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May 24, 2012

Tips on Thursday: Goodreads Groups

It is guest post week on Girl Who Reads. Last week, when I working on my Goodreads post I realized I didn't really know enough about groups to providing really useful information. I asked my friend, fellow blogger, and Goodreads Group Genius, Lori of The Next Best Book Club to share her experience being a super moderator. She has some really great tips and it made me want to start a group, I just need to find the time. So without further ado, here's Lori...

Goodreads: A Blogger’s Playground

If you’ve been a part of the book community for more than… oh… five minutes, you’ve most likely heard of It’s the largest “social cataloging” website out there, created specifically for book lovers to share and recommend their favorite reads with one another.

Believe it or not, that’s where TNBBC (The Next Best Book Club) got its start. Back in 2007, I had no idea what book blogging was, let alone the fact that it even existed! I simply had a burning desire to discuss books and Goodreads was an excellent and addictive outlet for that.

Fast forward nearly 5 years later and here I sit, blogging about the self and indie published world of literature, reviewing advanced copies of the books that everyone else will purchase 3 or 4 months from now, having daily conversations with some of my favorite authors and publishers… Ahhh… this is the bookish life!

But I never forsake my goodreads group. In fact, TNBBC has benefited incredibly through the use of both the blog and the goodreads group, in ways that it might not have if I had only used one and not the other.

Of course, I am coming at this backwards. I started on goodreads, where most of you started as book bloggers. So let’s talk about why I think every book blogger should have a goodreads group:

Reasons to Start a Goodreads Group:

The Bookshelves. Who doesn’t love organizing and displaying all of the books they have read, want to read, and want to buy? Goodreads allows you to shelve books by category on your personal profile page, recommend them to your friends and members, as well as display them on your group’s bookshelf and homepage. This allows for maximum exposure and share-ability.

The Threads. Oh yes. The threads. I like the layout and flexibility of the discussions threads on goodreads much better than the comment sections on our blogs – which are clunky and extremely limited. The threads and folder systems allow you to keep conversations going forever, they are easily accessible, and would be perfect for storing a running tab of your bloggish meme’s.

The Group Reads. Goodreads is the ideal place to host group reads. You can set up a nomination thread, compile nominations into an easy-to-use poll, open a discussion thread and you’re off and running…

The Community. Well, of course, as book bloggers, we are all about community! Through goodreads, though, you have the potential to tap into an unlimited resource of non-bloggers who love to read just as much as you do! Plus, your members can experience your blog on a whole new level by sharing content and common interests amongst each other, independent of your most recent blog post.

The Authors and Publishers are there too! Don’t miss out on the additional connection if you are like me, and thrive on publisher/author interaction. So many different ways to sprinkle this into your group and expose your non-blogging members to all aspects of the literary world.

It all gets tied back into your blog! When handled right, your goodreads group drives traffic back to you. And your blog drives traffic back to your group. It’s a win-win situation when you think about it.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in starting up? Not sure how much time it’s going to take, or if you want the additional responsibility?

Managing a Goodreads Group – From Seed to Full Fledged Flower:

In order to create a successful goodreads group, you have to be willing to put some time in up front. With the right amount of attention and well focused love, your little seedling will set strong roots and blossom almost all on its own.

Well, something like that, anyway.

Your goodreads group should share your blog’s brand. Once you’re up and running, feel free to expand your group to encompass all aspects of the book world, but in the beginning I think it helps to have a specific area of focus or identity. What does your blog specialize in – YA? Classics? Works written by female authors? That’s where I would start. Make sure the groups focus is clear and that the threads you create and the books you shelve reflect that focus.

Set group guidelines right from the start. How do you want your members to behave within the group? Can anyone add a book to the group’s bookshelf? Are your members allowed to post threads to promote their own websites/blogs/giveaways? How will you address and handle rule breakers? These things should all be clearly defined somewhere within the group where your members can locate them easily.

Encourage participation and self policing. Let your members know that it’s totally ok for them to create threads and stir up discussions on topics that relate to your group’s theme. Invite new members to introduce themselves in a special “new member” thread so everyone can welcome them. Enable them to self-police. This has been a huge help to me within TNBBC. In the beginning you’re going to want to be a very visible and active presence. But over time, you should encourage the long term members to call out issues. Since I can’t be logged in every minute of the day, checking every single thread and comment with a fine toothed comb, I let my members know that they should report any abuse or obvious rule breaking to me via private message. Then, as I grew more confident in their ability to self-police, and they felt they could defuse the situation, they began to correct the unappreciated behavior on their own.

Have fun! Remember that the group is supposed to be an extension of your blog. Do some fun things within the group that you wouldn’t be able to do on your blog… play literary games, have members post photos of their bookshelves or favorite reading spots. Have interactive interviews where your members can ask questions to an author, rather than those stuffy ole question and answer interviews we post on our blogs.

Man, if I knew then what I know now … remember, TNBBC branched out into blogging two years after it was an established community on goodreads. There were many things I didn’t handle well in its early years.

I wasn’t prepared for the “spam” threads that would appear from unknown authors who wanted to spread the word about their books. So I let my silly side get the best of me and I created a “Spammers Circle of Hell” folder, banishing all offending posts there, where members were allowed to tease and poke at the offender. At the time, I thought my group rules were clear and my members were having fun, but it wasn’t fair to the author. (I hadn’t begun to build relationships with authors the way I did later on. And I think most
of the authors I tormented have eventually forgiven me!)

I quickly smartened up and realized that these authors were just as clueless about how goodreads worked as I was when I had first joined. So I changed my tactic and would reach out to them privately to explain how I run my group and the importance of becoming familiar with group rules before posting…

All in all, if you’re willing to put in the time and energy up front, a goodreads group can become your blog’s best friend! It’s full of untapped potential. Go on and give it a shot!

Lori Hettler is the indie lovin’ mastermind behind The Next Best Book Blog. She started blogging in 2009 after her goodreads group took on a life of its own. TNBBC continues to be one of the largest, most active groups on As if moderating a group and blogging about independent authors, publishers, and books weren't enough... TNBBC can also be found hanging out on Facebook (hating on the new page layout), Twitter (rubbing elbows with indie literaries), YouTube (uploading awesome book trailers and author readings), Tumblr (currently on my back-burner list, something had to give!), and Google+ (cause Facebook won't last forever!)

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