14 comments on “The Author As Enemy – or The Goodreads Rant.

  1. This is a really interesting take on Goodreads. My publicist recommend that I sign up for it last year, as it is touted as a great way for new authors to get their work noticed.

    I was surprised to find I’d already been added as an author by somebody who’d reviewed my work. They had also decided that two of my books were actually the same one.

    It took an awful lot of wrangling with Goodreads to get the information changed. They kept asking me which version I wanted removed, and couldn’t understand that the two books were different (one is 54k words and one is 145k, so definitely not the same!).

    It’s also been weird because people leave just ratings without a review. Although fans have left reams of positive reviews, one person has just left one star, which just still baffles me.

    As far as negative reviews go, I think because we’ve entered a free-for-all world where an author’s career depends on positive reviews and people are trying pretty much anything to get themselves noticed by a publisher, there’s been a growing tendency for authors to let rip in various ways.

    There have been a couple of cases of authors leaving themselves gushing reviews, or attacking others on Amazon for leaving negative reviews, in the last year or so. If Goodreads has added the warning about author behaviour on their email, then it’s probably because there are writers out there who will attack people who don’t give them positive reviews.

    This is the internet, after all, where we forget that the person at the other end of the wire is actually a human being with feelings. Authors are no different from any other human, and I guess the temptation to use the internet as a way to attack people is just too much for some.

    • You know, my issue isn’t really with individual reviewers – and I certainly would never wish readers to feel threatened into writing glowing reviews of books they hate (I would be the first to shout about this). My main concern is the bias that Goodreads shows towards readers. I’m all for responsible behaviour. And those who infringe T&Cs should be quietly escorted from the premises. I do believe in right of reply (though I’ve never been inclined to use this right myself where reviews are concerned, and authors should ABSOLUTELY be encouraged to treat readers with respect – but it does seem to me that Goodreads presuming that the default position for the author is a guilty one. I got a very definite feeling whilst corresponding with them is that it was very much a case of “our readers come first”, which saddened more than angered me, I guess. Especially when you consider that I am also a reader and reviewer on the site!

      Not about to lose sleep over it, though! LOL

  2. Let me begin by saying that I think you raise some very valid points about book give-aways and reviews in general. I’m a former member of GoodReads and a current member of LibraryThing; I’ve received ARC’s to read and review from both platforms. I offer up one reviewer’s perspective, mine. When I joined GR and LT I didn’t even realize that there were books available from authors and publishing houses for review via the give-aways. The discovery after the fact of joining was a nice surprise and I regularly request books I find of interest. I read and review them, posting those reviews on LT and Amazon. Occasionally, I post one on my blog.

    I have few friends on LT. I’m not there to cultivate any friendships or have a following. (I don’t spurn interaction, I’m not seeking it though). I went there to list the books in my library and to see what others are reading. It helped me find, and remember, books I had long forgotten about or had never heard of before. Being a member has expanded my horizons.

    I think reviews are quite subjective. Don’t you? Even professional reviewers can be unnecessarily harsh. However, a free book (ARC or otherwise)does not equal a)a good book, or b)a positive review. Of the many I have read and reviewed, there was only one that I really didn’t care for personally–but, as I noted in my review, it was a good book that I felt others would probably enjoy very much. I couldn’t lie, as a reader/reviewer, and say I loved a book that I ultimately didn’t enjoy reading.

    The reviewers from these websites ARE, mostly, the reading public. They are the ones who are buying the books, telling their friends about the books. They are also the ones who will tell their friends if an author has treated them badly. And I gather, one of your laments is who does the author tell if a reviewer has treated him/her badly. You are right, many have blogs and other means of putting it all out there, for the world to see–right, wrong or indifferent. Some may intentionally be looking for a good fight. In my experience, most are not.

    Not all reviewers are equal, but that is the chance you take when offering up a book on those sites. As I said earlier, I look for books in my areas of interest. If it is work from an author I have never heard of before, the blurb on the site is my means of determining if the book might be something I would enjoy reading. I want to write positive reviews. I also receive books direct from publishing houses via their websites that I have requested. Sometimes, an author contacts me directly via my blog.

    It is important to review honestly what we read. It is important to be respectful in our relationships with others, whether in person or behind the computer screen. It is important for authors to get their books read AND reviewed.

    I don’t have any answers for you other than to give my perspective as a reviewer. One bad apple can ruin the experience of sharing books and reviewing, which I love to do, for everyone.

    • Please see my previous response to Joely.

      As already mentioned, my concern is more to do with the attitude of those running such websites towards authors. I certainly don’t want to see customer reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc being removed or shut down. As I’ve stated, I think customer reviews are good things.

      I would like such sites, however, to encourage a little more respect in certain areas – from reviewers and, yes, from some authors. It’s very possible to write a quite critical review without resorting to nastiness, but by this happens I think, if the review is reported and not taken down, the author most certainly has a right to respond – though I would urge any of the doing this to only do so in exceptional circumstances, and to avoid resorting to impolite, aggressive behaviour. Make your point politely, and preferably publicly, and then leave it.

      I do think that you are quite right. Reviews are definitely subjective. And, again, I have absolutely no problem with that. Someone saying “I didn’t enjoy your book” is perfectly acceptable. Someone, however, deducing from that that the book is therefore not a good book, I have more trouble with. Just saying “this book was rubbish” is guaranteed to prompt me to disregard the review completely – something, in all fairness, I think the vast majority of readers would do.

      With regard the one bad apple ruining the experience, yes. And I think it’s the responsibility of all of us, Goodreads et al included, to do our best to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

      Thanks for your input!

  3. Here’s the thing, I request books on GoodReads and Library Things, and I make sure I post my reviews for books I receive via those sites on that site. However, I DO review the books on my MUCH more popular blog and promote the reviews via Twitter and Facebooks. I will even post my reviews on Amazon.com (since most publicists appreciate that thing). However, I can’t post every review I do on ALL the sites I read. I mean, I could, but I do have to schedule some time for reading and reviewing. Yes, I do go to those sites JUST to get free books, but I also review those free books. Subsequently, I don’t have many friends on the sites and I don’t get many free books. And I guess it’s my own fault. But I do write a great review. :)

    • That sounds perfectly reasonable to me, Amy. And it is an excellent point. Not sure I made my point clearly enough, however, but large numbers of the 900+ people who applied for my latest giveaway had absolutely no friends listed and had only just joined. Having only one or two friends on such websites is acceptable – and, let’s face it, small groups of friends are probably going to pay more attention to each other than larger groups.

      Off to check out some of your reviews right away! :D

  4. I joined Goodreads last year as an author and a reader at the same time, but to be honest haven’t got much out of it as either. I found their giveaways a great feature, mainly because they organise the whole thing and all you have to do is mail the books out, and I know they helped me reach a far wider number of entrants than if I have done it myself on my blog or somewhere at the time.

    The problem I have with Goodreads is the star ratings, and the fact that anyone can give you book a one or two star rating without saying why. (I’ve no problem with one or two star ratings, I should say, just those that come without any explantation!) As a self-published author I rely on reviews to push sales and there is no recourse for me on a site like GRs, which I’ve just stopped visiting. I should say that the book’s overall rating is fair – about 3 or 3.5 out of 5 – which is what matters, but after reading this blog post I’m more convinced than ever that at GRs, the author is a second class citizen.

    And as a reader, I haven’t faired much better. All I’ve got out of it – and perhaps this is my own doing, I admit – is invites to events I can’t attend (because they’re in other countries) and news of competitions I can’t enter because I don’t live in the US. I find Twitter a much better place to learn of books I want to read, and i only review books on my blog. That’s what’s working for me, so I think I’ll stick with that! :-)

    • I do definitely think that there needs to be the greater understanding of just how damaging casual criticism/rating can be to authors on these websites. That isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be allowed to review honestly – but, as you say, there needs to be explanation. And I think the assumption that the authors should remain silent rather than politely questioning certain statements is one that needs to be revised.

      Incidentally, this is what I was greeted with when I looked at one of my reviews on GR this morning http://yfrog.com/hsc5rraj

  5. Good article. I’m glad you came out with a post many authors have already felt, but felt that if they spoke out, they would only get harassed and their books would be bashed. I think it’s alright for authors to correct facts in a review no matter if the review is good or bad. An author friend of mine responded to a review by a fan of another author claiming he copied the other author’s book because they share the same theme. Because he responded, his book was bashed, his response to Goodreads was bashed, and he even had his computer hacked right after contacting Goodreads about the review. Goodreads use authors and author participation to attract readers to their site. People like to think they can get in touch with their favorite authors there. They dangle this in front of readers and when a hater goes on to write an inaccurate review that calls an author profane names, Goodreads relish this to get more traffic to their site. They like promoting hate on their site so they can attract attention from readers. It is their version of a trashy reality train wreck show. I think it is poor treatment of authors, the book industry’s bread and butter. It is appalling that they have that attitude towards authors, especially since I know for a fact they are paid to promote certain publishers’ books and certain authors. They are on the take and act as though they are for the readers, when they are promoting certain books for the readers while helping bash rival books of the publishers who paid them. Goodread’s failure to disclose this is unethical

  6. Gary, “The Author as Enemy” was a great article, and I can attest to its accuracy. I was signed up for GoodReads by my publicity folks, but it was a lame idea for all the reasons expressed here. As writers, we have no choice but to suffer harsh reviews when they come, and sometimes they are well deserved. Yes, they can hurt, and all the more so when an organization chides author’s for even daring to respond. I quit GoodReads as an author and then joined as a reader. I am contemplating reviewing some of the reviewers, which I feel is fair game. Critics can often help writers in many ways, but a few of those in GoodReads are as savage as they are shallow. They just don’t understand, or care, that reviews influence incomes, and very few writers make a lot of money as it is. Damn, how would any critic, let alone a harsh critic, like a writer filling out his or her work reviews? There is one critic in particular who dishes out one-star ratings with very sarcastic and often inaccurate comments. It may be a waste of time, but it seems she ought to be held accountable. However, one doesn’t get in a peeing contest with skunks, and especially skunks with friends. That’s how the likes of some nasty critics maintain their immunity. Any author who risks their ire is social networked to death by hoards of angry “friends”. They gather on command like flies on a carcass and suck up the festering corpse.

    But here’s the kicker—I’m sick as hell. Yeah, I’m not going to live long enough to have much of a future, and thus I have no reason for fear! Ho, ho, ho, ho—one has to have a sense of humor about these things. It’s very liberating. Besides, this particular critic has a history of causing quite a few authors’ great pain, and it isn’t like anyone at GoodReads has enough guts to do anything about it. Well, what can GoodReads do to me for expressing an opinion? I’m just a fellow reader now, and have done my best to pull all my works out. Oddly, they refused to let me do so when I left the group as an author! They said building their data base was necessary, no matter what I wanted! Damn, it’s like being held down by the home team and pummeled by the fans! Ho, ho, ho, ah—life is a hoot. Well, I decided to join their home team, so lets see how all that works out! As it now stands, GoodReads is certainly no friend of writers and hardly does the reading community much good. It sets up a dynamic wherein authors and readers are sometimes working in opposition and no possible benefit can come of that. GoodReads is not a good idea for most writers—unless the organization decides to change a bit. I wonder if they have the guts to do so? Well, I’ll post this letter on GoodReads. Like I said—nothing to lose! (see: http://garymurning.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/the-author-as-enemy-%E2%80%93-or-the-goodreads-rant/ )

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