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Goodreads: honestly, what am I going to do with you? by Hans M Hirschi

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Talking about Goodreads, reviews and fakes, someone on Facebook (about which we could also all write novels…) said, and I quote:

My motto: Don’t go to Goodreads after the first two weeks.

I’m not sure if she meant the first two weeks after your new book is out or period, but in recent months, I’ve been finding myself on Goodreads less and less frequently, and here’s why.


First of all, I’ve never liked the interface. The color brown has given me colitis ever since the first day I signed up. Even the old brown on the stitched calendar on my iPhone was more tasteful. The Goodreads brown is simply something best left to poo-pourri! But as disgusting as the visual appearance of Goodreads may be, it didn’t stop me from engaging with the platform.

Two years ago, I even met with representatives of it (they had just been sold to Amazon) to discuss, at an author day in London, best behavior on the site. I had been an active author for six months and I had made all the mistakes you possibly can:

  • I read my reviews
  • I thanked people for good reviews
  • I tried to explain to people leaving bad reviews what I’d meant or how they’d misunderstood

After that meeting in London, I’ve never touched a review again. I still used the site to track my reviews, numbers and statistics and I used to run giveaways. But the giveaways were expensive (shipping physical books around the world? I am not based in the U.S. and so I always made sure that the entire world could enter, shipping most of my books to Nigeria, the Philippines & India) What did it do to my “fame” or my sales numbers? Nothing. I tried advertising, I tried the “ask a question feature”, I even opened a group, but nothing really worked, even if I tried hard (for a while.) When I deleted the group no one seemed to miss it.My new novel, sizzling hot erotica. Down to earth, funny, sexy and romantic. First book that I haven’t bothered writing an author review for on Goodreads. I just can’t be bothered anymore.

My new novel, sizzling hot erotica. Down to earth, funny, sexy and romantic. First book that I haven’t bothered writing an author review for on Goodreads. I just can’t be bothered anymore.
My new novel, sizzling hot erotica. Down to earth, funny, sexy and romantic. First book that I haven’t bothered writing an author review for on Goodreads. I just can’t be bothered anymore.

I am a member of two groups that are very active and I get monthly e-mails that are deleted without even reading them. They never seem to include anything of importance to me. Why am I in these groups? I write/wrote for the genre and/or someone told me to be, most likely my publisher.

Just last week I learned there’s a group on Goodreads for one of the events I’ll be attending. Not on Facebook? Wow. Thing is, Facebook is a place I’m on anyway, for personal reasons. Goodreads isn’t, so going there, overcoming my colitis, and reading what can amount to hundreds of posts in this very unpleasant UI is just adding gas to my already troubled system. I’ll go there if I need to find something. My publisher has a secret group where the authors chat, and before I had learned to turn notifications off, I would wake up to literally hundreds of such notifications (I thought the world had gone under and that I had somehow missed a memo about it…)

I get a friend request on Goodreads every other day, one a blue moon I actually recognize anyone. I always accept. Also, people add me as friends without me having to do anything. Weird? I just don’t get that, and many of the profiles that pop up on Goodreads seem just on the fringe of being odd (not more than two books, no reading, just profiles, not even a picture) And given that Amazon has and is changing and tightening its review system, is it possible that these fake reviewers are now taking to Goodreads to leave reviews for people who pay them to? I’ve seen enough circumstantial evidence (new ‘friends’ who push for a particular book just too often, too frequently, and too many of them at a given time) for me to dismiss this as a coincidence.

The first time I didn’t do a Goodreads giveaway for a book of mine. I just couldn’t justify the ROI.
The first time I didn’t do a Goodreads giveaway for a book of mine. I just couldn’t justify the ROI.

I’m an author. I’m not stupid. I “pay” for reviews, too. But the way I, and I think most authors/publishers do it, is that we offer our books, an ARC, to reviewers, ahead of the book’s release, be it just like that or as part of a book tour, and it’s the book tour we actually pay for. If the review is above three ***, they’ll publish it, otherwise they won’t. I’ve NEVER paid anyone to write a favorable review, and quite frankly, I know that often times, a genuine crap review sells more books than fifty immaculate five ***** ones. To me, that’s a warning sign if any.

The lack of monitoring of reviews is another thing. I have, like all authors, good and bad reviews on Goodreads, but when you get 1 and 2-star ratings for a book that’s not out yet? When you see books rated 5 stars fifty times over, weeks before its out? How’s that possible? And why is it possible for people to rate a book when they put it on their to read list?“Oh, I’m expecting this to be a crap book, so let me rate it 1 star…” Huh?

So, I never go to Goodreads anymore to get recommendations (another thing that’s exploded recently, from these suspected face accounts), I never read my reviews anymore, and I don’t even leave reviews either. I review on my blog and that it posted on Goodreads automatically. I’ve stopped running giveaways on Goodreads for my past two books because I think the system is broken (always has been, but GR doesn’t care) and because there’s no way to do it with ebooks.

I’m not sure what the problem with Goodreads is, exactly. If they are purposely letting it run loose because of their ties to Amazon? If the stricter review rules on Amazon are causing the “fake review business” to turn to Goodreads instead or if Goodreads is being strangulated, as it could be seen as competing with Amazon (after all, it also lets people point to other booksellers), by its owner; that would explain why the way the UI hasn’t changed the past one hundred years?

I have a profile on Goodreads. Changing that is challenging, to say the least. The staff is not very responsive. I’ll keep that profile for now, but I’m not a very active user. Personally, I don’t think Goodreads adds any value anymore, it’s just a nuisance, a place you “have to be” on rather than wanting to be (sort of like Facebook pages), and it’s been like that for a really long time. There is really nothing there that wants me to go there.

What is your take? Is there a chance that Goodreads will evolve? Survive, or is it, just like SecondLife or MySpace, going to disappear into the abyss of the Internet’s history books? Good reads, bad site?

Let’s have it, what’s your take? This is a post that is as confusing as Goodreads itself, and it appeals to authors, readers and marketers alike… But please, as always, be civil! :)

If you’ve enjoyed it, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook – The Page, Facebook – The Profile, YouTube, and/or Instagram.


Hans M Hirschi 

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  • Great article! I have experienced similar things, in terms of reviews left before the book is published, crap reviews given “just because,” and the general blah nature of Goodreads. As an author, it is frustrating to deal with a platform that doesn’t give me much value. As a reader, I use it to find books, on occasion, but that’s about it. People either love or hate a book, but do they have to be rude or spiteful? I suppose it’s the faceless nature of the beast. I don’t think it really helps me as an author, though it seems to be a “must” for visibility.

  • I only experience Goodreads as a reader, and for me it functions primarily as a list of what I have read and whether I liked it or not. I occasionally read reviews, but never before I read the book myself, and usually only if I really didn’t like it and I want to see if I was the only one!
    What astounds, but doesn’t surprise me, is the way some people feel that the anonymity Goodreads provides is an excuse to be downright rude, both to authors and other readers. Too many people who are of the opinion that their opinion is the right one!
    For me, I will continue to use it to keep track, but as a tool for getting accurate insight into books? I don’t think that’s possible.

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