Are you in the habit of cataloging your readings? There are websites aimed at this, but that still go further and act as social networks for readers. This is the case of Goodreads, created in 2006 and purchased by Amazon in 2013. In Brazil, we also have Skoob, a Brazilian platform launched in 2009. More than a space to exchange perceptions about books, these sites can also be a place for authors expand their digital presence and communicate with people who are passionate about reading, moving away from traditional social networks like Instagram and Twitter.
Let’s go to the numbers…
Today, as of June 2021, Goodreads has more than 125 million global users. Every month, 30 million books are marked as “I want to read” by people on the network. Although the platform does not release numbers referring to the Brazilian public and does not have a Portuguese version, it seems to be growing here.
Goodreads Senior Marketing Director Mimi Chan tells the Techblog that “authors should be on Goodreads because it’s the place people go when they want to discover books, talk about what they’re reading, and catalog the readings.” In short, the network helps authors reach readers at the right time when they are focused on books.
Book discovery is at the heart of Goodreads. Our members also love to help other readers decide if a book is right for them. We have over 125 million text reviews on Goodreads and hundreds of millions of reviews. All of this makes Goodreads a trusted source for learning more about a book.
Mimi Chan, Director of Marketing at Goodreads
Goodreads Author Program
Thinking about this integration between reader and writer, Goodreads created the Author Program. When a writer signs up for this program, they will have the Goodreads stamp on their profile, as you can see in the image below.
This is particularly relevant because the author’s page on Goodreads is also linked to his profile as a reader. In addition to publications related to the original works, those who follow an author can see what they are reading, want to read or have already read, reviews they have written, favorite quotes and what grades they gave to the books they read. It is a way to encourage writers to be present on the platform in both ways and to feed the public with a variety of information, whether about published titles, type of reading they prefer as readers or which references they consume.
For writer and booktuber Bel Rodrigues, author of 13 seconds, this possibility of interaction with members is a great attraction:
Marking the readings I’m taking and evaluating them later is really cool. As it is a social network aimed at readers, it is as if we were closer, reading together. I really like it when they interact with a review or post made by me, it’s always an extra incentive to bring even more people to the platform.
According to Goodreads, today the Author Program has 340,000 registered authors. In addition to the features common to all users, there are also benefits for those who are part of the program, such as a space for a blog, organizing raffles and opening questions for readers with the section Ask The Author (Ask the Author).
Newsletters, Q&A, FAQs
The site has different initiatives that encourage the discovery of new books, such as email newsletters, interviews with authors, best book of the year awards and varied recommendation lists. These articles with recommendations, in particular, are curious because they are often born from insights generated from user data. “Our newsletters are created by our editorial team. The books included in our editorial content are selected based on data that identify the books that generate the most interest and good reviews from our members,” confirms Mimi.
The Readers Most Anticipated Books of June list, for example, lists the publications that were most marked as “I Want to Read” by the members of the platform. But there are also more picturesque curators, like Armchair Traveling: Books Set in Every US State or 32 Historical Romance Series to Binge-Read after ‘Bridgerton’. for you to compulsively read after seeing Bridgerton).
However, as it is an originally American platform, it is natural that books published in English or with translation into the language are more prominent on Goodreads. Brazilian writer Lucas Rocha, author of you have a whole life, punctuates:
It’s a much larger consumer market for books, I think it even makes sense to have more users and reviews in English than in Portuguese. Not only because Goodreads is a platform originally from the USA, but also because it has an initial print run that is double or triple the print run for beginning authors here in Brazil.
Lucas also had the book published by the American publisher Scholastic in 2020 – in English, the title became Where We Go From Herand. He was invited to speak to Goodreads about the story in Meet the Authors of June’s Popular Queer Young Adult Fiction article.), published in 2020.
In the American publishing house, there is the figure of the publicist, which we don’t have much here. It is a person in charge of taking care of the dissemination in the media. So she was the one who got in touch with them – or they got in touch with her, I don’t know exactly how the procedure goes – and told me that Goodreads wanted to do an interview with me.
It is clear that American authors are able to take full advantage of the tools offered by Goodreads. Despite not having activities as a reader on the net, Casey McQuiston, who wrote Red, White & Royal Blue, best seller of New York Times, has a very strong profile on the platform. When you enter the page, you see all the content that mentioned the writer and her books – many articles and recommendations by Goodreads, as well as the responses to fans in the section Ask the Author.
O Author Program it’s free and available to users from all countries, which in theory sounds amazing. In practice, despite many Brazilian authors signing up for the initiative, there is a feeling that more things could be done there. To Iris Figueiredo, author of the book starless sky, the platform is wrong for not having a Portuguese version:
I would like to see this network translated. For me, the biggest difficulty as a writer is that, as the network is in English and has many functions readers do not know, it is a language that those who do not speak or read English usually cannot access. They won’t understand, it’s not that traditional social networking language. There are a few more words that, if you don’t have command of the language, you end up not understanding, so this alienates some Brazilian readers, as it is not translated.
Lucas often uses the network as a space for curation, as well as a sign to understand the public’s tastes:
I like to know what people are reading and getting interested in, I think it’s a really cool way for you to use Goodreads as an author, to know what people are talking about, what books are being most debated, trying to understand the why they are being more debated. From there, you enter another creation. Also, it works mainly for me to understand what impact my book has on readers. He and Skoob are thermometers to understand if the book is well received or not, if it is well spoken or not, if he has problems or not.
Iris, on the other hand, focuses on interaction: “I usually generate content generally. I’ve already registered a quote from my book when I could, I update my profile from time to time, I try to show my readings a lot to my readers – ‘This is something I enjoyed a lot, it reminded me of my own writing’, things like that”.
Reviews and reader relations
Although there is a space for replicas in reviews – which can be tempting to answer a negative review, for example – many authors prefer to make their books page on Goodreads an exclusive space for readers. “Of course you can talk to the members and build a community there, but ultimately it’s a space for reading and readers, it’s not for the writer to want to debate what you think of his book,” says Lucas.
In some cases, authors even prefer to avoid looking at most reviews. This is what happens with Iris:
I’m terrified of reading reviews anywhere. I never read the review of anything, I only read it if they mark me, ask for it. I really think that the book’s page (on the platforms) is no longer mine, it’s a space for the reader. I’ve seen authors do that, both on Goodreads and Skoob, and I don’t think it’s cool because I think you end up inhibiting other readers. Readers who might like it or who might hate it. Going there, rebutting, commenting on the review is not something I find interesting. When I see an author doing this on the page of a book, I feel more embarrassed to opine on what I found, and sometimes it even takes my spirit away from reading the story.
“If you ask me how many read it, I don’t know. I don’t know where my book ranks on Amazon unless someone tells me. I have no idea how many ratings he has on Skoob on Amazon, what his average star rating is on Goodreads. Because I think it’s a very space for the reader, for one reader talking to another. If he wants me to know what he thinks of the book, he’ll write me directly”, he adds.
Bel says she read the reviews after the book was published, but that has changed, mainly because of the way some readers choose to write the review:
I read for the first few months. Since then, I prefer to read what comes to me or seek reading reviews of my books only when I need answers regarding some current story of mine. Several criticisms I embraced and worked to improve, but the amount of hatred people insist on distilling when they are behind a computer or cell phone is absurd. But it’s something that content creators in general are already used to, unfortunately.
Despite not getting into discussions or commenting on the book’s page, Lucas says he usually looks at the reviews:
I do look at the reviews, as soon as the book was released it’s kind of obsessive, I went there every day, sometimes more than once a day to see if anyone had left a new review. But since this book (You Have Your Whole Life) came out in 2018, it’s been on the market for longer, now I go there once a month to see what people say, to see the grade… because it’s something that while I know the importance of star ranking (Goodreads ranks books between 0 and 5 stars), I also have a bit of conflict with this. I’ve already let myself be impacted a lot by negative review.
Still on the criticisms, he concludes:
The first negative review I think is more impactful. You start putting your whole self-sabotage process into play and saying “this guy’s really not right, this book isn’t good,” no matter how many reviews you’ve had before or since. Over time, we learn to filter what we need or don’t understand about it. Some criticisms are very valid and serve our future, but other things are purely a matter of personal taste. ‘Oh, I didn’t like the way he writes’ – it’s the way I write, I can’t change that in the book that’s already done, but I can think about it later. It’s a criticism that I think doesn’t affect me personally, because it’s something other people say differently, if it were unanimous I think it would affect me more.
What about Skoob?
I asked the authors interviewed for this article if they were also in the habit of using Skoob, the Brazilian social network focused on reading. They have profiles there, but they are more active on Goodreads – at first this was because Goodreads had more functionality or better development, and then because they got used to the platform.
Perhaps, a good way to attract even more users and win back old members would be to follow this exclusive content vein. “I would love for Skoob to have this in Brazil. As an author, I would love for the author’s web space to be more interactive. I miss being able to use some tools that foreign authors put on Goodreads. Be a social network where I can generate content. It would be good for me, for readers, for the social network”, says Iris.