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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Connecting Children with Nature
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!