Authors on Goodreads are in something of a minefield. But you can use it and keep your sanity. Here are some thoughts about the subject, based on my own experience.
There are two types of profile on Goodreads. The first you set up when you join and it’s the normal user profile. Set up “shelves” (which are really just tags) rate books, write reviews, join groups. All the usual stuff. But there’s also an author profile which allows you to do more. And which can become a useful part of your online presence. It lets you track stats on your books and generally keep a better eye on them. So get on there and check out how to set one up.
Become a Goodreads librarian. Any user can become a librarian to help keep the Goodreads catalogue tidy and accurate. I think it’s very useful to an author to become one. Rather than having to ask friends who are librarians or go begging in the Librarians group, you can make sure the details of your books are accurate. Keep different editions combined, make sure number of pages is accurate, get the right cover image up there, etc. And there are a few things that you can only do if you are both the author and a librarian—like set the primary edition of a book. I definitely recommend being a librarian. It’s mostly straightforward and if you’re ever in doubt you can ask in the librarian group for guidance.
A Goodreads author profile gives you a blog on the site. You can use this a few ways.
- You can post entries right there and use it as your main blog if you want to. The formatting is a bit limited compared to other blogging platforms. But it’s perfectly usable as your main blog if you want to keep your online presence focused on a limited number of sites.
- If you have a blog already established elsewhere you can feed that through to your Goodreads blog. It takes a few hours to feed through, so don’t expect it to pop straight up there.
- You can do a combination of the two. Feed your posts through from your blog and also make posts there. You could have some kind of “exclusive to Goodreads” types of posts, about your books, other people’s books, etc.
Ask the Author
There’s a new feature called Ask the Author on there now where people can, well obviously, ask you questions. This could be great, or it could be a very fast way to get yourself in deep trouble. Be patient and diplomatic. Don’t end up on an “authors behaving badly” list because you got snappy when someone asked you something you’d answered ten times before. Or that they could have found out elsewhere. Roll your eyes in private, and answer politely.
Different from Ask the Author this is a Goodreads Group that belongs to you the author. It’s a forum where fans of the author and the author too can interact and chat about the books and news and anything else. Interaction with readers on other parts of the site can be tricky to navigate. The author can appear to be butting in or being a spammer. But here interaction with the author is sought by the fans. Of course all the rules about not being an arse still apply. You can get in trouble here too! If you do set up a Q&A group don’t get madly ambitious and make a load of topics and forums to start with. Better to have only a few with a decent number of posts in them than loads with posts scattered through them. You can always add more later. Be prepared to put the work in. Like any forum they take work to build up and maintain.
With an author profile you can offer giveaways of paper books. Goodreads does all the hard work for you, lists it on the site, runs it for the time your specify and then tells you who the winner(s) is at the end, when all you have to do is send out the book(s). You can put restrictions about where you’ll post to if you want. There are a couple of issues with giveaways though, in my opinion:
- Some people seem to enter them just to get a book to sell on eBay, not to read. I don’t know how widespread this is, but have seen authors complain about it. It doesn’t bother me too much, since presumably a fan buys it in the end and reads it. But it is pretty cheeky and I’d rather give free books to a fan, not someone who only wants it to sell. (Of course a fan who reads it and then sells it on isn’t a problem.)
- Some people enter any and every giveaway, because hey, free books! We all love to get a free book. But the problem there can be many of the people might not even be aware of what your book is about. If your book is a niche genre then the person that wins it might just end up shoving it on their TBR stack and never read it. (In which case I’d rather they DID sell it on ebay than leave it unread.)
You might say neither of these is really a problem, as the giveaway is mostly to create buzz. But I didn’t notice any jump in sales or many of the people who’d added the book automatically to their “To Read” list by entering the giveaway actually going on to read the book later. So I’d say use your judgement on this one. If your book is quite mainstream, do a Goodreads giveaway. If it’s more niche you might be better off targeting fans on blogs and such.
Some Don’ts (my opinions only. Others will disagree!)
Don’t reply to reviewers. Oh the temptation is there to click “Comment” when someone has left you a review, good or bad. So tempting and so prone to lead to disaster that Goodreads even pops a warning up when you click Comment, basically telling you “Don’t be a dick about this.” Don’t even click Like. Some reviewers don’t want to feel as if the author is looking over their shoulder, or want people to think they wrote a good review for the author’s approval. And of course never, ever, ever get in an argument with a reviewer. Never.
Don’t rate your own books. It doesn’t get included in the average rating if you rate your own books from your author account, so it won’t bring the average rating up, making it pointless anyway. It just looks skeevy to me. It’s like being asked to rate how cute your own baby is. I mean come on! You can’t be objective. Obviously don’t review it either. That’d just be weird. You can use the review space to write some notes about the book if they’d be useful. But leave it to other people to say how fabulous it is.
Don’t create sock puppet accounts to rate and review the book instead. Or to recommend your book to others. Or to go into groups and tell everyone how great the book is. You will get caught out in the end and look like an arse.
Don’t friend a bajillion people you have nothing in common with in the hope of spamming them or just to say “look I have a bajillion friends.”
Don’t stalk your dashboard all day and night. Restrict it just to all day at least.