Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Goodreads or is that SnarkyReads?

There is an interesting reaction amongst authors when I mention Goodreads. You'd think it was a fabulous place for writers to meet readers, garner reviews, spread the word about their "babies." But apparently, not so much.

I mention Goodreads and authors *Cringe*. I didn't understand at first. But now that I've had my books up there for some time, I'm beginning to understand the *Cringe*.

With reviews on Amazon, you are tied to your account (and your credit card), meaning it's difficult to make multiple fake accounts (from what I understand, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

With Goodreads, that really isn't the case. You can have hundreds of accounts under false names, with pictures pulled off the Internet. Why would you do this? Well, it seems to be, so you can pull down your "competition".

Crazy! My experience was this. I had a 1 star rating on one of  my books, but no review. I contacted the person, very politely, asking what it was that they didn't like. I'm a big believer in taking the good and the bad from reviews and allowing them to help you be a better writer. Like with this review.

Anywho. No response from "Jaime". Then I started to look at "Jaime's" other reviews. Thousands of books "read" in less than a three month period, most of them 1 and 2 star reviews. And upon closer inspection, over half of the books weren't even released as ARC's (advanced reader copies) yet!

To be fair, I contacted Goodreads, as apparently several other people did and this account has been shut down as a spammer. But, just this last week, "Jaime" is back, and staring books with 1 and 2 star ratings yet again. Jerk. 

From what I understand, this is a VERY mild problem as far as these sorts of things go on Goodreads. Over and over again, authors are CHOOSING not to put their books on Goodreads, and I can see why. When other authors, or their cronies, or just mean spirited people are going out of their way to slam you and your writing, it's hard to keep your chin up.

How do you combat this? Well, if you respond with, "Hey, you're just doing this to make yourself look better" YOU end up looking like a douche. And if you say nothing, you end up looking like a doormat, or worse, like you deserve the bad treatment.

Critical reviews are FINE, if they are critical and not going out of their way to be cruel, rude, sarcastic or snarky. That is how writers improve, by taking the good with the bad. But it seems that Goodreads, if they don't clamp down on these miserable people, may just have to change their name, to "Snarkyreads" because "Good", will have nothing to do with site.

What about you? Have you found certain sites that seem to cater to the snark and nasty side of the writing world?


Donna R. Wood said...

Shannon, I have found that this seems to be growing problem among unethical authors. It's a marketing tactic called review manipulation. Readers are becoming annoyed as well as authors like you and me. Amazon has a huge problem with it, yet does little to nothing about it. I think all the sites with public review capabilities has a problem with it. I just try to drive as much traffic to my blog and website as I can, and don't get involved with the 'you give me 5 stars and I'll give you 5 stars' tactics. It's really a sad situation out there.

Tracy said...

Hi Shannon,

I'm not an author (yet!) but I have been watching the Goodreads (truly good or not?) debate from a distance. The more I read about the discord over there, the less likely I am to keep my account. First off, I don't particularly care for the rating system choices. For example, there are a lot of good books I would definitely recommend to others that I only give three stars (which, yes, seems too little to me). Why only three? Because three stars = "liked it." (Four = "really liked it," and five = "it was amazing.") For me, to say I “really liked” something, or that “it was amazing,” the book has to jump out and capture me in some meaningful way. That's MY opinion/perspective; it's not everyone's. So, in all honesty, I have been considering cancelling my account as a reader, because I feel my ratings of three stars just aren’t contributing in the most supportive way to both authors and readers.

But, I know your post was about the "snarkyness" over there. I have heard of the situations you’ve mentioned, and different authors have weighed in on other blogs. If I look at a review with a one- or two-star rating, and there’s no explanation, I disregard it. Or, if the explanation is “this sucks,” I ignore that too.

I’m sorry that people aren’t honest and that the website has developed a bit of a bad rep these days. In the meantime, I think I’ll stick with trusting (somewhat trusting) the reviews from Amazon and B&N.

Good luck in navigating this crazy online world as an author! :)

Larry Kollar said...

I haven't run into that situation yet, but I've only got one novelette on the market and a couple longer works clogging the pipeline. So far, the biggest problem I've had on GR are the writers who are so enthusiastic about their work, they're compelled to copy & paste a long paean about it into my inbox. Hey, I think my stories are great too, but I'm only going into that level of detail if someone asks.

Of course, this is going to be a problem for the smaller writers. Big-name writers have fanbases who will pounce on negative reviews (as a friend who wrote one scathing review found). As usual, all we got is ourselves.

My Awful Reviews said...

Hey Shannon,

I killed my Goodreads account a year or two ago, but it didn't have anything to do with the one star reviews cropping up everywhere. I actually wrote a post on my blog recently after I ran into one of the situations you mentioned above, where the author ends up looking like a douche. It was supposed to be humorous, but I could see it working, at least for blog reviews.

Something should really be done about the fake accounts, but the anonymity of the internet has always been difficult for websites to control. It would be great if Goodreads had a system where you couldn't post more than 2 or 3 reviews a day, or the reviews had to have text that was longer than 150 characters, unless the reviewer was already recognized as someone that was NOT a spammer

Deanna said...

I'm sorry to hear that this is a growing problem at Goodreads. I have my books listed there and haven't experienced any problems at all. In fact, I have had only good experiences there with readers and authors alike. People have been very kind with their reviews and readers are very enthusiastic there. I hope that people aren't put off by a few bad experiences because Goodreads can be a good place for new authors to promote their work and for readers to find new authors.

Marie Loughin said...

I haven't run into a problem yet, but then, only about 3 people have heard of my book. It pays to be non-threatening. Heh. ;)

I don't understand what these troll variants think they are accomplishing. In my opinion, what hurts one author hurts us all. Especially indie authors. Honest reviewing (good or bad) is the only way to legitimize self-publishing. Well, that and sales figures.

Em said...

This is a shame to read, hopefully GR will do something to prevent this. I generally try to comment on everything I have read but have some older titles that I have not because frankly can't remember enough to comment. I love to use GR to post and find other books to read, maybe they need to start a verification format for books reviewed if you hit a certain number.

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm not even published, and I still avoid goodreads. There's just not that much GOOD to be found there.

Wodke Hawkinson said...

You describe a problem that is potentially very damaging. I know this sort of thing happens sometimes on Amazon. If it's unscrupulous authors doing this, then it's a clear statement on the quality of their own work. In general, anyone who has to boost himself by denigrating someone else has self-esteem issues. But when authors do it to impact sales of their competition, it reveals a special malice.

Book Savvy Babe said...

I am a long-time member of goodreads, so I know what you are talking about. Goodreads is very different from amazon and B&N, it's more of a social setting for readers and authors, not a book seller or actual review site. So, the people who comment and review don't always think about being professional or tactful. There are mean people everywhere, even on amazon where people click "not-like" all the time on reviews of books, for no good reason. As a reviewer, I have seen this on both sites, the negative comments, snark, and spam.

All I can say is that as I reader, I look at the goodreads reviews with a grain of salt. There are generally a lot of reviews, and when deciding on a book to buy, I look at the average, and the reviewers I trust. I also disregard the reviews of 1 star with no explanation. Those just don't count. However, as a social site, I don't think goodreads can really be blamed too much for the crazy, mean people. Goodreads is good about banning the people who try to spam, but yes those people can get more accounts. It's the nature of the internet now a days.

Goodreads is a wonderful tool for authors to connect to readers, bloggers, and real reviewers. Don't give up on it. Hope this comment helps a little, good luck!

jc andrijeski said...

As an author, my experience has been more mixed. I've gotten those 1 and 2-star reviews with zero explanation too (one even went so far as to post 2 separate ratings on the same book...not sure how that was even possible). It was pretty clear this was spam, as I also checked that person's page and they do a lot of that.

On the other hand, I've met some really cool readers and readers' groups on GR too...and made some fans there too who have been really supportive of one of my series' in particular. So I definitely can't say it's all bad. I'm beginning to think this whole review manipulation thing is just part of the internet and ebook phenomenon in general, so I'm trying to just ignore it and hope it all comes out in the wash. I know as a reader I also ignore one star reviews if there's no explanation (or if the the explanation is, err, crazy, lol).

I read a publisher's weekly (?) study recently where they polled why people read/bought books, with a focus on ebooks in particular, and reviews were actually surprisingly far down the list of reasons. So maybe as writers we take them too seriously in the first place. I know I do at times,'s hard not to, because I want to keep learning too, so I tend to look for the flaws and let in the criticisms more than the praise at times.

But I'm not ready to give up on GRs yet...not entirely. It still seems like a place to potentially interact with readers. Maybe I'll change my mind in time though, lol, who knows?

Shannon said...

Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment. I haven't given up on GR, just wanted to start a dialogue about the un-ethical practices of some people.

Fabulous that so many of you took the time to share your thoughts and experiences. Thanks!

Official Blog of Tim Miller said...

Hi Shannon,

I've been out of the writing scene for about ten years but I'm back at it. Twitter and Goodreads are all new things for me. My book will be ready in a few weeks and I'm glad I've started the social networking blitz ahead of time for reasons like you mentioned above.

When I wrote ten years ago, book signings were still pretty common along with book fairs. I was at one book fair where everytime a person would be at my table looking at my books, an author from the table next to me would stick his book in the readers face. He would stand out in front of both our tables holding his books heckling at people and did everything he could to get people away from mine or anyone else's table and over to his. When me and other authors asked him to stop, he just shrugged and said something like "survival of the fittest" anyway, he was a real ass.

Some stores would do multiple book signings with more than one author and it would often be the same, I was there trying to be the polite professional, while some of these others were like sharks. In the long run, none of us were selling anything at these events because people just didn't want to deal with it.

Looks like this is the same thing just going on online now. Based on what you've written plus what I've heard previously, I will probably not list my book on Goodreads.

Lori Oster said...

This is really interesting to me, because I've been an avid Goodreads user and fan for quite a while. In fact, I'm a serious reader, and all of the other serious readers I know in real life are on Goodreads. We take our reviews, and each others' reviews, very seriously.

The thing I like about Goodreads reviews (as opposed to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for example) is that it is really easy for me to tell whether a GR review is a serious reader, or just a snarky competitor like the person you describe in this post. Or worse--a friend of the author who hasn't really read the book but just wants to help inflate his ratings. I click on the profile of people who post outlying reviews, and if I see that they've only reviewed five or ten books, then the review means nothing to me. And if they only post a star rating with no review at all? I totally ignore it.

I've actually been turned off of reviews because I see far too many fake reviews over there. I've seen one indie writers whose five-star reviewers basically attacked any one or two-star review posted on the book. It was a huge turnoff, and completely obvious that the attackers are personal friends or family of the author.

I know a lot of writers have mixed feelings about reviews, but as someone who has made a career and a life out of reading, I can tell you that like them or not, we readers use them. They are likely here to stay, and the people who really love and appreciate your work will use reviews as a means of showing it.

As a reader, I'm always turned off when an author has a Goodreads profile with a lot of friends, but not many books. I am not going to buy your book if you're not a reader. It's been my experience that non-readers make pretty poor writers. So, if you write but you don't read, I guess the lesson is: Don't create a Goodreads account! :)

I never pay attention to someone's rating on Goodreads if it isn't accompanied by a review. So, those spammers who just give out one-star reviews don't hurt you in my eyes. If there's no reason attached to the rating, I'm not interested.

I think it's always good to look at the trend in the reviews, rather than the outliers. I tell my students this all the time: Go on the review site, look at the most common thread in the reviews, and that will give you the best idea about the general audience's typical response to the work. (Or in my students' case, the professor.) If your book has 156 four-star reviews and 12 one-stars, the four-stars win in my eyes.

Dani in NC said...

The fact that I am oblivious to this issue on Goodreads (and other sites like Ravelry, Amazon, and Facebook) shows me that I apparently don't use these services the same way that others do. I don't use the social aspects of the site very much. As a reader, I use Goodreads to keep track of what I have read and books I've heard about that I want to read later. I post reviews mainly to remind myself of what I liked or disliked about the book, so other people's reviews on the site don't influence me much. Basically, I use it as my own online notebook :-).

Daniel Swensen said...

It's appalling to me that people can be so utterly without shame.

Char said...

I'm attempting to find my niche in social media as I prep for publication of my first novel later this year. It really makes me think twice about wanting to hang out at Goodreads, where I just established an account.

Nicole Antonia Carson said...

I am currently being crucified on Goodreads for sticking up for two author friends of mine who had three books put on a derogatory list which has since been removed. Over 48 hours look what these people have done to my book Sons of Roland:

At least Sons of Roland has some great reviews and ratings from people who have actually read it to counteract the bad. My brand new book hasn't fared so well:

What kind of website are they running? It's legitimized bullying. I don't care if those dozen 'people' hate me (and I suspect not all of them are people) however they have no right to drag a book they haven't read down into their cesspool just because they don't like me personally.

And I wondered why the heck no one was speaking out for my friends. I don't regret sticking up for them. It's just sad that everyone else seems to be accepting this behavior.

Nicole Antonia Carson said...

Personally, I would NEVER drag down another author. First off, I accept that no two books are the same and even if another author wrote about the same subject matter and characters it would be unique and second, what would I gain from tearing someone down?

I feel like a schmuck for putting my hand in the viper's nest but in my defense I didn't know it was there.