With the advent of social media, online publicity for books and authors has gone viral. Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular locations for authors to spread the word about their current work, highlight their events and project development, and gain a following. But these aren’t the only two venues that can push an author into social media stardom. Goodreads, a company that debuted in 2007, has spread like wildfire in recent years, showcasing author profiles from the likes of Nicholas Sparks, Paulo Coelho and Kathryn Stockett. The site has attracted over 14 million members, making it a go-to hub for author and book promotion in an oversaturated market.

All users, both readers and authors, can post personal writing, catalog past reads, rate their book choices, join virtual book clubs and even track goals. One of the most alluring options is the “shelves” feature that adds books to a list of “read,” “currently reading” and “to-read” titles. Each time a user rates a book, the title is added to their “read” shelf containing books they’ve already read. If there are currently reading any titles, a user just need change the date of the “date read” and the list will automatically be updated, moving the book to the “currently reading” list. Type in a number of books to read this year, and Goodreads will track how many have been added to the “read” shelf since the goal start date. It will keep the reader informed of his or her progress, whether they are behind, on track or ahead of their goals.

While anyone can join the site for free, authors can also become members of the Goodreads Author Program, a page that can be merged with their “reader” profile. In a time where many authors are forced to handle much of their own event planning and media outreach, Goodreads makes the process just that much more enjoyable. The program opens up promotion through giveaways, the ability to post videos, the chance to host Q&A sessions, and the option to upload book cover images and bios. Any published or soon-to-be published author can join—including those who have self-published. The site also offers a Goodreads widget that can be placed on any personal website or blog to help display the reviews authors have on their current works. Because an author profile is linked to a reader profile, authors can connect with other readers on a personal level rather than purely through an author-to-reader relationship—it doesn’t have to be all self-promotion.

Goodreads has managed to create a site integrating the multi-tiered relationships to be made between authors and readers, making it a necessary addition to the social media ventures of any up-and-coming—or established—author. If it’s free to join and only takes minutes to create a profile, what’s the risk? Nothing, it seems, other than becoming addicted to another form of networking . . . but where’s the harm in that?

*Note: After this article was written, Amazon Inc. purchased Goodreads. Is this a tactic to keep Goodreads from becoming a competitive bookseller, allowing Amazon to retain their “monopoly” on the market? Or does this simply mean that more authors can reach a wider audience, as Amazon claims the merger is intended to do? Read more here.

Further Reading:
“Read Any Good Web Sites Lately? Book Lovers Talk Online,” New York Times, accessed April 3, 2013.
“Author Program—Use Goodreads to Promote Yourself and Your Books,” Goodreads.com, accessed April 3, 2013.