Using Goodreads to Increase Book Sales

Tell the truth: After indie publishing your book, did you rush to Goodreads and attempt to “friend” dozens of authors and attract hundreds of new followers in a misguided belief the effort would ignite book sales? No doubt many of those authors who ignored your friend request wish you nothing but good fortune—they’re simply too busy writing, marketing and cultivating a readership to chum around with the new kid on the block. If you are going to use Goodreads to create exposure for you and your works, it’s important to understand the difference between a friend and a follower. 

A friend is a two-way street where both people have to agree to it. If you are friends with someone, their reviews and comments will appear in your feed, and visa versa. Following is a one-way activity—you don’t have to accept or approve them, and interaction isn’t required. Both are important to authors. Your blog posts, reviews, and comments will appear in your followers’ feed, but their comments and reviews will not appear in yours. It is also possible to be both a follower and a friend simultaneously.

Goodreads has no limit on followers, but a friend limit of 5,000 because their system doesn’t handle larger accounts well.  You may enjoy an unlimited number of followers who love your book but pick your Goodreads friends wisely. Doing so can quickly increase book sales.

In many ways, the site functions like an old-fashioned bookstore or book club. It’s the perfect social platform for book reviews and recommendations, giveaways, and book marketing. Readers review and recommend books to like-minded bibliophiles individually and in groups. They will also post quotes from books, giving it additional attention.  In a sense, readers hand-sell books they’ve discovered and enjoyed—a real boon for an indie author with oodles of talent but a limited marketing budget. 

Here are a few ideas to help you connect with readers in your genre. Use what works best for you:

Host a Paperback Giveaway:  Ideally, you should set up a giveaway during the same time period as your book release or sale. For example, if you’ll launch on September 1st, start the giveaway on July 1st and end a week after your release date. As readers sign up for the giveaway, send the Goodreads daily limit of 25 friend requests per day and add a short note thanking the reader for entering the contest. When choosing friends, avoid anyone with a massive TO-READ list but few books in the READ column. Target voracious readers.

But wait! What if your book has been live for months or a year? No worries. A paperback giveaway can lure new readers who may never have found your work otherwise.

Create an Event: Running a contest on your blog? Advertising a sale day? Inviting readers to help name a character in an upcoming novel? Launching a book tour with gifts at every stop? If you think the EVENTS feature only works for author appearances or book signings, guess again. As you increase your number of reader-friends, savvy planning of events will keep you connected, earn goodwill, and lead to more sales.

Share What You Read: Many people find an author’s reading list fascinating. By adding your TBR to CURRENTLY READING you’ll spark discussion with people who share your love of a particular genre, a current bestseller, or the odd find. Goodreads is interactive and social—keep your reading list current and chat with readers as often as possible.

Participate in Groups: Goodreads offers a dizzying array of GROUPS covering every aspect of literature imaginable. Join several that read in your genre and participate! The goodwill you create can translate into word-of-mouth praise from one reader to the next, an essential sort of hand-selling no author can live without.

White Gloves and Party Manners, Please: Whatever you do, remain cordial and gracious at all times. Avoid the following blunders:

  • Don’t fill Goodreads comments with desperate “Buy my book” pleas
  • Don’t inundate friends with constant email or events
  • Don’t hijack another author’s thread or event with comments about your book
  • Don’t argue with a reader or a reviewer who has posted a poor review

Practice your best manners, stay engaged and enjoy the literary wonderland of Goodreads.


  1. Marta Delannoy on October 24, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    How do you feel about using WhatsApp to “promote” a book?

    • Christine Nolfi on October 26, 2019 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Marta,
      Since I’ve never used WhatsApp, I can’t weigh in.

    • Christine Nolfi on November 2, 2019 at 9:56 pm

      I’ve never used WhatsApp, so I can’t speak to that. Direct messaging tools, I feel, may be difficult. For me, I have found Goodreads and social sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook great for boosting reader engagement and ultimately, sales.

  2. CGesange on January 11, 2023 at 6:08 pm

    How much “organic” attention can a book expect just from having an entry at Goodreads?

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