Tag Archives: trolls

Goodreads, negative reviews, authors, and reviewers.


Okay, so I don’t get much into the politics in the book blogging world. I’ve heard of people having trouble from authors for negative reviews but have little personal experience of it. However the discussion around Kathleen Hale’s article has interested me.

The article talks about Hale’s reaction to this review. The reviewer posted a negative review which Hale thought was unfair and untruthful, and got more than a little obsessed with it. Her article caused uproar in different parts of the book blogging world, and even division between authors.

So what do I have to add which hasn’t been said? I hope some balance.

I haven’t read the book, I cannot say if the reviewer was truthful about the book, however I can see how wires may have been crossed.

For an author their books can be a little like their children, it’s easy to be upset by negative reviews. Goodreads is probably right to say not to talk back to them. It’s something that people will like or won’t, and they should be free to express either of those feelings. Most bloggers will state that their reviews are truthful regardless of whether they were given free copies of the book or not, and authors shouldn’t expect a good review just because someone has taken something off them for free.

Having said that bloggers should be sensitive about how they approach reviewing a book. I hate writing negative reviews, although I have done it. Usually I try to make them balanced, even if the only good thing I can say about it is that the premise was good, if not the execution. I’m the same with positive reviews, if there is something I didn’t like I say. I’m not one for rave reviews.

So was this review unfair? Maybe, maybe not. It wasn’t a particularly strong review. It’s barely a review at all, more thoughts as they come up. Maybe a fuller review by the reviewer would be more balanced, and have more evidence (quotes, description of events) to back up her feelings.

Hale claims that the main reason she was upset was that she didn’t think there was rape in the book. The reviewer says there is, and that it’s ‘justified’ by the characters, and a whole handful of other things, slut-shaming for example, are used in a throwaway manner. But isn’t that realistic? When people do things like that they aren’t thinking of political correctness. Yes, I think Hale should have found a way to show that wasn’t right. I don’t know if she did. To be honest I don’t know if the reviewer herself knows. She claims in comments that:

“What I’m doing with this book is basically just reading until I find something offensive, but since that’s normally every other page or so, I try to make it through a chapter. But I’ve been busy reading better books lately, so this is not one of my top priorities, ha.”

And later

“Ha, read the above comments and status updates. I finally gave up. I’m going to ask my co-blogger who killed whom and promptly rid this book from my mind.”

Which suggests she could have missed things which make the things she didn’t like be better. She might not have too. (It is worth reading at least a few of the comments by the way, they go into more of a discussion and some people who liked the book show how they read it.)

Hale wanting right of reply isn’t wrong. If she thought the reviewer had read something in her book which she didn’t think was covered then I think Hale did have the right to ask for clarification. I think it’s decent for the reviewer to enter into a discussion, but I don’t think they should have to.

The real problem was the extremes of Hale’s reaction. Wanting to know on one thing. Asking on twitter, okay, asking on goodreads, okay. Trying to pressure a reviewer to interact, especially when acting like they want to talk about something different, not okay. Finding a reviewer’s address and turning up there, not okay. Finding their number and calling them, not okay. Pretending to be someone else not okay. Goading someone online, not okay. (Hale claims the reviewer did this too, which is not right on the reviewer’s side either).

I am ashamed too that The Guardian published the reviewer’s real name (presuming it is the real name). That is not right. Part of writing on the internet is being anonymous. That does mean you can say nasty things without fear of retribution, but it also means you can be truthful without worrying about the consequences, or at least you can supposedly be. It is okay that the reviewer pretended to be someone else, didn’t give her real name or picture. It’s a fairly vital thing for internet safety.

If she however did do the things which Hale accuses her of doing then she does seem to be looking for conflict, and you could even go as far as to call it cyber-bullying, and that is not okay. Whatever you say online you still have to be mindful that real people are reading it, and real feelings are involved.

Others have written negative reviews, or critical comments based solely on Hale’s article. I don’t feel this is right either. Hale’s reaction was wrong, but reading should be based on the book, not the author. At least that’s how I feel.

Hale blew everything far out of proportion, and if I have to pick a side I will go with the reviewer, however I do feel some sympathy for Hale, and I do think both sides did things which aren’t right.

As far as Hale’s article goes. It’s what really caused the trouble. Does that mean she shouldn’t have written it? Maybe, but it seems to have done more damage to her than anything else.Maybe it was a form of confession for her, or maybe she hoped more people would read the book and make up their own minds. Part of me does want to read it to see if I agree with the reviewer, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to ‘reward’ Hale for her behaviour.

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Filed under general, Musings, News

Goodreads, Censorship and Trolls.


goodreadsYesterday on facebook and twitter I posted this article with the plan to use it for this week’s Sunday Surfing, however I had so much to say about it that I decided it needed its own post.

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?

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Filed under Fiction review, Musings, News