Tools for Authors: Goodreads

by Cat Rambo

Cat RamboGoodreads is the largest reader community site in the world, with over thirteen million members.  Users can track their reading, find or make book recommendations, and discuss what they’re reading. Goodreads lists self-published books as well as those from professional presses. Goodreads was recently acquired by Amazon, creating worries that the site would change, but Amazon has said they do not intend to make changes.

Goodreads reaches outside its own site, supplying reviews to Powell’s Books, USA Today, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, and Kobo, among others. It supplies lists of books to the popular website Listopia, such as “Best Books of 2012.”

Beyond that, however, Goodreads offers authors tools that they can use to promote books. Using Goodreads, you can create giveaways, post excerpts, and help Goodreads readers discover your books.

When someone joins Goodreads, they create a profile that shows their reading side. Your profile includes optional information such as a photo, location, date of birth, website, reading interests, and a brief bio. Fill it out but be aware that after you’ve added an author profile, the second profile will be what most people see, rather than this one.

Goodreads allows you to maintain lists of what you’ve read, what’s on your to-read list, and what you’re currently reading. Each of these is referred to as a shelf.

You also have a newsfeed, which is displayed on your Goodreads home page, and shows recent news from friends and authors you are following as a fan. You can see what Goodreads events they are attending, whose reviews they are following, when they rate, add, or review a book, and so forth.

As a writer, you can expand your basic profile by adding an author profile and joining the only sixty thousand authors participating in the Goodreads author program. How do you add an author profile? It’s simple. Find one of your books on Goodreads and look for the “Is this you?” link at the bottom. Click on that to claim the book. It will take a few days for Goodreads to confirm you are the author, but they will mail you when your profile has been updated.

Now that you’re a Goodreads author, you’ve got access to a dashboard of new and interesting tools. On the home page, click on “Visit your dashboard,” which should appear near the top on the righthand side. The page that opens up should have Author Dashboard up in the top righthand side under the Goodreads toolbar. You’ll see it displays stats like number of works, which is the number of works attributed to you, and the number of fans and friends.

That section may seem a little mystifying. What’s the difference between “added by unique users,” “fans,” and “friends”? When you are looking at someone’s profile, you can opt to become a fan or add them as a friend. (If they’re not a Goodreads author, the option to add them as a friend will not appear. Goodreads automatically creates pages for authors.) If you are friends with someone, both people have to have approved the relationship, and each will have their reviews and comments displayed in the other’s newsfeed. If you are a fan of someone, their reviews, comments and blog posts will appear in your newsfeed, but they will not see yours. Added by unique users does not affect your newsfeed at all but is the number of people who have added one or more of your works to one of their shelves.

You’ll see all of your works listed in the “My Books” section under your statistics, along with statistics for each, including the number of ratings, the average rating, the number of Goodreads reviews, how many people have it on their to-read shelf, and how many people have it on their currently-reading shelf. You can drill down on each listing: while I don’t believe you can currently add ebooks, you can edit the book’s information and see Goodreads statistics for how many people have added, rated, reviewed, or included that title on their “to-read” list.

Beneath that is your blog. I wish there was an easy way to push a WordPress blog post to one’s Goodreads blog, but so far I haven’t found one. There are plenty of Goodreads related WordPress plugins but the majority of them allow you to display data from Goodreads on your site, such as a list of what you’re currently reading. Generally I mirror a few, but not all of my blog posts, here, because it’s a pain in the butt.

One of the most useful Goodreads Author Tools is their Giveaway system. Go to their giveaway page and you’ll see a wide variety of giveaways, which you can sort by which are ending soon, which are most requested, which are from popular authors, and what’s been recently listed. Goodreads makes it very easy to enter giveaways and allow requesters to add the book to their to-read shelf. You can set the dates for the giveaway, as well as what countries it’s available in, if you don’t want the cost of shipping something overseas. It does not cost anything to list a giveaway, but be prepared to follow through. You cannot give away e-books as a giveaway, so you will have to bear the cost of shipping.

This is handy because Goodreads promotes the giveaways for you. Over 40,000 users sign up for giveaways on a daily basis, according to Goodreads, which means that mentions of your giveaway are appearing in the newsfeeds of their friends, as well as being accessible from the main giveaway page. 

For the best experience, I suggest going through GoodRead’s Author Tutorial, as well as the abundance of other documentation they’ve provided. You’ll want to investigate groups as well as how to run an author Q&A. You can create trivia questions that drive interest in your book or publicize book signings and other promotional events. You may want to add some of its widgets to your blog or website or even pay to use its Self-Serve Advertising platform.

Nebula and World Fantasy Award-nominated writer and SFWA member Cat Rambo just released her first nonfiction book, Creating an Online Presence (Careerbuilding for Writers). Her short stories have appeared in such places as Asimov’s,, and Clarkesworld Magazine. She is the former editor of Fantasy Magazine. Find links to her work at