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September 5, 2013

Goodreads for Authors

Book discoverability is a priority of every writer. With thousands of books coming to the market every month, it is difficult for authors to get their book noticed. Add in that book marketing budgets are slim for most authors, it is not only a daunting task but may seem an impossibility. There is a site that often is overlooked by authors, but can help get your books in front of readers:

Goodreads is a social media site that is dedicated to book discoverability. For years, it has focused on readers. It is still focused on readers and can be a great place for bloggers to find an audience. But did you know it is also a place for authors?

This summer Goodreads, surpassed 20 MILLION users. That’s a lot of people and a whole lot of books. You may be thinking that you will never be discovered there. Well, you are right and you are wrong. There are a few things you can do to help increase your presence and get your book more notice.

First things first, add your book to their catalog. For most published books, they get added to as they become available in publisher’s catalogues and listed in For indie authors, this often means your book is not visible to readers until it’s available for sale. You want to build pre-publication buzz, right? That is why you sent out those ARCs, right? Well, guess can help you build that buzz. 

Why should you add your book pre-publication?

One, you know those ARCs you sent to bloggers? Many bloggers are on Goodreads and use it to organize their reviews. If your book is listed in the catalog, they can easily add it to their shelf. When they add it to their shelf, their friends see it (most marketers believe it takes 7 - 12 impressions to make a sale. Learn more about the importance of impressions on book sales.). You are one impression closer to a sale. 

Two, Goodreads sends out a monthly newsletter that mentions upcoming releases. At the top of the newsletter is a section called “New releases from authors on your shelf”. Your fans are now notified that you have a new book coming out. Another impression closer to a sale. 

Three, your fans not only can add your book to their shelf, but vote for it on lists. Users have created lists for everything on Goodreads. Each time your book is listed it shows up in the user’s feed for their friends to see. More impressions and you haven’t even really gotten started. 

Four, on your book listing you can upload sample chapters for readers to view right there on Goodreads. What a great way to give an early glimpse of your new book!

Authors (and any member can) add their title to Goodreads at any time. I recommend authors doing this as readers sometimes get information wrong. You may need the assistance of a Librarian to upload the book cover. Finding a librarian is not too difficult. I am one and you may also find several within the writer groups you belong to. Authors can also apply for Librarian status.
Next, it’s time to work on setting up your author presence on the site. An author page is set up for every author who has a book on the site. It is just waiting for you to claim it. (Members with librarian status can make entries on to author pages, so there may be information already there). To keep your page as accurate as possible, I recommend claiming it.

Like any social media site, there is some basic information for you to fill out. Since most of us have dealt with social media, I’m going to skip that tutorial and get to the features that you can use to increase your presence.

On your author dashboard you will see several headers. The first section on your dashboard is “my books” all the books associated with your author name should be listed there. If not, then check to make sure your name is spelled exactly the same on all listings (extra spaces are almost always the culprit). If there are books listed there that aren’t yours, it means that another author has your same name. Goodreads librarian fix this by adding extra spaces to make the names different. You will probably need the help of a librarian to get this fixed.

Next up is “Your Blog”. You can connect your blog to feed directly to the page. Each week, I receive an email listing all the authors who I follow who have updated blog posts that week. It’s a great way to get another impression. We are always inundated with information, so this is a great way to get a reminder sent without it really coming from you. If you aren’t blogging somewhere else, you can always write your posts right there.

The third section is for advertising. You can set up book launch and other campaigns to get your book in front of their 20 million users. I haven’t used their advertising and not sure about pricing. But with their stats, I would think it would be worth looking into.

Giveaways is the fourth section and is meant to help you launch your book. Any title not yet released (a fifth reason to list your book prior to publication) or has been released in the past 6 months is eligible. Sorry, digitally published only authors, books must be physical copies to participate. For those looking for more advice on running a Goodreads Giveaway, check out this post at Novel Publicity.

Moving on down the dashboard is a section to manage the ebooks you have uploaded at Goodreads. I mentioned that you can add a sample of your book, but can also choose to load your entire book. It will allow members to browse, preview, download, and even purchase your work all right from the site. This could be a way to capitalize on impulse buyers or another place to provide your free books.

Using the next section on your dashboard, you can great a special Q&A group. Goodreads groups can be quite active and a Q&A group can add an additional method for readers to connect with you. Follow these instructions to set up the group as it is slightly different than creating other groups at Goodreads. Goodreads will help advertise your group and you could have it featured in their monthly newsletter.

As with any social media site, Goodreads has a way to connect to your other networks. You can advertise your books, ratings and reviews with a Facebook app on your Facebook Fan page. In the side bar, there are widgets for adding this information to your website or blog.

Goodreads offers a lot of publicity potential and should not be overlooked during your pre-publication planning. But the most important tip is to remember it is a SOCIAL site for readers. Spend a little time building your bookshelves there. Even if you don't want to rate and review books, just adding what you have read or looking forward to reading gives a readers a glimpse into what you like. Many authors write the kind of books they like to read, so you may make a connection with a reader through what you have read.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the blogger behind Girl Who Reads and author of the how-to manual Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. Authors need to be aware that the Terms of Service for authors is very strict on Goodreads. You should not friend massive amounts of people and sent an advert for your book with the requests. You should not send private messages to people to talk about your books. You should not mention your book in every comment to every person. Doing so is likely to end up causing you to be marked a spammer and/or attacked by the small minority of very loud trolls on the site. Be very careful about the people you contact, and ensure that any marketing or promotional efforts are done in areas that allow this. The best way to avoid trouble is to add books to your shelves and comment on other people's reviews of books you have enjoyed. If someone writes a negative review, no matter how nasty, ignore it. If someone puts your book on a rudely named shelf, ignore it. This is troll-baiting and if you react, you're fair game.

    To be fair, the vast majority of users on Goodreads are great people and love interacting with authors as well as other readers, but be very careful on Goodreads. I've seen more than one Indie author run off the site, and several whose writing careers were ruined after troll attacks on there.

  2. I knew most of this stuff but the special Q&A group is new to me. Thanks for sharing. :)