J to tha M: J Brings Up Goodreads

And Off We Go…

medium_6478709717J:  So, what about Goodreads? good or evil?

M:  I’m not on it much

J:  But many readers are. what about readers who go straight to the bad reviews before deciding if they want a book?

how relevant are the reviews on Goodreads as compared to those on Amazon?

Are they even relevant at all?

Does goodreads serve a purpose in that readers can share books with friends the way they would by word of mouth, or has it become useless because of shameless marketing?

M:  I think it’s a balance like anything else

I don’t think bad reviews tank a book–unless they’re ALL bad

It’s hard for authors to read bad reviews–we’ve all been there

but, looking at it from a purely reader standpoint, it’s true that most bad reviews actually help convince me to buy a book

it’s weird, but I think most readers don’t trust the gushy, glowing reviews

what with the pay for review scandal and the realization that a lot of people get friends and family to leave reviews

and some (not all) of the more professional review sites seem to be somewhat…how shall I say..biased toward giving good reviews

J:  It’s hard to give a bad review when you get a free book

M:  I skim through the 3, 2, and 1 star reviews to see if what people are saying are things that seriously bug me

I find those actually more honest and informative for the most part

of course, there are trolls, and they seem to be on Goodreads more

but I think I can tell the difference, as can most readers

J:  I think Goodreads does serve a purpose

in that readers have a place to give honest opinions and writers have a place to share their work

but as with everything, it’s been abused in many ways

M:  yeah. that happens when human beings get involved in a social group atmosphere

and I think it started with the intention of just being a sharing and talking about books you read

but it’s become such a commercial marketing tool, too

and wearing both a reader and writer hat, I can see both sides

but it’s kind of a shame, because now it’s hard to trust any reviews you read–to take them at face value

I mean, we’ve touched on this before. I’ve see author groups where everyone passes around a copy of their book to everyone in the group and they all leave reviews for each other

(and not just Goodreads groups)

and books get a whole bunch of reviews

and yes, they say they don’t expect or require a good review, but…

J:  I agree. In those circles, they’re all often friends

and as much as I tell people your book is awesome, they know I’m your friend

M:  I mean, if you give an honest not-five-star review of a book that didn’t appeal to you, what are the chances other people in the group are going to ask you to read theirs, or want to give your book a good review, honest or not

J:  and there is that

M:  and how many readers who aren’t writers know this is what’s happening? they just see a bunch of high reviews and think they’re from people who just picked the book up on their own and decided to review

reviews have just become goal numbers, like a lot of things

how many followers

and to me, if you’re just looking to increase numbers and improve algorithms, you’re losing what books should be at the core

simply writing a story that appeals, or reading and sharing the same

J:  And also take some of the joy out of writing them

M:  exactly. and reading them

I saw something the other day, where a blogger reviewed a book, and then at the end, encouraged people to go “like” her reviews on Goodreads and Amazon

J:  siiiiigh

M:  so now, not only are authors looking for more and higher numbers, so are reviewers

and I’m not completely naive. I know the great and mysterious Powers That Be tend to look only at those kind of numbers – whether you’re a reader or writer or a whatever it is you do

higher numbers give you more power and influence in whatever world you play in

but it’s still kind of **sigh**

J:  It’s hard not to clamor for them when you know that’s what others are looking at

You want to be above it. outside of it

M:  it’s hard not to get caught up in all that and lose sight of the joy of reading and writing

but I still cling to my version of the fluffcloud that if you write an appealing book, all those numbers will follow

J:  it’s just hard to trust that when you’re not sure how people are finding it to begin with

M:  and I say “appealing,” not “good,” because different people’s definition of “good” varies

J:  sure, one person tells one person, etc.

but Goodreads was supposed to be a way to get it to that one person

M:  an author can scrounge up 30 or 40 5 star reviews from friends or professional circles or whatever, but not 500 or 1000 (not saying that authors with 30 or 40 5 star reviews are doing this, but you know what I mean)

those are the books that I trust appeal to a wide audience

that’s the kind of book I want to write

the kind that as soon as you’re done, you want to talk about it and tell everyone

I love that feeling, and, man, it would really feed my own personal happiness to be able to give that to others

so I try to make that my goal

J:  Well, I tend to think your book rests in that category

but it hasn’t been seen by enough people yet

again. people probably don’t listen to me when I talk about it because I’m your friend

M:  well, thank you. It’s a start, and I’m always wanting to learn more, do better, put more emotional oomph into the next thing I write

I want to make that connection I feel after reading a story that really hits me

J:  the thing is, every book has “issues”

depending on who’s reading it

I mean, Twilight, which I’m prepared to admit hooked me, had stuff that pissed me off. made me roll my eyes or question my attachment

there’s always something

no matter what you do or learn, you can’t make everyone happy

M:  no, and that’s hard to accept, especially when you read that critical review

but what one person doesn’t like might float another’s boat

and it doesn’t always make sense, simply because everyone is different

I mean, I can read two books that have similar issues, whether grammar, structure, plot or character development

and in one book, I can’t get past it

but in another, even though the issues are similar, the story or writing or characters hit that chord

and I can overlook those same issues that made me DNF the other book

so…I’ve just decided it’s magic

J:  sometimes

M:  you can’t necessarily define or explain or reason, but you know when you read if it’s there or if it isn’t

J:  look how much you actually had to say, even though you’re not on Goodreads much

M:  not much was actually about Goodreads, though

J:  Goodreads is just the tool

heh. tool

M:  Goodreads, Amazon, the whole review thing

the whole chasing numbers thing

I think that’s my dissatisfaction with a lot of social media

it’s not about communication so much, but chasing numbers. making yourself feel important, powerful, liked

J:  As long as you don’t let it blind you to the fun

M:  exactly

J:  you don’t have to succumb to the numbers game

M:  but I think a lot of people do

J:  and still use Twitter for fun

M:  if you find that kind of thing fun, see

and some people don’t

J:  I find talking to you on twitter fun

M:  I don’t find talking on twitter particularly fun

sometimes it is

but it just ain’t my thing

J:  no worries

M:  I like talking to you, just not on twitter. heh.

I love chatting and communicating with other readers, writers, everyone

Just not on a forum where everything has turned into something else. Am I using the right words? Good content? The right hastags? bleh.

When I chat with someone, it’s because I want to and enjoy it, not because I should or have to. If that makes sense.

J: Sorry if I knocked you off your fluffcloud. You’re so rarely up there.

M: Right? Here’s my swandive off the fluffcloud



photo credit: Arek Olek via photopin cc

About melissafoxwords

After being rationed books by my parents like most kids get rationed candy, I turned to writing to tide me over between fixes. Having lived in the suburbs of the Mid-West, desert of the Southwest, and foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I'm now living on an island in the Puget Sound with my husband and dogs.

6 thoughts on “J to tha M: J Brings Up Goodreads

  1. MichelleW (MsRomanticReads) says:

    Since meeting Melissa thanks to FF, I’ve been following her blog, and these discussions you two have never disappoint. If you don’t have any objections, I’d like throw my two cents out there.

    – What about readers who go straight to the bad reviews before deciding if they want a book?

    I am one of those people. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t trust reviews on any site. I’ve read stellar reviews from well-known bloggers/reviewers and bought the book upon their recommendation. Later I had to ask myself if we even read the same book. I’m all for some leeway because each individual has a different taste, i.e. some people may not mind adultery in a book, but I mind. But when a book is poorly edited, there are inconsistencies and plot holes or some things just made no sense in the bigger picture, that’s where I give the thumbs down. Therefore, I do read the 1-3 star reviews first, filter out the trolls and build my opinion from the ground up.

    – It’s hard to give a bad review when you get a free book.

    Not at all. Then again, it does depend on the reviewer and on the delivery of said bad review. There’s a fine line between a bad review and constructive criticism.

    – I mean, if you give an honest not-five-star review of a book that didn’t appeal to you, what are the chances other people in the group are going to ask you to read theirs, or want to give your book a good review, honest or not?

    Who cares? If an author can’t handle the possibility that someone may leave an honest non-5-star review, then they shouldn’t offer a review copy in exchange for a review. But again, it depends on what type of readers are approached. Some of my friends who are reviewers have said they won’t post reviews that are lower than a 3 star because they don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings. I find that a shame because as a reader and a friend, I would like to hear their opinion so I don’t waste my money. There are plenty of other authors out there that I could have been supporting instead.

    – I saw something the other day, where a blogger reviewed a book, and then at the end, encouraged people to go “like” her reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

    While asking for a like is tacky, it can serve a dual purpose for both the reviewer and the author. Liking a review either on Goodreads or Amazon results in the review being ranked higher thus becoming more likely to be seen. If it’s an honest review, I’ll “like” it. If it’s rude or too gushy, I won’t like it.

    – It’s hard not to clamor for them when you know that’s what others are looking at. You want to be above it. outside of it.

    It depends on how you look at it. I understand that an author may not want to come across as desperate, but you’re trying to get your product out there. Unless you have a big publisher running the promo mill for you, you do have to do some work in getting the word out about your book or else you’ll just sink in the plethora of self publishers springing up every single day. I’m not suggesting being aggressive about it, but ask a blog for a promo spot or something. At least once, just to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

    – But I still cling to my version of the fluffcloud that if you write an appealing book, all those numbers will follow

    And that’s always a possibility. It’s usually all about “right time, right place”.

    And for the record, I’m a reviewer and a blogger. I receive books for free for reviewing, but I also spend money to buy books. I’d be lying if I said that both piles are equal because quite frankly, I could never afford the total sum that some review request books amount to. I’m just saying that I don’t solely depend on receiving books for free to leave a review. The majority of my collection of books, however, happen to be books that were free on Amazon or other e-tailers at some point. So that might be another topic for discussion for you two at some other time.

    • **waves!**
      And this is why I love your blog and reviews, Michelle.

      I read both good and bad reviews when I’m debating about buying a book. I find that the “bad” reviews are more often the ones that sway my decision. Some things might annoy the reviewer that I don’t mind or even really like, or at least I’ll have a clue what to expect.

      I totally get the purpose of “likes.” I “like” reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads if they were helpful to me, which is what I feel that function was originally intended. When people push for those “likes” just to increase their influence or numbers, that’s when I get a skeevy feeling. I know I’m weird, though, so that’s just my opinion.

      The books that we chat about in the J to tha M chats, the What We’re Reading, are all purchased (or downloaded free when they’re offered on Amazon) by us. We love free and discount downloads and discuss those quite a bit! The guest reviews we do are somewhat mixed, with most being copies of books sent to us, the author asking for review. When we set the site up, we decided to use guest reviewers to keep an extra step of distance to hopefully encourage comfort in asking for and giving totally honest reviews.

      And the review loops that I referenced are the ones where the groups developed for the sole purpose of joining and having your book reviewed by a number of people, and where good reviews are expected in exchange for good ones of your book, just to build numbers. They’re out there. And again, I find that slightly uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just me. And probably most of them do honestly like the book, but knowing that stuff happens, it’s hard to trust reviews, and I think that hurts us all.

      Thanks so much for your insight and input, Michelle! Really enjoy your views as always 🙂

      • MichelleW (MsRomanticReads) says:

        I see you remember me as well as I remember Major Misconduct. Just for the record, that story would still have been very memorable to me even if the character names were different 😉 I can’t forget the spandex undergarments and the scene that followed, lol.

        Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I have to agree with you 100% that some things that annoyed the reviewer are good indicators of what to expect.

        I don’t think you’re weird for feeling awkward about people asking for likes. I’m the same way. That’s one of the reasons why I refuse to ask for a Facebook “likes” along the lines of “1000 Likes Giveaway”. If I have to entice people to like my page, just because I’ll be giving away a ton of goodies, then they’re not really enjoying my reviews because of the content, but it’s because of what I can give away. I work a little too hard on writing thoughtful reviews to bother making others happy.

        I have heard of those groups, but I prefer to steer clear of them. Not just because it may be a conflict of interest on my part, but I am also very picky about what I read. I don’t just read for the sake of reviewing. When i agree to review a book, it is usually something I would have borrowed or bought for myself. I think that should sort of be the point of it all.

        I also feel dismayed sometimes when I have to come to the conclusion that some reviewers I looked up to, may very well be giving a higher rating for popularity sake. I’m not accusing anyone, but it is the perception I get sometimes. Now I only trust two reviewers who are also friends. Not only do we have similar tastes, but I have seen them give low reviews constructively.

        I suppose the take away is that there are both good and bad authors and reviewers. Whatever an individual is looking for, it pays to do a little research. That is if one cares enough to do so.

        Thank you for these discussions. It’s nice to see the other side of the coin and think about how others may perceive things.

  2. I live by a site called rottentomatoes.com for my movies, but I rarely read reviews of a book before I buy it. Over time, I’ve learned with rottentomatoes that an action movie with 60% and “more action than story” is right up my alley. In other words, the % rating isn’t gospel to me.
    But book reviews I can’t adjust for in the same way. 1) I remember starting one new release that had a number of 4 and 5 star ratings, I got 1/4 of the way thru and deleted it off my Kindle because I agreed more with the 1 star rating (So much for the 4s and 5s) 2) A lot of people were rating the last Charlaine Harris – Sookie Stackhouse poorly BEFORE THEY EVEN READ IT!! (And there goes the 1s and 2s) And 3) I only give reviews if I think they are 4 or 5 stars. I feel too bad to rate a book a 1 or 2, which if others feel the same way, means those ratings are seriously skewed.
    So for me…covers, repeating authors, word of mouth, and the book blurb or snippets on blog is the way I find my books.

    • I totally look at the comments for movies and books more than the actual rating. The comments are where I get info–good and bad–that I can base a decision on, whether to buy a book or a ticket.

      The whole review thing has morphed and changed–as have most things–from what they originally started out as, were intended for, and sometimes what people still expect them to be.

      I’m the same way in finding books. Most come from word of mouth, a few from blog sites listing reviews and deals, some just from diving into Amazon, but I always read the blurb. If it interests me, I buy it. If I’m on the fence, I skim the reviews for what’s being said, see if those issues still make the book intriguing to me, and then make a decision.

      Very good points, Charlotte!

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