If you have ever paid for advertising – online or offline – you will know how much it costs to reach a large number of people. Imagine what you would have to pay to target 20+ million people who love reading? Probably thousands of dollars. Yet you can do that completely free of charge on the most popular book readers’ site, Goodreads.

Goodreads is actually a giant database of books – a bit like Amazon but without the sales pressure, and with more very active customer forums and groups. It is loved by readers, who enjoy adding books to their virtual shelves, chatting with other readers and authors, joining groups with like-minded people, and entering competitions to win free books signed by the author.

These competitions are one of the key things about Goodreads that authors should be aware of. They present a golden opportunity to get your book in front of thousands of people who may not otherwise have found you or heard of your book.


Here’s how to get set up on Goodreads quickly and use it to market your books.

1. Create your GoodReads account

Go to www.Goodreads.com and sign up.

Once you’re in, spend a bit of time adding some books that you have read or would like to read to your virtual shelves. The key thing about Goodreads is to be seen as a reader, first and foremost. Readers trust other readers. Get adding those books. Search for one of your own books and ‘claim’ it. You can then request that your profile is converted into an author profile, which brings a whole load of free marketing opportunities with it.

Goodreads support staff members usually reply within a day or so and you’ll have a new author page to set up. You can add the RSS feed from your blog (so your posts will appear on your Goodreads profile automatically), upload YouTube or other videos and book trailers, post photos, add favorite quotations (including your own – but be subtle about it, just one will do for most authors.)

2. Schedule a Goodreads giveaway

These are the competitions that readers enter for a chance to win free books. Authors and publishers can offer books as a free prize in these individual giveaways. You can offer one or several books. I’ve found that offering more than one does not increase the number of entrants. Goodreads suggest that giveaways run for around a month.

The average giveaway attracts 725 entries – that’s 725 people who have seen your book cover and read your sales pitch who may not have ever found it on Amazon. Many of them will add your book to their ‘To Read’ shelf (knowing that the Goodreads algorithm that chooses the giveaway winners favors those who have added books in your book’s genre to their shelves).

When users add books to their shelves, that activity appears on their wall – being available for all their Goodreads friends to see (and possibly their Facebook friends as well, if they have linked their accounts). More eyes on your book cover means more potential buyers!

3. Add your book to lists in Goodreads’ Listopia section

The idea behind this is to make your book look popular and to link it to other popular books.

The trick is, Goodreads doesn’t allow you to add your own book to lists – understandably so, because otherwise overenthusiastic authors could spam the lists and make them much less relevant and helpful for the people who matter: readers.

But lists are still a great way to get seen by readers who might otherwise not find your book. You just have to be thoughtful about how you get on!

Go into the Goodreads forums for your genre and start participating – begin having discussions with readers who like the kind of books you write and building authentic relationships with them. Once you have a base of fans on Goodreads, you can ask them to add your book(s) to their lists or to lists created by other readers.

Make sure that you’re only asking people to add your book to relevant lists – adding it to lists that have nothing to do with your topic or genre only annoys people, which is the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for here!

Also, take some time with this approach – don’t ask folks to add your book to 20 lists in one day. Instead, spread your activity out, one list today, two this weekend, one next week, etc.

Here are some other timesaving Goodreads solutions to double-up on your social media activity:

Add a Goodreads widget to your website/blog. People can click through from there to your Goodreads profile.

Use the Goodreads Giveaway widget when you schedule a giveaway. Post it on your website/blog and people can enter to win your book.

Link your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts to your Goodreads account so your Goodreads activity will show on those platforms. This will save you time and it’s a way of getting yourself more exposure without having to do more work.

Add the Goodreads app to your Facebook page. This will, again, update automatically and allow your Facebook followers to see your books.

Learn more from Michelle in her bestselling book Goodreads for Authors.

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