Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Bullies of Goodreads

When you're an author, you expect that you're going to get bad reviews. You expect that you may even get extremely bad, unfair reviews. But there is a segment of Goodreads that has gotten completely, utterly out of hand.

I recently read Bennett Madison's terrific YA novel September Girls, and when I marked it as read I took a peek at the Goodreads reviews to see what others had to say. I was utterly horrified at some of the "reviews" I saw. (And for the record, I do not know Madison or anyone connected with the book. I'm just speaking as a reader here).

Sure. Not everyone is going to like a book. The point of Goodreads is telling the world what you think. But reviews that are over the top serve no purpose. They are not funny. They are not constructive. They are just plain mean. (UPDATE: I removed links to specific posts because some were concerned that these people could be targeted. Those reviews are online if you want to search).

Reviews like these demean and dehumanize authors, and in fact the only way someone could write reviews like these is if they pretend the author and everyone connected with the book are some dispassionate robots who have no feelings. (Or they pretend the author isn't going to see it, but come on).

Everyone knows that it takes a thick skin to be an author. But no one who writes a book deserves to be subjected to online abuse. It's one of the strange aspects of online life that it feels like nothing to attack someone through a computer screen, but the recipient of that attack feels as acutely as if it happened in "real" life. Make no mistake: These aren't reviews, they're personal attacks.

And this is just the tip of one very dark iceberg. Author Lauren Howard noticed bad reviews when review copies weren't even out yet, and when she complained she saw people putting her book on shelves like ‘author should be sodomized’ and ‘should be raped in prison.' She ended up pulling her book. (There are some questions about what exactly transpired here. Porter Anderson has a very good summary).

It's an axiom among authors that you can't complain about your bad reviews. You never win.

But some authors are saying enough is enough.

A blog has been launched called STGRB (for Stop Goodreads Bullies), to share horror stories and to press Goodreads to help change the culture. (UPDATE: There have been some questions about this site's tactics raised on the comments section that I was unaware of. Please read for more. The allegations are serious enough I have removed the links to the site.)

It's terrifying to stand up to online bullies, who can quickly make your life a nightmare, but also because many aspiring writers feel as if published writers somehow have it made and have forfeited their right to complain about anything.

The truth is that it's hard enough to write and publish a novel without having to worry that the result of that immense effort will result in getting unfairly slimed and harassed by a pack of online bullies. It's not hyperbole to say that there are talented authors out there looking at this landscape who will conclude it's not worth it, and great books that won't be published as a result of this culture if it continues.

This really has gone too far, and the tide needs to turn back. People writing these reviews need to wake up and recognize the humanity of the authors they're trashing and think of the people they're hurting. It's eminently possible to write a negative review without abusing the person who wrote the book.

UPDATE: I also want to stress that I am not advocating censorship, nor do I think people leaving bad reviews are bad people. I'm just advocating a culture shift. Let's acknowledge each other's humanity.

Also, for the record I LOVE GOODREADS.


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Rick Carufel said...

Just as religions hides behind God to spread their filth of hatred, intolerance and oppression, so the stalker trolls hide behind reviews. The only why to stop these criminals is to post all their personal info online as they've do to me and others. I want them to log on and wonder it their history and address is spread all over the internet. I want them to wonder if the next knock on the door is some sociopath they've tried to destroy. All efforts thus far to stop them have failed. After thousands of complaints to Badreads the only people who have been banned are victims. The librarians and staff are stalker trolls too. In my opinion Badreads was designed from the very start to be a platform from which to terrorize indies so they are fearful of publishing any way but with traditional, parasitic, exploitative publishing. A criminal enterprise from inception.

Shelver 506 said...

I've enjoyed your posts in the past and have found them informative and funny. However, I believe you are wrong here.

The various reviews you have mentioned do not attack the authors. They attack the books. Saying a book was poorly written, illogical, nonsensical, or just plain bad is a valid opinion. Making jokes that the work didn't live up to the hype, was predictable, or any other number of criticisms are still opinions and still valid. This has NOTHING TO DO with the author. The reviewers in question would say the same things if the author were a revered great or the new kid on the block.

Proper examples of attacks on the author include the following: racist, ageist, mysoginistic, and/or other slurs; telling the author that he/she is a waste of space/should stop writing forever; any threats against an author and/or his or her loved ones, etc. You know, things that actually fall under the denotative (and legal) definition of bullying.

If I went to see Norbit and hated it, I am within my rights to complain loudly over how mind-numbingly stupid it was. I could write a review and spew my vitriol and disdain for such a waste of celluloid. I may describe how much I loathed Mr. Murphy's direction, acting, and other contributions to the film. I may not, however, attack Mr. Murphy himself, because he is a person. But I may still complain about that ridiculous movie just as I may complain about a ridiculous book.

If you wish, you may read the rest of my thoughts here:

Also I am very disappointed in how poorly researched this piece is. Though you retracted links to STGRB, it doesn't negate the fact that you praised them in the first place without adequately researching what exactly you were promoting. The same goes with the Lauren Howard fiasco, which has been definitively debunked in several places and linked to in your comments section. Surely you know the old axiom about getting both sides of the story?

I am also appalled that you would link to specific reviews in this post. Such actions were not necessary to make your point, and though you've retracted the link, the image of Blythe's shelves (easily searchable) remains. Also, as you stated, the reviews you were willing to hold up to the potential lynch mob are easily searchable as well. I would have thought the ready vitriol that emerged after the James Dashner fiasco (and the Emily Giffin fiasco and so many others before them) would have prompted more circumspection.

I want you to look again at what you wrote in your penultimate paragraph about “the truth.” May I suggest an additional worldview? Book bloggers review for the joy of it. We aren't paid professionals. We spend far more than we "earn" in ARCs and swag. What we do is HARD, and we do it without thought of recompense, but it could all disappear in a moment, the result of ill-thought posts like this one resulting in our blogs and reviews being "unfairly slimed and harassed by a pack of online bullies." It certainly is NOT hyperbole to say that talented bloggers and reviewers are considering quitting the hobby that they love because of attack fatigue caused by authors and their mobs. Several of the bloggers who have talked to you in your comments have dealt with this struggle. One of the girls you drew into this mess has already announced her intention to quit.

"It's eminently possible to write a negative review without abusing the person who wrote the book." This is the one sentence you wrote that you whole-heartedly agree with, because 99.9% of bloggers do this every day without fail. Again, we do not attack an author personally. We criticize their work, and if our criticism isn't sunshine and roses, there's nothing wrong with that. If authors cannot or will not separate themselves from their work, then I suggest that they keep their work somewhere safe, such as a bottom drawer or a filing cabinet. There is certainly no place for it in the publishing world.

threears said...

It's amazing how those of us who aren't authors seem to be so much better at this thinking and researching thing. As an author, one would think you'd be pretty familiar with the need to research before you open your "mouth". Yet, apparently that’s not so. Not only are you guilty of it, but the comments here are full of others willingly following your piping.

Here's why people don't want to leave the STGRB thing alone: that site has hurt readers and reader-author relationships, and continues to do so every day. That you would link to it shows just how little you respect readers, how little time you took to research what that site does, and an absolute lack of critical thinking skills. Don't get me wrong -- this was never a good idea for you to post. But by showing support for that site, it changes this from yet another author whine about how readers are big meanies, to an anti-reader screed with a side of thoughtless stupidity. And you don’t even think that’s worthy of an apology and a full-on retraction. Well done, you. Of course people continue to bring it up.

Then you added some extra bells and whistles by regurgitating the Lauren Fiasco, and linking to a thoroughly discredited article. If you want to know what really happened, read this.

Here’s a thought: what if we turn your little sob story around? You're upset because you think those reviews might have hurt the author. The author, you say, was being attacked. Yet that wasn’t the intent of the reviews. They are all about flaws in the book, and how reading it made them feel. Each claim is backed up with quotes from the text. So – to use your words – make no mistake, your issue isn’t that the reviews literally threatened or attacked the author, but that he may feel bad upon reading them.

And yet, the fact that the reviewers were upset by the book is ok. Hmmmm. Does that mean the author is also a bully? After all, his book made people feel angry and frustrated and hurt, even if that wasn’t the intention. Some of those people even paid for that privilege – ha! He took their book money, just like a schoolyard thug. Passages read like an outright attack on women, feminists in particular. Yes, I think the author must be an abusive bully: he made readers feel bad, he attacked women, and he took their money while he was at it. What a jerk.

I mean, isn’t that what you think those reviews might do to him? Make him feel bad? All I’ve done is turn your poor excuse for “logic” around on you... and it looks pretty stupid, doesn’t it?

I don't know you. I've never heard or read your name before today. And now I'm not going to buy your books. Not because I’m a bully, although your pals at STGRB would argue otherwise. But because instead of writing, you want to be the internet nicety police. Because you clearly don't believe in research. Because critical thinking is, apparently, only for readers -- and it makes them into "bullies". Whereas people like you, who don’t engage the rational part of their brains, can spread lies, and that's just fine.

Mira said...

Wow, Nathan.

First, this is a really good post. Powerfully written. On behalf of authors, thank you for your eloquent defense and for taking this on. I think it was very brave and extremely important.

You know, in terms of this thread, I thought earlier it would be a good idea to cut it off - but I've changed my mind; I think you were wise to let it run, so people can get a sense of exactly what is happening.

As you point out, this is very real. What is happening at Goodreads, and sometimes elsewhere, is dangerous, out of control and frightening. It is very real.

My observations is it goes beyond bullying at Goodreads and moves into actual battering and harassment of the victims. People are verbally and psychologically abused and battered; they are pursued and harassed into their real lives. It's not just their careers that may be affected; I've read of instances where people's mental health and stability has been harmed. The batterers are extremely manipulative and destructive, and excel at blaming the victim.

Right now, people are feeling helpless. Eventually we will have laws that will protect people from this type of targeting. I believe this is already starting, and some would argue we already do have legal protection from harassment.

However, in the meantime, posts like these are incredibly important. They bring to light what is happening so authors who have not yet experienced this are aware of what is happening. Your blog is very visible, and the fact that you personally are being targeted will hopefully put some pressure on Goodreads. I hope so.

That said, I will boycott Goodreads when I publish; I will not put my books there. Goodreads benefits from author participation, and it is obligated to create a safe environment for them. It absolutely has not; it does not enforce its own policy about posting. I will not support a service that endangers participants. I will not participate.

Again - thank you for this post, Nathan.

Marianna Roberg said...

I had one review pop up on Goodreads, that's now disappeared, for one of my books. It said, simply, "If I'd had a physical copy of this, I would have burned it." Honestly, what makes people think this kind of thing is okay? I would never dream of "reviewing" with something like that, even if I loathed the book. I don't like Twilight, and I've read those, but I wouldn't post something that harsh.

Anonymous said...

@Nathan Bransford wrote:

"I have never in my life trashed an author in a review."

But trashing amateur reviewers in a hugely publicized blog is OK? Why? Because they hurt some wee feelings in their reviews about a book, so a retaliation post to name and shame is some how justified? Those reviewers were not even author bashing! They were your smoking gun proof? I appreciate that you deleted the names, but this is the internet. I didn't need to look far to learn who you trashed.

Dotti said...

I've read that there is some skepticism about the author who pulled her book over the rape reference. The Salon story has some amendment at the end.

Someone commented how wrong it is to give a book 1 star with no comment. There was a discussion about this on one of my listservs. About how some people don't educate themselves on how to properly use Goodreads. Supposedly there are people who actually think 1 star is better. And then there are those who give it one star as a reminder to read it. Weird. As long as there are no Goodreads review guidelines in place, these types of things will happen.

But abusive reviews? Yep, they're there. And I'm truly amazed at how passionate some of these people can be. Like their life has been horrifically altered simply because they read a book they didn't like.

Nathan Bransford said...


Do you really think I was as harsh to those reviewers as they were with their reviews? I tried to treat people fairly while disagreeing very straightforwardly with their approach. If I had written my post as those reviews were written it would have looked very, very different.

GillyB said...

Mr. Bransford, in your last comment, you said,

"If I had written my post as those reviews were written it would have looked very, very different."

But there's a huge difference between their reviews and your post. Their reviews were about a product, an entity without feelings, and yes, I understand that authors adore their work. They should. But NO ONE ELSE will feel as attached to that book as they will. No reader will go into a book thinking, "Well, I'm sure the author tried really, really hard, and spent years working on this, so I will love it regardless."

No critical reviewer should ever review with the author in mind. And those reviewers didn't. Whether you like it or not, people are allowed to review books and other creative works with as much vitriol as they like, provided their comments remain about the work itself-- which those reviewers did. If they have "snarky" shelves and gifs, what does it MATTER?

So, no, you didn't use gifs or snark or sarcasm in your post, but you were personal in a way those reviewers were not. One of the women you singled out is receiving a tremendous amount of hate right now because of your post simply for writing what is an objective, if harsh, review.

Reviewers DON'T "think of the humanity" of authors before reviewing, because guess what? Most readers don't, either. You can't objectively review a piece of art or literature or a movie or TV show with the creator's feelings in your mind. You just can't. You cannot bully a book.

Nathan Bransford said...


Is a review not a product? Why are books fair game for criticism and not reviews?

And again, did I criticize the reviews as harshly as the reviewers criticized the book?

Anonymous said...


So, you are trying to punish reviewers for being mean in their reviews, by being mean back to them? That's what I got out of your last statement.

In what world do we live in that we, as reviewers who are not paid, have to now consider the feelings of an author before posting our honest thoughts, whatever they might be? I mean, should we be allowed to review at all? Is this something that is illegal to do without an English degree? Should I get jail time because I used a snarky GIF in my review. This is so silly.

I've liked your books and you're a fair writer, but I have to admit that your lack of research about STGRB and your off-handed remarks about people who take the time out of their day to review your books for free, for pleasure, and who help pay for your bills and are keeping you in business, has really turned me off.

We are people, too. We don't appreciate being called mean names, being stalked and everything we say being twisted and taken out of context. Some of these bloggers can't say or do anything anywhere online without one of the people from STGRB watching them, looking for something they can use against them. There are bloggers who have had to shut down their blogs to stop the insanity that has been occurring the past several years. There are bloggers who had people call their homes and places of employment to try to get them fired when where they work has nothing to do with the argument online.

One thing is for certain: STGRB is is going to grab onto the article and praise you up and down. Congratulations. Looks like you gained some new readers. Maybe you will enjoy them more than you have appreciated us. They probably won't give you any bad reviews, and I'm sure you love that.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anon, but I absolutely think you were as harsh on those reviewers as they were on the books. For one thing, they referred specifically to the text: the book they were reviewing. You attacked the reviewers personally. Second: they read the book and referred to it in the review, using examples to back up their opinions. You referenced specific instances of so-called "bullying" without doing anything close to due diligence. In other words, you gave the book a single star without reading it because you heard from other people that it was bad. Sorry, but you're not blameless here. If your definition of bullying is using a popular internet forum to make a personal attack on someone you don't know because you disagree with their writing, then you're every bit as guilty as the reviewers whose reviews you linked to.

Anonymous said...

Reviews are not a product because they are not for sale. They are something done FOR FREE. If people are getting paid for this as book bloggers or just a reader in general, I've missed out on a helluva paycheck.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe Nathan treated any of those reviewers as badly as they've treated some authors. Now, I also don't think SEPTEMBER GIRLS is an example of a reviewer making direct attacks on the character of an author. And even reviewers like Blythe Harris are capable of writing intelligent reviews (including negative ones). Nobody involved in this is 100% good or bad.

However, SEPTEMBER GIRLS definitely is an example where a reviewer (Blythe Harris, in this case) has taken her snark and mean comments to a level that is uncomfortable, at least for me, a person who's not the author of the book. Any one of the paragraphs in that review would have felt like a heavy dose of snark intended to cause pain, and there are many, many such paragraphs in that review.

She also has a GR shelf called "author go fall in a hole." Please explain to me how that's not an attacking thing to say about authors.

That doesn't mean the bad attitude police should go arrest this woman and lock her up. She can say these things on GR if she wants to - she's not breaking any laws. But she and her friends also seem to think that people have no right to call them hurtful, cruel, and mean-spirited for saying that stuff, and people do have that right. The freedom to be hurtful and angry goes both ways.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon @1:04-

Remind me to give my next book away for free so no one can give me bad reviews!! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Selling something doesn't always directly mean it's a monetary sale.

Good grief, Charlie Brown. You're smarter than this.

Nathan Bransford said...

Well, Charlie Brown was making a joke.

But while we're at it, couldn't the same be said of reviewers "selling" free reviews trying to gain followers?

Anonymous said...

Reviewers don't sell reviews. They write reviews because they want to write reviews. Authors write books because they enjoy it and they want to make money. They then take their product and sell it in some way, shape, or form. They receive a paycheck and also receive non-monetary benefits.

Bloggers just write. Many of us have very few followers and we are okay with that. Very few of us make any sort of money (maybe in ad space, but it isn't much) and we aren't paid by authors or by publishers to do our reviews. We however, in a way, sell ourselves in a "pitch" to traditional publishers to have the privilege of reviewing their books. I've never once been told how to review from a publisher. Most of the time, they are happy that I even took the time to read their books, no matter what I say or how I write my reviews. I've had snarky reviews. I'm made some colorful, snarky remarks about authors of certain books. I've called racists, racist. The publishers are professional and I keep receiving books.

Would you rather have a bad, mean review up on Goodreads that hardly anyone pays attention to, OR, have a bad review and attack the reviewer publicly and end up on a few hundred nasty/snarky/funny/mean shelves yourself?

Authors: Go vent in a way that is productive and won't further hurt your career.

It may be unfair to some, but that's life.

Mira said...

Since people brought up that laws aren't being broken(disputable), I will say folks are, however, violating Goodreads policy. Here is Goodreads terms of use:

Goodreads Terms of Service

Under no interpretation does it give reviewers the right to say whatever they want. Here is a relevant excerpt:

"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; ..... (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; ....or (viii) contains any information or content that you know is not correct and current."

Goodreads needs to enforce its own policy.

Anonymous said...

I agree that no one should make personal comments about the author. That said, since you brought up September Girls, I wanted to address the fact that this book was marketed to the wrong people. The cover, the title, the synopsis, etc. Young females should never have been the market segment for this book. When I read the blurbs, I was turned off, but my husband thought it was funny. Now, the reviews may have gone too far, however, not only was this book marketing to girls, but it also depicted girls in a negative light. Someone made a huge mistake with this book, and that can't be ignored. The author should point the finger at his publisher and agent for letting that huge mistake happen. The reviews came from the girls' major negative reaction to reading a book they thought was for them, but turned out to just piss them off. You can't place all the blame on the customer who felt cheated, lied to, and mislead. If this had been correctly marketed the author may have had a different experience.

Sandy said...

You have it wrong. If you want a change in culture then authors and fans need to stay off negative reviews. It's actions like these that give power to the negative review. And this very post is designed to block the freedom to express yourself - even if that wasn't your intent.

Some authors need to stop seeing us as just reviewers who hated their book. We are READERS first and foremost. We are an author's MARKET. And you know the really stupid thing is we may not have liked the first book we had read by the author, but if the negative review had been left alone, we may have read something else by the author AND LIKED IT! We don't have any hard feelings against the author - not until something like this happens. Then you are making it an 'us' against 'them' thing.

And for your information,just in case you weren't aware, Goodreads is a reader's website NOT AN AUTHORS. As for STGRB - almost everyone knows that site is an 'anti-bullying' site that actually promotes bullying. How does anything they do help people overcome bullying? By stalking people? Yeah, uh, no.

And Lauren. If the article I read on a post is correct, she was warned not to go onto a negative review. She was warned what the reaction would be - she did it anyway. What would have happened if she had kept away from the negative review? What would happen if ALL fans and authors stayed away from negative reviews? NOTHING! That's what would happen. And when nothing happens that's when you have no drama and no one to call a 'bully'. That's the culture change that's needed. Not to have readers LIE about how they feel about a book. We pay for the book - not to stroke the author's ego. Which we do anyway - IF WE LIKE A BOOK!

Kate Bond said...

Anonymous @ 8:46

Where in Nathan's post is any of that sort of attack mentioned? He cites an author who has admitted that she lied about being attacked. He references a known group that abuses people online. And then he links a bunch of negative, snarky reviews that are in no way abusive.

My husband HAS been personally attacked by large groups of people! He developed and ran an animated show called Teen Titans like ten years ago, and they were target by the Parents Television Council or whatever they call themselves and several other right-wing groups. He received hate mail. You know how he handled it? He rolled his eyes and laughed. He still laughs about it to this day. Because he was paid to create a product, and the consumers have their right to an opinion. Was the hate mail a step too far? Yep.

He rolled with it because he loves writing and YOU CANNOT GET UP ON A STAGE WITHOUT PISSING SOMEONE OFF. IF you choose to make yourself a public figure, you have to deal with the public consequences. If you sell a product or service, people who do not like it are going to say so.

How many times have you tweeted something negative about a tv show or movie? So are you the blonde girl from every mean girl movie? No? Why? Because only book authors who seek out their own press are special fragile flowers?

And about those reviews Blythe, Steph, and I don't know who else wrote: September Girls contains a lot of misogyny, and it was written by a man. If I, as a white person, wrote a book in which characters the reader is supposed to like were extremely racist, but in the end the message was that racism is bad, BLACK PEOPLE WOULD STILL BE ALLOWED TO BE HORRIBLY OFFENDED BY IT. And to post shit to goodreads, and to facebook, and to twitter, and if I had a google alert set up for my name and I went and read what they had to say (This is all purely hypothetical, and poor Bennett Madison for getting dragged into it, because as far as I know he's done nothing to deserve being placed in the center of this debate), I would be allowed to be offended, but it would be unprofessional for me as a creater of a product that these people purchased to enter into their personal space and try to publicly talk to them about it in the comments section.

Nathan and the authors who agree with him here are behaving like the lady from Amy's Baking Company, who we were ALL mocking a while back:

Goodreads is like Yelp. It is where book lovers say what they think of a product they have purchased.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to all those who say that Goodreads is only for readers. That is incorrect. You may want to watch this video:

In the video above, Otis Chandler, founder of Goodreads, says:
“We’re in the media business today. We’re in the business of helping authors and publishers market their books to readers. And that’s where we make our money. We sell book launch packages to authors and publishers and really help accelerate, build that early buzz that a book needs to succeed when it launches and accelerate that growth through ads on the site.”

Funny how he fails to mention the dangers of the site and how many authors have been victims of bullying.

Anonymous said...

"As for STGRB - almost everyone knows that site is an 'anti-bullying' site that actually promotes bullying."

Wrong. Go read the site. Go see for yourself what they say on their Who We Are page:

"We are readers, bloggers, and Goodreads members (not authors) who, inspired by those who have already taken a stand, have come together in an effort to stop the bullying we have seen on not only the GR fora, but other online fora as well (i.e. Amazon, AW, etc.) With the information we find online, it is our mission to expose the outrageous behaviour of those commonly known as the GR bullies.
Please note, we do not encourage harassment or attacks against the bullies of any kind. We do not encourage our readers to contact them in any way. We are simply here to expose their bullying behaviour.
The bullies are under the impression that any reaction to them is about critical reviews, using the argument that they have a right to express their opinions. We are not here to fight against critical reviews. That is not what our campaign is about. It is about their bullying behaviour towards others which is becoming increasingly disturbing. We are here to expose that."

The fact is that the trolls who are bad-mouthing STGRB on this thread don't want people reading the site because they are ashamed of their behavior which is shown quite plainly in screenshots. That's all this really boils down to.

Sandy said...

Wrong. Go read the site. Go see for yourself what they say on their Who We Are page:

Haha you must be a STGRB supporter, which means anything you say to me means nothing. That site is famous for stalking people. It promotes itself as an anti-bullying site, but it isn't. I've seen what they post on there (before they put the necessity of gaining a password up) and they are only fanning the flames of drama. A true anti-bullying site doesn't do that.

Thanks for sharing though. :)

Debra Davis Hinkle said...

Thanks for standing up to the bullies.

J.C. Martin said...

Haters will be haters. I too love Goodreads and how it can connect an author with new readers, but have previously blogged about a problem with the ratings system, e.g. how you could rate a book before it is even released, and that you could give a book a 1 star rating without writing any review, plus after contacting Goodreads I have been informed that the ratings system could double as a "want to read" system, i.e. some readers 1-star a book to indicate they have no interest in reading it. This riles me, as how can you have two ways of approaching the same system? As someone who doesn't read, say, historical romance, should I go through the entire genre 1-starring every book I find?

I suppose the responsible, sensible reader will be intelligent enough to separate the honest reviews from the nonsensical ones.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

I'm appalled by the general meaness in society. Opinions given by ppl for sake of spreading vitriol is sickening.
One case in point is the slime hurled at Twilight and the author Stephenie Meyer. So bad the she can't subject herself to the abuse anymore.
No author should go through this.

SongoftheSea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SongoftheSea said...

It seems to me (thirty + years as a professional book reviewer for a famous mag)that on-line book review sites have bred a review culture that has gotten out of hand: impossible to monitor. I've just spotted this comment on facebook re this post - What a sensible comment! ---The truth of the matter is: "one person's meat, another's poison". Who shouts loudest gets heard, and it seems on the whole negative reviews often take up more white space (word count) than positive reviews. Detailed negative reviews say far more about the reviewer than they realise! After all, if you didn't like a bun you'd bought in the supermarket you'd simply bin it, you wouldn't sit down and pen a treatise telling of its texture, presentation whatever. You saw that bun, you bought it, you bit into it. Caveat emptor. Tough! Same goes for a book. It has a cover, it has a blurb, if you buy from Amazon they provide a lengthy sample. If you thought it was bad grammar wise etc., on reading the sample, then you were a fool to buy it. Don't blame the author.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Yes, agreed. I'm an author, and I once had a person leave a comment on my blog stating that my novel was the worst book she ever read? Really, the worst book ever read? Seriously?

Authors need to thick skin in order to continue in this crazy business...

Aitch748 said...

"I have been informed that the ratings system could double as a "want to read" system, i.e. some readers 1-star a book to indicate they have no interest in reading it. This riles me, as how can you have two ways of approaching the same system? As someone who doesn't read, say, historical romance, should I go through the entire genre 1-starring every book I find?"

This is exactly what puzzles me about Goodreads ratings. If a book gets a one-star rating from everyone who hasn't read it but isn't interested in reading it, then practically every book in the world, every book ever published, is a one-star book, because for every person interested in reading the book, there are surely at least five who are not.

I wonder how many readers realize this about Goodreads ratings, or that a lot of one-star ratings that suddenly appear on a book would usually mean a lot of people who decided all at once to tell the world that they won't read the book and NOT that the book actually sucks?

Anonymous said...

So what's the alternative to having people use the star ratings in whatever way they want? Tell users that they are REQUIRED to use the rating system a specific way or they can carry their butts to Shelfari? Make the 20 million people who use Goodreads conform to the way that you would prefer they use the site? Threaten them with suspension if they use the stars as a "want to read" system? That's beyond silly- what's more, it's completely unenforceable.

Aitch748 said...

I'm not even saying that Goodreads needs to change their policy or that reviewers need to do anything different. I AM saying that readers and authors are entitled to understand that a Goodreads star rating can mean either of two things:

(1) I actually read the book and here is what I thought of it.

(2) I didn't read the book, but this is my level of interest in it.

People are entitled to understand that about the star ratings. If authors don't understand that, and they think that a star rating means that you read the book, then of course they are going to think that people are cheating en masse on Goodreads if they give books one-star ratings on books they never read, purely as a way of expressing their disgust with an author over some issue or other.


But, yeah, I also think that this double meaning of the star ratings on Goodreads is a source of a good deal of the friction between Goodreads reviewers and the authors whose books are listed on Goodreads. If you want to defuse that, then get the word out that A ONE-STAR RATING MIGHT MEAN NOTHING MORE THAN THAT SOMEONE WASN'T INTERESTED IN THE BOOK AND SHOULD NOT BE USED TO JUDGE THE QUALITY OF THE BOOK AT ALL.

Anonymous said...

You must be so proud, Nathan. You are going to join the ranks of the other disgruntled authors on STGRB. According to a comment on their site, they are writing a post all about this! Thanks bro! You've really helped author/reader relations!

Anonymous said...

I really respect your for speaking out about this. I agree with everything you have said. I have witnessed the bullying on Goodreads and I think its horrible. Everyone is certainly allowed to give their opinion but some of the lists and categories on that site are completely wrong and dehumanizing. I have seriously considered just deleting my account on goodreads. I no longer accept friend requests or anything there. Many people say not to delete my account (i am an author and they say its good to have a presence there) but my thoughts are why would I want to have a presence somewhere that allows that kind of behavior?

Rick Gualtieri said...

All's fair in love and business. As an author I consider myself exactly that, a business. Thus I likewise consider myself a public entity and open to whatever opinions people have of me or my books. It's not much different than Walmart or Best Buy. You can judge them for a variety of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with their shopping experience.

I consider it the same with authors. You can judge me by my books, but there's no reason why you can't judge me by my actions as well. I might have an awesome book out, but if I go onto some website like a bull in a china shop and annoy the crap out of people I shouldn't feel that I have immunity against them calling me out on it.

Here's the thing: it's an easy dilemma to avoid.

1) Put out the best book you can, accepting that not everyone will like it

2) Be professional in every capacity where you are representing yourself as your business

3) If you know you have a thin skin, then simply don't read reviews. Lots of writers don't and they continue to thrive - all the while not worrying one iota that a few people don't like them.

Anonymous said...

Immature reviews are part of the landscape of writing, but the Goodreads trolls who are even now gathering to negatively shelve your books without reading them and putting you on the BBA Listopia are immature and lack manners.

They'll cringe someday when they grow up, but nothing on the Internet ever dies. It will all come back on them, especially the ones who aspite to become writers.

Anonymous said...

Here is the thing. Nathan wrote a post. Some people disagree. He has products for sale. Some people are going to shelf him on Goodreads because of his actions.

This is America. If someone wants to put Nathan or any other author on a "Do Not Buy" or "Stay Away From" shelf, they have every right to do so. This isn't a dictatorship. If he or any other author didn't want to place themselves up for public scrutiny, then maybe they should have rethought their career choice.

I'm really happy that another person here left a comment about Amy's Baking Company. The owners of that bakery went onto Yelp and started to freak out over bad reviews of their food and their restaurant. They basically were black-listed and failing in their community because word got around that they treat their customers like crap. Then they went onto Kitchen Nightmares and things got even worse for them.

Bottom line: You may not like it, but your customers can make or break you. It isn't a good idea to go wanking about the internet because someone said something mean. The reviewer isn't going to lose. You will.

Liz Woodbury said...

I recommend switching to LibraryThing from Good Reads. It's a much more civil community of readers, not to mention the fact that unlike GR, it's not owned by Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Amazon owns 40 percent of LibraryThing. All of Shelfari and all of Goodreads.

Anonymous said...

Well, to be specific, Amazon owns 40 percent of one of Librarything's parent companies, AbeBooks. Amazon has no controlling interest in LT and no say in the goings-on of the site, whereas they have total controlling interest in Goodreads and Shelfari.

And the community on LibraryThing *is* much nicer.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you made it onto Carroll Bryant's blog, who is a terrible person who goes around calling people cunts and bitches and is a huge supporter of STGRB:

Lady Morgana Pendragon said...

My only disagreement will be, sometimes authors *do* deserve very bad reviews, like when Diane Mott Davidson had a few bad reviews on her book Crunch Time, and then went to her Facebook page to tell her besotted fangirls to go give it five-star reviews to 'counteract the inordinately cruel' reviews. The bad reviews weren't very bad, either, they were just expressing disappointment in her latest book, and hoping the quality of the series wasn't going downhill. Five-star reviews started flooding the page, and most of them decided to bash the one-star reviewers, and claim they must not have read the book anyway.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I'm sorry but this is one of the most misinformed blog posts you've ever written.

*If* what you said happened had actually happened, that would be terrible. But it didn't, and it wouldn't have, because Goodreads staff would have taken down any reviews personally attacking/threathening an author. It is against their TOS.

However, as usual, the author had to retract most of what was said the Salon article, and the Goodreads user ends up sounding like a pro and the author like a hack.

For a real account of what happened with Lauren Howard, see:

Disillusioned Reviewer said...

I am appalled that you'd dare to call in-depth reviews that focus solely on the books “bullying” and yet, here you are publicly shaming and trying to discredit reviewers while also providing links that facilitate harassment to them from your readers. You may have pulled the links, but the damage is done. They were up for more than enough time to ensure that MANY people accessed the reviewers personally. There’s no other valid reason for why you posted the links to begin with, so I guess you accomplished what you intended. Bravo.

Are these women not allowed to speak out against perceived misogynistic and sexist characters in a book without having someone crucify them?

What credibility do you hope to hold on to when you say things like readers need to keep YOU abreast? That's preposterous. You link and refer to STGRB and you don't have the wherewithal to research them objectively first? Seriously? You refer to Lauren Howard’s claims of death and sodomy threats, but you fail to find the MANY places where it’s been documented that she publicly recanted her original story and chalked it up to PMS and misunderstanding? Talk about LAZY reporting.

Additionally, why this book? Why those reviews? If bullying on Goodreads is so rampant, then surely you'd have found more diverse examples. Why are trying to shame (and consequently, censor) women who are decrying perceived misogynistic behavior and sexism in a book? What's YOUR personal agenda here? What does this say about you?

Those reviews even pull quotes directly from the book to support their claims. It's up to the person reading the review to assess and decide how they feel about them, but the reviewer is entitled to perceive a book however they want. That's not BULLYING. That's being a human being reading a book and having an opinion about it. I mean, are you serious with this nonsense?!

Even after all of this, people are surprised that so many are boycotting your books from here on out. How is that surprising? What if I hate your book? What if my review doesn’t meet the Nathan Bransford Guidelines for “Nice” Reviewing? Will you then publicly shame me? Or is that reserved for readers of books by other authors only? Why would I take that risk either way? Why would I or anyone want to support someone who would stoop to such appalling behavior? It’s akin to people who boycott Nike, because of the horrid treatment of their sweat shop workers. Why would anyone want to financially support them if they are offended by their behavior? Same goes for you. I’m disgusted with this and I will never, ever help to line your pockets. I am, as a consumer, entitled to take that stance. It’s MY money. That’s not “bullying”.

YOU are the only one inciting harassment onto other people. YOU are the one attempting to publicly shame fellow human beings. YOU are the one posting about actual people instead of just characters in a book. YOU are the one lending credence to those ridiculous STGRB fools who have a history of bullying themselves and who have put real people in real danger (you need only to look higher on this comment page to see STGRB supporter Carufel’s crazy talk proving this point). YOU are the one who didn't do your homework before posting untruthful and inaccurate information to the world. YOU are the one who's responsible for informing YOURSELF before trying to “inform” others with this inaccurate information that could potentially bring harm or harassment to real actual human beings as opposed to book characters.

YOU are the bully. Shame on you. Shame. On. You.

Where’s YOUR humanity, Mr. Bransford?

Jess said...

I've actually been on the opposite side of this bullying thing. I wrote a negative review of a highly popular book. I said nothing about the author personally, didn't shelve it on any ridiculous shelves, and simply gave very specific reasons why I didn't enjoy the book. At the time, I didn't even know anyone besides my friends could read my reviews, but I very quickly realized how wrong I was. Over 1100 people commented on the review, and while a few of them were civil, most were not. Most of them told me I was stupid, uncultured, idiotic, unsympathetic to the poor author, "just didn't get it", needed to go back to school (which I found especially ironic considering their lack of punctuation and proper spelling), and other hateful, demeaning, vulgar, and offensive things. The second GR made it possible to set your reviews to private, I did so--but then, I got a "friend request" from someone who really just wanted to send me a private message about how stupid I was to not like this book. That was the last straw for me. I deleted my account, and I will never go back. I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.

And It's all so easy to say "it's not bullying" or "ignore it", but it IS bullying and it is impossible to ignore. Whoever said "words will never hurt me" was delusional. Words do hurt, and saying, "it's the internet, people are mean here" doesn't make it right! It shouldn't be that way! Why can't people just treat each other with kindness and respect even if your opinions differ? I seriously can't even fathom the idea of ridiculing someone who thinks differently than I do. I don't understand why it happens at all.

daniel t. radke said...

NATHAN BRANSFORD walks onto a playground. He spots THREE CHILDREN hovering over a FOURTH CHILD, cowering on the ground. The three kids are kicking the child as he cries and thrashes in the grass. A MOTHER stands a few feet away, observing the beating.

Your mom can’t help you! You’re stupid and ugly!

CHILD 2 SPITS on the kid on the ground.

Yeah! Suck it! Why were you even born?

Yeah, your face offends me! And your clothes look like your mom got them from goodwill!

Nathan runs over to the commotion.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Everyone stop! What’s going on here?

The children stop kicking, slowly turning to Nathan, incredulously.

…the fuck did you just say to us?

Um… You’re beating the hell out of that kid. I know this is playground, but can you guys play a little nicer?

Child 1 sprints up to Nathan, swiftly KICKING HIM IN THE GROIN. Nathan grabs himself, falling to the ground.

You have the audacity to point out that we were beating the crap out of that ugly kid over there?

Jesus Chirst! Why’d you kick me? I was simply pointing out that people have feelings and maybe they don’t apprec-

Child 3 STOMPS on Nathan’s head. He kneels down, grabbing Nathan by his hair, and points a finger in his face.

This is America, Bransford. We can be as nasty as we want. You see the kid’s mom over there?

Child 3 POINTS to the quiet mother.

SHE’S being a good little mom. Being nice and quiet. But you? Why I haven’t seen someone fuck up so hard in my entire ass-stomping life.

NATHAN (coughing up small amount of blood)
I’m just saying- civility.

Child 2 give Nathan a running kick to the ribs. Nathan SCREAMS.

We can be as mean as we want because it’s our right. But for you to just point it out like that? You Amy’s Baking Company piece of shit. You’re dead meat, former agent. (TO OTHER CHILDREN) Now boys, I think it’s time to find Nathan’s kid. Let’s go kick his ass even though we know nothing about him.


M.T. Dismuke said...

STGRB ONLY came into existence due to the out-of-control behavior on Goodreads. Members were threatening, libeling, and harassing authors without opposition. The people screaming about STGRB are the very same people who were stalking authors, calling their work, blogging, tweeting, and commenting on their websites. They put them on lists for others do the same, and then finally, a website formed to expose them. So don't feel bad for the trolls. Think of it this way, they all scream 'freedom of speech' but when you respond to their BS reviews or call them out, they want you to shut up! *stomps feet* and they 'punish' anyone for doing so. That's the reality of it. If you even have any doubt or don't believe me, they are 'punishing' Nathan on Goodreads at this very moment. That's how they roll and that's why STGRB calls them out. Don't 'uck with them or they'll target you, author or not, they'll have you removed from Goodreads because one of the reasons they carry so much weight on GR is because one, or more, of the staff members is working with them. That's why accounts who oppose them go 'poof'. They get removed. They want to say what they want but hate it when somebody disagrees so they throw tantrums and go out of their way to hurt whoever it was through whatever means possible. Knowledge is power. People hating on STGRB are trying to mislead everyone. They don't want you to know the real truth. This isn't a story of what came first, chicken or the egg. The trolls were doing this LONG before STGRB ever arrived on the scene.

Anonymous said...

Nobody is forcing authors to run to their computers, sign onto Goodreads, and read all of their reviews. If someone is being mean to you in the comments of a review, why would you read it? If you started to read it and found it to be "bullying," STOP READING IT! Step away from the computer. Go call a friend and complain about all of those mean internet people who hate you and/or your book. YOU CAN CONTROL HOW YOU REACT.

I had a really bad experience at a local photography store in my city. I went in looking for a digital camera that would be good for someone that isn't a professional and would take nice photos. The owner of the business was mean and belittled me through the entire process. I walked out and proceeded to tell all of my friends about my bad experience with the shop owner, who then told all of their friends. In less than a year, the business went under as more and more people became unhappy with the store staff.

Why do authors feel that they are somehow above this kind of scrutiny?

Goodreads should rename their review section to something more broad. They do allow comments to be made for whatever reason (However, the ones that are strictly about the author get hidden from the book page). You have the fan girl comments that just gush about an upcoming release from their favorite author, and you have people who are upset with some authors and feel the need to vent.

What you do reflects back onto your product. If you're a jerk, I'm going to say you are a jerk. There are reasons why businesses who fail to comprehend this wind up losing their business or have to hire professional people to remake their image as a last ditch effort.

Anonymous said...

People who compare critical reviews (no matter how sarcastic) with actual bullying and violence are delusional.

Rick Carufel said...

It's really disgusting these stalker trolls are. This is because they are literally encouraged by Badreads, hell the author guidelines threatens authors with the destruction of their reputation if they speak up about personal attacks disguised as reviews.
And according to Amazon stalking, bullying, harassment, defamation, libel, posting personal info of their victims, and 1-star no-read attack reviews all are within the guidelines. With that kind of support they feel they can attack anyone with impunity.
Read my blog Nathan if you want to see how far these criminal will actually go.

Anonymous said...

Things that have been said about reviewers on STGRB:

"Fucking jealous nobody bitches."
"You nobody pieces of self-absorbed shite."

"Sell out pieces of white trash."
"Fucking ugly bitch with bleached blonde ratty hair."

"Go suck a fat dick."
"Bully assholes."
"Why don't you all go fuck yourselves. What you need is a good fuck."

"Someone on crack."
"Bunch of assholes."
"Hairy-faced troll monster."
"Drama Hos."
"Hateful little bitches."
"Pretty young for being such a little bitch."

"She's clearly mentally ill."
"She's just a bitter old bitch."
"Clobber their asses."
"Merry band of sociopaths."

......Really? We are suppose to be sympathetic and support these people?

You lost a good customer here, man. My kids loved your stories but I don't tolerate this revengeful practices against reviewers. I can't support an author who doesn't do their homework and half-asses their retraction.

YA author, Mike Mullen, wrote a good post in response to this post:

Icy Wiz said...

Goodreads wants revenue. Site visits equal revenue. That's why Goodreads doesn't curb bullying. Trolls visit sites again and again to keep bullying. Kindly folks like us go back to defend authors and chastise bullies for their behavior. If we blog about the bad behavior and provide links to the offending posts/threads, that equals more site visits and more revenue.

Goodreads isn't the only site guilty of this: news sites, forums (especially gaming forums), YouTube, etc. Sadly, it's all about the dollar signs.

Anonymous said...

Jessica Brody also wrote a response to this article:

Rick Gualtieri said...

Anyone standing on a pulpit decrying GR as a place that's full of people who want to destroy authors misses some obvious points.

Goodreads is full of people who love books. One need only look in any of thousands of threads there to see that.

To assume that people who love to read are out to destroy authors is idiotic at best. If anything a voracious reader wants more (good) stories out there, not less.

There are plenty of authors who use GR everyday successfully and thrive there.

Anyone claiming otherwise should perhaps look internally and consider their own actions first as opposed to automatically pointing their fingers.

Robynn Dupler said...

Let's call it like it is. I've raised five kids and know firsthand what passive/aggressive behavior looks like. To have a shelf on Goodreads that says "attention seeking whore" or any other variation of a foul comment, is simply someone sticking their tongue out at the book/author. They can defend it all they want, but the bottom line is they know how someone is going to feel seeing their book shelved there.

But I would ask if they would do this to their brother, sister, or best friend? We need to treat each other as we would want to be treated, with respect. I'm not against having a negative opinion. A book is a product and it needs to be rated as such. Good, bad or indifferent. But it can be done respectfully. And if you leave a respectful criticism, you should not be abused in return.

I appreciate Mr. Bransford attempting to bring this into a discussion mode, and by the comments left, it is definitely a hot topic. I also appreciate he left links so one could go and check it out and form their own opinion.

I don't think it fair to attack the man for doing this. Some of this discussion has been respectful, some has not. Whenever we put something into print, we need to be aware of the tone it will convey.

I was involved briefly in some unsavory book shelving for association with another author. I quickly shut down my Goodread account as I didn't see the benefit in dealing with that system anymore. Do I believe there was some unkind behavior? Yes, but I chose to also walk away from it and not be involved.

As an author I expect negative reviews. I will gladly gold mine those for the truth and use it to become a better author. Personal attacks I just ignore.

As a reader, I continue to leave carefully thought out reviews for the product.

Again, I commend Mr. Bransford for expressing his opinion and allowing debate on this subject. I don't believe he should be the target of retribution for his opinion. Unfortunately, those who are shelving his books in poorly named shelves on Goodreads are only proving his concern. It also points how the system is broken and should be fixed to bring a more professional atmosphere to the site.

Maybe they need to implement book shelf names that you can use rather than allow everyone to name their own. I know that sounds like censorship, but it would eliminate some of the turmoil, in my very humble opinion.

And that's what this is all about. Sharing opinions in an educated and mannerly way.

Anonymous said...

IF you are one of the people that have invaded Goodreads to trash Nathan's books in the past 24 hours, you are a bully, end of statement. Look at the shelf titles. It's sickening and completely proves the point. Second, those of you who keep saying that everyone has the right to review as they see fit need to understand that many of these reviews DO attack the author or the author's fans. I had an 8th grader write a review and she got torn apart because people thought she was me. They put F*** you cartoons up on her review and called her a liar. I had reviewers actually go after my family to try and prove that they were fake. I had people accuse me of writing my own five star reviews, and then they went after those who did so. Suddenly, I stopped getting the good reviews, and I'm pretty sure the abrupt stop had to do with people being afraid to comment. I had websites that liked my book fall off my tour because they didn't want to get involved in the mess. And did GR help at all with the attacks? NO. Their policy means nothing. They just don't care, so don't try and tell me, who worked with GR on this for months, that their policy doesn't allow abuse. Can you tell me all this is not bullying? Also, authors know better than to respond to this crap because it only gets worse when they speak up. This means we have no voice. Suddenly it sounds more like bullying, doesn't it? And yes, we can stop checking our reviews, but it doesn't stop there. Negative reviews dissuade others from reading the books. This hurts sales and careers in more ways than this type of reviewer probably knows. So bottom line, say what you want to say, but do so tactfully with an eye toward kindness. How anyone can disagree with that is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Certain people involved in STGRB are now saying that we are coming here and bullying you, Nathan.

Do you feel bullied on this post? As far as I am concerned, this is a discussion, not a bully rampage.

Anonymous said...

This was a very good post, Nathan. It's an issue that's been around for a long time and it's finally coming to a head.

And just to clarify what Sandra @ 1:10 said. STGRB is a web site that has always disclosed they use the tactics they do because those are the same tactics used by the bullies. It's a fight fire with fire mentality because there is no other way to fight these bullies. Some of these bullies have fake identities that go on for days. And web sites like Goodreads and Amazon support those fake identities and all the sockpuppetry. These people are out to destroy authors, and for no valid reasons.

STGRB never "doxxed" anything that wasn't public information. They make it clear that they are not against bad book reviews. They are against bulling and bashing authors, not bad reviews. There's a difference. And I can state first hand that everything they have posted is true and would hold up in court. I post comments there regularly and I have been following them for over one year now. And I'm not even one of the authors that was bullied. I have experienced low level forms of bullying, but was never actually part of the STGRB blog posts where it gets intense to say the least. I just went there to observe and what I observed was completely true. I have seen all these things happen to authors, and even some reviewers. But more important, the bullies that STGRB has exposed have long histories of using bully tactics that would stun most people out in the real world.

Ultimately, to take your thoughts and your post to one more level, I think the concept of the Internet as the Old Wild West is coming to an end. We are going to be held responsible for what we say and do online, or we're going to have to pay a price. And that price will most likely be determined in courts in the future.

So those with all the fake names and identities, and those who practice all the sockpuppetry better start cleaning up their acts, because their days are numbered.

Anonymous said...

I love how STGRB supporters (which are mostly comprised of authors, especially the self-published kind) always cry about how Goodreads users use ANON and fake names, YET they themselves use fake names and hide behind their keyboards to troll Goodreads looking for comments they can use on their site.

Pot meet Kettle.

Anonymous said...

All well and good Anonymous@11:59 AM. Now why not a post about the truly disgusting things reviewers have spouted about people on Goodreads they disagree with and catch in their sites. No? Don't want to go there? I've seen many remarks there that are much, much worse that the examples you posted.

Liz Fichera said...

99% of the reviews left on Goodreads are respectful and professional, whether rating a book and the reading experience good, bad or indifferent.

The 1% that I believe you're talking about is more about the need for attention than outright bullying, although I've seen that too.

Anonymous said...

For the folks getting upset over the post linking to specific reviews: These weren't screenshots of emails or private conversations. These reviews were posted publicly for ALL to see. A public post is a public post, whether it's a review on Goodreads or a blog. Once you put it out there, people can and will reference it, talk about it, name the author of said post, etc. If you can't handle people discussing what you wrote, be it a book or a review, you should't publish those words for all to see.

And just to be clear: I'm not saying that anyone should have to 'handle' personal attacks, threats, slander (or anything else illegal) That is never okay.

But in this case, the author was referencing reviews posted in a public space that he believed backed up his point. Nowhere in this post was he threatening anyone or encouraging people to harass these reviewers. It is your right not to agree that these particular reviews were examples of bullying, but it's not really anyone's place to demand he remove the links. Because--again--these reviews are posted for all to see. That's kind of like saying all negative book reviews should be banned because they might encourage other readers to leave negative reviews.

Or am I just not getting something here?

JSanders said...

Forget about authors for a minute here.

What about other readers?


If you don't like the book, that's one thing, but I'm tired of wading through BS BOOK reviews about you thinking the AUTHOR is a racist rapist.

Easy to tell me not to look at them, right? But it sucks that now when I want to know if a book is good, I can't give ANY credence to reviews because half of them are from people who never read the book and the reviews have nothing to do with the book. Or reviews pretending to be about the book, but clearly the person is just making crap up. You do realize there comes a point when people don't believe that's honestly how you "interpreted" the story. If a book is about penguins and you say it's a sucky book about light bulbs, and there are no light bulbs int he book, it's pretty clear you are just making shit up to leave a negative review.

Maybe you don't give a crap about readers but it'd be nice to show a little respect for your peers.

Do you have the RIGHT to be a dick? Yeah, sure. But why do you want to be? Also, some of this DOES cross the line into slander as others have pointed out.

The bullies keep ignoring everyone's points and making excuses, but the fact remains, they are giving us all a bad name with their petty behavior.

There's a lot of them, but they are NOT the majority. They are just LOUD. You have the right to be a dick, and I have the right to tell you you are being one.

And the things you are attacking Nathan for? Not only is he NOT doing what he is being accused of, but the people accusing him are the ones actually guilty of those very things! It's honestly aggravating.

Really, it needs to stop. Stop making excuses. The behavior is wrong. You don't even have to apologize for it, okay? JUST STOP. Pretend like you were never this much of a scumbag and move on with your life and we'll all be so happy for this to end that we'll look the other way and pretend you didn't just spend the last five years throwing your toys out of the pram and screaming at the top of your lungs.

Anonymous said...

"Pot meet Kettle"

Exactly. Call me Kettle.

Sometimes the only way to fight a fire is with fire.

Anonymous said...

I love the claim they aren't bullying Nathan.

Check out the latest shelves on his book:


You are all making our point at the same time as denying these things happen...and then calling OTHER people the liars...

Amanda said...

Sooo this blurg of comments has shown me: We all agree that reviewers directly attacking/threatening an author is wrong. And an author directly attacking/threatening a reviewer is wrong. Excellent.

The big divide is really whether people think negative reviews of books should be short and polite (or entirely nonexistent), or whether they can be snarky MST3K-style extravaganzas (with or without bonus curse words, with or without bonus social justice commentary).

Oh, and if you were a fan of Mysterious Science Theater 3000, but think a gif-laden book review is wrong, you might want to think about why one type of popular media is exempt.

Anonymous said...

Research, research, research if you are going to blog about an issue like this.

Please go back and do some research on this, look at the blogs, look at the comments.

MBA Jenna said...

Wow. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, but I am. And Nathan, I am so sorry I emailed you about this. I love this blog, and your sense of decency, and I failed to imagine what would happen if you said anything.

For the record, I think valid negative reviews of books are fine, even constructive. No book is perfect, and when I get negative feedback, I try to (eventually) learn from it. But attacks on the author are never ok. The author is not the product.

I don't think the reviews are the problem, though, it's the strategic attempt to kill the book/author's career by turning off potential readers and hounding the author across public platforms. That's not expressing disappointment, that's abuse.

Maybe something good can come from this, if you can be attacked in this way (shelved as "total-asshole-author" really? That's hilarious.) GR needs to start enforcing its TOS.

Sorry. I was naive. This too, will pass.

Andy Butler said...

@daniel t. radke, repeat after me "a book is not a baby." Again. "A book is not a baby." One more time. "A BOOK is NOT a BABY!"

Shiloh Walker said it best:

Megan Derr said...

GR reviews aren't for authors. I'm firmly of the mindset that authors should have nothing to do with their GR reviews. Professional reviews, yes, certainly, those are our business.

But not forums like GR. It's as much of the culture of reading as the actual reading. Absolutely no different than gathering with friends around a table to snark about a book or a movie or TV show. No different than MSTK3.

Do some of them go overboard and say terrible things? Yes. But the same thing happens in sports, video games, tv, movies, music, etc.

It sucks and it's stupid, but it's also not a place where authors are supposed to be. Leave the readers to be readers and stay out of it.

daniel t. radke said...

Oh, that's been decided and the argument's over? My bad. I should really be more on top of these things!

Nathan Bransford said...

Hey guys, I feel like this discussion is starting to go in circles and am weighing closing the comments section. Anyone want to weigh in yea or nay?

Anonymous said...

To Kate Bond regarding your comment: "Nathan and the authors who agree with him here are behaving like the lady from Amy's Baking Company, ***who we were ALL mocking a while back***"

This says it all, doesn't it?

Mocking does not = rational discussion or disagreement.

daniel t. radke said...

@Nathan I guess we've all had enough internet drama over the past 24 hours. It's been informative!

Anonymous said...

LOL, Daniel Radke. Great and hilarious analogy. If you're an author, I'll buy your books.

Anonymous said...

I loved Daniel's schoolyard bully post. Spot on.

Aitch748 said...


Your site, your rules. ;)

Anonymous said...

Megan Derr--Goodreads disagrees with you. The CEO stated that it's a place for both authors and readers. Your statement that authors shouldn't go there goes against the site's whole purpose, as laid out by the CEO. The main question is, if it's indeed a site for both authors and readers, why has it become such a hostile place for authors? Because the readers have authors over a barrel. They can ruin careers, and some do, by banding together into little bully groups and going on destruction campaigns. I've seen it happen time and again. This contributes to a silencing of the author for fear of retribution--of the author having no voice. If that isn't bullying, I don't know what is. The solution is not having authors leave the site as you propose (and letting the bullies win) but in asking Goodreads to enforce their own policies and stand by their mission statement. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Well said, JSanders. Regular readers are tired of wading through all the middle-school b.s. on Goodreads in order to find out if a book is worth reading or not. Goodreads is being damaged by this kind of behavior. No one wins in the end... except the middle-school bullies, of course. Why are they being allowed to rule the roost when there are decent readers, writers, and reviewers out there with something valuable to contribute? Instead, the small-minded middle-school mentality is creating the predominant atmosphere over there. Insanity reigns at Goodreads...

Anonymous said...

Nathan, at 280 comments, I'd say it's time to close up shop.

Thank you for posting your article and bringing attention to major problem within the Goodreads community!

wendy said...

Update: When I posted earlier, I'd not been to the Goodreads site to read the reviews. My comments were pertaining to the foul-mouthed and irrational responses on Youtube and Twitter. Now I have visited, I perceive that the worst comments/reviews on Goodread are more vitriolic than unbalanced. But I still heartily agree with your post, Nathan.

I was pleased to see, when I did visit Goodreads, that the review above the one you linked to in your post was amended/edited to state that the review did not intend to criticize the author personally, only the subject matter of the book.

Perhaps this addition to the original review wasn't just written in defense of the issues that you raised in your post. Perhaps your post has made some reviewers think more deeply about the power of the written word, the fragile nature of humanity, and the importance of showing respect. Often, more is revealed about ourselves than the object of whatever is being demeaned or trashed.

Nathan Bransford said...


No, to be perfectly fair to the reviewer that disclaimer was already there before I posted.

I think this is a point where not everyone is going to agree. I still feel like over-the-top attack can cross the line into a hostile environment, even if the writer's character is not ostensibly attacked. But I also acknowledge that we need to have a space for people to express their unvarnished opinion and would never advocate censorship.

What I hope happens is that people pull back from a race to the bottom to write the most over-the-top nastiest review whenever someone dislikes a book, because that kind of culture, while superficially entertaining, puts a whole lot of negativity into a fishbowl authors are actively encouraged to swim in.

I think there's a way to be negative while still being constructive. To be perfectly honest I'm not sure that I 100% lived up to that promise with this post, and I wish I had done better with it. All I can hope is that the gist of the message comes through to most people in the end.

That seems like a natural wrapping up point, so i'm going to go ahead and close comments. Anyone who wishes to communicate with me directly is more than welcome to do so at

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