Please welcome guest Sonja Yoerg to Writer Unboxed today!
Sonja grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and published a nonfiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA, 2001). Penguin/Berkley publishes Sonja’s novels: HOUSE BROKEN (Jan 2015), MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE (Sep 2015) and ALL THE BEST PEOPLE (May 2017). She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
We’re so glad to have her with us today to talk with us about Goodreads and to dig a little more deeply into how authors can use it wisely.
Repeat After Me: “Goodreads Is My Friend”
Most authors I know have a love-hate relationship with Goodreads. On the one hand, the social site boasts 55 million readers; ignoring it is like manufacturing Mickey Mouse ears and refusing to sell them at Disneyland. On the other hand—and you know what I’m going to say—are the reviews, demonstrably harsher than those on Amazon. Goodreads members can, for instance, rate without reviewing, or even reading. My favorite thing to hate about Goodreads (I have a list) are members who pervert the star system, giving one star, say, to a book they want to read soon and five stars to ones they may never get around to. Such creativity and insouciance thrives in the wacky world of Goodreads, as do trolls, spiteful, hateful trolls. Sigh. Some days I play “Here Comes the Sun” five times and down a shot of tequila before opening my Author Dashboard.
And, yet, I maintain that Goodreads is my friend, and should be yours, too. I read my reviews, every single one. Perhaps I’m masochistic but there’s a practical reason: shutting down spoilers. Many readers believe the mark of a great review is a faithful retelling of the entire plot. You can flag such reviews and ask the Goodreads Support team to hide the text. In my experience, they are very responsive. I also learn from reviews: I learn about my books and I learn about human behavior, the good, the bad, and the hypercritical.
Even if you decide to skip the reviews, or haven’t yet published a book, you can make Goodreads work for you:
Be a Goodreads reader.
The site is for readers, so be a reader other members want to follow.
Keep your bookshelves current and like other reviews from time to time.
Make a shelf of your all-time favorite reads and any other shelves that show your personality and taste. I have a shelf called “short-big-books” and another called “surprise-inside.” Do not create a shelf called “did-not-finish.”
Rate books and write reviews. I recognize this is a potential minefield for authors. You want to write an honest review but then again you can’t possibly love every book. Most authors deal with this by only rating and reviewing books they like. Some even state in their profile that they are five-star only reviewers. I’m pretty much a three-star-and-up reviewer. Don’t feel you have to leave a lengthy review or even a glowing one. Pick something you noticed about style or characterization or pacing and write about it. An intriguing review will lead readers to your profile—and to your books. If you don’t have published books yet, you’ll gain book-loving friends.
Be a Goodreads friend.
I’ve met some wonderful people on Goodreads; isn’t that the point of social media? The trolls are far outnumbered by astute, voracious readers who leave thoughtful reviews and think the world of writers. Meet some of them! If you are as lucky as I have been, they will be among the first readers to whom you send your latest book for those all-important early reviews. I met one of my most faithful readers because I commented on her review of a book I’d recently read. A discussion ensued. Out of curiosity, she picked up my debut and we’ve been chatting about books—and life—since.
Be an interesting Goodreads member. [Read more…]