How to use Goodreads as an Author
Treat Goodreads as an independent professional resource that will play a role in building your ‘brand’ as an author.
I have to admit, when I first signed up for Goodreads I let the account sit for a long time. I didn’t use it all for more than six months. The problem was, I had no idea how to use it.
Before we get into that, let's talk about how an author gets started on the site and obtains that little but powerful note next to his or her name (Goodreads Author).
First, just go sign up on the site. Easy, right? Well you can create a fresh account or you can do like me and just connect it with Facebook, which was admittedly a bit lazy. Remember, I had no idea what I was doing at first, right? I connected it with Facebook and for the longest time my profile picture on Goodreads was the same as my Facebook profile picture when I signed up – my 2 year old son holding a toy giraffe. That is not very professional.
You can change your settings any time, but I’d really recommend you do it right from the get-go and start with a fresh account, separate from other media sites, and treat Goodreads as an independent professional resource that will play a vital role in building your brand as an author.
Once you're signed up the second step is to act like you want to be there and make it clear that you didn’t just wander onto the site. Put up a nice professional-looking picture, such as the one that’s on your Amazon Author Central page . Fill out your bookshelves with lots and lots and lots of books. You’re a writer, which I hope means your a reader too. I have a couple hundred books listed at this point. I know that’s just a fraction of what I've truly read, but start where you can.
Once you've spruced things up on your profile, claim your author page by joining the Author Program. This is where things really change, as you become - Cool Writer (Goodreads Author)
Now you’re ‘official’ on Goodreads and your books will show that you’re a Goodreads Author when they pop up to users in search results. It's nice, but that’s only part of why this is important. Now you have control, and you have to learn how to use it.
To begin exercising a bit of that control, fill out your Author Page. Add some more pictures, fill in your information (such as your genre), and add a welcome blog. Introduce yourself, so that when people hit on this page it doesn't actually look like filler.
Once you've got the page looking nice, and really it shouldn't take long, then you need to get people into the party with you. Start inviting your friends. Let Goodreads do a search of your Gmail for contacts already on the site, and then do the same with your Facebook account. After you've exhausted those routes, move on to your Twitter. That alone will likely keep the site busy for awhile because you have daily invite limits to consider, but it will definitely bring a lot of people to your page.
That’s pretty much it when it comes to getting started – but don’t let it just sit at this static number. Keep the ball rolling with fresh invites as your followers and connections grow on other social media sites and remember that you now have a new page you can share for visibility! Tweet it, Facebook it, Google+ it, whatever – just don’t let this fledgling resource die off.
Once you’re established as a bona fide Goodreads Author – what do you do with it? The real question is – what do you want to do with it? Goodreads offers a myriad of options for you as an author.
Right away, you can go straight ads. This is not something I have done but if that’s your thing, Goodreads can deliver. There are many, many things you can do that don’t cost any money, however, or at least don’t cost any up front.
Giveaways are free to list on the site, but you can only gift physical copies so it will end up costing you some money in the end. How much you spend is up to you. Do you want to give away 2 copies? Great! Want to give away 100 or 1000? That's even better! (Especially if you have publisher deep pockets :) ) You set the start and end dates and the number of copies you want to give away. Each giveaway gets it's own page and the setup encourages contestants to mark your book as ‘to read’ on their shelves, which gives you extra visibility on each of their streams. You don't get a huge bump from that because of how brief the mention is, but every page that shows your book on the helps you in one way or another.
Ideally, the winners of the contest will review the book for you, giving you a real boost. I’m not sure that actually happens a lot, so don’t count on it. It did not happen for me. It is also important to note that staff will have to approve your contest listing and they won’t give you any notice that you have been given the green light. Just check back on your book page and you’ll find the contest listed in a couple of days. That's your queue to start promoting it across the web.
I could write a series of articles on this feature, because there are so many options. Group types include everything from book clubs, to chat clubs, to review groups, and author Q&As, books swaps, genre discussions… and that’s just a small selection. Groups are easy to create and easy to join, and you can participate in as many groups as you want in order to reach a wide audience of readers and/or peers. You can opt to receive emails listing new posts in your groups, or just to receive web notifications when you are on the site. You can run your own group (for example, a Q&A or book discussion group for your own body of work) or participate in any other group that strikes your fancy – or you can do both. Beware… it might be addictive.
Another great feature on Goodreads is the ability to create polls and rank books by any topic y. For example, my debut novel Come the Shadows is highly ranked in the Best Mystery/Thriller/Suspense Novels of 2011 list.
Anyone can create a list and voting is open to all users. In the event of a tie, rankings are decided by the book's ratings – if your book and Sam’s book have 109 votes, the book that is rated highest by readers will be awarded the higher slot in the poll. I have found that it's easy to get on the top page of a poll with minimal effort on other sites like Facebook and Twitter, but it’s best to get in the top 5 books if you can, which means your book appears in the thumbnail grouping that shows on any page that list appears, which gives you more face-time with readers who have never seen you before!
Of note - these polls can be voted on months and months later, shifting rankings up and down. It's important to continue to get into new polls to keep your visibility high. You can be 1st one week and drop spots the next.
As if you weren't busy enough, you can also blog on your Goodreads author page! Only a small portion of each blog is shown on the author profile page, though, so long essays probably won’t be read. Keep it short and not too frequent to avoid spamming and it will be a great way to keep your readers informed about your latest goings-on. If you don’t want to actually create new posts for Goodreads, though, there’s a feed import that will allow your external posts to be automatically blogged on your Goodreads author page as well.
I have not used this feature myself but there is a recommendations feature on the site as well. It will allow you to email books to your friends on Goodreads. All you have to do is click on the book and on the upper right you will see a ‘recommend it’ link that allows you to choose what friends you want to share the work with. Usually you are limited to sharing with only a few hundred at a time. Unfortunately, I have found this feature to cause a problem with spam recommendations because it is used so often. Walk carefully here, especially if you are recommending your own works.
This feature is excellent ! It's very similar to Facebook's event feature and so easy to use. It's open and you can create events for anything you want. Are you having a book signing? Launching a new novel? Giving away books/gift cards/eReaders on your own site? Just host an event! This feature does not require you do anything. If you are doing any kind of promotion that you want to highlight, and get people to join in, here’s a way to tell them. There is no requirement this be directly tied to Goodreads, either. This is an excellent way to connect with readers and get more visibility as an author.
Afterall, visibility is what Goodreads is all about for authors. It connects authors together and helps promote us in one place. There are positives and negatives to the site, as with any social media, but it’s a vital resource for any author in this ever-changing publishing landscape.