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10 Things Authors Should Know About GoodReads

I had the pleasure to meet Patrick Brown, Director of Community at GoodReads, when he came to lunch at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto today. Brown spoke about the GoodReads Author Program and offered these tips for authors on GoodReads.

1. GoodReads has a free Author Program.

You can use it to post videos and interviews, write a blog, host giveaways, and create a quiz about your book.

2. The best way to promote your book on GoodReads is to host a giveaway.

Patrick Brown, Director of Community at GoodReads, recommends giving away as a many books as you can because the more books you offer, the more reviews you’re likely to get.

3. You can learn how to build your author platform on GoodReads by watching this slideshow.

4. When readers are looking for new books to read, they’re turning to GoodReads.

As the New York Times reported last month, GoodReads “is exploding in popularity and rivaling as a platform for promoting new books.”

5. Although you can’t buy a book through GoodReads, you can click on links that will take you to all the popular online bookstores.

(Disclaimer: GoodReads gets a cut from the retailers it links to.)

6. GoodReads users doubled in 2012 from 6 million to 12 million.

With 15 million current members, GoodReads expects to see rapid, exponential growth in 2013 as well.

7. Half of GoodReads users fall in the 13-30 age range.

GoodReads has a strong user base of members over 50 as well. (Editor’s note: Forty-year-olds are too busy raising kids to read.)

8. A large percentage of authors on GoodReads are self-published.

9. GoodReads book reviews show up not only on GoodReads, but also on the Sony, Google, Kobo, Powell’s, and USA Today websites.

10. Longer reviews by active GoodReads users are given more weight than reviews like “Great book!” by users who have no GoodRead friends and rarely review books.

What about you? Do you use GoodReads? Are you a member of the Author Program? How have you used it to promote your book(s)?

31 comments to 10 Things Authors Should Know About GoodReads

  • Kristan

    Great list! And LOL at your "editor's note" about 40-somethings.

    I definitely use and love GoodReads — but more on a personal level than a professional/public one. I started with it years ago, to help keep track of all that I've read. (I have a weak memory and sometimes can't remember WHY I liked or disliked something, so jotting notes helps.)

    I *have* connected with "fans" (weird word for me…) through it, but for me the place for that is really on my blog. Perhaps that opinion will change if/when my audience grows, though.

    • meghancward

      I love the design of GoodReads. It really makes me WANT to use it more, but I do keep a list of the books I read (, so listing them again on GoodReads feels like an extra step. And I never run out of books to read because I have so little time to read. I'm sure as an author I'd use it more.

      • Sierra Godfrey

        I use Goodreads exclusively to keep track of the books I've read, but I love your idea of having a page on my website for this as well. I may have to use this idea too. Thanks!

  • annerallen

    Excellent, well organized overview. I didn't know that long reviews are given more weight. I'm so glad they are. Thoughtful reviewers should be acknowledged. I notice you didn't mention Goodreads groups. I'm a member of several and I must say they're mostly a time-suck, so leaving them out was wise. Authors bullying other authors into buying their books doesn't seem like a good business plan to me. Thanks for a great post!

    • meghancward

      Anne, thanks for reminding me about groups! I just got my first GoodReads group invitation a couple of weeks ago and haven't yet joined, so groups slipped my mind. How do they benefit authors?

      • annerallen

        The groups are mostly reading groups, although I didn't realize when I joined two of them. I'd expected discussion, like in FB groups. They're mostly about reading each other's books and giving reviews to the "winner". The author who can get the most votes gets their book read. It's a system that can be easily gamed and I ended up buying some pretty bad books I didn't want to read or discuss. Now I mostly ignore the group notifications.

  • KLM

    My book is now up on Goodreads. I hadn't really ever used the site before now. I've had a few author friends tell me that it can be a bit of a viper den, so that makes me a little nervous. That being said, I realize it's not the site's responsibility to soothe authors' egos. I guess I'll just have to find out for myself. EEK!

    • meghancward

      An author I know did mention that she got her harshest reviews on GoodReads. Why is that? Is it only through reviews that authors are criticized, or are there other places for readers to comment?

  • mainecharacter

    I haven't spent much time there 'cause you can't read excerpts, but it's time I found out what it has to offer, so thanks for the nudge.

    • meghancward

      I haven't spent much time there either, but visiting the site makes me feel like I stepped into a nice, quiet bookstore. I love the feel of it.

  • Meghan, I bet there’s more than one author out there who would love to see a sequel to this post, guidance for navigating some of the landmines inherent to Goodreads. For example, I know a talented author who fell victim to spambots giving one- and two-star reviews with no content. Goodreads agreed the reviews were spam but only took down some of them. As a result, the author’s average dropped, not due to discerning readers, but because of malicious algorithms. Social media play an important role in publishing, but the flipside–anonymous trolling–is more than a nuisance.

    • meghancward

      Teresa, That's terrible! I'm sure if I asked Patrick, he'd say that GoodReads does everything they can to remove spam reviews. I wonder why that author's weren't removed. Patrick did say that longer reviews get more weight (move up higher) than reviews with little (or no) content, but that doesn't affect the average star rating. He also said they will be updating their algorithm again soon, so maybe they're addressing some of those complaints by authors.

    • annerallen

      I've had a number of no-text one and two star reviews. Some appeared before the book was even out. It's a problem. I wish they wouldn't let people give stars without text.

      • meghancward

        I agree, Anne. If people had to make the effort to write a rational review, they wouldn't bother giving 1 or 2 stars.

  • My favorite use of Goodreads is their Explore Books at Random selection. (Go to Explore and scroll all the way down.) I use it all the time, and discover writers who aren't on the best-seller list- and sometimes should be! It's a great function, the closest thing to browsing in an old, disorganized book store, where one volume is in Russian, the next a summary of a physics theory, then a volume of stunning poetry, a novel, who knows what pops up next! When you click on the book, it takes you to the reviews. Alas, it doesn't, at least on my phone, take you to the book's main page. But I love seeing all the variety, and always end up picking a new book to read.

    • meghancward

      I've never heard of GoodReads's Random Selection, Claudia, and I love the idea of discovering new authors. I bought a book off of Barnes & Nobles's discount shelf a few years ago, and it was fantastic. I never would have knows about it had I not been browsing the book aisles.

  • olganm

    Thanks for the post. I've been using Goodreads for a while but still trying to get to grips with it. I've started some discussions (and got replies) and joined quite a few groups but don't have much time to read all the books…It's useful to note trends..
    And thanks Claudia, never heard of the random selection…Sounds great!

    • meghancward

      I was invited to one group and haven't had them to join yet. There just isn't enough time in the day for all the social media networks out there! But I do love the design and structure of GoodReads. And I join you in thanking Claudia for telling us about Random Selection. I didn't know about that.

  • Sierra Godfrey

    This is a great post. I love the Goodreads mobile app that lets me scan the barcodes of physical books and load them into my "to be read" list.

    However, and this is the place where Goodreads falls short for me, I'm still a victim of Amazon's "recommended for you" books because I buy books to read on my Kindle Fire. I have wished more than once that Goodreads would connect with Amazon because apart from Amazon and manually finding books, I don't have a good way to automate getting books that I want to read.

    And by that I mean, get them fast and easily. That's what it's really all about–whichever service can get me the books I want to read the fastest will win, sorry to say.

    • meghancward

      Sierra – Do you buy books that Amazon recommends? I never have, mostly because I don't have time to read the long list of books already on my TBR list. I haven't tried GoodReads' mobile app. Great idea!

  • Nice post. I didn't know that much about Good Reads. It seems like a good tool for writers!

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  • My book is now up on Goodreads. I hadn't really ever used the site before now. I've had a few author friends tell me that it can be a bit of a viper den, so that makes me a little nervous. That being said, I realize it's not the site's responsibility to soothe authors' egos. I guess I'll just have to find out for myself.