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How to Use Goodreads for Book Promotion

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by Cynthia Shannon, Author Marketing Coordinator, Goodreads

Cynthia Shannon

When I came to Goodreads last year, I had been working as a book publicist for seven years, so I knew that Goodreads was a popular book review and recommendation site where readers connect with each other over a shared passion for books. I had joined the site in 2007 and enjoyed keeping track of the books I had read or wanted to read, and I loved exploring what other people recommended to me.

Having been here a while, I now know that Goodreads is an integral part of many publishers’ marketing campaigns, and for good reason. Any activity that readers engage in gets broadcast to their friends and followers, which creates an amplification effect that drives awareness. On average, Goodreads members share 900,000 reviews every month, amassing more than 30 million total reviews. Every second, five books are added to a “Want to read” shelf, or, put another way, every second, Goodreads is capturing the intent to acquire and read five books. Simply put, Goodreads has become the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations of any genre.

I have learned a lot about what independent publishers can do to take advantage of opportunities on Goodreads, and to encourage their authors to become more involved as well. Increasing the number of reviews, ratings, and “to-read” shelvings should be the primary goals, especially prior to publication. What follows are some fundamental tips to help publishers use Goodreads for best effect.

To Manage Data

Make sure Goodreads is getting your metadata. This tedious but essential aspect of online marketing helps readers find your books online. Goodreads works with Ingram and Firebrand to receive most publishers’ feeds. If you can’t find your book when searching on Goodreads via ISBN, you can add the information directly at goodreads.com/book/new.

Pay attention to whether all editions of a work—paperback, hardcover, e-book, and/or any foreign translation(s)—link to the same record. This allows reviews of all editions to show up, no matter which edition a reader reviewed. If you notice any major discrepancies in your data, email support@goodreads.com so we can work with you to fix any problems.

Goodreads has hundreds of thousands of passionate members who care deeply about helping readers find the most accurate information about books. We grant these members “librarian” status to give them access to special parts of the site, where they can help correct information and provide early feedback on new titles. Request librarian privileges so you can edit your book data directly if it is incomplete.

To request librarian status for yourself or a member of your marketing or publicity team, go to goodreads.com/about/apply_librarian. Please don’t take these privileges lightly. Our Librarian Manual—goodreads.com/librarian_manual—explains what you can and cannot do. If you’re ever in doubt, email us for advice.

To Manage Marketing

Tell your sales reps that Goodreads is part of your marketing campaign, and share specifics such as the budget for an advertising campaign or the number of giveaways planned.

Include links to your Goodreads book pages in publicity materials, and encourage prepublication reviews through word of mouth, other social media outlets, your blog, and your email newsletter.

Because Goodreads was designed to help passionate readers discover and share books they love, the best marketing activities on the site not only spread awareness of a title; they also delight readers. The following tactics are popular with our members:

Create a giveaway. Readers absolutely love them (who doesn’t love free books?). Authors and publishers gave away more than 270,000 books on Goodreads last year. Because entering a giveaway is a public act, it increases awareness of the title on offer. As people see their friends enter a giveaway, they are more likely to check out the free book. In the United States, the average 20-copy giveaway draws 920 entrants, and most members who enter will add the book to their “to-read” shelf, further raising awareness of it.

Not all giveaways are created equal, though. To get the most from your giveaways, we recommend setting up at least two: one several months before a book’s release date, and one around that date. Listing giveaways is free, but note that you are expected to send books directly to winners within the 6–8 week designated timeframe.

Create a group. Setting up a group for your publishing house extends the reach of your brand and gives you a platform where you can connect directly with readers. Groups let you host chats with authors, promote giveaways, highlight new releases, post reading discussions, set up events, and message members.

It’s important to set the right tone for a group and to have an active moderator who engages with members on a regular basis. Goodreads groups sometimes take on a life of their own when membership reaches critical mass, and off-topic discussions may happen. Encourage relevant conversations with open-ended questions and invitations to share impressions and start new discussion threads.

Explore advertising options. Advertising on Goodreads lets you reach readers according to their reading preferences. Premium ad campaigns (which include newsletter ads, sponsored pages, and banner ads) start at $5,000. Alternatively, you can create your own advertising campaign for a budget of any size via our self-serve platform.

It’s easy to create ads on the Goodreads self-serve platform. Simply provide your ISBN, and the platform pulls the information from the book page, or you can create ads to advertise an event, giveaway, or special promotion. Since there’s no limit on how many ads you can create within a campaign, you can—and you should—test different ad content, targeting, and/or bidding by making each ad unique, and you can even advertise every book in your entire catalog if you like.

To Enlist Authors

Readers visit Goodreads because they want to share their enthusiasm for books. Authors can establish their presence on Goodreads and also use the site as readers.

Encourage your authors to join the Goodreads Author Program, a completely free feature designed to help authors have a presence and promote their books to their fan base. More than 100,000 authors have signed up for it, including Stephen King, Amy Tan, Rick Riordan, and Sue Monk Kidd.

Author profiles appear automatically once a book record is created; author profiles with the Goodreads “g” badge mean that the author has claimed ownership of the account. Only authors can claim their profiles, and they can apply by following the prompts on the bottom of their author profiles.

Once in the author program, authors can update their profiles and interact with their fans by writing blog posts, reviewing books, and posting status updates, just as on Twitter or Facebook. Readers can follow their favorite authors to see their content in their newsfeeds, or choose to receive their blog posts via email.

When you start working with your authors on Goodreads, be sure they review our Author Guidelines (goodreads.com/author/guidelines), and be clear with them about what they should do on Goodreads and what is acceptable social media etiquette. Let authors know that they should never respond to negative reviews of their own books, even if those reviews are factually inaccurate and even though they will find it very hard to stay silent. If you see content you feel is inappropriate, please flag it to bring it to our team’s attention. Responding to criticism, however unfair it may seem, often leads to increased negative attention for the author.

Try to focus each author’s attention on reviewing other people’s books or shelving books that inspired them. Readers delight in seeing whether their taste in literature overlaps with their favorite author’s, and this kind of activity also helps further the overarching goal of book discovery.

Cynthia Shannon is author marketing coordinator at Goodreads. Previously she worked at Berrett-Koehler, Wiley/Jossey-Bass, and Other Press.

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