Goodreads has been a mystery to many authors who would like to make better use of the site without making etiquette mistakes. It was my good fortune to meet Goodreads librarian, Julie Whitely, who has come to our rescue. I collected a list of the biggest concerns to authors and Julie has graciously addressed them in this informative and helpful blog. She is sharing a lot good information and tips. I appreciate that Julie is, above all, a lover of books, as are all the participants on Goodreads.
– Cheryl St. John, author
Now, from Julie:
As a reader, I never really gave much thought to Goodreads from the author’s perspective. Well, I am thinking about it now that I have put my foot in it. I mentioned on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that authors and publishers were not using the site to their advantage. It seemed that authors were assuming their books were being added by little fairies. Of course that wasn’t the case, so many books are missing. I stop several times a day to add a book I want to put on my own Goodreads shelf. This had me thinking that someone somewhere was sleeping on the job, and that authors were missing out on valuable free exposure.
I got more responses than I could ever have imagined. I learned that most authors have shouldered the responsibility of promotion, but many don’t know how to use Goodreads. So when Cheryl saw the thread on Facebook, she asked me to write an article for her blog, explaining how things work.
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Julie Whiteley. I am a freelance book reviewer and blogger. I also do promotional posts on my blog and on my Facebook page. I spend five to six hours per day working on books in one way or another. So it goes without saying that I love books, reading and, yes I love you too, dear authors. I am a Goodreads librarian, and I rank in the top 50 book reviewers on the site. I am the moderator for two groups and a member of many others. I still do not tap into all Goodreads has to offer.
Many authors raised concerns about the climate on Goodreads. The atmosphere scares some authors silly. The site gives me the shivers too, but in a different way. There are 25 million members on Goodreads. The diversity, the countries represented, all gathered with the commonality of loving books and of reading. It literally sends chills down my spine when I see all these people gathered in one place, sharing their favorite books with each other, debating and discussing characters, series, and anything else that goes with books. Any site that encourages readers to read more and get involved can’t be all bad.
How To Help
I was pleased with the questions Cheryl sent. Many of these are “how to” questions. With all the time constraints, I feel the easiest thing to do in order to answer your questions is to provide you with a link which will take you to Goodreads’ “How to use the Author Program.”
This page answers nearly all the “how to” questions posed. There are videos, tutorials, and a FAQ page that covers topics ranging from advertising to giveaways.
Another helpful article about Goodreads was written by indie author Melinda Clayton. This article will help newbies and indie authors just starting out on Goodreads, but traditionally-published authors will also find useful information pertaining to reasons why being a Goodreads author is important.
Goodreads is a Reader Site
Many of you expressed concerns about the sentiment that authors are just flat out unwelcome on Goodreads. This question was one of the best and I thought it was the most telling:
“I would love to switch more of my attention from Facebook to Goodreads since Goodreads members self-select for their book interest, and that would make my life so much easier. However, right now I spend little time on Goodreads because of the reputation the site has for not being author friendly. It’s billed as a reader site, which is fab, but means I don’t feel like I have a place there. I don’t see it as author friendly, so I default back to Facebook, where a ‘Hey my new book is out’ post isn’t going to be nailed for drive-by spamming.”
This author is spot on when they say Goodreads is a site for READERS. This is correct in spades. But how is it that a site so dedicated to books and readers would rather the author just go away? After all, these books would not be here for us to read if not for authors.
That is a difficult concept for many authors to accept. For years authors and readers only had contact with one another through book signings and little else. Readers formed book clubs, met in person, and discussed books over coffee and pastries. Authors might have been invited for a Q&A from time to time, but mostly it was just readers, and they felt free to argue, debate, and offer up opinions without fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Reviews were posted in journals and newspapers by librarians and journalists with degrees, and were paid to write reviews.
Now the average reader chimes in. These are the same people who fork over their hard-earned cash for books. Goodreads is simply an online version of a book club. Authors can become members too and, believe it or not, you are more than welcome. However, a line in the sand is often drawn, and at times it’s best to stay on your side.
“So, how do you manage the perilous waters between author and reader?”
From this author’s question and comment I can tell the approach they used was all wrong.
Read the Guidelines
First of all, Goodreads is NOT a promotional site for authors. It does not work like Facebook or Twitter. It was not designed for that at all. You should not attempt to use the site in the same way you would approach other social media platforms. Jumping into a book group and flooding the site with your latest book release promotions is fine for most Facebook formats. (Although some Facebook groups are just as ticky tacky as Goodreads groups and I have had my hand slapped over on Facebook more than once.) There are hundreds of Facebook groups that allow authors to blatantly and shamelessly promote their books. However, Goodreads groups are a whole other animal.
For example: I am having a lively discussion with my Goodreads friends in the historical romance group about Jane Austen. Suddenly, in the middle of our conversation an author pops in and informs us they have a new book out and posts an enormous picture of the book cover, provides all the details we would ever need about the book, etc.. This book has zip, nada, squat to do with Jane Austen or our discussion. Now really, don’t you agree that is a tad rude?
Initially authors had a tendency to think the site was there for them to use—or in the readers’ opinions—abuse for their professional needs. They did not stop to consider the site was a book club, not a bookstore. Yes, it is a social media site, since readers are social, but those authors didn’t take the time to learn the ins and outs of the site. The readers became sick of having authors poke their heads into their discussion threads and tout their latest releases. Even something as benign as, “Hey, my new book is out,” is inappropriate if you post it in the wrong place. (Or repeatedly.) Due to the far-worse situation of “authors behaving badly,” moderators had to take a strong stand against spam. Some authors handled this poorly by arguing or complaining to the Goodreads team. They seemed to have forgotten for whom Goodreads was created. So readers got mad and rebelled against what they thought was an attempt by authors to take over or control their site.
So, now how does an author tell people their new book is out?
Each Goodreads group has a set of guidelines. Remember each group was created by a fan, a reader. It is their group and they have the right to decide the rules. So, read the rules. As an author you are not afforded any special privileges. You have to follow the same rules everyone else does. Nearly every single genre specific or discussion group has a folder for book promotions. Find that folder and use it to tell readers about a sale, a promotion, a new release or whatever else you want to share. Post in that folder only. Usually moderators allow one post per day, while some have more specific rules. All you have to is read each group’s request and follow the rules. It’s as simple as that.
Authors are readers too.
If you join a group feel free to join in the discussion! Do so as a fellow book lover and not as an author. Refrain from bringing up your book while in a discussion group, and you will find this community is really, for the most part, a wonderful group of people.
In my personal opinion I would not substitute one social media platform for another. Each one is unique and will need to be used to its full potential for you to get the best results.
Get Noticed Without Spamming
Goodreads groups may seem like walking through a mine field, but there are ways to get yourself and your book noticed.
- You can link your Goodreads author page to your Facebook account.
Off site: Encourage readers to become a fan on Goodreads
Off site: Ask readers to add your book to their Goodreads shelf
Off site: Ask readers to please leave a Goodreads reviewplease leave a review-
Do this on Facebook, in your newsletter, on Twitter or your blog.
- Before a new release start your own Goodreads Q&A group. A group like this is normally active for 24 to 48 hours, and you may send all your friends and fans an invitation to join.
- Add the “ask an author” option to your Goodreads page so readers can approach you on their own terms.
- Create events that link back to your personal blog. This is a win-win for you. The link will take the reader away from Goodreads and into your territory. From there you can ask them to follow you on Facebook, sign up for your newsletter, and all the rest of it.
- Giveaways via rafflecopter can be done on your blog and prizes don’t have to be books. This way you don’t spam anyone and you can see how many people accept the invitation. You learn what works and what doesn’t.
- Blogs: Do you have a blog? If so, you may add your blog to Goodreads and build a following from there. This is a perk for authors only.
- Add the Goodreads author widget to your blog.
- There are Goodreads groups for authors only, and the discussions are centered around the issues authors face. Tips, tricks, and other advice can be found within these groups.
- Listopia: This is a tool available to you and some have found it to be very useful. I’ve seen some oddball things take place on these list and I have personally been solicited for votes. However, this is a tool some authors are very keen on.
If you’ve tried some author tools and your success has been a little disappointing, don’t give up. The longer you maintain a presence on Goodreads the more likely you will gain a following. It might be slow going at first. If one thing doesn’t work so well, try another.
Giveaways are one HUGE tool authors use but not everyone has great luck with it. Some books do not get a nibble in the vast sea of other books listed.
Experiment with various tools and continue to stay involved.
Other important tips:
By becoming a Goodreads author you will have control over your book. You can add your book when you want, and you can combine editions, make one book the primary, being sure all your links are correct and that the reader is seeing the current book cover. Goodreads employees can, of course, do anything within the site, but besides that, you are the only one with the power to make these changes to your book.
Each book has a link to an online store, mainly Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If your ISBN number and ASIN are matched, a reader can go straight to your book from Goodreads and purchase. Cool right? So, make sure your links are working. If they are not, you could lose a sale.
Ask a librarian
Goodreads librarians are more than happy to help you with anything within their power. These folks are pretty darned tech savvy, and if you ask nicely they might add your book for you if the little fairies haven’t.
If you are in doubt about group rules contact the moderator for clarifications before posting.
One of the most important ways for you to get the most out of Goodreads is to get reviews posted on your book. If you have a book coming out add it to Goodreads early. From time to time you may encounter a one-star rating on a book that has not been released or isn’t even finished. This rating is not a rating in the usual sense. Since we have already ascertained that Goodreads is a reader site, this is one of the ways readers mark a book for future consideration. Many authors have been upset by this. Don’t worry! Most members know what this means, and it does not have a negative effect on your book.
Why add a book before it’s released? First of all, you may have handed out ARC copies or your book might be up on Netgalley for review. You can start creating a buzz about your book by having reviews in place before the actual release date. Amazon does not allow early reviews unless you are a vine member, and those guys mostly review products like appliances. Goodreads members are all about the books. If your book is up early, you can get a head start on reviews, which creates more interest.
Remember that while you benefit greatly from reviews most of the time, reviews posted on Goodreads are for readers, not for you. The review is their intellectual property and is intended to share their thoughts with other readers. Never challenge a review or contact a reviewer who leaves a negative review. If you really think the reviewer went outside the bounds of a book review and got super nasty, then contact the Goodreads team and state your case. It is rare for a book review to be taken down, but in severe cases of author bashing it has been done.
You may contact a reviewer and thank them for taking the time to read and review your book. The more positive you, are the better. Call attention to the good things and less attention to the negative.
Please do not complain about Goodreads on other social media platforms. I have seen authors do this a lot lately, and most of the time they either have their facts wrong or have been given a negative review. Don’t call more attention to it. Instead post a positive review you received.
If you need to vent, do so with a friend or fellow author. Do it in a private message format so other people can’t see what you are saying. If you have a real beef , ask for help. The Goodreads team receives untold amounts of emails and questions each day, however, the team will eventually get back to you with an answer to your concern or question.
Yes, Goodreads has its fair share of trolls. As I mentioned earlier, there are 25 million members on Goodreads. It would be impossible to screen every single post or action. Trolls exist on other similar book club sites, on Amazon and Facebook. Social media platforms are notorious for being nasty, and a troll can do untold damage to your book. It is scary. You are unable to control all the negative aspects of any social site. I wish these people did not exist, and if I had a pat answer for the problem, I would tell you how to handle it. Remember that not all negative reviews are posted by trolls. Most readers are not full time reviewers and they use language or terms that make sense to them, but that sound more like a rant. Still, these are not trolls, and not everything can be blamed on intentionally nasty people.
I did find a link that might be helpful.
I don’t necessarily drink the Goodreads Koolaid. I recognize that the site has grown very rapidly and is constantly evolving. Not all readers are crazy about the site either and prefer to use alternate book club sites. I have been told this on many occasions, and that’s fine with me. I don’t work for Goodreads, and I have nothing invested in the site except my time. It works out wonderfully for me for the most part, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. The site needs a facelift and is overdue for some major changes. There are some areas that need vast improvement and hopefully we will see some things get better in the future. All social media has its problems. Some people loath Twitter but love Facebook. It’s all about what works best for you–and about what you feel comfortable with. However, in today’s climate, you can’t afford to miss a single chance to promote yourself. Goodreads tools are free for authors, except ads of course. The exposure is free and, even though the site doesn’t provide massive in-your-face publicity, it is still an area you can benefit from. Good old fashioned word of mouth is powerful.
The best advice I can offer you is to use the tools provided by the site, check in at least once in a while to see that your books are listed, that they are correct, that the links work, and keep your author profile up-to-date. Answer questions readers have asked, follow the group rules for promotions, and do not respond to negative reviews or trash the site publicly. Accept friend requests until you have topped out your quota, and be available for readers. Used correctly Goodreads is an awesome and powerful tool for authors.
I hope this will clear up a few things about Goodreads. If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to ask. I may not know the answer, but I will try to find out for you.
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