I realized, while I was poking about cleaning up my blog recently, that I’ve never really talked about Goodreads, Gentle Reader. So shall I?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in want of good ratings does not look on Goodreads.
Did you know that the very first rating that my very first book, Soulless, ever got was on Goodreads?
* It was one star.
The dude had written the following review:
Got this book free at BEA. Not the kind of book I read. So I didn’t. One star.
At the time I was sad and crushed. But now? Now I am so so so GRATEFUL.
That one star review on Goodreads did so many good things for me:
- It taught me not to take one star reviews seriously.
- It taught me out the gate that reviews are entirely subjective and that my book wasn’t for everyone, and it was never going to be.
- It taught me that a book review, most of the time, says more about the reviewer than the book.
- It taught me that giving a book away for free indiscriminately was a dumb idea.
- It taught me that Goodreads wasn’t for authors, it was for readers.
I’m going to say that again, louder.
Goodreads is NOT for authors
Later I was to learn that Goodreads ratings are generally lower than on any other platform. Often this is because the end users are using the platform to organize their books, so they apply their own rating system. But also it’s because the stars themselves are labeled as follows:
* did not like it
** it was ok
*** liked it
**** really liked it
***** it was amazing
I had a fascinating discussion with some heavy users after hours once. I was part of a focus group at Goodreads Actual. One of them explained that she only marked books with 4 or 5 stars if she reread them. Even if she really loved a book, if she couldn’t see herself rereading it, it didn’t get over 3 stars. She gave 2 stars to books she couldn’t remember.
She’d made the rating system her own. And that’s the way it should be. Because…
Goodreads is for readers
It was started by readers, and it’s still mainly staffed by readers. Yes, it’s been sold to Amazon, but so far as I can tell, it’s not changed much under the Umbrella of Doom. Seems to be tottering along as per normal. Yes, the UI is quirky and rather sloppy, but it is still basically functional if rather old-fashioned.
The fact that Goodreads is designed entirely with readers in mind can hurt authors, because readers can mark a book one star as a place holder before it comes out. Many users started doing this early on until Goodreads introduced the “Want to read” shelf, and they still do so because it makes it easy for them to sort their lists.
Goodreads is one of the few platforms that allows readers to rate a book before the book has ever gone out.
That one star review Soulless got?
That was months before it released into the world.
Incidentally BookBub also allows users to review early. If you follow an author there, you will get new release notifications as well as notifications when that author reviews a book.
Why allow early reviews?
This is for those readers who get ARCs (early review copies) or bloggers etc…
How should authors cope?
Use Goodreads as a reader.
I hope if you’re a writer that you’re also a reader. You should use Goodreads to keep track of the books you’re reading, want to read, and the reviews you write. Consider following some of your favorite authors. You should also post reviews to BookBub and to your blog (you can use the same review, if you like).
Because it gives you a basic understanding of Goodreads from a reader perspective which in turn helps you to understand why the platform is the way it is and how readers approach it differently.
Goodreads forced me to change my author behavior
As an author, Goodreads has had a profound effect on me. But not because of the reviews I get.
For my self published books, I stopped suggesting tentative release dates before I had it ironed down. I found that the moment I named a date, someone would list the book on Goodreads and then it was absolute HELL to get it corrected. Now I don’t officially announce a book release date until it is available for preorder, ISBN linked, and my Presskit updated. All because I need to keep Goodreads under control.
But Goodreads has some wonderful aspects too.
Things for Authors to Love About Goodreads
I use Goodreads as both a reader and an author, and while I love it as a reader, I’ve learned to like it as an author too.
I adore Goodreads lists. As online book vendors turn more towards advertising to generate revenue, their recommendations to readers are getting worse. Even before pay-to-play, I never trusted the algorithms that suggested books to me, because they only see what authors I’ve bought, not whether I liked that author. Enter Lists.
Back in the day when it was regularly pushed out to end users, the AMAs were really fun too. Readers always have the best questions for us authors, and if you do an AMA on Goodreads it’s all readers. So the questions are great.
My Goodreads questions (down the bottom of an Author’s page) have generated blog posts, story ideas, and new ways of thinking about character and plot.
I love seeing what quotes people pull from my books, and I collect many of them. I wait to see which ones get voted up. They I make fun graphic images out of them to share on social media.
Goodreads allows me to feed over my blog posts. And while the framing and settings are a bit naff, I occasionally still get comments on my blog posts on Goodreads which lets me know that I still have followers there who are reading this, possibly right now.
I like to write reviews of other people’s books, because I read a lot, and if I enjoy a book I want to crow about it. Other platforms frown on authors writing reviews (outside of sanctioned blurbs or professional capacities) because we might be friends with each other (GASP!) and therefore lie about the books we like. Goodreads actually really likes it when authors post reviews. It humanizes us. Shows that we are readers too, with thoughts and opinions.
I only ever review books I genuinely LOVE (well, except non-fiction). But I do try to review pretty regularly, because I would want to know what an author I enjoy reading, reads. So I figure others might as well.
Anyway, there it is.
Goodreads, still my friend. If perhaps one of those friends who can be a bit too brutally honest at times.
Yours (destined to be killed by a tumbling TBR pile),
As of writing this blog post (Spring 2020) Gail Carriger on Goodreads has given:
464 ratings | 174 reviews | avg rating: 3.92
I have 13,955 followers and 3,973 friends (you too can follow/friend me)
This is a large enough base to have been invited to visit Goodreads headquarters and participate in a focus group with a select number of other authors, readers, librarians, and group mods. It was actually A LOT of fun and I am really glad I did it. I would do it again in a heartbeat for pretty much any tech or social media platform I’m active on. I think seeing the culture of a company up close and personal (even if it is mostly for show) gives great insight. I did this with a huge corporate meet-and-great for Kobo (AKA Rakutan) and it was fascinating.
- I am on Goodreads and you can follow me there and ask me a question.
- You can check out my bookshelves and reviews as well.
- Did you miss my latest release announcement? This stuff goes to my Chirrup members first, because I love them bestest (and they dont’ post incorrect information on Goodreads). Sign up here.
- Not into newsletters? Get only new releases by following Gail on Amazon or BookBub or Goodreads.
BOOK DE JOUR?
Defy or Defend, a new Delightfully Deadly book featuring Dimity!
Dimity, London’s cheerfullest spy, must fix a broken vampire hive while a gentle soldier tries to keep her safe. A charming makeover story set in the popular Parasolverse.
It’s a battle for survival… and wallpaper!
Karen McCoy Interviews Gail Carriger about Defy or Defend!
- The Enforcer Enigma, San Andreas #3, featuring Judd & Colin
- The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers & Fans of Pop Culture (non-fiction)
- Need to know what Gail is writing right now? That’s in the Chirrup.
Gail’s Daily Tea Party
Tisane of Nifty
Rally the Readers says:
“Defy or Defend was perfect from beginning to end: the romance, the mission to save the hive, the friends from other Parasolverse stories, and as always with Gail Carriger’s books, the humor!”
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