Thursday, September 22, 2016

Goodreads: How it Works for Readers and Writers ~ by guest blogger Maria Marshall

We welcome Maria Marshall to GROG today to explain Goodreads, which she uses to organize her reading lists and research for writing projects. So if—like many of us at GROG—you’ve been wondering about whether to get involved with this online reading community, Maria is here to share her helpful insights. ~ Christy Mihaly

What is Goodreads?

I describe it as a composite virtual library, marketing, and social media site. I know, right now you’re thinking, “just what I need, another social site to swallow my limited time and attention.” But Goodreads is a valuable site with many unique features.

While it does allow “friending,” “following,” and “messaging” both friends and authors, Goodreads offers very different benefits from Facebook and Twitter. Its expressed mission is to “help people find and share books they love.” This makes it more of a “book club” than merely a social site. Users can see what their friends are reading, what books they loved and disliked, and recommend books to their friends. It also allows users to read reviews of books posted by the community at large and to respond with a “like” or comment to another’s reviews. In addition, it’s a valuable tool for readers and authors (especially once published).  
Here’s a quick snapshot of what Goodreads can do for you, your books, and those of your friends or favorite authors.


Your Goodreads personal page, “My Books,” functions essentially as a file cabinet and/or virtual library—depending on how you choose to use it.

Goodreads offers folders or “shelves” (it is after all a book oriented site) to organize the books you’ve read into manageable units. The site automatically establishes “read,” “currently-reading,” and “to-read” shelves. Goodreads also allows the user to set up and name whatever other “shelves” they wish. I divided my shelves into adult and children’s books, then set up shelves for “children-chapter,” “children-nf- picture,” “children–picture,” “children-mg,” “resource,” and “writing-reference.”  This screen shot shows how it looks:

In my “free time”, I want to subdivide my picture book and non-fiction shelves (pb-non-fiction-bio‎; pb-historical-fiction; wordless-and-nearly-wordless; board books; pb-character-driven; pb-non-fiction-science; early-chapter-books; pb-concept; early-readers; pb-fractured-fairytale; and pb-lyrical-language, etc.). This further delineation of shelves will make searching my list of over 700 books easier, especially when I dimly recall, but can’t easily find, a certain book.

Goodreads is very customizable and user friendly. It is easy to gather titles of mentor texts for specific projects or themes. Notably, Goodreads allows the user to be as transparent as they wish, deciding which shelves will be visible on their profile page. So you can have a shelf of books available to be seen by Goodreads users and friends, while keeping your specific project shelves hidden. Of note, Goodreads also provides the user with the option of setting (1) who can access a profile, (2) who can follow reviews, (3) who can send private messages, and (4) who has access to a user’s email address.  Like so: 

Reading Challenge

This is a fun feature of Goodreads. I am participating in the 2016 Reading Challenge, to read 1,000 picture books in a year. Goodreads tracks the total number of picture books I’ve read and my progress toward this goal (as long as I remember to input the titles AND note that I read them this year). Although perhaps another of those wonderful time sucking vortexes, it does serve to remind me to at least rate, if not review, books as I read them. This is good for me, as I also tend to read across multiple genres and manually keeping track of everything I ever pulled from the library for a project or ReFoReMo challenge would be nearly impossible. Goodreads also lets the user link the books you’ve bought on Amazon, to reduce recording time.


Another great feature of Goodreads - leaving starred ratings and reviews. So how is this different from Amazon or Barnes & Noble?

1. Timing. Especially important for F&Gs (and I imagine advance copies, as well). While Amazon and Barnes & Noble only accept reviews after publication, Goodreads allowed me to leave an early review for Miranda Paul’s TRAINBOTS. This feature provides a means of highlighting an upcoming release and helping generate interest, since Goodreads is also used by the general public, teachers, and librarians. All reviews are visible not only to your friends, but to any Goodreads user. Like the other commercial sites (and Facebook), Goodreads provides its users with book (and friend) recommendations.

2. Number of Reviews. While arguably redundant, the commercial sites (Amazon and Barnes & Noble) and Goodreads provide slightly different benefits and potentially different audiences. Posting reviews on the commercial sites has the potential to increase a book’s rating and standing, and assist in further sales and rankings on these sites. While it has been argued that the users of Goodreads primarily check books out of the library (see Facebook discussion on KIDLIT 411 group by Tracy Bold 9-1-2016), the commercial sites do not require that you buy the book in order to leave a review. A simple copying of a review to all three (or more) ensures an even greater potential audience and buzz for a book. A wonderful gift for a favorite author.

While all three sites display an average star rating and the number of ratings and reviews that a book obtains, Goodreads seems to have a greater number of reviews posted. As an example, “A Home for Bird” by Phillip Stead (a snippet shown below) only has 28 reviews [w/ a few “verifiable purchases”] on Amazon and 2 reviews on Barnes & Noble. 
This is much lower, as you can see, than the number of reviews for this book on Goodreads. It is worth noting that the NY Times, Library Journal, and Kirkus reviews are only available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But these sites definitely complement each other. And sometimes with books, as with movies, my friends and I have very different impressions than the “professional” reviewers. It’s good to leave, and read, reviews on both the commercial sites and Goodreads.

3. Discussion potential. In addition to leaving a review, Goodreads provides an opportunity for a user to “ask the community” a question about a specific book. While I haven’t participated in this feature, it is a feature unique from the other commercial sites and more akin to a book club. Speaking of, Goodreads also contains a listing of online book clubs within in the site and a listing of “live” book clubs near the user. Additionally, Goodreads provides a forum for communicating with the authors through author groups, featured author question periods, and book discussion forums. All of these are listed under the “community” tab at the top of the profile page. There is also an “ask the author” section on the author page.


On a frivolous and fun note, Goodreads provides numerous giveaways, often on pre-releases. This is yet another way to create book-buzz. I have seen giveaways for all genres.

Author Profile

On Goodreads, this is a free feature. It is not dissimilar to Facebook or Twitter, except for the opportunity to also list the author’s favorite books and what they are reading. It is another forum for reaching readers. Set up is as simple as searching for your book, clicking on your name, and acknowledging that “this is you.” Goodreads accepts any author who has published a book – including foreign or self-published (such as through Barnes & Noble NOOK Press or services like Lulu). Goodreads provides authors with an opportunity to manually add self-published books to their database, if it is not yet included.

The author’s page (as well as the book’s page) allows for the inclusion of videos and Nook previews, as well as a direct link to the author’s blog and website. It also has an “upcoming events” and recent updates section. As with anything, the amount of interaction varies between authors.

It goes without saying that this is a professional page and should be treated as such. If more help is needed, Goodreads provides this “guidance on how to use the site for the YouTube Generation.”

Maria Marshall     
Connecting Children with Nature


Maria Marshall is a children’s author and poet, passionate about connecting children with nature through stories that excite, inspire, and encourage action. She has worked as an attorney, a librarian, an elementary reading program facilitator, and a Girl Scout leader.
Maria is the parent of two amazing adults and lives in the Pacific Northwest with two Pixie Bob cats. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels, bakes, and hikes.

Has her post encouraged you to try Goodreads? Please leave a comment and let us know! 
~ CM


  1. Maria, this is a fantastic post that I'll refer to often. I use Goodreads now, but not as fully as your great tutorial shows us. Thank you for your insight and being a guest blogger here.

    1. I agree with Kathy about what a great post this is. I didn't realize that I could do so much on Goodreads. I've been trying to manually keep track of the books I've read... It's not working, I'm switching to Goodreads tonight.

    2. I agree with Kathy about what a great post this is. I didn't realize that I could do so much on Goodreads. I've been trying to manually keep track of the books I've read... It's not working, I'm switching to Goodreads tonight.

  2. Love this post Maria! I have bookmarked it to help me utilize Goodreads better. Especially the shelving part which I have not yet done outside of the 'read, to read, currently reading' shelves.

    Thank you for mentioning me in the article as well about the reviews on all sites. I'm glad I sparked that FB conversation because I learned a lot just like I did now with this article. Well done!!!

    1. Traci, that was such a great question and conversion starter. I do like Goodreads for its ability to get out early reviews.
      Careful- it can be almost too much fun.

    2. You are correct. I have been taking time to copy my reviews from Goodreads onto Amazon and now I am incorporating the shelves for each book as well. Will make ReFoReMo much easier next March! Not an easy task since I reached 1107 PB this year for the challenge and that does not include the MG or YA's I've read.

  3. Thank you, Maria, for this great tutorial about Goodreads. I've bookmarked this blog post for future use.

  4. Thank you for all the information. I have an account at Goodreads, but never had the incentive to use or understand what it was about.

  5. Thanks, Maria! I am a big fan of Goodreads, and now I can see its benefits!

  6. Wow. Great intro, Maria, to Goodreads. I tend to be slow to get on the bandwagon when I have to learn something new. But, I think I need to get on board on the Goodreads train. Very thorough.

  7. Hi Maria, It's so cool to have these explainers for the nourishing features of Goodreads. It inspires me to get back into it. So happy to also meet you as an author. I'm expecting to look into your site & your picture books. I read in school as a volunteer & am interested in connecting with p.b. authors. Thanks much for helping us out here with this thorough post. And big appreciations to Christy, for bringing talented Maria on board.
    Hope you return, Maria.

  8. Yay, Maria! Thank you for educating all of us about Goodreads. Great post.

  9. Maria you rock❤️ Thank you for showing us how this works. Was so much fun to meet you this summer. You are welcome on the Grog any time.

  10. Exellent topic, Christy.

    Goodreads is a valuable tool for readers and writers. Thank you for highlighting the benefits of establishing a Goodreads account, Maria.

  11. This one's a keeper! Thanks for the Goodreads tour and advice, Maria!

  12. Great post, Maria! I have a Good Reads acct but don't do a lot with it.

  13. Terrific post, Maria! I'm inspired to get back to fixing/enhancing my good reads accounts. Somehow my author page and regular page are all mixed up, perhaps I can start over!

  14. Great post, Maria. Thank you for sharing!

  15. I never really thought of Goodreads like that!

  16. This was incredibly helpful. I hadn't fully investigated the "goodness" of Goodreads, but am really interesting in starting. Thanks!