book giveaways and contests

How to Use Goodreads Giveaways for Authors to Grow Your Audience

If you want to grow your social media audience, book giveaways and contests are important tactics to add to your marketing strategy.

Since we care more about connecting with the followers that count than counting followers around here, you might be surprised to see me suggest using book giveaways and contests to grow your social media audience.

Giveaways make strategic marketing sense, though, because book contests attract readers — and readers are the followers who count for you as an author. The best way to grow your online audience is to make yourself known to the people most likely to buy and read your books. Book giveaways accomplish that goal.

If you’re not a published author, you can still use this strategy to grow your social media audience but your contests and giveaways will look different.

If you have one or more books already published, however, these suggestions are all worth considering.

Set a Goal for Your Giveaway

There are two ways to grow your social media audience: Increase followers and increase engagement.

If you want to be strategic about your giveaway, you need to choose a goal. Though you could create a giveaway to increase both your followers and your engagement, it’s wiser to choose one target to track and measure and use to define your success.

Increasing your follower count is a vanity metric, but it’s a goal that makes sense if you’re close to an audience milestone, like trying to get to 10,000 followers to earn the coveted “swipe up” feature on Instagram.

Contests designed to increase follower counts will require participants to like or follow specific accounts to qualify for the prize. People who follow you to enter your giveaway are unlikely to be engaged followers, and they tend to unfollow you after the contest ends unless you develop a reputation for regularly hosting contests. If you don’t intend to give away stuff regularly, plan for the drop in followers and don’t take it personally.

Increasing your engagement is a goal that makes sense on any algorithm-driven social media platform because the activity helps the algorithm decide which users and types of users are most likely to appreciate and engage with your account. Increasing engagement also builds up excitement around your giveaway. Who doesn’t like to see a post with hundreds of comments? If that doesn’t motivate you to suit up and show up for your followers, I don’t know what will. 

Though your engagement rate will naturally go down after a giveaway, you can often keep the interest of your followers if you regularly publish high-value content specific to the needs of your followers. 

How to Make the Most of Your Book Giveaway or Contest

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and that’s true for social media giveaways and contests. If you’re going to invest time and energy in creating a book giveaway, you’ll want to do everything within your power to make the giveaway successful.

Once you’ve chosen a goal for your giveaway it’s time to plan your contest. Your planning doesn’t have to be elaborate but there are a few key decisions to make at this stage:

  • Choose your channels
  • Specify your contest rules and prizes
  • Set your contest deadline
  • Promote your giveaway
  • Host your giveaway
  • Announce the winner(s)

Some of these decisions are quick to make and others require thought but the time you invest in the planning stage will pay off in both success and time saved later on by not having to make split decisions while your contest is underway.

Choose Your Social Media Channels

Where you host your contest influences what you can and can’t require of participants who want to enter your contest.

Facebook, for instance, doesn’t allow you to leverage the friend networks of participants for your contest. You cannot host a contest that requires participants to share posts or tag friends in a post to enter. You also can’t offer bonus entries for these behaviors. You can, however, require participants to like or follow your Page, comment on posts or sign up for your email list.

Twitter has rules banning contests that cause users to create fake accounts to enter more than once or flood the channel with the same tweet or almost the same tweet over and over again.

Goodreads Book Giveaways

Over at Goodreads, giveaways are a paid promotion. You pay Goodreads to host your giveaway and there are pricing tiers based on what you want your giveaway to include.

It’s worth a bit of your time to review the rules of the channels where you want to host your giveaway so you make sure your requirements are allowed.

Specify Your Book Contest Rules and Prizes

Once you are clear on what you can and can’t do on the social media channel where you’re hosting your book giveaway, it’s time to set your contest rules and prizes. 

Easy-to-follow, low-commitment contest requirements tend to have higher participation than ones with several steps. They may also attract entries from people who aren’t actually interested in what you have to offer. They might just want to get something for free.

At the same time, a complicated entry process with multiple steps might turn off even your most ideal reader if they get frustrated by jumping through hoops. The only way to know for certain what’s best for you is to test requirements over a series of giveaways to find out which requirements come closest to achieving your desired outcomes.

If you already know you’re hosting a book giveaway, picking prizes should be easy. However, it still makes sense to decide now whether you will have one winner or multiple winners and whether you’re giving away a single book or a book bundle.

Make sure your prize and your requirements align. A complicated entry process would need a high-value prize to entice participants, while a simple entry process leading to a simple prize is well received.

Set Your Book Giveaway or Contest Deadline

Deadlines create a sense of urgency, which is why every contest needs one. The duration of your contest, though, varies on where you’re hosting it. Goodreads, which charges authors to host book giveaways, recommends a 30-day contest period for maximum awareness and interest. Though you can choose any length of time you want, shorter contest periods tend to increase interest and participation on Instagram and Facebook.

Promote Your Giveaway

People can’t enter your giveaway if they don’t know it’s happening. Promoting your book giveaway is a step you can’t afford to skip, and cross-promotion is key. No matter where your giveaway is taking place, you should notify your email subscribers and your followers on every social media channel where you actively participate.

Amp up the energy when you’re promoting your giveaway. Make it exciting and no matter what your prize is, use language like it’s the greatest gift anyone could ever receive. Enthusiasm is contagious and if you’re enthusiastic about your contest, your audience will be as well.

Host Your Book Giveaway

When you’re ready to kick off your giveaway, make sure you have the time and resources necessary to support its success.

Giveaway contests are not a passive marketing tactic. You can’t launch a giveaway and go off the grid for the weekend. Every person who enters your book giveaway is a potential book buyer, email subscriber and social media super-fan. Treat them as such.

Respond to comments (ignore the spammy ones), thank participants for entering and answer questions daily during your contest period. Not only does this keep your entrants engaged throughout the contest period, it also amplifies your reach and keeps the contest top of mind for everyone involved.

Announce Your Winners

Once the contest ends, you’ll want to announce your winners. It’s important not to let too much time go by before announcing your winner. Remember, you want to keep everyone engaged as much as you can, and the momentum that comes from hosting a giveaway can be leveraged.

Announce your winners on the channel where the giveaway took place, and make sure to notify everyone you promoted the giveaway to that a winner has been selected. Instead of naming the winner in your off-channel announcements, direct people to the official announcement post.

There are free tools that make contest announcements fun for you and for participants. Wheel of Names is a site that puts participant names into a wheel you can spin to have the winner selected at random. Comment Picker is a tool that makes choosing winners from social media post comments easy. It doesn’t have the visual appeal of Wheel of Names if you’re sharing your screen to publicly broadcast the winner selection via live video, but it makes sense if you have a higher volume of entries. The video above shows the Wheel of Names in action on a book giveaway hosted on my Facebook page.

Measure Your Results

Once you’ve concluded your book giveaway and announced the winners, it’s time to assess the success of your contest. You don’t need fancy tools to track, measure and analyze your results. 

What you need to know more than anything is the number of new followers you’ve gained during the contest period and the number of reactions, comments and shares on your contest post. All of that data is available within each social media channel.

Your first giveaway might not be a huge success, but remember every contest you host can serve as a data point to tell you what resonates with your ideal audience on each channel.

Wondering whether you should host giveaways and contests to grow your social media audience and promote your books? Borrow my brain for 20 minutes so we can explore whether giveaways should be incorporated into your marketing strategy. You can book your free session here.

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Social Media Consultant

Tonya Kubo is founder of Team Kubo Community Management. She supports experts, entrepreneurs, and enterprises in developing highly engaged online communities so they can grow their groups and get results without feeling frazzled. See the team in action at

Leave your comment or question


  1. Ashley

    I have just started over the winter doing book reviews online. Tgis is probably a stupid question but I wanted to check before I did it. I have a lot of ebooks that I have read and I am running out of room. I purchased all of the books. I wanted to clear some of them out and I was thinking about doing a giveaway with my once a month but am I allowed to do a giveaway on Instagram with books that I have purchased

    • Tonya Kubo

      Not a stupid question at all. We can give away print copies we buy. It’s logical to want to do the same with ebooks.
      Unfortunately, it seems that most ebook sellers don’t allow it, only licensing the ebook to one person. So you can either buy it for yourself or for someone else as a gift when you purchase it, but you can’t download it to your account and then transfer it to a different. There are some unauthorized work-arounds shared on the internet, but they violate the terms of use for most ebook retailers.


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