QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Author's Complete Guide to Using Goodreads, Part II: Psychology

Missed Part I in this series? Click here.

Goodreads.com, recently purchased by Amazon.com, is the largest social media platform for book lovers. With over ten million members, and a focus on reading and nothing but reading, it is a great place to find readers for your book. But what will they do with it once they find it?

They'll read it, of course. And that's what we want. But those coveted readers will sometimes rate your book, or leave a review. In every author's life comes a day when that review or rating does not feel good. Perhaps Ella Fitzgerald had a Goodreads premonition when she sang, "into each life some rain must fall." Because bad reviews are inevitable.

Humor me and say it out loud. "Bad reviews are inevitable." Because they are. And here's the really tricky concept to graspthey're actually desirable.

You don't believe me? I'm not at all offended. Because it took me awhile to wrap my head around this concept, too. Let me put it to you another way:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has 59,568 one star reviews.
The Help by Katharine Stockett has 3,256 one star reviews.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare has 25,291 one star reviews.

Every time someone rates or reviews your book, your cover art appears in that person's news feed, even if they trash you. Now, it's tough to read a review that's uninformed or just plain mean. But readers come to Goodreads because of its dynamic capabilities. And we take the bad with the good, because they go hand in hand. Consider the following reader reviews of these cultural touchstones.
I pulled these directly from Goodreads:

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
"When I read this/watched the movie, I felt like Shakespeare wrote this when he was a crazy old man who didn't care anymore. I imagine he was like, "I'm done bitches," and then threw the script across the room."

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway
"It bored the living crap out of me."

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
"For the first 50 pages or so, I thought it was gonna be a good one. but then it just started to suck. I shouldn't even have finished it, but I did. can't believe it won a pulizter or whatever."

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
"Alright, so she loves someone else, blah blah. It’s frustrating and it’s not as if this has never been written about before or since, by far superior writers."



What should we do when we get a completely unfair review? (And this is the toughest lesson.) There is only one answer, and that answer is: nothing. There is almost no situation in which the author stands to gain a thing by responding to negativity. The people at Goodreads know this, and the first time an author tries to comment on one of her own reviews, a yellow warning box will appear on the screen. In about 200 words, they tell you "don't do it!"

And that's good advice. There have been times when authors try to respond to the attack, and the reviewer marshals a bunch of friends to stop by and leave that author more one star reviews. There are trolls in the world, and tripping into their lair is not fun.

But even if that wouldn't happen, you should still refrain. When we put a book out into the world, we have to let go. If our readers decide that book makes a better dart board than literature, so be it. Close the browser window, pour another cup of coffee, and work on that WIP.

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

Also, do not allow your friends to respond to negative comments. That doesn't look good for the author, and we can always tell when it's the author's friend who is acting badly.

Sarah Pinneo said...

Exactly! Cool and detached, folks. Even when it's tough.

Stephsco said...

The yellow box--Don't do it! hahaha, I had no idea this existed. Great advice.

Rosie said...

The Shakespeare quote is priceless.