I intended to write this week’s WWK
blog about something else, but this takes precedence. I won’t be adding
graphics because I can’t think of any that wouldn’t trivialize this situation.
a disturbing trend involving Goodreads reviewers and authors, and I think it’s
something we all need to look at and think about where we stand on it because
it’s going to be happening more and more—until sooner or later one of us on
Writers Who Kill or one of our blog-reading faithful are going be sucked into
Warren and I have made joking
comments a time or two on this blog about Amazon and Goodreads reviewers who
trashed our books because of trivialities such as not liking the cover or the
name of the protagonist and then at the end of the review mentioning that they
didn’t read the book. To an author, of course, these kinds of reviews feel
terrible, sitting out there forever on the internet, but as a professional, you
just suck it up and shrug your shoulders. Maybe make a joke on a blog by
authors with lots of authors who read it. Notice what Warren and I did not do,
however. We did not post hostile or defensive comments on these reviews and get
in a fight with the reviewers. We did not link to the reviews to send out our fans
to comment and tell them they’re crazy and awful people. Above all, we did not
search the internet to find out their real names and personal info (including children,
physical location, etc.) and post it to the internet, encouraging our fans to
stalk and bully them because we felt bullied by their reviews.
Common sense, right? Common decency,
certainly. However, a site has sprung up to do just that. (I won’t post a link
to it or any of the supposed GR bullies’ reviews and comment streams because I
don’t want to send traffic to either side of this, but if you want to see for
yourselves, just Google “Stop the GR Bullies,” and they’ll all pop up.) Their
stated mission is to “stop the GR bullies.” What they’re actually doing,
however, is bullying the Goodreads bullies. They keep their identities hidden,
but of course, what goes around comes around, and soon someone will be posting
their personal info on the internet to incite people to go after them. One woman identified as a GR bully on this
site has received threatening phone calls at her home. Hello? Could we have a
little sanity here, folks?
This is not to say that some (a tiny
percentage, I think) of the reviewers on Goodreads aren’t bullies in some ways.
And I’m not talking about the reviewers Warren and I mentioned. Those reviews
were bad reviews but not bullying reviews. I’ve seen some nasty, mean, profane,
personal-attack-on-the-author reviews on Goodreads. It’s the internet, folks.
It often brings out the pathetic teenager in some of us. Responding to bad
reviews is simply not good professional behavior. The Amazon and Goodreads
sites are sites for readers, not really for authors. They have a right to
dislike our books. They even have a right to dislike us. We don’t have a right
to “punish” them for not liking us or our work.
As more and more of the review
function in publishing moves to the internet, we will see these things more
often. It seems to be mostly a problem with self-published authors, though I
have read of a couple of experienced, traditionally published authors
responding hostilely to bad reviews. One of the self-published authors these
Goodread reviewers attacked grew so upset that she swore off writing in a long
public post. I felt sorry for her pain as I read the post, but I believe she may
have made a good choice.
Writing professionally is a career,
a business. As one of my friends on the Jungle Red Writers blog put it,
“Writing is not for sissies.” Most of us who’ve been traditionally published
(and this includes by the many fine small presses that help keep literature
alive in this country) have had our skin toughened by years of form rejections
and nasty comments from potential agents and editors. Writing is one of the
hardest jobs out there in terms of the emotional punishment we take. Even after
we’ve been published, we run the gamut of poor (or no) reviews or lack of sales
or our publisher may drop us, often for something over which we have no
control, such as their decision to stop publishing the genre or sub-genre in
which we write. It happens.
I know a successful male writer whose
once-acclaimed, hardnosed private eye novels suddenly weren’t wanted by
publishers. None of them. PIs were out, he was told, and he couldn’t sell under
his own name any longer. So he took a woman’s pseudonym and started a very
successful cozy mystery series. Now, that’s a professional. Every door slammed
in his face. He probably drank, yelled, cussed, whatever his personal reaction
to devastating news happened to be. Then, he picked himself up and reinvented
himself. Check out the careers of a lot of successful writers, and you’ll find
stories like that. What he didn’t do was
take out a contract on the editors who dumped him or send stalkers after them
or anything like that.
I think we each need to have a
conversation with ourselves to ask, “If some amateur reviewers ganged up on my
book or me on Goodreads or somewhere else, how would I handle it?” I think the
possibility of people not liking their work or themselves or, worse, being mean
to them had never occurred to these folks, so they were sideswiped and reacted
foolishly on impulse, guided by their emotional pain. Let’s be ready. We’re all
on the internet, and it could happen to one of us next. Perhaps, if we’re
prepared, we can be the mature professionals that we really are.
What do you all think about this
phenomenon? What would you do if your book was attacked by one or a group of