Readers and authors have come together since 2007 thanks to the largest online book club, Goodreads. Book recommendations based on readers’ preferences or from friends encourage continued reading and exploration of books they otherwise would not have discovered. Authors have come into the lives of their readers, thanks to Q&As, giveaways and the accessibility of their profiles.

Since 2010, I’ve been part of this community, and it has always been my favorite place online. Last fall, thanks to the tremendous opportunity of having a story published in The Crux Anthology, I became a Goodreads Author. I’m not ashamed to admit, I cried. For years I eyed that title with a little jealousy and a whole lot of longing.

What surprised me was how easy it was to set up my profile and immediately connect with readers. And, that’s part of what I want to share with you here. Now, while this is geared primarily toward my writer friends, I hope my reader friends will keep reading. You will learn a few behind-the-scenes details for the author’s side of things; plus, you may just discover new tricks to interacting with some of your favorite authors … even the big-name ones!

Set up an author profile.

I agree that this sounds simple, perhaps too simple. Unfortunately, you have no idea how many times I’ve searched for books or authors only to discover that, while their book may appear on Goodreads, the author is MIA. As is information about the book. With billions of books to choose from, why on earth would a reader pick a book if they can’t even tell what it’s about or see the cover? (Seriously, as of this post, Goodreads alone showcases 2.5 BILLION books … yes, with a B.)

In a recent post, I urged my fellow Indie Authors to be professional, but the same message goes for all authors. More often, publishers are leaving most of the marketing and even simple setups (such as Goodreads profiles) totally up to their authors. This is one easy way to present yourself as a true professional.

Goodreads makes this incredibly simple for us. Once you have set up your book information, including the ISBN and all that good stuff, you can easily claim your book and set in motion the process of becoming a Goodreads Author. It takes no time at all! When I did it, I really did it on a bit of a whim. For whatever reason, I didn’t think they’d really consider me a “real” author yet. After all, my name was one of sixteen on the anthology. But, sure enough, instead of the too-bad-so-sad-try-another-time response I expected; I pretty quickly got a “Welcome to the Goodreads Authors program” one!

Set it up all the way!

Don’t stop with claiming your books as your own. Make sure your author profile includes your photo, all of your books, your biography and links to all the important places. You can even link your blog to your profile with minimal effort. I remember it being only one click because I figured I must have missed something; it couldn’t be that simple. Imagine my surprise on the next blog day. There was that day’s post right on my profile!

This is the part that, I’ll be honest, I don’t understand. And, yes, I’m about to sound snarky. I’ve seen too many authors miss out on so much good because they fail to do these things. Can we be totally honest? Starting a business of any kind is incredibly expensive, time-consuming and frustrating, right? Becoming an author is starting a business, my friend. It’s hard; we put out way more than we bring in (and may bring in for quite a while). Goodreads is a well-established program built for READERS … you know, our target audience … and we can put up a profile with links to EVERYTHING with all the details about all of our books … for FREE!! In case you missed that last word, it was FREE, as in the ONLY thing you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to set up properly. And, it’s one of the very few things—perhaps the only thing—that immediately gets in front of the attention of readers.

And, we’re not talking a few readers. As of this posting, Goodreads boasts 85 MILLION members! Do I have your attention yet?

Now, before you fret that you can’t figure out how to update your profile or set everything up, here’s a screenshot from the welcome email I received from them. Those links walk you through, step by step.

Don’t set it and forget it.

Like all social media, you must interact. I’ve got some specific suggestions here, but first I want to go over who all is going to see your new-and-improved profile. We’ve covered our wonderful readers, but there are also librarians, bookstore owners, agents, publishers, book bloggers, book reviewers and other writers on there. Those first several friends I mentioned could alter the course of your literary future. That last group, fellow writers, can be some of your greatest allies.

Share your URL.

The internet doesn’t magically make you internationally famous, of course; at least not for good, solid writers who just want to reach great readers with worthy stories. You need to let people know you’re there. Share your profile with followers on other social media outlets, in your email newsletter and on your website.

Become part of the community.

Follow other authors, friend fellow readers, post reviews, like others’ reviews or posts, recommend books, participate in the annual Reading Challenge and cheer on other participants. Join groups that interest you and be an active part of them.

As a Goodreads Author, you can also answer questions on your profile. This is something I hope to do more soon. This makes you approachable and gives readers more insight into who you are, not just as a writer, but as a person.

Readers, you really can ask many of your favorite authors questions … and get them answered! Plus, you get to see what they’re reading. Yes, authors read books, and they even swoon over their favorite authors! It’s really quite funny.

Get help from others on Goodreads.

Through those groups, you can find help with anything from book titles and covers to beta readers to genre-specific concerns. You may also get more reviews on Goodreads than you do on sites such as Amazon, and we all know reviews are better than gold for the emerging author.

Do market research.

When I wrote my business plan a few months ago and found myself stumped by all the market research and target audience questions I needed to answer, I went to Goodreads. I searched for authors who write similar books to mine and found some I hadn’t considered. Then, I started reading the reviews those books got and began to fill in the outline of who my ideal readers are.

As a little sidebar, reading those reviews taught me much more, too. I found that what one reader may love about a book will be the same thing that other readers hate. I also realized just how many thoughtless, unhelpful book reviews there can be. That spurred me on to write my series on KINND Book Reviews, to revitalize the way I write my own reviews and to develop a template for how to write them that I could share with other readers.

Do even more targeted advertising.

Through your author dashboard, you can manage giveaways and set up advertising that you can be confident will go directly to your ideal readers. Now, I want to point out two things at this point: 1. You do realize we passed the 1200-word mark in this post before we got to anything that requires money out of your pocket, right? 2. I have not tried this type of advertising yet, so I cannot give you any pros/cons. In my consideration, though, this seems like a great option. I’ll be sure to update this once I do, though. If you’ve used these methods, share your wisdom in the comments!

I’d love to hear from all of you who are on Goodreads as readers, authors or both! What do you like about the community there? Did you learn anything in this post you didn’t know? Do you have any extra tips to share with us?

Authors, do you have a Goodreads Author profile? Share your link in the comments below!

Readers, have you ever interacted with favorite authors on Goodreads? Was it a giveaway or Q&A or something else?

If you’re not on Goodreads yet, today’s a great day to sign up! Give me a follow while you’re there and ask me a question. I’d love to chat!