Just in case there is anyone who does not know what Goodreads is: In their own words:
‘Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love. Goodreads launched in January 2007.’
Some statistics – Goodreads currently has:
- Sixty-Five (65) million members (worldwide);
- Two (2) million books added;
- Sixty-Eight (68) million book reviews.
It was originally, and remained for several years, an independent site but was bought by Amazon in 2013. Eventually, Amazon closed Shelfari, a competing site they had previously bought, in favour of keeping Goodreads.
Author opinions about Goodreads tend to be varied. Some state they do not find it very useful for marketing (selling) or publicising their books while others state they have found it useful.
Those who state they do not find the site helpful have perhaps forgotten Goodreads is principally for readers as identified by two top level statements displayed when someone visits the site: ‘Deciding what to read next?’ and ‘What are your friends reading?’ They may have also forgotten that authors really should also be readers. It is a little arrogant and shortsighted for authors to expect people to read their books without returning the compliment of reading other authors works. Professionals also argue an author cannot truly learn their craft without reading.
Those authors who state they do find the site helpful have probably realised the true nature of it and have understood it does offer additional means for them to communicate and share with readers in general and with their own readers, fans and followers in particular. Modern day readers do appear to be interested in the author as a person as well as in their writing and appreciate more direct contact than was perhaps normal in the past. This is part of the reason authors are recommend to build an author platform, especially online. This not only entails having a website and blog but also the maintaining of a social media presence. Goodreads is generally seen as forming part/being an extension of social media.
Communicating on Goodreads
Having made the above observations it is now appropriate to look at how an author may interact with readers etc. through the site:
- Join relevant groups (e.g. those dedicated to genres they write in or enjoy reading);
- Participate in discussions about individual books;
- Share, within a relevant discussion, their writing knowledge and experience;
- Publish reviews of books read;
- Enable their blog posts (assuming they have a blog if not a website) to be published in Goodreads. (When published these appear under the author’s profile and a notification is sent to their Goodreads followers.)
- Add information about new books. (Fans and followers may be waiting to hear.)
- Watch for authors who are struggling with some concept and join in the conversation with any helpful information or knowledge they can impart.
- Respond to reader’s questions. (Reader’s may raise a question within a discussion but there is also the more dedicated system of ‘Ask the Author’ the primary subject for this article: See below.)
All the above build a relationship with both readers and fellow authors. Accepted Goodreads may not be the place to gains sells but it is certainly a place to engage with other book orientated people.
Though, as already said, Goodreads is not principally an avenue for selling it does have the facility for arranging a giveaway promotion that could ultimately also result in some sells. However, that is not a subject for discussion in this article.
‘Ask the Author’
Now for the main subject to be considered: The Goodreads ‘Ask the Author’ facility. This, as implied in the label, provides opportunities for readers as well as fellow authors to ask an author whatever they wish whether it be about their books; writing habits; story idea sources; writing challenges; etc. It is certainly something authors should consider having as an additional resource for meaningful engagement.
First and foremost the author must have a Goodreads Author Profile. Setting one up is just as simple as setting up a reader profile. The only additional requirement is the author has a published book or one that has been added to the database ahead of publication e.g. on pre-order or with a future publication date. The system will then seek to validate the person is a genuine author. The other information required is the usual: name (Note: Name should be entered EXACTLY as it appears or will appear on book covers etc. (this includes stops, spaces, etc.). If not, the system will not be able to locate the book(s) and consequently validation may fail.); e-mail address; website/blog url (if have one – not a necessity); biography; etc. Further guidance may be located by searching ‘Author Programme’ in the Goodreads help section.
The ‘Ask the Author’ Question and Answer facility is located within the Author Dashboard. It remains turned off until the author chooses to activate it. Note: This is an optional facility and does not have to be used, though it could well prove a useful tool.
The facility may be set up to be continuously active or as a special limited time event or just simply for a designated time span. It is wholly at the author’s discretion.
Important: Before activation the author should ensure they are going to be available. It would not impress if they set it up and then are not there to answer questions.
The facility may be turned ‘On’ or ‘Off’ from the author dashboard by going to the ‘Ask the Author’ section and toggling between the on and off options.
Author’s should consider the option to add a personal message. It may help to include some idea of when they are going to be available if there are to be times when they are not. (E.g. T. R. Robinson makes clear, owing to other demands and factors, there may be a day or two delay in them answering questions.)
Author’s should also be aware, when the facility is turned off, any questions already submitted will remain in place to be answered or not as the author wishes. (Naturally, it would not be good public relations to leave questions unanswered but the decision is the author’s.)
Note: An author’s followers will NOT be notified when they turn the facility on. It will be up to them to let people know.
When first activating the facility a list of readymade questions will be presented. The author does not have to answer all or any of these but it may help give visitors a feel for what to expect if some are. Additionally, some of these questions and answers may pre-empt some of the more obvious ones.
When a question is submitted the author will receive an e-mail notification. To answer:
- Go to author dashboard;
- Find question;
- Click ‘Answer’;
- Enter answer in box;
- Click ‘Answer’ when sure answer is ready to be sent;
- An e-mail notification will be sent to the person who submitted the question.
The question and answer will be displayed on the author’s profile and in the newsfeeds of those who follow the author in Goodreads. Questions and answers remain with the author’s profile enabling readers to view them whenever they wish.
Note: Authors do not have to answer all or in fact any questions but again it would not give a good impression to have the facility activated and to not respond.
How do readers find authors who are open to taking questions?
- Click on the ‘Community’ tab in top bar;
- Scroll down to and click on ‘Ask the Author’;
- List of ‘featured’ authors as well as those the reader follows, who are open to taking questions, will be displayed;
- Choose who to ask a question and click on the displayed ‘Ask’ tag;
- Enter question and click ‘Ask’.
As indicated, authors do not have to utilise the ‘Ask the Author’ facility. Where they do not, their name will not appear in any ‘Ask the Author’ listings.
Authors should remember their followers, unless they have checked as indicated above, will not be notified when they turn the facility on. It will be up to them to let people know.
Readers may ‘like’ and/or comment upon an answer. Their response will be shown in both the author’s profile and in the author’s followers newsfeeds.
‘Ask the Author’ is a useful facility that provides an additional means for authors to communicate, meaningfully, with their readers, followers, fans and with fellow authors.
Authors should only activate the facility if they are sure they will be available to answer questions within a sensible timescale.
The facility may be used as an event or may be left permanently open. If an event, authors should ensure the open and close dates are clear.
When the facility has been turned off it would be wise to check for any outstanding unanswered questions.
Caveat: Those who truly do not like or appreciate the Goodreads site should really keep away because it is undoubted their negative and possibly critical viewpoint will be quickly detected.
T. R. Robinson is open to questions: Click Here to ask.