Patrick Brown, Director of Author Marketing at Goodreads, has some suggestions for using his company to promote your book.
At Goodreads, we’re constantly looking at how authors are using both our site and others to their advantage. There are certainly some tried and true methods, even in the wild world of ebooks. The main obstacle you face when publishing a book is discoverability — how are you going to get people to find and choose your book — and on a site like Goodreads, where each review acts as a mini-advertisement for your book, generating reviews is the best way to increase discoverability (Actually, getting people to add your book to their shelves is the main goal, but a written review is gravy).
To accomplish this, we tend to recommend a launch package that includes an advance giveaway of some sort. People love free stuff (shocker, I know), and giving away a few copies of your book (maybe even as many as 50) can lead to a big bump in readership. While ad dollars are always scarce, we also see considerable results from our self-serve ad campaign, which can target comparable authors, genres, or demographic information (Facebook also has an excellent and affordable ad program that can target on a very granular level). Drive people to your giveaway, get them to enter, and a large number of them will add your book to their shelves, regardless of whether they win the giveaway or not. Do one of these giveaways a few months pre-publication, if you can, to generate some pre-launch buzz, then do another giveaway around the time of publication. You will see definite results. Awareness is the key in the early stages.
Once you’ve got some readers, you can start engaging with them. Join some groups that are about the same subject as your book. Volunteer to visit a book club, either in person or via Skype. There are about 40,000 such book clubs on Goodreads, and many of them are open to hosting author chats. If you can’t find a club to visit, start your own discussion group. And show off your reviews! Post them on your blog or website (We have a bunch of widgets that make this easy) and Tweet about them when you get a good one.
Since this thread is specifically about ebooks, I’ll give you one example of how this can all work. We have just started experimenting with ebook giveaways (until now, they’ve only been open to print books), and the first one we did was for a book called Unlocked by Courtney Milan. She offered 50 copies in a giveaway to our readers and ran the giveaway for about two weeks. During that period, hundreds of people added her book to their to-read shelves. If they won they book, they reviewed it. If they didn’t, Courtney was offering the book for $.99, so many of them took a chance on it anyway. The result is that the week after the giveaway, her book ended up on the New York Times ebook bestseller list at #6, and the combined print and ebook bestseller list in USA Today at something like #30. Now, she was doing other promotions, as well, to be sure, but our giveaway was a centerpiece of her campaign.
If I were an author, I’d also focus on building a great Twitter following, possibly running fun contests tied to giveaways there, as well. Another technique I like is guest blogging (Some people call it a blog tour, but I don’t think there’s a lot of value to putting in the work to do 20 or 30 posts). Pick one or two or three sites that you love, and pitch them an essay or story idea. It shouldn’t be exactly about your book, but rather about the subject of your book or about some other aspect of it. Again, it’s all about discoverability. In the old days, this meant getting your book on the front table of your local bookstore. Now, it means getting onto 300 to-read shelves on Goodreads, getting it into 1000 people’s Twitter feeds, etc.