The Problem With GoodReads Book Giveaways – Adverse Selection

If you are an author, it’s really easy to giveaway your book on GoodReads. Just fill out a simple form and you’re all set. If you are a reader, it’s even easier to enter into the contest. Simply click on the “Enter to Win” button and you will have a chance to win the book.

Sounds great right?

The main problem with this approach is adverse selection. As a reader you don’t know which book you are likely to win. Because of this, and because the cost of entering to win is so low, you’re likely to ask for many of the books that are listed. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You’re thinking that if you win a book that you don’t care too much for, you can always give it to a friend or relative. Also, because there is no immediacy to the results (you don’t come to know if you’ve won or lost for several days after the giveaway end date), you may have even forgotten about the book that you asked for when you finally get it.

The result is that you are likely to not complete reading or reviewing the book that you’ve won.

The following forum post from an author on GoodReads describes the author dilemma:

“I had over 800 people enter one of my giveaways, but only about 100 people have put the book on their to-read shelves, most having done so before the giveaway. I guess the giveaway increased name recognition at best, but probably didn’t increase sales significantly. Many to-read lists have hundreds of books, so it’s unlikely that any one book will ever be purchased and read in the short term.”

Compare this with the process of winning a free book on Freado¬†– a site owned by BookBuzzr. On Freado, readers can win the books that they want by playing games, winning points and bidding those points for the books that they want in an online auction. They are notified on the day of the contest itself if they won or not. And because they’ve paid attention to what they wanted to win, they are more likely to finish reading the book that they’ve won and (in some cases) leave a review.

Of course the traffic on Freado is far lesser than that on GoodReads. But we believe that the attention that each of our author’s books gets is far greater.

A case of owners pride?


But then again, many of our authors have been using the book giveaways feature for nearly 3 years now. And there is intense competition by readers to win free copies of some of our authors’ books (Edit – May 27, 2013: see one example below).

So we must be doing something right!

Vikram Narayan is the founder of BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies. Follow him on Twitter
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