Did This Sell Books? – Analysis of Goodreads Giveaways Part II

Hello, for those who are just tuning in and seeing Part II in the title, here’s a link to Part I! In this series of blog posts, I’m going to be examining various internet-promoted marketing techniques for indie writers and assessing whether or not they actually sell books. This way, you can follow along with my misfortune and spend your valuable time doing other things… like writing more excellent content… don’t tell my manuscript I’m here.

My Goodreads campaign for The First Ambassador to Crustacea ended 30 days ago. If you’ll recall from the previous post, to break even on that campaign, I need to sell 108 books ($215 of royalties). Before I get into how many books I sold in the last month, I want to jump back and check in with our giveaway winners.

In total, I gave away 10 copies of Crustacea. To make the packages a little spicy, I added some stickers and bookmarks I had left over from previous Kickstarter campaigns (side note, if you want some sweet crab stickers, they come with every book purchase from my shop until I run out!). The hope was that by filling these packages with personalized touches, they would stand a better chance of getting reviewed. Crustacea is only 74 pages, so we can assume that if it was at the top of their list (why would it not be?), and each reader read 2 or more pages a day, they’d be finished by now. So, let’s see some numbers!

10 Copies Sent Out

Drum Roll

2 Reviews!

(20% review rate for those keeping score)

Ok, so two reviews so far, and both were 5-star ratings. That’s good press! It is worth noting that both of these reviewers have a much more reasonable number of ‘to-read’ books on their pages (~400 vs 40,000 on some of the winners). Still, their kind words and appreciation were enough to buoy my spirits, and I can post them everywhere.

Big thanks to those two winners for taking the time to review and for the kind words! But a few reviews do not make a best seller, let’s take a look at what this campaign has actually done for Crustacea’s GoodReads profile.

Hard to see? Let’s cut out the campaign window and take a look at the post-campaign buzz we generated.

Oof. Things are pretty much back to normal. Not a lot of people added the book and no there were no reviews beyond the two that were generated by the campaign. So, as far as GoodReads is concerned, I have paid $215 for 7 people to add the book, 3 people to rate it, and 2 people to write fantastic reviews. Not exactly a return on investment. Still, I’m going to convert those numbers into some highly speculative financials.

Assuming the 7 people buy the book – ~$14 in payment from Ingram ($2/book)

That puts me around 7% of the way toward breaking even with some big assumptions. However, we don’t have to assume everything, because I have actual sales data! In February (pre-campaign), Crustacea sold 2 digital copies and 1 print copy. After some deep analysis and calculation, that makes 3 copies!

In March (post-campaign). Crustacea sold no digital, but did sell 5 print copies! That is a 40% lift in sales month over month, or as we say in the business, big, big numbers. In addition, one of you dear readers bought a copy on my website, but all proceeds from there support charity, so WE CAN’T COUNT IT. The Nature Conservancy thanks you though.

Now, this data can be interpreted in many ways, most of them wrong, but here are a few scenarios.

Scenario A – 40% growth continues every month for the rest of the year because Crustacea invades the hearts and minds of readers everywhere

Scenario B – We assume a more modest growth model of continually selling 2 more copies per month for all of 2023 (still unlikely, but more likely)

Scenario C – 5-copies per month is the new norm and I continue to sell 5 copies a month for the rest of 2023 (I’d be happy with this, but it’s still unlikely)

Scenario D – The most likely scenario, we take an average of Crustacea’s sales in its first six months (~4.6 books) and project that out as continued sales

If we assume this logic is correct and holds, Scenarios A/B Both break even in 2023, which by all measures would be considered a success to me. However, I think we all know exponential growth is unlikely, so we should probably kill the pipe dream of Scenario A in a fire.

For Scenarios C/D, it takes some more time to break even. Scenario C manages it by December 2024, and Scenario D by February of 2025. In both these eventualities, Crustacea has sold over a hundred copies, which would make me a happy camper. However, we can’t say these sales trends will hold and there is an equally likely scenario where Crustacea fizzles out to 0 sales over the next few months, good ol’ Scenario E (also known as indie authorship).

With all that in mind, it’s safe to say the GoodReads Giveaway is a poor short-term and probably poor long-term investment, at least in my experience. For those that skipped ahead, here’s a TL;DR of why.

GoodReads Giveaway – Key Takeaways

  1. The book gets insane traffic, that is ultimately meaningless as a ton of it are giveaway specific accounts that will likely never actually read it
  2. Can drive good reviews from those that do read it, but so far, not enough to move the needle
  3. The campaign is expensive at a price point of $215 (calculated with shipping of goods, etc) and your marketing dollars are likely better spent elsewhere

I will continue to monitor sales of Crustacea (obsessively as usual) for the next few months and will report back on the scenarios as I continue this series. But, for next time, I’m working on something that’s hot, trendy, and will surely blow up in my face: Using ChatGPT to run my social media and build my brand. Expect an article on that in the next few weeks. Spoiler, its most popular tweet was starting an onion ring war.

In the meantime, if you want to purchase my work, you can do so directly from me (all profit goes straight to charity), or on BookShop (support indie retailers), Amazon, or wherever else books are sold!

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