3 mistakes you’re making on Goodreads

Goodreads mistakes

You know about Goodreads, right?

Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. It boasts an audience of 40 million book lovers, 1.1 billion books added, and 43 million reviews.

43 million reviews!

It’s about more than reviews, though, and authors enjoying the benefits of this site’s power know that.

Goodreads isn’t just a website where readers post book reviews. It’s a social network for book lovers – an online community where people who love to read can gather and talk about books they love while they share opinions that they hope will influence their friends and others.

Readers of all ages rely on it for recommendations about what to read next and what to avoid.

If you’re an author, you can’t ignore this site. Join the Goodreads Author Program, complete your author profile, and list your books.

Or, perhaps you’re plugged into the site already but are discouraged because not much is happening for you. It’s possible you’re using the site wrong. In fact, you could be making one of of these common author mistakes on Goodreads:

1. You’re participating on Goodreads as an author, not as a reader.

The most important thing to remember as a Goodreads author is that you should be there as a reader, not as an author. Goodreads is a site for readers. To be accepted and embraced, you need to use it as a reader, not as an author on the prowl for reviews and customers.

Join the groups that interest you (rather than those you think will help you promote your book); avoid the writer groups (they’re often too self-promotional to offer any benefit to anyone). Participate in discussions as yourself, not as the author of a book. Let people get to know you while you get to know them.

In addition, follow authors you like or admire – just as any other fan would. Follow users who like the same books you do – you might discover more great books to read.

Simply put: Forget that you’re an author and become familiar with the site as a book lover.

2. You’re contacting reviewers directly.

goodreads mistakesThis is a Goodreads no-no. Site managers frown on this. Don’t contact users on the site to ask for a review and don’t contact someone who reviewed your book, either. It could get you booted from the site.

Goodreads doesn’t even want you to thank a reviewer – so don’t. That’s because reviewers write reviews for readers, not authors, and when they hear from an author directly, it can feel a little creepy – like you’re looking in their windows.

Last week, another book marketing coach who works with authors contacted me for advice about a client who wanted her to help him identify and contact “top” Goodreads reviewers to request pre-publication reviews of his book. I gave her this advice, and it applies to you, too: Don’t even try. It could get him kicked off the site. (And who would he blame? Certainly not himself.)

If you can’t resist, make sure you contact top reviewers outside the site.

3. You’re not supporting other authors on the site.

On Goodreads (and all other social networks), follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

If you want people to review your books, review the books of others. When you see news of a book giveaway, share it. Comment on author blog posts on the site.

When you use Goodreads to enhance your experience as a book reader, you will naturally and organically support your experience as an author.

What’s the best way to learn how to use Goodreads?

Goodreads isn’t as intuitive as some other social networks. It also has a unique, reader-focused culture that doesn’t always feel author-friendly. To really figure it out, you need help from someone on the inside. That’s why I recruited Goodreads Author Marketing Coordinator Cynthia Shannon to teach you how to learn how to use this powerful resource effectively.

Promote Your Book with GoodreadsOur 60-minute audio training, “How to Promote Your Book with Goodreads” and the four companion PDF handouts explain how to use the site to:

  • Claim your official author status
  • Build a fan base
  • Get your books discovered
  • Get reviews
  • Get results

You can download and listen to How to Promote Your Book with Goodreads immediately. Get more information at this page.

If you use Goodreads as an author, tell us what you like and don’t like about the site. Your experiences might help someone else. Please comment below. 

Get more helpful free book marketing information in the “Build Book Buzz” e-mail newsletter.

Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

Download Sandra’s free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” and you’ll also receive the free weekly “Build Book Buzz” newsletter loaded with book marketing tips and advice.

16 Responses to 3 mistakes you’re making on Goodreads
  1. Phoenix Rainez
    August 25, 2015 | 4:40 pm

    Excellent article Thank you. Going to take on board all that I have read here today.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 26, 2015 | 1:31 am

      You’re so welcome, Phoenix. I’m glad it was helpful. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  2. Cat Michaels
    August 25, 2015 | 4:43 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to use GR as a reader. I enjoy it more that way instead of yet another Socia media platform to maintain. When authors get friend requests from people they don’t know, is it best to ‘friend’ or ‘follow reviews’ ? I tend toward the latter and wonder if I am on the right track.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 25, 2015 | 4:52 pm

      Good question, Cat, and the answer is that it depends on what you’re comfortable with. When you’re friends, you can see each other’s reviews. When you follow, you can see what they share but they can’t see what you share. To me, that doesn’t feel “friendly” — you’re putting limits on your relationship (if you can call it that).

      If you think there’s potential for conversations, etc., that might be useful to you, take the friend route. If it becomes a pain in the neck, change your strategy.

      Or…if you really don’t want people contacting you, then just follow.

      As you can see, there’s no right or wrong. It’s more about your interest in the potential for engagement and conversation.


  3. Cathy Knipper
    August 25, 2015 | 5:19 pm

    Great advice on the use of goodreads, especially for authors to participate as readers. Extremely worthwhile workshop.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 26, 2015 | 1:30 am

      Cathy, thanks so much for the workshop testimonial! I appreciate it! It’s always so nice to hear from you.


  4. Melody Sargent
    August 25, 2015 | 8:40 pm

    Thank you for the useful information. It is good to know I am, so far, doing it right. I was a bit put off by the self-promotion at the end. .. “yours for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling” sort of like an informercial. gag

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 25, 2015 | 9:53 pm

      I’m glad it was helpful, but what an odd comment about my training program. This is what I do for a living — I help authors. Why would I hide that?


      • Linda J Pifer
        August 26, 2015 | 1:09 am

        Sandra, believe me, $19.95 is not even typical of charges for training programs out there and considering your professionalism and all that you have to offer, anyone serious about writing and on a tight budget would do well to pay the paltry fee! Rock on Sandra.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          August 26, 2015 | 1:28 am

          Thanks so much, Linda! I’m thrilled that you recognize the value. Did you notice that Writer’s Digest had a 90-min. Goodreads session last week for $79? It’s a reference point to keep in mind, that’s for sure.

          Thanks again!

          : )


  5. Peter DeHaan
    August 28, 2015 | 3:02 pm

    So it’s okay for authors to review books on Goodreads? I understand that on Amazon they often remove author reviews. And doesn’t Amazon own Goodreads?

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 28, 2015 | 3:19 pm

      Authors can review books on both Amazon & Goodreads — authors are readers, too. Amazon removes reviews for a number of reasons that can include when an author writes a bad review of a “competitor’s” book.

      Generally speaking, though, there is no ban on either site on authors reviewing other books.

      Yes, Amazon owns Goodreads.


      • Peter DeHaan
        August 28, 2015 | 4:45 pm


        • Sandra Beckwith
          August 28, 2015 | 5:17 pm

          You are so welcome! : )


  6. Paula B.
    September 2, 2015 | 6:12 pm

    If an author thanked me for reviewing their book, I’d think they had good manners.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      September 2, 2015 | 6:52 pm

      And you’d be right, Paula. But think of it like this: You’re seated in a restaurant booth having lunch with a friend, when the person in the booth behind you turns around, leans over the divider, and comments on your conversation. It might make you a little uncomfortable to know that the person was listening and was so interested that she felt compelled to comment, right? That’s how many Goodreads readers feel when authors comment on their reviews.


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