Goodreads Blog
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Do Good with Goodreads This Holiday Season
Posted by Elizabeth on December 19, 2012 5

As the year winds down and you make it through the fantastic crush of present buying, traffic, and parties, there's finally a chance to steal a minute and quietly think about the past 12 months: What have you done with your year? How many books have you read? Which stories captured your imagination? But perhaps now is the most important moment to take a deep breath and think about what you're thankful for.

One of our core goals at Goodreads is to make a positive difference in the world, whether it's by connecting someone with a great book that helps them decide what they want to be when they grow up (even if you are 80!), or helping a kid in a disadvantaged country have access to school supplies and reading material. Small or vast, global or local, we feel that even a small step in the right direction will have an invisible—but important—ripple effect. It's not the results that matter so much, just getting out there and helping build momentum for a better global community.

Every month we feature a different organization in our newsletter that's helping to change lives through reading. If you are reader, a lover of the written word, or simply want a tangible way to give someone a nice memory this holiday season, here's an opportunity to revisit the nonprofits that we highlighted in 2012 and see if you would like to make a donation. It's not too late to make reading part of someone's life! Happy Holidays, everyone!


You helped foment World Book Night 2012, in which thousands of volunteers got together to give away books and encourage reading in your community.

A tutor-student pair working on Reading Partners curriculum in Oakland, CA.


Focusing on children from low-income communities, Reading Partners funnels struggling readers into free tutoring programs that offer one-on-one instruction.

Students in Lesotho enjoy their books from the African Library Project.


With just 1,000 gently used books, $500 for shipping costs, and help from African Library Project, anyone can start a library in rural Africa, where many children grow up without books. The African Library Project profile in our newsletter was so successful, they wrote the people of Goodreads a personal thank you note!

A pediatrician uses a new book to assess developmental milestones during a checkup.


Reach Out and Read hooks families on reading in an unexpected place: the doctor's office. Pediatricians help educate parents on the developmental importance of reading aloud.

Take the pledge and get a free download of the full-length track produced by the Roots with Chris Martin, John Legend, Regina Spektor, Jack Black, and more!


We helped raise awareness for children's literacy with the Book People Unite campaign led by Reading Is Fundamental.

A community in Nigeria receives a shipment of books.


The International Book Project sends 200,000 books annually to developing nations in South America, Asia, and Africa as well as underserved schools and libraries in the United States.

Fifteen-year-old Colleen Hamilton is one of six finalists who represented the San Francisco Bay Area at Brave New Voices. (Credit: Ashleigh Reddy)


Youth Speaks offers teens educational programs focused on spoken word poetry, including the annual Brave New Voices competition.


Worldreader donates e-readers and e-books to students across sub-Saharan Africa and helps spread the digital reading revolution to classrooms in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda!

Conservationists at the Bodleian Library.


For as little as £20 (just under $32), you can help digitize a page of the Bodleian Library's edition of William Shakespeare's First Folio with Sprint for Shakespeare.

Children, teachers, and founder James Owens at the grand opening ceremony of WIJABA's Riz Khan library in Sidoarjo, Indonesia.


The World Is Just a Book Away builds libraries and school programs in areas of Indonesia that sustained tsunami and earthquake damage.

Young writers read from their NaNoWriMo novels in Berkeley, California.


National Novel Writing Month's Young Writers Program helps young participants in the initiative by giving them access to online tools, advice from best-selling authors, and more.

A classroom in Balia Village, West Bengal.
Taking its name from the Hindi word for "hope," Asha for Education creates opportunities for underprivileged children in India through a variety of educational programs.


From military bases abroad to ships at sea, parents in the armed services can read to their children with a little help from United Through Reading, which sends videos home.

Live Video Chat with Jeff Kinney, Today at 2pm ET/11am PT
Posted by Patrick on December 14, 2012 175283

Join us today at 2pm ET/11am PT for a live video chat with best-selling author Jeff Kinney. We'll be discussing his enormously popular series of books Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as well as the movies being made from them.

Click here to watch the recording of the chat.
Live Video Chat with Robin Sloan, 2pm ET/11am PT
Posted by Patrick on December 11, 2012 175283

Join us today at 2pm ET/11am PT for a live video chat with author Robin Sloan. We'll be discussing his debut novel Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. If you are at all interested in books, reading, bookstores, technology, and the intersection of all those various things, this is one video chat you will not want to miss.

Click here to watch a recording of the chat.
Oprah's Book Club 2.0 Now on Goodreads!
Posted by Patrick on December 05, 2012 175283

Big news in the world of books today! Oprah Winfrey has announced her latest selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 and at the same time launched an official Goodreads group for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0! Readers can gather to discuss the book as they read, watch videos from Oprah, and more.

Join the conversation in the Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 group on Goodreads.

Oprah’s new selection is The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by debut author Ayana Mathis. “Not since Toni Morrison have I read a writer whose words have moved me this way,” Oprah says. It’s already resonating with Goodreads members as well, judging by the early reviews.

It's clear that Goodreads and Oprah share a fundamental belief in the power of stories—and we are looking forward to some absorbing discussions on Goodreads about this inspiring book and the books Oprah selects in the future. As Otis, our CEO, likes to say, the right book in the right hands can change the world!

Watch the video Oprah made for Goodreads and learn why she chose The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

Be part of the discussion in the Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 group on Goodreads!

The Winners of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards
Posted by Jessica on December 04, 2012 603238

Drum roll, please...the readers have spoken! More than 1 million votes have decided the winners of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards. Now in our fourth year, the Goodreads Choice Awards are the only major book awards chosen by readers. No secret committees or panels of insiders—we let our members pick the best books of the year. After much anticipation, it's finally time to reveal the winners!

View the winners & runners-up in 20 categories »

The Best Fiction category is always hotly contended and this year went to J.K. Rowling's first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. Decorating a debut of a different kind, Susan Cain won Best Nonfiction for her first book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Meanwhile, the winner of the Mystery category was an open-and-shut case for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Veronica Roth came away with multiple awards in 2011, and this year was no different. She scored a double win with Best Goodreads Author for the first time and Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction for the second time (this year for Insurgent, last year it was for Divergent).

It was a photo finish in Historical Fiction, our tightest race, with M.L. Stedman (The Light Between Oceans) just inching out Hilary Mantel (Bring Up The Bodies). Living in England must set the right mood for writing historical fiction.

England was also a winning factor in Best History & Biography, with Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith taking the crown in that category.

Cheryl Strayed completes a banner year (from Oprah's Book Club 2.0 to a Reese Witherspoon/Nick Hornby film adaptation in the works) by winning Best Memoir for her book Wild. She was also a finalist in the Nonfiction category for her book of advice, Tiny Beautiful Things.

Two bloggers flexed their book world muscle with Jenny Lawson winning the Best Humor category for Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Ree Drummond capturing the Best Food & Cookbooks award for The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

In the Romance category, Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James dominated the field, tying up a year when her trilogy has made headlines—and generated huge sales—around the world.

And our oldest winner is 77-year-old, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver for her latest collection of poems, A Thousand Mornings, which won reviewer remarks, "A Thousand Mornings reminds us to not let a regular old day pass you by without noticing and being grateful for the wonder and the splendor."

Everyone at Goodreads is grateful for the "wonder and splendor" of all our winning authors—a heartfelt congratulations for writing the books readers loved the most this year! And thank you to everyone who voted and cheered on your favorites from the Opening Round to the Finals. View the full results to see the vote breakdown for all nominees and add some highly commended reading to your to-read list.

Congratulations to our winners! »

View all categories »

Young Adult Gets Old
Posted by Elizabeth on December 02, 2012 5

Booksellers may want to make room for some new shelves; there’s a new genre in town. It’s called New Adult and the books are filled with young people, mostly college-age, who seem to have lots of sex and rarely see their parents (if they have any).

Publishers and readers are already embracing it, and here at Goodreads we’ve recognized the rapidly growing interest with our own genre page.

Editor Amy Tannenbaum at Atria Books, who recently scooped up the previously indie-published The Sea of Traquility by Katja Millay (which ended up as a Goodreads Choice write-in nominee), finds that one defining characteristic of a New Adult book is the degree of parental involvement. “New Adult generally features main characters between the ages of 18-23. That said, New Adult can skew a bit younger if the characters are particularly mature for their age. For example, although the main male and female characters in The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay are seniors in high school, this book is being published by Atria Books as New Adult. They seem older than their peers in part because they’ve survived traumatic pasts and do not live with their parents,” she says. She’s also noticed that as her publishing house has become involved with developing New Adult books, there’s been greater sharing of manuscripts between departments. "Since New Adult can appeal to both Young Adult and Adult readers we’re able to run promotions for these books in both worlds," she adds.

Other houses have taken notice too: St. Martins was the first to jump on the concept, running a contest for New Adult manuscripts. Carina Press put out a call for new adult manuscripts in October. Self-published author Corma Carmack recently signed a 3-book deal with HarperCollins. And last week, Random House announced that they are starting a digital-first imprint for the genre, appropriately called Flirt.

We see the positive signs of readers taking to the new genre on Goodreads. Beginning in 2011, there was a spike in the number of readers identifying books as New Adult through custom shelves and rating books in the category.

Two examples of recent New Adult success are Slammed by Colleen Hoover and Easy by Tammara Webber. Also, The Perfect Game by J. Sterling is a New Adult book that is trending well.

But the new genre is not without its share of controversy. There was flurry of debate on Jezebel about whether or not this new genre previously existed, just without a label. Some have said that New Adult is a byproduct the trend of 20-somethings staying at home longer and generally delaying the growing-up process, a feeling that Corma Carmack put eloquently, “Your parents are still a large part of your life. You’re not a child anymore, but you’re also not quite an adult. You may call yourself an adult (as will others), but deep down in side you are petrified because you don’t feel like one.”

Personally, I also suspect that it may be that writers feel more empowered to write about this period in their lives, thanks to the expansion of fan fiction and the rise of self publishing. When I was in college (and publishing a novel was a much more traditional process), I remember my creative writing professor John L'Heureux telling our class, “Don’t write about college, nobody wants to read that.”

The readers may have always been interested in these types of books about the 18-25 set, but now there’s a new abundance of material!

Do you like this genre? Why do you think it’s popular now?
The Hipster Lit Flow Chart
Posted by Patrick on November 27, 2012 175283

Here on Goodreads, we've got all kinds of readers: Romance, Sci Fi, Armchair Sailors, you name it. This month we decided to focus on an interesting subset of our gigantic and diverse community—The Hipsters. After analyzing the data, and admittedly, taking some editorial liberties, we've determined a few things. The life of the hipster is hard. Between worrying the band you love is about to go big and wondering whether it's finally time to wash your raw denim jeans, you don't have a lot of time to think about what to read next. To make matters worse, now that you've raced through his collected essays, Both Flesh and Not, you've run out of David Foster Wallace books. That's where Goodreads comes in. Behold our hipster lit flow chart! Answer a few simple questions, and we will hook you up with your next favorite book. Life should always be this easy.
Final Round of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards—Last Chance to Vote!
Posted by Jessica on November 23, 2012 603238

Presenting Your Finalists! »

It's time for the Final Round of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards! Readers cast more than 846,000 votes during the Opening and Semifinal Rounds, and now just 10 books remain in each of 20 categories. A hearty congratulations to the authors who are now Goodreads Choice Finalists!

The polls will remain open until midnight (PST) on November 27, so vote now. And these races are still tight! Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is among the high-stakes whodunits in the finals for Best Mystery & Thriller. A biography of Queen Elizabeth faces stiff competition from profiles of Thomas Jefferson, David Foster Wallace, and others in Best History & Biography. In Best Middle Grade & Children's Books, actor-turned-debut author Chris Colfer's story of twins lost in a magic kingdom is challenging double-nominee Rick Riordan's two mythology-packed adventures. Will 2011 winner Veronica Roth defend her title in Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction? Will write-in favorite J.K. Rowling begin to dominate in Best Fiction? View all the finalists and help decide!

This is your third and final chance to vote for the best books of 2012! Remember, the polls close November 27, and winners will be announced December 4.

Vote for the best books of the year! »

Semifinal Round Now Open—2nd Chance to Vote in the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards!
Posted by Jessica on November 15, 2012 603238

Semifinal Round Now Open for Voting! »

A round of applause for our semifinalists! Readers flocked to the polls to nominate the best books of the year in the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards, casting 623,800 votes for more than 11,000 books. We have now added the top five write-ins in each category as official nominees, bringing the total to 20 nominated books in each of 20 categories.

The Best Fiction category has gained some heavy hitters with the addition of J.K. Rowling and Michael Chabon. Best Science Fiction nominee Hugh Howey also racked up a second nomination in a different category, Best Horror. Ken Follett and Philippa Gregory join the highly competitive category of Best Historical Fiction. And, of course, the Goodreads Choice Awards aren't the only number-crunching event making headlines this fall, as shown by U.S. presidential forecaster Nate Silver scoring a nomination in Best Nonfiction. Neil Young and Stephen Colbert also add some star power to Best Memoir and Best Humor. View all the semifinalists »

You have two more chances to vote. Remember, the Semifinal Round closes November 17, and next week we will cut the field in half. Only 10 books in each category will make it into the Final Round, beginning November 19. Vote now to make sure your favorite books are safe from elimination!

Vote for the best books of 2012! »

How Readers Discovered a Debut Novel: A Case Study
Posted by Otis on November 14, 2012 1

How do I get my book in front of the right readers? How do I help readers discover my books? How do I stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other book titles competing for attention?

These were the questions I was asked to address at the annual PubWest Conference last month. This conference is distinct as it features mostly smaller and mid-size publishers, most of whom are located west of the Mississippi River. The dilemmas these publishers face, however, are anything but unique. Discovery—how to get readers to find and choose your books—remains one of the biggest challenges facing all authors and publishers, regardless of size.

Why is discovery increasingly a problem? There are two major reasons:

1. There are more books being published now than ever before. According to Bowker, there were more than 350,000 titles published in 2011. This is up significantly from previous years, and the growth is largely because of the exploding popularity of self-publishing; self-published books account for 150,000-200,000 of those books. To give you some sense of the number of books available to readers today, there are about 5,000,000 titles that at least one person on Goodreads has shelved. If you're a publisher or an author, that represents a lot of competition for your books.

2. The other big trend that's making discovery a challenge is the shift from buying books in physical stores to buying books online. Online sales currently represent about 39% of all sales (Bowker), and the adoption of ebooks is fueling this shift. Online discovery, however, at least in an ecommerce setting, has yet to equal the serendipitous experience of wandering the aisles of a bookstore and happening upon a new book.

With 12 million members, Goodreads has unparalleled insight into how readers discover books. One of the best ways to see how our members find books is to track the interest in a specific title. For this presentation, we chose Slammed, by Colleen Hoover. Slammed is a great success story, and it represents an author (and eventually, a publisher) making great use of the Goodreads platform. What's especially useful about this case study is that this was Colleen's first book so she was starting from complete anonymity.

The graph above shows the various methods Goodreads members used to discover Slammed. As you can see, Slammed was published in early January of 2012. The book didn't get a lot of attention those first few months, which illustrates how tough it can be for a first-time author. But Hoover smartly took matters into her own hands, running a pair of Goodreads giveaways in late February and early March. These are free for authors/publishers to set up—the only cost is in mailing the book to the winners. It immediately got the book onto people's shelves and generated a few reader reviews, which is vital for any new book.

Then, in late March, a few prominent bloggers in her genre wrote about the book, spreading the word to their many followers on Goodreads through their reviews. A few of them even liked it so much they ended up virtually handselling the book to specific readers: an author's dream! If you've read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, you'll have heard of Mavens. These are the people who, once they discover something they love, just can't resist evangelizing about it. And they are influential because people trust them. Thanks to our fun, passionate community, these book-loving mavens are hanging out on Goodreads. Colleen Hoover herself said:

"I believe one of the best things about Goodreads is the interaction fans can have with their favorite authors. I've met so many great people through Goodreads who have helped me more than I could have ever imagined. Bloggers I met through Goodreads are always willing to promote any new announcements I have and to share teasers or character interviews. Without Goodreads, I wouldn't have been able to connect with them on the level that I have, and I'm grateful for that."

For Slammed, that initial buzz paid off in a big way. In late April, the Goodreads Recommendation Engine picked up the book. On average, a book needs to have several hundred ratings before it starts to be included by our algorithm. From that point forward, it became the dominant way that Goodreads members discovered the book. That's the blue section you see in the graph.

By the summer, the book hit the New York Times bestseller list for e-books and it was then picked up by Simon & Schuster's Atria Books imprint. They came out with new e-books in August and with print books in September. And look what happened toward the end of August: it was added to a few Listopia lists, including Best Books of 2012, which is another way Goodreads members love to discover books.

It's important to note that this has been a very well-received book. After more than 20,000 ratings, the average rating is 4.4 stars out of 5. In fact, this has contributed to the book being included as a nominee in this year's Goodreads Choice Awards in the Young Adult Fiction category. We launched the Opening Round of voting for the awards two weeks ago. This has stimulated further interest in the book as people browse the categories looking for books to vote for and discover new books to read. You can see the bump in people adding the book to their "to read" shelves in this graphic.

Books added stats for Slammed.

With so many different ways to discover books, it's important for an author or publisher to think like a conductor. You have a whole orchestra of tools at your disposal—from giveaways, to targeted advertising, to author chats, to blog outreach—it's up to you to make the symphony crescendo. It's also important to understand how each instrument works, when to best employ them and how to use different ones to amplify others, as there is no one easy way to facilitate discovery.

For even more info, check out my full presentation below.