How Goodreads Can Help Writers Grow Their Readership

Today’s post is by social media expert Frances Caballo:

Goodreads has become the most important networking site on the Internet.


Goodreads has a storied beginning. This is how founder and CEO Otis Chandler describes his epiphany to start what has become a powerful online reader resource and social media network:

One afternoon while I was scanning a friend’s bookshelf for ideas, it struck me: when I want to know what books to read, I’d rather turn to a friend than any random person or bestseller list.

So I decided to build a website—a place where I could see my friends’ bookshelves and learn about what they thought of all their books.

And thus in January of 2007, Goodreads began.

The Goodreads of Today

As of January 2016, Goodreads had 40 million members and featured 1.3 billion books and 47 million reviews.

What I find interesting is that many Goodreads users attended college, and even more of them attended graduate school. Goodreads members are educated, love to read, and love to talk about books. Women read more and review more books than men and dominate this online venue. While men aren’t as active on this site as women, they still participate and are a growing force here.

Authors and Goodreads

Many authors join Goodreads and quickly set up their author dashboards. Then perhaps they want to set up a giveaway. What do they do next? Well, a lot of authors I know then start to neglect Goodreads when the giveaway ends.

Too many writers don’t understand the benefits of maintaining a presence, reviewing books, adding favorite quotes, or joining groups.

Some writers neglect Goodreads to their detriment.

Then there are those authors who join this social media network and begin to market their books in the worst way possible. They send out hundreds of friend requests and start promoting their books by blogging about them. Or they send marketing emails to their new “friends.”

I once received a private message on Facebook from an author who was promoting her book on Goodreads. She messaged me about her book, gave me a link to her Goodreads account, and encouraged me to read her book. I unfriended her.

Does that sound harsh? I reserve Facebook private messaging for my closest friends. If she had wanted to promote her book on Facebook, she could have done that with a status update or with sponsored Facebook ad.

I’ve also received these types of messages in my Goodreads inbox. Doing this will anger readers on this network.

The Power of Goodreads

If you don’t have a Goodreads account yet, what you need to know is that Goodreads is a network of serious readers. Some were literature majors, and the majority of them have advanced educations.

They’re smart, and they love to read. So if you learn only one thing by reading this post, understand that to succeed as an author on Goodreads, you have to demonstrate your passion for reading. Join book groups, build your bookshelves and provide honest and thoughtful reviews of the books you read.

Here are two examples of an author and a publisher who used Goodreads to create a best-selling book.

  • Charles Duhigg self-published The Power of Habit. He formed a group and became so popular that he found a publisher and The New York Times featured his book. As of January 2016, he had 106,208 ratings and 6,505 reviews. And he has two New York Times bestselling books to his credit.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins provides another great example. Hawkins’ publisher used Goodreads to give away 4,000 books. The book became so popular on Goodreads, and so many Goodreads users were reading and talking about it, that the novel became a New York Times bestseller.

The Hawkins’s giveaway of 4,000 books is a great story, but it’s not practical for the average indie author. Self-published writers just aren’t in a position to give away 4,000 print books. But you can give away 20, which is the minimum number of books you’ll want to provide for free.

The more books you give away, the more readers you’ll have, and the more reviews you’ll see published on Goodreads. If you wrote an awesome book, those reviews would help to market your book. I know that my Amazon sales rise every time I run a giveaway.

Goodreads Giveaways

Perhaps the most used feature of Goodreads by authors is its giveaway program. Until recently, the giveaway program was restricted to hard copies. But there is exciting news about book giveaways.

The Authors Guide to Goodreads websiteGoodreads has always required authors to give away print books. But in May of this year, Goodreads announced that ebooks would also be eligible. There’s another change at Goodreads as well.

New Program: Goodreads Deals

The website has also introduced Goodreads Deals program. According to Goodreads, “The Goodreads Deals program comes with built-in personalization options based on members’ Want to Read shelves, the authors they follow, and the genres they prefer—all designed to help your deals reach the readers with the highest interest in buying your books.”

So far this program is in beta form. Also, it’s restricted to these types of books and genres: bestsellers, romance novels, mysteries and thrillers, fantasy and science fiction books.

Goodreads plans to include the Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google Play, and Kobo. The program will launch in the U.S. and then spread to other areas of the globe.

To learn more about Goodreads Deals and signup, use this link:

Once you sign up, you’ll be taken to a landing page where you can select your favorite genres.


There are a lot of reasons to like Goodreads, and if you’re an author interested in expanding your platform, use Goodreads.

Frances Caballo head shotFrances Caballo is an author and social-media strategist and manager for writers. She’s written several books, including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads. To learn more about Twitter, download her free 52-page ebook Twitter Just for Writers from her website. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online.

7 Responses to “How Goodreads Can Help Writers Grow Their Readership”

  1. Kathy Steinemann July 3, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    Great post, Frances. However, how many hours a day or week would writers have to spend away from their writing in order to get the most out of Goodreads? So many opportunities … so little time.

  2. Frances Caballo July 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

    Kathy, I understand how you feel. Like any social media network, you can spend as much time as you want or as little. I think that it you were to put in 20 minutes a week consistently, you’d see some results.

    • Kathy Steinemann July 4, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

      Twenty minutes a week is doable. However, I’m skeptical that a mere twenty minutes would produce appreciable results. I guess the only way to find out is to try.

    • joanna elm July 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

      Hi Frances, I read your column about Goodreads here after clicking on C.S.Lakin’s comment on Jane Friedman today.
      I am returning to writing fiction ( I had two crime thrillers published in late 1990s) after some years away and have found the landscape very changed. Anyway, I did sign up for Goodreads a few weeks ago, but have found the Goodreads author experience a little perplexing.
      I want to stick with it because I feel it is probably a better social network than Facebook so I also purchased your book about Goodreads for authors, and was happy to see that it has a pub. date of 2016. I will see how that works out for me.
      I would certainly be happy putting in 20 minutes a week at Goodreads, though I am a voracious reader so I am looking forward to contributing reviews and recommendations when I get going on the site
      Anyway, thank you for making it sound as if Goodreads rather than Facebook is the place to be.

  3. Adam Blumer July 15, 2016 at 5:57 am #

    This is a good general piece on the value of Goodreads. It would be nice to see something step by step beyond you need to be reviewing books, adding favorite qutoes, and joining groups. It would be nice to see a suggested plan beyond giveaways. I have done several giveaways and a few reviews and have certainly added a number of books to my account, but it isn’t clear how exactly this exposes my novels to new reaaders or what exactly my detailed strategy should be at GR that’s clear and attainable.

  4. Istvan Kiraly V. August 1, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    Hi, I am am not self-published and not Kindle author. My books it’s about the philosophy…and I not payed for it and I am not payed…

    But, Naturally I want that my book be read by many people… But the price of my book is established by The publishing house… and I can’t offer the Giveaway’s…

    How I am helped by Goodreads? By paying?

  5. Frans Harmon August 1, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    I have done two giveaways but found it disappointing that I could not run more than one giveaway for each book and that I could not contact people who participated to offer my book at a reduced price.

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