In contrast to last week’s post, which looked at a social media platform that is less-used (might I even say underused?) by indie and self-published authors, this week we’ll be examining the other end of the spectrum–at a platform that has been mined so often and so thoroughly for its marketing potential that setting up a profile has almost become a requirement. I’m talking about Goodreads, if you haven’t already guessed, a website we’ve looked at before on Self Publishing Advisor. Fortunately for us and for you, however, it’s a website that keeps evolving, and keeps generating new possibilities. I can definitively say that most authors know some of the buzz about Goodreads, but very few know all of the ways in which this platform can be of use.
For those of you who are new to Goodreads (and don’t be ashamed if you are, despite what I just said about authors definitively knowing things–there’s always going to be some new corner of the Internet to explore!), what is this website? In short, it’s a cross between Facebook and Amazon for readers and writers and those involved in the dissemination of books. All users can create profiles, log the books they’ve read or are reading or want to read, rating them out of five stars and posting book reviews as they go. You can find your friends by interlinking your Goodreads account with Facebook or Twitter or Amazon, or by using their email addresses. (Goodreads was purchased after its stratospheric rise by Amazon, so a lot of its features (like reviews and “buy from these retailers” links) are already well-integrated into that other behemoth of the book industry.)
Authors get even a little more love, in that they can create specialized “Author Pages” that list their books (including pictures of their book covers), link to blog posts, and allow authors to create and manage book giveaways. Goodreads is so passionate about making promotion easy for authors that it has even put together a comprehensive web page describing how to best use their features–you can find that here–and have left me almost nothing to add except a little style and flourish.
No, that’s a lie. I still have a lot to say about Goodreads!
Debunking the Great Goodreads Myth: “If I have Facebook and Amazon, I don’t really need another spot to store all my book recommendations, do I?”
Oh, but there’s something so incredibly satisfying about falling into a community that shares your passion for literature, isn’t there? Amazon was created to sell things, and its “social” structures were integrated into that website after they were proven to be marketable. Facebook was created to be social, and its “profitable” structures were integrated into that website after they were proven to have social elements. Goodreads, on the other hand, was designed around the reading experience, to aid and abet readers and writers in sharing their love of literature. Both social and marketable elements shaped the platform’s earliest concepts, and so the fusion of these two aspects is 100% seamless. To be sure, it won’t replace your Facebook or your Amazon account, but it occupies a third space–and an equally compelling one, in my opinion. It fills a niche and fills it perfectly.
Top 5 Best Practices:
1. Set up an author page. Do it. There’s no excuse not to, not when the resources are literally right there at your fingertips, delivered on a platinum platter by Goodreads’ own staff. And if you’ve already published books, don’t worry–you can “capture” existing books in the system and take ownership of them, even if one of your readers has beaten you to entering the vital statistics into the system. And if you run into trouble, the Goodreads staff are always quick to respond to both emails and posts in their help forums. There’s a seemingly endless list of possible situations that the staff will troubleshoot for you. Remember all of my past references to “findability”? Setting up a Goodreads author page and filling in as many of the empty fields as possible will, without fail, make you more findable. Have you googled a book recently? More than half of the top search results for the average book link back to Goodreads–reviews, book pages, author pages, and forum posts.
2. Be a reader–an active reader. Quite apart to the other benefits of being an avid reader (which I’m sure you are, already!), being an active reader on Goodreads has some serious benefits for your self-promotion methods. The more books you review–actually review, not just leave a three- or five-star rating–the more people will see your name and follow the name back to your author page, and land on your books. Even established authors with big followings will benefit from reading and from using Goodreads as the tool it was designed to be–a platform for sharing one’s passion for the printed (or digitized) word. Other readers pick up on passion, enthusiasm, and authenticity. I have been followed by a whole host of strangers on Goodreads who see my reviews, and you can bet they form a perfect nucleus of potential new readers.
3. Encourage your readers and followers to write reviews. Elsewhere, even offline or apart from Goodreads, reviews are a wonderful–or even necessary–component of a sound marketing strategy. Whenever you click on a book page in Goodreads, you’re delivered a whole sheaf of reviews, and the ones with the most “likes” are prioritized by the website to be displayed at the top of the sheaf. Other readers and respond to reviews by liking, or by replying with their own comments. However you incentivize the posting of reviews on your own books (see my next point), make sure that you do incentivize it! At the very least, encourage your readers to check out your Goodreads author page. The more people who interact there, the more links and metadata that is generated, and the more “findable” you are through indexing search engines like Google and Bing!
4. Host a giveaway! I’ll admit it, I’m a giveaway addict. (And I know I’m not alone–FREE BOOKS?!?! Who wouldn’t be?!) Goodreads makes hosting a giveaway so incredibly easy. I will sit there for hours perusing the list of upcoming giveaways, signing myself up and crossing my fingers that I win this or that one. New readers will find you simply by virtue of the fact you’re holding a giveaway … and this is before you even let your existing fans and social media followers know that they can enter! (And again, don’t be afraid of the Goodreads forums. There’s a lot of excellent information to mine there.) You can only host a giveaway if you’re a book’s author or a bookseller, and there’s a heavy emphasis on giving away new books, upcoming releases, and new editions of previously published books. By limiting giveaways in this way, Goodreads has cultivated a certain level of respectability and credibility that you won’t find in a lot of other places.
5. Join a group. Goodreads is built around networking, so make sure to take full advantage of all of the networking options on the website–whether that’s creating a book list through Listopia, or posting reviews of books you’re reading, or posting blogs to your author page, or joining a group. The groups are where a lot of the fun happens, and you can find a group to fit even the most specific interest. There are book groups based on genres, on careers (librarians and booksellers are well-represented, as you might expect), on where you live or used to live (the LA Transplants book club group looks quite interesting), what you do in your leisure time, and, of course, a whole bunch of groups that cater specifically to you, the indie or self-published author (including this one!). If you haven’t already found “your people,” you might just find them in a Goodreads Group. You’ll find encouragement, information, instruction, and feedback. The key to a good group experience is, as with all things social media, living as authentically online as you do offline.
Most Overlooked Feature:
In my mind, this one comes down to two possibilities: Goodreads Events, and Listopia. In some ways, I feel as though Listopia is on its way out while Events is still quietly going strong and perhaps growing in its possible offerings. In essence, you can use Events to organize real-life or digital meetups, including book readings and sales or online promotions. You get to invite both current Goodreads users as well as non-users (by sharing the link), and you can manage each event to meet your personal preferences for a “public” versus “private” or “restricted” guest list. Yes, Facebook also provides options for event invitations and meetups, but they’re less specific to the book industry–and, simultaneously, less likely to be stumbled-upon by new readers. In any case, you can’t hurt your chances by trying it out!
I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠
||ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.