Amazon’s new Giveaway – how does it compare to Goodreads?

Amazon announced their new Giveaway program today that allows authors to run contests for free print books or other items sold by Amazon. The program is based on the giveaway concept first offered by Goodreads, which is now also owned by Amazon. So which program is better for the indie author? Some comparison points:

The Goodreads giveaway:

  • may be started before your book is published, allowing you to generate a bit of pre-release interest.
  • is open worldwide, allowing you to target readers in any country you believe you have a market in.
  • is open to any user of the site, age 18 or older, depending on the legal age of the jurisdiction they live in.
  • The approximate retail value (“ARV”) of a single prize may not exceed $75.
  • The total ARV of all prizes offered may not exceed $500.
  • You may not give away more than 300 copies of the same book in any 12 month period.
  • The length of the giveaway is determined by the author but may not exceed 3 months.
  • Winners are selected at random after the giveaway period ends.
  • You are responsible for sending the book to the selected winners within 2-3 weeks from when you receive the shipping address.
  • You must agree not to contact the winners with any post-giveaway communications, and may not use the winners’ addresses for anything other than sending the indicated book.
  • You must agree not to contact Goodreads members who have entered the giveaway but did not win.
  • There is no mention of whether or not links are allowed in the contest blurb, but I have never seen any.
  • Goodreads has a dedicated section for giveaways, though site users cannot narrow down by genre.
  • Is popular even with established authors such as Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife), Margaret Atwood, and John Irving.

The Amazon giveaway:

  • may only be run after your book is available on the Amazon site.
  • is only open to U.S. citizens 18 years and older.
  • is only open to those with an Amazon account.
  • Entrants may enter via Twitter.
  • There is no limit to the retail value of any given prize but the total value of the contest cannot exceed $5000 USD, excluding taxes and shipping.
  • Individual giveaways are limited to 30 copies of your book BUT there is no limit to the number of individual giveaways you may conduct, even for the same book.
  • Amazon ships the book but the author pays full shipping costs and all taxes.
  • You need a credit card to cover the costs of the books, the shipping costs, and all taxes.
  • You can include links to your website in the contest message BUT the link will not be clickable (hyperlinked). Only links to Amazon-owned sites, including Goodreads, will be hyperlinked.
  • Links to,, (and, and are also clickable.
  • Two giveaway options are available to the author: winning on a first-come, first serve basis; or “lucky number awards a prize to every set number to enter. For example, every 25th entrant wins, up to 10 total winners. This model generates more entrants, the giveaway is likely to last longer, and is more suited to growing Twitter followers.”
  • The length of the giveaway is determined by the speed of entry; once the books are won the contest ends.
  • Authors are provided with the names of winners and may use the winners’ names for promotional purposes.
  • Authors must advertise the giveaway themselves; Amazon does not provide any advertising support.

Generation of New Leads

Neither giveaway provides the author with much in the way of contact information: neither contest will generate an email list of non-winners, though the Amazon version may generate some Twitter followers. Note, however, that restricting entries to Twitter followers is not possible; it is only one of three possible ways to enter.

The Goodreads version may result in some new followers there, but that has not been my experience.


In theory, each giveaway is supposed to generate new reviews. Goodreads encourages but does not require it, and out of the four giveaways I did on Goodreads, only one winner reviewed the book. Anecdotal evidence suggests giveaways attract contest junkies: those who enter everything and do not discriminate. There was the one somewhat infamous example of an author whose Swedish-language book was won by someone who didn’t read Swedish. So why enter?


In terms of cost, the Goodreads version is likely to be cheaper for the author.

For example, if I run a Goodreads giveaway for Baby Jane, I can order the books directly from CreateSpace, my POD manufacturer for, and drop-ship the books to the winner. The cost to ship to someone in the continental U.S. is about $3.59. Taxes vary by state but I’ll use Washington as an example, where tax on books is 8%. Add that to the printing cost of the book ($4.09) and my cost comes in at USD $8.01. The whole of the $8.01 is a business expense that I set against my earnings. If I pay 25% tax on my earnings, the out-of-pocket cost of the contest to me is $6.01 per book.

If I were to run a giveaway on, I would pay $15.93 for the book plus taxes and shipping. Taxes will vary by state, but we’ll use Washington again as an example. For a winner there, I would pay $1.77 tax and $4.98 for shipping, for a total of $22.68 per book. In return I would be paid a taxable royalty from CreateSpace of $6.68. The $22.68 is a legitimate business expense; at 25% tax, I pay a net of $17.01 per book and earn a net of $5.01, for a total net expense of $12.00 per book. That’s twice the price of the Goodreads giveaway.


Perhaps the biggest difference of all, though, is in the exposure.

On Goodreads, your book remains in the giveaway list for the length of time you decide. When I gave Baby Jane away on Goodreads, I did so for two weeks, during which time 1261 people entered and about 250 people added it to their reading list. (I learned by experience that I should have put it up for the full 3 months to maximize exposure.) I only gave away two copies, and at that time I autographed them and shipped using the very expensive Canada post, for a cost of about $40.00 for that two-week exposure. (Again, lesson learned; when I later gave away copies of The Global Indie Author, the books were not autographed and I drop-shipped directly from CreateSpace.) Were I to do it again, my total cost for three months of exposure would be $12.02.

In contrast, if I were to give away two books through the Amazon giveaway, it would cost me $24.00 and the exposure would probably amount to about 30 seconds if on the first-come, first-serve basis. The only way to extend the contest would be to use the second option and make it really hard to win: something like one book for every 100 or 1000 entries. To get the same number of “hits” as I did on Goodreads, I would have to offer Amazon readers only one book for every 630 entries.

More importantly, on Goodreads the readers come to you; on the Amazon option, you have to go to your readers, using your already established Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, et cetera social media lists. Why would you give your book away to your already existing readership list, and at twice the price of the Goodreads giveway?





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