Goodreads and the Rated Review

I was asked by a fellow author to write my next blog post on how to get the most out of Goodreads.  Hmm…

Goodreads to me is one of those necessary evils. You certainly can’t ignore it, however, most authors I know try to minimize their contact there.  Why?  Well…unfortunately the culture there can be rather negative.

Let me just start by saying that I do understand it. Before I started writing books myself, I joined Goodreads and rated the books I’d read.  My thinking was rating them on a grand scale, where a five was a work of literary genius, maybe like Pride and Prejudice, a four was “I loved it, but it’s not genius”, a three was a great read, a two was “I enjoyed it, but it was pretty silly because you know, it was about vampires and they’re not real”, and a one was “I didn’t like it.”

And then, because I considered my job there to be reviewing, that meant criticizing anything that was less than genius.  In other words, tearing it apart.

I’m embarrassed to say that even my first few reviews in my genre when I started writing were like that. I was rather critical. And then I started to realize you don’t give two or three stars to authors whose books you keep buying.  If you like their books well enough to buy every one of them, they’re a five.

What I’ve noticed is that often the star ratings don’t match the energy of the review.  I once had a fan write and tell me she loved my book so much she keeps it by her bedside table and re-reads it every night, but that same fan only rated it a four when she reviewed it.  I guess that’s because I’m not Tolstoy.

What I’m getting to, in a roundabout way, is that reviewers have their own special criteria for how they rate books. They may be judging you on how this book compares to your other books, they may be comparing you to the entire literary canon, or they may be basing it on other books in your genre (the most fair, in my opinion).

So when you get on Goodreads, don’t read your reviews and weep. In fact, I don’t really advise reading your reviews at all. Concentrate on the things you can control, like promotion and the quality of your writing.

With all that said, I’m supposed to be here advising you on how to use Goodreads.  I’ll pretend you know nothing about it and go with the basics for new authors:

1).  Set up an author page:

  • Create a Goodreads account under your Author name.
  • Using the search bar in Goodreads’ header, search for your author name. Click the author name, not the book title. If you are not listed, add your book to your current Goodreads page via ISBN, thus triggering the automatic import to work, and then search for your name again after a few minutes.
  • Claim your author page by clicking the link that reads: ‘Is this you? Let us know.’
  • This redirects you to an email form. Type up your author-page request and click submit. In a few days you will receive an email that confirms your upgrade.

IMPORTANT:  This should go without saying, but I was overly critical at first and a friend of mine just posted about this.  If you are an author and have an author account, it does not behoove you to leave negative reviews of other author’s books using that account. You’re just asking for bad karma.

2)  If your books are not already in Goodreads (search first), you can add them by hitting “Manually add a book”.  Enter the ISBN or Amazon number and upload your cover pic and you’re good to go.  You can also add a book in advance of your book release this way and get people to add it to their TBR list.

3).  Mark your own books as read (but don’t add any star ratings or reviews!) and then add categories for your book (e.g., paranormal MM, BBW, domestic discipline, Net Galley Read, cheap smut– whatever you want listed for your book)

4) Add them to any Listopia lists. For my friends in my genre, I just set up the “Best Domestic Discipline Books of 2015.”  Please add yours and any favorites you have so far.

If there isn’t a good Listopia list for you book, create one (e.g., Best Lesbian BDSM of 2015).  Obviously add some other books to that list, so it doesn’t just include your book, and invite others to add to it.

From the Listopia home page click ‘Create a List’:

A form will pop up. Fill it out and click save.

  • Title: The title of the new list.
  • Description: This is where you tell users what kinds of books to nominate and vote for.
  • Tag with a list of keywords that describe the list.

5) Join groups related to your genre and add your books to their libraries.  I always add mine and make an announcement in the BDSM group and the Spank that Romance! group.  Be sure to read the “instructions to authors” because each group has its own etiquette and they will slap you down in a New York second if you break a rule.

To join a group click the Join Group button:

If there isn’t a group for your genre, create one:

  • Go to the Goodreads Group Portal.
  • Click the ‘Create a Group’ link that’s located to the right of the group search bar and fill out the form to create your group.

6)  Advertising on Goodreads.I don’t recommend it. It’s expensive and I haven’t heard of anyone who got any traction from an ad.  Probably a better option, although still with questionable results is to offer a free book giveaway. To do so, you MUST have a print book that can be mailed to the winner.  It will get you a lot of adds of your book to people’s TBR lists, but again, I’m not actually sure it sells books.7).  Does your effort on Goodreads sell books?Honestly, it falls way below a blog, newsletter and Facebook presence as far as promotion goes. But it is a place to interact with readers, announce new releases or special sales and discuss books in your favorite genre, so I would say yes, it’s worth having some presence there. You can meet beta readers or connect with other authors in the discussion groups.One more reiteration about ratingsDon’t worry about them. Not every book is for every person. Some books appeal more to a broad audience and some have a smaller group of people who love them, and it doesn’t mean the book that has broader appeal is any better than the other. Also, you’ll write more books. You’ll write better books. And you will never, ever please everyone. If you love your book, if it turned you on, that means at least one other person out there will be turned on by what you wrote, and that, my friend is the magic of making art.

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