Goodreads Giveaways: An Update

Back in August 2014, I blogged about Goodreads giveaways and what I thought was best practice for authors interested in using them as a means of promoting their books [Goodreads Giveaways: Don’t Do What You’re Told]. Since then, Goodreads has made a number of significant changes to their giveaways and so it’s high time for an update…



Let’s get one thing out of the way first and fast. Every time I blog or tweet or talk about this – or any other book promotion idea – there is the inevitable, ‘But does it WORK? I haven’t seen any evidence and until I do, I’m not going to bother.’

That’s nice, but repeat after me: with very few exceptions, there are no guarantees when it comes to publicity. There. Are. No. Guarantees. Publicists, self-publishers and the sales and marketing departments of major publishing houses can execute identical PR campaigns for two different books, only for one to become a bestseller and one to disappear instantly without leaving a trace. This is just how it goes – and it’s not confined to the book world. Any time you have a consumer product and a buying public you’re trying to flog it to – movies, new flavors of Coke, apps – you are faced with this conundrum. With the exception of using things that come with a built-in traceable clicks-into-action component, asking ‘But does it work?’ is akin to demanding to know ‘How long is a piece of string?’ We can’t answer it. At best, we can say Books that did well did this, so possibly it works, but we don’t know if it was this specifically that was responsible for the book’s success. 

Where to then for your book promotion plans, if we don’t know for sure what works and there are no guarantees? We must turn to common sense and evaluate if, on balance, it is worth doing a particular thing.

If I were to write three laws of book promotion, the first would be to not annoy anyone with your promotional efforts. The second would be to aim, above all else, to inform people that your book exists who didn’t know it existed before, and do it without breaking the first law. I’m still working on the third one, but it’ll probably involve cupcake-related bribery. I’ll let you know.

In recent years some big players in the publishing industry started to move away from putting ‘spend’ behind things like Tube station ads. The thinking was that although thousands of eyeballs would connect with these ads every day – thus satisfying both the first and second laws – there was no way to know who those eyeballs belonged to. Were the eyeball-owners part of the target demographic for the book? Were they even readers? There was no way to tell. And since Tube ads cost a small fortune, it seemed too big a risk to just throw them up there and hope for the best.

Compare this to running a Goodreads giveaway for your book. Potentially thousands of eyeballs will land on your book’s cover, but you know for a fact that these people are avid readers. Better yet, you know that the majority of them share what they read online – they’re members of a social network built around books, where users track what they read, share their recommendations with other users and leave reviews. How many of them you can reach is not dependent on how many Twitter followers or Facebook fans you have, and you have exactly the same opportunity to reach the site’s users as the major publishing houses who also use the site. The cost of this to you is some time, a few copies of your book and the cost of packaging them and shipping them to the winners’ addresses. What other deal in book promotion land is as good?

So, clearly, I think Goodreads giveaways are great and that you should do them. But I don’t think you should do them the way Goodreads suggest you should and, thanks to a raft of recent changes, you shouldn’t do them the way I said you should back in August 2014 either. Not entirely.

A Quick Recap

Back in 2014 I decided to take a good look at Goodreads giveaways to see if I was making the most of them for myself and for the books whose campaigns I was working on. I did something I’d never done before: I went and read what Goodreads told me I should do to make the most of their giveaway system. They advised that you should run your giveaway for a month and to give away as many copies as you could. But then, in their own slideshow, they included this graph…

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 11.15.29

…which clearly showed a significant spike in entries at the beginning and end of the giveaway, and nothing coming even close in between.

Remembering that our aim is to inform new people that our book exists, this graph gives us vital information. Yes, it’s nice that the people who follow us on Twitter, Instagram, etc. enter the giveaways and show interest in reading our book, but they knew about us and it already. What we really want our giveaway to do is to reach people who had never encountered us or the book before. This is why entries that come from the site itself – as opposed to, say, us tweeting a link – are so important.

And they seem to be mostly happening at the start and end of a giveaway, which makes sense when you visit the Giveaways page and see that they’re divided into ‘Just Listed’ and ‘Ending Soon’ charts. So doesn’t it also make sense that you’d want to have as many starts and ends as possible? One month-long giveaway only gives you one of each.

Then there was the idea that you should give away as many books as you could, presumably to (a) make your giveaway as attractive to users as possible – more books mean a greater chance of them winning one and (b) more users receiving a copy of your book meant more reviews of it eventually posted on the site. But here’s the thing: I don’t give a tiny rodent’s arse about the winners posting reviews.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s fantastic if they do. But Goodreads themselves say only 60% of winners – on average – post reviews of the books they receive and in my experience the number can be a lot lower than that. Regardless, it’s not something I can control. Winners are encouraged to review their prizes, but they’re not obligated to. (Totally fair.) What I’m interested in is, above all else, informing new people that my book exists. I’m interested in getting as many entries as I can. And scrolling through the giveaway charts back in August 2014, I saw no evidence that offering fewer prizes led to fewer entries. So why give away more books – read: spend more money – than I absolutely had to?

Ultimately, my takeaway was this: forget your single, month-long giveaway for as many books as you could offer. Instead, give away 1-3 books at a time in a number of shorter giveaways of varying length. That was the best way to maximize entries (eyeballs) I thought – and it was. It worked.

So what’s Changed?

The biggest change is that now you can only list a giveaway that starts 7 days or more in the future and that giveaway has to run for 7 days at least. 

I’m guessing this change was to make things easier for the poor Goodreads team who had to manually approve every giveaway before it went live, and if I recall correctly only had 72 hours or something to do it in. You could also make a giveaway a day long if you liked, increasing their workload even more.

Picture 5

You could never set-up a giveaway when you were already running one for the same book, so in practice this means that now:

  • Your giveaways must run for a week at least
  • Your giveaways must have a week-long break in between.

[UPDATE: Please see the comments below re: setting up more than one giveaway for the same book at a time. Turns out there’s a way around it!]

Neither of these things change my advice. A week is still shorter than a month and I don’t see what difference having to have a week-long break in between them could possibly make. If anything, it improves your chances of reaching the maximum number of eyeballs, as you might have users who only check in once or twice a month.

Goodreads have also let go of the idea that their giveaways are just for books that are new or coming soon. Before, you only had two ‘year’ options under release date: this one or next. Now you can give away a book published twenty years ago, if you like, so long as it’s a brand new copy of it.

Another significant change is that while before you had 6-8 weeks to get your prizes in the post, now you only have 2-3 weeks to do it once you’ve received the winners’ addresses. (Goodreads pick the winners and then tell you where they live.) Plan accordingly.

Once upon a time I’d run a giveaway and then, once it had closed, send messages to the ‘losers’ offering them an e-book edition instead. (You can only give away print books on Goodreads.) This was very time-consuming but it did increase the number of reviews the book would end up with. But now I’m saying don’t even dream of doing this. It’s a big no-no. I’ve heard that sending unsolicited messages to users can get you kicked off the site. One woman apparently got in trouble just for sending messages to the winners to check they got their books. I find this strange considering users can opt out of receiving messages and there’s a limit (10, I think) on how many you can send in one day so it’d difficult to go totally crazy, but hey, them’s the rules.

snowballs of eyeballs (or something)

Let’s talk a little bit more about those eyeballs.

A Goodreads user logs in, navigates to the Giveaways page and is met with the ‘Ending Soon’ chart by default. They spy your book and – there it is! EYEBALL CONTACT ACHIEVED. Mission accomplished. So if 732 people enter your giveaway, that’s 732 new eyeballs in your book promotion bag. 732 people now know your book exists who, potentially, didn’t know it existed before. Right?

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 17.40.30


It’s at least 732 people.

Whenever you enter a giveaway on Goodreads, the action gets included in your ‘update feed’ which, depending on when they log in, your Goodreads friends will probably see. (It’s what they see by default when they log in – the ‘Home’ page.) This is a screenshot of mine when I logged in today:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 17.45.16

So C.M. McCoy, author of Eerie, can count both Sherry and me as New Eyeballs reached today. I am a New Eyeball even though I may not have entered this particular giveaway.

(Will I take any action on this? Will I buy the book? Who knows. C.M. McCoy doesn’t know and – here’s the thing – they can’t know. And we’re not wasting our time trying to micro-manage down to the level of things we can’t control and can’t possibly determine, before or after the fact. We can control how far and wide we cast our net, so that’s all we’re focused on right now: MORE EYEBALLS.)

Here’s another thing: whenever you enter a giveaway on Goodreads, there’s an ‘Add to my To-Read shelf’ checkbox that’s checked by default.


And as soon as a giveaway is listed for a book that you’ve marked as ‘To Read’, you get an email like this:


(Yes, I did mark my own book as ‘Want To Read’. For research purposes, naturally! And that Hunger Games thing is totes adorbs, as the kids say that I started mocking them about and now find myself using in everyday speech non-ironically.)

So I log onto Goodreads and browse the giveaway lists to see if there’s anything I might be interested in. I spot Dead Secret by Ava McCarthy and it seems like my kind of thing, so I click ‘Enter Giveaway’ and I leave the ‘Add to my to-read shelf’ box checked, because I do want to read it. Me = an eyeball. But also = eyeballs are the Goodreads friends of mine who see this action pop up on their ‘news feed’ when they log into the site. And if I don’t win and Ava lists another giveaway, I will get an e-mail about it straight to my inbox, prompting me to enter the new one. (Why wouldn’t I? It’s just one click.) In this way, effectively, every giveaway after the first one comes with a mailing list of people who you know want to win a copy of that book. If you only run one giveaway, you fail to capitalize on this.

So What Now?

So while those 2,000 words of blog post were mildly interesting, your coffee’s gone cold now and you just wanna know: what should you actually do?

Well, I think you should:

  • Let go of the idea that this is about getting reviews from the winners – this is about informing people that your book exists (*screams* EYEBALLS!)
  • Definitely run at least 2 giveaways – I like 3-5 over a period of 2-3 months
  • Give away no more than 1-3 books at a time
  • Keep your giveaways short (I like 7-10 days), vary them in length and have them starting and ending on different days of the week (i.e. not always starting on a Monday and ending on a Wednesday. Mix it up.)
  • Don’t bother promoting your giveaway at the beginning and end of it (e.g. on Twitter, Facebook, etc.). This is when Goodreads will do it for you, so why bother? It’s more important for you to do it in between
  • Don’t contact Goodreads users directly for any reason at all

A disclaimer: the first Goodreads giveaway of Distress Signals is live right now and it’s three weeks long. But this is because of the new ‘2-3 weeks to get prizes out’ thing – we won’t have the prizes until February, so I either had to push the end date to the end of the month or not start a giveaway yet. I chose the former. Also it’s only open to the UK and Ireland despite what I said in the August 2014 post about self-publishers restricting the countries their giveaways were open to – they got Angry Dinosaur Face – but Distress Signals isn’t self-published and we have to play by the territory rules. We can only give this edition away in the countries in which it will be published.

But once this first giveaway closes, I’ll be running a few shorter ones with the goal of getting as many entries/eyeballs as possible. I might also try a Goodreads ad campaign because they claim this really amps up the number of entries a giveaway gets. LET’S SEE. I’ll be back once I’m done to let you know the numbers and we’ll see where we are with Goodreads giveaway advice then…

Have you run a Goodreads giveaway? Yay or nay? What would be your advice? 


5 Ways To Get a Book Deal: Guest Post by Sheena Lambert

This morning we have a guest post from Sheena Lambert, whose novel The Lake comes out today. (Woo-hoo!) Sheena self-published her first novel, A Gathering Storm (previously published as Alberta Clipper) and now this, her second, is one of the first six to be released by KillerReads, an imprint of Harper Collins. Before she started on the champagne for breakfast, Sheena shared her tips on how to get a book deal… 

“So you want a book deal? No problem! The following is a vaguely scientific way of achieving your goal. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that you have written a book worthy of publication; a rather weighty assumption, granted, but we have to start somewhere. This is not a how-to on writing a book; this is a how-to getting it onto bookshelves.

So, let’s get started. There are a number of ways of getting a book deal.

  1. Be famous. Yes, famous people get book deals all the time. It’s understandable – it’s a lot easier to market a famous person, and most of us want to read what famous people have to write. So, go and rob a bank, or have an affair with a politician, or become a politician (just for a while – you don’t have to stay that way), and I can almost guarantee that you will be offered a publishing deal for your book.
  2. Be a journalist first. It’s a lot easier to get noticed by the relevant people in publishing if you have a track-record in being paid for writing, and it’s a lot easier to get paid work in journalism than in books. Have you counted the number of debut authors who have day jobs with the Times newspapers? Exactly.
  3. Have a wild past, or make one up. No one is interested in reading a debut novel by Mary Smith who was born and has lived all her life in the same small town in the country. But MJ Smyth, an ex-nun and recovered heroin addict who spent his/her (no one is sure) thirties travelling through Siberia in atonement for past life indiscretions? I’d read me some of that.
  4. A good head of swishy hair. I don’t know why, just believe me that it will increase your chances of publication significantly.
  5. Self-publish first. Yes, fine, it might sound a little pedestrian when compared with options 1-4 above, but it’s a truth that is becoming increasingly apparent – successful self-publishing helps you noticed by the big boys.

The Lake - 3D

This is how I got my book deal. (Did I mention my novel The Lake has just been published by HarperCollins? Finish reading this, and I’ll show you where you can buy your very own copy.) I am neither famous, nor do I have a particularly notable past. My hair is unremarkable to say the least. I have written the odd journalistic piece in my time, but I would certainly not refer to myself as a journalist.

I did, however, self-publish my first novel. Not without a lot of help from Catherine Ryan Howard and her Self-Printed books [ed. note: Oh, stop! *blushes*], I self-published A Gathering Storm in 2012, both as an ebook and in paperback. The book got itself noticed by a major wholesaler in my home country of Ireland, which led to it being stocked and sold alongside traditionally published books in real, live bookshops. So when my second novel The Lake was ready to send out to agents and publishers, I had some credentials: I had a track record of selling and marketing books successfully, I had a following who were keen to read my next book, I had form.

Interestingly, the traditional publishing deal I got for The Lake was not so traditional – rather it came in the form of HarperCollins’s new digital first crime/thriller imprint KillerReads. Instead of arguing against the ebook revolution, HarperCollins have embraced this phenomenal phenomenon with their digital first imprints which publish the ebook, a little like the hardback of yore, as a forerunner to the paperback (my paperback is out on 4th June. Just saying). With a digital first imprint, the ebook is given all the pomp and circumstance it deserves, rather than being treated like the less-loved, problem child that has to be endured.

As a self-published author, the idea of putting emphasis on the ebook felt very comfortable for me, and I’m guessing HarperCollins KillerReads liked the fact that I had experience of digital publishing. No one successfully self-publishes without learning the social media ropes, and that experience was very useful when it came to working with the HarperCollins team in the run up to The Lake’s publication date.

So in the proverbial shell of the nut, self-publishing my first book helped me get an agent for my second, and a publishing deal followed. And I’m not the only writer this has happened to. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about a self-published author landing a significant book deal with a publishing house. Rather than putting publishers off, having experience of self-publishing can make you and your book a very attractive gamble these days.

So what are you waiting for? Not a six figure deal from one of the Big Six (or is it Five these days?) I hope? Well, of course, that would be nice, but while you are waiting for that, invest in a copy of Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed [ed. note: I see what you did there…] and get yourself a head start in self-publishing.

Unless, of course, you have swishy hair, in which case sit tight. Those six figures will come to you.”

The Lake is available on for less than the price of the venti wet latte, extra hot please, that I’ll be having in a minute. It is also a great read. The first two chapters are available to read for free here, and you can follow Sheena on Twitter at @shewithonee.

I’m off to buy some volumizing shampoo. Thanks Sheena and congrats! x

Sheena Lambert, The Lake

More about The Lake:

September 1975.

A body is discovered in the receding waters of a manmade lake, and for Peggy Casey, 23-year-old landlady of The Angler’s Rest, nothing will ever be the same.

Detective Sergeant Frank Ryan is dispatched from Dublin, and his arrival casts an uneasy spotlight on the damaged history of the valley, and on the difficult relationships that bind Peggy and her three older siblings. Over the course of the weekend, Detective Ryan’s investigation will not only uncover the terrible truth behind the dead woman’s fate, but will also expose the Casey family’s deepest secrets.

Secrets never meant to be revealed.

It’s #SelfPrintedSplash Day! (and it comes with PRIZES!)

oldpostHappy #SelfPrintedSplash Day!

The Self-Printed Splash, if you’re not familiar, is a stupid idea I had [I’m typing these words at 2.36am on the morning of said splash, when I have something like 20 responses left to go and Gmail has decided to stop letting me in and there’s only so much coffee a person can drink – hence the stupid bit] to launch the third edition of Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.


I invited people to ask me their burning self-publishing question and I answered it under the condition that they’d post it to their blog, Twitter feed or Facebook page today, and in exchange they would get a digital copy of Self-Printed. Come Monday I will be posting links to all the participants’ published questions and answers right here and I’ll be revealing the winners of the Random Participant Wins This and Best Question Asked awards, for which there will be small but fun prizes.

Today however, you can do these things:

1. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter

I’ve asked all the participants to tweet links to the Q&As if they can, so do follow the #selfprintedsplash hash-tag on Twitter if you’re in need of a procrastination activity today.

2. Win an aMAHzing prize!

The fantastically lovely (and patient!) people at eBookPartnership have given me an aMAHzing prize: a conversion and distribution package worth LOTS that’s valid until December 2016!


For your chance to win, leave a comment on this blog before midnight GMT on Monday 27th October.

The winner will be picked at random and everyone will be VERY jealous of you. You can find out more about eBookPartnership on their website.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Barbara Forte Abate who the Random Number Generator deemed the winner! Now, get finishing your book…!😀

3. Buy Self-Printed 3.0 (if, you know, you want to)

Self-Printed 3.0 is out now! It’s available in paperback and Kindle editions on and the other ones, and other e-book formats will be available soon.

Don’t forget that you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books. If you have a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone you can download the free Kindle Reading App.


It’s on here and here.

Here are some nice things some people have said about it:

  • Self-Printed is my self-publishing bible. It taught me how to format, create and upload my e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. It showed me practical things such as how to build a website/blog and how to promote my books. More importantly, it taught me how to compete with the professionals. Just look at the results – The Estate Series has sold nearly 100,000 copies and following that I got a traditional book deal with Thomas & Mercer too, so I’m now a hybrid author. Jam-packed full of hints and tips all in one place, I’m always referring back to it. In a word, it’s priceless.” – Mel Sherratt, author of The Estate Series and DS Allie Shenton Series  [and we’ll have a blog post from Mel to entertain us this weekend – stay tuned!]
  • “An exceptional breath of realism, real knowledge and hard experience – don’t dream of self-publishing your book without it. This is the self-publishing guide to read if you actually care about the quality of your writing and your readers.” – Nicola Morgan, author of around 100 books – including Write to be Published (and other writing advice on her website, award-winning YA novels such as Wastedand books on the teenage brain and stress.
  • “[Self-Printed has] been my bible! Whenever anyone asks me for a tip on self-publishing, I tell them to go buy it. I had it in digital version first and then in paperback so I could have it open next to the laptop.” – Kitty French, USA Today bestselling author of The Knight Series
  • “The BEST book on self-publishing … Seriously, GET THIS NOW!” – David Wright, co-author of the bestselling Yesterday’s Gone series
  • “It’s authoritative, engaging, and, like [Catherine’s] blog, caffeinated. If you’re thinking of self-publishing and you want to give your book a great start in life, get Self-Printed.” – Roz Morris, author of Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
  • “When I decided to self-publish my work, I didn’t have the faintest idea how to do it. Fortunately, I came across Catherine Ryan Howard’s guide to encourage, push, and prod me through the process. I doubt I would have achieved the success I’ve experienced without her down-to-earth, practical, meanwhile-here-in-the-real-world advice. I recommend Self-Printed to every writer I meet.” – Martin Turnbull, author of the Garden of Allah novels, recently optioned by the producer of Disney’s Million Dollar Arm
  • “The best thing about Catherine is that she not only lives the dream, but offers you a stepladder up to join her. The advice she gives is utterly practical – because she’s done what she describes – and the whole [book] is suffused with humour. I am a fan.” – Associate Professor Alison Baverstock, author of Is There a Book in You…? and Course Leader, MA Publishing, Kingston University (UK)
  •  “Catherine explains clearly and concisely how to make self-publishing work for you. Laugh-out-loud funny in places, this book covers everything you need to know to make your book a success.”– Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of

Did you pre-order Self-Printed?

P.S. Did you pre-order the Kindle edition? It was in lock out for the 10 days prior to publication and in that 10 day period I discovered a change with the tax situation that I was then able to update in the post-publication Kindle and paperback editions. The newest version says “Version 3.1” in the copyright notice. If you bought a Kindle edition and it does not say that, please e-mail me at info[at] with proof of purchase and I will hopefully be able to send you a free Kindle edition of the newest update. (Amazon basically demands a blood sample before they push a new version out to customers, and who has the time?)

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win the aMAHzing eBookPartnership prize! If you can’t think of anything, tell me: what’s your coffee order?

Self-Publishing a New Edition? Get Rid of the Old One First!


Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, 3rd Edition is almost here, so it’s time to address the woes involved in bringing out a new edition. Don’t forget that in the Self-Printed 3.0 build up we’ve already talked about closing the Facebook and not doing what Goodreads tells us anymore, if you need something to read with your coffee today.

See also the end of this post for Self-Printed 3.0 buying options and a chance to see Self-Printed: LIVE! (AKA, me doing a self-publishing workshop) if you live within driving distance of Dalkey, Co. Dublin and are free on October 19th…


An Update Versus A New Edition

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: I’m not talking about releasing an update. An update is when you take a published book and make a few changes to it, maybe update some hyperlinks, correct a few typos or even spruce up the cover a notch. You don’t change the ISBN (but note that you should change the ISBN if the changes are significant) and all you need do is upload a new interior/e-book file.

A new edition is exactly what it says on the tin: a new edition and so a different edition to the one you released before. It needs a new ISBN, because it’s a different book – and yes, you’re going to have go back to the start and publish it from scratch.

(Does this mean you’re going to lose all your shiny reviews? Unfortunately yes, but more on that in a second.)

What About The Old One?

On September 1st I went to CreateSpace and unselected all my sales channels on Self-Printed 2.0. This means the book still exists – I can still buy copies myself through CreateSpace – but it’s not for sale anywhere else. Then I went to KDP and selected ‘Unpublish’ next to 2.0 on my dashboard, making the e-book unavailable for sale and changing its status to ‘Draft’. Finally I instructed, who distribute the title to all other e-book channels, to withdraw the files from sale.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 12.35.11

This is just what happens when a book suddenly becomes unavailable. Imagine the Amazon Algorithm Elves freaking out, looking for some stock to back up the listing they have on the site. Eventually they found some secondhand/Market Place sellers, so the listing changed to this:

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Meanwhile over on, new copies are still available. Why? Well, this ties back to the fact that sometimes a order of your paperback on Amazon doesn’t necessarily add to your unpaid royalty balance – because it’s already been printed and you get paid at the print. I assume this is what’s going on here – Amazon already has a number of physical copies and they’re letting the stock run down. When I first withdrew it, this figure was at six. Why are people still buying the 2nd Edition when on the same list you can see that a newer one is forthcoming? I don’t know but I do know I’m not responsible. I’ve done what I can to withdraw the book from sale.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 12.17.45

I also had to remember to go to Gumroad, which supports my purchase-from-me-direct e-book store here on my blog (currently offline; look for it again in a few weeks), and remove all the files from sale there as well.

The Kindle listings, meanwhile, just completely disappear.

Note: you cannot get rid of an Amazon listing for a paperback. The Kindle edition listing may disappear but the paperback’s will always remain, even when the book is out of print. (This is so if anyone has a copy they want to sell through Marketplace, they have a listing to attach it to.) But you can – and you must – make your earlier edition unavailable. It’s just not fair on your potential readers otherwise.

But What If I Bought 2.0?

Round about the time I released 2.0, I got three increasingly angry e-mails from a man who had purchased 1.0 and now wanted 2.0 for free. I ignored them all, and the end of the third one was a reminder not to get too big for my boots and to remember who my friends are.

Oh for… I mean, really. Give me a BREAK.

If you’re my friend – and I don’t expect you to be, I expect you to be my reader – you would surely not begrudge me 70% of USD $4.99 for 130,000 words that I’ve just spent months updating and revising. Even if you hate e-books and only read in print, the print edition is the same price as 3-4 venti lattes at Starbucks and it can make you money. In fact, you’d only have to sell about 8 e-books priced at $2.99 before you have earned the money back that you paid out for my book.

Moreover just because you bought an earlier edition of something does not mean you’re entitled to newer ones. Do you see Microsoft sending out free Xboxes every time they bring out a new version? Does Apple send me a brand new Macbook every year? Does your car manufacturer show up every January 1st with a new set of keys? OF COURSE THEY BLOODY DON’T. And we’re talking about something that costs a tiny, minute fraction of what those items cost.

If you bought an earlier Kindle edition, you may have a genuine, non-greedy question about whether or not you’ll get an update for free, as Kindle sends out free updates if you’ve purchased an earlier version of the book. But no, you won’t receive Self-Printed 3.0, because it’s an entirely different book. Remember: it’s not a new version (read: update), it’s a new edition (read: new book). It will be in no way connected to 2.0, so Amazon can’t automatically deliver it to you. Sorry!

Where/When/How To Buy Self-Printed 3.0

It’s hard to estimate exactly when all editions will be available when you self-publish, so although some formats may be available before this date, I’m going with October 16th just to be safe.

It will be available in all major e-book formats and paperback, priced at $4.99 for e-book and $18.95 for paperback. This is a price hike on the paperback edition, yes – before it was $14.95. Why am I charging more this time out? Because I woke up. I was always thinking about my book prices in dollars, and $15 for a thick 6×9 paperback sounded like about as much as I’d pay. But actually, here in Ireland, those same size traditionally-published books are €14.99 if you’re lucky and up to €18 if you’re not. (That’s just under $19 and just over $22.) Although I was doing alright profit-wise on purchases, I was merely making slivers of it on all other retailers. Normally I’d say your paperback profit isn’t that important, but Self-Printed generally sells as many or more paperbacks than it does e-books. Plus, it’s worth it. I think so anyway. 130,000 words that are designed to help you make money? I think that’s worth the extra couple of bucks.

I will be selling it directly from My E-book Store too but PLEASE NOTE: if you purchase it from here, you’ll have to manually download the file and then transfer it to your Kindle like you would any other file that you download from the internet and need to, say, transfer to a USB stick. (If you’re wondering why anyone would need this told to them, let me direct you to my Inbox. Let’s just say when you’re used to buying Kindle books by clicking a button and then watching them magically appear, you don’t understand the process when it happens anywhere else. Think of that YouTube clip of a child stabbing a magazine, thinking it works like an iPad…)

Sometimes I’m asked where I’d prefer you to buy my books from. Um, hello? Are you kidding? I’m doing cartwheels that you’re buying it at all. Buy it from wherever is most convenient for you!

You can pre-order the Kindle edition of Self-Printed 3.0 from Amazon now here and all other Amazons too if you go look. 

(I hope it goes without saying that you can’t pre-order the paperback.)

A Plea for Reviews

Because Self-Printed 3.0 is an entirely new book, it means I’m starting off from scratch again with Amazon reviews. Yes, I have to say goodbye to 35 5* reviews on and 39 5* star reviews on (yes, I’ve counted) but I’ve no choice because Amazon will not connect them if they’re significantly different books, which they are. So please, if you do read Self-Printed 3.0, please leave a review too!


Dalkey Creates

I’m running a self-publishing workshop at Dalkey Creates in Dalkey, Co. Dublin on October 19th. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Have you released a new edition? Did you update the existing one or start afresh? How did it go? Let us all know in the comments below… 

Closing the Facebook


This summer I’m working on revising and updating my self-publishing ‘how to’: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Edition #3 is scheduled for release September 5th. When I did the second edition back in 2012, only one year had passed since the first but still, so much had changed. This time around, the entire landscape has changed, and there’s so many new and exciting opportunities for self-publishers to take advantage of. I’ve completely changed my mind about some of my advice, and believe more than ever in the rest of it. One thing hasn’t changed at all though: I still think self-publishing is something every author should be involved in, whether it’s their main career or a sideline, and I still think that with great power comes great responsibility, so you should do it professionally. Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing posts about some issues that need a whole new section in Self-Printed: The 3rd Edition, starting today with the tumbleweeds-blowing-across-a-broken-road-cutting-through-barren-desert ex-social network we call Facebook…

[The Self-Printed 3.0 Splash needs YOU!]

I think I’m done with Facebook.

Once upon a time, I thought Facebook was a really good way to reach readers. If you had a book about a specific topic – say, Disney World – you could reach groups of Disney Word enthusiasts who were already assembled for you. By setting up an author page, you could get real life friends and family to help you build a fan base, as they could share content from your page on their own pages and news of their ‘liking’ you would show in their news feeds. With the help of things like Facebook offers and Rafflecopter, you could hold giveaways and draw attention to events, real world and virtual, like the release of your new book.

Then, it all went to pot.

Facebook has become its own worst enemy. I think in the future social media archeologists will study it for lessons in what not to do with your success. I think it was Steve Jobs who said, ‘People don’t know what they want until you give it to them.’ Mark Zuckerberg seems to be operating on some kind of ‘Take away everything people want’ principle, and it’s failing miserably. By constantly trying to second guess what users would like to see when they log into Facebook, Zuckerberg and friends have consistently moved further and further away from what users want. Privacy settings constantly change. The terms and conditions hide a multitude. In attempt to turn a profit,they’ve made many page owners, effectively, invisible. The kids are all signing up to Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and other websites this grandma (32 as of today!) probably hasn’t heard of yet, and Facebook is a wasteland of neglected profiles, dusty photo albums and unrequited pokes.

Take, just as a simplistic example, the debacle that is your News Feed. Once upon a time you accepted a friend request, and then whatever that friend posted on Facebook, you saw in your News Feed whenever you logged in. If you didn’t want to see it you could unfriend them or hide them. Simples, right? Worked for everyone. You could see what your friends were up to and keep in contact with them – the point of Facebook – and you could also lurk and, ahem, stalk as well. Then Facebook decided that that was an inefficient method of operating and started hiding things from you. So if there was a “friend”, say, as opposed to a friend, and you never commented on any of her photos or clicked the ‘Like’ button or in fact interacted with her in any way (but you still wanted to see what she was up to, natch) well, forget it. Zuckerberg said no, and hid her from you entirely. He only wanted you to see the activity of people you regularly interacted with which, honestly, shows such a blatant misunderstanding of what people were using Facebook for (let’s be honest) that he doesn’t deserve his paper billions.

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But the fact that you missed your old frenemy getting a horrendous fake tan job isn’t important. (Let’s hope!) But take Dead Good Books. Run by a team from Penguin Random House, this Facebook page is one of my faves and a must for any crime fiction fan. Even though they’re a corporate page their content is fun, interesting and worthwhile, and I loved checking in to see what giveaways, news, etc. they had on offer. They’ve worked hard to get to nearly 15,000 likes. But a few days ago I realized that I hadn’t seen anything about them in my News Feed for a while. Were they still operating? I wondered. Well, DUH. Of course they were. Facebook had just decided to hide them from me because even though I had clicked the ‘Like’ button and interacted with them in the past, I hadn’t for a while. FACEBOOK FAIL.

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Take my own Facebook page for Mousetrapped, which – hands up – I have been neglecting. So my neglect might well play a part in what I’m about to share with you, but it’s definitely not the only underlying cause. When you are the admin of a Facebook page, you get to see the ‘reach’ stats for every post. Reach is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the number of people who saw your post, i.e. the number of people it reached.

My Mousetrapped Facebook page has 1,126 likes as of writing this post. Let’s take a look at the reach of some the posts I’ve published there lately…


The post on the left is a link to the last blog post on here, which only reached 34 people. Yes, thirty-four. There were no shares or likes, which makes this a really good indicator of how many eyeballs land on content that’s just posted to your Facebook page without any subsequent interaction. 34 out of 1,126.

But, in fairness, that content is me-related, not Disney-related, and that’s the main attraction – I presume – to fans of this Mousetrapped-specific page. The post on the right is indeed Disney-related: it’s a shot of balloons for sale on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. It had 33 likes and reached 485 people – great, but still a long way off 1,126. Less than half, as a matter of fact.

You’ll notice the handy ‘Boost post’ button, which is an invitation to spend money – because that’s what this is all about. Not reaching enough people? Pay Facebook to lift the invisibility cloak. (Remembering that if enough people organically saw your posts, they wouldn’t be an opportunity to make money this way.) A little over a year ago, I tried this just to see whether or not it was worth it.

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I think we can agree the answer is no, right?

I ran a giveaway and I wanted people to see the actual giveaway post, so I set a budget of €4 and let Facebook go and do this boosting it was always on about. You can see that the paid reach was 1,083 people – fewer people than ‘like’ my page. (Although, in fairness, back then, it was probably slightly more or the same.) Out of them, a whopping 8 – EIGHT! – actually took action on the post, i.e. clicked ‘like’. (We don’t know if they entered the giveaway.) So essentially Facebook charged me €4 to reach the same number of people who had ‘liked’ my page. Stay classy, Facebook.

There was a time, back in the old days, when you could just post something on Facebook and most of the people who had ‘liked’ your page saw it. (Or an amount of people equal to them, anyway.) No money changed hands. Can you imagine such a thing?! This is the last example I could find of it on my page, a post published back in March 2013.

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As you can see, this post won activity: 12 likes, 8 comments and 2 shares. Not exactly viral, but yet it organically reached 713 people. Woo-hoo! In March 2013, this was probably less than 100 people off how many liked the page, so I’d consider it a win. A win, but a win back in March 2013.

Now, let’s slap ourselves across the face with a cold, dead fish called reality. Something that ANNOYS ME NO END when people start harping on about how terrible traditional publishing is because so many books don’t earn back their advance and why self-publishing is a waste of time because so many books don’t sell more than a copy is that no one ever says, ‘Maybe the book failed because no one wanted to read it.’ So maybe I’m crap on Facebook. (I’ve definitely been crap on it recently.) Maybe my contributions to the Facebooksphere are so boring that if you cared any less, you’d pass out. That is entirely possible – it’s entirely possible approaching almost likely.

But let’s go back to Dead Good Books. Nearly 15,000 likes and I’m one of them, yet Facebook has decided not to organically show me their posts anymore. (FYI: I’ve corrected this by going onto their page and randomly liking a few things they posted recently, but should that be necessary? I love to lurk, just like 95% or something of internet users. Let me lurk, Facebook. LET ME LURK!) They are definitely not crap on Facebook. They’re exceptionally good, and nearly 15,000 other people think so. But if it hadn’t occurred to me that I hadn’t seen them in a while, I’d be lost to them forever. Me and who knows how many others. So was all that work – the work that it took them to get to nearly 15,000 likes – worth it? I think the answer is no, and the reason is Facebook.

(There’s also this creepy business, which I won’t go into here. But, ewwww. Creepy McCreepyson.)

However nothing sums up the crapness that is Facebook like the image above. ‘Organic reach is dead’ the accompanying tweet declares and unlike those ‘No, really, THIS time, the novel really is dead. No, really’ articles that come out every six months or so, this could well be true. The image is comparing the response Snickers got when they posted the exact same picture to their Facebook and Twitter pages the night Luis Suarez got hungry for human flesh.

On Facebook, they have approximately 11,000,000 fans. The post got 895 shares and was ‘liked’ by 3,250 users.

On Twitter, they have approximately 50,000 followers. The exact same post was favourited 14,754 times and retweeted 34,994 times.

In the first and second editions of Self-Printed, I encouraged self-published authors to get on Facebook. But do I now? Well…

If you have an active page with a high, consistent level of engagement:

Get YOU! And well done. Somehow, some page-owners have managed to keep up a very high level of engagement (posts getting ‘liked’, commented on, shared, etc.) naturally, which means that you likely have great organic reach. If it’s working for you, hooray! Keep it up. But also keep in mind that as a social network, Facebook’s star is fading. Encourage your Facebook fans to double-up on their liking of you by subscribing to your mailing list, following you on Twitter or adding your blog feed to their Feedly list. Then you won’t have to worry about what shenanigans Facebook might get up to in the future.

If you have a page with lots of ‘likes’ but inconsistent and/or low engagement:

This is me, right now. I’m thinking that just like not eating that cupcake now and ‘saving’ it for later, it’s just not worth it. I think what I might do is apply some jump-leads: really make the effort with FB for a month or so and seeing if stats improve. If they don’t though, I know my time is better spent on other things, like this blog, Twitter and writing more books. It’s time to relegate Facebook to the waste-of-my-time leagues, me thinks.

If you haven’t got around to doing Facebook yet:

Don’t even bother. The ship has sailed. In the current ‘pay to be seen’ climate I’m not even sure how you’d win likes or expose users to content in the first place. Put your time and energy into something else instead.

UPDATE: The very helpful Amy Keely shared this YouTube video in the comments. If you are considering paying Facebook to do anything, you NEED to watch this video first. Shocking stuff.

In other news, yesterday was America’s birthday and today is mine! (Yes, 21 again, thanks for asking…) To mark the occasion, Backpacked is free to download for Kindle from all Amazon stores today (Saturday 5th July) for 5 days. If you’ve read it already, you might be interested in the Backpacked photo or video galleries. Have a good weekend!

Some Pics From Belfast

Busy writing, packing and – come this weekend – moving (ugh!), so I’m just popping in to share some pics from my afternoon at the LitNetNI event ‘Way With Words’ at Belfast Book Fest on June 14th…


L-R: Alison Baverstock (@alisonbav) sharing the findings of her research into self-publishing and those that indulge in it, and moi and Andrew Moore (@agrmoore) listening intently.

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)


Should we have a caption competition? Note how my top matches my blog. I mean, really….

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)


Andrew shared a moving story about how connecting with his young readers is infinitely more fulfilling than sales.

Photo credit: Averill Buchanan (@averillb)

And the lovely Karen, who was in the audience, shared these pics on Twitter…

Were you there? Do say hi!

In other news, I am still enthusiastically tweeting my #bookadayUK pics on Twitter. Activity-wise, that’ll have to do until this book is finished…

B is for…

While I (a) struggle to believe that today is the last day of May, (b) try to drum up the motivation to clean my apartment and (c) prepare for binge-watching 24 with my brother tonight (I’m STILL waiting for someone to say, ‘Send it to my screen!’), I have a few things to tell you…

B is for #BookADay

Starting tomorrow, June 1st, Harper Collins are inviting book-lovers everywhere to participate in #bookaday. The idea is that every day for the month of June, you share a book a day on Twitter.

I’m doing this, and I can tell you: I’m doing this seriously. I’ve already made my picks, photographed them unnecessarily and queued them all up in Buffer. In four short weeks I’ve to leave my beloved apartment and embark on a move to Dublin, and who knows what kind of grim bedsit I could end up in there, so this is kind of like a just-in-case goodbye to my bookshelves, as they may have been banished back to a storage unit by the end of the summer. (Nooooooo!)

Here are a sneak peek at some of my choices (although, if you’ve been around these parts for a while, none of them will come as a surprise to you):


I think this is going to be so fun, and we all might discover some new books to add to the TBR pile. And bonus: it gives you something to tweet about too.

B is for Belfast

Two weeks from today (Saturday 14th June), I’ll be in Belfast with Alison Baverstock and Andrew Moore, at LitNetNI’s Way with Words: Literature Development Day.


The afternoon will focus on self-publishing with an inspiring and revealing session fromAlison Baverstock, a hugely experienced publisher, trainer and writer on all aspects of publishing, marketing and reading. She is the author of The Naked Author – a Guide to Self-Publishing. The session will explore the publishing process in an informative, practical way and there will be lots of opportunities for questions. This event will feature Catherine Ryan Howard, writer and blogger from Cork whose self-publishing adventures began with the release of her travel memoir, Mousetrapped, in 2010 and Belfast writer AGR Moore who self-published The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black in 2011 and a picturesque fable A Boy Named Hogg in 2012. Find out how they published without the backing of a mainstream publishing house and pick up tips on how to raise your profile, promote, market and sell your book.

Find out more about the event and the Belfast Book Festival here.

B is for… Um… Well…

So okay, there’s no ‘B’ for this, but UK TV fans, I’ve a public service announcement for you: Amber starts on BBC Four this week.

You have been warned.