In case you haven't heard of it, Goodreads is a 'social network for readers'.
It has a searchable database of millions of books; you can create an account to track the books you read, add books to your 'to-read' list, rate and review books, and browse recommendations for your next read.
However, if you're an indie author, that's not all you can do on Goodreads!
The platform's author program gives you several ways to get your books out there and attract more readers. And with more than 65 million members to date, why wouldn't you take advantage of such a huge potential audience?!
Here are a few good reasons why indie authors should be using Goodreads.
1. Readers can discover and add your books
Visibility and discoverability is the name of the game when it comes to Goodreads.
So many readers turn to the site to look for their next book. If your books are on there, you're tapping into a huge number of readers potentially discovering you. This can happen in a number of ways.
Goodreads tailors recommendations for individual users based on books they've previously read and liked; these are shown on the user's homepage. Users can also use the 'Browse' function to explore new releases, popular books, books sorted by genre, user-created lists, and so on.
Discoverability on Goodreads is also a self-perpetuating process; the more people 'interact' with your books on the platform, the more others are likely to come across them.
If a reader likes the sound of a book, for example, they'll mark it as 'to-read'. This adds it to one of their 'shelves'. When they're actually reading the book, they'll mark it as 'currently reading', and when it's finished it will be marked as 'read', hopefully with an accompanying rating and/or review (more on this below).
All of these actions appear on the page for the book itself, on the reader's account, and on the 'news feed' of everyone who's following them. Therefore, every action on one of your books brings more visibility to you as an author!
2. Readers can leave reviews and ratings of your books
We've talked before about the importance of book reviews for indie authors. Reviews on Amazon are extremely influential; reviews on individual book blogs are also helpful; but Goodreads is the biggest site in the world when it comes to book reviews and recommendations – so getting reviews on there is vital.
Every book in Goodreads' database can have reviews added to its page. Users can like and comment on reviews, and they are displayed in order of how many likes they receive. Users can also give books star ratings (out of five); each rating a book receives goes towards its overall average star rating, which is displayed prominently near the title and blurb.
Having your books on Goodreads ready to be rated and reviewed by readers is a must. However, we do have one recommendation when it comes to Goodreads reviews, though: don't read the reviews for your books.
Yes, we're serious. Not even the good ones! It's really not worth keeping tabs on every Goodreads review that comes in, and here's why.
Not everyone is going to like your books. This is something most authors are aware of, but unfortunately, Goodreads tends to be a place where people express their dislike for books in particularly extensive, descriptive and often downright snarky ways.
One of the worst things you can do for your mental health as an indie author is read a detailed opinion on why someone disliked your book. Because when it comes down to it, any review is just that: somebody's opinion. It's not a professional critique (those come from editors, beta readers, critique partners and writers' groups), and it's not worth agonising over.
Goodreads reviews are meant for readers, not for the authors of the books they're written about. So avoid the temptation to peek at your reviews, because no matter how many five-star ones you read, it will be the one-star review that sticks in your mind and affects your self-esteem.
3. You can host giveaways
Giveaways are another big feature on Goodreads. Authors and publishers have the opportunity to give away print and digital books prior to or after their release; all members need to do is register for the giveaway and a winner is chosen at random.
Giveaways are a great method of book promotion and marketing – we'll outline the benefits of Goodreads giveaways in particular below – but they can admittedly be trickier for indie authors than they are for bigger publishers.
The cost outlay for collateral and shipping is a deterrent for many indie authors, who have a limited marketing budget and often simply can't afford to do giveaways.
Furthermore, at the end of 2017, Goodreads announced changes to its giveaway program – changes that weren't exactly welcomed by the indie author community. These changes involved the introduction of a standard fee for each giveaway ($119USD), as well as an optional 'premium' package ($599).
We realise this is extremely expensive (in fact, along with most of the indie publishing community, we think it's quite unreasonable). However, if you can afford it, a Goodreads giveaway can bring attention to your books and gain potential new readers.
People browsing the giveaways list might decide they like the sound of your book and add it to their 'to-read' shelf as well as entering the competition.
If they don't win, they might even seek out the book themselves if they're interested enough.
Those who do win might share the word with friends and fellow readers if they like the book, as well as seeking out your future books; they'll also be prompted on Goodreads to leave a rating and review, further boosting your book's presence.
4. You can add content such as blog posts and Q&As
Your author page on Goodreads should contain, at minimum, a short bio and a photo – but it can feature much more!
Firstly, you can host a blog through your Goodreads page, which is a great way to keep it updated with fresh new content.
Your blog posts can either be written and posted directly to Goodreads, or you can link your Goodreads page with your existing blog on your author website so it imports new posts automatically.
You can also post videos such as book trailers or interviews on your page, and share details of events such as book launches.
Finally, there's an Ask the Author function on all Goodreads author pages, which enables readers to submit questions for authors about their books, writing process, etc.
You can choose which questions you want to answer, and your answers are displayed on your author page. It's a great way to interact with your readers on a new level.
Speaking of interaction...
5. You can interact with the book community
As well as being an additional platform for content, as mentioned above, Goodreads is a great place to connect and interact with readers and other authors. While it might not have quite the same communication appeal for authors as somewhere like Twitter, it's still a vibrant, active online community full of enthusiastic readers.
While we encourage joining these groups and discussions and interacting with other Goodreads users, we advise against joining them solely to promote your own book. Join them as a reader rather than an author.
Engaging with the Goodreads community isn't a direct marketing tactic, but it will help you immerse yourself in the community and connect with readers and other authors – and who knows? It might even gain you some new readers in the process.
Indie authors, how do you use Goodreads? Readers, have you discovered any indie authors through the platform? Share your experiences with us in the comments!