How NOT to promote your books on Goodreads – Guest Post by, Jemima Pett…

According to Goodreads, the site has over 55 million members worldwide. That’s a lot of readers. It doesn’t take much to understand why nearly every self-published person comes to the conclusion that they should be promoting their books on the site.

It’s a sensitive issue, and one that has changed a little since the original Goodreads was sold to Amazon. I notice more ways that Amazon and Goodreads use each others’ opportunities. Amazon now enables you to do giveaways… Goodreads has been doing that since it started. Goodreads now has an extensive list of marketing opportunities that it promotes to authors, which look like things in the Amazon school of marketing to me, but are nevertheless valid and valuable opportunities – so take them.

In researching this post, I was surprised by things I knew about but didn’t know about. I knew about giveaways, I’d seen themed months, and I knew there was an Author & Advertiser blog, but I didn’t know about them. If you don’t either, check out:


Strangely enough, Goodreads is mostly designed for readers, not authors. You know, people that hang around in Groups discussing books that they may have on their book list, or shelves. They may add titles to their shelf as a result of a discussion or recommendation. They may ask authors questions (some of which are not rude or simply in the wrong place). Many are thoughtful, seeking further insight, checking whether it’s age-appropriate, or asking when the next in the series is coming out.

Readers also leave comments on books they read. They may make those comments into reviews, which guide other readers, and they may copy those reviews to buying sites. Word of mouth – the most effective form of advertising.

Readers hang around in Groups of like-minded people, whether it’s through the genre(s) they read (I’m active in Great Middle Great Reads, and less so in Space Opera), or something else (I lurk in the UK Kindle Group). Some Groups don’t do much reading, but play games and talk games, or role play, or just talk about a single author (anyone for Jane Austen?)

All the ones I’ve visited have a message for authors. Don’t spam us with your books.


What is spam anyway? Is talking about my book in a Group spam?

Maybe. Basically, are you pushing your book in front of people? Are you boring them, like a person talking only about him or herself at a party? Did they want to know about it?

The degrees of seriousness of spam depends…

  • where you’re talking about it

  • how you’re talking about it

  • how often you’re talking about it

  • whether you have copied virtually the same message about it to twelve different groups in the last ten minutes.

  • whether you are using the Goodreads message system to ask people to read your books.

If in doubt, read the message for Authors that is almost certainly near the top of the Group’s front page. It’s there because we all have the same problem, and we tend to address it in similar ways.

Goodreads Groups

Many genre Groups have special sections for authors to discuss their own books in the genre.

In Great Middle Grade Reads (GMGR), the Discussion section is for, hm, great books for middle grade readers, i.e roughly 9-13 years old (we discuss the age range, too). You can discuss your own book in the Authors section. I can discuss, or start the discussion of someone else’s book in the Discussion section, whether that be Jane Austen’s long-lost manuscript of the Pemberley School Ghost Detectives (hm… that might be fun to write) or Rebecca Douglass’s Skunk Corners books.

Authors can also put their own books in a section on GMGR for ‘Read for Review’, which is a section on many Groups. You offer copies of your ebook in exchange for a review. It’s like a Goodreads Giveaway, but uncontrolled, deals with the format of your choice, and you will probably get a ‘winner’ actually interested in reading and reviewing it for you, because you ‘talk’ to them on the post.

We also have a section for Authors’ giveaways and special offers, which I police regularly.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, I’m a Moderator on GMGR – and so is Rebecca Douglass, so the chances of me starting a discussion on her excellent series is very small, since we’d both consider it unethical.

There are also Author Groups on Goodreads – they are excellent for help and support. You can definitely talk bout your books there!

People think they’re clever

Some authors, depressed at not being able to push their newly published books everywhere at once, resort to subterfuge.

Believe me, I understand the depression. You’ve finally got your wonderful book out, you’re really excited, and then you come up against all these barriers with people telling you not to push your book at people. How can you tell people about it?

Well, start with Goodreads guidance to authors, read the marketing advice, and get active in Groups so that you become someone people would like to know.

Please don’t promote your book under a pseudonym. If you are a member under a pseudonym, do not put your book’s website in your member profile for people to make the connection. I’ve seen that already.

The funny thing is, that arriving on a Group site gushing about a book nobody’s heard of is very suspicious to the regulars. You’d think we didn’t read mysteries. I recently saw a post about a book on GMGR (in the wrong topic, which is usually a sign) and wondered… it just felt spammy. I did some checking on both book and ‘member’ and thought various coincidences worth pointing out to the Goodreads police by email.

This was their reply:

Hi Jemima,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  Creating fake accounts for the sole purpose of inflating or deflating a book’s average rating violates our Terms of Service.  We have looked into the account you reported, and as it raised a number of our standard red flags for illegitimacy, it has been removed from the site.

Again, we appreciate your help here.  If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know.


The Goodreads Team

It’s a long time since I read the Goodreads Terms of Service (five years, if I read them when I joined). But they do have one, in case you wondered.

Trolls and bad reviews

Other things the Goodreads team look into, although it takes a long time usually, is the evidence on any given troll, who creates a fake account and goes round giving books 1 star ratings, often on all books of an author at the same time. You can see on the stats they have given thousands of ratings in a month, so they are pretty obviously fakes, but it’s very upsetting to an author when their five reviews are reduced from an average 4.4 to 3.9 by a single fake 1 star.

And unfortunately, Moderators of Groups are often targeted. But the fakes have all disappeared from my books for the present, and I’m satisfied that the 1 star ratings that remain are from someone who genuinely dislikes them, which is fine.

Authors handling bad reviews on Goodreads is a whole other topic. The main advice is that pops up on the message system: don’t enter into conversation about them. It’s tempting to correct something factual, but remember, did you write it in a way that made the fact unclear in the first place?

So – how should you promote your books on Goodreads?

If you need a reminder, or things have developed since you joined, start by going back to the introduction to the Author Program.

Read the Author Guidelines.

Follow the link to the Author & Advertiser blog, and join in with the special events they have planned.

  • Run a giveaway

  • connect your blog

  • advertise your books

  • Take questions from readers using Ask The Author,

  • write reviews, and show off your taste in literature.

and I’ll add – use the Add to Goodreads widget on your blog.

“Readers love to learn what books their favourite authors are reading!”

That’s why I talk about other people’s books a lot on my blog (and on Goodreads).

Good luck, and enjoy being a reader (and an author) on Goodreads.

Jemima Pett

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36 thoughts on “How NOT to promote your books on Goodreads – Guest Post by, Jemima Pett…

  1. Thanks for the shout-out 😉 And thanks even more for calling my attention to some ways in which I could be taking better advantage of my GR membership. One thing I’m reminded of: I need to be more active on the cozy mystery groups, since that’s what comes out next. It does take time to root around and find the interesting places in a new group, though, and I haven’t found many that spend as much time talking about books as GMGR does.

    You bring up another issue we all get to think about as we make author-friends on-line: reviewing the books of friends. We want to be supportive, sometimes we love the books (see the Princelings of the East…), but there is always that fear of it looking like a tit-for-tat review exchange.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I think we’re lucky to be involved in a really book-centred group.

      The tit-for-tat review issue is a difficult one. Not so much on Goodreads, perhaps, but authors need to be very careful of reviewing authors on Amazon who give them reviews back. Amazon has very strict rules to cut out ‘bought’ reviews. The safest way is to purchase the friend’s book from Amazon. But I’m not saying it’s safe, even so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whew, Jemima!! I’m so glad I read this, and happy to know I am doing everything right–except sell a lot of books :). I have to admit I get lost easily in Goodreads and when I find something useful, I never find it the next time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, there’s no guarantee you’ll sell books, but you should meet a lot of nice people 🙂
      As for finding useful things again – you can ‘follow’ threads – look for the settings near the comments box. Adding books to your booklist and making a private shelf for ‘useful’ is also an option.

      Liked by 1 person


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