Marketing Tips for Authors: Goodreads
Last week we talked about Facebook marketing for authors—how it’s important to become a presence, a person that people want to know and like. Not just an author trying to secure email addresses or sell their next book.
This week I’d like to talk about Goodreads. Now, at first glance, it might seem to the unsuspecting newbie author that Goodreads is the perfect place to advertise your books and scout out new fans. After all, it is a gathering place for readers. But author, beware. Goodreads frowns on any sort of solicitation on their site unless it’s within a group specifically designated for promotion. And believe me, Goodreads readers will not waste any time reminding you of the rules!
I made this mistake last year when my first release came out from Soul Mate. I was so excited and wanted to blast the word out everywhere. Goodreads seemed like the perfect place, right? So I joined some groups dedicated to the particular genre my book fit into, and started slipping comments into the discussion threads: Just wanted to let everyone know, if you like paranormal romance, you’ll love my new release…
Well, I had several members of the group email me privately to let me know this was a no-no. Along with the moderator, who messaged me publicly to tell me the same thing. How embarrassed was I? Lots!
Since then, I have purchased a nifty little book by Frances Caballo called The Author’s Guide to Goodreads. Although quite basic and shorter than I expected, this guide was concise, with specific examples of how not to use Goodreads. But even more useful was the author’s outline, at the end of the book, on how to promote your titles on Goodreads in an acceptable, positive way. She even provides a sort of timeline in planning for a new release.
Caballo’s main message is: if you’re going to participate in Goodreads, you have to read way more than you write. You must become an active participant in reader’s groups, adding book reviews frequently. As she states, you must “indicate that you value reading as much as you do selling your books.”
Just like any other social network, in order for Goodreads to work for you, you have to be social. Join groups in genres you like to read, post reviews of books you’ve read, and start or join discussions about those books. Once people start to connect with you, and realize you share their love of reading, they become much more likely to “notice” when you post on your author page that you have a new release coming out. I repeat: you post on your author page, not in the group discussions. If you have not yet set up an author page on Goodreads, get busy and do this right away! You can find out how by scrolling down to the bottom of your profile page, or any main page, and clicking on Author Program.
Other ways Caballo discusses for making the most of Goodreads are blog posts, adding quotes about reading as well as from your favorite books (not your own), and posting what you’re currently reading. And then there are Goodreads Giveaways.
I have run giveaways, some multiple times, for three of my published novels. At the present, you cannot give away eBooks, only paperbacks—but rumor has it that option in coming and is in beta testing mode right now. The only catch is that Goodreads is going to charge you, the author, to give away your own eBooks. So I’m not sure whether it will be more economical than giving away paperbacks + shipping them.
My giveaways did generate interest in my books—when a reader enters a giveaway, they usually also place it on their “to-read” list. I do believe that a percentage of the hundreds who entered (962 entered for one giveaway!) actually did purchase books if they did not win, since there was a spike in sales in the days immediately following the end of the giveaway. I have also garnered a few reviews, though again, Goodreads strictly forbids the author from asking or pressuring the winner to leave a review.
You don’t have to give away 50-100 books per event, contrary to what Goodreads “Best Practices” recommends. My research indicates that even if you offer only one to three books in a giveaway, as long as you give it enough time to create a buzz (they recommend a month), the response is impressive. They provide you with an HTML code to paste into your website and blog, which produces a nice “Enter Here” button. And of course, you should spread the word about your giveaway on other social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.
Just be careful about where you commit to send the winner’s book. Media mail here in the U.S. for a paperback is only a little more than 3 dollars, but when a reader from the UK won my book in the last giveaway, it cost me $25.50 just for postage! Unfortunately, this will prevent me from including other countries in the giveaway in the future.
And, just like any other social media, involvement is going to cost you time—precious writing time, or time you could spend marketing your books in other ways. But remember, Goodreads was purchased by Amazon in 2013. If you become popular on Goodreads, it may well spill over to exposure on Amazon. So although I have not yet invested enough of my time to reap many benefits from my Goodreads membership, I have high hopes that, eventually, I will.
Next time we’ll look at LibraryThing, a site I am still trying to get the hang of, but one that has gotten my books—in audiobook format—into the hands of readers halfway across the globe. Unlike Goodreads, LibraryThing does allow eBooks, as well as audiobooks, in their giveaways. Stay tuned.