The Sense and Sensibility of Goodreads – Top or Flop?

Authors are always on the look-out for the right channel to engage with their readers and fans. Twenty years ago, this was easy, as publishers used the classical print media or live events for book presentations and advertising. With the birth of the internet, social media and PoD (publishing-on-demand or print-on-demand) this has changed dramatically. Authors are forced to engage on a multitude of platforms; I am using a dozen.

One of those channels is Goodreads, where my author profile has been live since 2010. At first sight, this platform should be ideal to bring readers and authors together, as it is completely focused on books and literature. This is possibly the reason that Amazon acquired Goordreads back in 2013.

But Goodreads isn’t working for me, neither in my role as an author, nor as a reader. Why is that? As one fellow author wrote:

“Goodreads Sucks and is Not Worthwhile”

Readers aren’t given a way to judge what was wrong and writers are not given a chance to improve their work. There is no value of any kind to this method. Second, when text reviews are left, they are quite often extremely negative. Not just negative – I’ve found Goodreads reviews tend to be vicious to the extreme.

Luckily my books have been spared the more vicious attacks by readers, but I do agree with Writing King – it is easy to notice that ratings for some books may well be positive, but the reviews are in many cases written by overtly negative people, many of whom have neither little knowledge of writing good reviews – nor what makes good literature.

Looking at the site from an author AND reader perspective there are many ways the platform could be improved.

  • Although it is understandable why Amazon acquired Goodreads (to draw readers to their online bookshop), they are doing very little for the benefit of their two users. For me as a reader, I am challenged to find more books to read on Goodreads – I rather use Amazon for that (not that I much at Amazon; I simply like Amazon to identify interesting products). As an author, I have uploaded all my books – but that’s it. It is very hard to then start promotions. Amazon does promotions too, but with a high-pricetag, and like any other publisher, they have a couple of favorite authors that they promote – the rest are on their own.
  • It seems as if functionality is removed (e.g. the connector to Facebook), not added. It should be possible to do quite exciting things with such a platform, e.g. stimulate the interaction between authors and readers. As it is now, all communication is uni-directional.
  • Reviews are very easy to publish, but obviously they aren’t quality checked, which is deadly for any platform that lives on reviews.
  • The interface looks old and stuffy. Besides books, I am great fan of movies too, and IMDB looks by far better! By the way, IMDB is also owned by Amazon, you may see a pattern emerging…
  • I have been a member of several Goodreads communities, which are overall bloodless. If I have a question, I may join such a community, but I leave it quickly again once I have my answer. Far too many notifications!
  • The site is confusing, and after using it for so many years, neither purpose nor navigation is obvious to me. Is it social media? – nah not really. Is it a catalog? – nah not really.

In short: as an author I will remain present on Goodreads, but I will continue to keep a low profile. What Goodreads needs is either a dramatic make-over… by someone who knows how to make social media attractive.

Originally posted 2021-02-06 22:35:00.

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