Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why I'm not using Goodreads anymore...

There has been some... controversy in the authoring world over Goodreads, and I'm not going to get sucked into this bullying that has been going.

First off, you need to read something, from a lovely aspiring author named Lauren:
For those who want to understand what's happening with my book & Goodreads.

Long story short, I didn't understand the rating system on Goodreads and was confused how someone who didn't have my book had rated it 2 stars. My book is yet unreleased and this person did not have an advance copy. I asked about this on a Goodreads message board and it was explained to me that people can rate as a way of expressing their interest in the book. I was all too happy to move on then. 

However, I was then attacked by people for asking that question. People started to rate 1-star to prove "we can rate whatever the hell we want." 

My book was added to shelves named 'author should be sodomized' and 'should be raped in prison' and other violent offensive things, all for asking a simple question as a newcomer to the website. 

Goodreads can't do anything, because they allow this behaviour. No seriously, it is highlighted in their ACTUAL RULES that this behaviour is acceptable. Apparently readers can get as offensive and bully as much as they want because it's their freedom of speech.

My book rating is subsequently taking a serious hit and my book isn't even released. It's incredibly upsetting and disheartening that I'm being targeted for asking an innocent question. I've contacted Goodreads directly and nothing has been done because, again, this is acceptable behaviour.
And now, Lauren has decided to cancel her book release because of the bullying that is going on. And you know what? I can't blame her. I get ribbed for writing in "New Adult" because people think it's a gimmick, or that the genre is a flash in the pan. Fine. Ribbing is one thing; bullying? Totally different.

Goodreads was a brilliant idea when it started-- you could find books that your friends were reading and after so many of your own ratings it would start to make some suggestions for your books. Star ratings should not be allowed on a book that has not been released. Where is the logic in that? If you're interested in the book, shelve it. If not, move along.

Now, the worst part about this is that the terms and conditions on the site are absolutely contradictory. One one hand, you agree not to:
post User Content that: (i) may create a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to you, to any other person, or to any animal; (ii) may create a risk of any other loss or damage to any person or property; (iii) seeks to harm or exploit children by exposing them to inappropriate content, asking for personally identifiable details or otherwise; (iv) may constitute or contribute to a crime or tort; (v) contains any information or content that we deem to be unlawful, harmful, abusive, racially or ethnically offensive, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, harassing, humiliating to other people (publicly or otherwise), libelous, threatening, profane, or otherwise objectionable...
And then in the same TOS just a few paragraphs later, they state:
Goodreads is not responsible for any public display or misuse of your User Content. You understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to User Content that is inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree that Goodreads shall not be liable for any damages you allege to incur as a result of such User Content. Goodreads may provide tools for you to remove some User Content, but does not guarantee that all or any User Content will be removable. 
So? Which is it, guys?  Either you can or you can't. This is an enormously popular website; it has a lot of merit to it, being (ostensibly) unrelated to any of the big book stores. But did your admins just decide that they weren't going to police this website at all? No oversight, just hey whatever. What is going on here is libel and defamation of character. You can get sued for this stuff. Dragged into court and made to pay restitution. And you'll plead not guilty. Except you are. You allowed this to get out of control; can you imagine what if feels like to have your book-- your baby, the literary child you have nurtured from an idea into a fully formed and edited manuscript ready to share with the world- put on a shelf called 'author should be sodomized' and 'should be raped in prison'. Not just once, not twice, but over and over and over. 

There are smear campaigns run against Indie authors, yes. But the worst I have seen previous to this was to say that we were violating the Right to Free Speech and should all be erased. Well, fine, and you clearly don't understand Free Speech. And we really do expect people to hate our books. We all have different tastes, we all have different expectations, we can't please everyone.

But this... this goes beyond the pale.

I am sorry that no one out there will get to read Lauren's book. I don't even know her personally at all, and I want her to send me it so I can slather praise on it. Writing a book is not easy, and if nothing else-- if I hated it, if it was bad-- I would never wish ill upon her or her creation, and I would tell her, "We may have differing options on what is good in the written word, but you saw it through to the end. 
-- Well done.

Goodreads will be coming off of this page immediately, and I'm shuttering all connections to the website. If you've left me a review there, thank you. I will not be using Goodreads unless and/or until they figure out this bullying. 


  1. What a horrendous story. I'd heard of author bullying going on, but I totally agree about the stars on things not-read bit, absolutely. That's just ridiculous.

    The only reason I use Goodreads is because I've heard Amazon sometimes deletes 5-star reviews if they think they're bogus (paid for).

    It's a seriously hairy world out there. :/

  2. This is sad to hear about, and I for one would be flaming mad if it were me, or anyone I cared about. Regardless, (IMO)I feel that goodreads Terms & Conditions are not contradicting.

    On one hand they state the user to agree what NOT to do. But do they also state that if in violation they will be banned? If not, they're just asking the user to act appropriately.

    On the second paragraph, they are trying to protect themselves legally by stating in writing that they are not responsible for the actions of others. A disclaimer so they wont be sued for what happened to writers like Lauren.

    Other than that, I agree with everything written in this post and I am sad that this Author is not going to release her book. Any type of bullying is wrong, but seriously to see it from adults on a book reading site? That is just insane! I wish the author would release her book to spite those idiots. I for one would love to promote it as much as possible! Whether I liked it or not!

    1. Except by not monitoring their site, policing it if you will, they are responsible for what users post. If they aren't going to enforce the terms & conditions why would anybody bother sticking to them. That is the problem Goodreads has created.

  3. I h ave been reading about this for a few days now and I find it absolutely disgusting. I am an author, too, and I know how hard it is to put your ideas down and then deliver them into the world where they will be open to criticism. That's the nature of the job and I think we all expect that not everyone will like what we've written. However, when I first started using Goodreads, they were a decent place to hang out, albeit flawed. Still, whenever I had an issue I contacted them and they would contact me back. Problems got resolved.

    Now, I haven't checked into this, but I am under the impression that Amazon is now the owner of Goodreads. The last time I had an issue with the spammers star rating a book that wasn't out yet, I contacted them several times and have NEVER heard back from them. Ever. If it's true that Amazon has taken over, their policy is a bit of a slap in the face. Do they just not care about authors anymore? Are we just a source of money and nothing else to which we don't deserve to be defended and looked out for? With all the users I have seen as of this last week pulling their accounts, I predict that if they don't do something to rectify this soon, then they may not have a site to sell.

    Thank you for this post! And I am with Tony, I think this author should release her book. Despite the flamers out there, she now has a following of supporters that will no doubt push her higher than she may have gone had this not happened. From one author to another, I wish her all the best!

  4. As a published author, the aspect of this that upsets me most is the author's decision to cancel release of her work. I can't imagine how anything could make her do that.

    Anyone who dedicates themselves to a writing project doesn't merely invest blood sweat and tears. We put our souls into it for the length of time it takes to get from idea through multiple drafts to finished product. To not publish would be like putting your child through 16 to 24 years of school then locking them in darkness for the rest of their lives.

  5. I don't pay attention to ratings. I read what interests me. I really don't think it's fair to anyone, though, if someone rates a book on how interested they are the first time they come across it on Goodreads, whether it is released or not. Who does that?! That is unfair to the author, anyone who might actually have an interest in that genre, and anyone in general who is on the site searching for a book to read.

  6. I am so disappointed in Goodreads over this. I use it to track books that I've read since I have hundreds downloaded to my Kindle.

    People can be such @sses. I'm sad the author was bullied.

  7. I would like to read her story too. I mean with the amount of attention she received (even though it was bad at the time) it put her book out there. She could possibly get a huge fan base that supports her and her work. I would use the negativity to prove to everyone how wonderful the book actually is, Never judge a book by its cover (or in this case bogus ratings). Hopefully she sees my comment, I'm always ready for a new book to read and review :).

  8. I am disgusted and hope the author will find somewhere else to release her book. I would at least like an idea what it was about.

  9. The whole situation breaks my heart. I'm a reviewer, not an author, and I adore Goodreads, but I've seen some very ugly things occur in the Goodreads community.

    I do have to say that eliminating star ratings for books that have not yet been released would be a huge problem for me and many other readers. As a book blogger, the vast majority of books that I read and review are done so well in advance of the publication. In fact, I just finished (and rated) a book slated for release in January 2014, and it doesn't even have a final cover yet! So while I vehemently disagree with giving a star rating based on anything other than having ACTUALLY read the book, I can't honestly say I would be in support of not allowing star ratings simply because the book has not yet been released.

    When I put on my Reader Hat, though, I don't look at star ratings at all. I look at actual reviews. If someone rated a book, whether it be a positive rating or a negative one, and yet didn't bother to write a reason, I ignore it. Even if they DO write a reason, if it has something to do with the author personally, or states that they haven't read it? I ignore that one too.

    I think a lot of authors do readers in general a disservice in assuming that we can't tell a "real" review from shills, shelving, or revenge stars. Readers searching for new books are smart -- they'll be able to tell if a book is worth reading even if others bogged the title down with improper star ratings.

    I don't know enough about the situation with Lauren to form an informed opinion, because I didn't see the original comment or group question left by the author that supposedly sparked the entire incident, but regardless of that, it greatly saddens me to see ANY author discouraged from writing, period, and the extent of the backlash she received was completely uncalled for.

  10. Amazon wont let you rate or review a book till it releases maybe they will implement this on goodreads.