Tuesday 21 June 2016

5 Tips for Authors Using Goodreads

By Iola Goulton

Tip 1: Add the books you've read and the books you own

Add all the books you can remember. Whether you liked them or not. One social media expert I've come across advises authors to get started on Goodreads by finding friends. I don't agree. Readers aren't on Goodreads to connect with authors. They're on Goodreads to connect with people who love reading—specifically, people who love reading the same books and authors they love.

So start by adding books you’ve read.

If you're not fussed about Amazon and Goodreads talking to each other, then there is one easy way of adding books to your shelves: go to the Tools menu (down the left-hand-side of your My Books page), and select "add Amazon book purchases". Note that you'll only see this option if you have Amazon and Goodreads connected (I can't see it, and many authors choose not to connect the accounts for fear of losing reviews).

The other thing you can do is download a Goodreads barcode scanner app, and scan all the books on your physical bookshelf using your smartphone (or get a broke teenager to do it for you. After all, they have a better phone than you do, which is why they’re broke).

Tip 2: Rate and review the books you've read

The Goodreads rating system is slightly different to the Amazon system, even though Goodreads is now owned by Amazon and both use a five-star rating scale.

The Amazon definitions are:

1 star - I hated it
2 stars - I didn't like it
3 stars - It was okay
4 stars - I liked it
5 stars - I loved it

The Goodreads definitions are:

1 star - I didn't like it
2 stars - It was okay
3 stars - I liked it
4 stars - I loved it
5 stars - It was amazing

Both sets of definitions emphasise the reader and their personal response to a book. Neither site is about an objective view of the quality of the book. As an example, objectively, Wuthering Heights is considered one of the best novels ever written in the English language. Vanity Fair is another. Personally, I loathe both of them--I couldn't even finish Vanity Fair because I disliked Becky Sharpe so much. So I'd give both books 1 star on both Goodreads and Amazon.

But that doesn't make them bad books. It just says I didn't like them. You can look at any of the classics and see a mixture of five star and one star ratings and reviews.

I don't know about you, but I read a lot of books which are okay to good, and very few I'd describe as "amazing". So, as a reader looking for book recommendations, I give little credence to any reviewer who rates every book as five stars.

Sure, not everyone follows these definitions. Some people rate books the same on both sites. Some people give one-star ratings to books they don't want to read (perhaps because they read the Kindle sample). Some people give one or two-star ratings to books they want to read, to remind themselves to read this book.

And some people give five stars to everything. 

Don't take this the wrong way, but those are not the people I'm going to look for when it comes to book recommendations. Do I really want book recommendations from someone who has never read a book he or she didn't think was amazing?

However, they might just be the people I look for when I want my own book reviewed . . .

Yes, please review. Your reviews don't have to be long or profound. They can even be copied from Amazon or from your blog. But reviewing is another way of participating, and it’s another way potential readers can get to know you: from your reviews.

Tip 3: Make friends

Goodreads allows you to find Friends from Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, and you can use this tool to find people you're already connected with.

Do use this tool with care: Goodreads only permits users to have 5,000 friends, so if you have a lot of Twitter followers you might find you use your entire Friend allocation the minute you connect your Twitter account.

Also, some authors have reported losing Amazon reviews from Facebook friends, and wondering how Amazon knew of the relationship. Given that Amazon now owns Goodreads, connecting your Facebook Friends or email accounts to Goodreads could be giving Amazon more information than you wanted to.

But rather than connecting with friends from other social networks, why not use Goodreads to connect with new readers? 

Connect with people who like the same kinds of books that you like. Because these are the people who are likely to enjoy your books.

You can find potential friends organically on Goodreads, but this is something else to be careful about: real readers are unlikely to be interested in connecting with you if you have more friends than books (like the social media expert I mentioned above, who has 2,500 friends and just 104 books. I’m happy to follow her blog. I don’t want to be her BFF on Goodreads).

Potential friends can use the Compare Books function to see if you have books or authors in common. I think this is a great tool: it enables me to happily reject most friend requests because the only books we have in common are things like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and The Da Vinci Code (extra-fast reject to anyone who gives The Da Vinci Code five stars). Goodreads will still allow these wannabe friends to Follow my reviews, but my timeline won't get clogged with their reading choices.

Tip 4: Participate

The point of Goodreads as an author is to connect with readers, and the best way to connect with readers is as a reader.

  • Read books
  • Recommend books
  • Review books
  • Like and comment on other reviews
  • Participate in reader challenges
  • Vote on lists
  • Take quizzes
  • Add favourite quotes
  • Link your blog
  • Enter giveaways
  • Offer a giveaway

And join groups.

Yes, there are dozens or hundreds of author groups on Goodreads, and these are the best way of connecting with other readers.

Join them, but remember that a lot of groups are promoting review swaps or review circles or other ploys readers may consider unethical, and your reputation might be tainted by association. Also, you're not on Goodreads to connect with authors. Do that on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.

Use Goodreads for the purpose for which it was created: to connect with readers to find and recommend great books.

Tip 5: It's not about you

Goodreads is a social network for readers. The site has a different vibe to other social networking sites. Goodreaders aren't patient with authors who spam or self-promote. They are not patient with authors who join groups to talk about themselves and their books. They are not patient with authors who create lists to promote their own books. They are not patient with authors who add their books to dozens or hundreds of “best of” lists, relevant or not. They are not patient with authors who publish too early, with insufficient revision and editing. They are not patient with authors who whine about reviews (especially if the reviews are commenting on insufficient revision and editing). They are not patient with authors who seem to only be on Goodreads to sell books rather than talk about books they've read and enjoyed (or read and hated).

If you're looking to social networking purely as a way of selling books, Goodreads isn't the site for you. If you want to connect with readers from all walks of life, try Goodreads.

And remember: it’s a site for readers, so participate as a reader who happens to write.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (,  subscribe to my monthly newsletter at CES Newsletter or follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (


  1. Fabulous post, Iola. And love the repetition of GR being about readers. I didn't realise GR had it's own barcode scanner - of course it does. Silly me. I expect many people now use GR as their 'virtual' library, i.e., their personal database of their own collections. Do you Iola or do you use one of those other apps?

    GR could well be one of the best ways of finding readers for your particular genre. Are you planning a post on how to best do that, Iola?

    These have been such useful posts. Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks, Ian.

      I do use the Goodreads app to add books to my to-read pile, but most of the fiction I read is ebooks, so it's not so good for that. But I review many of the books I read, and I do make a point of cataloguing everything I read on Goodreads. My geeky self likes the sense of achievement of being told how many books and pages I read each year.

      I hadn't planned on a post on how to find readers in your genre, but it's a great idea. I'll get to that in a month or two.

      Does anyone else have any more Goodreads questions I can attempt to answer in future posts?

  2. Thanks for this very helpful information Iola. I've been on Goodreads for a while but have only been using it as a place to post my reviews.

    Now just need to find a broke teenager ...

    1. Isn't that almost all of them?

      It's a great app. I use it to scan books that look interesting on the rare occasions I visit "real" bookshops. Once I scanned a book and found I'd already read and reviewed it, so that saved me a few dollars!

  3. I use it to keep track of what I read. I am one who reviews wrong. I also don't accept all friend requests. (I also hate people liking people who become my friends).

    1. I don't like people who friend request me just because they can see I'm a reviewer - I guess you get a lot of the same kind of requests. Rather, I want to connect with other people who love Christian fiction.

  4. Hi Iola Great Post. Love Goodreads as a reader & as a writer - though I agree with you that spamming about one's book is counterproductive (true of any social media, I think). As a reader, I like your tip to use 'compare books' to decide whether to accept a friend request or not. As most of the books I've read weren't purchased through Amazon, I add the ones I remember & now add every book I'm reading and review them when I've finished them. As an author, it's no longer possible for an author to add their own books (or even anthologies they feature in) to listopia - probably because it was abused. I do add books I like to lists as its a great way to promote the book. I started one for Children books that address issues & added a number (after checking to see if there was anything similar first). Some lists I've started have taken on a life of their own. Having one's blog connected to the author account is fantastic. I don't find the Goodreads groups as easy to use as FB groups - that's an area I'm still working on. Overall - it's such a great resource for readers and (when used with sensitivity) writers. I'm glad you are highlighting it with your posts :)


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