Has Goodreads Outlived Its Usefulness For Authors?

 I will admit that when I first heard of Goodreads,I liked the concept, and Goodreads has done a really good job on their database and interface, so much so that their nearest competitor, LibraryThing, which has some advantages and better features, is still far behind in popularity. Purportedly meant as an app to bring readers and authors together, most authors I know use it more as a reading research and library tracker than for any meaningful interaction with fans. There have been exceptions, Michael Sullivan being notable among them (though I haven’t taken time or effort to verify his claims of successes there to be fair). But I can count on one hand the number of authors I know who have told me of meaningful interaction there with fans. In part this is due to the trolling nature of Goodreads readers who can be quite cruel in their bluntness and shortsighted in the insight their reviews provide. After a few such experiences, most authors just stop reading the reviews and develop a distaste for interacting with those types of people, even if they do luck into positive reviews from them. Most of us instead used Goodreads to track our reading, generally gauge reader responses, and as a resource for giveaways to fans. But Goodreads did even the playing field by providing a way for indie authors and small presses to get their books more prominently noticed by a larger readership, and that in and of itself was a huge benefit and blessing to many of us. And made time invested in Goodreads more than worth the effort. The promise was more reviews, although in my experience, I garnered a very small boost in reviews from the giveaways I did.

Then Amazon bought Goodreads and all of a sudden they started charging a few hundred dollars for giveaways, immediately making giveaways unaffordable for most indies and small presses while favoring the big names who already get all the advantages. One of the nice things about Goodreads giveaways being free was it allowed indies and small presses to play equally alongside the big boys at attracting reader attention. That is no longer the case with the new policy. But other developments with Amazon’s arrival have been even more insidious. Torrent links began showing up more and more in comments and as actual groups and getting them removed became a major ordeal requiring many emails and DCMA notices as well as much frustration of the authors or presses involved.

And now it appears, Goodreads allows authors to create fake profiles in the name of other authors to troll authors the creators disapprove of with really nasty reviews. I can tell you that it is always perilous as an author to review peers. As such, I learned long ago not to post any review that was below three stars publicly. So if you ever see a review below three stars bearing my name on a book, it is fake. But not everyone cares about relations with their peers as I do, and with this current rise of trolling fakes, the problem is exploding by leaps and bounds. Goodreads will remove fake accounts if you can make a good case proving they are fake and get enough people to join you in complaining, but it is not easy and in many cases, the damage may have already been done. Unless something has changed, just because accounts are removed, doesn’t mean all their reviews disappear. Many times I encountered them listed under labels such as “Inactive Account” or other such monikers. Someone has to actually undertake cleanup behind the scenes which requires effort and time, something Goodreads is stingy with when it comes to assigning employees, in my experience and that of many others I have talked to.

So I have to say I am questioning the usefulness of Goodreads to authors more and more. Is this really the type of site and community we want to invest our time and energy into? Especially when it is seems to become more anti-author or at least non-author friendly by the day? I am curious what other authors use Goodreads for besides the uses I mentioned. What experiences have you had? Is it worth the hassle or do you just use it as I do—a glorified reading database—and ignore the rest? Is this something you actually find useful to invest time in or would finding an alternative be desirable? If LibraryThing overhauled and improved their interface enough would you be more active there or just switch loyalties altogether?

Look forward to people’s thoughts on this. I think Goodreads has outlived its usefulness but I am curious if others have reached the same conclusion. For what it’s worth…

[NOTE: Comments are moderated and only constructive, non-trolling responses will be allowed. The rest will be summarily denied and deleted. This is meant to provoke meaningful, helpful discussion, not an online flame war.]

The Worker Prince, My First Novel, Comes to NetGalley For A Limited Time

It rarely happens. While NetGalley is a goto place now for reviewers and others to get advanced looks at forthcoming books, it’s also expensive and thus, dominated primarily by bigger publishers and authors who have the cash to spend on it. Color me surprised when, in July, I was given a special one time opportunity to get my debut novel, The Worker Prince, listed there. While the listing is for around a month only, it’s a great chance to have a book named Honorable Mention by Barnes & Noble Book Club’s reviewer Paul Goat Allen on his Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 out to more reviewers and, thus, more readers.

Within five minutes of the listing going live, we had five requests already. The listing can be found at http://netgalley.com/PopupHandler.php?module=catalog&func=galleyTitleDetails&projectid=19576 and is available in various ebook formats from .mobi and .epub to pdf and palm. Members of NetGalley simply need to search for it by name, click the More Info or Read Now links and then request their copy. It’s that simple. And as soon as my publicist sees it, she’ll approve it and you’ll be allowed to download it and read it.  Of course, we’re hoping you love it, but regardless, please review it. Not just at NetGalley but at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Library Thing.  Why? Not just because I’m asking or out of guilt for  a free copy, but because without reviews, authors and books like me and mine won’t survive. The number of reviews increases the number of people who find the book in searches, and also let’s them know a lot of people are reading it, giving them some idea of outside perspective on what it’s about and whether it’s worth their time, and that word of mouth, above all, is what sells books.

So, if you enjoy reading and free books, won’t you please consider taking advantage of this unique opportunity? The Worker Prince has been frequently compared to Star Wars: A New Hope. People say it captures the feel of the original Star Wars. It’s been compared to pulp and classic old fashioned space operas like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or the Jason January tales. And it’s garnered praise from authors like Brenda Cooper, Maurice Broaddus, Mike Resnick, David Lee Summers and more.

Here’s the teaser:

What if everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world turned out to be wrong?

For Davi Rhii, Prince of the Boralian people, that nightmare has become a reality. Freshly graduated from the prestigious Borali Military Academy, now he’s discovered a secret that calls into question everything he knew about himself. His quest to rediscover himself brings him into conflict with his friends and family, calling into question his cultural values and assumptions, and putting in jeopardy all he’s worked for his whole life. One thing’s for sure: he’s going to have to make decisions that will change his life forever…

It’s a space western fantasy, epic space opera with great action, space battles, family drama, political scheming, and a bit of romance. Based in part on the Moses story, but also original and takes off from that story into different directions. It’s family friendly and has been enjoyed by 8 year olds and readers in their 70s. It’s 326 pages, trade paperback at $14.95. Released October 4, 2011 from Diminished Media.

I think this is an exciting opportunity for us both. I hope you’ll agree. And if you like it, book 2 is out, too.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

WriteTip: Diligence Pays Off-Success Equals Talent Plus Work

Okay, this isn’t the usual steps process for sure, but I still think it’s appropriate for a write tip. A few months back I posted about the power of diligence quoting from a Steve Martin interview with Charlie Rose where the comedian/actor talked about how importance diligence has been to his success. Pretty much everyone in the entertainment/media business I’ve met who’s had a career of more than a decade has mentioned the importance of diligence to me, and, in an age where e-publishing has become the rage and feeds our cultural fixation with instant gratification, I think a reminder about diligence is important. In fact, the key lesson is in bold later in this post, but first a little about how diligence has paid off for me.

I started writing fiction prose in summer 2008 with a love story about a divorced couple who fall in love again. My first novel started as a novella then grew. I finished it at around 65k words but it sucked. Or at least, it was’t ready for prime time. So, I went back to school, reading, studying craft, learning, practicing, and about a year later, I started writing my first science fiction book–a Moses-inspired space opera I’d dreamed up as a teen. The Worker Prince, as it’s called, was my debut novel, released in October 2011 and made Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011, quite an honor for a micropress book. Sales are steady but slow and I’ve earned back my advance or am close at around 650 copies. Book 2, The Returning, came out last month and now I’m writing Book 3.

But those novels are far from the only thing I”ve had going on. In 2008, when I started writing fiction, I knew no one writing books besides an old friend, a historian named Leon C. Metz. Now Leon is no slouch. He’s published over 20 books on history, his most famous being a biography of John Wesley Hardin, famous gunfighter. But I didn’t know anyone in science fiction, had never been to a convention, had not taken writing workshops and no one knew who I was.

Now, to be fair, I had been writing nonfiction, screenplays and plays for twenty years, since high school. I’d had some limited success with a script in development at Disney that never got made and a couple of co-written produced plays. I’d sold some nonfiction articles to magazines and such. And I’d had devotionals published. But still, I was unknown in most regards, particularly in the area of fiction books and especially in science fiction and fantasy.

But as I met writers, Ken Scholes being one of the first and I met him on Facebook after reading his wonderful Lamentation,  they always talked about how important it was to write every day. If you get stuck, write anyway. If you’re frustrated, try something else i.e. switch projects for a bit or give yourself permission to write crap just to get words down and exercise the writing muscles. As my friend and fellow novelists John A. Pitts says: “Concert pianists at the height of fame have to practice every day, why shouldn’t writers?” And that’s the truth of it.

So I wrote. I worked on a few novel ideas. I wrote a lot of short stories. And I rewrote The Worker Prince, also starting two fantasy novels, including Duneman, which is in beta reading right now and will hopefully land me an agent and traditional publisher later this year. The main thing was that I wrote, continued studying craft, read a lot, and started going to Cons to meet writers and others. Now, I have a huge network of contacts and friends, and looking at my Goodreads and Amazon author pages, there are 7 titles listed. By the end of the year, there will be 8 and maybe 9. Of those, only 2 are self-published: The North Star Serial, Part 1, which collects a series of flash fiction episodes I wrote for Digital Dragon Magazine and Rivalry On A Sky Course, which is an ebook only release of a prequel story to The Worker Prince which first sold to Residential Aliens before I released it as an ebook. Everything else has been paid for by a publisher and put out, including the anthology I edited and others in which I have stories appearing. (Wandering Weeds comes out any time now.)

What’s my point? Well, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to writing. I’ve treated it like a job, even though it doesn’t pay the bills yet. And I’ll tell you that my total income for writing expenses last year was close to $2000 when you add print cartridges, Cons, travel, paper, supplies, postage, etc. But this year, my expenses are going to be less, but my income should be close to $3000. It remains to be seen and that estimate encompasses four book advances (two pending) and some sales income (still coming in), as well as a few sales, but it’s definitely progress in the right direction. And last year I only attended 3 Cons and 1 Workshop. This year I have attended 4 Cons with 2 more planned, done 4 signings so far and have 4 more planned–all of which involved at least some travel (shortest 10 minute drive, longest airplane, including a couple 6+ hour drives). What’s my point?

I am acting like a full time writer even though I am not one. I am also spending several hours a week on blogging, social media marketing, networking, promotion and reading and running #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat, Wednesday at 9 pm EDT on Twitter). I typically spend 2-3 hours a day writing, 2-3 editing (mostly for other people) and 2-3 on blogging and social media, plus any other work I need to do. (I am seeking full time employment and do freelance gigs from time to time.) Once I get a full time job, my goal will still be to do the 6-9 hours a day devoted to my writing career.

Why? Because I am getting somewhere, not just with the earning income progress but with the amount of material published. My third Davi Rhii book will come out sometime next year and I hope to sell a couple more novels, including Duneman. My first kid’s chapter book is going to come out this Winter (late 2012 or early 2013). I just got asked to do more joke books after my first released today which means nice advances, and I have a celebrity bio contracted, two half novels done, and several short stories, including 10 more North Stars to finish the cycle left to write.


Diligence matters.


   [dil-i-juhns]  Show IPA



constant and earnest effort to accomplish what isundertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.
So if your passion is writing, storytelling, etc., be diligent. Make the effort to do what you love and follow your passion. Treat it like work, without discipline it won’t happen. But know that if you have the talent and you apply the work to it, things will happen. After all, talent is like 2×4 boards, it takes some tools, nails, effort, etc. to build something with it. But it can be done and will be done if you’re diligent. You may not get rich. You may not become that famous. But you will become very satisfied and you will have a body of work that shows you’re more than just a person who dreams of being a writer. You’ll be a real, published writer, and whether that ever pays my bills fully or not, to me that’s saying something.
For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

Books Read In 2011 Per Goodreads

Supervolcano: Eruption by Turtledove, Harry

Pathfinder Tales: Death’s Heretic by Sutter, James L.

Firebird (Alex Benedict, #6) by McDevitt, Jack

Anniversary Day ( A Retrieval Artist Novel, #8) by Rusch, Kristine Katherine

Owl Dance by Summers, David Lee *

Blood and Other Cravings ed. Datlow, Ellen

Downpour (Greywalker, #6) by Richardson, Kat

Greywalker by Richardson, Kat

The Flying Machine (Society of Steam, #1) by Mayer, Andrew P.

Black Blade Blues by Pitts, John A.

The Goblin Corps by Marmell, Ari

The Black God’s War (Splendor and Ruin, #1) by III, Moses Siregar

The Boy at the End of the World by Eekhout, Greg Van

Sword of the Gods (Forgotten Realms) by Cordell, Bruce R.

of Fur and Fire ed. Wacks, Peter J. & Bell, Dana

The Unremembered (The Vault of Heaven, #1) by Orullian, Peter

Black Halo (Aeons’ Gate, #2) by Sykes, Sam

Teeth: Vampire Tales ed. by Datlow, Ellen

Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows by Jones, Howard Andrew

Artic Rising by Buckell, Tobias

Predators I Have Known by Foster, Alan Dean

The Desert of Souls by Jones, Howard Andrew

Low Town by Polansky, Daniel

The Horns of Ruin by Akers, Tim

Hellhole (Hell Hole, #1) by Herbert, Brian

The Black God’s War: A Novella Introducing a new Epic Fantasy by III, Moses Siregar

Shades of Milk and Honey by Kowal, Mary Robinette

Who Fears Death by Okorafor, Nnedi

Deceived (Star Wars: The Old Republic, #2) (Star Wars: The Old Republic, #2) by Kemp, Paul S.

King Maker (Knights of Breton Court, #1) by Broaddus, Maurice

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1) by Weeks, Brent

Diving into the Wreck by Rusch, Kristine Kathryn

The Disappeared by Rusch, Kristine Kathryn

Consequences by Rusch, Kristine Kathryn

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1) by Carriger, Gail

Rage of the Behemoth ed. by Waltz, Jason M.

Space Grunts  ed. by Ward, Dayton

Goodreads Giveaway: The Worker Prince

I’m running another giveaway of signed copies of my debut novel. The book got Honorable Mention on Barnes and Noble Book Club’s Years Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011 alongside John Scalzi, Ben Bova, and more.

Additionally, it continues to get rave reviews.  Here’s the latest from Catherine Russell at Functional Nerds:

Review: The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

On December 21, 2011, in Book ReviewCathy Russell, by Catherine Russell

The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt takes the Biblical story of Moses to the stars and beyond. When Prince Xander Rhii – Davi to his friends – graduates from the Borali Military Academy at the top of his class, his horizon looks clear and bright. Privileged enough to grow up in the Royal Household, he’s spent his life surrounded by his friends, his devoted mother – Princess Miri, and his uncle Xalivar – the Lord High Counselor of the Borali Alliance. However, his mother has shielded him from his uncle’s dark side; an anger so black it threatens to consume Davi and all he loves when the young prince discovers the secret of his own past.

This book manages to do what many other science fiction novels haven’t; namely show existing religions in the distant future. The resemblance to the Biblical story of Moses is obvious, but the way it is told is engaging and not limited by the comparison. True, Lord Xalivar ‘will not let the workers go,’ but the workers themselves work toward their own salvation – rather than depending on their God to do it for them. The fact that the workers are monotheistic Christians – unlike the polytheistic Lords of the Alliance – emphasizes the culture clash that already exists between the peoples. The overlords feel superior to the enslaved workers, and use that as a reason to subjugate them – something historically common throughout slave-holding societies.

Throughout the plot, the strong ties of family are stressed. Loyalties are tested, both among the workers and the Royal family, and betrayals weighed against the greater good. As the plot progresses, main characters find themselves facing moral dilemmas, which adds to the physical and psychological tension.

With the exception of an attempted rape scene, essential to the plot yet handled delicately, there is no sex. Despite the dire circumstances, there is no swearing or profanity of any kind. The plot is strong; the language straightforward. In the end, the novel has a glossary to explain some of the new terms the author introduced, but in my opinion context was enough to render further explanation unnecessary.

While the high stakes were up for grabs until the very end, my only complaint would be that the plot addressed everything a bit too neatly. Almost every character takes part in the final battle. Every plot point is resolved – for good or ill. However, since the next book in the series is due out next year, things must not be as tidy as they appear.

This book works on several levels. While other science fiction novels shy away from mentioning modern day religions, this book manages to succeed in doing just that without feeling preachy. The religious overtones cannot be ignored in the story, nor should they, for they add to the realism of the plot. The people of this future feel as real as any family member or despot of the modern world, and they deal with the same issues. I recommend this both as both as a science fiction delight and a good family read.

About the author

Catherine Russell

Author bio: Catherine Russell is an author living in NE Ohio. Her work has been published in the ‘Best of Friday Flash – Volume One’ anthology, Lightning Flash magazine, and Flash Me magazine. She shares her life with her high school sweetheart, their son, and two ferocious puppies in the Wilds of Ohio while writing and learning more about the craft every day. More of her writing can be found on her blog – http://www.ganymeder.com

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The Worker Prince

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Giveaway ends January 08, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win