If you’re an indie author and you’re not on Goodreads, it’s time to take the plunge. With a rapidly-growing community of readers and authors numbering over 10 million — thanks to integration with Facebook timeline — and a data partnership with industry giant Ingram, Goodreads is the leading social media site for bookophiles. We congregate to swap book recommendations and reviews, interact in like-minded groups and clubs, and even to win swag from authors themselves. Goodreads has competitors, like LibraryThing and Amazon’s Shelfari, but they pale in comparison to the dominant hold Goodreads has on this space.

For many overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid authors, the thought of another social media site (or any social media site) may send you into the tremors. Goodreads makes it easy, though, starting with their Author How-To. The How-To has slide shows to guide you step-by-step through creating your author profile, and much, much more. In fact, they teach you how to do just about everything I’m going to recommend.

Before I start with the tips though, it is important to understand that I chose them because I think they have the greatest likelihood of driving user engagement with you, the author, with the ultimate goal being that users read, rate, and review your books, thus driving other users to engage with you in the same way. The more people add your books to their shelves, rate, and review your books, the more other readers will be influenced through notifications of those actions in their Goodreads feed to do the same thing.

So here are the tips:

1. Create a dynamic author profile

Yeah, yeah, you’ve done this before and it’s called a website. I know. But none of the 10 million+ Goodreads users want to leave Goodreads, which, for them, is one-stop shopping. In fact, the only time they leave will be to buy your book, so take advantage of all the bells and whistles Goodreads lets you add to your profile, and engage your community. Do the expected things well: an interesting profile, a quality photo, making sure all your books are linked to your profile. Tzotchkes to keep users coming time and again? Add your blog feed. To engage them with you directly? People love videos. To show them you’re for real? Add your events, like signings, readings, seminars, and releases. You can even browse through your friend list and let friends know specifically of your events in their area. I’ve done just about everything Goodreads offers, so feel free to steal ideas from my profile.

2. Shelve, rate, and review books

Goodreads is a reader community, so share what you’re reading. You can put books on your “to-read” shelf, and, when you’re done, you can rate and even review them. HINT: You can copy and paste the same review onto Amazon (or vice versa) as well. Take the time to search for and rate/review your favorite books too. Building your ratings lists teaches Goodreads how to recommend books to you, and your biggest fans will love seeing what you think of other literature. Bonus: CREATE a shelf of your Influences or Favorites, and add the books by authors who influenced your own writing. Note: Goodreads lets you rate/review your own books. Rating is generally OK, reviewing….well, not so much.

3. Add Goodreads widgets to your own website

Goodreads allows you to generate widgets that you can put on your own website, to suggest to website visitors that they add your books, rate, and review them on Goodreads. Here’s an example from my nonfiction book page. Even better is the widget that streams reviews from Goodreads to your website. Check this example out (scroll down to the middle of the page) to see how well this feature can work for you. Also, note the widget in the right hand column that shows all the author’s books and their ratings on Goodreads. Sweet! Now you’re using the good results from Goodreads to influence web visitors that may not even be Goodreads users themselves.

4. Run giveaways on your own books

Over 40,000 users per day participate in giveaways on Goodreads. Run giveaways on your own books and readers are much more likely to notice, add, read, rate, and review your book. The most likely persons to do these things are the winners themselves, so give away as many books as you can. I gave away 12 of Saving Grace, and I think that my giveaways were largely responsible for getting it added to over 1130 shelves to read, and generated a number of ratings and reviews as well. My goal is to get my ratings over 100 before I release the next book in the series, so I may do a few more Giveaways.

5. Join groups (or interact with lists) and participate

Goodreads features more than 20,000 book clubs, each of them with unique members and rules. Keeping in mind that Goodreads is a reader community, join some groups, familiarize yourself with the rules, and start chatting with other readers about books…any books but your books. Over time, as you become a  contributing member of that group, you can approach the moderator to ask for a facilitated discussion of one of your books, but please make that transition a natural and not forced one (otherwise you’re giving all of us authors a bad name as pushy used car salesmen). Bonus: you can even create a group for discussion of your own book, complete with videos and polls for optimal user engagement.

Lists work much the same way, and there is a list for every topic imaginable on Goodreads. My recent favorite? Right here. Check out the books in the top 25 or so. You will see names you recognize!


How does all this translate to book sales? It’s really impossible to quantify. But if you look at the books that are selling on Amazon (or in bookstores) , their user engagement on Goodreads is quite high, which suggesst correlation, at least, if not causation. Causation comes from you — your actions and your book. I believe that you will be hard-pressed to find a social media site better targeted at exactly the community you want to be exercising your causation with ;-). And all of it costing exactly nothing but your time.

Good tips. Goodreads. Good luck.


Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and relationship humor (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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6 Responses to Five Tips For Indie Authors on Goodreads

  1. Ellen Lynn says:

    Great and timely article (for me). You answered a specific question that’s been plaguing me: do I review my own work just because Goodreads (and Amazon) will let me? I’ve avoided doing it while looking for just this type of unequivocal NO. I’m sure it’s been done, and done without detriment, but it was nice to read that so I can drop it from my to do list.

    I think I’ll do a refresher course on my profile to make sure I’m maximizing this tool.

    author of “Strong Enough”

  2. Terri Sonoda says:

    As usual, outstanding and helpful advice that I plan on using. I am signed up for Goodreads but don’t know much about it yet. I’ll be taking some time to go through those How-To’s very soon. Thanks again! Good post.

    • Pamela says:

      It’s worth giving up one other form of social media to free up the time, very useful for an author. Good luck!

  3. Eric says:

    A lot of really great information in the post. I hope people take advantage and learn through our sweat and mistakes. (If we only knew when we started what we know now……) 🙂

  4. […] a growing list of these, being “active” can take a fair amount of time. Here are some good tips for using Goodreads, but they could apply to any library […]