Is Goodreads Any Good?

goodreadsI READ AN article the other day about an author and online book reviewer who ran amuck of each other on Goodreads.

Evidently, the professional reviewer left a scathing review of the author’s work even though this reviewer had only read one chapter of the book. (Not what I’d call fair, but the author’s response was over the top—you can read the full article here.) The whole thing left me wondering about the use of social media in general and Goodreads in particular.

For those of you unfamiliar with Goodreads, it’s a social media site for booklovers of all kinds and genres. Authors, readers, and reviewers can congregate on Goodreads to discuss reading, books, and writing. It lets authors meet with and develop fans, receive reviews, run contests, or even hold Q&A sessions. Reviewers get to voice their opinions on any and all writings, including books and blogs, all the while building their own following, much like an author. And (supposedly) readers reap the benefits of this site by being able to interact with authors, find out about new books, get a potential reading list from other readers, or join a book reading/discussion group.

While I applaud and commend these aspects of Goodreads, it does have its dark side. For instance, no one needs to sign up to use Goodreads as themselves. In fact, from what I can tell, personas are rampant and anonymity reigns. Why go anonymous you ask? Because when you’re anonymous you can say and do things that you wouldn’t be comfortable doing or saying as yourself.

The other aspect I don’t care for is that no one is required to purchase or even read a book before leaving a review of it. Now, while I doubt most readers would even think of doing this, evidently some authors and reviewers have no issue with it. Authors have been known to push their friends and family members to leave positive reviews whether they’ve read the book or not. Why? Because the reviews on Goodreads carry over to Amazon (the owners of this social media site) and this pushes said book to the top of the heap. Once at the top (or at least near the top), Amazon will use its algorithms to recommend the book to people visiting the Amazon store.

As for reviewers, some of them leave reviews of books they haven’t read. Why? I’m only guessing, but I believe it’s either because they take on too many reading assignments or because they want to make a name for themselves. Making a name for yourself as a reviewer gives you power, and some people just adore power. Therefore, they will do anything and everything to achieve that level of influence…including leaving reviews for books that are gaining in popularity but they haven’t read. And if the review is controversial, all the better. After all, the more people that talk about and remember your review, the more influence and power you obtain. Best of all, you can do it anonymously. If you use a persona, then no one (except perhaps your closest friends) will know that you’re the person who writes those scathing reviews on

All this just to influence the readers. But without the readers the authors and the reviewers are no one. Just some crazy people who type words on a keyboard with the hope that someone will read them. (Just like I’m hoping someone will read this post of mine.)

So as a reader using Goodreads, you have to be careful what you believe. After all, people add book reviews without reading the book, and it seems a great number of people aren’t always who they say they are.

Then how do you know which books are worth reading? I’d say any book that catches your attention is at least worth trying despite what any (so-called) critic or fan says. Most authors provide a free chapter or two (on Amazon, on their personal websites, or through the publisher’s website), so make up your own mind instead of relying on what some anonymous stranger has said.

So, I say again…is Goodreads good?

I’m not sure; however, I tend to keep my online presence restricted to Twitter and Facebook. While you will find a page for me on Goodreads, I’m rarely “there.” And as for reviews, I love any reviews I get…including the negative ones. Why? Because I appreciate the time you are taking to say something about one of my books (“The Past Rekindled” is available). So, please…leave me a review. But try to read the book first.

Cover - The Past Rekindled-5-3D

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How to Benefit From Writing Critiques

AS WRITERS WE love to get praise and (most likely) dislike getting critiques and criticism. However, this little video explains why critiques can help us improve if we use them the right way.

Take a look:  Benefitting From Critiques


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The Pros & Cons of Being an Independent Publisher

NewCoversINDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS ARE AUTHORS acting as their own publishers. They take responsibility for the entire process from writing to publishing, to marketing and sales.

Because of all they do, they also keep the biggest chunk of the rewards (anywhere from 30% to 80% of the sale; while the vendors and distributors — such as Amazon, GooglePlay, or Apple — keep only a small portion of the sale.)

Many modern authors are no longer just writers. They are also editors, designers, publishers, and promoters. These authors take on the responsibility of writing, editing, formatting (the stories for the various platforms — ebook, audio book, and paperback), designing (interior and exterior ), obtaining the ISBN, publishing the manuscript, and then marketing it.

This means that they can opt to do these tasks themselves or they can fork over the money to have someone do it for them. Either way, they are responsible for the overall product. They aren’t just the story teller, they are the whole production and marketing department of their own personal publishing empire.

These are the types of people no longer content to wait for a traditional publishing company to discover them. Instead, they submit their work to the world and dare the world to discover them. Some of these dare-devilish entrepreneurs have turned out to be quite successful (The Martian by Andy Weir was independently published when the movie makers decided they liked it and wanted to make a movie of it).

person writing on white book

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Publishing independently lets authors set their own schedule, choose their own methods and platforms, and formulate their own unique marketing techniques.

This type of author decides what platforms their book should be available in, what vendors they will use (Kobo vs. Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble), and they decide what the prices will be. (Although, most print-on-demand vendors still set a minimum price for any paperbacks, the author still gets to decide the maximum price to charge for their book.) Having the freedom of setting your own prices can help with marketing. For instance, many unknown or not-yet-known authors will set the first book of their series to $0.99 or free to entice readers to buy the whole series. Traditional publishers are usually quite unwilling to try this marketing technique.

Independent publishers are authors with an entrepreneurial streak. They know what they want and they’re willing to work hard to get it.

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The Pros & Cons of Self-Publishers

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SELF-PUBLISHERS ARE SIMILAR (in a way) to traditional publishers inasmuch as they do everything for you. However, unlike traditional publishers who are taking all the risk and putting up all the money, self-publishers require you to pay for all the services up front. Also, unlike traditional publishers, self-publishing companies aren’t exclusionary . They aren’t looking for the next “Great American Novel,” they’re looking for the next person who can pay their exorbitant fees. Therefore,  as long as you can pay, they will publish your work.

Self-publishers come in all types and sizes. Some print their books on cheap pulpy stock using household glue so that the book falls apart almost as soon as it’s opened. Others use a better quality of paper and the book may actually last a year or two. It all depends on what you’re willing to pay for.

Self-publishing companies offer editing services, formatting services, marketing plans (although no actual marketing), and book cover designing services…all for an additional fee or two. When finished, they ship the books to you (the number of books you receive, depends on how many you paid for). After that, it’s up to you to sell them. If you’re lucky and you can convince all your friends, relatives, book club members, church members, and members of the PTA to buy your book, you might break even.

However, few (if any) book stores will take on any of your books–though, some will let you do book signings in their facilities. Libraries, also, will not carry your books, but again, may allow you to give a talk or do a book signing.

In fact, the only place anyone will be able to purchase a real-world copy of your book is from you. Therefore, all packaging and shipping costs are yours to incur (unless you remember to pass them along to the buyer).

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Some self-publishing companies will convert your book into an ebook or audio book…for an additional cost, of course. And some of these companies will even designate a spot for your book on their book store web page. However, if you want more of a web presence, you can pay them to help you set up your own website.

These companies are very accommodating and helpful…as long as you’re willing to pay their fees.

[The Next in This Series: The Pros and Cons of Being an Independent Publisher]

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The Pros & Cons of Traditional Publishers

startrophyTHE BIGGEST POSITIVE TO working with a traditional publishing company is the prestige. People still have the idea that having a traditionally published book is akin to winning an Oscar. Probably because it’s always been difficult to garner the attention of a traditional publishing company. In fact, today it is doubly difficult.

The difficulty in capturing the attention of a traditional publisher today is partly because there are fewer traditional publishing companies around, and partly because it’s so much more difficult to sell books and make a profit.

Because of how easy it is to publish a book in today’s electronic world, the book-selling market is overflowing with books — good, bad, and in between. The result of this glut of novels, novelettes, and memoirs, is that the reader is becoming increasingly reluctant to part with their money. Even libraries are starting to pull away from taking in anything other than those books put out by the traditional publisher because there are too many poorly written, never edited, non-book books out there

So, how do you get the attention of a traditional publisher? It’s not easy. In fact, it’s probably easier to win a Powerball lottery than to get your manuscript noticed by a traditional publishing house. However, your odds increase if you send a query letter, obtain an agent, know the publisher’s submission criteria, and are in no hurry (as it can take up to a year to hear back from the publisher, and, in the meantime, you shouldn’t be submitting that manuscript to any other publishing companies).

If you’re lucky enough to have a traditional publishing house accept your work, you still need to be patient because it can take up to a year or longer to have your book groomed and polished enough to be released. And for most authors (especially those who are unknown), you won’t be paid until the book begins to sell. While you hear a lot about authors being paid an advance, which is then supplemented by the royalties they earn, most new or lesser-known authors do not receive that little bundle of money — not unless the publisher believes the book will be a best seller.

Once the book is released and the money starts coming in, the publisher will divvy it up between themselves, you, and your agent (if you hired one). The average percentage to you, the hardworking author, is about 8% to 10%. After all, all that editing, layout, and book cover designing that the publisher did isn’t really free. And despite anything you might have read or heard about traditional publishing companies, most of them do little in terms of marketing your book on an individual basis, unless your book is a blockbuster best seller or your name is Stephen King.booksandmovies

And if you sign with a traditional publisher you need to ensure what formats you give them the rights to publish in (paper, ebook, audio, or film). If you retain all the rights to film adaptations, then you don’t have to split the money with the publisher.

However, giving the publisher the audio book and ebook rights to your book can be good and bad. It’s good in that they’ll have to spend the time and energy converting the book into the proper formats for all the different ebook platforms, and they’ll have to pay the expenses for turning it into an audio book, which can be costly. However, with them in control of these platforms, it makes it difficult (if not unlikely) that you will be able to run any type of sale on your book without going through the publisher’s red tape. (Sometimes, running a sale is helpful just prior to making a public appearance and public appearances sell books.)

[The Next in This Series: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishers]

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It’s Real!

2019_Escorting the Dead - 5x8_BW_300-3DThe afterlife is real, and those of us who have had NDEs (near-death experiences) know it…and some of us are even willing to talk about it.

I wrote a book about my experiences. What happened, what I saw, what I felt, and the “mission” I gave myself to complete here on Earth.

Another woman, Tina Hines, also experienced an NDE. An Arizona woman, Ms. Hines died for 27 minutes before being resuscitated. When she awoke, the first thing she communicated was, “It’s Real.” Meaning, the afterlife is real. It’s not a dream. Not an hallucination, and not some fairy story that people tell each other in order to make dying easier. It’s real, and we’ve been there. To read about my story and my experience, you can buy my book: “Escorting the Dead,” which is available at most book vendors. You can also read about Ms. Hines experience in several news articles, or you can go to the IANDS  (International Association for Near Death Studies) site or the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation and read any of the hundreds of thousands accounts of  near-death experiences recorded by the folks who actually died and returned.

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Which Publishing Type is Right for You?

NewCoversBOOK WRITING AND PUBLISHING has changed considerably since I began writing back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Back then, there were only vanity presses (now called self-publishing) and traditional publishers. Today, we’ve added independent publishers to the mix.

So, how do you know which way is the right way for you? Well, maybe this series of articles can help you decide.

3 Types of Publishers

There are currently three main types of book publishers:

  1. Traditional Publishing Companies
    These are the types of publishers we are all familiar with. The publishers find a book with promise and offers the author money for the privilege of publishing that book. The publisher handles the editing, book cover design, and (if the author is lucky) some of the marketing for the book.
  2. Self-Publishing Companies
    These used to be called vanity presses, but whatever name they go by, they still operate the same way. The writer pays them for the privilege of having their book published, and then it’s up to the writer to sell the books. If the writer is willing to spend more money, they can have the book edited, and for another small fee, the publishers will help devise a marketing plan.
  3. Independent Publishers
    These are authors who do everything themselves. They write, format, and publish their own materials. They may or may not pay to have their material edited; and they either use generic covers or pay someone to help them design their book covers. They then go straight to the vendors (like Amazon, Google+, and Barnes & Noble) to sell their books.

So, what type of author are you? And what type of publishing service suits you? Are you willing to wait around and take a chance that you might be ‘discovered’? Do you want someone else to do all the work and are willing to pay that someone to do it for you? Or are you a risk-taker, an entrepreneur, willing to put in all the work so that you can share your story with the world?

Whichever type of author you are, there’s a publishing platform just for you.

[Next Post in this Series:  The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishers]

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