As an indie author, I’ve increasingly found Goodreads to be one of the best places to reach readers but–maybe even better–I’ve found it to be a great place to relax and just be a reader, as well. But since the focus of this blog is writing and the indie life, I’d like to share three Goodreads tips for writers (I may do a blog someday about being a great Goodreads reader).
1. Update your Status
Much like other social networking sites, Goodreads has a status area that is under your complete control: you can say what you like as often as you like.
Better yet, it can contain links and has an upper limit of 420 characters (including spaces). This is more than enough space and flexibility to announce a book release, giveaway, or just spark a great conversation.
To access your update, login to GR and simply go to http://www.goodreads.com/update_status. The books in your “Currently Reading” list will appear by default. Ignore those and scroll down to the last choice, which should be “…add a general status update.” This is where you enter a free-form status.
While you might think that no one sees these updates (as they seem to be buried more than halfway down on your profile page under Recent Updates), they show up in at least one important place: your friends’ summary list.
What is this? Go to your Goodreads profile page (not your Author Dashboard). Along the LHS, a random handful of your friends should be listed with their profile pictures, the number of books on their shelf, and the number of friends they have under the title “[YOUR NAME’s] Friends ([HOW MANY FRIENDS YOU HAVE]).” This header is clickable and goes to a summary view of all of your friends, arranged in a list with three major columns: the friend, their status, and a command for the viewer (usually “compare books”).
Ninety-nine percent of GR users’ statuses are what book they’re reading and what percentage done they are (it’s the default setting for status updates). But when you pick “…add a general status update” instead, it gets listed here alongside everyone else’s. Not to mention, my default summary list is organized by “last status”…so, if you update your status frequently, that message will be displayed prominently at the top of many of your friends’ lists, as well (and their friends will see it).
Much like Facebook, your status can also be “liked” and commented on by others, so when you have something particularly clever or important to say about books, get it out there and you may start a great conversation of your choosing.
2. Use your Goodreads links
All authors and books on Goodreads have unique link codes that you can copy, save in a text file, and use as short hand in any communication on Goodreads. This becomes especially important as you make GR Friends and swap private messages, when you post a Giveaway, and even when you comment in Groups or on reviews.
To find the codes for yourself and your books, open a new message by clicking on the small envelope in the RH corner. On the resulting “my inbox” screen, compose a message. Click in the body of the message, then click on the gold link above the box that says “add book/author.” Find yourself and your books and add a link for each. The text will look like this in the body for your page:
[book:Blueblood|16047706] for books.
Copy all the links to a text file, save to your computer, and cancel the message. Use these links in any relevant correspondance on Goodreads. This is often more appreciated than a blatant Amazon link to buy; GR folks can check out reviews and ratings of your titles, or compare books with your own collection (see below) to judge whether or not you might write things they like to read.
3. Be a reader
Goodreads users are agressively anti-spam and for good reason: they’ve got a readers’ paradise going and they don’t want unrelenting sales pressure from authors and publishers. You can be a good citizen and–for the less altruistic out there–more attractive to readers if you have a robust virtual “shelf” of books.
I’m not kidding on this. Your account is universally displayed with just three bits of info: your picture, the number of books on your shelf, and the number of friends you have. Goodreads authors with “0 books/1043 friends” jump out at readers as users and exploiters. It’s short-hand code for “avoid this person.”
You don’t have to write a review or even rate every book, either. Simply search for the books you want. On the resulting page, mouse over the graphic on the right that says “add to my books.” One of the three choices is simply “read.” That book gets added to your “shelf” and to your count. You could probably add a 100 books or more in an hour. Of course, if you want to be a better citizen, consider rating and writing a review for these books as well.
Summary (and bonus tip)
Goodreads is really one of the best places on the web to celebrate the culture of literature. You can do it as a writer, a reader, a critic, or all in one. And, while you can exploit Goodreads as a writer, remember: like most things worth their salt, you’ll get out of it only as much as you put in.