Monday, 9 April 2012

G Is For Goodreads And Bad Behavior

This post will be a little long but it's worth it.

You are all aware of the flame wars that sometimes occur at Amazon for a product review--namely books. Well, this same type of behavior has arrived at Goodreads. In the past few months it has become so volatile over there. And not because of an author leaving a condescending comment on a review or a reviewer going into great detail about why the book didn't work for them with a nice side of snark. Authors should be astute and not pop up and say, “But you don’t understand my muse, the real meaning behind my masterpiece! How dare you say such horrible things when I put my heart and soul into this book!” Sorry to say authors, the person who reviewed your book doesn't care how hard you slaved over your computer or how much of your life you gave up to write a book they think is horrible.

Let’s be honest here, there’s no written rule on how reviews should be written. Reviewing is not an art. No one can get a degree in reviewing or be an expert in the field. Of course, there are some who write reviews amazingly well and then there are those who write filth. But the bottom line is, if someone is going to pay cold hard cash for your work, they have a right to criticize any way they see fit. Even if they said the book they read is the worst piece of crap ever published and lit it on fire, it’s their right. Is it fair? No. But life isn’t fair. The moment you put something out there for the public, it’s open season. And if you can’t take the criticism, no matter how mean, snarky or cruel it may be, you’re in the wrong line of work. However, it’s an unwritten rule and a strong belief from both sides that a reviewer SHOULD NEVER criticize an author based on looks or their personality.

This occurred a few months ago at Goodreads where comments were left on a review where the reviewer gave her very honest and brutal opinion. The author’s weight and style of clothing was soon mentioned and made fun of. Someone went as far to say they wouldn’t buy the author’s books because of how horrible she looked. Eventually, these very immature comments were deleted by the initial reviewer because the public were very vocal against such derogatory comments about the author.

Goodreads has also become a place where people will go after reviewers on a very personal level. I’ve noticed this behavior is especially strong for reviews left for Young Adult books. Every time I see someone leave a scathing review or give a 1 star to a much beloved YA book, those people who loved it come back with claws bared--calling others “assholes” and far worse things.

And these aren't kids, folks, they're adults with wives, husbands and children.

What do you think? Have you seen cruel and embarrassing behavior on Goodreads?


Kyra Lennon said...

One of the things that scares me most about publishing is being attacked by readers. I know you can't please everyone, but it would be good if you could! I am not scared enough not to try though!

The other day, I saw someone post on Facebook that they didn't think the Harry Potter books were well written - and I gotta say - it was my instinct to rip into her and tell her every reason why those books are amazing lol! However, I restrained myself, because everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I would never embarrass myself by attacking someone over a review because firstly, it's a waste of energy. Secondly, why would I want my name on the internet with an angry rant attached to it? And finally, there are a million better things I could be doing.

T.D. McFrost said...

I agree. It really is a colossal waste of time to flame someone because of a biased opinion. Unless their thoughts impact a greater whole then let them be.

But there are also those people who leave hateful comments because they think it's either funny or, as they would put it, "honest". Youtube is full of them. The most recent comment I came across of this nature was for the cover of Beyonce's Single Ladies. The woman who sang it was overweight, and a terrible singer, but some 14yr old loser wrote, "Kill it before it lays eggs!" and that became the top comment with over 22,000 likes. My god!

martine said...

Sadly the internet is full of mean and ignorant people. I don't know Goodreads. If I really don't like something I usually abandon it and will not bother reviewing, if something is just a bit meh, I will say so but trying to say something positive about it but just that it wasn't my thing.
visiting via A to Z challenge
thanks for sharing, thoughtful post.

T.D. McFrost said...

Thanks for your comment Martine. I'll stop by and say hey.

Susan Roebuck said...

Oh yes, I've seen it (hi, by the way, I'm popping in from the A-Z). I've seen the flame wars, but haven't taken part in them. Actually authors just draw attention to their bad reviews by doing that. Best just to zip the mouth and stay quiet, and concentrate on the good reviews. I know bad reviews hurt, but we should learn from them too.
Everyone gets bad reviews - even the Big Boys.

T.D. McFrost said...

I agree 1200%! Nothing worse than an author mouthing off to haters. You're actually validating their behavior by doing so--like feeding a stray dog; feed it once and it'll follow you home.

farawayeyes said...

Unfortunately this is too true. Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame. I know it's hurtful, but it's also best to let the immaturity of others stand out there naked allby itself. 'If you have to 'splain it to them, they aren't gonna get it anyway.'

nutschell said...

I've seen some of that happen. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but maybe some folks intentionally write bad reviews so they can garner some attention?
Great A-Z post!

Angela Brown said...

Reviews are very subjective. Unfortunately, as you mention, there are no hard and fast rules set in stone on how a review should be written.

I've seen, on both Goodreads and Amazon, reviews that I choose to ignore once I see the direction it takes. Once the reviewer starts in on ethnicity, weight, eye color or dislike of the pattern of shirt worn by the author in their bio pic, I have a problem giving credence to any other part of the review. The review is supposed to be, after all, about the book. Even if it is a skinhead, publically admitted KKK person who authored a book I happened to stumble upon and read, my review should be about the writing, the content of the novel and whether I would or would not recommend the novel, not the author.

I've hesitated, sometimes, mentioning my dislike of the Twilight series because I was sure there would be TwiMoms, TwiFans and Twibots ready to pounce on anything I said about it. Mind you, I personally think Stephenie Meyer was extremely smart and hold nothing against her as a person or a writer even. From what I heard, the other books in the series got better. And heck, she wrote something that spoke to a lot of people. I just know the writing wasn't for me. But Ijust knew putting that on Goodreads would get me the award of some snarky die-hard fans who wouldn't accept that some human could actully not like Twilight. lol!!!

As a writer, I'm trying to brace myself. But it will be hard becaue as much as I would love for every reader to adore my stories, MY writing won't be for them and to some, it will suck worse than wastewater on a hot summer's day. Yikes, just thinking about that gave me shivers. But it will be true. I just have to deal with it if being a published novelist is what I want to be.

Donna Martin said...

Hi…I’m hopping over from the A to Z Challenge. Lovely post…good luck with the challenge.

Donna L Martin

Nick Wilford said...

I've not seen this but I haven't used Goodreads very much as yet. But like Angela said, if someone chose to attack how the author looked, that would negate for me anything else they had to say. Not only does it seem immature and in the place of a decent argument, but looks are completely irrelevant to writing.

Dusty said...

Yikes! I'm not too much in to Goodreads, yet, but I totally agree with everything you said! Great post! It's a shame that people, reviewers and authors alike, will stoop to such levels. But such is the case when people feel offended, even if it does seem to be over something like opinions or thoughts! Thanks!


ryan field said...

Very well stated and I absolutely agree. In fact I try to stay away from GR as much as possible. There are reviews and identities I don't trust and the basic system is flawed because of this. Unfortunately this sucks for the honest people on GR.

This was a great post.

Sarah Pearson said...

As a writer I know that, when I have something published, I'm likely to get some bad reviews. Maybe these reviews will be justified, maybe they will be personal attacks. Whatever, it comes with the territory.

What I don't want to deal with, is being attacked for giving my opinion of a book. This is why I won't write reviews of books I don't like. Is that me being a coward? Maybe, but I find it all too easy to be dragged down by stuff as it it without volunteering for more.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Yes I've seen this behavior, but it's the same way on other websites. Goodreads is not immune. People are mean and this world is full of people. You just have to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most intelligent people will not allow the opinions of the stupid ones to influence us at all.

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