How Authors Can Effectively Use Goodreads

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Series: Non-Scary Social Networking

The social networks just keep coming! Yesterday we talked about Pinterest, and today we’re focusing on Goodreads. Over on I gave an introduction to what the site is all about, and here, I’m speaking specifically about how authors can use Goodreads to connect with readers and promote their books. From what I can tell, Goodreads may be as effective as Facebook (or more) for many authors, and that’s why I’m addressing it today.

Goodreads has an amazing array of tools for authors, but the one thing I want to emphasize first is that you never, ever want to be perceived as blatantly marketing to people or being overly “promotional.” The site’s intent is for conversation and discussion, and for readers and writers to find each other, but never to make readers feel like they’re being sold or spammed.

Patrick Brown of Goodreads said, “the initial idea was to focus on friends sharing what they were reading with one another. Everything comes back to that idea on the site – the people you know are the most likely to give you a great recommendation. I think that holds true offline every bit as much as it does online.”

I love the concept – taking “word of mouth” to the next level and making it work online. So here are my tips for authors using Goodreads.

1. Participate in the site in your role as a reader, not just as an author.

List the books you’ve read and want to read. Write brief reviews saying why you like your favorite books. Be genuine. Treat it like a discussion forum, not a promotional tool.

Since you’re an author, think carefully about whether you’ll post any reviews that aren’t positive; at the same time, you don’t want to post only gushing, over-the-top positive reviews. Be honest but circumspect.

2. Join the Goodreads author program.

Through the Author Program you can create an author profile and then utilize all the other promotional tools they offer (outlined below).

3. Join Groups

The groups are like forums where there’s ongoing discussion between members. There are hundreds of groups on Goodreads, for all different interests. For example:

  • Tips for Self Promotion, Sales, and Advertising
  • Goodreads Authors/Readers
  • Christian Authors Group
  • …and many more

It’s a great way to connect with readers who enjoy the kinds of books you write.

4. Link your blog to Goodreads.

Goodreads allows you to either host a blog directly on the site, or if you already have a blog, you can connect it to Goodreads so that your posts show up there.

5. Create and publicize events.

If you’re having a launch party, a blog tour, a book signing, or any other event related to your books, Goodreads has a place to publicize them on your Author Profile.

6. Do giveaways

Goodreads “First Reads” giveaway program generates considerable involvement from readers and is a great way of getting your book some visibility on the site. Giveaways tend to lead to more reviews, which is important because the more reviews a book has, the more likely it is that people will add it to their to-read lists.

7. Post videos and other materials

Goodreads has places for you to upload your book trailer, book excerpts, and create polls or quizzes for your readers.

8. Create widgets for your website or blog.

Goodreads makes it easy to embed eye-catching widgets on your site to attract readers to your Goodreads page.

9. Decide if you want to advertise.

There are so many ways to promote your books and connect with readers without any financial investment, but sometimes it’s right to consider it. I’ve heard good things about their advertising program, starting at about $500 a month, that can deliver results.

10. You may not want to use the “Recommendations” feature.

When you go to the Recommendations page and click on “Give recommendations,” it asks you for the name of the book you want to recommend, then it asks you to choose which of your friends to send the recommendation to. I don’t recommend doing this, as it’s perceived as spam and too blatantly promotional.

11. Never respond to negative reviews.

Do everything in your power to avoid responding to unfavorable reviews, even if you have to turn off the computer and sit on your hands. Don’t try to correct misinformation, don’t tell them they didn’t understand your book, don’t suggest they spend their time in more worthwhile pursuits. In addition, carefully consider if you’ll respond to positive reviews. Some readers feel a little uncomfortable with the author’s presence. But if you do want to respond with a brief thank-you, you can use the “send message” link to communicate privately.

12. Measure your success.

Your goal on Goodreads is to get your books on people’s shelves, and as an author member, the site gives you constantly updated stats on how many people have added your books to their shelves, how many have reviewed them, your average ratings, etc. In order to determine how well your promotional activities on Goodreads are doing, it’s best to track the data as it changes. Here’s a blog post that explains exactly how.

→The Goodreads site has instructions on how to use all these promotional tools.

Are you on Goodreads?
If not, do you want to, or are you leery?
If so, what’s your experience so far?

Here is a helpful article about Goodreads.
See also my post,”>Goodreads: 8 Things Writers Should Know

49 Responses

Leave a Reply

  1. I am there. I have had some trouble linking my blog there, but otherwise I’ve enjoyed the site. You’ve mentioned some aspects of Goodreads I’m looking forward to exploring more soon.

    You raise such valuable point in #11. Something I hope every writer would consider. Reminds me of a post Jeff Goins recently wrote about haters. Wisdom in his words.

    ~ Wendy

    • Wendy, it’s so great that you’re already on Goodreads. I recommend all authors get comfortable using it long before they have books published! You’re way ahead of the game. Don’t worry about linking your blog yet – plenty of time for that when your books area about to be published!

  2. Wow, such great information. I’m not on there yet, but I have been wondering how to connect with more readers lately. I have great connections with other authors, but connecting with other readers (non-writers) is definitely important as well. Thank you so much for the tips!

  3. I’ve recently started adding writer friends on Goodreads, and the reviews I value most aren’t the glowing blurbs on their own novels. When I see the other books they’re reading, it gives me more insight into who the person IS, so I feel more connected.

    Wendy, I need you to explain to me how to get the blog linked to Goodreads! I have the Goodreads box on my blog, but can’t get my blog to post to Goodreads.

    Thanks for the info, Rachelle. I like Goodreads just to keep track of stuff I’ve read! But I’ve lately realized that it’s part of the author platform package, too.

  4. Donna says:

    I’ve heard about Goodreads for months, but have yet to join. I see it’s time to take the leap, so thanks very much for these great tips!

  5. I’m on Goodreads and have an Author page there with my upcoming book on it. The only thing I’m unsure how to handle is the promotion part. I waffle on doing a first-reads giveaway this close to release (28 days away) because it could deter preorders if people are waiting to see if they win instead of ordering it. But on the other hand, I understand generating the buzz. I am running contests on my blog…I guess I need to see if there is a place to announce that.

    As a reader, I love Goodreads…I’ve learned about so many great books there!

  6. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for years. My goal in using it is to promote reviews from my blogs. I don’t use it that much to promote my own work. I am part of the Author Program, but usually any giveaway I am promoting is one for another author’s book on my blog.

    Is it a bad thing I don’t promote myself more there? I don’t know. I have my Goodreads page tied into my Facebook page now, and I have a Goodreads widget at one of my blogs. I just know I stop following people there if they send me too much self-promotion, so I tend to stay away from it.

    Thanks for the information on how to use it more effectively. It might be time for me to reconsider my strategy.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I think it’s fine to use Goodreads in whatever way works for you. If you don’t feel the need to do more promoting, I’m sure it’s fine.

  7. Annalisa says:

    I concur about never responding to negative reviews. There are readers who have bookshelves exclusively for authors they will never read because of poor behavior. Trying to fix a problem will only make it worse. Let the reader have his or her experience and be grateful you got an honest review. If all you got were glowing reviews, readers would be skeptical than anyone but your friends had read the book. There are many wonderful ways for authors to interact with readers (such as doing Q&A in groups that read your book), but responding to negative reviews is a big no-no among reviews.

  8. Thank you. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for a couple years but rarely use it other than for reviews and attending author invites. I wanted to use it to promote the giveaways on my Author Memories blog, but as I understood it, only authors could promote giveaways of their own books. That doesn’t sound right, but I didn’t waste time researching. Instead, I was hoping one of the workshops at RWA or ACFW this year would cover using Goodreads and maybe even Pinterest effectively. Instead of waiting for the conferences, I’ll check out your links. Thank you so much.

    Anita Mae.

  9. Goodreads events are a good way to let people know when something is happening (release, launch party, etc.). Also, I have my novel blog/website linked to GR, so whenever a post goes up there, it gets echoed out to GR.

    As an author, I hesitate to interact on groups or post reviews of other author’s work.

  10. Ashley Clark says:

    Funny, I just signed up for Goodreads today. This post was perfect timing! Thanks for the suggestions, Rachelle. I’m going to go link my blog up to my Goodreads account now…

  11. I did respond to a negative review on Goodreads with good results; but it was a weird case. The reviewer had given me 2 stars, before the book was even available. I politely asked the reviewer to reconsider her rating, given the fact that it was not possible she had read the book. She responded immediately saying she had not meant to do it, and immediately corrected the situation. Even better, she had read and loved my first book and was eagerly looking forward to my second one.

    I’m still deciding how much time to invest in Goodreads. I sent out 50+ free copies (you can host a giveaway) with positive feedback… but it didn’t really translate into sales. I guess the key is building relationships over the long haul.

    Thanks for this.

  12. Kimberly says:

    I read your other post on your blog yesterday, and commented on being taken off guard when an author read my review of her book and responded. Thanks for directing me here to this post as well.

    I’ve never written a review that I’ve been ashamed of, as I try to extend the same courtesy I would hope to receive. However, I felt uncomfortable enough to remove some of the books I gave a two star rating. I think you make an excellent point with #1. As a reader and someday author, I’d hate to discourage a fellow author just because their book wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea. If the writing is simply awful, I probably wouldn’t finish it anyway. Therefore, no need to review.

    “Be honest but circumspect”. Excellent advice. Thanks:)

  13. I’m on GoodReads and tend to mostly use it for reviews of what I am reading. Some of these, but not all, I post on my blog as well. I use it for keeping up with others with similar intersts. Still very much finding my way around it.Thanks for more info.

  14. Angie Dicken says:

    Just got introduced to Goodreads a couple days ago! Looking forward to exploring it some more. Thanks for the tips!

  15. Great tips on GoodReads. I joined as a reader because I wanted to share books with my friends and only recently posted my book when I launched it. I didn’t think about it, but when someone gave me a 5-star I immediately friended her because I was so happy. Now I’ll leave it alone. She was okay with it, but it’s probably better to not look at the reviews and comments.

    Instead, I love reading and giving reviews and sharing book ideas. So yes, thanks for remind us to keep our obsessive author persona out of GoodReads.

    Good Post!

  16. I have had beautiful brilliant positive reviews from established newsspapers and magazines, yet Gooodreads Readers have been nasty, cruel and dismissive of my work — almost anhihilating and vicious. How can this huge disparity exist? How can I address it on the site, when I have had so many wonderful reviews from professional critical magazines and reviewers and such quick and certain dismissals from the Goodreads reader? Sincerely, Louise Wareham Leonard

  17. Sue Harrison says:

    Thank you for the information, Rachelle. I’ve been hesitating to get into Goodreads, mainly because of lack of time, but now I that I understand the positive impact Goodreads can have, it’s on my to-do list!

  18. becca puglisi says:

    I’ve been on Goodreads for a couple of months now. I have a book coming out in May and am trying to figure out how to make the most of the site both as an author and a reader. I would never give a negative review, but I’ve also decided not to rate anything that would get less than 4 stars. I don’t want to discourage anyone who wrote a perfectly good book that just didn’t appeal to me.

    Thanks for the info.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  19. Eva Pohler says:

    This post has really heled me to get the word out about my books. I highly recommend doing the giveaways, for it does get your books on people’s to-read shelves. And in addition to the $500 advertising Rachelle mentioned, there’s also a self-service advertising option where you can set your own price, and it’s based on clicks rather than views.

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