Guest post: “What Can Goodreads Do For Me?” by Huskyteer

What Can Goodreads Do For Me?

by Huskyteer

What it is

Launched in 2007 and acquired by Amazon in 2013, Goodreads is a social network for readers and writers. Like Facebook, but for books. Bookbook, if you will. Users can search for books in the extensive database, for the most part user-created, and add them to their ‘shelves’. If the book you’re after isn’t listed, you can do your part by adding it. There are three default bookshelves, ‘Want to Read’, ‘Currently Reading’, and ‘Read’, but you can add as many custom shelves as you like; ‘Crime’, for example, or ‘Non-fiction’, or perhaps ‘Comfort Reads’ or ‘Really Bad Books’.

It’s strangely satisfying to have a record of what you’ve read, with statistics and word clouds for your shelves. If you feel the need to gameify your reading experience, you can sign up for a challenge like ‘read 50 books in a year’. Every time you log in, Goodreads will tell you how many books you’ve got through and how far behind or ahead of schedule you are. Other bits of fun include literary trivia questions, polls, and daily quotes from writers.

As well as keeping track of what you’ve read, you can follow your friends to see what they’re reading and reviewing, and leave comments. I’ve had many a Goodreads discussion over books I might otherwise never have suspected someone I know had also read.

Looking at your friends’ shelves is one way to find new reading matter, but there are also communities for fans of particular genres, as well as for readers from one particular area or with a common interest. There’s a reasonably active furry community, Furries!, as well as the more general Anthro Fiction group. Goodreads also offers recommendations based on what you’ve read, and lists of the top books in a particular category, which can be as broad as ‘Best Young Adult Books’ or as specific as ‘M/M Cat-Shifters, Feline Aliens, and Other Feline Humanoids’.

When you finish a book, you can add a star rating and a review, tweet the fact that you’ve finished it, and recommend it to friends (Goodreads even suggests friends who might like it, given their tastes). All of this is optional, of course, but if you loved a book, this sort of thing can really benefit the author. Which brings me on to:

Goodreads for writers

Here’s where things get interesting. Once you’re signed up as a Goodreads Author, you have a number of options for promoting your works and interacting with your readership, most of which will cost you nothing but time.

Learn more about your readers and how your books are doing by visiting the page for one of your books. Here you can see who’s read it, who’s marked it as To Read, and any ratings and reviews. Who are those people? What else are they reading? These could be valuable clues to help your marketing strategy. See whether your book is featured on any lists, and what else is on there. Add it to some lists yourself (sneaky!).

Goodreads offers a number of configurable widgets, so you can show off your reviews on your own website, or add a button next to your book so passers-by can add it to their To Read list. They even provide the API if you really want to get down and dirty. And if you don’t mind giving away something for nothing, it doesn’t take much more effort to upload a free sample of your work as an ebook.

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Guest post: “Sniffing Out An Agent” by Huskyteer

Sniffing Out An Agent

by Huskyteer


Everyone seems to be a writer, these days, and everywhere – at least, every town in the UK – seems to be having a Literary Festival. The second week in September, it was the turn of Battersea, in South London, and among the many events offered to readers and writers in the area was an ‘Agent-Led Dog Walk’.

Approaching a literary agent can feel intimidating. It’s a relationship that may last the whole of an author’s writing career, so it’s important to get things off to a good start. Yet agents are busy people who may not have time to spare for answering questions while they’re at work, and may not feel like it during their leisure hours. Nobody wants to come across as pushy, or be That Writer who backs an agent into a corner at a party and shoves a manuscript under their nose, but many of us have things we’d like to find out.

The dog walk was a chance to chat with an agent in a less formal environment, while also getting some exercise and having some fun. There’s nothing like a dog for creating an informal atmosphere and a topic of lively conversation. The £5 event fee would go to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

As a dogless writer, I’d happily have signed up for a charity dog walk even without the additional carrot (or bone) of chatting with an agent. Besides, perhaps dog-friendly agents would be more receptive than the average to my talking-animal stories? I went along to find out.

The Sunday of the walk turned out to be a beautiful morning, and a couple of dozen literary hopefuls gathered in Battersea Park. We were introduced to the four dogs and their agents, then we split into groups for an hour of walking and talking.

I had checked the agents’ websites beforehand, but none of them stood out as the perfect match for my writing, so I went by dog. My pick was Maisie, who had brought Jo Unwin of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency. She (Maisie) was a medium-sized brown dog with setterish ears who looked like a bundle of high energy fun. Sure enough, I was to spend much of the next hour throwing an increasingly soggy and ruptured tennis ball and remembering every now and then that I probably ought to be networking or something.

Jo very fairly made time to talk to each of us individually, and we also sat down as a group to drink coffee, ask questions and receive advice. I also seized the chance to bestow some scritches on Maisie, who was initially glad of the rest after jumping in and out of the duck pond but quickly grew bored with all this talking.

Some of what we were told was familiar to me from my obsessive reading around the submissions process, but it made a big difference hearing it in person. I might not be able to reproduce that experience, but here’s what we learned:


  • Be professional. Find an agent who works with your genre, and address them by name in your cover letter.
  • Identify what’s unique about your book. Imagine you’re in the pub, talking about a book whose title you can’t quite remember; what’s your book’s “that one with the…”?
  • Sell yourself – but be relevant. List publications, prizes, and any background information that shows you’re especially qualified to write the book you’ve written, but don’t talk about your lifelong dream of being a writer, or how much your kids loved the book.
  • Should you say your book has series potential? That depends if it does; is what you’re planning a true sequel, or are you too lazy to think of a new scenario, or too fond of your characters to let them go?
  • Only submit when you think your manuscript is as good as it can be. It won’t be, but don’t send a draft you know is flawed and expect an agent or editor to leap at the chance of sorting it out for you.


As well as a deeper knowledge of what agents might be looking for, and how they like to be approached, I’ve gained an opening should I ever have a project I feel would be a good fit for Jo (“It was so lovely to meet you on the Battersea dog walk. I was the one who threw the ball for Maisie over and over and over again”). It was also lovely to swap notes with other local writers on works in progress and how far we’d come.

You might not be lucky enough to find a similar event in your own neighbourhood, but if you’re involved in a local arts festival, why not try setting one up? And if you’re a literary agent with a canine friend, consider turning your daily dog walk into an opportunity to help up and coming authors while also publicising your agency. The writers will thank you, and so will your dog.