For Authors, Goodreads’ “Giveaway” Program Becomes a Misnomer


News Flash: Four days remain for Goodreads members to sign up for a free copy of my new book, Lost Sherpa of Happiness. If you do the Goodreads thing, you can sign up for a lightning bolt’s chance here.

I’ve spoken to the GR’s Giveaway program before on these pages and have decidedly ambivalent feelings about it. For publicity purposes, I signed on three different times for my first book, The Indifferent World, and dutifully sent books out to the lucky winners.

Unlucky me, however. Not one of the winners bothered to review the book, and as the losers do not buy books once they fail to win the freebie (at least in my experience), it’s a net loss for the author–in this case, the cost of three books plus postage.

The news flash I trumpeted above will be my swan song with the Goodreads Giveaway program. As of January, they will be turning to pay-to-play, charging authors $120 to use the program. Of course, to the big publishers, this is nothing. But to small independent presses like Future Cycle Press (which accepted my first manuscript) and Kelsay Books (which accepted my second), it’s a bigger deal.

The small presses cannot afford marketing, so it’s all on the author. Can I afford $120 to play in the Amazon-owned Goodreads Giveaway program? I don’t think so. I’d have to sell an awful lot of books to justify the cost. Meantime, the rich (although that word doesn’t quite capture the dimensions of Amazon’s wealth) get richer. And Amazon adds to its growing reputation as an author-unfriendly bull in a china shop.

I argued against this move in the Goodreads Feedback group, and was somewhat amazed at the number of posters who praised the move by Goodreads. You are a business, one poster lectured in browbeat mode, as if authors from Dan Brown to Ken Craft were the same animal worthy of the same broad brush.

Uh, no. Not all authors are the same.

Nothing in life’s for free! the pro-paying posters chirped. Plus this should weed out the dreck we freebie hunters have to swim through–all those self-published books and that other stuff.

I guess I fall under the category of “other stuff,” as all published-on-demand (POD) books– even if they undergo the process of being read and accepted by small independent presses–follow the same model as self-published ones if they use a publishing outfit like Amazon’s CreateSpace. It’s all one to those who argue in favor of payment for services.

Of course, I would argue that readers who post reviews on Goodreads (many of them not only beautifully but professionally done, all of them for free) should be paid if we’re following the same logic.

After all, do these free reviews drive sales and feed Amazon’s insatiable money machine? Rhetorical question. Amazon has buttons under every book on Goodreads, each leading to the Mother Ship sales juggernaut.

Different, though, the naysayers cry. What’s good for the golden goose (Amazon) is not good for the old gray gander (every day readers’ reviewers). Meantime, ironically enough, most small presses who cannot get precious shelf space in bookstores must sell on the Mother Ship’s web site. That’s right: Amazon dot all-is-not-calm.

Anyway, to come full circle, there’s a free book if you want to enter and take your chances by December 10th, midnight eastern standard time.

After that? I hope you’ll buy a book and strike a blow for the little guy (publisher AND poet). If you like poetry or feel the call to reconnect with the genre, it’s better than Dan Brown, I think you’ll find.

But then, I’m a little biased. Just a little.

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