How to Connect with Readers on Goodreads by @nblackburn01

Goodreads, The Author CEO, BadRedheadMedia

Author John Hancock asked “How do I connect with readers who would be interested in my books? I can locate authors who are, but every time I find a fan group site or whatever, they have rules about promoting your own work. It feels a bit like a catch 22.”

This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get on The Author CEO. Marketing your books can be really intimidating. However, to connect with those who are most likely to purchase your product, marketing is a critical element of any book’s business development plan.

There are numerous social media sites that an author should be on, but I am going to focus on Goodreads here because it has the deepest concentration of pure readers.

When I think of Goodreads, I am reminded of an episode of The Big Bang Theory. When a new game comes out, Stuart gives slight “encouragement” to Raj, Leonard, and Howard to cave into the whim of buying the new game. They each get incredibly excited and purchase the game without thinking. Stuart says under his breath, as he is walking away to ring up the sales, that it is like shooting nerds in a barrel.

That is how I feel about Goodreads and, to some extent, sites like it.

Goodreads is the only site composed of nothing but readers. Readers join to find out about new books, to feed an addiction (as I do), and to discuss books with like-minded readers.

A word of caution: There are rules for authors to follow to make sure that when they market their books on Goodreads they don’t come off as a spammer. Trust me, as a Goodreads Top 1% reviewer and founder/moderator of the group Sisterhood of the Traveling Book, spamming is a very quick way to get the boot.

When I think of best practices when it comes to authors and Goodreads, the first author I think of is Bette Lee Crosby. I have so much respect and awe for how she navigates Goodreads. Bette knows how to make Goodreads work for her and not get involved in the cesspool that it can sometimes be.

So, let’s look deeper at how you can develop relationships with readers on Goodreads.



  • When a giveaway of your book is hosted on Goodreads, are you doing a deep analysis of those who sign up for it? Bette takes a thorough look at each person who enters. Part of this process includes looking at his/her bookshelf. Is this a person who just enters the giveaway for the heck of it? Do they have numerous books in the genre Bette writes in?
  • If so, Bette will send a friend request. If the majority of the books are within her genre, Bette will follow up with a nice little note and start dialogue with the Goodreads member. With a limit of 5,000, Bette says that it is important to treat your Goodreads friends like gold versus throwing a net out and hoping that friends will read your book or attend your events.



  • Find groups that are similar to the genre you write in.
  • When you join the group, find the rules for authors. For example, Sisterhood of the Traveling Book has very explicit rules about new authors who join us spamming their book. We are VERY protective and supportive of our author members. So, any author who comes in and simply posts about their book is removed from the group. We have developed a list of FAQs for authors to refer to.
  • If you don’t see rules for authors, don’t assume they don’t exist. If you have questions about what is allowed reach out to the moderators to ask about posting about your book.
  • Interact within the group. I will again refer to Bette’s best practice. Bette is a Sisterhood of the Traveling Book author member. She interacts regularly with members of our group. When it came time for her to start her street team, she already had several members ready to join. She is also guaranteed a handful of reviewers who are die-hard fans of her work. I can’t tell you how many authors we have come into STB and then do nothing with it. What is the point of being on Goodreads if you aren’t going to work that sales pipeline?
  • Join a nice mix of large groups and small groups. I like to say that the small groups help authors cut their teeth on interacting within the larger groups. The main large group that I refer authors to is Rick Freidman’s The James Mason Community Book Club. With over 7,100 members, Rick rocks it with working with authors to get their books out to the readers they need.



When you’ve developed your Friends List, events follow naturally. Again, I refer to Bette Lee Crosby.

  • Bette sends out an announcement of her upcoming book and giveaways associated with it.
  • Develop events with authors in the same genre. This helps to expand your readership and find potential readers who are friends with the other authors in the event.

The common thread in all of this advice is networking. A critical element is having bloggers, reviewers, and readers view you as a professional. As I frequently preach, don’t throw sand in the sandbox. Remember that there are numerous authors, moderators, and reviewers who want to help you reach potential readers, but being professional and appreciative are critical to maintaining this collaborative environment. Nothing is worse than busting a hump to help an author, then being treated like garbage not only as a thank you, but also a screw you.

What have you done to build a readership on Goodreads?


photo courtesy of Unsplash


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  3. Lev Raphael on November 22, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Is it possible for Bette Lee Crosby to give us an estimate of how much time she’s spent investing in Goodreads and a sense of how it’s paid off for her?

    • Naomi Blackburn on November 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      I have asked Bette to stop by and answer your question. Like any investment, time in the beginning is going to be long, but once you go into management role, it becomes remarkably less. The main thing is to stay focused on the groups that you chose, choosing friends wisely and staying above the Goodreads garbage.


    • Bette Lee Crosby on November 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      Answering Lev Raphael: Goodreads is a unique Social Media – unlike twitter or Facebook it is not tweet, post and run situation. You cannot measure the time spent as ROI, it is a process of making friends that truly are friends, people who enjoy reading the type of books you write. You can grab a list and go down it click, click, click and send out 25 new friend requests every day in less than 20 minutes. OR you can research discussion groups, get to know people, invite those who enjoy you type of books to read them. And when they do, you take time to thank them, suggest another book, etc.- If you spend that same 20 minutes and only talk to one or two people you can quite possibly meet a reader who will praise your books to the high heavens. Goodreads is not a game of numbers, it is a place to build relationships with readers.

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