Friday, October 14, 2011

From Goodreads to Goodbuys?

by J. Lea Lopez

So, you've taken the plunge and self-published your book. Or maybe you've done it the traditional way. You have eBooks available through the usual outlets. You've done your homework and you have a blog or website, a decent Twitter following, maybe a Facebook page, and your marketing efforts seem to be paying off. Still, every author is eager to take advantage of different ways to get their book in front of new readers.

Have you looked at Goodreads lately?

You may be familiar with Goodreads as a place where readers can place books on their virtual shelves (want to read, read, hated it, loved it, and any other colorful description you can think of) post reviews, recommend books to friends, and more. Authors can create a presence on Goodreads as well. Now authors can take one more step: They can sell their eBooks directly through Goodreads.

At first glance, it may seem like this is just another venue to add to all the others for selling your book, but let's look a little deeper. Amazon is the big name that comes to mind for eBooks, but I think we can all agree the searchability kinda sucks. Especially if you're looking to discover something new, as opposed to searching for the latest from your favorite bestseller. I can't remember the last time I stumbled upon a brilliant new author by searching through the thousands of books on Amazon. And with the uproar over fake reviews earlier this year, I am a bit more skeptical when browsing there.

For indie and self-published authors, Smashwords is a major outlet, since they convert and distribute to a wide variety of online retailers. Like Amazon, searching Smashwords to discover something new and brilliant is no easy task. I've also heard from many indie authors recently that they consider Smashwords to be more of a writer's site than a reader's site - that is, it is more well-known among writers, and sales there may be made up largely of other writers.

On top of all this, Smashwords founder Mark Coker recently discussed the results of a survey he conducted on Mobileread. He asked readers to select their most common method for selecting eBooks. The most popular answer was "Recommendations from fellow readers on online message forums, blogs and message boards." This is where we come back to Goodreads.

Goodreads is huge. HUGE. They have "more than 5,700,000 members who have added more than 180,000,000 books to their shelves." I have often looked at my friends' shelves to see what we have in common as well as to peruse the books they've read and liked that I haven't read. And I find that much more enjoyable than clicking through the mess of search results on Amazon. Imagine this scenario:

A reader checks out her friend's Goodreads shelves and sees that someone recently read and reviewed two books, one of which is yours. Her friend had given four stars and positive reviews to both books. Perhaps there are some good reviews from other readers on each book's page as well. The reader thinks, "Hey, next time I'm on Amazon, I'll look up these authors and maybe buy one. But wait... I can buy this book [your book!] right here on Goodreads, right now. Well, my friend really liked it. What the heck, I'll go for it."

BOOM. Discovery. Purchase. Royalties for you. Instead of waiting for whenever the reader decides to click over to Amazon and hoping she'll remember your name or your book's title, offering your eBook for sale right on Goodreads lets you maximize the influence of many consumers' preferred method of finding eBooks. It's a convenience for readers, but it's also a potential advantage for you. Authors themselves must opt-in and upload their eBook for sale on Goodreads. Considering that there are only slightly more than 28,000 authors currently on Goodreads, if it comes down to your book vs. another author's book, there's a good chance that the other book may not be available to buy on Goodreads. Who knows, you may even win out over a NYT bestseller, or your favorite author.

All in all, it seems like offering your book on Goodreads is a good idea. You probably won't see a huge amount of sales, but they may be sales that you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Here are a few other facts about this program:
  • The eBooks for sale on Goodreads are offered in epub format, which works with most eReaders
  • The author uploads the file and sets the price
  • Sales are split 70/30 (which is the same split you'll get on Amazon for books priced $2.99 or more)
  • Your profits are banked until you reach a specified amount, then you are paid (I've heard both $25 and $50 for this figure, but I'm not sure which is accurate. If you know, let us know in the comments!)
Inquiring minds want to know: As a reader, do recommendations from sites like Goodreads factor into your purchasing decisions, and would you then purchase a book if it was available on Goodreads? As a writer, have you or would you offer your book for sale on Goodreads?


Catana/Sylvie Mac said...

I just recently became aware that it's possible to sell your books on Goodreads, and I haven't explored that yet. I'm not sure it would be a great idea for me right now, with just two books, neither in a popular genre. A $25.00 payout might require a very long wait. I'm on Smashwords and Pubit, and haven't even tackled Kindle yet, which might be a better use of my time. But as my presence grows on GR, it will definitely be worth considering

Like you, I check my friends' current reading to see if there's something I might be interested in. I also use the reviews in conjunction with reviews at other locations, if available, and with samples. I've found that in some categories, GR reviews and ratings have very little to do with the actual quality of the books, so I take them with a grain of salt. If a book I want to buy is available on GR, I'd definitely buy it there in preference to Amazon. ePub all the way, thank you.

Jemi Fraser said...

I didn't know about this option either. I've definitely bought books based on recommendations from friends. Buying them on Goodreads sounds like a good idea.

Simon Stone said...

Thanks for the reminder, it was on my To-Do list but I missed it... as an aside, I'm on Goodreads, Shelfari and Library Thing. I've heard Library Thing was the largest (although that may no longer be the case), and the visuals of Shelfari are excellent, but none of them seem to compare to Goodreads in flexibility, ease of use, and the quality of the groups and options available.

Michelle said...

I love Goodreads .. and often refer to myself as a bookshelf stalker ... I love checking out what my friends have on their shelves.
I had never notice the selling power of goodreads - thank you for posting this.

J. Lea Lopez said...

@Sylvie - You said, "I've found that in some categories, GR reviews and ratings have very little to do with the actual quality of the books..." I'd love to hear more about that! Which categories? What are the reviews about?

@Jemi - I think I might buy an ebook on Goodreads if it was something I was interested in and that my friends with similar taste had read and liked as well.

@Simon, the number of users/books came from the GR website, and they say they're the "largest social book discovery and recommendation site for readers" but I don't know the numbers outside of that. I'm not on Library Thing or Shelfari, but I have seen the Shelfari shelves and those visuals are pretty stellar!

@Michelle - Goodreads is great for stalking shelves! :-) The selling feature is relatively new (less than a year old, I believe) and it doesn't seem like they have any plans to make it a huge aspect of the site. But it's a nice convenience!

Julie Musil said...

I don't have a Goodreads account, but I've heard of books that aren't even released yet getting five star reviews. That makes me suspicious, and less likely to believe it. But I do respect the opinions of people I know and like, and I know that eventually I'll open a Goodreads account and jump in feet first!