The Goodreads Lists feature is a great way to raise awareness of your books among readers they will appeal to.
Let’s say you’ve written a visionary science-fiction novel with a strong female lead character. Readers who’ve enjoyed other sci-fi or visionary novels with a memorable female lead are more likely than the average reader to be interested in your book. If they do read it, they’re also more likely to enjoy it – and to leave a positive review. When they’re searching for their next book to read, they may use the Goodreads Lists feature to see what is out there. So you want your book to appear in the list they’ll see when they search and, ideally, on the first page. Here’s how to tap into this free tool.
Join Goodreads and – if you want to – set yourself up with an author account. Once you’re up and running, search for your book to make sure it is listed on the site. (If it isn’t, you can add it easily: click the link “manually add a book”.)
On the task bar at the top of the screen, go to “Browse”; then select “Lists”. Look for the “Search lists” search box and type in key words or phrases appropriate to your book. Goodreads will display the lists which relate most closely to those search terms. Searching lists for “visionary fiction” displays a dozen lists, including one that only features books written by VFA authors.
Many readers aren’t familiar with the term “visionary fiction,” even though they enjoy books in this genre. Think who else besides visionary fiction fans your book would speak to. What is its core theme or message? What are the characteristics of your protagonists? What country or city is the book set in? (People who live in or have a fondness for that place may want to read books that are set there.) Does the novel address a particular issue or would it appeal to followers of a movement?
Go through the lists that relate to the search terms you entered. Read the introduction at the top of each list to check whether your book would genuinely be a good fit. If in doubt, look for an alternative list where your book would fit more comfortably.
Adding books to a list
Within a list, you can vote for books that are already featured. If your favourite book that is relevant to the list isn’t included yet, just click “Add Books To This List” and then “Search” to find the title in question.
Authors can no longer vote for their own books or add them to lists. If you think your book would sit well on a particular list, copy the list hyperlink, e.g., “https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/40410.Visionary_Fiction_Alliance” and paste it into a document.
Look for several lists that you’d like your book to appear in. You may want to concentrate on ones where your book has a realistic chance of making the first page, based on the number of votes it’s likely to receive. For example, you might want your book to feature in https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/7.Best_Books_of_the_21st_Century (wouldn’t we all!). To reach the top page, you’d need over 150 people to vote for it.
The more specific a list’s theme, the easier it’s likely to be for your book to feature high up. In addition, those who spot your book in a specialist subject list are more likely to buy it, since it’s likely to appeal to their tastes. At the end of the list, you can view the number of people who voted books onto that list. As a guide, the greater the number of voters, the larger the list’s audience.
Once you’ve captured the links to several lists that you’d like your book to appear in, ask your friends who are on Goodreads to add your book to some of those lists. Members of your writers’ group may also be happy to help.
Unless you know that someone has particularly enjoyed your book – maybe they’ve already reviewed it and given it five stars – it’s fairer to ask them to add it to a list where the inclusion criteria are objective. If you’ve written a book called “The Goblin’s Goblet”, it almost certainly belongs in a list “Books about goblins”. If you ask people to add your book to a list based on what they thought of it, for example, “Best books about goblins”, they may feel uncomfortable. As a reader, I wouldn’t want to vote for a book as being “best” or “top” or “amazing” unless I’d genuinely loved it and would give it five stars. Our votes should be authentic.
As a writer, I sometimes notice my ego creeping in. I want my books to be discovered and enjoyed. It’s heartening when I hear that someone has found my writing helpful; that it has encouraged them to see things in a new light. Some gentle outreach to help reach a wider audience is fine, but I need to remind myself not to be attached to results.
My task is simply to write to the best of my ability or, more accurately, to remain in touch with my True Self as I write, so that words come from that inner place of stillness and peace. Who the book reaches, or how they receive it, is for the Universe. If my motives are genuinely self-less – to help people lead happier, more fulfilling lives – then it shouldn’t matter to me how they get to that place – whether it’s by reading my book, or another writer’s.
If our stories touch one person in a positive way – if they sow the seeds of transformation in one soul – that in itself has made our effort worthwhile. Who are we to know whose lives that person may go on to touch; what ripple effects our words might have?