This past Saturday at a meeting of Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, I led a roundtable about the reasons that every independent author and publisher (as well as every “dependent” author) needed to have an active presence on Goodreads.com. It was one of three roundtable sessions at the time, and I assumed that most BAIPA folks (who are pretty savvy) would already know most of what I had to say. I was surprised to find that not only did they not, but they were very hungry to hear about the world’s largest book review site
Because they all found the material I presented to be helpful, I thought I’d share my major points here. This is why you have to be on Goodreads:
- The readers are there. What if I told you there was a social networking site where more than 40 million book lovers gather daily to review, discuss and share their favorite books and find out about new ones? Goodreads.com is that site. There are readers interested in every subject and genre — and lots of them. These people are passionate about their books; that’s why they’re on Goodreads.
- Your books are there. Goodreads members (and Goodreads affiliate companies) have added 1.1 BILLION books to the site’s database — ebooks, print, audiobooks, not-yet-published, out-of-print. No matter how you cut it, that’s a lot of books — and if you’ve already published a title or two, they are probably already there.
When I led the BAIPA roundtable, a number of author/publishers found their books already on Goodreads, ranging from thirty years old and out of print to a book that hadn’t been released yet. And if your book (or edition) isn’t there, you can add it — including the cover, description, publication date, and a link to the page that you want readers to visit to get more information (ideally on your own site or blog). You can even do this before the book has been released. For example, I’ve created a record for my YA novel Risuko, which isn’t due out until this time next year. That will give me a place to send ARC reviewers to share their reviews pre-publication.
- The reviews are there. There are over 43 million reviews on Goodreads, and more every day. Members review the books they’ve read — and are pretty scrupulous about posting honest (but not abusive) reviews. The rankings there, then, carry a lot more weight than those at, say, Amazon, which tend to be skewed to the extremes (lovers and haters), since those are the folks motivated to leave a review on a commercial site. You can use a number of means to encourage and solicit more reviews, from exactly the people who are most likely to enjoy your book. (See below.) Goodreads even posts code for widgets that will allow you easily to share a list of a book’s reviews to any page on your blog or site.
- The groups are there. Goodreads groups are an easy-to-overlook part of what Goodreads has to offer the author or publisher. There are thousands of groups, ranging from huge groups that focus on broad subjects (like, say, History), as well as smaller ones dedicated to discussing a particular genre or even a particular author. Not only are these places where authors and publishers have an opportunity to let folks interested in just their kind of book know about a sale, a new release, etc., but they are also virtual communities where you can talk with folks who are interested in the same things you are, where you can ask and answer questions, and share your passion. You can find beta readers or early reviewers — all while building up your own fan base. The best way to build up a loyal readership is to develop a group of passionate readers who know and trust you. Participating in a group or five is a great way to do that.
- The promotional opportunities are there. One of the participants in the BAIPA roundtable muttered about it being “that freebie site.” Well, Goodreads isn’t that — at least, it’s not just that. Giveaways are a powerful tool for generating interest and reviews at a relatively low cost, but that’s not the only opportunity you have to promote your book on Goodreads. (Two giveaway pro tips: give away just one copy, since five copies don’t generally generate a lot more interest; and, since most of the sign-ups will happen during the first and last day, have a two- or three-day giveaway, rather than one that’s weeks or months long.)
Another easy promotional opportunity is the self-serve advertising available to folks with Goodreads Author accounts (see below). These small ads can promote a book’s page on Goodreads, your site, on a retailer, a Goodreads giveaway — whatever. The ads can be tailored to show only when books in a certain genre or by a certain author are being displayed.
As I mentioned above, most groups also have an area where you can let you share information about your book and any promotions that you may be running. These are especially effective if you’re an active member of the group.
- YOU are there (or soon will be). Every author with a book listed on Goodreads has a “list” — click on the author’s name, and you’ll see every title that author is associated with (including titles they edited, narrated, or illustrated in addition to titles they wrote, if they’re jacks-of-all-trades like me). If you join the Goodreads Author Program, however, not only will you be able to run ads, but you will be able to set up a Goodreads Author Page. There you can share not only your books, but posts from your blog, video trailers, giveaway announcements, etc. There’s an area for readers to ask you questions (they don’t show up until you answer them). It’s an invaluable tool, one that everyone with a book on Goodreads should have. Once you have signed up as a user, just click on the Author Program link at the bottom of any Goodreads page, and it will lead you through the process of signing up. Being a Goodreads Author, not only creates that expanded profile, but gives you access to information about who is interested in and reviewing your books.
I’m still learning about Goodreads and the opportunities it affords. If you know other ways that the site serves authors and publishers, please let me know!
PS The support on Goodreads is terrific. Still, sometimes it’s helpful to get just a bit more information. A great resource for exploring all of these points in more detail is Michelle Campbell-Scott’s Goodreads for Authors. It was published a couple of years ago, but she’s kept it fairly up to date. It’s available as a paperback as well as through KindleUnlimited.
PPS Goodreads was bought last year by Amazon. To date, they’ve been very hands off. The only visible change is that it’s now even easier to buy a book from the Amazon link on the book’s page. (There are also links to a wide variety of other retailers, and even libraries.)