06 May 2015

Authors, Are You Missing Out on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari?

Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari
If you thought that writing your book was the “hard part” of creating a successful book, you haven’t really gotten involved with the process of promoting your book. In working with a wide variety of authors in both our traditional publishing and freelance efforts, one of the pervasive thoughts is that a good book will sell itself. While there is an element of truth in that statement, let’s put a little perspective on that statement. There are millions of books listed on Amazon. This estimation is not in the figurative language of Doctor Evil but is based on sales ranking data on Amazon. In looking up a book to check an author’s reference last week, I noticed that this particular text was ranked somewhere in the 2.8 millionth in Amazon’s sales rankings. With 2.8 million books selling better than this text, it’s not a stretch to make the statement there are millions of books on Amazon.

Armed with this knowledge, simply writing a good book with an attractive cover will not assure you successful sales. Aside from hiring a marketing firm that will promote your book, you have to get involved with the process of promotions. One of the easiest, and free, ways to help your book’s coverage is by making use of opportunities at Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari. If you’re not familiar with these sites, think of them as a Facebook type community for books. Each site is a social network that allows readers to catalog their books, comment on books they’re reading, and engage in group discussions on books or book topics. Each of the three sites also features author pages that will give writers different tools for promoting their works. The biggest selling point for getting involved with these sites is that your efforts are targeted at folks that love books. Unlike posting something on Facebook or Twitter, when you interact with the communities on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari you know you’re dealing with people that are passionate about reading.

While Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari are all different in their approach to handling author accounts, any author would be well-served by claiming and working their author page. Before getting hog wild with the author account features of these sites, take a long look at their individual terms of service (TOS). You can easily get your account suspended for a violation of these site’s TOS. For example, LibraryThing doesn’t allow authors to review their own work. While this seems like a no-brainer, a rookie mistake like that can get you booted from a site.

Without going too deep into the particulars of the three sites, there are some simple steps that will help your book’s visibility on any of these sites.

1.Book data. When Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari creates a book page, that page is based on listings from Amazon and other online booksellers. A page for any book will generally only have a wireframe listing with the book’s title, description, and cover. However, each of these sites allows users to post extra data about any given book. For example both LibraryThing and Shelfari have data fields for a book’s settings, characters or important persons, and organizations mentioned in the book. If you’re a nonfiction writer, people searching for a historical figure might overlook your book if you don’t take the time to fill in this data. On the fictional end of the pool, some readers like to check out books based in their hometown or favorite vacation spot. If your book’s setting isn’t mentioned in the description, someone living in Chicago looking for Chicago-based books won’t have a chance at finding your book. You get the idea. Since the major function of Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari is that of a book database, the more information that’s in the database will increase your chances of readers finding your book.

2. Author data. Readers like to know that authors are, for lack of a better term, real. An author’s bio can intrigue a potential reader just as much as a book description. I’m not suggesting creating an exciting or false narrative about yourself to attract readers. Just be sure to mention accurate items in your bio and author data that will create a connection between you and a potential reader. What college did you attend? Are you involved in any organizations or causes? Even listing your hometown might forge a connection with a reader. Just like a book’s setting, there are readers that like to support local authors. These readers aren’t going to know you live across town if you don’t fill in the data.

3. Being social. To get the maximum benefit from being part of the Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari communities, be social. List your book catalog and being part of the community. Just like any social media platform, the more you openly and honestly engage the members of the community the more the community members will engage with you. Readers, and these sites for that matter, hate spammers so don’t be a creepy “you need to buy my book” author on any of these sites. Just get involved with topics that interest you and the rest will come. If it’s relevant to the discussion, mention your work. If you’re channeling a thread’s conversation for an opportunity to mention your book, you’re a creepy spammy kind of author that will be shunned. So check out each of these sites’ TOS for guidance on what you can and cannot do while being a part of their community.
4. Link to these sites. One of the features of Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari is listing a book in your catalog that you want to read. You can make use of this feature by placing links on your website or blog to each of these site’s page for your book. Let’s say Larry visits your website and thinks your book looks interesting. Chances are that if Larry doesn’t purchase your book right then and there, Larry will forget about your book. Having links to your book’s page on these three sites will give the Larrys of the world a way to remember your book. Other users that are friends with Larry will also be able to see that he would like to read you book and just might check out your book’s page.

Also keep in mind that many publishers do not have access to some of the features afforded to authors on these sites. So if you’re expecting your publisher’s marketing department to magically take care of your author account, you’re probably missing out.

So get out there and be social. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn from interacting with readers and fellow authors on these sites. Just like going to a party, just be yourself and someone will ask you to dance...

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