Okay, so yesterday I made a comment on Twitter about Goodreads. I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on it, it was something that popped into my head during a conversation, and I tweeted it. Happens on occasion.
The comment in question: Goodreads is kind of like the Fox News of book reviews. You’re not really going to get ‘Fair and Balanced’ coverage out of it.
The conversation was in regards to things being said that cross the line – reviews that attack an author’s weight, or comment on his/her looks, or generally move something from “thoughtful criticism of a work” to something more like an attack.
Someone called me out about my tweet, and needless to say it led to a discussion. I totally appreciate this – I’d much rather someone come up and say “wow, that was inappropriate, here’s why” then not to say anything at all. I explained my opinion a little more in depth, and realized that I probably hadn’t chosen the best way to express myself initially. My main criticism with Goodreads is not an ‘across the board’ criticism – it’s not something that everyone does. Is Goodreads really like Fox News? No, obviously not. But the situation was a little more in depth than that.
One example: I don’t think it’s every okay to authorbash. You can say whatever you like about my book, but making fun of my double chin crosses a line. Ahem. For a totally hypothetical situation. 😉 I think if you’re going to review a book, review the book. Don’t lower yourself by attacking the author’s appearance, or personal life or whatever.
Does everyone on Goodreads do this? Of course not. But my tweet was more geared towards the writer end of the community (i.e. if you’re going to go on Goodreads, do not expect that everyone will love and adore you). I honestly hadn’t thought about how the blogging half of the equation would take it. And that’s something to take heed with – it’s not always just about blogging or talking to other writers. You have to keep in mind what all of your audience is going to think.
As a writer, the sentiment behind it is something I stand behind. For other writers. If you can’t handle the criticism, you shouldn’t be reading your reviews anyway. In fact, it’s probably better not to read them. But you should especially not read your reviews on Goodreads, because while there may be (and are) well written positive and critical reviews, there are also the other reviews. Ones where the author is bashed, or many people jump on board to agree with just how awful a book is, or the reviewer mistakes ‘vengeful’ for ‘critical.’ One star reviews where people jump on board, gleeful to agree
Where I’m coming from is if you’re looking for a source of reviews that, across the board, are going to adhere to your sensibilities and even your detractors are going to do so kindly, Goodreads is not for you. Because some people on there can be mean, and vicious. Does that mean everyone on there is? Of course not. But there are some – it’s one of those truths about the internet – anonymity makes it easier to give into the cruel, vicious parts of ourselves.
I think it’s part of the reason why some reviewers get gleeful at the latest bad review to someone’s book. Do I think that some people write reviews on Goodreads specifically so they can trash certain writers? Yes. But again, NOT the majority. Not even really the minority. Just a handful of people. The problem is that that handful of people tends to get REALLY LOUD. And they stand out. And it gives other, sane book bloggers a bad name.
Did I mean to imply that there was nothing fair and balanced about Goodreads? Absolutely not. But ‘Fair and balanced’ are the buzzwords of the Fox News Network, and what they so often defend themselves with. Essentially, my tweet was sarcasm (I know, shocking, right?), allusions and a metaphor wrapped up in a clunky dialogue. It happens. If this were a book, I probably would have caught it in the second draft. Mea culpa.
Blogs aren’t the only source for reviews, obviously, and a lot of people only use Goodreads. And just like with blogs, there are good and bad seeds. The difference is that on a site like Goodreads, everyone is clustered together, instead of all on different sites. There are a LOT of reviewers who put a lot of time and effort into their reviews. Goodreads is not a bridge where all the trolls hide under. But one or two or ten bad reviewers doesn’t mean that the whole website needs some sort of pest control.
It’s like when you go to a restaurant. They say it takes 10 good visits to make someone forget about their one bad visit. And most people will only tell one or two people about a good visit, while after a bad visit they’ll tell almost anyone. It’s those bad, harsh, over the top reviews that stick out. And if, as an author, you can’t handle that? Then you shouldn’t read your reviews.
Now, for clarifications sake: I read all my reviews, because I don’t take it personally. My book is not my child. I’m proud of my book, but I respect that you might not. And I respect your right to express that, however you like. Or wherever you like. Or if you don’t want to read my book, that’s fine too. Again, no big deal. You have the right to feel however you want about it, and I don’t have the right to judge you for it.
Book bloggers are never the enemy, and implying that, even in a roundabout way, is never really okay. So on that end, I was a little out of line in the way this whole thing started. Because I actually like bloggers, and it’s always fascinating to get to talk to them about how they work. But there also needs to be some sort of channel, or communication process to say ‘stuff like this is not okay’ between the two sides of the industry. And as it stands, there isn’t. If a writer is perceived to be criticizing bloggers, the bloggers get up in arms. And if bloggers criticize an author, vice versa. We’ve seen it happen, on both sides of the fence.
One of the things pointed out during my conversation yesterday, was that Goodreads is and should be more for the readers and consumers, and I definitely see the truth in that line of thinking. It would certainly make things easier if everyone subscribed to that belief.
I’ve heard about authors commenting on their bad reviews as well as other kinds of bloggerbashing, and I think that’s just as out of line. Being an author never means you’re the smartest person in the room, or that no one else’s opinions matter. And making bloggers feel like that (however it happens) isn’t okay, either.
I think part of the problem is that both sides are so different. Differences it would make sense for all of us to remember more often. For authors, you’re taught right from the start to keep your criticisms private, if you need to vent or bash, you don’t do it out in the open where anyone can Google you. And for bloggers, you’re used to having discussions in public, where anyone CAN Google you, because you’re not taught to hide it. And the only way to really make any progress, is for dialogues to open up when something becomes an issue.
Okay, so long winded post. Basically, I put my foot in my mouth and described something poorly, but I still think there’s some truth to where I was coming from. But I definitely don’t bash book bloggers on a regular basis – as an author, that would just be silly. We’re both here because we like books. And really, that’s all that matters at the end of the day.