Besides our fabulous Beach Read Authors site, one my favorite book sites for finding great reads is Goodreads, because it's driven by READERS!
First of all, nothing recommends a book like a bunch of positive reader reviews. Sure, you can find tons of reviews on Amazon book pages, but you have to search for the book or author name individually, which means you have to know who you're looking for already. Otherwise, you're stuck searching the Top 100 lists, which are dominated by the same-old bestselling authors.
When I'm looking for fresh fiction and undiscovered authors, I'm typically looking for mid-list authors and/or indie authors. Goodreads is a better place to search for that type of book/author because a great book can rise to the top of the pile more easily in the Goodreads communities.
I'm more inclined to pick a book based on recommendations from like-minded readers than from the traditional book shelf categories you find at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Fortunately for me, Goodreads allows readers to recommend books to other "friends" as well as lump fiction into:
1) unique Groups, such as "Psychological Thrillers" and "The Romance Troupe"
2) popular Lists (aka Listopia), like my favorites "He's a lover and a fighter!" and "Hottest Guy on a Cover"
3) personal Bookshelves based on subject matter, such as "Hot Heroes" and "Popular 99 Cent Amazon Books".
I can also search books for tags, like Magic, Adventure, or Role-play. Better yet, you can even find regional Goodreads Groups. One Group for my area is appropriately called "Seattle Area Goodreaders". Another is called BookTalking, which is dedicated to the art of booktalking in the tradition of Nancy Pearl from NPR. I love that Goodreads allows for this level of creative grouping from authors and readers alike. Though I admit I'm still waiting for the Gerard Butler Look-alike book tags or Groups!
Interpreting RatingsI also enjoy the diversity of book reviews on Goodreads. Now, you have to be aware that there are lovers and haters on Goodreads. That means reviews by folks who'd never give the book less than 5 stars or better than 1 star because they have some unknown agenda.
For example, I got a 1-star rating on my book, An Eye For Danger, from a reader who admitted she didn't read the book. When I asked her why she didn't like the book and if there was anything I could improve, she said she didn't go past the first couple pages because she doesn't like books written in first person (authors call this 1st Person POV). Do readers on Goodreads have the right to rate a book they haven't read? Sure. Should readers take a 1-star rating into consideration? Yes, if there is a pattern of several low-star reviews. Fortunately for me as an author, most of my book's reviews are 4 and 5 stars.
And that's what you want to look for:
1) the ratings most readers give the book (44% give my book 4 stars, and 45% give it 5 stars)
2) the overall average rating (my book's average rating is 4.32 out of 73 ratings)
3) how many ratings have been given (too few reviews may be a book that isn't vetted enough, while too many may signal a mainstream book I don't necessarily want to read).
How do you see these stats? Just click on "Ratings Detail" next to the book's image (see image of my friend and colleague, Lisa Costantino's book, Maiden's Veil). A good book lies between an average rating of 3.0 - 4.0; a better book sits strongly in the 4-5 range. Note that Lisa's Women's Lit book is a 4.43 average rating. That's a great sign that readers are consistently recommending her book to their friends!
Discovering Hidden GemsOccasionally, a really good book gets mid-range ratings, because the story or the writing breaks with traditional or expected books in that genre. In the Romance genre, for example, heroes and heroines are expected to be together at the end of the story. If a book breaks that rule, it can get rated lower even though the writing is wonderful.
My suspense book, for example, has more subplots and characters than most romance-style books, so some readers felt overwhelmed by this, while others praised it through the roof. Just goes to show there's no "one" perfect recipe to please every reader. That's why it's important to read the reviews for clues to book elements you like, such as comments about strong character development or a intriguing plot twist or an engaging mystery. Personally, I look for words like "strong" female characters as well as "thinking" or "smart" heroes. Nothing bores me more than a hero that is a dumb dumb, no matter how hot his abs are.
|Me (right) and Lisa Costantino at pre-season|
Seattle Seahawks football game.
Most men who read my Romantic Suspense, which is part Thriller and part contemporary love story, give it a 4-star review. Some male readers told me they thought it was more of a Thriller and didn't understand why it was categorized as Romance (again, Romantic Suspense is more of a traditional category). Meanwhile, many female readers are calling the book a Mystery. That's some diversity!
As an author, that feedback tells me I might need to revamp my marketing approach. But as a reader, those comments would tell me to be curious about a book that could make women and men alike blush.
So head over to Goodreads, find your ideal Group/List/Bookshelf, interpret the ratings, and look for clues in the reviews to find your perfect story! And enjoy :)
So what's your favorite way to search for books on Goodreads? Share your thoughts in our comment section and win one free ebook from your pick of our Beach Read Authors books. It's on me! Thanks for visiting :)
AUTHOR BIO:Christine M. Fairchild, aka the Editor Devil, is a former journalist with 25 years' experience as a writer/editor, from technical to marketing to exec communications to entertainment.
She specializes in "tactical" editing and storytelling techniques for authors, offering writing tips and tricks at http://EditorDevil.blogspot.com and through her Editor Devil Guides.
She's currently working on book II of The Goliath Conspiracy series, a follow-up to her popular debut romantic suspense, An Eye For Danger,
For free writing and editing tips and tricks, visit http://EditorDevil.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @fairchild01.