Not gonna lie. As an author, Goodreads scares me. Sure, it’s a fantastic site for readers, and I love it as a way to keep track of the books I’ve read and what I think of them. I adore their yearly book challenge, where you set a goal for yourself about how many books you’re hoping to read during the year, and then it keeps track of that for you. But when it comes to reviews and the freedom that readers and reviewers have to talk about books and authors, I quiver in my boots.
Now, let me quickly stress that that doesn’t mean I disagree with the freedoms that readers and reviewers have there or that I think they’re horrible or mean or anything. Not at all. Quite the contrary, actually. I think Goodreads is a great place for people to get out there and say what they really think. There’s a place for that. At the same time, I shudder to think what people might be saying about me. That’s why I don’t read my reviews anymore.
Goodreads is the ultimate book cocktail party where someone put just a little too much of the good stuff in the punch. Because it doesn’t get policed and reviews aren’t taken down if they cross the line. So it’s like a raging party. Some people can handle their alcohol superbly, and it makes them incredibly fun to be around. Some people do not mix well with that kind of freedom, and it goes to their heads, starting painful downward spirals.
And I’m not just talking about reviewers here.
Take the sad tale of the sci-fi/fantasy writer about two or three weeks ago who went off the deep end over a 1-star review that was left on his book. The reviewer was just a reviewer. She didn’t like the book. She reviewed it with her one star and stated the reasons she didn’t like it. So far, so good. I have some 1-star reviews that are far less kind than the one she left. We all do. It’s part of the job of writing.
Unfortunately, this author broke the cardinal rule of reviews from an author’s point of view. He responded.
Cardinal Rule of Getting Reviewed: NEVER RESPOND
*sigh* Someone failed to tell this poor guy the rule. Not only did he respond, he launched an all-out battle with this reviewer. I’ll spare you the gory details, but this author had a meltdown of epic proportions.
Not just a little meltdown, mind you. In going to war over one tiny review, one person’s opinion expressed on Goodreads, he ended up going viral, getting splashed across the internet, his story swapped by a lot of the writers and readers I know as a cautionary tale of why you never respond to reviews, and, lo and behold, getting hundreds of new 1-star reviews because of his bad behavior. And I seriously wonder if his career will be able to survive the onslaught.
The saddest note of all is that one of my author friends pointed out that over on Amazon, the exact same book has quite a few good reviews, and it might actually be a good book. But the world will never know, because this reactionary author engaged a Goodreads reviewer when he should have just taken a walk around the block and shaken it off.
Yep. Goodreads is a scary place for authors. Because it has power. It’s an important venue for readers to voice their opinions the same way they would if they were hanging out with friends. It’s absolutely vital for that open exchange of ideas to have a home…just as it’s vital for authors to respect what goes on there.
I actually really like Goodreads. I do giveaways there (here’s a link to one if you want to throw your hat in the ring!) and I keep track of my reading habits there. Heck, I think this blog post even feeds over to my Goodreads author page. But at the end of the day, Goodreads is for READERS, not for we humble authors. So thanks for taking care of the place for us!