Goodreads for Beginners

goodreads logoMention Goodreads to an author and you’re likely to get a response like, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ve heard people are mean over there. I think I’ll pass.”

As a longtime user of Goodreads, both as a reader and an author, I’ve seen my share of skirmishes, but the problem, in my humble opinion, lies with misusing Goodreads. For those thinking of braving the waters, here are some basic Dos and Don’ts:

Do use Goodreads as a reader.

There are a variety of ways to do this. Social readers can find discussion threads on all sorts of genres, authors, and books. You can become a fan of your favorite author and even sign up to participate in live chats (assuming those authors schedule chats).

Readers can also list and catalogue books in a variety of ways, including “Want to read,” “Read,” and “Currently reading.”

Shelving is another method Goodreads provides for cataloguing and organizing books. Some of us stick to more mundane shelf names (such as “Southern Fiction”), while others get quite creative (such as “OMG-SQUEE-BEST-BOOKS-EVER”). As long as you stay away from personal insults or threats, feel free to exercise your shelf-naming creativity any way you like.

Do claim your Author Profile.

Authors often seem surprised to see their book(s) hanging out on Goodreads, but anyone can add a book to Goodreads. In fact, I recently noticed one of my short stories appearing within hours of publishing on Amazon. I’m not sure if this is a new feature or just a fluke, but either way, I think it’s safe to say if you publish on Amazon, your books will end up on Goodreads, whether added by you, or someone else.

When you find your book on Goodreads, your name will provide a live link to the Author Profile page, which you can then “claim” as yours by scrolling to the bottom where it says, “Is this you? Let us know,” and clicking. Once your author profile is claimed, you can add your bio, contact links, book trailers, and blog entries. If you already have a blog elsewhere, you can link that blog to your Goodreads blog and it will automatically post your entries to Goodreads.

You’ll also be given the opportunity to start a question and answer session, allowing readers to post questions regarding your writing process. You pick and choose which questions you want to answer, and those are the ones that will post.

There is also the ability to do giveaways on Goodreads. This is a very popular feature.

Goodreads also offers advertising. Something to keep in mind when advertising on Goodreads: It’s a very different experience than advertising with BookBub, BookSends, KB&T, and similar sites. Those sites “blast” your book out via emails and social media for a quick jump in sales. Goodreads, on the other hand, does not require a promotional reduction in price, and does not blast the book out via social media or otherwise. Instead, when your target audience searches for books on Goodreads, yours comes up in the search.

I think of it as moving my book from the back shelf to the front table, where it can be seen. As people mark your book as “To read,” or shelve it as “Southern Fiction,” their friends see it, too, resulting in slow but steady exposure that builds over time.

Don’t send mass spam to friends and fans asking them to read your book. For one thing, it doesn’t work (how many of you open spam email?). For another, it annoys people and is a quick way to find yourself unfriended and blocked.

Don’t add your own book to Listopia Lists. Leave that to your readers. No one likes a braggart.

Don’t engage in review swaps, Listopia List swaps, or other methods for gaming the system. Such agreements are easily spotted, and do much more harm than good. Have patience and the reviews will come.

Don’t join reader groups as a way to market your book. Join reader groups to meet interesting people and discuss books. Join promotional groups (there are many) to promote.

Don’t argue with reviewers. Not only is it unprofessional, but it will discourage others from reviewing, or even purchasing, your book.

Used correctly, Goodreads is a fun place for readers and a valuable tool for authors. Used incorrectly, it can become an author’s worst nightmare. The key is in separating the two uses and respecting the boundaries.

Author: Melinda Clayton

Melinda Clayton is the author of the Cedar Hollow series, as well as a self-publishing guide. Clayton has published numerous articles and short stories in various print and online magazines. She has an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration and is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado. Lear more about Melinda at her Amazon author page

22 thoughts on “Goodreads for Beginners”

  1. Melinda,
    This is a great article. I’m a reader, reviewer, and blogger. I find Goodreads a valuable tool.I ” shop ” on GR more than AZ . I’m always amazed at how many authors shy away from Goodreads. Yes, there are some overly opinionated people there at times, but the majority are wonderful. Thanks for posting this!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Julie! I’m a big fan of Goodreads. The staff and volunteers are always quick to respond and very helpful, and I’ve met a lot of great readers and authors there.

    1. I’ve gotten used to it now, but I do remember some confusion in the beginning. I was once reprimanded for trying to change my book cover (that’s one of the “Don’ts” – you have to ask a librarian to do that for you!).

  2. Excellent article, Melinda. Simple, to the point and informational. Watching our p’s and q’s on Goodreads can avoid the ugly situations of Authors Behaving Badly and Readers Behaving Badly, neither of which help anyone.

  3. Melinda, you’ve hit on the most confusing thing about Goodreads for authors. People seem to think of it as primarily marketing tool, and get confused when they can’t just post stuff about their books, the way they can on Facebook. Approaching it as a reader (not even as a book blogger — just as someone who likes to read!) is the way to go.

    Which reminds me, I need to get over there more often… 😉

    1. Thanks, Lynne. I agree; I think the biggest mistake authors make is in approaching it as a marketing platform, when that’s not really what it is. There are *ways* to market on Goodreads that are pretty clearly outlined – blog posts, paid ads, giveaways. But it’s designed to be a site for readers.

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I enjoy cataloging my books there (the ones I’m reading), although I’m wayyy behind on it at the moment.

  4. I try to post my reviews on Goodreads and get frustrated when authors haven’t listed their books on that site. I have tried to add the books at times but the book covers don’t come up when I do. I like the thumbnail book covers to show. I also use the site for author info and appreciate it when their bio’s, websites, and blogs are listed. Hopefully this post will inspire more authors to set up their pages and keep them current. Thanks, Ms. Clayton.

    I don’t usually navigate around Goodreads much. My reading lists come from another source. 😀

    1. Really good points, and even more reason for authors to claim their profiles. One of the first things I did when I joined Goodreads was go check out the profiles of some of my favorite authors. I even sent James Patterson a friend request. 🙂 He hasn’t accepted yet, but it’s only been four years….:-p Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Great article, Melissa. I don’t visit GR often because I’m unsure what to do there. I have been thinking about giveaways though. I never thought about about advertising there though. Thanks.

    1. You’re very welcome. One of the embedded links above will take you to a step-by-step tutorial on advertising, if you decide to go that route. Good luck! 🙂

  6. Thanks for this, Melissa. I was just saying a few minutes ago to someone that I’m pretty clueless about GoodReads. Your post has made me think I should get back in there and explore it a bit more.

    1. It’s a fun place for readers, and also for authors, as long as authors respect the rules and boundaries. I’ve had excellent experiences there. 🙂

  7. Goodreads can be overwhelming. However, every author should have their books listed there and their author’s page set up. Those things are fairly easy to do. The next simple action is to join a group and start participating in discussions. Practically every genre has a group there. What genre is your book written in? What genres do you like to read? Find groups that read that genre, join them, and participate. I enjoy audiobooks, so much so that I started my own audiobook review site, Just Audiobook Reviews. Consequently, I was thrilled to find four different audiobook groups at GR. I have a blast hearing about new books to listen to, sharing books I’ve read, and being notified about discounts and freebies from Audible. All of these groups have a discussion dedicated to authors who have an audiobook they want to promote. Those authors list their books there and share their giveaways and promotions.

    I’m a moderator for one of the four betareading groups at GR, and there’s also one ARC group. There are practically always takers when authors ask for reviewers or betareaders. So, if you’re looking for feedback on your book, join one of those groups and follow the guidelines for submissions.

    Little by little, you understand how the site works, and you focus on the activities and groups that interest you.

    1. Great information, Kathy, thanks so much for sharing! Betareading groups, eh? That’s something I’ll have to check out! 🙂

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