Goodreads Blog

Three Things Readers Want to See from Authors on Goodreads

Posted by Cynthia on January 3, 2018
There’s something about the New Year that inspires people to set goals for themselves. Authors take note: other than aiming to finish your next book in 2018, commit to tracking your reading habits by participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

The Goodreads Reading Challenge allows you to set a goal for how many books you want to read this year, and then helps you keep track of that goal. Last year, more than 3 million readers participated in the challenge and pledged to read 3.4 million books. At the end of the year, Goodreads creates a compelling infographic for each member with stats on the books and fun badges that the member unlocked along the way.

The Reading Challenge is especially valuable for authors looking for the best way to engage on Goodreads. Per our member surveys, the three most important things readers are curious to know about authors are:

  • What other books did this author write?
  • What books inspired the author to write?
  • What additional background information does the author share about the books they’ve written?

Give the readers what they want this year: start by sharing a list of the books that inspired you to write. As you start getting a hang of engaging on Goodreads, expand the number of titles you have on your virtual bookshelves. There are a number of ways you can share what you’re reading with the Goodreads community:

Shelve books

The most straightforward way to be active on Goodreads is to hit the Want-to-Read button to indicate books you’re interested in. You can indicate what genres you care about so that Goodreads can recommend titles to you, or you can browse various sections—like genre pages, lists, or the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards—to discover more books.

“Because I live in a rural area, a few months might pass before I get into a bookstore where I can really browse, so I always have a long To-Read list to work from,” says Matthew Sullivan, author of Midnight in the Bright Ideas Bookstore. “As a teacher I refer back to books a lot, or recommend them to students and friends, so the ratings help me sort through my favorites, as well.”

Take this activity up a notch by creating custom shelves. For example, “Historical Fiction Influences” or “Cover Inspiration” gives readers a glimpse into the titles you were looking at when you were working on your own book. You can shelve them in ways more personal to you as well: Almost Cried Manly Dude Tears is just one of the creative shelves that author Adam Silvera created for himself and his fans.

Another idea: If you’re an author of a series, create a shelf specifically guiding readers to books they should read while they wait for your next installment.

Quick Tip: To make books count towards your 2018 Reading Challenge, be sure to mark the ‘date read’ when you shelve the book. Read a book more than once? That counts, too!

Rate books

Consider adding 1–5 stars to the books you’ve shelved. Readers can compare books with you when they browse your shelf, and there’s no better way to forge a connection than over a shared love for certain books.

“I only list books and add stars to the books I've read and loved,” explains Colleen Hoover, author of Without Merit (a 2017 Goodreads Choice Award winner). “I think I listed a book as one-star once, but it was my own book and it's done as more of a joke than anything.”

“This might be obvious, but part of the rating process is also being a careful curator, making conscious choices about the books I buy or borrow, so books that might not fall within my tastes are usually weeded out long before any of this process begins,” says Sullivan. “Though I’m aware there is clearly a social media element, I tend to think of ratings as mainly for my personal use.”

Adding stars is entirely optional, but you might want to set up rules around how you rate books, for example, only rate books by deceased authors, or share your rating system in your bio like S. Jae-Jones, author of Wintersong. "I five-star or nothing nowadays, not because other books don’t warrant stars, but because I want to talk up the books I loved... and if I’ve loved something, I want to share with the entire world," explains Jae-Jones.

Review books

While you’re probably thinking “I’d rather be writing my own book than writing about others,” keep in mind that reviewing books on Goodreads is not the same as writing a book report back in high school. You don’t have to write more than a few sentences about how you felt about the book.

“I love sharing the stories that made me laugh out loud, sob my heart out, fall in love or leave me in a cerebral stupor (or all of the above!),” says Roshani Chokshi, author of The Star-Touched Queen. “I also think Goodreads is a great way to use my platform and bring attention to books by marginalized authors.”

Reviewing books gives you an opportunity to show off your writing style and your sense of humor. “I decided to leave a funny review on a friend's book that I had read last year, and people started sharing the review and asking me to do more,” says Hoover. “Since then, I've done several and they're all meant to be in good fun. I enjoy sarcasm and it's a fun way to help promote books I've liked. My followers know my sense of humor and comment in kind.”

Keep in mind that your reviews influence others to read more. “I've seen comments where readers stated they purchased the book based on my review, which is nice to see!” says Hoover. It also gives authors an opportunity for further engagement with readers. “[I have seen] more engagement from my readers, which is always so fun! [I] love when we can get into casual shipping wars over characters,” says Chokshi.

Goodreads regularly updates a list of suggested people to follow via Goodreads on Kindle. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get selected if you start writing reviews regularly, but your chances of being considered are 100% higher than if you don’t review books at all.

Quick tip: If you’re asked to write a blurb for another authors, offer to share a review on Goodreads as well. Repost the blurb and expand on it slightly, with the disclaimer that you’ve been asked to blurb it. Here’s an example by Adam Silvera of that being done right. (And remember, you can ask for the same thing on your own books).

Share Kindle Notes and Highlights

One of the newest ways for authors to engage on Goodreads is by sharing background information on their own books via Kindle Notes and Highlights. This allows you to highlight sections of any Kindle book and add notes specific to the highlighted section.

Authors have started using it as a tool to share additional content, behind-the-scenes, or Easter Eggs about their own books for their readers. “Certain scenes emblazon themselves in our heart,” says Chokshi about how she plans on using Kindle Notes and Highlights. “I can't wait to share that experience with others!” (Read Chokshi's Kindle Notes and Highlights here.)

Kindle Notes and Highlights is available to anyone (read more about them here), but contact us so we can add you to our Authors Beta (we’ll ask for feedback on how we can continue to improve).

Frequency of Activity

The rule of thumb for online marketing recommends spending 20% of your online time talking about yourself and 80% of it talking about other things. That rule applies to your activity on Goodreads as well, and there’s really just one major thing members want to talk about: more books!

The majority of your time on Goodreads should be spent talking about books that you’ve enjoyed reading, or books you look forward to reading. “I tend to dive in and out for short blasts, to jot down a title or check in on my page or rate something I’ve just finished—maybe an hour or two a week,” says Sullivan about the time he spends on Goodreads.

It might seem like an overwhelming task to review, shelve, and rate books all the time, especially when there are so many other marketing activities on your plate (oh yeah, and writing your next book!). “I add maybe one book per month, and those are only if I like them. I don't add the books I DNF'd, (did not finish)” says Hoover.

Download the Goodreads app to make it quick and easy to mark books as Want-to-Read when you hear about them. Get into the habit of writing a few lines about a book when you finish it and watch your virtual bookshelves fill up in no time.

Here are some books by the authors quoted in this story to get you started:

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Do you have any special Reading Challenges set up for yourself this year? Share it in the comments below!

Next: Marketing Advice from Authors, for Authors

You might also like: Book Recommendations for Authors Learning about Book Marketing

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Ma (new)

Ma Titia Hmmm....interesting, currently struggling between working and book marketing for the book I published recently- 'Truth About Health Exposed', am keen to share other content I've developed which I put on facebook and twitter.....but am starting to wonder just how many platforms to put content on and engage as its starting to feel that in itself might become a full time job!

Would be keen to get some advice from those who've been there bearing in mind my book is non- fiction? I do love reading books, but as a treat to myself......
Ma Titia

message 2: by Broc (new)

Broc Silva Interesting ideas, I'm busy writing a new book and 20,000 words into a poetry collection. I've never been overly sure what the best way to encourage readers is, so, new ideas are always welcome. I always thought writing original novels like The Eelii, or The Most Boring Man In The World, was the trick but apparently not. This year I'm releasing a few novels and hoping to garner a bit of interest. I'll give your ideas a try

message 3: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Strickland some interesting ideas

message 4: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara Thanks, I read about a book a day so I don't feel the need to do a reading challenge. I always appreciate the end of year graphic.

message 5: by K.N. (new)

K.N. I’ve always enjoyed rating and posting book reviews. I find the Want-to-Read function very handy and love to get alerts for Giveaways of those books. Based on these tips, I may add a shelf or two to highlight books I’ve used for research on certain topics. Even fiction writing requires research! :)

message 6: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Gilmour I look forward to implementing some of these ideas into 2018, time is my biggest barrier. I have 2 publications out now so this is interesting. I also have a big TBR list. Thank you

message 7: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Wilson I've used the notes sharing feature. It's a great way to build out your Facebook page where you showcase your books.

But I would add that starting a Meetup that could be held at your local bookstore where you present your book through the "book salon" concept also could work well.

I'm hosting my second salon for one of my authors in Chicago next month and was pleased that the salon idea went off well.

message 8: by June (new)

June Shaw Barbara wrote: "some interesting ideas"

Claire, you read a book a day? Wow, I am so impressed! And so grateful you give such love to us authors!

message 9: by Talya (new)

Talya Boerner A book a day. That's inspirational!

message 10: by Christine (new)

Christine Clayfield Wow Clare! I can sometime get through 2-3 books a week, most often it takes me longer than a week to read 1 book

I've been slowly adding my books in Goodreads. As an author, this article is very helpful as I although I have written several business and online marketing books, I just wrote a novel based on my life story and the marketing is very different for this one.

message 11: by Mary (new)

Mary Ann I have always enjoyed Goodreads giveaways, and have done this for my own book as well. I am wondering why the large fee now to list a book on your giveaway? It certainly makes it difficult for some authors to afford this type of promotion.

message 12: by Diane (new)

Diane Shute I have several versions of kindle--and, not all of my kindle books are showing up as linked to my goodreads account--if I'm reading a book now that is not linked to my goodreads profile, is there a way to link it without repurchasing the book?

message 13: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Allen I've self-published two titles since 2014, earning about 175 reviews between Amazon and GR, most of them 5-star. I even won a small award. But it's amazing there are now 4.5 million fictions on Amazon (many of which are outdated or are with few reviews). It is an ocean out there so becoming adrift is easy to do. Outside of marketing in all its variations (and paying $$$ for it), getting books immediately in front of truely interested readers is where the rubber meets the road. Years ago, the Giveaway got me going because I could review which readers were entering and go through them to find applicable ones specifically suited for my genre and ones that also reviewed lots of books. (The fact is, many readers hardly review). Then I would message the Giveaway applicants and offer my book for free, anyway, regardless if they had won or not. This honest practice gained me many readers, fans, and friends, too. But I never spammed or harrassed any applicants--I always offered free books, everytime. So, in 2016 GR ceased this availability to authors, and sent authors warning messages, apparently because some obnoxious authors spammed and hassled many applicants and readers, screwing it up. That's ashame because now authors can't see who is entering. I also leaned that, by far, many Giveaway applicants are click-happy, looking for freebies and don't even review books. I've never had a single winner review, not in seven Giveaways. So, in my opinion, for $599, giving away 100 copies blindly in the dark is not very usefull because the author needs quality readers that are genre-specific and actually review books. Before 2016, I NEVER spammed anyone. Thankfully my debut novel was a good book, so I've kept my original readers--friends really-- from my first few Giveaways. And now I'm offering them my third title (for free) and my personal giveaway has been well-received. Now, the Giveaway is a blind Giveaway which is very costly and inefficient for authors. (Many of my readers say they don't have a kindle). And if I message a friend's friend to give a FREE book, GR sends a warning !!! that I may lose my account. In summary, the Giveaway should include a feature that allows the author to cull the applicants for good reviewers, and allow them to click/contact/message them for a FREE BOOK, regardless if they have won the drawing. THAT would connect many authors and readers very positively. Only if GR figured out how to be more author-friendly, that would work well. Courtney Allen, author, Down from the Mountain, Orange Moon, Lee County Elegy

message 14: by Cynthia (last edited Feb 02, 2018 12:53PM) (new)

Cynthia Shannon Thanks for the feedback! You can find out more about the Goodreads Giveaways program here. You’re welcome to continue the conversation about Giveaways here.

message 15: by Michele (new)

Michele Gardiner Courtney wrote: "I've self-published two titles since 2014, earning about 175 reviews between Amazon and GR, most of them 5-star. I even won a small award. But it's amazing there are now 4.5 million fictions on Ama..."

Courtney, your post answers so many of my questions. So it truly isn't possible to target readers of my genre in a giveaway. It's frustrating. I see readers who love the same books I do, and believe they might also enjoy my book, but I guess it's not ethical to message them an offer of a free book?

From my years on Goodreads as a reader, I so often see, "I don't normally read this genre, but had to for a bookclub..." followed by a one star review. I don't see why I should be giving free books to people who prefer dystopian fantasy or bodice-ripping romance and only accepted my book because it didn't cost them anything.

Any tips?

message 16: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Allen Michele-sorry so late getting back. I don't know how I missed your message. I was fortunate that I got into GR before they changed their policy and the Giveaway rules. Originally they let you see who was asking for a free book, and I would cull them and see which readers were best suited for my book: who liked my genre and also wrote lots of positive reviews. I contacted them, friended them, and told them I would give them a free book regardless. I even sent thank you cards. My first book, Down from the Mountain, was a success and I received good reviews. Then the rules changed but I stayed in contact with my original readers. It is so expensive to self-publish and give books away. All avenues seem anti-author. I've publish three books and not sure what I'm going to do next. Good luck to you and thanks for your message. Courtney

message 17: by Michele (new)

Michele Gardiner No problem, Courtney. But I have since learned how hard book promo is as an indie author, as you wrote. I had some mojo for a while, but I can't afford to keep sending out books and spending time doing social media. I still do. But I'm not as relentless as I was in the beginning. My other business is what pays the bills.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.


Courtney wrote: "Michele-sorry so late getting back. I don't know how I missed your message. I was fortunate that I got into GR before they changed their policy and the Giveaway rules. Originally they let you see w..."

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