The article is about an indie, debut author who claims to have been bullied and receiving rape threats through goodreads. Her book was not yet published and she claims that because of the treatment she received she has decided not to release the book at all.
It all started when the author asked about removing negative reviews which she said could not have been genuine, because nobody had been able to read the book yet. By her report goodreads told her that people could rate their interest in a book prior to release, and that they could use this rating in any way they wished. Basically that she should just ‘suck it up’.
That’s when she alleges that things turned nasty. She claims she received violent threats by being grouped onto shelves including “should be raped in prison” and “This author should be sodomised.” Plus she says that goodreads were rather blasé about the whole thing.
Now, obviously if this is true then it’s really not pleasant, although I’m not sure I would say it amounts to threats of rape. It’s more the type of thing which would be said about a paedophile than an author who has challenged your ideas. Either way though it isn’t something that shouldn’t happen- and goodreads does have a duty to protect its users from these types of things (whether they be authors or readers).
The most obvious solution would be to set up some sort of censor which would block certain words, from being used either over the site generally, or just within things like shelves. It seems pretty simple until you start thinking about it more deeply. There are plenty of books which have the sort of themes that would be blocked, you could end up censoring reviews for whole genres of fiction if it was a general filter. If it was just on shelves then it would stop people categorising books as they wished to, which could be for perfectly legitimate reasons, and those without legitimate reasons would probably find another way to the same ends, in their reviews for instance, or their status updates.
The whole thing of false reviews is a problem too. Maybe people were genuinely putting what their initial thoughts on the idea of the novel was, but it seems a bit strange to be rating a book based on your expectations, surely you could shelve it based on what you were likely to think? Not that I’d personally bother shelving books I wasn’t interested in.
It’s potentially easier to stop ‘fake’ reviews prior to the books publication, simply stop allowing reviews prior to publication, or allow only those with advanced copies (ARCs) to post reviews of the book. There are potential problems with either of those solutions however.
If all reviews were blocked prior to publication then those who received ARCs wouldn’t be able to post reviews either, and seeing as early reviews help create interest in a book this could cause problems for authors- especially indie authors who rely more on reader reviews.
Whereas to only allow those with ARCs to review early would have to have some way to verify the reviews, meaning that it could be open to separate censorship e.g. the author only authorising positive reviews. It could be good to have a code put in ARCs so that reviews could be posted early by anyone with the code.
Another possibility would be to allow authors to open their pages to reviews when they choose, e.g. once ARCs have been released, although I can see anything where the author is in charge of censoring could wind up trolls and cause more ‘fake’ reviews.
I can see that people may have had the suck it up attitude to early low star reviews. I’ve seen it myself to an extent. Is that really fair for reviews when the reviewer hasn’t actually read the book. Can you even call it a review based on that?
There’s also the attitude that this is all a publicity stunt. After all it’s made people take notice of the author. And they say all publicity is good publicity. If that is true though it means I have no respect for the author, it could do more bad than good.
So what do you think? Do goodreads have a duty here? What should they do? Or is it something that has just been blown out of proportion?