Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

The One Thing Every Author Needs to Understand about Goodreads

If there is one thing I think authors could benefit from understanding about Goodreads, it’s the fact that it is first and foremost a book discovery/recommendation engine. That means that its software is constantly evaluating each user’s ratings of books and using that information to display books that are “similar.” But, of course, “similarity” only goes so far, which means that if you happen to like shifter romances but loathe vampire ones, you’re liable to get a lot of recommendations for vampire romances unless you make an effort to tell Goodreads “I don’t like vampires.” One way to do that is to rate every single vampire romance you see as a one-star book. Goodreads will eventually get your point and stop recommending Twilight at al.

The point I’m making here is that there’s nothing inherently vicious or personal about a reader giving your book one star before reading it. Just as those who rate books five stars because these are the kinds of books they really like and want to have show up in their recommendations isn’t deliberate “padding” of the rankings for those books. They’re both about making Goodreads useful to the user.

The sooner authors can understand and accept this, the better. Because Goodreads actually IS a very useful discovery engine, but it only works as well as its ability to find readers who’ll like your book. And it can’t do that if the baseline assumption is that every reader will love every book.

1 Comment

  • Sabine A. Reed August 31, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I have been on goodreads as an author and reader for the past many years. And surprisingly this is the first time this issue has come to my attention. As a reader, I wonder what’s the need to rate a book at all if you are not planning to read it? By rating a book, you are giving that particular genre or sub-genre attention but if you don’t add that book, or rate it, goodreads is never going to recommend or not recommend similar books.


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