2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads


I really admire the folks at Goodreads, not just for their site, but also for the data they share with the industry, including tips for authors. (If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, imagine a Facebook for people who love to read books.)

The recent Goodreads author newsletter offered a number of gems helpful for any author with an upcoming release. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to archive their author newsletters online, so I’ll have to summarize what they said.

(And if the Goodreads people are reading this: Please, please, please archive your newsletters with this information. I’d be tweeting and sharing it if you did.)

1. Reviews are essential.

No surprise there, right? The same is true of Amazon. According to Goodreads, reviews on their site help your book stand out in two ways.

  • They help new readers discover your book. The more people review your book, the more visible it will be. Goodreads reviews also appear on sites like Powell’s, Google Books, and the Sony Ebook Store.
  • They help readers take a chance on an unknown book. Goodreads says, “Books with no written reviews are added, on average, by 7 people, while books with just five written reviews are added by more than 40 people.”

 2. Giveaways are a powerful promotional tool.

According to Goodreads, here are the top techniques behind successful advance giveaways.

  • Give away as many copies as possible. This goes straight back to Point No. 1. Goodreads says, “If your goal is to get reviews, it makes sense to give away a lot of books. Nearly 60 percent of giveaway winners review the books they win, so the more books you offer, the more reviews you are likely to get.”
  • Run your giveaway for two weeks to a month. Goodreads says, “Giveaways less than two weeks run the risk of not getting enough entries, while a four-week giveaway will generate more entries. We recommend that you offer giveaways for one month.”
  • You can run a second giveaway. Goodreads says, “We recommend two giveaways: one about three months before publication to build prerelease buzz and reviews, and a second to increase awareness when your book hits stores. Both will result in a lot of people adding your book to their to-read shelves.”

Goodreads also mentioned that when Diana Gabaldon used their “giveaway widget” for a recent giveaway, it attracted more than 5,000 entries. Plus interest in her other titles spiked at the same time. Goodreads also encourages the use of ads to spike giveaway entries. (Giveaways with ads get more than 50% than average response.)

Keep in mind—what’s true on Goodreads is probably true for campaigns you might be running on your own site. But if you’re not already active on Goodreads, you should give it a shot. (Go visit my author page to get started and get a feel for what it’s like.)

Do you use Goodreads? Have you used it for author marketing and promotion? If so, I hope you’ll leave a comment about your experience.


Posted in Marketing & Promotion and tagged , , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Jim Hamlett

I recently joined Goodreads author program. Should have done it ages ago. I can already see the benefits. 

Wholeheartedly agree with you that Goodreads should archive their author newsletter. The first one I got cited the info you referenced, and I’d love to read some back issues for additional help.

As always, Jane, you deliver. Many thanks. 

Jim H.
Author of Moe — “…woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Eccl. 4:10

Jim Hamlett

Roger that!

Donna Galanti

Excellent tips…as my book releases next month and looking into a giveaway and how to navigate GoodReads better!

Lisa Rivero

This post came at a good time for me. I hosted a Goodreads giveaway for a children’s historical fiction book I self-published late last summer. Over 300 people requested it, more than I had expected, which helped a lot with getting the initial word out and getting some reviews.  You have nudged me to do a second give-away for Black history month (the book features Oscar Micheaux), which I just listed now and am waiting for approval. I want to follow it up with a discussion of some kind.What I need to do, too, is simply immerse myself more on… Read more »

Ross Lampert

Jane, I was a Goodreads subscriber for a while but I found it to be somewhat like your/Porter Anderson’s (former?) Writing  on the Ether column: too much information to digest easily, and too much that I wasn’t interested in. Any suggestions on how to use Goodreads more effectively?

D.B. Smyth

Thanks Ross (for asking) and Jane (for the answer). Hadn’t thought of focusing on those I admire. *head slam* Thanks for the tip!


I just finished my first Goodreads giveaway for a literary mid-grade novel. I had about five hundred people enter for a chance to win two copies and am pleased with the number of new readers who have added my title to their list.


I love Goodreads. It is a great way to find other like-minded readers. If I see a review that I love, I’ll stalk their books and reviews. Goodreads is a game-changer for me as a reader!

Clodia Metelli

Another suggestion I would add is to join groups on Goodreads appropriate to the genre you write for and introduce yourself. 

You can then add your books to their shelf and do a little self-promotion if the group allows it, but without overdoing it or spamming. Be visible on the site as a reader, commenter and reviewer as well as writer. It’s a friendly place! The only problem with Giveaways is that you can’t do them if your book is only epublished.

Mystic Wyngarden

I just joined Goodreads today, and so far I love it from a reader’s point of view.  Hopefully, I’ll soon see it from a writer’s point of view as well. Thanks for your blog.

~Mystic Wyngarden


Ooops my comment got lost in cyberspace. Repeat — thank you for posting this, it’s so helpful. BL, at http://barbaralambert.com/

Sharla Lovelace

I have an author page on Goodreads and plan to do all this…if I could get past not knowing what I’m doing.  LOL.  My debut novel comes out Apr 3 in paperback, and right now I don’t have a great e-version, I only have page proofs, which are .pdf and hard to read for a reviewer.  I think in March there will be better review copies, (I’m not getting ARCs) but to me that’s cutting it close.  So I’m not sure how to handle the “giveaway” portion of this issue.  Any advice?

Ernie Zelinski

I have self-published several books and have had others published by major publishers. Although Goodreads may work for some authors, there are many more effective ways to market books.  Generally speaking, when you are doing what a lot of other people are doing, this is not a great way to market books. Also, my bet is that people who are attracted to giveaways or free stuff are not the biggest book buyers. I am not against giving away books given that I have now given away over 13,000 copies of my books (at a cost of over $40,000 to me).… Read more »

Aardwolfe Books

Goodreads is a Godsend but Goodreads need to expand their giveaways to include ebooks, since these can now be “gifted” from Amazon (Kindle books) and Barnes & Noble (Nook books).  We’re a small publisher and have moved almost exclusively to ebooks because of the high costs of paper books (distrbutor fees and returns (in almost any condition at any time), storage costs, postage, etc – you get the idea).

Aardwolfe Books

P.S.  We offer an ebook review service for authors.  We started the service because we found traditional book review avenues were geared for print books only.


I joined Goodreads about 6 months ago on the advice of my Mum who is always a font of good advice.  I’m glad I heeded her.  I have had positive exposure, it has driven traffic through to my website and blogs; the giveaways have generated a lot of interest and I have had great reviews from previous winners.  I also find that my books rank highly on a google search through Goodreads.  I also continuously run a giveaway for my titles.

I have only good thing to say about it and highly recommend for authors.


I’ve run several Goodreads giveaways, and I hate to quibble with the GR folks (they are awesome), but I’ve had a different experience with giveaways – I’ve found that I get the most TBR adds during the beginning and end of the giveaways (when it’s listed on the “just listed” and “ending soon” lists) and (of course) when it gets up on the “most requested” list. I think their strategy of running it for a month (to get higher on the most requested list) is sound for books that are slower to attract entries, but I think it depends a… Read more »

E. Milan

I just signed up, learned about GoodReads last night. I’m excited about seeing not only how it can help me with promotions but also how it can improve my experiences as a reader.

Kristi Bernard

I agree 100%. I am a reviewer and promoter and this does work. I love GoodReads.

Ava Jae

I do use Goodreads, though I don’t have anything to market or promote, so I use it to find new books to read and manage my TBR list. You have some really fantastic tips here, however, so when I do have something to give away, I’ll definitely be referring back to this post. 

Thanks for sharing this! 

[…] From Jane Friedman: 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads. […]


[…] I stumbled on a link to Jane Friedman’s 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads. Someday, I hope to be able to use the tips. Until then, I’ll try to post more detailed […]

Deb Atwood

Hi Jane.

Great post. I liked it so much I linked to it myself…I’ve been writing reviews on their site, which I do think drives readers to me. Haven’t set up an author page yet, though.

Penny Zeller

Hi Jane! This is a great article. I have done giveaways in the past for my books and it worked great. However, I didn’t think about doing a second giveaway. Great advice and something I will have to try for my next book.

Have a fantastic week!

Penny Zeler

Penny Zeller

Oops! I guess it’s a Monday! My hands were typing faster than my mind was working and I just realized I spelled my name wrong, LOL! Correction:
Have a fantastic week,
Penny Zeller 🙂



I had that newsletter too. It did cross my mind that giving away a lot of copies would probably end up counter productive for midlist authors. With postage figured in, it would cost me about $15 per book. Reviews would have to make a LOT of people buy my books (at a 5% royalty I make 50c for each $10 book sold) for me to break even. E-book giveaways are a lot cheaper to handle but e-books are easy to “lose” in the email archives.  I tend to file emailed books in “read when time” whereas a hard copy book… Read more »


I had that newsletter too. It did cross my mind that giving away a lot of copies would probably end up counter productive for midlist authors. With postage figured in, it would cost me about $15 per book. Reviews would have to make a LOT of people buy my books (at a 5% royalty I make 50c for each $10 book sold) for me to break even. E-book giveaways are a lot cheaper to handle but e-books are easy to “lose” in the email archives.  I tend to file emailed books in “read when time” whereas a hard copy book… Read more »


Thanks for the insight Jane. A few people had suggested building an author profile on GoodReads and this article has made up my mind to do so. I will definitely use it for my paperback novel coming out in december, but I am also publishing an e-book early next year (no hard copy version) and I am wondering if you have any suggestions for e-book giveaways. Or should we all just lobby goodreads to allow e-book giveaways?!

[…] Jane Friedman on Goodreads […]


[…] 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads, by Jane Friedman – “The recent Goodreads author newsletter offered a number of gems […]


[…] Friedman recently published a post offering two ways for authors to best utilize Goodreads to promote their work. While her recommendations, reviews and giveaways, weren’t new, they were […]

Terry Helwig

Hi Jane,

Thanks for the recap about Goodreads.  I have a related question.  I am a fairly new author to Goodreads (October 2011) and I wonder about accepting friend requests.  Do most authors accept friend requests from readers they don’t know?  Is there any down side to your knowledge or to the knowledge of those who are commenting on this post?  Thanks so much.

Terry Helwig, Author
Moonlight on Linoleum: A Daughter’s Memoir
Simon & Schuster, October 04, 2012

[…] Also, through the end of  Black History Month, you can enter to receive one of five free copies of Oscar’s Gift on Goodreads (and be sure to read Jane Friedman’s recent blog post on “2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads“). […]


I really enjoy Goodreads!

[…] and Goodreads. Jane Friedman talks about 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads. I’m barely getting started over there and haven’t managed to make it a regular part of […]

Jeb Harrison

I just joined Goodreads and I thought just by way of introduction that I should ask a really dumb question (it was between this and saying something really dirty, pursuant to Ernie Zelinski’s comment about taking risks below). Once my publisher gives the green light I will join the author program, but I am stuck on one minor detail. Imagine, it’s 3 months ’til publication and you want to follow the pro’s advice and run a pre-pub pre-lube giveaway on Goodreads. But…how do you give away something that does not exist? Is it an IOU? I guess a free IOU… Read more »

Lisa Fender

I was introduced to Goodreads by a friend and fellow author, but I am not the greatest at computers. I am trying to figure out how to put my new blog posts on there. Can you tell me how it’s done? Do I first need to be published before I can? Thanks!

G A H Swift Writes

In an odd incidence of synchronicity, yesterday I took Jane’s webinar on website design for authors. (I recommend it!)

I had to click on this link when it appeared in my feed.  I’m glad I did. As a debut author these marketing tips are invaluable. I know it is important not only to market broadly; it’s important to market well.


Dee Marie Borland

This is a very insightful blog and helps answer some of the questions I had about the Goodreads author program. I do have one additional question that doesn’t seem to be covered in their FAQ’s…I am anticipating releasing a (probably self published) novel relatively soon and wonder how Goodreads will help me as a smaller author gain readership. Specifically, do you get notifications whenever someone adds or reviews your book? I see that goodreads provides a graph summary but it seems that having notifications of individuals would allow me to look at the user profiles and perhaps see what other… Read more »

Dee Marie Borland

 Thanks for your reply :)! I use Goodreads as a reader and it sounds like their author version has some really neat features.

Cathryn Cade

Jane, thanks for the great advice. I am a recent Goodreads author, and want to maxmize my books’ exposure there.
Off to learn how to do a giveaway!

I have heard varying reports of paid advertising on Goodreads.  Anyone had experience of this?


I ran 2-3 campaigns, and I didn’t like the result. I believe GR puts too many steps between the ad and the actual action: the reader can simply place your book into his “to read” pile and never actually buy it. But you still pay for that click.

You can link your GR ad to your Amazon page directly, but I had seen that the GR folks are still more reluctant to buy off the bat.

Amber L Argyle

Love Goodreads! For some reason, reviewers are nastier on Goodreads than sites like Amazon etc. Not sure why. Thoughts?

Austin Briggs

To review a book on Amazon takes an effort – and as such, my theory is that you’re more likely to do it if you like the book. On GR, feedback is instant, part of the “shelving” exercise that you do anyway. For example, I believe the ability to leave the rating without the actual review contributes to the lower scores. Recently, a reader put a “1” rating on my book and placed it to the “Abandoned” shelf. That same reader didn’t review my book on Amazon. As result, my book is 4.6 out of 5 on Amazon, but only… Read more »

Cathy Marie Buchanan

Thanks, Jane.  You mention a Goodreads “giveaway widget.”  I am not able to find info about such a widget on Goodreads.  Is this available from Goodreads?  Please point me in the right direction.

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Helena Mallett

I’ve done two Goodreads Giveaways with poor results. Despite 1200 and 800 entrants respectively, it’s not brought sales – despite my book having 18 x 5 star reviews on Amazon. I find the site difficult to navigate so maybe i’m just not using it right but i’ve been disappointed so far.

Michelle Booth

Just jumping in about widgets! The Giveaway widget only becomes available when you schedule a giveaway. You can access other widgets, though, via your profile. Click on the dropdown triangle next to your little profile picture thumbnail on the top right of any Goodreads page, and select Edit Profile. From there, click on the Widgets tab. There are a few choices, all easy to tailor, then you can copy & paste the code easily onto a WordPress site if you have one (or send to your designer if you don’t!).

[…] 5. Got a new book to promote? Congratulations! Here’s a post about What Works and What Does Not on selling new books in 2013. If you have thought about promoting on Goodreads, here’s how to do it: 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads. […]

Helen Pattskyn

Hi! I did a GR giveaway for my second novel. I’m pretty sure neither of my winners read my genre (I looked at their bookshelves). I’m not even sure one of them spoke English. I’ve heard the same thing from several other authors in my genre (one had a winner politely decline the book once they won it! They were utterly appalled at the subject matter–subject matter clearly described in the blurb and just as clearly visible on the cover). I read somewhere else that the “best practice” is to give away as many books as possible. At least 10,… Read more »

[…] 5. Got a new book to promote? Congratulations! Here’s a post about What Works and What Does Not on selling new books in 2013. If you have thought about promoting on Goodreads, here’s how to do it: 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads. […]

Dennis Nappi II

Thanks for the suggestions. I am also new to Goodreads as I just published my first book: “Service, A Soldier’s Journey: Counterintelligence, Law Enforcement, and the Violence of Urban Education.” I am enjoying the process of marketing and building my various platforms and thing Goodreads is an excellent opportunity and has the potential to succeed where Facebook and Twitter cannot. I will be looking into offering some giveaways very soon – and this article was helpful in pointing me in that direction.

Jeb Harrison

Are reviewers these days as concerned about getting “the scoop” on the newest books as they used to be? One consultant told me that if my book was older than four months reviewers wouldn’t be interested in it. I’ll admit I did not do nearly enough pre-release preparation for “Hack”, my debut, distracted perhaps by the thought that my publisher would do more. My question: is it worth soliciting reviews for a book that’s now 16 months old? I got a lousy taste in my mouth after a few months with Goodreads because I was buried in communications from us… Read more »