The Dos and Don’ts of Goodreads by Guest @nblackburn01

The Dos and Don'ts of Goodreads by Guest @nblackburn01

There is no shortage of Social Media where authors can build awareness of their books. Facebook is a great place to meet friends, see grandbabies, and keep tabs on where your friends are vacationing. But if you want to talk books, there is nowhere that tops Goodreads. It’s the social media site for book lovers. And when the folks at Goodreads discover a good book, they tell their friends about it. In fact, they have been known to shout it from the rooftops.

Let’s start with the assumption that you have done your job in that your book is well written, professionally edited, has an eye-catching cover and is available in both print and e-book formats. You’ve invested a sizable amount of time and money thus far but when you get to Goodreads, the site that’s primarily for book lovers, are you going to simply set up a profile and wait for readers to happen by?

Trust me, they won’t. The months will fly by and you’ll sit and wonder why people aren’t flocking to read your book. This is what I call the “Write It and The Will Come” Syndrome. It doesn’t work.

Goodreads is all about relationship building and networking. You can’t simply join a group and then stop by every so often to check on what they are reading. You have to make friends, participate in group discussions, and let readers get to know you. This doesn’t mean posting the name of your book on a discussion thread and saying read my book or even worse – buy my book. There is a Goodreads etiquette and unless you abide by it, you will be worse than unknown…you will be known as a pushy and obnoxious author.

Let’s take a look at some of those Goodreads Do’s and Don’ts.

Today, I am going to talk about two of the main areas, Finding Friends and Group Behavior. Both are areas where etiquette is demanded or it can crush you, giving you a bad reputation in the process. In future posts, we will discuss things such as giveaways, review requests/reviews, book information and professional networking. If there are topics that you would like addressed, please let Rachel know and I will do my best to address them for you.

So, let’s get started:

Developing a friends list is critical on Goodreads. Like all marketing efforts though, it must be done strategically. Bigger doesn’t always equal better. Remember Goodreads maxes out your friend capacity at 5,000, so you want every friend to be someone who you truly want to connect with. People who enjoy your genre, people who will someday want to read your book. It may take a bit of searching, but when you do find those friends, they will be well worth having.

Finding Friends:


  • Find friends who share your likes/choice of book genres or hobbies.
  • Be selective about who you friend. Make sure that they enjoy the genre of your book. A hint from an author I call the Guru of Goodreads, Bette Lee Crosby, who, in my opinion, has an excellent, best practice model for choosing Goodreads friends. She looks at the profile of the person who has added her book, particularly if it is during a giveaway. If they have a number of things in common, she will go ahead and friend them. Her reasoning, she has found that they will bump up her books on their “To Be Read” list.
  • Get to know their profile. Try to find something to connect with your new friend from that perspective.
  • Include a message with your friend request. Mention that you are in the same group, or enjoy the same books, or have mutual friends. Give them a reason to want to accept your friend.
  • Send a note thanking them for accepting the friend request, but don’t mention your book. Something along the lines that you look forward to discussing books with them.
  • Use the groups to expand your friend invites.
  • Pay attention to books/updates your friends have posted. Find little ways to comment on them.
  • Make yourself accessible!
  • As you develop the friendships, friends will figure out ways to help you. I met Bette Lee Crosby because the Admin of another group took a liking to Bette and suggested she join the Sisterhood of the Traveling Book group and offer a copy of her latest release for review. Bette did join the group, but interestingly enough, she never once posted a promo saying “buy my book” instead she offered review copies to the group so that the gals could read for free. That book was “Spare Change” and with the running start from all those reviews, the book is now a USA Today Bestseller.


  • Spam a new friend by sending them a link to your book either through private message or on their “friends comment section.” Most people will immediately unfriend.
  • Throw random friend requests out. It looks spammy.
  • Simply use your friends list to send out invites to “events”
  • If unfriended by someone, do not send another friend request. I had an author who friended me and then constantly sent invites to sale events. Since I had no interest in reading his book and we had no other communication, I unfriended him. After I unfriended him, he continued to send a new friend request almost every month. I finally blocked him. Obviously, he was not at all connected to me, he was just sending out mass friend requests. (a definite no-no)

Groups:The Dos and Don'ts of Goodreads by Guest @nblackburn01

Goodreads groups are great! They have everything from genre-specific groups to political groups to author networking groups. Whatever tickles your fancy! That group can more than likely be found. Can’t find one you like? Make one up!


  • Join Groups. As long as you are respectful, most groups love interacting with authors.
  • Do a mixture of small and larger groups. Sisterhood of the Traveling Book is cut off at 300 members to retain the coziness of the group. This group is a good size for an author to experience group interactions and get to feel comfortable on Goodreads. Successful interaction within a group of this size readies an author for moving into the larger groups that number in the thousands and if approached initially, can feel overwhelming.
  • Participate, participate, and participate some more. Get to know the members. For example, in Sisterhood of the Traveling Book, we have 3 author members who interacted with the group beautifully. Each of these three women has walked away with faithful followers ready to review their books the moment a request is given. Two of the women started “street teams” with STB members who became the founding members. What did these women do differently? They made a decided effort to get to know our members first.
  • Focus on joining groups that are within your genres. This is where you are going to get your biggest readership.
  • Join some professional groups. Many of these authors have already navigated Goodreads and have tips/best practices to offer.
  • Identify if there is a way to offer your book up for review/giveaway
  • Find if they have rules for authors and pay attention to them.
  • Reach out to the moderators if you have questions. The concept that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission does not apply in most Goodreads groups. The truth is that overstepping your bounds can get you bounced from the group and labeled as a pushy, obnoxious author.


  • Join just to tell readers about your book.
  • Spam members with your book every chance you get
  • Recommend your own book for a book of the month selection. Not only does it look unprofessional, it looks desperate.
  • If your book is recommended for book of the month, don’t ask your friends to join the group just to vote for your book. Most moderators can figure it out and it never fairs well for you.
  • Don’t join groups, just to join groups. We have authors who join STB and do nothing with it. They make no comments, not even an introduction. It is like buying a car and just letting it sit in your driveway. What is the point? When we hit our group cap and need to clean house, they are the first to go.
  • Don’t argue with members! It is the fastest way to become known as a troublemaker. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t the one to start an argumentative discussion, walk away. If you find the group to be abusive, LEAVE IT. It’s unfortunate but that can happen even in some of the best groups.


I tell my author clients to be prepared to spend a half hour on Goodreads each day. Do it while you are drinking your coffee in the morning or before you head to bed at night, but do it! Once you put the effort into it, those relationships will start to build and then everything becomes easier.

I want to reiterate that while Goodreads can be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. I have become friends with both authors and members throughout the world, as a result of it. It is a matter of lassoing it and making it work for you. It takes baby steps, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy and it’s fun.


Have questions? Feel free to contact me or follow me at:

The Author CEO:

Twitter: @nblackburn01



Skype: naomieblackburn


About Naomi:

Naomi Blackburn, owner of The Author CEO, a consulting firm dedicated to helping independent authors navigate the development of strategic business plans and the marketing world, holds an MBA and has worked in the field of business development, sales and consulting for 12 years. A former social worker, she has helped hundreds of clients meet their life goals. A top 1% Goodreads reviewer, she comes to the world of books from a reader/reviewer’s perspective. She strives to help authors achieve their goals by teaching them to think of themselves as CEO/entrepreneur of a small business and helping them negotiate the business side of selling books.

Purchase The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge right now, and learn how to do much of what I mention here in a daily, step-by-step format. You can do this. What are you waiting for?

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  1. Ciara Ballintyne on August 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    This is a really useful guide but the reality I have found is that I simply don’t have the time to be present on Goodreads to the degree required. the unfortunate end result is that I am hardly there at all.

    • Rachel Thompson on August 26, 2014 at 12:29 am

      Thank you Ciara for reading and commenting. I feel similarly — with writing and blogging (on two sites) and all my other writing gigs and social media and clients and kids and … who has time, right? I do appreciate Naomi’s breakdown though, and I will say that there are many authors who have really been able to connect with reviewers and book clubs in a meaningful way on GR.

      Like anything, it’s a slow climb that doesn’t happen overnight. Relationship building, like anything else.

    • Naomi Blackburn on August 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

      As I said in the article, Ciara, even if you can take a half hour while you are drinking your coffee in the morning or watching tv, you will see movement. It really doesn’t take a whole lot.

  2. Scarlet Darkwood on August 25, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I refuse to do Goodreads due to the bullying and trolls I’ve heard about. Don’t need that in my life. Don’t forget Goodreads is now owned by Amazon, and they probably won’t pay much attention to inappropriate reviews any more than they do on Amazon itself. I’m finding the people who are the most successful, if it’s true they really are, seem to already have a good network in place and lots of support. And what I’m finding in a lot of groups, including Facebook, is that everything’s a “buddy system,” and if you’re not in the clique, you’re out. The people in these cliques buy each others books only. I’ve left all my Facebook groups due to all the “back-scratching.” I didn’t get much support there at all. I’d participated in group discussion, contributed, and surely didn’t go around flaunting my titles around. But again, the members would only buy from certain members or shout out their buddies. I’m trying to find other ways to sell my books. Plugging along seems to be all I can do now. All the book review/critique sites are “We’re not taking new books,” “We can’t guarantee we’ll read your book.” It goes on and on. Then the other book outlets have algorithms that favor traditionally published books and authors who are in their special programs. I blog, have a newsletter, have a FB badge, have Twitter. Other outlets to sell your book either cost a few hundred dollars, or you’ll have to jump through several hoops to participate. It gets difficult. I feel like I’m doing all I can do at the moment. Any many times I wonder if I’m not being forced to walk the path alone. I get what I get.

    • Rachel Thompson on August 26, 2014 at 12:34 am

      Thanks Scarlet. I appreciate your take on it.

      I asked Naomi to break down Goodreads into manageable chunks for those of us who DO want to get a better understanding of it. I’ve found it’s a slow process, to build these relationships, particularly with book clubs and reviewers. It’s really about discovering the best fit for us — which platforms we find most comfortable and useful, and where we can connect with readers. Each platform appeals to our sense differently. Once we find one or two that merges those, we’re good!

    • Naomi Blackburn on August 26, 2014 at 11:22 am

      Scarlet, did you read my post on Author CEO on understanding the psyche of the troll. You might find it of interest. Even with the horrible stuff, Goodreads is really the place to be to market your book. You have millions of readers at your beck and call.

    • Iola on August 31, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      My experience is that Goodreads are a lot quicker to delete reviews and ban users than Amazon. If you follow the rules (as so beautifully explained above), you won’t have any trouble. If you whine about every critical review or spam your book in a group that doesn’t permit self-promotion …

      FWIW, I’m not an author, just another 1% reviewer.

    • Ferris Eanfar on September 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      The tribe mentality of human nature is like gravity. We can either curse it and fight it for preventing us from flying or we can seek to understand it, improve our ground game, and work toward our goals while resisting gravity’s constant pressure to keep us down. I’m a new author so I know it’s easy for new authors to be hyper-sensitive, but most of the time, what might look like a deliberate insult is just other people focusing on their lives and not really caring about a new author. It’s not about the author; it’s about their lives.

      New authors often project their own insecurities on the actions of others. Of course, trolls are different and should simply be ignored unless they say something that is factually untrue. Then it’s usually important to set the public record straight. Otherwise, if they’re just spouting an opinion, that’s their constitutional right and there’s no point in getting upset or distracted by them. Life’s too short.

      • Rachel Thompson on September 10, 2017 at 8:22 am

        Hi, Ferris. I agree with your points with the exception of trolls saying something factually untrue and setting the record straight — honestly, trolls will always say false nonsense. It’s their entire point of interaction. Attempting to correct it is often futile and a huge waste of time. With five books out and hundreds of online troll interactions and a few false ‘revenge’ reviews, I’ve experienced this.

        Sadly, even reporting these nuts for abuse (e.g., using Amazon’s feature) does nothing, nor on social media. Been there, done that! Naomi and I experienced this with someone who came after me on Twitter and then changed her 5-star reviews on Goodreads to 1-stars. Naomi reported it and Goodreads did NOTHING (even though that violates their guidelines). Just another example.

        Either new authors learn this themselves or simply move on and keep writing.

        • Ferris Eanfar on October 14, 2017 at 10:13 pm

          Interesting and good points. It also depends on the type of attack. If somebody falsely accuses us of murder, pedo or some other heinous behavior, I don’t know many PR pros who would advise to ignore those accusations, especially if we hold important positions in corporations or government office.

          Nevertheless, I think you’re right in most cases. It’s a hard lesson to learn for sure, but it becomes incrementally less impactful as an author’s online presence grows.

  3. Becky Wicks on August 26, 2014 at 1:15 am

    I like Goodreads but I just find it so damn hard to use. Yesterday I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to add a photo to my update box. I mean… come on. It’s 2014, I’ve been blogging for 14 years, I’m not a moron, but I cannot use this site. Turns out I had to add my own html. Again, I’m not an idiot. I did that (although we shouldn’t have to, like I said, it’s 2014) but then I had to adjust the photo dimensions and oh sweet LORD, no. Enough. I’ve also had people wanting to leave me a review on there, who can’t actually see how to do it. It’s just not very user-friendly. I prefer to network on Twitter. Plus, the trolls on Goodreads, as Scarlet says, are awful. I have a friend who’ s been reduced to tears by them and I’ve come close a couple times. I think it encourages bullying and a much younger crowd than Amazon – where people tend to be a little more discerning. That is all. (Can anyone help with the photo thing?!)

    • Naomi Blackburn on August 26, 2014 at 11:29 am

      To me, the trolls are what you make of them. Becky, I know you have seen the post I just wrote. Adjusting perceptions to them have worked for me. Plus, I have had just as many trolls on Twitter and in Facebook groups. Unfortunately, jackasses have a new pulpit…it is called social media and Goodreads is just a part of the social media platform. With potential sales to be made, I refuse to allow a troll to keep me away from getting information on my business or a potential book in the works for me.

  4. Scarlet Darkwood on August 26, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Thanks to both of you, Naomi and Rachel. Yes, I don’t want Naomi’s post to be hit with the “Down With Goodreads” business because even if you’re not looking at this platform alone, her advice is good to consider all across the board. I remember when my spouse and I got married in our church (which we’ve long since left), and the members were trying to get us involved. When we tried to get into groups or make suggestions, it all fell on deaf ears. A minister from another church suggested that many times new people hit members senses as strange and that they have to get comfortable with you before they’ll listen to what you say or before the start getting used to you being around. I takes patience. Unfortunately, I think I lack that virtue.

  5. Allison Janda on August 26, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Really good post! I was always so daunted by GoodReads. I have a profile, I review books, but I had no idea how to use it to gain readership. This guide has helped immensely and, while still a bit overwhelmed, I feel more prepared to dive in.

    • Naomi Blackburn on August 26, 2014 at 11:31 am

      As Rachel wants me to, we will go deeper in. Goodreads is really intimidating. I almost think it is more intimidating than all of the other social media platforms. There are just so many aspects to it.

  6. MM Jaye on August 26, 2014 at 10:14 am

    That indeed is an excellent guide which I’ve shared! I write romance, and I really believe that GR can help a romance writer network and connect with book bloggers and readers. The trick is: start early. I’m a working mother and have very little time to spend on social media. But I’m an avid reviewer, and I’ve been posting reviews on Goodreads for about a year, yet I’m not published. All the groups I’ve joined, all the discussions I’ve participated in are from the point of view of a reader. No hawking of my wares because, simply, I don’t have any 🙂 But when I publish my first novel in November (fingers crossed) I’ll be able to poke some mega bloggers on GR with whom I’ve connected and talked and maybe get them to review. I also take my own reviews really seriously. I try to make them readable and fun. They’re “branding” my writing skills, right? So I have clocked many hours on GR in the past year, but these are only groundwork. Will the basis be solid enough to support me as an author? Time will tell…

    • Naomi Blackburn on August 26, 2014 at 11:34 am

      For The Author CEO, I am in the process of writing a post that you might find of interest. It is on Navigating Book Blogger Databases which will help you to get those all important book reviews.

  7. Kathleen Valentine on August 26, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I always loved Goodreads but then my life got crazy and I just didn’t have time to spend there. I am hoping–now that I’ve given up one of my “jobs” that it will create more time for interacting with people there. I still try to keep track of the books I’m reading there but I haven’t done a book give-away in ages. Sigh.

    • Naomi Blackburn on August 29, 2014 at 4:58 am

      You were one of the masters that I was talking about, Kathleen. You know how to interact within the groups. If you remember, I didn’t even know that you were an author when you first joined STB. As a result, the members developed a loyalty to you first as part of the group, which then carried over to your books.

  8. […] Learn about Goodreads here […]

  9. Heather Day Gilbert on September 8, 2014 at 5:50 am

    One thing I would add: there are groups that are built around allowing authors to share freebies/deals, etc. I find those somewhat helpful in getting the word out when those occasions come up with my books. But one of the best tools is the Goodreads giveaway, just for reaching sheer numbers of viewers. Another great tool is Listopia. I love going on there and listing books I loved in the appropriate categories…it gives those books/authors a boost and helps readers find them more quickly. Almost like a library classification system. 🙂 Thanks for the interesting post and the reminder I need to spend some more time on GR.

    • Rachel Thompson on September 8, 2014 at 11:13 am

      Thanks for reading and sharing your insights, Heather. Listopia — I always forget about them! Great suggestion.

    • Naomi Blackburn on September 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      Awesome ideas, Heather.

      Just be careful with Listopia. I always recommend to authors never to place their own books on the list. By all means, if there are indies books that you love though…place away!

      • Heather Day Gilbert on September 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

        Thanks, Naomi–I actually do place my books on some lists, but not the “Best of” ones…just more like categories such as “Appalachian fiction.” I really feel it helps readers find authors in a sea of books. But I know we all have different takes on these things! What’s spam to one author is marketing to another. I think we just have to know where we draw our own lines as far as what image we are trying to reflect.

  10. Jan on September 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Great blog! About the only thing I’ve done on Goodreads is give away books – which has resulted in a couple of non-biased reviews. However I agree with other writers who have complained about the trolls. Nothing worse than a reader who fancies himself a literary critic! Maybe I’ll have to try harder! jan

  11. Peter St john on September 30, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Thank you for this, Naomi, I’d very much like to participate more, and your wise words are an encouragement. My difficulty is that my reading is infrequent and slow, because of many other commitments. Also the thought of commenting on the work of other writers is intimidating, I understand something of what is means to write at all, let alone well, and therefore hesitate before saying anything, unless it be high praise.

  12. d scott meek on November 19, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Great article. One thing I struggle with is the interaction part. Twitter seems entirely too big; Facebook, as you wrote, is too busy with everything else, so where do I start? Goodreads, which I very heavily underutilize seems the right place. I admit that I don’t have a ton of time to connect, to have conversations, to interact. I have a full-time job, then I’m writing, always writing, so when do I do the things that you and Rachel talk about? I’m learning, and I appreciate all the good ideas, advice and suggestions – figuring it out slowly.


  13. […] Please leave your ideas in comments below!!  8) Great topics! Upcoming, we have Naomi Blackburn, Goodreads librarian, expert, reviewer, occasional guest blogger here for me, and founder of the […]

  14. […] She explains exactly how you should go about finding friends – and what you really shouldn’t do. It’s well worth checking out. […]

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