BY JOHN WARNER
This article was originally posted on indiebookspot.com
Since its launch in December 2006, Goodreads has become the leading social cataloguing sites and has amassed millions of users. For self-published authors, a Goodreads profile is a necessity. The site’s Community Manager and Author Program Manager talks about how authors can make Goodreads work for them, and how the site plans to develop in the future.
Can you explain a little about what you do for Goodreads, i.e. what your role is at the company?
I am the Community Manager and Author Program Manager for the site. It’s my job to make sure people are enjoying themselves on the site, as well as finding new, cool things to do with our platform. I head up our Author Program, and I’m constantly thinking of new ways to bring authors into our community. I also write many of the posts for the Goodreads blog.
A new author signs up for Goodreads, claims their author profile and joins the Goodreads Author Program. What should their next step be to get the most out of the site?
They should make their profile a destination for readers. Add a great photo, make sure all of their books have accurate metadata associated with them (such as cover images and descriptions). Sync their blog and add their upcoming events. And most importantly, rate some books! If you’re scared of offending your writer friends, I recommend creating an “influences” shelf and adding the books that have meant the most to you. Readers love seeing what their favorite authors are reading. Once they’ve done that, they’re ready to start reaching out to new readers, and that’s when I recommend creating an advance copy giveaway. Giveaways are the best promotional product we offer to writers, and they almost always result in lots of readers marking the author’s book “to-read.”
What’s the biggest and most common mistake that authors make when they use Goodreads to promote their work?
Too many authors don’t take the job of community building seriously and instead go in for the quick, hard sell. You’ve got to be part of the conversation and not merely a salesperson. Talk about other books you love Connect with readers over a shared passion. Don’t just go immediately into your sales pitch. That’s a strategy that won’t get results.
There’s a thin line between being proactive and being pushy. How can authors get the word out without seeming too forceful?
A great way to reach new readers is by giving them a taste of your work. If the writing is strong and the story is compelling, it will speak for itself. We offer a number of ways to offer your work to Goodreads members. Advance giveaways get your book into the hands of readers who will hopefully review it and help generate that word of mouth buzz. You can also upload excerpts of your book that can be read in our ereader and on our iPhone/iPad app.
One of the biggest problems that self-published authors have is that very few people bother to leave reviews, and those who do tend to be the ones who give either 1 or 5 stars, i.e. the extreme views. How does Goodreads encourage readers to leave reviews?
I don’t think we have any problem getting reviews from our members. The average active user on Goodreads has rated more than 69 books and their average rating for books is about 4.0. I think for a brand new book, you tend to get a lot of really great reviews early on, as friends and family review the book. But we offer a lot of tools to help authors attract more reviews, including badges and widgets for the author’s website and Facebook page, as well as the giveaway program, which I mentioned earlier.
Is there a place on Goodreads for authors of technical or academic texts? A lot of people think the etextbook market is going to blossom soon, is Goodreads going to be useful for these authors too?
I strongly believe that there is a reader for every book. While the focus of the site is definitely trade books, we definitely see some Goodreads members who review their text books, and we welcome this kind of participation.
In January, Goodreads moved away from the Amazon API and transitioned to data from Ingram Book Company. Why did that happen, and has the change been a success so far?
Amazon’s data came with many restrictions. For instance, we couldn’t use their information for our mobile apps or link to competing bookstores. We eventually reached the point where we simply couldn’t abide by their terms and decided to go our own way. It’s worked out very well. We’re happily working with a variety of data partners, including Ingram, and have data for more than 99% of the books we originally sourced from Amazon.
Looking ahead, how do you think books will change in years to come? For example, do you think the distinction between books and apps will become more blurred?
I’m pretty bad at predicting the future, but I will say that whatever form the book comes in — be that print, digital, standalone app, etc. — discoverability will still be the major problem facing authors and publishers. The self-publishing revolution means that anybody can be an author, and that means more books than ever in the marketplace. The paradox of choice will continue to confound readers. That’s why I’m excited to be at Goodreads, where we’re helping solve the problem of choice for readers and helping authors get their books discovered.
A few years ago, the idea of contacting an author online or watching a video about a book would have seemed far-fetched. Today, it’s very common. Do you think this trend will continue? Will this be almost like the extras you get on a DVD, helping to give background info about the main product?
Video is going to play an increasingly important role for authors and publishers in the coming years. While I’m not sure about the idea of book videos becoming hugely popular, I do think that video chats with authors will become commonplace. Instead of doing a costly book tour across the country, an author can meet with any book club, regardless of size or location, from the comfort of his or her own home. That’s going to change the way we think of the common book club, as well as author events. It’s going to further shrink that distance between the author and the reader.
Is there a place for the traditional big publishers at Goodreads? Do they engage with you much?
Absolutely. We work with all of the major publishers (and many smaller publishers, as well) in one capacity or another. Many of them purchase advertising from us, and almost all of them giveaway advance copies of upcoming new releases. We also frequently work with their publicity team to set up author chats and other promotions we think our members will enjoy.
What’s next for Goodreads? Do you have any big plans for 2012 and beyond?
We are going to continue to help authors and publishers reach the right readers for their books. There are some very exciting products for authors on the way soon, and I think they are going to really cement Goodreads author profiles as a destination for readers and fans. And very soon we’re going to unveil a redesign of our group page to focus a little bit more on video content. We see the traditional book club changing in some exciting ways with video author chats, and we felt now was the time to give those clubs the chance to really highlight the incredible stuff they’re doing.