Ever since I’ve graduated college and had more free time, I’ve been able release the bookworm side of my personality a lot more than when I was constantly reading textbooks and lecture notes. Like most things I do, I talk about this on social media. One of my favorite “niche” social networks has become Goodreads. But like with any social network, building an active presence comes with receiving a lot of spam.
Now, let me be clear: I’m not bashing on authors self-promoting on Goodreads. I have discovered a lot of great books this way. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way. Going about promoting your book the wrong way won’t just be ineffective, it can also damage your reputation as an author and keep readers away from whatever book you’re promoting, along with any others you’ve published.
Every situation listed below either has happened to me or I have heard of/witnessed it happening. These aren’t just hypothetical. The following are a few great ways to annoy Goodreads users and assure they won’t want to read your book.
1. Message people who have reviewed books similar to the one you’re currently writing.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never contacted them before. Everyone likes “mail,” right?! Proceed to list 15 questions about what they look for in a good book, down to what they think characters should look like. When they don’t answer your message, ask them again.
Instead: Message people to build meaningful relationships with them, and offer help as much as you ask for it. You can ask if they have some time to hear your ideas. If they’re willing to help out, ask them questions specific to your story line ideas. Remember that not everyone will be interested in this. I know it may feel like rejection, but try not to take it personally. Some people don’t even check their Goodreads inboxes.
2. Friend everyone in a Goodreads group, and invite them to the “release party” for your book.
When people decline, create a duplicate event and invite them to that one. They obviously made some sort of mistake. Why wouldn’t they want to RSVP? Your book is going to be a guaranteed bestseller. They just need another invitation, so send them one. Do this until there is a thread in said group about your spammy behavior.
Instead: Once again, focus on building meaningful connections. This is true for any social media network, and really anything social in general, online or offline. Friend people you actually have discussions with in a Goodreads group. If they’ve already learned about and shown interest in your upcoming book, invite them to the online release party.
3. Do whatever seems easiest.
Instead: Join the Goodreads Author Program. It will be worth it. You’ll get a special, fancier profile, you can sync your blog to your profile or blog right there on Goodreads, gain access to an author dashboard with statistics and helpful stuff like that, and promote your books officially. Not only will you be taking the right road, but you’ll seem more legitimate in the eyes of Goodreads users.
4. Beg for 5-star ratings.
If someone has read and enjoyed books similar to yours, ask them for a 5-star rating. Don’t bother asking them to read the book first, just go straight for the kill. They don’t need to write an actual review, all that matters is that 5-star rating.
Instead: Personally, I’m not a huge fan of being told or begged to read something, but if someone is going to ask me to rate their book, they should at least suggest that I actually read it first. A book suggestion? Sure. Also, if someone pointed out that I marked a book as “read” but didn’t rate or review it, I’d probably remedy that since it was most likely a mistake in the first place. But I will never review a book I haven’t read. Fake reviews are one of the reasons people are worried about Amazon acquiring Goodreads.
5. Comment on every thread in every group.
In every comment, include a link to your book. If your comment and/or book is related to the thread, that’s great. But it’s not necessary. A link is a link, right? People will click on it and realize how badly they want to read your book!
Instead: Don’t. Almost all groups have rules about where you can self-promote within the group. Some will allow you to talk about your book as it relates to the discussion in the thread. Lots of groups have “authors areas” where you can find people to review your book, promote events related to it, etc. Save the self-promotion for there.
When does self-promotion become spamming, in your book (pun intended)? What about on other social networks? Share your pet peeves in the comments!