Recently there has been some flap in the news about “Goodreads Bullies”. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, here it is (as I understand it) in a nutshell.
1. Some Authors have received some less than flattering reviews on Goodreads.
2. Some Reviewers have been accused by some Authors of being bullies.
3. Some Authors have started a website designed to bully the bullies.
4. Some Reviewers take objection to this because the founders of the website are “outing” them or publishing their personal information like names, addresses, phone numbers.
Okay, that’s it. It’s a pretty simple case as far as I’m concerned. Under no circumstances is it okay to bully someone online and writing a review, even a snarky one, is NOT bullying, but giving out someone’s personal information most definitely is. Authors have to be able to take criticism. Reviewers don’t. Reviewers are readers and (hopefully) their opinions are mirroring what’s out there in the real world. If we don’t want to know what readers think of what we write, we shouldn’t read reviews. Period.
Now that that’s said, I’d just like to say one thing to Goodreads reviewers. There’s a sort of perception that we as Authors are supposed to ignore the reviews posted about our books. We’re not supposed to acknowledge them in any way, shape or form. I didn’t realize this at first. When WHERE THE HEART LIES first started garnering reviews on Goodreads, I made a point of thanking the reviewers, even when the reviews were less than flattering. I’ve stopped doing that because it’s my understanding that it makes the reviewers uncomfortable. It’s kind of like eavesdropping, I guess.
What I want to say, though, is that even if I’m not responding to the reviewers, it doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. Hello! I’m a person. I’m a writer. I write what’s in my heart and send it out to be trampled on as you guys see fit. Yeah, I’ve thickened my skin on purpose over the years, but every now and then the snark gets under it. At times I even allow myself to shake my head and slam my notebook computer screen shut. Once or twice I even put my head down on top of my shut computer and swore I’d never open it again.
Ten seconds later, I’m over it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not listening. I hear what you say over the tapping of my computer keys. We all do. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give your honest opinions about what you read. You definitely should. But don’t make the assumption that books are written by computers. Books are written by people with hearts.
I have not been using goodreads a lot, and I do not really understand the format of it, but I do think that there could be a difference in what we think of as “trustworthy reviews” and what we think of as “comments on our books by the general and potentially uneducated public.”
Snarkiness can come from so many sources inside someone. Maybe they have a book similar to yours coming out and want to slander all possible competitors, or perhaps they had a bad day and wanted to be mean for that reason. There are a lot of options. But if there is a writer that you admire and THEY give you a review, then the criticism in it (if there is any) would be much more useful. Maybe some kind of internal system to differentiate the various types of readers could help reduce the never-wanting-to-open-your-computer-again feeling 🙂
I think that’s a good idea, Jennifer. And maybe there is a little bit of a system, although I’m just getting used to Goodreads myself. I think there are Goodreads “librarians” and top reviewers. And certainly the more reliable reviewers have more followers. Good point!
Great post! I agree with you. I would like to say that while some people may be put off by authors thanking them, myself included, I have had a couple of authors like my review of their book. They didn’t comment on it or say anything, they just clicked the like button and left it at that. That made me feel good.
I also would like to say that words are very powerful and can easily wound people. I try to either not leave reviews for books that I dislike, leave a review but point out that my opinion is only one of many and that while I disliked it others liked it, or at the very least state the reason that I disliked it in a nice way. It is possible to leave a negative review without being nasty! We could all do well to remember that.
Nicely put, Brenda. We should all just remember that the people on the other side of the words are human. 🙂