It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Facebook. With over 600 million users worldwide it is by far the largest social networking site in the world and as Gretchen points out in her last post “probably the most important tool for first-time authors”. I couldn’t agree more. However, Facebook isn’t the only social networking site authors should be paying attention to.
Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari are three large social networking book sites that authors need to make sure they have a presence on. These sites are important because they are filled with avid readers–booksellers, librarians, book bloggers, teachers, and fellow authors. They’re the readers who talk about books most and will spread the word by posting, tweeting, and reviewing your book online and recommending it to their friends, customers, and colleagues off line. They are buzzmakers who can help catapult your book to the best sellers list.
Goodreads is the largest of the three social networking book sites with over 4,500,000 members making it twice the size of LibraryThing and Shelfari combined. Goodreads allows members to keep track of books they’ve read and books they want to read, form book clubs, and recommend and review books. For authors, I highly recommend signing up for the Goodreads Author Program, which lets you create a profile with added features that will allow you to share your list of favorite books, post your blog, publicize upcoming events, share book excerpts, and even post quizzes. What I really love about Goodreads is how much thought they’ve put into helping authors promote their own books. Not only can you advertise your book on Goodreads through their reasonably priced pay-per-click ads, but you can list a book giveaway to generate early buzz and create discussion forums. I found one case study on Goodreads ads where three authors used them to mixed results. I still think advertising on Goodreads is something worth testing out especially for debut authors. The other fantastic thing about Goodreads is you can connect it to Facebook via the Goodreads app, which syncs your account and allows your Goodreads updates to feed to your Facebook wall allowing you to tap into the power of virtual word-of-mouth. They also have a mobile app so you can update your reading list on the go from your iPhone or Android.
Geared more toward librarians, LibraryThing identifies itself as a cataloging application within a social space. They have a similar author program to Goodreads Author that allows you to become a LibraryThing Author and you can update your biography, photo, and list upcoming events. Most of the social interaction on LibraryThing happens in their forums. The two forums to pay attention to are the “Hobnob with Authors” group, which encourages you to promote your book, and the “Author Chat” group, which they promote by keeping a running list of forthcoming chats and sending the information to members who have that author’s book listed in their collection. They also have an early reader program (which you can ask your publisher about) and member giveaways, which allows you to get your book into the hands of potential reviewers.
Although you can’t link your LibraryThing account to Facebook for now, they do have a mobile app which is separate from their social networking space. It’s called Library Anywhere and allows you to access your local library to search the catalog and place holds on books. Overall, LibraryThing has a lot of advantages, but the one thing I find a little off putting is that they make you pay for an account after you catalog 200 books. It’s $10 for a year or $25 for life, which is pretty cheap. They do this because they are anti advertising, which speaks to the fact that they are rather purist. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage i don’t know, but if you’re trying to build a platform charging doesn’t seem the way to go.
Shelfari was acquired by Amazon in 2008. They describe themselves as a “community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.” They allow you to build a virtual bookshelf with books you’ve read or want to read much like Goodreads and LibraryThing. Since they are owned by Amazon, you can link to your Amazon account so your print and Kindle book purchases automatically update to your Shelfari bookshelf, which is a huge benefit if you buy most of your books from Amazon. Shelfari also has author pages, which are called “Unbound”, but figuring out how to create them is a little difficult. The trick is to first create an account and then run a search for your book. Once it pulls up your book, you can link your personal profile to the book. First-time authors won’t be able to create an “Unbound” account until after their book is released, but the great thing about Shelfari is that they have thousands of active online book community groups, which allow you to connect with hundreds of readers interested in a variety of book topics. This is something you should start doing in the months before your book goes on sale.
If you don’t have accounts on these sites, I urge you to create profiles as soon as possible so you can start connecting with fellow book lovers and your future book evangelists. Once you get an account set up, I’d suggest spending about 20 minutes once a week on each site as you grow your fan base. A little bit will go a long way and once you have established your core fan base you can visit more infrequently. Just keep in mind, you’ll get out of it what you put in as is the case with most social media.