Thursday, February 28, 2013

Discoverability, Part II: How to use Goodreads to solve the discoverability problem

As we discussed in our last post, one of the most pressing problems currently facing publishers, booksellers, and authors is that of book discovery. Given the advancement of eBooks and the increasing numbers of self-published authors, the market has become inundated with content, leaving readers in a daze of titles and authors from which to choose. This trend has forced the publishing industry to question how consumers can find books at all, let alone their next favorite read.

Cue Goodreads, a social media site for finding and sharing books:

Goodreads' mission is to “help people find and share books they love” and, at the same time, “improve the process of reading and learning throughout the world.” With a growing community of over 14 million users, Goodreads enables avid readers and writers to share what they are reading, show how they are rating books, and recommend books to others. The site is quickly becoming one of the most popular platforms for readers to discover new authors and for authors to connect with new readers. By bringing together three important but simple components--authors, readers, and books--Goodreads believes it has found the answer to “discoverabilty.”

With publishers relying more and more on authors to market their books online, knowing how to navigate sites like Goodreads is crucial for anyone hoping to make his or her book successful. At JVNLA, we've met with Goodreads representatives to learn the best ways our authors can take advantage of the opportunities available. Below, we've compiled information about which aspects of the site can be the most useful for authors, along with examples of how our authors have used Goodreads in the past.

Build Your Author Platform

One of the first things to do when joining Goodreads is to claim your author profile and join the Author Program. Joining the Author Program allows you to personalize your profile, list the books you've written, share your favorite books with fans, publicize upcoming events, and write a blog on the site.

It is important to personalize your author profile as much as possible. Don't forget to add an author photo and bio. According to Goodreads, an author profile with a photo attracts more viewers and reviewers than an author profile without an image! On their profiles, authors can also post videos, eBook excerpts, polls, etc., all of which end up on the feeds of friends and fans.

Some great examples of how to best utilize your author profile include the profiles of our authors Lesley Livingston (here) and Christopher Gortner (here).

Promote Your Books

Giveaways: These are one of the easiest ways to make your books discoverable on Goodreads. Not only does a giveaway lend exposure to your book being given away, it also increases interest for any other books you may have written. Plus, readers who receive giveaway books are highly likely to write reviews for them. And the more people who review and rate your books, the more visibility your books will have. According to Goodreads, over 40,000 people enter a giveaway every day, and, on average, each giveaway has 850 entries.

Goodreads recommends running a giveaway for at least two weeks but no longer than a month. The site also recommend running two giveaways for a book over time: one a few months before publication to build buzz and reviews, and a second after publication to increase awareness that your book is purchasable.

One of the advantages of doing a giveaway before publication or during the galley stage is that many people entering the contest will add your book to their “To-Read” shelves. And once your book publishes, those who have added your book to their “To-Read” shelves will receive an email from Goodreads. That email might be just the nudge they need to go out and buy your book!

JVNLA hosted a giveaway for DARK LIE by Nancy Springer in the beginning of January, which you can view here. The giveaway lasted for a little over two weeks and garnered 2,384 entries. As a direct result of the giveaway, the number of people with DARK LIE on their “To-Read” shelves skyrocketed to over 1,180 people. The green in the image below shows that "To-Read" increase over time.

Wendy Webb, another JVNLA author, held a giveaway for her new novel THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN in January, too, viewable here. Over 1,460 people entered the giveaway. Currently, over 1,090 people have THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN on their “To-Read” shelves. The increase in "To-Read" adds, from mid-December through the giveaway period and then after the book's publication (in February), is shown in green below.

Join and Host Groups: Goodreads has numerous groups that members can join, from groups for author Q and As, to groups for book swaps, to groups for genre discussions, to book club groups. To lend you and your books more visibility, join a group that discusses a topic or subject related to you or your work. Don't forget that when you first join a group, you should slowly make your way into the conversation before mentioning your own work.

One example of a book club group is “Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy." Included among the book club reading list is Lesley Livingston's STARLING. An example of a group for genre discussions, on the other hand, is “A History of Royals.” C.W. Gortner, author of THE QUEEN'S VOW and many other novels revolving around historical queens, is a member.

Nancy Springer took part in another group, a featured author group, on January 24th, in which she discussed her new book DARK LIE and her past books, including the well-known ENOLA HOLMES series. Over the course of a day, over 70 people joined the group to talk with Nancy about what made her want to become a writer and what inspired her books. You can view the group discussion here.

Be an Active Goodreads Member

With any social media platform, your effectiveness is related to how much you interact with others. Authors should be active when using Goodreads by frequently adding and rating books on their shelves, updating their author profile, and interacting with other members on the site.

Remember, Goodreads is a place for readers, not solely a place for marketing purposes. You should not constantly promote your work on the site. However, if you join Goodreads and begin engaging with readers and different groups, you may be surprised to find out how much work you've done, without realizing it, that has made your book discoverable.


  1. I just bookmarked this page. Many thanks for posting it!

    1. Thanks so much for reading--we're glad to hear the post was useful!

  2. Thanks so much for this! I've printed it so I can go back (after Goodreads has approved my author page) and follow the recommendations.

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for reading. I hope the recommendations prove to be helpful!

  3. When I attended AWP in 2011, I heard lots of advice about how to use blogs to promote your book. I appreciate these ideas about Goodreads. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome! Goodreads definitely seems to be the hot promotional tool right now, though these things do change often, and any exposure is good exposure.