Goodreads: The Good and The Bad

Let me start by saying that I think Goodreads is awesome. I think I actually had a Goodreads account before I had a Facebook account. I get bookish social networking more than I get traditional social networking because I’m a bookish sort of person.

Being an author opens up a whole new level of Goodreads. More than ever, writers are easily able to connect with readers. Having an author account on Goodreads gives one the ability to see all sorts of stuff about their book and the people who are reading it.

Now here comes one of the bad parts of Goodreads. When you’re a  Goodreads author, and you log into your account to update the books you are reading or add a new Goodreads friend, it’s impossible to not notice a little box in the corner that tells you how many people have added your book to their Goodreads lists or how many people have reviewed it. So far, so good. Well, a curious person might be tempted to click through and see the details, and in case you had any doubts, authors are curious people.

The problem is that not everyone on Goodreads loves our book as much as we do. Besides being curious, writers are sensitive folks with easily bruised egos, and you know what can bruise an ego like nobody’s business? A one or two star review on our book from some random stranger. Sure writers have always been at the mercy of reviewers, but with Goodreads there’s suddenly a whole lot more reviewers out there. So, the simple solution to this problem is to stop clicking on our book’s details on Goodreads, but since we don’t have the willpower to resist, that’s not going to happen. So, Goodreads, if you’re reading this, offer your authors the option to block those bad ratings and bad reviews from their view.

And Goodreads, as long as I’m handing out advice, something needs to be done about the way people give stars to a book. It’s way too easy to accidentally hand out stars. I know I’m not the only one who has ever accidentally given out a small amount of stars to a book I actually loved. In fact, I don’t understand why it’s possible to give stars to a book that I haven’t yet marked as “read”. Why are we allowed to give stars to books we have only marked as “to-read”? What’s the point of that?

Another thing I’ve heard, but don’t know much about is that there’s some sort of deal where Goodreads users can reach new levels and gain new privileges on the site. Getting to these new levels entails rating and reviewing books, and probably 99 percent of the people out there do this honestly, but there’s always going to be that person who figures out a way to game the system. It may not be easy to track, but Goodreads, you might want to look at some of your users who exhibit some suspicious rating and reviewing behavior, you know like someone who rates a book that doesn’t even have an advance copy floating around yet.

I still think Goodreads is a pretty awesome website, but then my book hasn’t been published yet, and for a writer with a book that will soon be out in the world, Goodreads can be a bit frightening.

22 comments on “Goodreads: The Good and The BadAdd yours →

  1. There really aren’t more levels to the site as far as I know. The only different level there is, is the librarian designation which lets the users who apply and are accepted change the details of books to keep goodreads better organized. Everyone can review and rate books, there are no restrictions or levels to that.

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty’s Mostly Books

  2. The Goodreads reviewers tend to be disconcertingly honest. It’s a tough crowd. But it’s also a great place to market.

    You’ll get to the point where reviews go in one ear and out the other.

  3. Good morning! I’m so glad you posted this! I’m still navigating the social networking waters and trying to find out what works for me. I have a goodreads account and was pleased to see that people are starting to add our book to their lists.

    Then one day we got a review. Two stars. Our book isn’t out for three months (although I think it was four when this rating was posted). There were no comments or anything, just the two stars.

    I started to wonder how this person got a hold of an ARC, as we were told by the publicity department that a limited number were made and selectively distributed. The reviewer in question was not a blogger of note (under 50 friends), professional, etc. as far as I could see. I scrolled through this person’s reviews and drew a few conclusions based on what they had read/reviewed in the past: The person had given many books low ratings with no explanation. The person made statements about their tastes; they did not like books like ours–genre or content wise.

    In the mean time ours is a new book, not out yet with this lone, poor rating hanging out there. I know that our book is not going to be for everyone–I’d steeled myself for that. But will the person’s rating effect whether or not people will even consider it?

  4. Sniffly Kitty: I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve heard that there are a few unscrupulous folks out there who have rated and reviewed books they haven’t actually read just to become a “librarian” on Goodreads. Again, I think the vast majority of the folks on Goodreads are good, honest book lovers so it annoys me when someone comes along and doesn’t play by the rules.

  5. Natalie: You’re not the first person I know who has had this happen, and this is what annoys me about Goodreads. To that person leaving the rating it doesn’t mean anything, but to us sensitive authors this is something we take personally. If it’s any consolation, I don’t really think the star rating is going to mean much in the long run, but I think there are certain habitual Goodreads abusers and Goodreads might want to do some policing of these folk.

  6. I’ve noticed Goodreads can be a tough crowd too. And the way one choses stars can be a bit tricky. Being a writer myself I take special care in rating a book because I know what it meant to the author. I’m not sure everyone who rates does that there though. There are some pretty brutally honest people!

  7. This is an interesting post. I’d thought about some of these things, but not others. I do think most of the public understands that they need to read the reviews to understand the ratings, whether it’s for a book, or a YouTube video or a new DVD player from Best Buy. It’s easy to weed out the nutty reviews — and zero in on the intelligent ones. But, I know, some people will only look at the overall stars. What can we do? I’m trying to start now to build my “who cares?” muscles. Easier said than done, but it’s the only solution I can think of!

  8. I love Goodreads! Especially the reviews that specify why the reader liked or didn’t like something. More than once a reviewer pointed out something I had not picked up on in a read, which is great. I tend to dismiss the too general reviews. Of course, everything changes when it’s about our own books. Harsh words in any review are bitter, right?

  9. It really stinks to have a bad star rating from someone who hasn’t even read the book or bothered to review it if they have. But ultimately I think that most people rely on word of mouth and when it gets released and the good blogger buzz starts, no one will even pay attention to a poor Goodreads rating that was unmerited. 🙂

  10. I don’t have a Goodreads account yet. I’m not sure if I will but thanks for all the information. It looks like a fun place to hang out. However, if you’re an author with a book coming out I could see how it could get a little stressful.

    As far as reviews go on books I’m considering reading, I usually stick to Voya or Kirkus or School Library Journal, or some bloggers. And, truth be told, I usually skim reviews b/c I don’t want any spoiler details.

  11. When the time comes, I might gloss over the harsh stuff.

    I can handle negative but constructive, because I know that I can always improve as a writer, but some of the reviews I’ve read are pointless.

    Still, I love Goodreads. I get so many good recs from the reviewers. And I enjoy reading most of the reviews because they show me the different facets of books based on other people’s pov.

  12. Cynthia: I think most people, especially those who use Goodreads are pretty good at separating the real reviews from the useless ones. So, probably, I should stop worrying so much!

  13. Medeia: You’re right, and it’s really a handful of the reviews on Goodreads that are pointless and negative, but of course those are the ones that it’s the hardest to ignore as a writer.

  14. The time is coming, and soon, when Amazon, B&N, and GR members will find their accounts locked (not just linked) to Facebook, and a little thumb will pop up: Be the first to “like” this review. Those who’ve indulged in naughty behavior, especially those with multiple accounts, might want to move to Barbados.

  15. I have as of yet not published my full length works professionally, but I have submitted short stories and poetry to magazines, websites, etc. and received a lot of feedback, positive and negative, and I read all of it that I can find. You get the occasional ‘ur gay, stop writing’, which doesn’t bother me in the slightest, the occasional constructive criticism, the often pointless ‘omg luv it! <3' which I find no less annoying than the 'ur gay' comments, the occasional loving review (always the best), and, yes, the occasional well-worded bashing. If anyone puts a paragraph or more to their review, though, I doubt I'll find it offensive. Even if they attack me personally, for whatever reason, it still shows how they feel.

    But I'm thick-skinned. I guess I can see why it would bother some people, but it's part of the business. If you have art, someone hates it. Maybe most people hate it. It doesn't matter.

  16. I have a novel on goodreads that’s for sale on Amazon, and I recently signed onto a group review of the book. It’s marketed for older YA readers. I perhaps naively allowed reviews to be posted on the amazon site, and though I welcome constructive criticism and expect less than stellar reviews, 3 star reviews and less tend to stop sales of a book. I’m waiting to see what happens once all the reviews are in, and I’m open to taking another look at my book based on some of the commentary, but it’s a difficult road for the indie writer. I completely understand that indie writers lose respect right off the bat because they’re isn’t the traditional publisher behind the product, and I know that self published writers don’t help matters when they have friends write positive reviews for them to inflate their ratings. I think, in the end, that the best route is diligence and moving on to the next and hopefully better book.

  17. Sorry for the typo: meant to say “because there isn’t the traditional publisher behind the product”

    I also mean no disrespect towards reviewers. I think it’s important for us, as writers, to accept criticism and try to learn from it. And getting reviews from the type of reader who would purchase a book like yours is always going to be instructive because they’re providing the reactions that readers have, both positive and negative.

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