I first joined Goodreads in 2010 when one of my friends introduced me to this awesome website that let you make lists of books and keep track of what you read. Awesome! In the beginning, I didn’t do much except for add all of the books I read and keep track of what I was currently reading. Then I found out that there were a LOT more features on Goodreads that I didn’t even know about. Back then, they still had their book exchange feature which quickly became my main purpose for using the site. (I do miss it… Although I don’t do a lot of swapping anymore!) Then I found out they had giveaways. I could win free books! Even books that… *gasp* weren’t published yet! (Side note: Clearly this was before I knew about ARCs and a year and a half before I even THOUGHT about starting a blog.) This Goodreads site was AWESOME.
As the years went by, I found more and more features hiding in the depths of Goodreads and once I started blogging, it pretty much became an essential tool for helping me review books, create blog posts, and fill out the weekly memes.
The stars aligned when I saw the blog post about signing up for a Bloggiesta mini-challenge and I had thoughts of Goodreads dancing in my head. I knew a lot of people did instructional-type mini-challenges but just having been blogging for a year and a half, I surely didn’t feel like I knew anything more than those blogging pros (from whom I do pick up lots of tips)! Then it came to me… I could talk about Goodreads! Not so much as an instructional post (despite the fact that I titled it starting with “How-To”) but more of a mass-sharing of how people utilize Goodreads and what exactly we may be missing out there!
Before putting my post together, I went to the best possible source I had to help me gather information: YOU! A huge thanks to everyone who filled out the survey because it was so interesting and great to see so many responses and how different they all were! After crunching all the numbers and gathering all the data, here’s what I got from all of the responses:
Shelves seem to be the number one thing you guys LOVE and could not live without. The shelves on Goodreads are fantastic because not only can you add books to the Goodreads-supplied “Read/Want to Read/Currently Reading” shelves. Readers can create ANY amount of shelves for ANY kind of categories they want. Personally, I have shelves for various genres, some to indicate where I got the book, some for the age range (YA vs adult), and any other variation you can possibly think of.
Another beauty of the shelves is that you can create MORE exclusive shelves than just what Goodreads offers. For example, I needed a place to put the books I chose not to finish. I still wanted to keep track of them but they didn’t belong under “read” to “to-read” so I created my own “did-not-finish” shelf and voila! Organization at its finest!
Another fantastic feature of the shelves is that you can SORT THEM. Where would I be without this feature!? I’ve found that it’s especially handy for things like Top Ten Tuesday (and other memes). Want to find out what the longest book is you’ve read? No problem. Go to your “read” shelf, make sure you have the “number of pages” column visible (if you don’t, click on “shelf settings” and you can add any columns available there to the shelf you’re currently viewing), sort by page number. VOILA. I use this constantly. Not only for page numbers but sorting by pub date, rating, date added, date read… I’m always always always sorting and re-sorting my shelves to find things. THANK THE HEAVENS that Goodreads has this feature because I don’t know what I would do without it.
Another fan-favorite is the “Currently Reading” shelf. This was something a lot of people were very vocal about and how much they loved it. I know so many people like to update their page number (or percentage, if that’s the case) as they’re reading and one of the best things is that you can make comments as you read too! Sometimes I even go back to the comments I’ve made to help me remember quotes, specific instances, or OMG moments for when I write my review! Some people even use this instead of a bookmark!
One of the things that the survey participants felt that people underutilized was all of the different ways to send and receive recommendations. Understandably, one of the biggest pet peeves from Goodreads users was people spamming them with recommendations, event invites, and book pushing. I definitely fall into that category myself… I’ve actually unfriended a few people on Goodreads because of over-spammification (the technical term). I had approved a friendship and instantly I got event invites and books suggestions. Unfortunately there isn’t way to reel in the spamming with filters (that I know of… I’ve searched!) so the only option to filter out those spammers is clean up your Friends List.
Reasonably, the recommendation options can actually be touchy subjects… But from your trusted & close friends and by exploring your own personal recommendations, you can probably find some great new books!
One of the easiest places to start is to click on the recommendations widget on your Goodreads home page.
This takes you to a glorious page that lists TONS of recommendations based on any of your current shelves. (Another reason to make many, many shelves!!!) The more books you rate, the better your recommendations get. Don’t like a recommendation? No problem. Just hit “Not Interested” and you won’t see that one again. When this feature first came out, I spent hours looking through these and adding ALL THE BOOKS to my TBR list. Golden.
And here’s a two-for-one picture… Love a book? Want to see books similar too it? There’s a little widget on the book’s info page called “Readers Also Enjoyed”. Scroll through the books listed there and you may find a book very similar to it and see what else people who liked that book also put on their lists!
Want to recommend that awesome book to a friend? Just click “Recommend It” and you can quickly send that recommendation off to your fellow Goodreads friends.
Goodreads has an “Explore” menu — some of which I’ve explored, some of which I haven’t — but that’s where we find some of the “hidden gems” of Goodreads, if you will.
Genres: Genres is one I don’t use a lot, but if you’re a subscriber to the Goodreads newsletter, it looks a lot like that format. It lists some books under… well, genres. From “Movers & Shakers” to “Young Adult” to “Paranormal” and of course many, many more. One of the good things about the Genres feature is that you can search for books and get a lot of suggestions for very specific subgenres/related genres. Like science-fiction but looking for something different? No problem. Click on “Science-Fiction”, check out “Related Genres” and hey… There’s a whole page of space operas. Yeah. Goodreads is where it’s at, friends. We get pretty specific here! This feature is probably really similar to the personalized recommendations if you utilize a variety of shelves, but this is a good way to hunt down recommendations if you’re not interested in creating genres for your shelves.
Listopia: Listopia is a user-driven feature full of lists, lists, and more lists. You can browse user-created lists by tags (most often which are different genres), do a specific search, or browse recently updated lists. Some are not as well-put together as others, but most are pretty good! Readers are allowed to vote for books for each list as well, so the more people who vote, the better the lists get. I’ve used Listopia for finding books by a specific publication month (i.e. searching “October 2013”), a specific theme (“Egyptian mythology”), or just a general genre.
Giveaways: Goodreads First Reads Giveaways are a wonderful feature on the site! Giveaways are usually hosted by a publishing house or author. They can be for physical copies, advanced reader copies, or even ebooks and audiobooks. They’re always changing and always being updated. Sometimes hard to win, but I’ve actually won a few here and there (two when I first joined Goodreads and I actually JUST won a copy of Antigoddess… three years later).
Popular: I actually don’t use popular much (or ever), but that’s a good place to see what books are gaining readers and reviewers if you’re looking for a book that everyone else is reading!
Goodreads Voice: I haven’t visited Goodreads Voice in a while but it’s a cool little place! It has everything from Author Interviews to Author Suggestions (Good Minds Suggest) to Debut Author Snapshots and even more literary articles. It’s a great place to read up on some authors and find out what else is going on in the book community!
“Fun”: There’s also a “Fun” section filled with Trivia, Quizzes, and Quotes for bookish fun! (Tailored to the books on your shelves!)
“Community”: Lastly is the community section — which I don’t personally use as often — where you can explore Creative Writing from other users, fellow Goodreads users, and search upcoming events.
PERSONAL NOTES ABOUT A BOOK/REVIEW SECTION
Did you know that there’s a lot more you can add to your personal notes about a book? Besides just writing your review, you can keep tracking of where you purchased a book from, what date you purchased it, who recommended it to you, how many times you’ve read it, and so much more — all under your review of that book.
I actually filled in a lot more than I usually do for the sake of example, but if you do a great job on keeping up with your personal notes in the review section, you’ll have TONS of info at your fingertips at all times.
This is a rough example because this is my review of WHERE SHE WENT, which I recently re-read. One thing a lot of people said is that Goodreads should make it easier to show and update re-reads. I originally read WSW in June of 2012 but when I marked it back to “Currently Reading” when I picked it up again, it reverted back to my last page number before I had marked it as complete. There’s also no good way to update the dates on a re-read without wiping out your previous data and starting all over. I chose to just leave my original start date and add my new “Finished reading” date. (The finished reading date is also important if you want that book to count for your yearly Goodreads challenge! All books towards that challenge need a finish date in that calendar year otherwise it won’t count.) I also used the “Number of Times I’ve Read This Book” to help me keep track of re-reads, but the actual progress could be set up better!
In this section, you can also update where you got that book, when and if it was a recommendation, who suggested it to you. If the person who recommended it to you is a Goodreads member, you can tag them in the recommendation. You can also mark specific notes about that book in “Private Notes” that only you can see. (One survey-taker’s absolute favorite underutilized feature!)
This is also the section that Goodreads has for you to mark that you own a copy of the book. I actually don’t use this section so much anymore because I found it hard to keep track of my books through their system. I just created a shelf for my “currently-owned” books because it’s MUCH easier to sort and search, in my humble opinion!
One of my favorite things — especially for my monthly recaps here on the blog — is personal stats. You can go to “My Books”, scroll all the way down and in the left hand column under a heading called “tools”, you’ll see a link to “stats”. You can see ALL or your reading statistics since you’ve signed up for Goodreads, separated by year. (You can also find this under the Goodreads Reading Challenge widget!) If you click on details, you can get a LOVELY picture that will look somewhat like this:
PHEW. It was a long adventure discovering all the ins and outs of Goodreads but now you have some good insights to the hidden gems and fun features!
I hope you’ll join in the Bloggiesta mini-challenge that I’m hosting to help Goodreads work for you and make your reading/blogging life easier!
The mini-challenge is simple: Pick anything (or everything) that you’d like to utilize more from Goodreads. It can be linking up your reviews to your blog, investigating Listopia for recommendations, cleaning up your shelves, or organizing… well, anything! The sky is the limit! During Bloggiesta (Sep 20 – 22), designate some time to make those changes, explore Goodreads a little bit more, and get a bit more organized. Then write up a mini-challenge post to let us know what you did to use Goodreads to your advantage and how those changes or discoveries make your life easier as a reader and/or blogger! It can be as simple as cleaning up/creating Goodreads shelves, updating your full reviews & blog links to Goodreads, or really digging in deeper and exploring new features. The choice is yours, but whatever you choose, we want to hear about it!!
Once you’ve got your post, link up to the Linky below so everyone else can see what you’ve accomplished with Goodreads during Bloggiesta time and what new things you discovered!
Before I close this post, I just want to say that I know there’s been a lot of drama surrounding Goodreads and some instances of negative author-blogger interaction… Another survey-taker said that as long as you don’t let the drama get to you or invade your experience, Goodreads can be a fantastic tool for anyone — And I totally agree. When it all comes down to it, Goodreads is what you make it! Don’t let the negatives intimidate you because you’d be missing out on some really great tools, features, and community!
I think Goodreads is a fantastic tool, especially as a blogger, and I completely agree with one person who said that Goodreads is for readers and makes it easier for avid readers and casual readers alike.
UPDATE 9/19: The Bloggiesta list of mini-challenges is now posted! Don’t forget to check out the other mini-challenges for this Bloggiesta and let me know in the comments if you’re going to be taking part in my Goodreads mini-challenge! I can’t wait to see people’s posts!!