Goodreads.com is one of the premiere social networking sites for book lovers. At this site you can make friends, share book recommendations, create virtual bookshelves to show off what you’re currently reading, the books you’ve read in the past, and titles you intend to read in the future. The article below details a few functions of the site as well as several ways that I have successfully promoted and marketed my own book.
I won’t get into the technical side of things as far as how to join the site or set these things up, as the website itself is good at walking you through the process.
1. Author Page
2. Status Updates
3. Groups and Forums
6. Paid Advertisements
7. In Closing
8. Additional Resources
If your new book has an ISBN number or is posted for sale on Amazon.com then it’s more than likely that your title will be searchable in the site’s database. Once you have signed up for a Goodreads account and located your book, you will be able to click a magic button to tell the site that you are the writer of the book and will be led through the process on how to set up an author page.
You’ll be able to create an author biography for yourself that will list the books you have written, a link to your website, your genre, your favorite writers, as well a picture. Make sure everything is professional looking and sounding so you immediately have credibility as an author. This is likely the first information your potential readers are going to see or read about you. Make a great first impression!
Goodreads has its own blog service which will display any posts you make to your profile, but hopefully you’re one step ahead of the game and already have a blog (and a professional looking) website of your own. In the blog settings you can insert the web address of your blog’s feed and anytime you update your regular blog, it will automatically cross-post to Goodreads where friends and potential fans will see it. It will put the first few paragraphs on the site and then link externally to your regular blog… and once those readers are on your real website, hopefully you have enough material to keep them there, ultimately leading them to that fateful Amazon.com link where they can purchase your title!
If you have any big events coming up, whether it’s the actual release date of your book, a blog tour, or a book signing, list it here! You can then promote the event to your friends and they can decide whether or not they will attend. If nothing else, it shows potential readers (and publishers) that you’re a hard worker and willing to do your own promotion.
Video book trailers are all the rage this year, so if you have your own hosted on YouTube, or other online video service, you can link it here and your readers will be able to enjoy it right from the Goodreads site (and hopefully purchase your novel soon after!). Other good videos to post include author interviews, public speaking engagements, or a personal reading from a chapter of your book. It’s easier to sell a book when someone feels like they know the author, so get personal! Just don’t get so personal that you end up revealing your social security or credit card numbers to your viewers! That would be silly.
Another section on your author page lets you post writings. This can be whatever you like! Often times you’ll see good reviews of the book reposted here, sample chapters, and more and more authors are putting brand new material online in order to get feedback as they write the sequel to their current novel. Interactivity is the key to a strong and loyal readership!
Goodreads.com encourages all of its members to share quotes from books they love. You can put quotes from your favorite books, inspirational sayings, or (if you’re crafty) you’ll upload quotes from your book that will be attention grabbing. These quotes will also show up on your book’s Goodreads page. Between the “Writing” section and the “Quotes” sections, there’s enough room to add some good snippets to get people reading your work, and hopefully it also makes them feel like they HAVE to finish it, and subsequently buy the book!
The last section of the author page that I want to mention is the “Fan” area where people can click a single button and become a fan. Your name and photo will then show up on their profile underneath their “Favorite Authors” section, and they will be updated whenever you post a new book, new writings, or a new blog post. Whatever keeps them coming back! Remember that the average person has to be exposed to something almost seven times before they decide to purchase it!
Since authors love to read, it’s easy to share what book your nose is currently in with your Goodreads friends and fans. With status updates, you can tell them what page you are currently on in any given title you may be reading as well as any thoughts or emotions you’re having on the book thus far. You can also leave a general status update where you can share 140 characters of anything you want! This is seen by anyone who is currently your friend, or has clicked the “Fan” button on your page. Is summer coming? Suggest to your readers that they sit outside and enjoy a copy of your book (with a link to the Amazon.com product page, of course).
Remember that sharing which books you enjoy is another good form of interaction. By clicking on any book’s title, you’ll be able to see which of your friends and fans have read it. Strike up a conversation! Find out what they liked and disliked about the book, and if your novel is in a similar genre, don’t forget to recommend it to them!
GROUPS AND FORUMS
The heart of any social networking website is the actual networking part. Goodreads has thousands of user-created groups where readers discuss every genre and title imaginable. If you’re about to release the next great Thriller novel, do some searching for groups who are (actively) talking about the books that you enjoy and that inspired you. A great feature of Goodreads is that these discussions are insanely simple to find. Search one of your favorite books and you’ll be treated with a list of current groups that are discussing the book! Some groups are open for anyone to join while others require invitations or requests to join. Get in on the conversation and contribute to the conversation. Don’t just tell everyone to read your book, that’s too pushy. Be a solid participant in the conversation and people will appreciate your contributions, and all they have to do is click on your name and BAM, they’ll be in your Author Page world where you have everything you need to sell someone on your book.
My favorite way of promoting a book on Goodreads is through their “First Reads” program where authors can setup a giveaway of their book. You get to write the synopsis, how many copies you are willing to give away, and how long people can enter to win.
The only thing that avid readers love more than reading is winning free books. I normally run my giveaways for a month making sure that the synopsis I include attracts readers of the humor genre. I lead off with a funny quote from the book and then get into the details from there.
Throughout the month (or however long you decide) to have your giveaway open to entrants, a box will appear on your book page that says “Win a Copy of this Book!” and all people have to do is click a couple of buttons to enter. Your book is also found in a master listing of giveaways which contains books of every genre, some of which are self-published, some are ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) and others are unedited galley versions.
In my experience, these giveaways promote themselves because at the end of the day, it’s a free book and people want it. Check in often to see how many people have entered to win your book. The first giveaway I did was open for entries for a month and I have over 1,000 people enter to win. The second giveaway I did was also for a month and over 800 people entered to win. I only gave away one copy of the book with each contest, however, I made it my mission to turn all 1,800 of those people into my readers since they had at least seen the book and shown interest.
Since Goodreads will show you the name and photo of everyone wanting to win your book, you can easily click on them and see their profile. Their bookshelves will often tell you right away if they like your genre, or if they’re just trying to win a free book. Occasionally you’ll see people who have entered with dummy accounts, just in increase the chances that they will win. These profiles have no photos and no books on their shelves, so just ignore these.
Now, the following suggestion has been the best source of book sales for me, but I warn you, it will be tedious for you.
For all of the people who sign up to win the book, I went on to each one of their profiles individually and sent them a personal message or friend request to thank them for entering to win a copy, and suggesting that they add my book to their “to-read” list in the unfortunate event that they didn’t win the giveaway. For each person I message or friend request, I include their actual name so it doesn’t just look like a spam message that I sent to hundreds of people. These friendly messages usually open a dialog with users who have actually taken the time to explore your book a bit, and they will occasionally offer up that they read some of your quotes and sample chapters and are eager to win it.
As I mentioned, this messaging process takes a long time, and Goodreads doesn’t make it any easier. They limit the amount of friend requests and personal messages that you can send in a day, but with a little bit of time set aside, along with some persistence, you can eventually reach out to everyone. On your book page, Goodreads will show you the number of users who have your awesome novel on their “to-read” lists, and hopefully this number is steadily growing with each personalized message you send out.
So you’ve spent a month getting the word out about your giveaway, more and more people are entering every day, and you’re trying to stay on top of messaging them all, hopefully making a few friends in the process. What then?
Then your giveaway ends. Goodreads does the hard part of choosing a winner. One winner is chosen for each copy of the book you volunteered to give away. I don’t know the mechanics behind how they pick winners, but in my experience both people who won copies of my humor book were readers who previously enjoyed books in that genre. Once I was delivered the names and addresses of the winners, I sent the books out immediately, and emailed them with a big CONGRATULATIONS on winning the contest. I once again thanked them for entering and politely asked them to consider writing a review on Goodreads and Amazon.com after they’d had time to digest it.
With both winners, I was lucky enough that they did enjoy the book and wrote sparkling reviews on both sites. They since have stayed in touch and will be the first people I go to when I release another book in the future.
Then comes the next tedious and time consuming part: I went back through all 1,800 people who entered to win my book and messaged them AGAIN to thank them yet again for entering, but also delivered them the sad news that they had not won. I did, however, include a link to the book on Amazon.com where they could purchase it if they were still interested in reading it. This led to several immediate sales!
I was able to see when these users were reading the book and thus I was able to reach out to them and politely request they post Goodreads and Amazon reviews upon completion.
Though groups and forums are the center of most social networks, book reviews are the heartbeat of Goodreads. Readers will offer up their opinions, both good and bad, on the books they have read. Whereas Amazon tends not to encourage negative reviews, Goodreads users don’t pull any punches. I learned the hard way that not everyone is interested in my genre, and not all people share my sense of humor, so even though I’ve received some rave reviews, I’ve also had people discuss who much they hated my book. You have to build up a tough skin and realize that not everyone likes the same things, but be sure take all feedback that readers offer into consideration for future titles.
I’ve been working on reviewing all of the books that I’ve read and enjoyed; especially novels and collections that are in my genre. I try to leave constructive and concise reviews with helpful information. If users like your reviews, they can end up on your author page with just one click where your book is ready to be presented to them. Always be aware how anything you write on the website can add or subtract to your credibility. If you go leaving horrible reviews for books, people will assume you are negative and unlikeable and therefore, why would they buy your book? But if you are constructive, insightful, and your reviews are well-written (you are a writer, after all) then your credibility goes up and you will also help them find new and exciting authors to read.
The last section that I want to mention should be a supplemental area for your promotions. Goodreads runs an ad service much like Google where they will promote your book in their sidebar (with an image of your book cover, and a brief line of text – so make those characters count!) on a pay-per-click basis. Unlike Google, Goodreads asks you to decide how many clicks you want and you pay for them up front. They then rotate your ad until you collect the clicks you paid for.
In the world of books, word of mouth is the best tool at your disposal, but by having your book cover and an eye-catching description floating around, it will help put the book into people’s minds so that later on when they see that their friend is planning to, or has read your book, they’ll be even more likely to pick it up.
Goodreads allows you to choose where the reader ends up when they click your link. Most times it’s the book’s page on Goodreads, the Amazon product page, or the author’s website. Having run only one campaign though this service, I can’t be sure of which destination will offer you the most sales, but I linked mine to my author website and didn’t see a large return. Don’t ever assume that advertisements will get you the sales you want, and be wary of how much money you sink into them as those dollars can often be used more effectively for other marketing campaigns.
I hope that this has given you a better understanding of the awesome potential that Goodreads offers to authors of all genres and remember that my way is not necessarily the best way; it’s simply what has worked for me thus far and led to sales of my book. I welcome any feedback on this article and hope that if you find another great way to use Goodreads that you will shoot me an email and let me know. My hope is that other authors will find this information useful throughout their journey toward the Bestseller’s List.