Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Goodreads For Authors

by Liza Perrat

Goodreads is undoubtedly one of the best ways of connecting with a community of potential readers. I’ve found that the key to using Goodreads successfully as an author is to engage with the site as a reader. Do not come to it as a place to promote your books.

I have had a lot of fun on the site participating as a reader in different groups, and have discovered a very supportive groups of friends. Goodreads’ readers and reviewers are tough and pedantic, and I’ve learned so much more about writing through conversations with members in different groups.

I rarely talk about my books, aside from the very occasional mention where appropriate. Most groups have special folders where you can announce your giveaways, new releases, and other information about your books, and it’s best to stick to these places. However, over time, I’ve found that readers who are interested in the types of books I write have discovered my novels on their own. Word-of-mouth promotion takes its course within Goodreads, without you having to spend time promoting yourself, which, in most cases, bores and turns people right off.

However, as an author, it is definitely worthwhile setting up a Goodreads author profile page, and to make that page as engaging as possible. Post a photo, bio and links to your website, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Include an RSS feed to your blog, so readers can see your latest posts. 

Promoting Your Books...

Despite saying that Goodreads is primarily a site for readers, there are a few ways to promote your books on the site:
  • Paid adverts
  • Participate in discussion groups relevant to the genre of your books. I’d suggest joining no more than three groups, which is already quite time-consuming. I was fortunate to have my novel, Spirit of Lost Angels, chosen as the Featured Author Read for the Historical Fictionistas group in June this year, which generated a lot of discussion and interest around my book. Not to mention a few more sales.
  • Lead a Q&A discussion group for readers
  • List a book giveaway to generate buzz

Let’s talk about Goodreads giveaways, that well-known marketing tool. Most people hope that giveaways will lead to a spike in sales, or at least in reviews. However, giveaways are more likely to lead to a spike in people putting your book on their ‘to read’ shelves, rather than anything else. But the cost of giveaways (compared with paid advertising) is low, and familiarity in having your book show up in as many different places as possible over time should be part of your long-haul marketing commitment. Exposure is what makes readers pick your book out of the crowd.

Currently, you can only give away physical books on Goodreads. You’ll need to decide on how many books to give away, and which territories you are prepared to ship to. You can, however, give away books from your backlist to incite interest for your new release – just leave the publication date blank when you are setting up the giveaway.

In his presentation at the 2013 London Book Fair, Patrick Brown from Goodreads suggested that a month was the ideal time for a giveaway. Other indie authors have said this is too long and that you only get people participating in the last few days, so I guess this is a matter of trial and error.

Giveaways are very simple, very popular, and very powerful if planned correctly. Here’s how they work:

  • Authors fill out and submit a form describing their book and the giveaway dates
  • Authors agree to supply the indicated number of books on the date the giveaway ends
  • Goodreads lists the book on its giveaways page
  • Goodreads members enter to win the giveaway. Many will add the book to their “to-read” shelf. Though some authors argue these shelves are loaded with books that will never be read, as I said above, it’s one way to make sure your book is more familiar to potential readers
  • Goodreads collects interest in the book then selects winners. Their algorithm (yes, they use them too!) ingeniously uses member data to match interested members with each book
  • Goodreads chooses the winner(s) randomly and notifies you with their address. It is your responsibility to ship the books to the winners promptly

Tips to help make your giveaway more successful...

Allow enough time for interest to accrue but not so much time that people forget about it. Goodreads generally recommends two weeks to a month. This allows enough time for lots of people to enter, but not so much time for them to forget they entered. Ideally, those who don't win the giveaway will be intrigued enough to seek out your book elsewhere on the site and possibly add it to their “to-read” shelves. They might not remember to do this if the giveaway lasts for too long.

Post the Goodreads Giveaway Widget on your blog, website, and Facebook page. The Giveaway Widget works by helping you reach the people most likely to enjoy your book!

More countries = more exposure. Offer your giveaways for all the countries listed and not just the US. There aren’t nearly as many giveaways for international users, and, from living in France, I know that us "foreigners" appreciate having a chance too!

Make your giveaway description compelling. It would be easy to copy-paste your back cover blurb into the giveaway description box, but review blurbs seem to work better. Also note any awards or kudos, Indie Book of the Day, Awesome Indies Approved, etc…

As an example, this is the description I used for my giveaway of  Spirit of Lost Angels, which generated almost 2,000 entries:

I am giving away 5 signed copies of my historical fiction debut, Spirit of Lost Angels. Best of luck!
An incredible page turner … Spirit of Lost Angels is an exciting novel to read with its many plot twists and high degree of conflict and emotion. Mirella Patzer, http://www.historyandwomen.com/

Eighteenth century France is brought vividly to life in this dramatic recreation of Paris in the lead up to the storming of the Bastille. The writing is superb, the sights, sounds and smells of a city in turmoil is brought vividly to life …. Fabulous. I loved it!
Josie Barton, http://jaffareadstoo.blogspot.fr/

... Perrat avoids the trap of allowing her protagonist to miraculously find her way. There are no miracles in Spirit of Lost Angels, but small blessings along the journey. I am impressed with Perrat’s knowledgeable treatment of the role of women during one of France’s most tumultuous times, as well as the complexities of insular village life. Darlene Elizabeth Williams http://darleneelizabethwilliamsauthor...

Spirit of Lost Angels is a tale to lose oneself in …  Andrea Connell, http://thequeensquillreview.com/

Liza Perrat brings to life the sights and sounds of 18th century France. Her extensive research shines through in her writing, from the superstitions of the villagers to the lives of the more sophisticated Parisians.
Anne Cater (Top 500 Amazon reviewer)http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox...

Schedule your giveaway to start in the future. Don’t set-up the giveaway to start immediately, as the Goodreads approval process can take a few days. It’s a good idea to schedule your giveaway to start 3 business days later, so that you know it will be ready. Also, Goodreads does not work on weekends, so avoid listing your giveaway on Thursday or Friday.

Create an Author Q&A group timed to coincide with the end of your giveaway and link to the group. An Author Q&A group can be a great way to maintain contact with members who entered your giveaway. But schedule it for some time in the future, as people will need time to read your book.

Send books promptly: When winners are picked, be sure to send out the book in a timely manner. If it arrives late, or worse, not at all, an angry winner might leave a nasty review!

Give away signed cop(y)ies: Many readers regard signed copies as something special, so why not sign your book before sending it off? It’s best not to personalise the book though, with Dear “X”, as the winner may want it for a friend, or to give as a present.

Requesting a review: You may, or may not, want to include a handwritten note inside the book asking for a review.  Many people advise that this is acceptable, whilst some say it is not. Up to you.

In the Huffington Post, author marketing expert Penny C Sansevieri has some excellent advice on the power of the Goodreads giveaway.

Goodreads Tips from the experts…

  • Patrick Brown also spoke at the LBF about the opportunities for engaging with readers on Goodreads: “the best way, of course, is to be an active member of the Goodreads community, posting and reviewing books in the genre you love and write in, so you can connect as a reader.” If you want to learn more, Patrick has also openly shared his slide pack.
  • Author of contemporary fiction, Christine Nolfi, has some great advice here, on Goodreads strategies to increase sales.
  • Author Marketing Club Video Goodreads Tutorial
  • In the Huffington Post, author marketing expert Penny C Sansevieri tells us how to become a Goodreads power user.


  1. A very comprehensive post on the pros of using Goodreads. I am going to share this!