Edita A. Petrick
Edita A. Petrick
Edita A. Petrick

Goodreads…and of what use is it to the Author?

Amazon owns Goodreads. Does that mean that Amazon’s business principles (or lack thereof) or Amazon’s level of technology and its corresponding use (or misuse), or more importantly the ever increasing watchfulness and security over user-input into any product review, are also in-house features at Goodreads?

In a nutshell—no. If you want to find a good ‘read’ in your favorite genre, and see how it compares to the big-name bestsellers before you buy it, you go to Amazon.

If you want to see a mish-mash of books and genres, if you want to surf a cornucopia of meaningless reviews, if you want to see mountains of disembodied ratings without the slightest quality control, you go to Goodreads. Other than that the site is a hotbed of malice—trolls and immature youth gangs open up Goodreads accounts for the sole pleasure of loading it up with books (thousands in most cases) and then rating them all with one-star rating—it is overseen by librarians-in-denial.

If you have the nerve to gently point out to them that a particular account holder rated upward of 100 books on a single day with one-star rating and that the account is loaded with thousands of books to read (Really? This does not ring a warning bell…somewhere?), they will respond that their readers can read as many books as they wish and yes, it is possible to read hundreds (in a single day, natch). They will state that it is not unusual to have thousands of books sitting in a reader’s account, waiting to be read and rated. This kind of response, bordering on insanity, comes from Goodreads’ librarian just to confirm that nothing will be done about anything. And that all is proper and in good standing in the bizarre Goodreads-land.

In this day and age when sites like WordPress woo the author with their increasingly ‘hands-on’ features of building websites, creating blogs and newsletters, Goodreads is very comfortable of nesting in the Dark Ages. Trying to upload a new title, is a nightmare for the hardiest author. In fact, most authors have to ask the Goodreads librarian for assistance.

Which brings us to something else very odd and disturbing—Goodreads librarians believe their site is on par with the Library of Congress. Honestly. No kidding here at all. Once a book is uploaded to Goodreads site, the librarian will not let you remove it. At all. Ever! It must stay there lest it be lost to the world…or some such idiocy. This is simply about removing a book cover from authors’ account that does not have a book of any kind behind it (not to confuse this with removing ISBNs or anything of that sort). You can cancel your Goodreads account but your uploaded books (whether these even exist or not) will not be removed from their database. This results in an author-accounts showing book-covers that belong to…thin air, as far as the written word is concerned. If you persist, you will get a differently worded response. ‘We can’t,’ will become ‘We will not’ remove any title (doesn’t matter it doesn’t exist as a title or anything else) from our library. So it is not a far-fetched belief that some day Goodreads might become entirely title-only populated library. No words. No books. Just titles.

And last but not least, promotion. If Goodreads allowed e-book contest/promotion it would be a great tool for promo. Ebook contest-giveaway would actually help the author without breaking his/her promo budget. As is, sending trade-paperback copies (for which the author has to pay first) via regular mail is horrendously prohibitive. Postal rates have skyrocketed and for example, a teenaged student from India asked me for a copy of my latest mystery release and he said he would write a review and post it on Amazon. I can get the trade paperback for discounted price but it would still run around $12 US (never mind currency conversion here). Then the packing needs to be done in cardboard book containers and these are not cheap. If you try packing it with ‘economy’ neither the economy paper nor the book will arrive with all its words in their proper place. Then you go to the Post Office to shake hands with reality—you can send the book via ‘ground’ which means it might make it to India before Christmas—honestly, maybe 4 months realistically speaking and they don’t guarantee its delivery because high country in India is well, high rural. That would still cost around $25-$30 because it has to travel as a small packet which is what it is. And if you want air mail delivery—the only other way you can send it (unless you have a business account and do thousands of dollars business monthly) costs…I flinched when I heard it—$78.00 and another $10 if I want a signature. That would take a week to get there.

I don’t know about you but my monthly budget for promo is about $100—some months less. Is one review worth a $100 bucks (and Amazon of course doesn’t consider this ‘buying’ reviews – what a farce)—not to me. I just don’t have the money.

This begs the question: How is then Goodreads helping authors (indie authors) with promotion of their work? It won’t allow e-books in its contest giveaways. What possible benefit is there for the author to have his works listed there? None of the heavy-hitters in the paid promo-land will take any rating or review on Goodreads into consideration. On any given day, a horde of trolls can come cruising by and rate his/her books with one-star malice and Goodreads will not see anything inappropriate in such action, nor will they bother investigating any action, no matter how insane it might be. If the author wants to remove his/her books from the site, he’s told he can’t and they won’t for reasons that are as ridiculous as a red hat on a pony. I’ve been a member of Goodreads since 2008 and I’m still trying to find some redeeming qualities the site must have…or should have. However, as time goes by, I’m only discovering its…broken shelving, its neuroses and phobias, not its brave new global attitude.