Goodreads is Great for Writers

Goodreads boasts something like ten million members, but, in case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a flourishing online community for readers. It’s a bit like Facebook in the notion that you can friend people and share status updates. It also has a collection of online forums geared specifically toward reading and/or writing. It allows you to rate and review books, and it has a recommendation engine, too.

These features make it an excellent resource for readers, but it is also an amazing platform for writers. I’m still trying to get this whole marketing thing down, but I’m convinced that Goodreads has been the single biggest influence on my book sales to date. Thanks to Goodreads, somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 people have expressed specific interest in reading my book. I can’t say how many of those folks will actually read it, but that is a huge jump start above where I would have been without it.

Let me take a second and qualify what that means. First, over 900 people have added my book to one of their shelves. Also, I have run two giveaways on the site. The first of these had 1,056 entries and the second had 1,397 entries. Plus, I timed the date of an Amazon free day to coincide with the last day of my first giveaway. I Sincerely believe that traffic from Goodreads pushed my book into the top 100 (free) for its categories, and it took off from there, climbing to 1,200 downloads worldwide in a single day.

I have no idea how much overlap there is between those groups, which is why I say between 1,000 and 3,000. Either way, I am truly grateful to Goodreads for giving me a platform to help launch my book.


As I pointed out in my post about Twitter, there is always a way to abuse a tool. As writers, we sometimes see these avenues for communication as a mechanism for sales and become too aggressive. We can fall into the trap where we want so badly for our book to be successful that we forget what it’s like to be a reader. We forget what it’s like to be a consumer. And so, here’s a list of stuff I think is important to abide by if you are using Goodreads to promote your book:

  1. No matter how good your book is, you are seen as a salesperson.
    Ever walk into a store and get hounded by salespeople every time you turn around? Annoying, isn’t it?
  2. Pay attention to where you post information about your book
    I created a thread the other day called Another place to post your book. That was a bad idea. I was using the thread to put a link to a third-party promotional site where writers can post information about their books. Several authors – and I do mean several – saw the title of the thread and pasted in their book blurbs without reading the original post. It wasn’t long before a few folks started complaining, asking how the thread “became a spam-fest.” Those authors probably drove away more readers than they attracted – if they attracted any at all.
  3. Follow the rules. The rules are good.
    Most every Goodreads group has a specific section set aside for authors. Those areas clearly say something along the lines of “promote your book here.” And if you read the guidelines for the group, they almost all say “don’t promote your book anywhere except for the authors section.” Unfortunately, huge numbers of authors don’t pay any attention to unimportant things like rules.  Try looking at threads set aside for bloggers/reviewers. Desperate authors clog most of them, and it makes me wonder how many responses they get. Okay, you’re right. I don’t wonder;  I know.
  4. Goodreads events are spam.
    Don’t send events to people you have no connection to. The fact that you and they belong to the same group doesn’t mean you have a connection. The fact that Goodreads allows it doesn’t make it right. Spam is spam.
  5. Understand that people who have added your book to their shelf may never read it.
    Do me a favor. Go out to my Goodreads book page and look at some of the people who have my book on their to-read shelf. Check out how many books they have on their shelves. Some of them only have a few. And, when I say a few, I mean like 150. Many, on the other hand, have several hundred or even thousands. A reader putting a book on their shelf just means they were interested enough to put it on a list so they didn’t forget about it. That’s it.
  6. Do not contact people who have put your book on their shelf. Ever.
    Okay, you caught me. I wrote number five so I could write this one. Just because someone has expressed an interest in your book doesn’t give you a license to nag him or her. See number one.
  7. Be a reader first and a writer second.
    Interact with people as though you haven’t written a book. Participate in the groups as a real, live person. Talk about the topic at hand. Don’t see every discussion as an opportunity to plug your book.
  8. All the stuff I said about targeted marketing in my Twitter post is just as true here.
    A single person who is interested in either your book or your success is worth more than fifty who are not. Don’t collect friends for the sake of having a high friend count (admittedly, I do accept just about every friend request I get, but the only ones I send are based on my role as a reader and/or group participant).
  9. Don’t be a jack-wagon.
    While you’re busy trying to be a reader first and a writer second, you are still a writer. Behave like everyone is watching what you do. We can all make mistakes, but try really hard not to do anything you wish you could take back. As soon as you get your new, shiny author profile you are a public figure, even if no one knows who you are. Your behavior can cost you book sales. I’ve seen it happen.
  10. Do not respond to reviews – especially bad ones.
    I had to remind myself of this point just today, as a matter of fact. I received my very first mean-spirited review. Granted, I’ve already had to suffer through a couple two-star ratings, but this gal was downright nasty, and it stung – I’m not ashamed to admit it. You want to know what I did about it, though? Nothing. I went back and re-read my twenty-or-so four and five star reviews, and I reminded myself that several people really like my book. Was it easy? No, not really, but it was important.  And it really doesn’t matter whether you feel like they were mean, nasty, petty, or even wrong. Responding or trying to defend yourself will cost you more readers than that review ever could.  Reviews are there so that people can share their opinions. Put on your big girl/boy pants and deal with it. It’s one of the costs of being a writer.

So, that’s it. That’s my Goodreads list. I hope this helps you navigate the waters of what I think is a brilliant marketing tool. Are there any other things you might add to the list?  Anything you disagree with? I’d love to hear about it.


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  1. #1 by Horace on September 28, 2012 - 6:52 am

    Good advice & GoodReads is a great site. I’ve been on it for 5 years now. I rarely read a bad book any more and have far too many in my TBR pile because ‘friends’ with similar reading tastes are constantly reviewing great books. I’ve found a lot of great new authors & often get to read free books for reviews. I’ve even worked with authors by beta & ARC reading their novels. What more could a reader or a writer possibly ask for?

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