One of the frustrating things about learning your around the self-publishing landscape is that there’s a flood of data but no way to qualify it. Given that for every possible category of interest (print on demand publishers, community sites, promoters, and on and on) there are many, and in some cases even hundreds, or alternatives, that’s a real problem.
As a result, when I started down this path I engaged in the time honored custom of throwing mud against the proverbial wall to see what might stick. The problem is not only that this is indiscriminate and time consuming, but most of the time there’s no way to tell which mud might actually be clinging and which not, since there’s usually no way to track positive results back to the source.
Not surprisingly, GoodReads was one of the first sites I learned about and uploaded my book data to. But that was pretty much all I did before moving on to the next promotional item. Also not surprisingly, nothing to speak of happened as a result.
But as part of a new promotional effort I’ve been making, I’ve found my way back to GoodReads, and as a result of what I’ve learned in the meantime, I’m quite happy with what I’m finding. Here are some examples:
- People really do respond to promotional giveaway offers at GoodReads, despite the fact that new giveaways are being posted by the hour. Although you do have to send a physical copy of your book to those that win instead of just sending a free eBook via email, hundreds of people in fact sign up , meaning that they’ve actually become aware at some level of your book. And how often does that happen?
- When someone does, you can contact them (I send a polite “thank you” email), and some of them reply, allowing you to engage in a dialogue with them, and perhaps they’ll begin following you, something that rarely results from simply creating a Web site and hoping that someone will stumble on it. Doing so is a slow and gradual process, since to its credit, GoodReads limits you to 15 emails a day to people that you aren’t already linked to, in order to protect members from spamming by authors and others.
- You can multiply the effect of a promotional effort by posting advertising, which quickly results in thousands of impressions at no cost (you only pay for clicks) but which can still have results, such as people adding your book to their “to-read” shelves. You can target these ads by a long list of criteria, too (gender, age, genre, and so on).
- You can download widgets to install elsewhere that will lead people back to your GoodReads page, promotions and so on (like the one below).
- There is a real dashboard, where you can track the results of your efforts, including page views, clicks on ads, number of members that have added your book(s) to their shelves, and more.
- Best of all, everyone that you are your book, ads, blog entries (yes, they link through, too) is exposed to is actually looking for books to read and authors to follow. Compare that to Twitter and Facebook, where many, and probably even most people exposed to what you post, have no interest in getting reading recommendations via that vehicle. Or blogs, which often end up being read only by other book authors (nice for trading tips and emotional support, but not very effective at generating sales). In other words, every effort you make at, or through, GoodReads will actually work directly towards achieving your promotional goals.
And that’s huge. Not only because it means that the ratio of effort to result is much higher than in almost any other type of on-line effort, but because GoodReads has more than 40 million members, many of them very active. Compare that to any other community site you may have loaded your book to, or the number of followers you may have on Twitter or friends on Facebook.
I expect I’ll be writing again about GoodReads as my experience with it grows, and certainly to report on the results of my current promotion. Comments and tips below would be very welcome based on your own experience.