I Think I've Finally Figured Out How Goodreads is Useful to Me

I Think I’ve Finally Figured Out How Goodreads is Useful to Me

Ahhh, Goodreads. As a social book recommendation platform, used and loved by millions, it’s second-to-none for readers. For writers, well — it’s kind of an impenetrable mystery.

I think every writer must look at their userbase of sixteen million readers and wonder, how can I reach them? Or, to expand on that question in a rather important way, how can I reach them without getting flagged as a spammer and getting my account disabled? Kind of an important distinction.

Used to be simple. Used to be, you’d run a giveaway to offer up a free copy of a print edition of your book to the winners. The idea being to increase the visibility of your book and get people to add it to their “to-read” lists. And then, as authors like Lindsay Buroker were suggesting less than a year ago, you could contact everyone else who entered the contest and offer them a free copy of your e-book edition.

Yeeeeeaaahh, not so fast, there, cowboy. Turns out they’ve been cracking down on authors doing that, and now their guidelines say:

Can I send a message to the people who didn’t win my giveaway, thanking them?

Unfortunately, no. We’ve found from previous experience that many of our members consider such messages spam. While they have expressed interest in getting a free copy of your book, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to receive a message from you with a promotional offer.

We recommend adding a link to your author profile in your giveaway and encouraging people to become your fan. That way, they will stay up to date with everything happening with your book via your blog and status updates.

So once that door was gently closed in my face, I’ll admit I was stumped. I was unconvinced that their recommendation would lead to any actual result.

Meanwhile, I was sitting here with a fairly large number of friends on Goodreads, and no idea how I was supposed to be able to reach out to them. And my list of friends was growing all the time.

How did I get to that point? Well, I have a ton of followers on Twitter, whom I’ve amassed through a completely promiscuous policy of following anyone I trip across who looks remotely interesting, and engaging with the people who follow me back. And then when I first joined Goodreads, I noticed that the site had a feature that allowed you to import your Twitter followers and add them as friends.

Doing that caused me to reach some kind of critical mass, apparently, because I now get three or four friend requests on Goodreads every day, and I’ve just been blithely approving them all, thinking, “Okay, now what?”

And then it finally struck me.

These people are approaching me with their friend requests. As far as I’m concerned, that’s permission to start a conversation.

So now when I approve a new friend request on Goodreads, I follow it up with a private message thanking them for adding me and offering them a free e-book. I don’t send the download link in the original message; to me, that would seem a little pushy and rude. I ask if they’re interested first, and then send them links in a followup if they are.

I haven’t been doing this for very long, but so far, the response has been phenomenal. Literally 90% of the people I’ve contacted have accepted the offer and most of them have promised to review it. (I do mention in the original message that I would appreciate a review, but that they shouldn’t feel obligated.) And of the 10% that weren’t interested, not one person has seemed offended that I made the offer.

This is going great. It’s a slow but steady trickle of new readers that I’m making a personal connection with. Right now, giving away e-books is going to continue to be the best way I can build word-of-mouth. I hope that doing this will get me some reviews — but even more importantly, it’s getting my books into the hands of people who might not have read them otherwise, potential new fans who just might tell all their friends to check me out.

If you’re one of my new Goodreads fans, hello and welcome to the blog! Hope you enjoy it. If you’re not, and you want to get in on some of this free e-book action, just send me some e-mail and ask. Seriously, I don’t mind.