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Everything You Wanted to Know about Goodreads


Patrick Brown, director of author marketing at Goodreads

by Mary Yuhas

Amazon acquired Goodreads, the largest site for readers and book recommendations in the world, in the spring of 2013. Founded in January 2007 by Otis Chandler, a software engineer and his wife, Elizabeth, an entrepreneur, Goodreads has grown to more than 20 million members who have added more than 665 million books. Otis Chandler is the CEO of Goodreads and Elizabeth Khuri Chandler is the Editor-In-Chief.

Patrick Brown, head of the Goodreads Author Program, recently took some time to talk to LitVote:

LitVote:  What is the best way for an author to learn the ins and outs of Goodreads?

Patrick: We definitely recommend you participate as a reader on Goodreads and as an author. Authors sometimes underestimate how valuable it is to show that they are readers too. By participating on Goodreads as a reader you not only build connections with Goodreads members through discussing books, you also give them insights into what kind of reader you are. You can sign up for the Goodreads Author Program for free and set up a profile. Part of your profile is adding books to your Goodreads shelves (want-to-read, currently-reading and read) and rating and reviewing books.

LitVote:  Goodreads help authors promote their books to their target audiences in so many ways, such as the author’s profile page and interviews. Aside from actually launching the book, is there a logical order or best way for an author to most effectively take advantage of these tools?

Patrick:  The best place to start is your profile page. This is your hub on Goodreads and the place where people can learn more about you. There’s a lot you can do here. Upload a photo. Write a friendly bio – we recommend you make it human rather than a corporate-sounding resume. If you have videos such as book trailers, you can upload them to your profile too.Some good examples of authors who are really maximizing all the options on an author page are Sylvia DayNick Harkaway and Colleen Hoover.

A key part of building your profile is checking that your metadata is accurate and full. Make sure that each of your books has the correct ISBN/ASIN, publication date, and cover image. Even something seemingly as trivial as page count is important. Many Goodreads members like to update their progress through the books they read—”I’m on page 231 of 540.” The next thing to consider is a giveaway. When someone goes to check out your book, what do they want to see? Reviews. When it comes to reviews, the most important three words for an author on Goodreads are: giveaways, giveaways, giveaways. These are an author’s best friends as they generate those all-important reviews, and even better, they are free to run. The only cost is shipping the books to the winners.  (Currently, we only offer giveaways for printed books. We would love to offer an e-book option in the future.) There are two key mistakes that authors can make with giveaways. First, not running them early enough before publication and second, thinking that you only get one shot at a giveaway.

We advise authors to run their first giveaway two to three months before launch. That allows you to get those crucial pre-release reviews in place. Otis, our CEO, always compares it to a new restaurant opening in your neighborhood. If you walk by on opening night and no one is there, you keep on walking. The same goes for books. If you check out the book page and no one has read it, you click on to the next interesting book.

Run your next giveaway a few weeks before launch and then run a third giveaway a month or two after launch. In each case, your giveaways should be open for a month.  There is no limit to the number of books that you can offer in a giveaway but we recommend at least 5 – 10.  We are an international site so make sure that you note if your giveaway is only limited to certain countries.

LitVote:  Goodreads is a social network but can members also share their Good reads reviews and updates on other social networks?

Patrick:   Yes, this is something which provides a great benefit for authors – the Goodreads amplification effect. Many of our members choose to connect their Goodreads accounts with Facebook and Twitter. They can share reviews, books they want to read and where they are in a book with their friends and followers on those two networks. This often sparks conversation with their friends as they find out more about the books our Goodreads members are reading.

LitVote:  Can you tell us about the Goodreads Choice Awards?

Patrick: We started the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2009 and they have grown to become one of our most popular events on Goodreads. Open to books published within the previous 12 months, nominations are based on the number and quality of ratings and reviews on Goodreads. So, the more high ratings and reviews your book has, the better the chance it has of being nominated. We then open up the nominations to members for voting. We’re very proud of the fact that the Goodreads Choice Awards are all based on what readers think are the best books of the year. Look for more information in early November when voting for 2013 starts.

LitVote:  One problem in the past has been that some book reviewers, who are anonymous, harass, bully and promote attacks on authors. How has Goodreads addressed this problem?

Patrick:   It’s a little concerning how quickly people will use the word “bullying.” A negative review is not bullying. It’s an opinion about a book. It might be a very harsh opinion, but it’s an opinion. We’ve seen some comments that if people don’t like a book, they should not write a review about it. That’s not helpful to other readers and we’ll always defend the right of people to write their opinion about a book.

We have recently made the following changes:

· Made it easier for anyone who feels concerned about content on Goodreads to get help from Goodreads staff. We have improved the visibility of our flag button and, of course, people can also reach us through support@goodreads.com. We’re here to deal with this rather than have individual members handle it.

· Deleted content focused on author behavior. We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. We will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior.

· Offered better education for authors about Goodreads and our review guidelines. It’s clear that some of the problems have come up because some authors who are new to Goodreadsdon’t know what’s appropriate on Goodreads and/or take matters into their own hands rather than flagging content that they feel is inappropriate. We’ve therefore revised our author guidelines to make them clearer. We’re also working on improving how we introduce new authors to Goodreads.

It’s also important to have some context:  each day, there are more than 30,000 reviews written on Goodreads, and on average, only a handful of them are flagged for us to review as being inappropriate. That means that more than 99.99 percent of new reviews on the site do not attract this type of attention. (Funnily enough, we get way more flags from people asking us to add a spoiler alert to a review than any other type of flag.)

If you speak to authors like Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover, they’ll tell you how readers on Goodreads really contributed to their success. And we have thousands more authors who are also having a positive experience.

LitVote:  Anything new on the horizon?

Patrick:   We’re looking forward to when Goodreads goes live on the new Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Fires by the end of the year!  Goodreads members will be able to share notes and highlights while they read, write reviews and rate books and see what their friends are reading all without putting down their devices.

The team is working hard on this and a number of other projects so stay tuned for more.


QQAuthor Mary Yuhas, has over 66,000 reads on Scribd of the first three chapters of her memoir, Quit and Be Quiet, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother.


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