Hands down, the best advice I give to any author is to get on social media.
Most authors have no problem following this advice, until they learn social media includes Goodreads. Then I see hemming and hawing. There seems to be an almost universal fear of joining and participating on Goodreads, never mind interacting with readers. The biggest and most frequent complaint is that authors don’t understand how to navigate Goodreads; but the underlying truth is often they are afraid of Goodreads bullies.
Before we get started, let’s look at why an author who is serious about their career needs to be on Goodreads. Here are the basic facts: Goodreads launched in 2007, has a membership that is thirty million strong now and still growing. Worldwide it is the largest concentration of readers located in any one spot. That means an author has potential access to 30 million passionate readers and fellow authors who are looking to find their next good book or networking opportunity. For an author, Goodreads can be like shooting fish in a barrel if they have a quality product and know how to make Goodreads work for them, not against them.
In 2010 I joined Goodreads and am now a top one percent reviewer. This positioning comes with a lot of learning—both positive and negative. While Goodreads is a great place for readers and authors, like any Internet site with high visibility, you will find some users who are simply jerks hiding behind the veil of a computer. People can sometimes misbehave. It’s a fact of life. Learn to deal with it. I have had it happen to me from both fellow members and authors. No one is exempt. While it can be hurtful and may tempt you to chuck Goodreads aside, as a reader, and author, it is critical that you be there.
Now, let’s be very clear-from my seats, I have been bullied and witnessed bullying on Goodreads from every angle. When I hear readers/reviewers point fingers at authors and vice versa, I often chuckle and shake my head. Everyone has a piece of the pie when it comes to bad behavior on Goodreads.
I have witnessed a teenage boy call for the murder of author Greg Mortenson in a review for the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time. Authors of books that I rated with a one star review have attacked me. I have watched a fellow reviewer be publicly ripped apart by an author because she stated that she couldn’t finish his book due to the font and writing style. He oddly enough felt justified in minimalizing her credentials as a reviewer. And, do I dare bring up the whole Stop the Goodreads Bullies movement?
So, how does one participate in Goodreads and maintain their sanity? The answer is to stay above the fray. OK, I admit, this may be easier said than done. In reality, though, it isn’t. It just takes a lot of patience and willpower not to go down that nasty road.
Several years ago I had a co-worker who was a micromanager. Hands down, she was the most incompetent marketing executive that I had ever had the sorry pleasure to work with. She made everyone who worked with her miserable because of her micromanaging and general incompetence. In a meeting where the complaints regarding her method of oversight were front and center, our Chief Operating Officer stated that if she had time to micromanage, she had too much time on her hands. The same applies in this situation. If you have time enough to get into the antagonist back and forth commentary on Goodreads, you have too much time on your hands. This is true whether it is a situation brought about by you, or in response to a comment made by others.
Bette Lee Crosby, USA Today best-selling author of Spare Change, whom I call the guru of Goodreads states that it is important to get in, get your contacts done and get out. She recognizes Goodreads for the excellent marketing opportunity it offers authors and realizes that an excessive amount of time spent there takes away from her writing and other marketing outlets. Bette has used her skills as a former marketing executive to navigate Goodreads masterfully and she has the book sales to prove it.
On that note, let’s take a deeper look at what a Goodreads action plan might look like.
- Schedule a time each day to go into Goodreads. Make sure it is no less than 15 minutes and no more than 30 minutes per day. My advice is to do it while you are drinking your morning drink for the day or watching a television show at night.
- Develop a DAILY list of what you want to accomplish. Once you have completed this list, GET OFF. Now this is the difficult part, do not allow yourself to deviate from it until you have trained yourself to stay above the fray. This list might include:
- A check in on your favorite groups to discuss books – not just your book, but the books others are reading (please review group guidelines) and to develop a rapport with the group members
- Updating your reading list
- Identifying new readers of your books
- Sending out strategically targeted friend requests
- Interacting with friends to develop a line of communication
- Setting up a new event
- Posting a new blog piece
- If an incident occurs, rise above it. Control yourself no matter what. If it means that you have to close down your computer and come back later, do just that. DO NOT RESPOND!
- Remember that a review is just a review. It is one person’s opinion. If they are a functionally illiterate jackass in stating it, that is reflective of them…not you. It only becomes reflective of you when you respond. Is it really worth it to have your book be placed on an Authors Behaving Badly list and potentially affect your book sales because you chose to argue with a numb nut who can’t write a book review that isn’t antagonistic? Put the review into perspective.
Best-selling author and social media guru, Rachel Thompson, nailed it at the end. She states “The best way to utilize Goodreads is to use your manners: click ‘like’ on all reviews, regardless of the rating. If you feel you must interact thank the reviewer, nothing more. I’m grateful for every review-that someone took the time to purchase my book, read it and review it-even if they hated it! That’s their right and I respect that.” (The thank you note is the one thing I whole-heartedly disagree with.)
Utilized correctly and within your level of comfort, Goodreads is not a scary place. In fact, I have met numerous good friends, including both readers and authors. The Author CEO was conceived out of a friendship developed with an author on Goodreads.
The key is learning how to train YOURSELF to utilize this awesome marketing tool and come out unscathed. Remember, Goodreads is a virtual community of over 30 million people. Would it be realistic to expect a group that size to be totally without controversy? In my humble opinion, such an expectation would be naïve. The only people we can control are ourselves. Authors who successfully navigate Goodreads accept this and reap the rewards.