What Can Goodreads Do For Me?
What it is
Launched in 2007 and acquired by Amazon in 2013, Goodreads is a social network for readers and writers. Like Facebook, but for books. Bookbook, if you will. Users can search for books in the extensive database, for the most part user-created, and add them to their ‘shelves’. If the book you’re after isn’t listed, you can do your part by adding it. There are three default bookshelves, ‘Want to Read’, ‘Currently Reading’, and ‘Read’, but you can add as many custom shelves as you like; ‘Crime’, for example, or ‘Non-fiction’, or perhaps ‘Comfort Reads’ or ‘Really Bad Books’.
It’s strangely satisfying to have a record of what you’ve read, with statistics and word clouds for your shelves. If you feel the need to gameify your reading experience, you can sign up for a challenge like ‘read 50 books in a year’. Every time you log in, Goodreads will tell you how many books you’ve got through and how far behind or ahead of schedule you are. Other bits of fun include literary trivia questions, polls, and daily quotes from writers.
As well as keeping track of what you’ve read, you can follow your friends to see what they’re reading and reviewing, and leave comments. I’ve had many a Goodreads discussion over books I might otherwise never have suspected someone I know had also read.
Looking at your friends’ shelves is one way to find new reading matter, but there are also communities for fans of particular genres, as well as for readers from one particular area or with a common interest. There’s a reasonably active furry community, Furries!, as well as the more general Anthro Fiction group. Goodreads also offers recommendations based on what you’ve read, and lists of the top books in a particular category, which can be as broad as ‘Best Young Adult Books’ or as specific as ‘M/M Cat-Shifters, Feline Aliens, and Other Feline Humanoids’.
When you finish a book, you can add a star rating and a review, tweet the fact that you’ve finished it, and recommend it to friends (Goodreads even suggests friends who might like it, given their tastes). All of this is optional, of course, but if you loved a book, this sort of thing can really benefit the author. Which brings me on to:
Goodreads for writers
Here’s where things get interesting. Once you’re signed up as a Goodreads Author, you have a number of options for promoting your works and interacting with your readership, most of which will cost you nothing but time.
Learn more about your readers and how your books are doing by visiting the page for one of your books. Here you can see who’s read it, who’s marked it as To Read, and any ratings and reviews. Who are those people? What else are they reading? These could be valuable clues to help your marketing strategy. See whether your book is featured on any lists, and what else is on there. Add it to some lists yourself (sneaky!).
Goodreads offers a number of configurable widgets, so you can show off your reviews on your own website, or add a button next to your book so passers-by can add it to their To Read list. They even provide the API if you really want to get down and dirty. And if you don’t mind giving away something for nothing, it doesn’t take much more effort to upload a free sample of your work as an ebook.
Medium-level effort, now. If you already have a blog, you can hook it up to your Goodreads account quickly and easily (mine feeds off my LiveJournal). If not, you can blog straight to Goodreads. Blog posts keep your page looking new, and pop up on your followers’ homepages to remind them you exist.
As an author with a Goodreads account, whenever you’re listed as the author of a publications, you’ll get ‘Goodreads Author’ in brackets after your name. This tells readers than they can come and bother you right there on the site, declare themselves your Fans, interact, and ask questions. If you activate the ‘Ask the Author’ option, users can ask you questions through the site, which you can then answer and display on your page. Or not, if it’s a question like ‘why is ur riting so rubbish’. No fans yet? Goodreads provides several preset questions for you to answer and post. Kyell Gold-esque levels of popularity? Announce that you’ll be open for questions on a specific topic, like your soon-to-be-released next book, for a limited period only. That should ‘generate buzz’, as Goodreads is so irritatingly fond of saying.
If you’re prepared to invest money, you can pay to advertise on the site. With the ability to target a specific audience, and stats to look at, this might be an interesting route to pursue, although I haven’t tried it myself. You can also give away copies of your book. Everyone loves a freebie, so a listing on the Giveaways page is a good way to familiarise a lot of readers, albeit cheapskate ones, with your name and cover. You will have to pack and post the books yourself, and hope your winners enjoy their prizes enough to write a review and spread the word.
See the Goodreads Author Program page for more information and ideas.
How to join
Joining Goodreads as a reader is as simple as registering a name, email address and password, and you can also sign in using Facebook, Twitter, Google, or your Amazon account. For authors, it’s a little more complicated, and takes slightly longer.
You’ll need to sign up for a reader account, if you haven’t already. Then find a book that gives your name as the author (co-author, editor, contributor and so on are all fine too) and click on your name. You’ll see an almost empty profile page with a link near the bottom: ‘Is this you? Let us know’. Click the link and a verification request will be sent to the Goodreads team. Within a few days – often hours – your reader account will be merged with your shiny new author account, which you can then update. If your book hasn’t been added yet, just add it yourself.
And when you’ve signed up, come and be my friend!