You’ve successfully set up your Goodreads author profile and shelved your favorite books – now what do you do to get readers to pay attention to your own book? Every year, the publishing industry releases 300,000 new books and self-published authors release an additional 300,000. It comes as no surprise that discoverability is the biggest challenge facing authors today.
Goodreads readers discover books. Our site was founded on the belief that the best recommendations come from friends, so our goal is to make it easy and fun to see what your friends are reading and share what you’re reading with friends. For authors, this is welcome news, as helping readers discover books, by definition, helps authors.
So how can you help readers discover your book? First, let’s talk about what works and what doesn’t. Remember that your goal on Goodreads should be to raise awareness of your book, not simply to sell books. With any marketing activity you pursue on Goodreads, ask yourself: “Will this delight readers? Will readers want to engage with this?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.
Here are some ways we think you can help readers find out about you and your work.
Giveaways: Readers absolutely love giveaways. Who doesn’t love free books? After all, a book addiction, though not hazardous to your health, is costly to sustain. Readers love giveaways so much that more than 270,000 books were given away on Goodreads last year. For an author, a giveaway is a great way to get your book into the hands of new readers. Giveaways aid discovery in several ways. First, many people who enter a giveaway will add the book to their to-read shelves, posting it into their feeds for all their friends to see. Many giveaway winners will also review the books they win, helping to generate buzz about a new title.
To maximize the benefits of a giveaway, we offer a few tips:
· Run multiple giveaways: one several months prior to publication and one at time of publication. Since Goodreads giveaways are free to list, you can run as many as you like even once the book is published.
· Run your giveaways for at least a month to gain the maximum number of entries, and give away as many books as you can afford. The more books you offer, the more reviews you’re likely to get.
· In the description of the giveaway, encourage members to follow you on Goodreads so they can get updates from you.
The goal of the giveaway is to build awareness of your book, which you will achieve simply by listing the giveaway. The average 20-copy giveaway in the US attracts 920 entries. Keep in mind that winners are chosen at random and are not required to review the book. Aggressively asking the winners to post a review could backfire, as many readers perceive this as spam. Publishers give away thousands of pre-release and review copies because they recognize the potential of flooding the marketplace to build awareness. With Goodreads giveaways, you can too.
Author Blogs and Status Updates: Promote the giveaway through your Goodreads author blog and status update. At nearly 500 characters, status updates on Goodreads are longer than a tweet but shorter than a blog post, making them ideal to broadcast a quick and engaging message. These posts appear in the newsfeed of your fans.
Advertising: You might consider running an advertising campaign to increase the number of readers entering your giveaway and build further awareness of your book. These campaigns allow you to reach fans of specific genres or authors. You can start a campaign with as little as $50.
You can create an unlimited number of ads within a campaign, which allows you to test out what resonates best with your desired audience. Ads are simple to create and consist of an image, a headline, a short description, and a URL. You can also include engagement stats, which highlight the number of reviews or ratings your book has and update automatically as those stats increase.
Engaging with Readers: Keep in mind most readers visit Goodreads to talk about books. Engage with them on their turf by interacting as a reader, not an author. One way to do this is by browsing groups by topics of interest and finding ones with interesting discussions to which you want to contribute.
Each group has a moderator who sets the tone for their group, and moderators outline the rules of conduct. Rules vary: some groups welcome author participation but others prefer a readers-only environment. And one thing most groups have in common – they do not tolerate self-promotion. Imagine going to a cocktail party where people are engaging in a conversation. Don’t be the person who abruptly barges in to talk about his latest and greatest achievements.
Interacting with reviews: If your book is lucky enough to find readers, you will eventually get a negative review or two. Though it’s hard to do, we recommend resisting the urge to respond to negative reviews about your own book. Responding to a bad review won’t make the reviewer change her mind, but could potentially attract even more negative attention. Remember that Goodreads is public, and any activity – positive or negative – will appear in people’s newsfeeds, amplifying its effect.
You might be nodding your head in agreement right now, but restraining yourself from responding to negative reviews is easier said than done! Imagine your book is a novel set in Scotland, and the description, the cover image, and all you metadata clearly state the book is a fictional story set in Scotland. The first person to review the book gives it a one star rating with a one-line description: “This book was crap, and the descriptions of Finland were all wrong.” Would you respond to that review? Ultimately, ignoring reviews—even those that are factually inaccurate—is the best approach. If you feel the review is out of bounds, for instance, by attacking you personally, flag the review or email us. We take this very seriously and will take appropriate action if the review does not fall within our guidelines.
By publishing a book, you’re opening yourself up to criticism. Be prepared. Not everyone is going to like your book, and that’s OK. Celebrate your first negative review. It means a reader genuinely took a chance on your book, and that’s ultimately a good thing. Take every review for what it is – someone’s personal opinion about your book.
Finally, understand that marketing a book, not just on Goodreads but in general, takes time. Use the tools available to you, and trust in the amplification effect and that your work will speak for itself. For inspiration, consider how Colleen Hoover, author of the bestseller Slammed, built awareness for her debut novel over the course of months, not days.
It won’t always be easy, but the tools are out there to get your book into the hands of readers. So take the first step by posting a giveaway and telling your friends and fans via a status update. Good luck, and enjoy meeting readers on Goodreads!