Authors, are you using Goodreads?

Goodreads isn’t the only social network devoted to library cataloging and discussions about books, but it’s the one I use and appreciate. I’d like to know why Goodreads and sites like it, including Shelfari, LibraryThing, Revish, and aNobii, aren’t very well utilized by authors and publishers. After all, the members of these communities are book buyers or borrowers. Not only that, they’re gathered in one place and identified by the books they’ve tagged as owned, already read, to read, in the process of being read, and favorites. On other types of social networks, not all of the users are book lovers.

GoodreadsAuthors seem to discover and congregate in author communities online, which is fine, but relatively few authors seem to know much about Goodreads. For the moment, it’s an uncrowded platform. As an author seeking readers, you’d be wise to jump on the Goodreads stage in 2012, before your competitors discover it in 2013. And if you’re not thinking of other authors as friendly rivals, then you’re not reading this post anyway—and, heck, you might not even own a computer.

To assess the potential of Goodreads, explore the site until you’re comfortable with its features and navigation.

You can install apps that link Goodreads with your social networks. You can join a few Goodreads groups to see how they function and whether they’re active. You can add books to your Goodreads bookshelves, and then the site will recommend other books you might like based on what you’ve shelved. But that’s not all.

After you’re familiar with the Goodreads site, and you’ve seen how others are taking advantage of it, you’ll be better able to imagine how the Goodreads Author Program can be used to promote your own books. Best of all, it’s free.

Goodreads: How to Use the Goodreads Author Program

Jane Friedman: 2 Ways to Make the Most of Goodreads

Patrick Brown: Goodreads Stats Show Which Media Outlets Really Sell Books

Goodreads: Goodreads Author Feedback Group

Jason Boog: How to Add Goodreads to Your Facebook Timeline

Sarah Pinneo: An Author’s Guide to Surviving Goodreads

Madeleine L'Engle quotePerhaps Sarah Pinneo’s survival guide answers my question. Authors don’t use Goodreads if they fear they’ll make targets of themselves, or worse than being targeted, they’ll go unnoticed. Meanwhile, the authors who take risks get all the attention.

Writing a book is risky. Why stop there?

4 Replies to “Authors, are you using Goodreads?”

  1. I pondered this at some excessive length on a response in another world. To condense: From the tiny sample of my little book club, an author’s presence on Goodreads can have a similar effect as walking into a book club unbidden. People who love your book will gush. Others may consider their words carefully and be inclined to bite their tongues. It may become difficult to get constructive criticism.

    http://www.belle-aurore.com/mike/2012/07/reviewing-on-goodreads-or-heisenberg-lives/

  2. Well… After a novel has been published, the value of constructive criticism is greatly diminished. There’s still some value, but I’ve yet to meet the novelist who wants the criticism. Writers who are unpublished or self-published might be more receptive. One once told me that my copyedits were like a good tooth flossing. I’ll never forget that.

    By the time a manuscript has passed muster with a critique group, an agent (maybe), an acquiring editor, peer reviewers (for scholarly works), a copyeditor, a proofreader, and sometimes even more handlers with the objective of quality assurance, the book’s author tends to consider the thing a finished product, like the Hope Diamond or a newborn child. You can imagine. At that point, you could argue that the author deserves to be treated with the same respect you’d accord a musician after a performance, a potter standing at her booth at an art show, a dancer backstage after the ballet, or a photographer in the viewer comments under an image in an online gallery. It doesn’t matter so much whether you appreciate the person’s art. You’re interacting with a human being, and there’s a reasonable expectation of civility.

    Nevertheless, criticism is important. It’s especially valuable to other consumers when there are objective criteria: jeans not true to size, took forty-five minutes to be waited on, technical support is unavailable, etc. Criticism is also useful when it’s subjective but the reader can gauge whether the critic’s views are likely to be similar to her own: fidelity insufficient for a true audiophile, jeans cut too low for a 70-year-old grandmother, not what Southerners would call Southern BBQ, etc.

    When you rate a book on Goodreads, you’re not doing it under the author’s nose during an online Q&A with the author. You’re merely responding to a survey, sometimes with comments and sometimes without. If I read your consumer review of a book, I consider how articulate you are. I don’t give much credence to ill-advised hotheaded rants, culturally biased snark, fawning hero worship, or typo-ridden blather. Nor would you, if you were trying to decide whether to read a particular book. Sometimes the review says more about the reader/consumer than it does about the book.

    Furthermore, some books are intended to be controversial and to provoke readers’ anger and outrage. The authors of those books would be disappointed if they didn’t get a reaction out of you, as well as hundreds of other readers. The more debate, the better. Their reputations depend on it.

    I don’t believe readers should stop rating and reviewing books. I don’t expect them to be more articulate or enlightened about it. I expect authors to learn how to deal with readers graciously if they want to develop the kinds of audiences that will support ambitious career goals. Not every author is capable. That’s life.

  3. My difficulty was focusing on how I use Goodreads, as opposed to my imagining how an author might.

    Criticism is painful, I am 100% agreed. Being thin-skinned is why I’m not a columnist. Reviews are, however, the second most important reason for me to be on Goodreads. The most important is to see what my friends are reading. I had made the mistake of thinking as a reader, not an author.

    An author can identify and market herself on Goodreads, sort of like establishing a Facebook page. People — let’s call one example Katie — can like or follow her. Katie’s authors and book choies. If Katie has 500 friends and she decides to

    Once an author gets a beachhead of highly connected readers, this becomes remarkable publicity. The challenge, as with most endeavors, is to get off the ground floor.

  4. You were being sympathetic. There’s nothing wrong with that. It can be constructive if an author is able to be sympathetic with a critic—you know, in some utopian netherworld. Failing that, courteousness (or silence) is called for.

    There are drawbacks to being accessible or even just transparent. Authors tire of being asked the same questions over and over, but that would happen at bookstore signings, conference presentations, and other public appearances.

    I try to identify good opportunities for publicity. Unfortunately, it’s natural to wait until everyone else is doing a certain kind of self-promotion before taking the same risk, which by that time is hardly a risk. But timidity isn’t good for business. Being a successful author takes a crazy amount of hard work and chutzpah. If it were easy, then everyone would do it.

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