129_jackpotIf you need to allocate ship energy, then put main power into giveaways to strangers. That’s what I’ve found out while working on my personal potion of promotion.

I was putting main power into friends and family, since I figured they’d be the easiest and strongest advocates for my art. Certainly they have been supportive, but way less than I thought. I was kind of surprised, actually.

Ads seemed dubious to me, mainly because I had already read how the marketing landscape has changed in the last ten years. However, what do I know? It’s one thing to read about it, but another altogether to experience things for yourself.

Enter Goodreads, a website with about two and half million people who like books signed up. It’s a place where authors and readers can intermingle. Friends can share what they are reading with each other. Folks can rate and review the books they’ve read.

Basically, it’s BOOK MOUNTAIN on the internets!

I became a librarian and then an author on their site. Wooo! They have various tools I’ve been trying out to see how they work. This is worthwhile delving for clues because the audience is ideal and you can get stats.

The audience is made up of people who at least like the medium you are working in (books). And transactions can be measured to a certain degree through the website.

Both of these are assumptions, of course. I myself know how webstats don’t really tell you anything concrete—you make them up as you go along. And there’s no way to measure the intent of the Goodreads members, or to precisely quantify their creative agendas.

The sensor readings you pick up always carry with them the possible danger of getting it wrong.

Where Things Started
My book has been going nowhere. This is understandable because my promotion strategy from about April 2010 to September 2011 has been no-promotion. No technique, just posting and see what happens.

If it’s any good people will share and spread it right? Except my website has few visitors—less than 100 uniques a month for years which makes my website POOR on my own web ranking system.

So in September 2011 I get my book out on Amazon Kindle and then on Lulu as a print book. Approximately 50 likes on Facebook, two reviews on Amazon and two reviews on Lulu is all I get as far as reaction all the way into January 2013.

I already mentioned I sold about 32 copies and did a giveaway of 2 copies (which was on Facebook to friends and family, I failed to mention), besides giving 12 copies to friends/family I really liked.

So let us get the lead out and see what we shall see, right? RIGHT?!

Ads Are Only Worth Reserve Power
I ran an ad on Goodreads twice in 2012 for two months each, which was about how long it took for the credit to be used up. The first run was for fifty bucks of credit with a bid of fifty cents and a max bid of five bucks. The second run was for another fifty bucks with a bid of a dollar and the same max bid.

I did targeting to science fiction and fantasy members for the first run, and no targeting for the second run.

I got 500,597 views, 95 total clicks, with a click through rate of 0.02% and a cost per click of $1.07.

What did I get? One person added me to their to-read list—and they have hundreds of books on that list so probably not anytime soon if ever.

Hey, it’s something at least—and it’s data from which I can extrapolate what my overall success rate is with the ads. The add to the to-read list is pretty much as far as you can track for a transaction.

I think I estimated that I would need to spend at least fifty thousand dollars in Goodreads ads in order to get enough people far along in the transaction cycle to generate sales to see ultimately if it’s worthwhile.

I started another ad in February of this year—new copy, new image, with a hundred bucks of credit. I bid fifty cents, max spend of ten bucks, and no targeting.

After a week I’ve gotten 94,131 views, 28 clicks, and a clickthrough rate of .o3%—which looks to me to be only slightly better. I might do more refinements, but I expect I’ll only get incrementally small returns.

I’ll keep working on this, but at this point I can only see someone with a crack advertising team and/or a large budget as being able to break through with this system.

It’s a system for a handful of winners and a whole lot of losers.

Friends and Family Get Auxiliary Power
I’ve only got 9 friends and 1 relative on Goodreads, but I think it’s a more accurate representation of what I can expect in terms of potential audience engagement.

I got two text reviews and four ratings out of them (4 total reactions), so this mirrors how much interest I got out of my Facebook circle (about 40%).

I’m imagining that I’ll get half as much of even that engagement on the second book when it comes out. It’s just diminishing returns as far as reminding folks goes.

I mean, if I have to nag my friends and family to spend a few minutes clicking a rating line or writing a few sentences, what’s the point?

My guess is that friends and family are a one time only resource. Like a free healing potion every adventurer starts with on their book journey.

I use them up at the beginning to sustain my enthusiasm. After that, I have to fly on my own.

Damn, that is some sad commentary. But there it is.

Free Is The Magic Word That Gets Main Power
So I start this giveaway on February 13. It stays open until March 6. I make it open to folks in the US, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Five copies of the slightly revised Lulu print book (adjusted spine, a spacing issue resolved, and an actual ISBN), wooo!

So far 177 folks have signed up and that’s cool exposure. I at least know these are people who clicked “I’m interested in this enough to sign up for a free copy chance.”

And for some reason I can’t fathom, 76 folks have put me on their to-read list. WHUT!? That makes ads complete junk by comparison.

Granted, I’m on some to-read lists with hundreds of titles again. Not likely they’ll ever get to me. But their vote still counts in a nice unexpected way: people have suddenly voted me a safer bet.

What would you take a chance on? A person who has 2 people interested in them (probably their mom and best friend) or 76 people?

That’s the best feeling of all. All I want is a chance; if people don’t dig me after trying me then okay cool beans.

Mind you, I should also add that all of this is from the PROMISE of a free goodie. A lottery. we enter them everyday because even though the odds are against us we love to dream.

I should also add that over on Smashwords, the free ebook has gotten 259 downloads and is in 13 personal libraries since it was released on Dec 30, 2012. That’s the real free right there—more people have given me a try there than anywhere else.

So after this giveaway is done I’m going to do another. And another until I see where this thing plateaus out. It’s the most worthwhile thing I’ve done yet to promote my book and it only just started.

It’s just…better.