Tag Archives: goodreads

The Case of Grim5Next And How I “Hacked” Goodreads to Kickstart My Project

On the power of community and growth hacking.

The year was 2012. The end of the world was nigh and being the savvy — and opportunist — gal that I am, I came up with a project where I would collaborate with fellow writers and produce an appropriate work of fiction to come out at just the right time: 21.12.2012.

I was semi-active on Goodreads and heavily into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and HitRECord (open collaborative studio), which all connected to give birth to Grim5Next.

Grim5next was an interactive anthology about the end of the world, written by 36 writers, edited by twice as many people, illustrated by a handful of… anyway, let’s not go into detail. It’s currently dead in the water.

What I do want to go into is how I kicked it off in less than a week.

If you read carefully, this “hack” will give you the power to: promote your project, strengthen your network, and get you working with people, gain fans, and learn more about the industry you’re trying to crack your way into.

As any other project of mine, it started on twitter. I had a large network of writer/editor/publisher friends, and even though I wasn’t published myself, I enjoyed talking to, promoting, and reading these people’s books.

My network wasn’t as big as it is now. I currently have 18K followers on my main account — V4Violetta — but then I had about 2K. If you’d like to know how I did it, you can follow this link to get my growth report.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I’d like to say two things:

  • on twitter it is all about engagement and-
  • everything is a numbers game, remember that!

Case in point: to make the grim5next anthology appealing, I wanted to add some illustrations. I contacted 100+ people, 10% of which said yes, I’ll illustrate for free. Before this incident, I believed people wouldn’t give away work without being compensated, but the response proved me wrong.

A bunch of highly-skilled illustrators joined my team, for free.

If I had emailed say, 10 people, maybe 1 would have answered. And maybe their answer would have been no. I forgot to mention that more than half of the people I contacted didn’t even bother to answer and some inquired about payment — with good reason — after which they said no.

The more people you ask, the higher the chances of positive response.

The same goes for anything: a giveaway, a contest, a book review.

This is why I am “building an army” on twitter. I know how hard it is to reach out to anybody, let alone sell anything when you don’t have the network to build your project or business upon. On the other hand, having this advantage means that when you have something to tell, someone will listen.

I’m in favor of early marketing and networking. Before you have the book or the business, you need to have a network.

Now let me tell you how I “hacked” my way with the project.

  1. I was already following other writers on twitter.
  2. I signed up for Goodreads and amassed 1000+ friends in 2 days.
  3. I created the Writers Worth group, where I’d post updates.
  4. I sent a hyper message to invite my friends to join it.
  5. I grew the group and had enough volunteers in a week.
  6. I kept using twitter (and #grim5next) to promote the project.

The rest was just: writing, moderating, emails, and editing.

Did I forget to mention? To add more people on Goodreads, simply go to: friends, find friends on — twitter, keep everyone ticked, click invite friends, and then wait for them to accept. When you create the group, all you have to do is invite people by sending a message to all of your friends.

You can friend and invite more people as you go, it’s easy.

I can imagine the same kind of excitement/activity can be generated for any project and/or book, even if it’s not collaborative. I’ll tell you how:

  1. Be yourself.
  2. Offer something.
  3. Build a community.

The reason Grim5Next attracted so much attention was because it gave people something to do together. But it doesn’t have to be an interactive project to get people’s attention. If you can create a group with enough things to keep everyone busy, you can achieve the same results.

Usually, on Goodreads it’s all about books, events, and reviews. So start a group where your friends and you can discuss books. Or write a choose-your-adventure kind of thing for fun. And make sure there is:

  • a section where they can introduce themselves;
  • a section where they can promote their books and events;
  • a section where they can play games;

There are so many things you can do, but the takeaway here is:

A community can build or break any venture. Master the art of building a tribe and you’ll have support for anything you do.

The reason why a community works best is because the whole is stronger than the part. When you are a part of a group, all the other members have your back. They help you when you do giveaways, they engage you on all kinds of networks, and they introduce you to their friends.

And it’s all so exciting to share this whole journey with others. Why do you think I was obsessed with HitRECord? Because I saw great art and talked to talented people I’d never have met otherwise. It’s a miracle when you can establish relationships over the noise of the internet.

Why do you think NaNoWriMo is so successful? It’s because of the forums. They have sections for people to relax and take a break, to announce important milestones they had met, complain when they’d hit a wall, and share information others need to write their books.

Play games, adopt plots, and so on. It’s a phenomenon.

Bear in mind, you can never start a community unless you are giving these people something they need: whether it is the sense of belonging or a chance to win something or both, you need to stop promoting yourself and your book and start promoting everybody else. Seriously.

Being helpful makes you indispensable. Whether you have published a book or are running a freelance business or blogging for money or starting any kind of business, you can benefit from building a community.

When I conceived the “grim5next” idea, I didn’t know how I would find people. The thought of sending SOS tweets like “Guys, I have this amazing idea for an apocalyptic anthology, who wants in? Tweet me!” made me sick, and so I had to think of something else, and fast.

I knew that Goodreads was where everyone in the industry congregated, so I went there. I saw the groups, the “add friends from” button, and it all made sense. I like to say that growth hacking is a way of thinking.

It’s a process where you:

  • have an idea
  • look for ways to make it happen and —
  • if you can’t see the way, get creative and forge it.

It’s about pushing limits, finding shortcuts, and being smart after you have done all that. If I had just befriended these people, created the group, and announced my book, I would have been ignored and laughed at.

Instead, I talked to people, discussed books, and collaborated.

It was the scariest and most exhilarating project I had ever done. And it was one of those miraculous things that defied the old saying “It’s easier said than done”. And you can make your project happen everywhere you are. For example, it can be as easy as starting a hashtag on twitter!

I regret that grim5next was not completed because there is no doubt it my mind that it would have been successful. However, it taught me a lesson, which I am now giving to you hoping that it’ll help you, too.

Thank you for reading and good luck!

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Young Adult Literature Is Better Than You Think

I’m a grown up who still reads Young Adult (YA) novels. You know that whole category of books that too many people pigeonhole as being about good-looking vampires that sparkle in the sunlight? Yeah, those. While I admit that I’ve read the vampire books, I’ve also read some astoundingly fresh fiction in the world of YA — don’t miss out on them because you’ve dismissed the category entirely.

I’ve read a lot of good books and I’ve read a lot of bad books. Many of the books I read in college, I loved, like Lord of the Flies, some of them I loathed, like Bleak House. Most of the books I enjoyed — The Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre, A Separate Peace — featured teenage protagonists. Were these classics YA before it bore the name? I can’t help but be curious how they would be classified if they were coming out in today’s market. Would they be dismissed by so many adult readers as not worthy of praise or a spot in our literary canon simply because they maybe (gasp!) ended up on a YA shelf next to Twilight? What a shame that would be.

YA isn’t just about vampires, paranormal activity and dystopia, not that there’s anything wrong with that. And YA literature is no longer relegated to a spin rack or two of serial novels about babysitting in the children’s section of the bookstore. Today’s YA occupies entire shelves with an overhead sign in big, bold letters advertising “YOUNG ADULT.” The overwhelming success of the British release of Harry Potter in 1997 seemingly served as proof that there was serious marketability in young adult literature. Between 1997 and 2009, published YA novels grew from 3,000 to 30,000. And adults, not just teenagers, began flocking to read these books. That’s gotten a few people riled up. Last year, Joel Stein claimed embarrassment over catching a grown man reading The Hunger Games on an airplane. He was quick to point out he has “no idea what The Hunger Games is like,” which is more offensive than if he’d actually read the book and delivered concrete examples of why it was so distasteful. He argued that adults should read adult novels. Mr. Stein is certainly entitled to his opinion, but oh, man, did his editorial piss off an entire community of writers and readers.

To shove aside an entire category of literature because it features teen protagonists is lazy and pathetic.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when Goodreads reviewers say things like, “I liked this book even though it was YA” — as if reading a YA book was a guilty pleasure. Why not just say, I liked this book because I liked this book? Why be embarrassed by a reading experience that moved you? Perhaps you liked it because it was good — and that’s that. Admittedly, some YA is crap — but every category of fiction has crappy books.

Some of the most innovative writing happening in the world of fiction is happening in YA right now. It could be because teenagers are more open to fresh and innovative things than most adults are. Whatever the reason, established Adult Fiction writers (Nick Hornby, for one) have recognized the trend and, as a result, crossed over to writing YA novels in recent years. Why? Nick Hornby says it best:

“I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of.”

I’ve always been drawn to reading about teen characters. Maybe it’s because I teach and tutor high schoolers. Maybe it’s because I remember all the hope and horror of teenagerdom in Technicolor. Maybe I don’t care if my protagonist is 17 or 72 — I just want a good story. I want good writing. Many of the books I loved ten, even 20 years ago (C.D. Payne’s Youth in Revolt, Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts series and Joy Nicholson’s The Tribes of Palos Verdes) were gems I originally found in the General Fiction section of the bookstore. I had to comb shelves to find books like these. Now, those very same books are marketed as YA. That’s why I’m hanging out in that section of the bookstore, too.

When I was a teenager, there were very few skate parks. My friends built skateboard ramps in their backyards, quickly earning cease and desist orders from the city to tear them down. Over fear of fines and other legal ramifications, the ramps were grudgingly dismantled, plank by plank, and hauled to the beach to be used as wood for bonfires. By the time we were old enough to make significant changes in our communities, skateboard parks cropped up more often. Now, many towns up and down the West Coast can claim skate parks of their own.

I think the same of YA literature. As a teenager, I had limited access to the kind of books I wanted to read. Instead of waiting years on a new book to come out, I read my same small collection of paperbacks over and over again. Now that fantastic YA books exist in abundance, I want to read them all.

There is a renaissance happening in the world of YA, folks, and it would be worthwhile to pay attention. Teenagers are smart, savvy readers and today’s YA literature doesn’t talk down to them or get preachy. Instead, it embraces all that they are and gives them a safe place to think, feel and figure out how to navigate some of the touchier parts of almost-adulthood. Any adult who says teens aren’t smart enough to know good writing is woefully misinformed. The high school students I teach are a far more discerning group of readers than critics of YA seem to realize.

Today’s YA novels don’t preach Afterschool Special-style morals to teenagers the way they did in the ‘80s. Books like My Name is Davy, I’m an Alcoholic, made me cringe more than feel like there was an author out there who understood what I was going through at 17. Today’s YA books also aren’t melodramatic like the Lurlene McDaniel books of the ‘90s. Fast forward twenty years later, and YA is legitimate literature where we can find beautiful lines like, “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly and then all at once,” from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The depth and beauty of words like these will surprise many adults who have written off YA as being nothing more than angsty books about teenagers.

When I asked Hilary Weisman Graham, author of the YA novel Reunited, what YA has to offer, she told me:

“I believe that all of us are always coming of age, at least if we’re living consciously. So, it doesn’t really matter if a book’s main character is a teen or an adult. As long as that character’s well drawn, readers of any age should be able to relate to her, whether or not they are currently dealing with that same emotional terrain.”

Exactly, Hilary.

Furthering the argument, Ken Baker, author of the YA novel Fangirl and the upcoming How I got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love explains:

“I like writing YA for many reasons, but among the most appealing is the immediacy, potency and urgency of the experience of the characters. Being able to capture their feelings of going through major life events, often for the first time, opens up so many possibilities to explore as a writer. When you’re young, you are typically more open and able to experience things — the highs and the lows — in a raw, visceral way…This makes for very compelling drama and allows a writer to explore the spectrum of human thoughts, feelings and emotions.”

Right on, Ken.

Yes, I read YA literature. I don’t make excuses for it. As a teenager, I had all the Judy Blume books, S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and the “anonymously written” Go Ask Alice on my bookshelf. Later, Francesca Lia Block books crept in. Now, my bookshelves – and Kindle – are filled with incredible YA books and I couldn’t be happier. I’m so thankful that I had Judy Blume when I did, but how envious I am of today’s teenagers who also have John Green, Sara Zarr, M.T. Anderson, Colleen Clayton, Jandy Nelson, Gayle Forman, and Rainbow Rowell – to name just a few.

Don’t be afraid to try YA. The worst that can happen is that your heart breaks for the love that could’ve been for Hazel and Augustus in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Or you’ll find out why going to the moon “completely sucked” for a bunch of teenagers who lost the ability to think for themselves due to the transmitters in their brains in M.T. Anderson’s Feed. Or you’ll wish with everything you have that Park can be the one who makes Eleanor forget about her abusive home life in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Indeed, you might discover something amazing that makes you believe in the beauty of YA literature.

If you are interested in reading some YA books but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s a list of some of my favorites…

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

If I Stay/What Happens Next by Gayle Forman

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Feed by MT Anderson

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

The Tribes of Palos Verdes by Joy Nicholson

Written by

Writer of things like YA books and a blog.Beach person. Winner of 2nd grade poetry contest. Lover of stories, cake and Trojan football.


Robots Run On Love

A message from the future courtesy of a psychic

My psychic initiation was a bitch. I was talking to a friend on the phone and she was saying that I was on drugs. I wasn’t on drugs. I had done lots of drugs in my past. This was the present. And I was getting messages from the mutherfucking future.

“What drug can do this?” I asked at the time. “I just got told I was inserted into this timeline to show weird scary future robot people how we loved each other in 2013 and you keep showing them fear and hate.”

I was sweating. I was panicking. I was walking through the streets of downtown Chicago and the world looked like a movie set with a shitty budget. Everything looked so fake. I could see the strings on the birds in the air flapping their puppet wings.

I got arrested that night, I got put in a hospital. I always had enough food and money. I took cab rides. I talked to people. I hope there is footage of the night I was in jail.

I was put in jail for the night and screamed myself to death. Literally, I felt I died. Everything looked and felt so real even though I knew it was fake.

I will share this one vignette with you. Because they all were like little stories to me. I was in the cell and I was looking through the window in the door.

I had been screaming for someone to let me out and I saw a couple of guys with a tripod who were taking my picture. (And I am getting chills as I write this by the way) The camera was very old-fashioned and it sat on top of a modern tripod.

The guys were dressed in modern fashion. They were very good-looking and had the appearance of being male models. Perfect hair, perfect skin. Tight white t-shirts and white slacks. They looked like angels without wings.

I thought they were documenting this because at this point I felt I was going to die in jail. They took my picture several times and I was comforted thinking that people would know what happened to me. But then they took the heavy camera off the tripod and a hole opened up in the floor.

And they dropped the camera in the hole.

Then one of the guys waved goodbye at me and blew me a kiss and jumped in the hole the horror dawning on me. These were angels, but they had been stripped of their wings. And they were taking pictures of the “new guy” and I felt I was in hell. I screamed at the remaining guy, tears streaming down my cheeks. I cannot explain to you the horror. The hopeless horror that this is your existence forever.

The downgraded angel made mocking sobbing motions with his fists up next to his eyes and then he laughed and pointed at me. He picked up the tripod and chucked it into the hole. And after giving me a wave, he jumped in the hole as well as it sealed up behind him.

That night I felt what it was like to die. As I lay on the floor of that cell, I held on as long as I could. I saw the veins in my eyes, I felt the blood stiffen in my veins, and I saw my “light” go out. And in some way, some part of me did die that night. A part I didn’t need anymore.

And even as you are reading this, the robots from the future are learning what it was like to love.

Follow and Friend on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, The Empath Community, HIGH EXISTENCE, GoodReads, and you can get copies of any of my books directly from Lulu.com, iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or ask your local bookseller to order or stock.

Further Reading

How my homage to Chicago legend Wesley Willis sent me on a “Warhellride”

 — I am so sorry. I need to make an apology to almost everyone in my life and maybe like 25,000 people in Chicago. I’m a Satirist, not just …

Written by

I am a man with two brains. One in this world and one on the other side.


Apple sought iBooks recommendation deal with Goodreads, was blocked by Amazon purchase

Apple sought iBooks recommendation deal with Goodreads, was blocked by Amazon purchase

Apple was reportedly interested in integrating book recommendations from the service Goodreads into the iBookstore, but those plans were tossed after Amazon bought the social networking site.

Apple sought iBooks recommendation deal with Goodreads, was blocked by Amazon purchase

Details on the failed partnership concept were revealed on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. Goodreads and Apple were allegedly in talks for over a year about potential integration.

“Goodreads had proposed its reviews and ratings appear within iTunes when users searched for a title, one of the people said,” reported Jessica E. Lessin and Evelyn M. Rusli. “iTunes has already integrated Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings in such a way.”

Apple apparently sought to move talks forward when iTunes executives reached out to Goodreads in March. But Apple officials were said to be “perplexed” when Goodreads didn’t respond.

The reason for the silence was a deal in the works with Amazon, in which the online retailer eventually purchased Goodreads for an amount that could exceed $200 million.

Apple may have even tried to stop the deal, as the Journal also revealed that an Apple official not involved in the original talks inquired to see if Goodreads was “interested in exploring other options.”

Competition between Amazon and Apple has heated up in the digital media space, as Amazon has made strong efforts to grow its digital music sales, and Apple entered the e-book market with the iPad and launch of the iBookstore. New data released this week showed that Apple’s iTunes is still the dominant player in digital music with a 63 percent share, while Amazon’s Kindle family of devices are said to account for 55 percent of the e-book market.

Competition has grown even more between the two companies with Amazon’s budget-oriented Kindle Fire touchscreen tablets, which compete directly with Apple’s iPad. And Amazon is even rumored to enter the smartphone market and take on Apple’s iPhone as soon as this year, with a new handset that is alleged to feature a 4.7-inch display.

(VIA. Apple Insider)

Amazon to Buy Goodreads

Amazon to Buy Goodreads

Amazon to Buy Goodreads

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon.com Inc., the world’s biggest online retailer that got its start in bookselling, has agreed to buy book recommendations site Goodreads. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Amazon said Thursday that it “shares a passion for reinventing reading,” with Goodreads. “Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books and, with Kindle, Amazon has helped expand reading around the world,” said Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle content for Amazon. “In addition, both Amazon and Goodreads have helped thousands of authors reach a wider audience and make a better living at their craft. Together we intend to build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike.”


Under Amazon’s Wing, Goodreads Plans Closer Integration While Retaining Its Indie Status


Tech crunch – Following this afternoon’s announcement that Amazon has agreed to acquire Goodreads, I had a few minutes to talk to the Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler and Amazon VP of Kindle Content Russ Grandinetti. They stayed pretty vague about the two things I was most curious about — how the deal came together, and the specifics of the planned Kindle/Goodreads integrations — but they did drop a few hints about future plans. Chandler (pictured here with his co-founder and wife Elizabeth) said that Kindle integration has been a popular request among Goodreads users, and Grandinetti said he wants to make it “super easy” to have a social experience on the Kindle device and apps. As for what that will look like, he said, “We prefer to talk about features when we ship.”


Amazon Adds Another Piece to Its Growing Ebook Empire


BusinessWeek – Over the past few years, authors and publishers have had a new way to connect with their most voracious readers: Goodreads, a San Francisco based social network for book lovers. Goodreads, which has more than 16 million members, is a digital manifestation and perhaps gradual replacement for the chatty independent bookstore clerk. Members in its 20,000 online book clubs can popularize new books, make the careers of authors and generally share their exuberance for the pastime of reading.


Amazon Acquires Social Reading Site Goodreads, Which Gives The Company A Social Advantage Over Apple


TechCrunch – Today, Amazon has announced the acquisition of social reading service, Goodreads. Specific terms of the deal weren’t disclosed and it should close by the end of Q2. Goodreads had raised $2.75M in funding from the likes of True Ventures, since launching in January 2007. As of last August, the site has over 10M members who have added more than 230,000,000 books. This type of social integration could give Amazon a major advantage over e-sellers like Apple, who have no social components to their product whatsoever.