By Lisabet Sarai
Want to know what I’m reading? Check out my bookshelf on Goodreads!
I can’t remember why I joined Goodreads, but my profile tells me it was more than seven years ago. Probably someone suggested that the site could provide another social marketing tool. For the most part, I haven’t really used it that way. I haven’t joined many groups (which I’ve been told is the way to reach readers) or engaged in much chitchat via the messaging facilities. As is the case with all my other social media, I have very little time to devote to such activities.
Of course I set up a profile as an author, to “gather” my books in one place (40, according to my last check). I also linked my blog feed to my page on the site. There are a few people who “like” every single post—even though for some reason Goodreads (or possibly Blogger) royally screws up the formatting!
I have 189 “friends”, mostly though not exclusively fellow authors I know from other contexts. Once a week (frequency customizable) I receive an email with notifications about what my friends have been doing, including the full text of some of their reviews.
Despite being ridiculously busy, I almost always read that email, because some of my Goodreads friends write truly remarkable reviews. The email includes a button next to each entry which takes you directly to Goodreads and adds that book to your “Want to read” bookshelf. I really like this feature. Before Goodreads, I kept scattered notes on interesting books I encountered, in a highly disorganized fashion. As we prepared for our ritual pilgrimage to the Strand Bookstore in New York, during each trip to the U.S., my DH and I would try to compile all those titles into a single list. A real pain!
Now I just go to the site, select the “want to read” shelf, set the number per page to 100 (there are currently 93 titles on my list) and print!
Indeed, I’ve started to use Goodreads to keep track of titles I find elsewhere (for instance, some of the amazing books mentioned by my fellow members of the Grip). It takes no more than a minute or two to bring up the site, search for a book, and add it.
Of course, another reason to read that email is occasionally someone has actually reviewed one of my books....! In addition, Goodreads lets me go to any of my titles to see 1) how many people have read it; 2) how many people have reviewed it; 3) the average rating (top is 5 stars). For instance, Raw Silk has 36 ratings, 8 reviews and an average rating of 3.97. (Those numbers are actually a bit depressing, considering how many years the book has been available!)
Because I’m an author and I know how much it means, I rate every book I read, and write at least a short review of as many as I can. A few months ago I got an email from Goodreads congratulating me for being such a frequent reviewer, within the top 10% on the site. Yeah, that made me feel good, until I realized that there are very likely millions of members who never post a single review!
I also “like” other people’s reviews, and occasionally leave comments. However, I have not tried in any sort of systematic way to increase my “reach” or draw readers into my circle. Although Goodreads has all sorts of marketing tools for authors, I’ve hardly used any of them. The site is now owned by Amazon (though it was originally independent), so of course it offers advertising, organizes giveaways, and so on. Although I personally approach Goodreads primarily as a community of readers, I know the real focus is on profit. People can buy books (surprise, surprise!) directly from the listing. There’s a big button for Amazon, plus a dropdown list labeled “Online Stores” for everyone else...
I’m sure I could leverage Goodreads to increase my sales. Certainly, as a social network, it makes much more sense to me than Facebook. I mean, if I’m looking to let people know about my books, what better place to do this than a site where the members are self-selected book lovers?
Like all the other marketing stuff I don’t do, Goodreads might make a difference in my sales. Or it might not. Meanwhile, I enjoy the interactions I have with my friends on the site. Though I have a small network, it includes many people whose opinions I respect. It would be more fun, of course, if we could get together in person, drink wine, and compare notes on our reading. Still, Goodreads offers a satisfying (and convenient) alternative.
And by the way, right now I’m reading three books: Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord, by Louis de Bernières; Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos, and Annan, by Henri Mouhot; The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 11, edited by Maxim Jakubowski. When I get on the plane to the US in a few days, I’ll crack open A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the Game of Thrones series, which I’ve been saving for the twenty-odd hour journey.
Drop by Goodreads in a few weeks if you want to know what I thought about these books!