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Indie Publishing

My 2017 Author Wish List for Goodreads

Wishlist Cover Image

I think Goodreads is, by any measure, a boon to independent authors. The reading network makes it easy for users to rate and review books, which gives indie authors social credibility.  It also lets readers share books they’re enjoying, which gives authors exposure. These are important needs for indie authors, and Goodreads is doing the Lord’s work by meeting them.

So generally, I think Goodreads is great. But as an independent author, there are a few things I wish it did better. And if I could climb into the head of Goodreads’ product management team and control him or her like a helpless meat puppet (a la Being John Malkovich), I’d totally get a few things at the top of their development roadmap. (Which is perhaps the most boring and unscandalous thing that you could do in a Being-John-Malkovich scenario, but that’s how seriously badly I want these.)

Here’s my 2017 wish list for Goodreads development team:

1. Better Reporting

I think I was sufficiently gushy about Goodreads in the opener to get away with some blunt honesty here: Goodreads’ author reports are awful. They look like someone spilled a bucket of children’s pipe cleaners, and as there’s no way to filter results or scale the chart, you’re stuck trying to decipher a pile of rainbow spaghetti vomited onto a graph instead of targeting the information you want. Check out Orconomics latest “stats.”

Goodreads Graph

I guess that’s… good? I mean, September was clearly better than July, and after that… hnnngh… Of course, I can always look at the raw data, which gets me a straight HTML table with no borders. It’s like a CSV without the features!

I can’t speak for everyone. Maybe this jumbled mass of lines works better with more activity, and thus meets the needs of large publishers to observe trends in markets. But as an indie author with a small library, I’m operating on a different scale. I need my reports to do the same.

2. The Only Email Digest that Matters

Goodreads offers lots of email digests to authors and readers. I think I get four a day from them telling me that people posted in forums, or my friends rated something they read, or someone started a discussion thread in a group somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with those, but they don’t matter much to me.

You know what does matter to me? When someone rates or reviews my books. I tell my readers that I read every review they write, but that’s a lie. The truth is that I obsess over every review they write, pouring over each one with unhealthy intensity, reading snippets of particularly good ones to my long-suffering wife. So I’m on Goodreads every day to see if someone has dropped their thoughts about any of my work. And depending on which platform I’m using, seeing the latest activity and reviews ranges from mildly inconvenient (on my laptop) to rage-inducingly impossible (on my ever-cursed Android phone.)

I would love an email sent to me every day showing me all of the reviews and a summation of all the ratings that my books received the previous day. I’d read every single one of those emails. I’m reading all the same information daily anyway. Goodreads just makes me jump through hoops to get it.

3. More customizable widgets / integrations.

I want to stream live data from my Goodreads ratings on my website, but I’m actually pretty picky about how this site looks. (Hard to believe, I know.) I don’t want something that looks like a banner ad designed by my neighbor’s teenage cousin sitting smack dab in the middle of my social proof. I want widgets that let me show live data from Goodreads (and links back to it) without porting over Goodreads styles. Because green and brown clash with blue, as it turns out.

If I got any two of these features in 2017, I’d be thrilled. How about you? Do any of these sound good? What new features could make your life as an indie author easier / better? Let me know in the comments.

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