Goodreads Blog
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The Goodreads Choice Awards Ride the Toronto Subway
Posted by Jessica on April 12, 2012 603238

Fifty Shades of Grey poster for the Toronto subway.

Millions of people riding the Toronto subway this month will see something titillating—a mention of the Goodreads Choice Awards on the walls! Okay, okay, it's E.L. James's erotic romance Fifty Shades of Grey that will be doing the titillating, but we're excited to see a Goodreads Author and Choice Awards Finalist capitalizing on her nomination.

When we dreamed up the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2009, our goal was to bring greater attention to books championed by readers. In the most organic way, it's readers who discover great books and share them with friends. Fifty Shades of Grey is a textbook example of a book spreading virally through word of mouth simply because people love it. That's how it earned its nomination in the first place.

When nominations were announced in November 2011, Fifty Shades of Grey had a reasonably sized (but not huge) readership of about 1,000 ratings. It hadn't yet found its magic momentum, but these readers fell hard for this book. The steamy story of a sexual affair between a college student and a wealthy businessman boasted a phenomenal average rating: 4.45 out of 5 stars—the highest average rating of any Goodreads Choice nominee in the 2011 Best Romance category. James ended up placing 2nd in the final round, which is a major achievement for a small press author, considering that the 1st place finisher was J.R. Ward, one of the biggest names in romance writing.

From the first day of its Goodreads Choice nomination, Fifty Shades of Grey saw a jump in readers adding it to their to-read shelves, and the growth never stopped. The to-read numbers continued to climb after the awards completed, and James even visited the site to answer fan questions. Then in March, the novel received mainstream media attention on the Today Show and more press followed. News outlets investigated how an X-rated book about sexual submission went viral. Fifty Shades of Grey is now a bestseller with a new book deal and a film adaptation in the works, and many more readers continue to discover the book on Goodreads. Its average rating dropped slightly as its audience expanded, with a current average rating of 4.14, the amorous novel still earns strong reviews.

We think this is yet one more example of how Goodreads Choice is designed for you—the readers! We also hope that authors such as E.L. James will be able to benefit from their nominations and wins as they market and sell their books. As we announced in February, the new paperback edition of Divergent features its Goodreads Choice win for Favorite Book of 2011 on the cover. So, dear all-knowing reader, what's the next big thing in books? Who is out in front for 2012?

Hiring at Goodreads: New Opening for Hyperintelligent Pandimensional Mice
Posted by Jessica on April 01, 2012 603238

Goodreads is hiring for the following positions. Click to read more and apply on our jobs page:

Today, we'd like to spotlight our newest open position:
Hyperintelligent Pandimensional Mice

Goodreads, a US Top 150 site and the 10th largest social networking site in the galaxy, is seeking Hyperintelligent Pandimensional Mice to take charge of the Goodreads Recommendation Engine, the third greatest supercomputer in the Universe of Space and Time designed to answer the Ultimate Question of What People Like to Read Next. Qualified mice should be comfortable analyzing the mind-boggling 20 billion data points of reader likes and dislikes recorded in the Goodreads catalog to calculate the staggering improbability of reader interest in any given book.

Note: We will also consider qualified dolphins for this position.

Required Skills:

  • Proficient with SEP fields, bistromath, and complex functions involving telephone numbers.
  • Knowledge of the Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler operating system.
  • Ability to predict personality problems to ten decimal places.
  • Quick learner, must be able to pick up frighteningly elegant new technologies quickly.
  • Experience with protrusion into other reading dimensions a plus.
  • Must carry own towel.

We Prefer Applicants Who:

  • Are not prone to panicking.
  • Come equipped with own Babel fish.
  • If cybernetic, come loaded with pleasant GPP.
  • Know better than to muck about in hyperspace.

About Goodreads:

  • Our environment is highly supportive, friendly, and mostly harmless.
  • We are the galaxy's largest site for readers, froods, and book recommendations.
  • Our mission is to help people find and share books they love. Along the way, we plan to improve the process of reading and learning throughout the galaxy.
  • Great location: Our office in downtown San Francisco, catty-corner from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is always stocked with cheese and an infinite supply of ballpoint pens.
  • Our office culture includes a Brockian Ultra Cricket league, frequent trips to Disaster Area concerts, and regular Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster happy hours.

Please submit your résumé. You can also submit the following additional information now, or if you would prefer, later in our interview process: A code sample and a paragraph or two about why you want to work for Goodreads. For a limited time, we are offering state-of-the-art digital watches as a signing bonus. Don't wait, come sass us today!

Update: As of April 2, 2012, the position has been filled. Thank you.
View our current open positions »

The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games [INFOGRAPHIC]
Posted by Patrick on March 21, 2012 175283

Dystopian fiction is more popular than it has been in more than 50 years. Whether it's the result of political turmoil, global financial crises, or other anxieties, readers are craving books about ruthless governments and terrifying worlds. The new breed of dystopian novels combines classic dystopian themes of cruel governments and violent, restrictive worlds with a few new twists—badass heroines and romance. To mark the movie release of the most popular of this new wave of books, The Hunger Games, we examined the history of the dystopian genre to see how it has evolved and why it's so popular today.
Live Video Chat with Andre Dubus III, Today at 5 pm ET
Posted by Patrick on March 16, 2012 175283

Join us today at 5pm ET/2pm PT for a live video chat with Andre Dubus III. We'll be discussing his memoir Townie, newly available in paperback. In Townie, Dubus explores the role violence played in his formative years. This is a rare chance to chat with a master storyteller and learn more about his work and his life as a writer. Don't miss it!

To watch the chat and join the discussion, click here.

Live Video Chat with Lisa Kleypas, Today at 2pm ET/11 am PT
Posted by Patrick on March 06, 2012 175283

Join us today at 2 pm ET/11 am PT for a live video chat with author Lisa Kleypas. We will be discussing her new book Rainshadow Road, as well as her previous work, and her life as a writer.

To watch the chat or join the discussion, click here!
Site Maintenance and Downtime Tonight, 6 pm PT
Posted by Patrick on February 29, 2012 175283

We are preparing for some major maintenance to the site today, around 6 p.m. Pacific time. This is work that will eventually make the site much faster and much more efficient, but it will require some down time. We anticipate about 15-30 minutes of downtime, starting around 6 p.m. Pacific time. We will be on hand working to resolve any issues that arise after we re-enable the site, but please be aware that further outages may occur as we release updates to fix unanticipated problems. After the site is back, please let us know if you encounter any problems using the site.

During this process, we will be posting status updates on Twitter and remaining as responsive as possible.

The updates will pave the way for some significant performance improvements which have become a little overdue. So there may be a little rough patch at first, but it should lead to serious improvements in your Goodreads experience. Thanks for your patience.
Divergent Shows Off Its Goodreads Choice Win
Posted by Patrick on February 28, 2012 175283

Goodreads just got some real-world cred. This past December Veronica Roth's dystopian novel Divergent took home top honors in the Goodreads Choice Awards for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction and went on to win the biggest prize of all, Favorite Book of 2011. Its publisher, Harper Collins, decided to celebrate the win by placing a special Goodreads Choice Winner badge on the paperback edition. The paperback debuts today, and here is the cover in all its Goodreads glory:

Hopefully, it won't be long before the Goodreads Choice badge is as common as the Oprah's Book Club sticker once was. Congratulations again to Veronica Roth for her win and to all the readers who voted for her!

At This Year's Oscars, Books Steal the Show
Posted by Patrick on February 24, 2012 175283

While some of us may be peeved that Bridesmaids wasn't nominated for Best Picture, what we can celebrate is that the literary world is well-represented at this year's Oscars. So, keep your eyes peeled for a few lucky authors on the red carpet. Then again, amidst all the movie stars, they might be easy to miss. They may not score interviews with Ryan Seacrest, but Hollywood still owes them a major debt for dreaming up most of the stories we enjoyed on the silver screen in 2011.

Literary adaptations dominate most of the major categories, including Best Picture. Of the nine nominees up for the big prize, six are adaptations and another, Woody Allen's valentine to the Roaring Twenties, Midnight in Paris, draws heavily from literature, featuring cameos from Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and others. Of the films to receive four or more nominations only The Artist isn't based on a book. Even categories like Costume Design (Jane Eyre) and Art Direction (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) feature movies adapted from literature. There are so many adaptations nominated this year, it's a wonder that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 didn't get a nomination.

In fact, there's a bit of potential history in the works. If The Help is able to win Best Picture at this Sunday's Academy Awards, it will be the most popular book (in terms of Goodreads ratings) ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture. With more than 260,000 ratings, Gone with the Wind currently holds that distinction, but The Help towers over the legendary novel with more than 300,000 ratings. For the record, Vegas doesn't love The Help's chances—it's currently running middle of the pack, with odds anywhere from 12/1 to 25/1. The Artist, one of the few nominees that has nothing to do with books, is the current favorite.

The other adaptations range from bestsellers to relatively obscure books. Here's a graph of the adaptations nominated for Best Picture in order of the number of ratings on Goodreads:

The Help is obviously very popular with Goodreads members. But raw popularity is probably not a great indicator of Oscar success (as we noted last year, relatively few very popular books have become Best Picture-winning movies), though one imagines it must help with the box office. After all, most readers prefer to read the book before seeing the movie. And an Oscar nomination may even give some future readers that extra nudge they were looking for. For instance, both The Descendants and the already popular Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close are currently enjoying a fresh burst of attention from Goodreads members.

Movie stars that bring book characters to life fuel new interest in these books as well. In the acting categories, stars like George Clooney (The Descendants), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Viola Davis (The Help), and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) play characters we first met in books.

One more exciting note: There are two Goodreads Authors with adaptations in this year's race. Congratulations to both Kathryn Stockett and Kaui Hart Hemmings! As an added treat, Kaui Hart Hemmings will be chatting with Goodreads members on March 13 about what it was like seeing her novel The Descendants adapted for the big screen. Who knows, maybe it will be a Best Picture winner by then.

Who do you think will take home the Oscar? This year, I'll be rooting for movies that were books first. And wishing that Bridesmaids had been nominated. Not that I'm bitter.
Live Video Chat with S.J. Watson
Posted by Patrick on February 21, 2012 175283

Join us today at 2 pm ET/11 am PT for a live video chat with author S.J. Watson. We will be discussing his blockbuster literary thriller Before I go to Sleep.

To watch the chat or join the discussion, click here!

How do books get discovered? A guide for publishers and authors who want their books to find an audience
Posted by Patrick on February 17, 2012 175283

We've all fallen under the spell of a truly great book. But where did we originally hear about it? How did we come to choose that particular book from among the literally millions of books in the world? Did a friend hand it to us and say, "You have to read this!" Or did we hear about it on NPR's "Fresh Air"? Or was it a Goodreads Recommendation that convinced us to give it a try?

From the publisher's perspective, discovery has always been shrouded in mystery, a sort of alchemical process through which readers find books they love. With a community of more than 7 million people and 250 million books shelved, Goodreads is uniquely equipped to shed some light on this eternal question. On Wednesday, our CEO Otis Chandler gave a talk at the Tools of Change conference in New York City presenting some data that helps get at one of the most pressing questions facing the publishing industry today—how do readers discover books?

What we found is that readers discover books in several different ways. While this may not seem surprising, it should serve as a reminder to authors and publishers that no one promotion or marketing technique is enough. To successfully promote a book, you have to reach out to readers in a variety of ways.

Below is a pie chart of the various methods Goodreads members use to find books on the site:

One of the biggest things we learned—or should we say confirmed—is the power of word of mouth. Searching for titles on Goodreads is the top way people find books for their to-read shelves. That means they first heard of it elsewhere—likely from friends or the media. Search represented the method of discovery with the widest distribution of titles, from the very popular to the very obscure.

Some of the methods for finding books, such as the registration process for Goodreads, favor very popular books. We want to make sure you see something familiar when signing up, so we show books that many readers have liked. But other methods of discovery, such as updates from your friends and searching for specific books and authors, are better for finding more obscure books.

Our Goodreads Recommendation Engine has been incredibly successful since we launched it last September. It was designed to show you interesting mid-list books (books that are neither best-sellers nor completely unknown titles) that you may not have heard of. As shown in the graph below, we succeeded. This makes sense, as nobody needs an algorithm to tell them about a best-seller. It's also worth pointing out that on the lower end our recommendation engine has a minimum threshold of several hundred ratings so we know enough about a book to be statistically comfortable recommending it. So authors, if you know of a strong comparable title to your book and you are able to market your book to those readers—and they respond by adding your book to their Goodreads account—our recommendation engine will notice this correlation and be even more likely to suggest your book to the right readers.

To find out more about where people initially hear about the books they read, we ran a survey of more than 3,200 Goodreads members, asking them how they discovered books. The results were somewhat surprising.

As you can see, most Goodreads members get book recommendations from their friends, either on Goodreads or off. Conversely, very few Goodreads members rely on Twitter and Facebook to hear about new books.

And, as we've shown previously, an appearance on a popular NPR program or The Daily Show can give any book a "pop" on Goodreads. It's worth noting, though, that maintaining that level of interest in the book relies on word of mouth. (In the graph below, the blue line shows the number of times A Slave in the White House was added after a member searched for it, and the brown curve shows the number of times the book was added because a member had seen a mention of the book in a friend's update.)

Discovery happens in a multitude of ways, and a successful marketing campaign should take that into account. But there are a few strategies that seem to work well.

Our best advice is to work hard to establish your core fan base. The more momentum on Goodreads you get, the more it will build. Encourage your readers to rate and review your book on Goodreads. This will not only help generate word-of-mouth buzz, which is essential for a sustained promotion, but also help get your books onto the appropriate book lists and onto the Goodreads Recommendation engine. Our Listopia lists are a great source of discovery for our members, including lots of mid-list titles. They tend to be specific, such as World War II Fiction or Pacific Northwest Books, so having your book on the right list can make a huge difference.

If you're an author who already has a following, be sure to promote your book heavily to your existing fans and fans of similar authors. Add a Goodreads badge or widget to your Web site or blog and encourage your readers to add your books and become your fan. If you're just starting out, reach the right readers with an advance giveaway.

For more interesting data on how readers discover their books, be sure to explore the full slideshow below. We look forward to bringing you more of this kind of in-depth information that could only come from the world's largest site for readers and book recommendations.

Happy reading!
Otis, Kyusik, and Patrick