Goodreads’ Has Untapped Promo Opportunities for Smaller Publishing Houses

Photo by Julia Collins

Though reading has not been the most fashionable in recent years (thanks social media and streaming platforms) it still captures the hearts of many. “The much-heralded death of the book at the hand of digital media has largely failed to eventuate,” (Murrary). The “diehards,” if you will, congregate on Goodreads. Goodreads is an app and website where users can track their reading progress, write and read book reviews, chat with other readers and even participate in author Q&A’s. With over 90 million registered users, and being around since 2006, Goodreads has certainly made its mark on the book world. Goodreads is the perfect application to utilize for your social strategy if you’re a publishing company.

As a reader myself, I’ve used the niche platform Goodreads for quite a few years now. The site does definitely need updating, “The website needs a visual refresh — the color palette and design feel incredibly outdated. I almost feel nostalgic when I log on because it feels like a website I might have perused in the early 2000s as a kid in computer class,” (Coelho). However, I still think it’s functional, enjoyable and useful. If I’m undecided on whether I should spend my time reading a certain book, I can always turn to Goodreads and read the honest reviews of the book to help me make my decision. For instance, I’d heard on BookTok (the book “side” of TikTok) about a novel called “Red, White and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston. Since TikTok only allows users to make short-form video content, I’d only heard very brief things about the popular book. Because I wanted to learn more, the first place I went to read about it was Goodreads. I can always trust the opinion of the readers on there to be honest.

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“The argument of this article is that the performative and individual act of writing about a book on Goodreads creates a public account of a reading experience, and one that connects readers to others,” (Driscoll). After I purchased and read “Red, White and Royal Blue,” the author’s TikTok account actually showed up on my TikTok feed promoting their new book. The algorithms, whether it be TikTok or Goodreads, are consistently there to feed you what you want.

This feature of Goodreads is absolutely essential to helping publishing houses do online promotion. For many smaller publishing houses, it can be hard to compete in a market where the big players dominate. Simon and Schuster (recently bought by Penguin Random House), Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan are by far the biggest publishing houses in the industry, and it can be difficult to compete. But Goodreads provides the perfect place for smaller publishing houses to advertise themselves. In my experience, readers don’t typically have a bias or preference towards who the books they read are published by. They just want a good read (pun intended).

There are a few main functions on Goodreads that these smaller publishing houses can take advantage of. First, there’s the “Ask the Author” section. Smaller publishing houses can set up their authors on that page so that more readers can interact with them. And the more that people become familiar with certain authors and interact with them, more customer loyalty is built. The next function on Goodreads to take advantage of is the “Events” tab. Smaller publishing houses are usually located in a certain region, so it would be advantageous for them to promote the local book-related events they do on Goodreads. Users can search for events by their area, and if they see an author is doing a book signing event close to them, they’ll be likely to go. Using all avenues possible, including Goodreads, to promote events and books for smaller publishing houses is important in staying afloat in a competitive market.

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Though Goodreads provides great opportunities for smaller publishing houses to promote themselves, there are some things to be wary of. First, don’t only use Goodreads for promotion. This is important because using many advertising avenues like TikTok, Instagram, website ads etc. is how you reach the most customers. Also, Goodreads is not a perfect niche platform. “But that’s exactly what’s wrong with Goodreads: it turns reading into an achievement. Quantifying, dissecting and broadcasting our most-loved hobbies sucks the joy out of them,” (Smith). It’s definitely a niche platform for a reason — it’s not for everybody.

Overall, Goodreads has many advantages for smaller publishing houses social strategy opportunities like “Ask the Author,” “Events” and more. Some smaller publishing houses are using the niche platform to promote, but more could be taking advantage of these free marketing opportunities.

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Bibliography

Beth Driscoll, DeNel Rehberg Sedo. “Faraway, So Close: Seeing the Intimacy in Goodreads Reviews — Beth Driscoll, DeNel Rehberg Sedo, 2019.” SAGE Journals, 26 Sept. 2018, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1077800418801375?casa_token=UUqQ32Rb-R8AAAAA%3AxxkP5bIeg9g2eYBOaUwjluob0WrA2Wwbx-A2-ojBodgEEWdjGgf8QJOgmNT39wglbNYQRU8woZzN.

Coelho, Steph. “The Current State and Future of Goodreads.” Book Riot, 7 Nov. 2019, bookriot.com/future-of-goodreads/.

Murray, Simone. “Secret Agents: Algorithmic Culture, Goodreads and Datafication of the Contemporary Book World — Simone Murray, 2019.” SAGE Journals, 5 Dec. 2019, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1367549419886026?casa_token=9tB69FAk0r4AAAAA%3AVEae8e8bV_JzrRhwGIwvmtkS4dy8q-l53iNodv8JEMAjdA56YQqHm1Tl20ukjgFxdbHzw_TjZlNw

Smith, Kat. “Why I Am Deleting Goodreads and Maybe You Should, Too.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 May 2021, www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2021/may/13/why-i-am-deleting-goodreads-and-maybe-you-should-too.

I’m a masters student at the University of Florida studying mass communication with a focus in journalism. Check out more at juliacollinswriter.weebly.com