Shiloh Walker on Which Website To Use as a Promotional Tool: Shelfari or Goodreads

Best-selling author Shiloh Walker pens this bi-monthly column of online advice for writers. Walker is a full-time author who is published in both e-book and traditional print formats. Now she shares her experience and advice to help aspiring and published authors figure out the "Writes and Wrongs" of the digital world.

It can be hard for an author to tell whether it's better to use Shelfari or Goodreads as a promotional tool.

So far, from everything I can tell? It’s Goodreads.

Full disclosure—I haven’t used Shelfari much. I do have an account, although I’d forgotten it. When I went moseyed over there to check it out, I realized I did have that account and logged in, found a bunch pending friend requests…cleared them through, although I’m not sure it will do much good. I’m not planning spending much time there.

The profile set up doesn’t appeal to me. It’s not as simplified as Goodreads and it’s more limited on what authors can do—which isn’t bad for readers, especially those who are getting tired of authors taking over discussions. Yes, it happens, it gets annoying—I’ve seen it. 

Still, even from a reader standpoint? I don’t like it much.

Apparently I have to add ‘facts’ to my books to make my profile 100% complete on Shelfari. I’m not a fact-taker/note-taker/analyzer on books. I don’t need to tell people that I read Laura Ingalls Wilder in third grade. But Shelfari doesn’t consider me ‘complete’ unless I add some sort of silly facts. 

You can make widgets and the bookshelf feature on your homepage at Shelfari is pretty nice looking.

But all of that is basically cosmetic or unimportant if an author is looking for a promotional tool.

Another problem I saw with Shelfari is that I can’t find a simple way to import a blog. Now there may be one, but if it’s there, it’s not simple enough to find.

I do know they have groups—groups are good for mingling with readers, although naturally, if you’re going to mingle, make sure you’re actually mingling and not stomping in like promoting elephant intent on nothing but waving your promotional banner high and declaring how you have all of these reviews comparing you to the hottest BIG NAME AUTHOR.

I’m just not convinced that Shelfari has a lot to offer an author, though, and I’m not overly impressed with the setup from a reader point of view, either. I’m sure a lot of readers do like it. It’s just not for me.

Goodreads is more my speed—I can import my blog, they’ve got author pages where readers can ‘fan’ you, and you can also do things like book giveaways—I haven’t utilized the giveaways yet, but I plan on it sooner or later. They have self-service advertising, which I haven’t used, but I know it’s there because I’ve seen the links. If you have free e-books, you can upload those for promotional purposes. So as far as a promo tool? Goodreads is pretty decent.

Although, as with any promo tool? You can abuse it. Ways to do that?

Spam your ‘friends’

This could be authors you’ve friended, readers who’ve friended you, whatever. This ticks a lot of people off—might not bother some, but it bothers plenty and that’s not just coming from me because I’m one who gets irritated—it’s coming from comments I’ve seen…over and over and over.

What is spam on Goodreads, exactly? 

  • Inbox messages that read… buy my book…or anything along those lines. Just please…don’t.
  • Recommend your own books…again… just please…don’t.
  • Be a stampeding promo elephant! You know…intruding on a group with the sole intent of promoting yourself. 

Any of that annoying, heavy-handed sales stuff is spam. And while you might wonder…hey, if it works…but here’s the deal. Annoyance isn’t the warm and cozy feeling you want to leave your readers with. If they get annoyed, they probably aren’t going to linger long enough to see if your book is anything worth checking out…so it doesn’t really have much chance of working, right?

So if you’re looking for a promo tool? Use Goodreads. Just don’t abuse it.

- Shiloh Walker

Check back for the next installment of Shiloh Walker's column in two weeks. Seeking more specific advice? You can ask the author any questions about the "writes and wrongs" of online behavior here. Your question might even get featured in an upcoming article. And of course, you can also follow the Shiloh Walker online daily at her website, on her Facebook page and via Twitter.