Shelfari.com is a great social networking sites for avid book readers. At this site you can make friends, share book recommendations, create virtual bookshelves to show off what you’re currently reading, the books you’ve read in the past, and titles you intend to read in the future. The article below details a few functions of the site as well as several ways that I have successfully promoted and marketed my humor book, Musings on Minutiae.
I won’t get into the technical side of things as far as how to join the site or set these things up, as the website itself is good at walking you through the process.
At its core, Shelfari.com is a lot like Goodreads.com. They offer many of the same services and have similar goals. In my opinion, while Shelfari’s interface is modern and looks really nice, it doesn’t connect readers nearly as well. There are still plenty of ways to market your book using the website, but I have seen the least amount of return from the promotion I have done using it.
The bookshelf is the meat and cheese of the website. You can search for any title, and as long as they have an ISBN number you should be able to track them down. After finding the book you desire, you can add it one of three shelves: to-read, currently reading, or read.
Since you should never join a website with just the intention of promoting yourself, be sure to add some books to your shelves and join a few groups. You’ll find that other users will be much more receptive to your messages and book recommendations if they can see your bookshelf and find common ground in the authors you both enjoy.
After adding books to your virtual shelf, the first thing you should do after signing up for an account is run a search for your book (provided it has been released and the ISBN is recognized in the database). Once you locate it, you can link your personal profile to the book and an “Unbound” author page will be created for you (“Unbound” is simply what Shelfari calls their author pages). All setup takes is a quick email to the Shelfari team, and within a few days your page will be up and running.
What you can enter on your author page is minimal, but enough to tell readers a little bit about yourself. You’ll be able to upload a photo as well as enter your date and place of birth, gender, nationality, official website, and writing genres. In addition, you can squeeze in a brief bio, and Shelfari will automatically display your book cover(s) and set up a discussion forum in case anyone wishes to discuss you or your books.
The one thing that Shelfari does better than Goodreads is the ability to edit a ton of info on your book’s page. Not only can you edit the info, but any readers can contribute. This gives the website a wiki-like feel and let’s people who enjoy the books contribute helpful info to future readers.
To get an idea of how your book page might look, check out the page for my book, Musings on Minutiae, by clicking here.
While there are quite a handful of sections to edit on your book page, here are the sections you should definitely get some information into:
- Book description – drop your ‘elevator speech’ here.
- Ridiculously Simplified Synopsis – a one line description of the book. Make it good!
- Plot Summary – This is a good place to copy/paste the info from the back cover.
- Important People – you can list out the characters in your novel and provide some background on them. Great for non-fiction books.
- Memorable quotes – add some great quotes from your book that will want to get people reading it!
- First Edition – publisher, date of publication, ISBN, page count, etc…
- Awards – any awards the book or author has won.
- Tags – words that people might use to find your book when searching the website. A great place to list your title keywords and any genres your book falls into.
- More books like this – This is my favorite part of the book page. Here you can search and add in similar books from your genre or favorite authors and the covers of those titles will display on your book’s page. This is a great way to link up pages and will encourage anyone who is interested in your book to check out some others.
- Books that influenced this book - This is the last section and has the same theory as above, however, I suggest you limit to showing off 3-4 covers of the titles that really influenced your writing.
Now pay attention, because this is where I divulge a secret of Shelfari that has helped me gain a lot of exposure for my book. Since every book page is its own information wiki that can be edited by ANYONE, you can go onto the pages for the books that are similar to your own, or that helped inspire your writing and you can add YOUR book to the “more books like this” section or another called “Books influenced by this one.”
Whenever people go searching for that classic title, who’s book cover will they see as they scroll about the page? The answer is YOURS! This is a great way to target readers who may already have a high level of interest in your genre or in similar authors, so make it easy for them to find your book!
Do keep in mind that Shelfari has employees who monitor the website, so only list your book on the pages of like-minded volumes. Don’t get too crazy or you may find yourself removed from the website completely.
Shelfari encourages all users to join some groups where you can discuss various authors, genres, or specific titles, but I’ve rarely had luck promoting myself. Shelfari users don’t seem to be very active in the groups that I joined (all of them were humor-related) though that doesn’t mean that your mystery or romance novel might not find a good home in a related discussion somewhere on the site.
At the end of the day, the heart of any book-based website is to write and read reviews, and Shelfari is no different. After all, user reviews are what encourage us to pick up a specific title, or avoid it like the plague. Whenever you leave a review for a book, it will show up in your profile, but also in the “Reviews” section of the book’s page. If you write cohesive reviews that contain good info, people are likely to click to your profile to read your other reviews, but they will also quickly find out that you are an author. Use your biography to ‘sell them’ on your title and hopefully you’ve earned both a new reader and a new fan.
I’ve sprinkled various suggestions throughout this article for some good ways to promote your book, but the best way to promote on Shelfari is to talk to people. Much like every other social networking site on the internet, Shelfari has the ability to become ‘friends’ with people. Though these ‘friends’ might not ever receive the other half of your BFF necklace, you have to remember that word of mouth is the best way to sell your book.
I recommend taking some time to jot down a list of books and authors that you consider to be the closest to your own. Once you have the lists complete, search those books and authors on Shelfari. On every book page you’ll see a tab called “Readers and Reviews.” By clicking that link you’ll be taken to a page that shows any reviews that other users have left. It will also show you the profile picture of anyone who has that book on their shelf.
Take a few minutes to skim through the reviews. Whenever you notice a positive review, go to that user’s profile and click the link that says “Add as a friend.” You’ll be provided with a small, blank text box in which you can write a message to the user before they accept or deny your friend request. Use this text box to make a good first impression, after all, this is someone who you already know could possibly enjoy your book and tell all of their friends about it.
I suggest dropping in a short, personalized message that will pique their interest and have them searching for your book before they even accept your request. Be sure to call them by name and mention that you enjoyed their review (specifically indicate which review you read!). You’ve started off with a compliment, so you’d better believe that you have their attention.
Let them know that if they enjoyed that book then they would probably enjoy yours just as much, if not more! Drop in a quick 1-2 line summary of the book, but don’t spam them with your website or amazon.com links, simply provide them with the title and a quick teaser and then encourage them to search for it on Shelfari if it sounds interesting.
People seem to be more accepting of shameless self promotion when you don’t beat them over the head with it. Keep it simple and keep it short. Often times you’ll get a response to thank you for the suggestion, at which point, keep a dialog alive with them. Ask for recommendations, read more of their reviews, offer your own feedback on a book you have in common. If they like you as a person, they’re even more likely to read your book.
Repeat this process for many books and many users. It might sound overwhelming to read hundreds of reviews and write hundreds of personalized letters, but as an author, you should be out to build a readership not just to make a quick buck. You’re looking for those readers who will truly appreciate your work, recommend it to others, and purchase additional books that you release in the future. If you’re not willing to take the time to build those relationships then why should anyone be willing to take the time to read your book?
Always remember that you are the best salesperson for your book. No one else will ever know its contents, its benefits, or its target audience as well as you. Get out there and convince the world that they should read your book… and they just might.
I hope that this has given you a better understanding of the potential that Shelfari offers to authors of all genres and remember that my way is not necessarily the best way; it’s simply what has worked for me thus far and led to sales of my book. I welcome any feedback on this article and hope that if you find another great way to use Shelfari that you will shoot me an email and let me know. My hope is that other authors will find this information useful throughout their journey toward the Bestseller’s List.
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Weston Locher is author of the humor book, Musings on Minutiae, which collects 50 hilarious anecdotes about life with frenetic felines, working in the corporate world, living in an urban apartment complex, and much more!
Last Updated: January 3, 2012