions you have for me about this - let me know in the comments and I'll try to answer them.


  1. Lisa,

    This is very helpful information! Thanks for putting it all together. I haven't done a Goodreads campaign for Between, but I may do so now that I've read your post.

    Cyndi Tefft

  2. What a fantastic post. Thank you for taking the time to share it in such glorious detail. I too dislike goodreads for the reasons you stated. I like to say it is the "new Amazon" because of the notoriously negative reviews with cursing and then all the breaking apart of a person with whom someone does not agree. God forbid someone doesn't like Twilight or Hunger Games!

    Having said that, I agree with you as well that is is a great platform for marketing and promotion. A site where readers gather, where avid, passionate readers gather, is a site authors who want to be noticed should actively engage. And while I can easily make this suggestion (I have no books out as of yet for anyone to disparage), I stand by it as someone with a successful marketing career and not just someone hoping to sell books for a living one day.

    I firmly believe taking books to the readers, and right now, the readers are on goodreads. Thank you again.

  3. LOVE this post, Lisa. You are such a well of information. Thanks for sharing!

    Also...hi! Sorry I haven't been around in forever. Hope everything is going well!

  4. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you soooooo much for sharing this info!! I am at a stand still here with marketing, wondering what really works and what doesn't. My budget is extremely small (Um...nil) and seeing you were happy with your Goodreads results gives me the idea to give it a try.

    I happen to love Goodreads. Yeah, there are some nasty things there, but it happens everywhere.

  5. I didn't know Goodreads did campaign ads. This sounds very similar to Facebook campaign ads. Have you ever tried Facebook? I'd be curious as to how Goodreads and Facebook ads compare as far as responses go. I think Facebook costs more per click and 45.00 wouldn't last 6 mos.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, all. Glad you found it helpful.

    Elle, I chose goodreads because you are specifically targeting readers. How do you make sure your ad is going to readers on facebook? And not just readers, but specific YA readers? That was what I was concerned about. I love that I could really narrow down who I was targeting at goodreads. And yes, I also think facebook would be a lot more expensive.

  7. Lisa, I'm a reader/blogger and I remember seeing your ad on goodreads. This, in turn, made me make sure I had your book marked "to-read". Then, as I browsed amazon later I saw your book and thought "I've been seeing that around lately, let me check it out". Then, I bought it. :)

    That's just my own experience and I do think many readers do the same thing. If I go to a bookstore I look for the books I've noticed on goodreads or blogs. I'll remember what books had good reviews and target those. Sometimes I may not remember exactly what the book is about but I'll think "I've seen this a lot, it must be good" so those are the first books I look for. It triggers that recognition and I end up buying the book.

    From my POV - goodreads is amazing! I don't know what I'd do without it. It's where I get 90% of my book information.

    As you mentioned, an ad might not get your book sold that day, but it gets the image in a person's head, and that will get the book sold :)

    (Confessions of a Bookaholic)

  8. This is so helpful, Lisa! I've never looked into Goodreads ads, but I absolutely will in the future. Thank you so much for sharing your findings.

  9. Great post! Very helpful.

    I have ads blocked on my Internet server so I never see them anywhere... I didn't even know Goodreads had advertising. :o

  10. Very useful post. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I've neglected Goodreads, but it seems to be a powerful force these days, so I should look into it. Thanks for the heads-up.

  11. Lisa, What a fabulous post! I utilize Goodreads a lot and basically ignore those who write nasty reviews or give stars without an explanation (especially when they're under four stars). Before I become "friends" with someone I am careful to look at how s/he reviews books. That has made all the difference on what influences my reading habits. For the most part, the people are intelligent and thoughtful readers, bloggers, and authors.

    I saw your ad on Goodreads and it was one of the reasons why I picked up THE DAY BEFORE and fell in love with it. Then I read ALL of your novels. I can't say for sure, but if the ad hadn't been there, I probably would not have read your books at that time. Granted, I would have learned about your novel through other bloggers, authors, and Twitter because people were "talking" about your book on other social media venues. But timing is everything, and it led me to nominating THE DAY BEFORE for a CYBIL award. So, with $45 spent, you never know what can happen?! :D Wishing you tremendous success. Liza Wiemer

  12. Really interesting! Totally something to think about as my book has just launched. Thanks for the info!

  13. As a reader, I love Goodreads. As an author, I try to not look very often, and only when I'm prepared for the possibility of negativity. (Actually, sometimes it's the positive reviews that make me feel all verklempt and dangerously sensitive!)

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us! I've just started buying the occasional ad here and there. I've noticed a strange phenomenon that promoting my second/new book seems to increase the downloads for my first book. Advertising/the universe works mysteriously!

  14. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I LOVE Goodreads and have been very curious about whether the ads are helpful.

  15. Liza, wow, thanks for letting me know the ad played a part in you picking up the book. AND you nominated it for a Cybil - thank you so much!!

  16. What great info, Lisa! I saw your ad on Goodreads, but I assumed the publisher paid for it for you. This post is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Thank you for this - not only was it wonderfully helpful, it was a pleasure to read. Your writing style in this article makes me want to read your books as well. You have really helped your fellow writer with this! Again, many thanks.

  18. REALLY interesting and really helpful, Lisa! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Browsing around Goodreads . . . what do you click on to find "campaign" information? Thanks!

  20. Kimberly, visit your "Author Dashboard." Scroll down past your books, past your blog, and you should see something that says "Advertise your books." This is where you set up your campaign(s).

    Hope that helps!

  21. Wow, it's rare to find such targeted specific, helpful advice.
    Thank you so much. My book's been out a year and a half and I'd pretty much decided my marketing efforts were done but I think I'll give this a shot, especially because it doesn't sound labor intensive.

  22. Thanks for this Lisa! My question is: how did you change your text later in the ad (and why do you think this helped)?

    Re: Facebook. I have an ad running for my book now. The prices are similar. You can target people by choosing only those who have "books" "YA books" "reading" "teen books" etc. in their profile description for activities. You can also target only females and specify an age range to narrow in further.

  23. Kathy, I've been curious about facebook ads! Maybe I will try that next!

    Once you set up your ad, you'll have a link called "Visit your campaign stats." Through this link you can edit anything you want to - the amount per click, up or down, who you are targeting, and the text of the ad. You are given very little space for text, and the first time I think I said, a new romantic YA novel from the author of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.

    Well I realized that was great if people had read I HEART YOU and liked it, but what if they hadn't? So I changed it to a brief description of the book: Amber has 24 hours before her life changes forever. The last thing she expects is to meet a guy, who makes things even more complicated.

    I've read quite a few ads over there, and I think WHAT the ad says is really important, and is what will or won't catch people's attention.


  24. Super informative post - thank you so much for sharing.

  25. Lisa! Thanks for answering my question. That makes a lot of sense (describe the book). I'm definitely going to do this. Am clicking over to GoodReads now... (Thanks again for the post.)

  26. As a reader/reviewer/librarian I am still kind of reeling at the idea that authors dislike Goodreads.

    Negative, snarky reviews are so valuable to me, because the last thing I want to see is a site where all the reviewers are like mindless, bleating sheep, "It was great, 5 stars, best book ever. etc. etc." Those kind of comments are ONLY valuable in a universe where thoughtful criticism including negative comments are "allowed" as you say. If that kind of "rah, rah, rah, this book is great, everything is great" review was the only sort of thing that was permitted, then why would anyone even bother?

    Sometimes I like to seek out a book that's gotten a scathing review, just to see for myself if it's really as bad as they say.

  27. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your thouhts, statistics, and "how to." I happen to be a Goodreads fan, and posts like yours remind me why. Happy holidays, and thanks again! -Valerie

  28. very interesting , Lisa. I haven't done any paid ads for my books. It looks like it's worth experimenting with. I hope you had great sales from it.