The lure of ebook bestsellerdom—that’s a word, right?—has sparked a writing renaissance that’s opened the potential for independent authors to make a good living (or supplement a day job salary) with their words. The cost of listing ebooks on sites like Amazon is virtually nothing, authors get to keep a far bigger share of the sales revenue than they would with traditionally published books, and the cost of delivering an ebook to customers is practically zero.
However, without considerable effort in marketing your book, sales are likely to hover around zero as well. Cover design and ebook promotion sites are both vital ways of driving traffic to your ebook’s sales page on Amazon (or any other online retailer). But if the customer staring at your ebook’s sales page has never heard of you or your ebook before, the most important thing in persuading them to purchase it will be reviews.
Most ebook authors know how important reviews are, so at a minimum they’ll rope in a handful of family and friends to give glowing five star reviews of their book. Customers know the game just as well as authors do, so many would-be customers will be wary of books with a handful of glowing reviews. To really make your ebook a success, quantity of reviews is just as important as the quality of reviews.
Your book + Readers = Reviews
So how can you generate vast numbers of reviews for your ebook? There is one website that can help you massively, and best of all, you can use it without spending anything: Goodreads.
Goodreads is a social network for book lovers. It aims to provide a page listing the details of every book in publication, in the same way as IMDB lists details of every movie ever made. Users can then use the site to rate and review books they’ve read, and also to discover new ones.
Getting started mining Goodreads for reviews
The first step to using Goodreads to generate book reviews is to make sure your book is actually listed on the site. Although Goodreads usually crawls through the listings at Amazon and its competitors, you can speed up the process of getting your book listed by adding it yourself.
To do this, you first need to sign up for a regular Goodreads account. Then, follow links that appear at the book of every page promoting the Goodreads author program.
Once you’ve got yourself an author account on Goodreads and you’ve set up a page for your ebook, the next step is to get people to review it. There are two ways of doing this, with each having unique advantages and disadvantages.
To generate as many reviews as possible for your new ebook, you might want to use both methods.
Mining Goodreads for reviews: Method 1
The first method is listing a giveaway. This allows you to run a competition to giveaway free copies of your books to Goodreads members. The only cost to you is the cost of sending one copy of your book to the winner.
If you have a large marketing budget, you can giveaway more copies. The important thing to remember is that only physical copies can be given away in this manner—no ebooks! So if your title is being released as an ebook only, this option is obviously not for you.
Your Goodreads giveaway can act as a promotional tool for your new book, with anyone who browses the giveaways section on Goodreads being exposed to it. Goodreads gives you access to the usernames of everyone who has entered the competition to win your book, which provides you with the perfect opportunity to generate reviews.
As these Goodreads users have already shown an interest in your book, they’ll probably be very receptive if you send them a message offering them a free copy in exchange for an honest review. And if keeping costs down is a priority, make sure you offer them an ebook, rather than a physical copy.
Mining Goodreads for reviews: Method 2
The second method for generating reviews through Goodreads is to find similar titles to your own and message users who’ve positively reviewed those books, offering them a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This is a great way of reaching people who’ve never heard of your book before.
If you plan on releasing more ebooks in the future, many of the people you contact now could turn into customers for your next title. Many users will post their reviews to both Goodreads and Amazon without prompting. But you can also send a message to users thanking them for reviewing your book on Goodreads and gentling nudging them towards cross-posting on Amazon if they don’t.
Wrap-up and resources
Goodreads is an incredibly powerful tool for anyone looking to generate reviews for their ebook. It should be an essential step in a working author’s marketing process. The only cost in using Goodreads to generate reviews for your ebook is time.
Here are a few helpful links at Goodreads to get you started:
- Goodreads Author Program—Use Goodreads to Promote Yourself and Your Books: https://www.goodreads.com/author/program
- How To Use the Author Program: https://www.goodreads.com/author/how_to
- Guidelines for Authors: https://www.goodreads.com/author/guidelines
- Goodreads Tips for Self-promotion, Sales, and Advertising Forum: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/8255-tips-for-self-promotion-sales-and-advertising
- Self-serve Book Advertising: https://www.goodreads.com/advertisers