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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Emily R. King said...

I have read several unfair reviews on Goodreads. Good for you for speaking out, Nathan. And thank you for the links! I'm glad authors are fighting back.

D.G. Hudson said...

This is one of the reasons I don't review on Goodreads. If they (GR)can't manage their online bullies, why feed the sharks?

Authors, like celebrities, seem to be easy targets for the LCD.

Lo said...

Standing ovation, friend.

Jessa Russo (Stadtler) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Dudley said...

Haven't experienced this myself, nor have I been deep enough in goodreads to witness it. Online bullying--hell, bullying in any forum--sucks.

Patty Blount said...

I love this, Nathan. I've been reading the horror stories about author Lauren's ordeal and my heart breaks for her. Ironically, my debut novel is about bullying so what's been happening on Goodreads is that much more upsetting.

Thanks for a courageous post.

algonquinrt said...

I've been saying this for ages, but I"m happy to see someone with the platform and cred that you have speak out. Yes, there are books I violently abhor. I try my damnedest to stick to the book's faults.

But yes... it's one thing to have a "not interested" list and another to have some of the others on there, and a third thing altogether to leave reviews that blast author behavior just to be petty.

There are prominent book bloggers who have me blocked on Goodreads simply because I stood up one night and said "enough" when it came to a book one of my betas participated in.

Note that I've self-published, and while I'm a librarian, I haven't added my own book there. It's not worth what I know will result.

Matthew MacNish said...

I have always said Goodreads is full of bad users, but there is also one aspect of this I will have to email you about.

Melanie Schulz said...

You're right. I was getting reviews before my copies were released, too. When I asked another author about this she said- that's Goodreads- people give stars however they want.

Jennifer King said...

Excellent, Nathan. Thank you for standing up for what you believe is right. I agree, for all the reasons you explained. But also because I believe in recommending books, not in bashing them.

Shelli Proffitt Howells said...

I left a "review" in support of the author you mentioned, and I rather quickly received a notice from GoodReads that it didn't comply with their policies. I think it's ludicrous that they acted so quickly to the positive false reviews but allowed the negative false reviews to go undeterred for so long.

Evelyn Krieger said...

I just got started again on Goodreads and updated my author page. I, too, was surprised at some of the cruelty. I think everyone wants to be an expert, to have a shouting platform. I doubt these "reviewers" would ever say these things to the authors face, or even at a book club meeting. It takes time to craft an honest critique; it's must easier to trash the book (and the author.) I decided to think twice about rating books lower than a 3 unless the book was really offensive. I don't need to tell the world that I hated a book. I use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read, want to read, and to connect with readers. When I love a book, I'll be sure to let you know.

Anonymous said...

and Oh my lord. who has this much time and energy to create that long of a review with inserts and stuff. sheesh.

Michelle said...

Oh geez. Did you miss the horror that marked the inception of STGRB? They attacked reviewers, posted their real names, private phone numbers, and home addresses. In one case, they basically stalked the blogger, enough that they listed what her favorite restaurant is—and where she regularly brings her kids—and what times of day she goes. I can't support them or anything they do because of that and other atrocities they've committed. What they did is NOT APPROPRIATE and very possibly illegal. They later removed the data, but that doesn't do anything about their intent to destroy bloggers who say nasty things about their books.

Two of my (nonfiction humor) books have been published, and my favorite comment possibly ever is: "This book is as stupid as a goats rinkles." It makes me laugh every time I see it. Someone's going to see that and realize it's a crap review and doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the book.

The only way authors won't be hurt by rude reviews IS TO NOT READ THEM. Tell your friends and family not to not look at Goodreads and Amazon comments either. I know authors who do that, and they are so much better off for it. Don't seek out that kind of hurt and stress.

In the long run, what does it matter that someone ripped into you or your book? What a blogger says won't have a lasting impact on book sales, because most people find books via other sources. Unless someone makes real physical threats against an author or, say, publishes their personal info along with dates and times where they'll be at certain places, placing the author's children at risk, there's nothing they can really do to harm you.

Anonymous said...

I'm not super familiar with this arena, but I thought the last I had heard the STGRB site was kind of... hmm. Well, started by a group of sock puppets upset over a bad review - they did some pretty not cool stuff - extensive doxing, etc.

You might want to look into it more, AFAIK there were a bunch of drama-style articles about the sites inception.

What I took away from it was that the site is in no way a positive thing - but it really wants you to think it is.

That being said, of course the over-the-top evil reviews (especially by folks who haven't read the books) are offensive. But. I mean. This is the internet, right? And by that I mean "trolling is to be expected." That doesn't mean I'm OK with it, but I certainly expect it.

abc said...

Wow, those are some mean girls. Good for you for calling them out. And all the bullies.

Natalie said...

I couldn't agree more with this post! I go on Goodreads to get excited about books, not to hear others complain because they think it makes them look clever. I think there is a pervasive attitude in the arts that being unimpressed means you have "taste" and I'm glad to see it swinging back the other way. Honesty is always valuable, criticism however, needs to check itself before it wrecks itself. :) the end.

Elyssa Patrick said...

You do realize that STGRB posted personal info on reviewers and have harassed reviewers, right? You're really justifying that behavior?! Come on, Nathan. I'm an author and I don't expect reviewers to hold back because they think oh, wait, maybe I shouldn't be mean because I have to think of Elyssa as a person. That's just...ridiculous.

Reviews shouldn't hold back because the reviewer is thinking of the author as a person. The author as a person has NO PLACE in the review. A review is meant to judge the book, the story, the characters. And if an author can't handle that, then don't write and release your books in the wild.

Shawn said...

Not to parse words, but when you say "bullies," I believe you actually mean "trolls."

Michelle said...

To give my comment some context and background, here is a roundup of the STGRB fiasco:

I respect Foz Meadows, the author of that post, and would consider her a good, level-headed source, and someone who is respected within the industry.

Sandra said...

I don't even know where to start with this, but here's my most valiant effort:
1. STrange GRuBs is a site founded by butthurt authors, who then proceeded to doxx reviewers publicly on the site, with RL names, locations and even where to find them during the day. Reviewers received harassing phone calls at home and at work. NOTHING on that site is legit - they twist and turn everything they see to suit their own messed up perceptions of things. They have since removed the doxxing info, but they seem willing to do and say whatever they can do destroy bloggers who don't follow the 'be nice' policy they've set forth as the be-all for reviewing.

2. The Salon article cited in your post is just as badly researched as your post itself. There is NO shelf 'Author should be raped in prison'. The actual shelf name was "sodomy by lawn sculpture", which, while perhaps crude, only indicates that the reviewer would rather be sodomized by a lawn sculpture than read the book.

The reviews you posted as 'examples' of bullying may or may not be constructive criticism, but that is a) not a requirement for posting a review on GR, and b) not the same as attacking an author.

Please do your research before you post an article such as this one, that will only result in more anger and distrust than what already exists.

Judging by the comments on this post so far, the ones that support STrange GRuBs are the ones who also compare bullying to bad reviews.

Look up what bullying really is. And do due diligence before you decide to fan the flames once more.

Nathan Bransford said...

Hey all:

1) I was unaware of the accusations about STGRB's tactics, and have updated the post to a link in the comments section about the post. I don't read everything on the Internet! Had I heard about this I would have adjusted accordingly and have adjust accordingly. I leave it to the good readers of the site to fill me in on things I miss.

2) I hope this doesn't distract from the overall thrust of the post, which I do believe stands. There is a spectrum between a negative review and abuse, and taking a stand against it is important. It may not be a popular stand to take, but I'm comfortable with it.

Jennifer L. Armentrout said...

You do realize that Lauren Howard later downplayed the incident and blamed her reaction on PMS, right?

Goodreads can be a scary little place for authors to venture into, but Goodreads is for reviewers. Not authors.

Olivia Stocum said...

Been harassed on Amazon. It hurts and it's not fair.

Steve MC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lo said...

I think there's a difference between a flamy review (fine, even gif-laden) and shelving something under deserves-to-be-raped. It may be a blurry gray line on the internet, but it's a line anyway. Also, agree that authors need to put on their big girl or boy panties and suck it up. I'm fine with not everyone loving my books - sometimes I laugh at the really harsh reviews because the gifs are awesome. But if someone filed me under "should be sodomized" I would probably at least give a little neck snap to my screen. Goodreads isn't a place for authors, it's a place for reviewers, but it should still follow the basic golden rule of don't be a dick. And barring that, follow the diamond rule of don't be a violent dick.

Ru said...

Oh my ... I'm about to leave an unpopular opinion comment :/

I think Goodreads definitely needs to change some of its policies. Abusive comments should be removed or at least hidden. Books that aren't even out yet shouldn't be reviewed unless the reviewer received an ARC. Create a different label for reviews where the reviewer didn't finish the novel. All that good stuff.

HOWEVER ... while I agree that the reviews of SEPTEMBER GIRLS you linked to were over-the-top, I am not sure that a review that says, "I find this book sexist or racist or discriminatory in some way, and here is my evidence backing up my opinion" is not presumptively "bullying." No one wants their book to be called sexist or racist or whatever, but there ARE sexist and racist books and I don't think readers should have to keep quiet about that in order to not hurt feelings.

To be clear -- I haven't read SEPTEMBER GIRLS, so I don't know if the criticism is overblown or exaggerated or just misses the mark completely. My general point is just that reviewers should be able to point out (perhaps even passionately or angrily) problematic aspects of a novel without being labeled bullies. If they're wrong, let other reviewers refute them and show why they're wrong. It should be fairly easy to do if they're genuinely misinterpreting the text.

Chelsea Pitcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clare Adams said...

"Reviews like these demean and dehumanize authors"
Actually quite the opposite: they dehumanize reviewers. Whatever you or anybody else post on the Internet speaks only of you or them - has nothing to do with books/authors that brought the rant on

Bobbi Romans said...

I started not to comment, but well...what the heck.

First let me say I do not think, the author meant for all that happened, to happen.

That said.

I was notified of the same 'horrific' attack you speak of.

Upon investigation, all was not as it appeared. When you go running claiming rape and murder...mean it. Otherwise it creates great harm to those who are, in immediate danger.

I ran across a blog that had snapshots of the comments, she and hers posted which they were deleting fast and furious.(Which was why I began researching. I'm wary of anyone who goes and deletes their own comments, yet snarks on others)

ARCS were sent out. (though she claimed no one could have read)

*She has a NEW author name.
*Book is being renamed, and released under her new author name.
(or so a post she made stated)

She claimed misunderstanding someone saying they'd rather die than read her book, as a death threat. "I was having PMS, get over it." <-- her words.

Really? PMS?

Here's an article that has some of the screen shots.

I DID see in her defense one maybe 2 reviews that had 'tags' author should be raped.

While absolutely wrong, ill, and plain appalling, tagging a comment, and making a genuine threat are two entirely different things.

Have I seen bullying on Goodreads? Yes. Was she one?

No. The original bad review, wasn't nasty. Wasn't threatening

She didn't want to hear, showed her heniny, called her posse and things blew sky high.

Both parties were in the wrong.


Christine Ashworth said...

When I posted about the Lauren Howard incident a week or so ago, my blog blew up. And I got trolls. I was in error and said so, then I shut down the comments. Yes, the attack felt personal, when all I really wanted was people to be nice to one another. Even online. It shouldn't be that hard, should it? Good luck with this, Nathan.

Steve MC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori Parker said...

FYI STGRB is a horrible place, and not something that should be applauded.

James said...

I don't know.

I'd rather have "Author should be sodomized" 1 star reviews on my work than something that is actually a good point as to why I suck.

I think most readers ignore stupid reviews like that.

I was flipping through my Goodreads and noticed that I have given no 1 star or 2 star reviews. Zero. All my reviews are 3, 4, 5 stars. (I almost gave a no star review to The Forest of Hands and Teeth and deleted it).

At first I thought, am I really that much of a push over? Do I like everything?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the books I dislike, I generally don't finish. And I don't feel it's fair to give a low review to a book I'm disinterested in.

If I read your book, you won. Good on you Gillian Flynn making me suffer through 200 pages of utter crap to get to an awesome thriller in Gone Girl. And then crushing me with a terrible ending in the last 30+ pages.

But I read it. Congrats. You win. There was good stuff in there.

In all honesty, the reviews that I find utterly perplexing and completely useless are --

I saw a review on Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland. Now, this book is exactly what it sounds like. The cover is a very suggestive mushroom. It's a Mommy-porn sex romp through Wonderland. I enjoyed it. It was fun and inventive. Not exactly what I read every day, but what the hell, I was curious.

So I read the book. Write a review. And see there is a one star review.

The one star review raved about the book. Loved it. And yet gave it one star. The reason? Ultimately this reader couldn't give the book more than a one star review because of its content. There was sex in it. Really? You're surprised? A book you like, that's clearly marketed and positioned itself correctly in the Mommy-porn genre has graphic sex in it -- that you liked, is why it warranted a one star review?


The problem isn't bullying.

It's the internet age. It's creative homogenization. It's being so used to four quadrant material that people feel everything should be enjoyable to everyone everywhere. It's really stupid.

The problem is entitlement.

It's that your average consumer doesn't know how to rectify that there is some content not suited to their likes. What? we're different people, we don't all like the same things? OMG! News Flash! If you don't like midget porn -- maybe you shouldn't be watching midget porn? Just saying...

A lot of these reviews are like going to a Horror film and being upset that it didn't make you laugh.

They're just beyond dumb.

I do agree Nate, that the 1 star "bully" reviews are pointless. But there's 5 star reviews that are equally as pointless.

I just don't think it's bullying. I think it has more to do with being part of a commercially brainwashed generation. We've been raised to be good consumers. Our brains have been scrubbed to believe that anything we can put money towards should be perfectly delightful for everyone.

That's not really how art works. And nor should it.

L. Shanna said...

I'm not sure the reviews you are talking about are "bullying" per se, but as a soon-to-be published author I'm really apprehensive about the whole Goodreads/Amazon review process. Trolls who post comments like that tend to be the type that get a kick out of being able to be jerks without any sort of repercussions. With all the good that comes from the Internet, this is certainly a lot of the bad.

Anonymous said...

Bullying manifests in unavoidable physical or mental abuse. You can avoid these reviews by not reading them. Similarly, you can avoid the abuse by growing a pair. They are not bullying, sorry. Welcome to the Internet, a subset of the world, where people are mean.

Anonymous said...

Others have pointed out that STGRB are basically a bunch of butthurt authors who set out to harass book bloggers. Posting a negative review: not always the nicest. Inciting people on the Internet to HUNT DOWN THOSE REVIEWERS IN REAL LIFE AND MESS UP THEIR LIVES = NOT OK. *That* is bullying.

But I also clicked on the reviews of September Girls you linked to, and none of them threw insults at the author herself, or said anything particular awful about her. They called out instances of misogyny in rape culture IN THE BOOK, using humor and gifs. Some humorous reviews can go to far, but these, I feel, did not. As a reader, I'm thankful for them. The pull quotes from the book itself tell me everything I need to know. I like the so-called "bullies" of Goodreads, because usually they call out misogynist bullshit and rape culture in YA, and I am THANKFUL for that. No one deserves personal threats (which that self published author you cited *did not*), but authors need to be able to handle criticism. And the *readers* deserve more than just salivating praise for books. Negative reviews are just as constructive as positive.

daniel t. radke said...

Wow, this is incredible. Negative reviews are fine, but the effort that these reviewers put into bashing these novels is incredible. They're adding memes and gifs and page after page of ridicule?

It seems like the main goal in their book take-downs is to entertain others via massive negativity. Like they're building a platform and the best way to catch passers-by is by spewing venom.

This is infuriating. What in the hell is happening over at Goodreads?

L.V. Lewis said...

I concur with all you've said and although my blog about it was more serious, I love how you infused it with humor.

Anonymous said...

Wow some of these comments are getting super creepy

Roof Beam Reader said...

Unfortunately, most of these people are doing it on purpose. They want the attention. When we raise their profiles like this, in rants or what not, they win. They're getting what they want.

Best just to ignore and/or report and let Goodreads deal with it. Yeah, it sucks, but trolls have existed since the inception of internet boards (and much, much earlier, in fact). They're not going anywhere - all we can do is decide how to react. Which is to say, don't react at all.

Michelle said...

Nathan, as much as I respect you, not knowing what STGRB is all about is not a valid excuse. Neither is expecting your readers to do your research for you. (expecting readers to fill you in on anything you miss.) A simple google search brings up numerous articles detailing STGRB's inception. With all the links you posted to support your argument, it shows you did research—just not enough.

You did correct the error quickly, which is to your credit, but when your audience encompasses more than 100,000 people, you have a greater responsibility to your readers to not spread misinformation, however you came by it. It's important to make sure that you know who and what you're endorsing.

Final point: These aren't just accusations of misbehavior, there is substantial evidence, including screenshots, transcripts of online interaction, blog posts detailing what happened—with corroborating evidence—and witnesses, like myself, who saw exactly what they published before taking it down. (To those who wonder, posting something online is a form of publishing.)

Your readers trust you, Nathan. Don't lose that trust by not putting in due diligence.

Over and out.

Nathan Bransford said...


Very sorry if people feel that i've let them down. I just didn't come across it in the course of writing this post. I'll try and do better in the future! The thing is, I feel like some people have been steeped in this for a while (at least, judging by the levels of emotions). It might seem hard to believe that I hadn't come across it, but i just hadn't.

Elyssa Patrick said...

Nathan, saying, "I don't read everything on the Internet" as a way to excuse your mistake is well . . . I get it, but at the same time, I feel that if you're going to write a blog post about so-called bullying that you need to make sure you have your facts straight to the best of your abilities. A simple Google search on the site would have brought up a ton of links on how bad they are.

Bullying is not good, but critical reviews are not bullying the author. There's a difference between saying, "I want to slap these characters" and "I want to slap the author." Of course if someone is being bullied then it should be stopped but often times some authors cry "bully!" when the review is just this book is sexist or racist or puts in a Goodreads shelf the author doesn't find funny.

Authors need to separate the personal from the business. Don't read reviews if you can't handle criticism. And like Jennifer said, Goodreads are meant for readers, not authors.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea things were this bad. Shame on Goodreads for not managing bullying. I flagged those four reviewers but I know if there are four, there are probably forty or four hundred. I'd love to see them put these reviews to the author's face. They're just hiding behind their screen name, thinking they're funny. Bullying is never funny.

stopdropreload said...

I think we maybe need to distinguish between "bad reviews" and "harassment and bullying." The reviews Nathan linked to, while unnecessarily harsh and full of invective, did not (at least the two I read) attack the author, promote the harassment of the author, or wish harm upon the author. They were purely about the book.

Is there bullying going on on Goodreads? Probably! Any social networking site has its share of bullying, its share of gender, race, sexuality-based harassment, etc. Obviously, that sort of thing needs to be tamped down.

But simply being critical - even overly-critical, even "my eyeballs are on fire from all this heated language!"-critical - isn't bullying. Simply being snarky isn't bullying. And we do ourselves, as readers and as writers, a disservice by arguing otherwise.

As for STGR - I've heard a lot about them, none of it good. John Scalzi and Stacia Kane have more to say on the matter:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like some Goodreads bullies are after you, Nathan!

stopdropreload said...

Also - while I'm sure you were only acting with the purest of intentions, Nathan, I question the wisdom of linking to specific reviews on GoodReads. You are a very influential, widely read blogger, and there are a lot of not-very-stable people out there. GoodReads members have literally been stalked over bad reviews they've left:

Danielle La Paglia said...

#1 - I haven't read September Girls so this comment is based strictly on this post and the links provided.

#2 - While those reviews are insanely over-the-top, they are honest reviews. They all clearly read the book (with one exception) and were seriously offended by it. I personally would never spend that much effort writing a review for a book I didn't like, but I can see how people (women especially) would be offended (based solely on the quotes provided in the reviews) and may become enraged enough to write those reviews. One of the reviewers even went so far as to say that she was not attacking the author and was not accusing the author of being sexist, only the characters.

#3 - The "reviews" that I have a problem with are the ones where the reader admits to not having read the book. One of the linked reviews states that her 1 star is based soley on other reviews and excerpts (s)he read in them. That is completely unfair. It's okay to hate a book, but hate it because you've actually read it (or attempted to) and made your own opinion about it, not because someone else told you to.

Sara said...

Well said, Nathan!! WELL SAID!!! I had heard that GoodReads was a "tough" place full of tough critics but I am absolutely *horrified* to think that anyone could create tags "author should be raped" or "put in prison."

You said it all and far more eloquently than I could, but I just want to say that I think you are 100% right and to thank you for having the courage to say it.

Your disclaimer that you're not advocating censorship is unnecessary. Any reasonable person can see that of COURSE you aren't advocating censorship and of COURSE bad reviews are going to happen. But the bottom line is, we're all human and EVERYONE should be treating everyone else with a baseline level of respect. Is that so much to ask?!?

It takes time, energy, and tremendous courage to put yourself out there as an artist of any kind. If your art isn't someone else's cup of tea, they're welcome to say it (OBVIOUSLY!) but the basic adage of doing unto others would go a long way toward making any review site a far more civilized place.

Thanks again and kudos.

Bobbi Romans said...

It is so very easy to go from being Anti-Bully--to Bully.

It can be a very fine line.

But I do get the meaning of your post.

In online anonymity we've lost that eyeball to eyeball politeness. (sadly)

Another author and I locked horns once. Badly. Enough so I left the group I was in. Oddly, had we been face to face I doubt the blowup would have happened. Turns out she and I would have had a lot in common.

But I did get your underlying message.

It would be nice, if someone disliked to just say so. Didn't like. Boring,

Rather than, what a moron!

Anonymous said...

Extremely disappointed to see STGRB mentioned here in a positive light.

I read the first STGRB post when they launched, where they exposed reviewers' personal information and pictures and promised (threatened) to keep doing it. As I read that, I was disgusted. I didn't have to read other people's analysis to figure out that this was blatant bullying (and illegal, if they're inciting others to call/injure the parties in question). But if you're unsure, there are plenty of other people's analysis online, and I'm not sure how it was missed in writing this post.

I don't think the clarification in this post is good enough. These aren't "allegations". Their own bullying actions are detailed on their own site in black and white. Read it in their own words. The fact that they detail their harassment proudly, and that other people can read that and nod their heads, is the true problem with the internet. Not one-star reviews.

Anna said...

Great post, Nathan. I really enjoyed it. Goodreads lost four accounts in this house and a good many more after the fiasco regarding the young author harassed before she'd even released her books. We won't be back unless they change their policies.
As for the STGRB site, I confronted some bullies on Facebook and Twitter about their behaviour on Goodreads. I was accused of being a "STGRB" supporter and/or sock puppet. I have no association with that site and in my experience, many of the Goodreads' bullies use the STGRB site as some kind of relativist justification for their bad behaviour.
Thank you for this post. You are not alone in your feelings.

Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog said...

Snark and unfair reviews do not equal bullying.

The Lauren Howard issue was completely blown out of proportion. She wouldn't have complained or asked at all if those reviewers were giving her book 4 & 5 stars prior to release. While it's not something I practice, it's their right to do it until Goodreads changes its policies. So your beef isn't with the reviewers, it is with Goodreads.

If an author doesn't like when they see something on Goodreads or Amazon, go look at something else on the internet, or go write another book. I had an author publicly make fun of my negative review of her book on her Twitter. You know what I did about it? NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

The accusations here made against STGRB are totally false. If you want to the truth about STGRB, go read the website yourself. You will find ZERO proof in support of these claims against the site. STGRB has done nothing wrong other than report on the horror stories on Goodreads.

Melinda said...

I really think there is a huge difference between negative reviews on a book and ones on the authors.

I don't think you're differentiating them at all.

The links to reviews you posted said nothing about the authors, just said bad things about the books. Which is the point of a review- to give one's impression of a book. There is nowhere that says that needs to be positive.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, as a widely-read and respected blogger, you should have had more foresight and thought than to use the word "peak" when it should have been "peek." ;)

In all seriousness, though, I applaud you for your words and I agree with you. Also, I don't think it's fair for people to try to drag you through the mud because you didn't know something about a site. You found out, you took the appropriate action, end of story.

I wish people would just think of how they would feel if others attacked them the same way. Bullying/trolling is never okay, no matter how awful the book may be.

Sandra said...

Hey, Anonymous from STGRB - Your lies are plentiful and have been documented in plenty of posts.

So, I guess tomorrow you'll be doing a post about how poor Nathan Bransford got harassed and bullied on his own blog by the meany reviewers who pointed out his fallacy in not doing sufficient research before pontificating?

Say hi to Melissa, while you're at it.

jenna123 said...

I'm not a big online reviewer myself but I am friends with several of the reviewers whose links you posted. Barring one all of those reviews were written by people who had read the book in full and thought critically about it. They then found that book wanting. These reviewers aren't sharks trying to savage low hanging fruit. I've read both high and low reviews from them. It's true, Goodreads isn't very conducive to authors. It's built for readers and as such has a really different set up. It's all about a fan/promotional culture where the author is the focus versus a reviewer culture where the reader is the focus. I did remove September Girls from my list because of these reviews. I'm grateful for it because it doesn't sound like something that would appeal to me. A book is a significant investment of my time and I want to find out what I'm getting into before I read it.
For further clarification of where I'm coming from I'm including a link to a dear author post that I appreciated clarifying the difference between fan culture and reviewer culture:

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan - I think this is an important topic, and your overall message is a good one! However, I think your links to so-called examples of "bullying" on Goodreads were perhaps not the best examples to make your case. I didn't think the reviews you linked to were bullying at all. For ex, they attacked the WORK, not the author. Sure, the reviewers were super angry about what they wrote, but that's ok, right?

No seriously, it IS ok for a female to get really mad if she finds a book sexist, right? And she can voice that using colorful language if she wishes, right?

I think your overall argument would be stronger if you showed us actual examples of bullying. Right now, YOU kinda look like the bully, picking on two reviewers and making fun of their review.

Wendy Darling said...

Nathan, I’ve come across your blog before and have appreciated your views. But in this case, I find it incredible that a professional would a. take this stance on the issue of a review's content and purpose and b. cite several sources that are clearly agenda-driven.

Citizen reviews are not written for authors--they are reviews of PRODUCTS meant to share with fellow consumers. If you have a bad meal in a restaurant, you don't care about the chef’s training, how much the owner has risked to open the venture, or how much the waiters rely on their jobs. It didn't work for you, and as such, you might leave a review. Yelp, like IMDB, Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads--they are ALL social media, and GoodReads reviews are customer reviews, just like on Amazon. Authors getting upset over these reviews show an astonishing lack of understanding about new media--I don't think complaining is any different from butting into a conversation you're overhearing on the street.

You know who is not getting upset by the reviews, btw? Publishers. They've been around long enough to know the context of a negative review. They also know how much word of mouth can help. If authors want the free publicity that comes from blogger reviews, you're going to have to accept that some reviewers aren't going to love your book, and some may say hurtful, even mean things about it. But that's not bullying, and the failure to see the difference does a grave disservice to those who have actually been bullied themselves.

It's also not helping authors to perpetuate this idea that they should be policing their reviews, or that the reviews you chose are examples of crossing the line. Are they harsh? Sure, but I'll bet you've walked out of a movie saying a lot worse. These are conversations in a book loving community--no one has any place there when you come into it with an agenda as a crusading fan or as a friend. By the way, these reviewers you’re getting so upset about? They're also your fans and your customers. And I cannot believe that anyone would think it would okay for, say, Taylor Swift to take to the web to send her fans and industry friends after someone wrote a negative review of her album.

Like HuffPost and Salon, anyone who cites STGRB pretty much loses their credibility in my eyes. Have you actually been on that site? Or read the many articles refuting their content? STGRB published reviewers' real names, jobs, photos, etc and even threatened a reviewer repeatedly via her home phone and joked about kicking her puppy's head around like a soccer ball. I’ve seen maybe a handful of reviews that crossed the line (though I strongly disagree those you pointed out come even close), but I have never seen a reviewer post personal details about an author, or continuously harass them. A negative review is NOT the same as bullying. If you have legitimate complaints about a review's content, then flag it on GoodReads. If it doesn't violate TOS, and if publishers are still working with those bloggers, you can bet good money that your perspective on that review is skewed.

I think authors get spoiled by this era of GoodReads and book blogging. Because so many citizen reviewers are so passionate and articulate, and so many of them put together great websites and interact with the industry, you're forgetting one thing: we are not professionals. You are, and you are expected to behave that way. And that includes not perpetuating the idea that hurt feelings equate bullying, or helping to lend legitimacy to sites/sources that have zero credibility.

I sincerely hope you will reconsider your position on these matters.

Wendy Darling

Wendy Darling said...

Sorry, I was so wordy that my PS got lost.

If you care to look into this further, my own experiences with author/agent intimidation can be found here and here.

You'll also find numerous articles on STGRB by Foz Meadows, and a well-researched, dispassionate analysis of the Lauren Howard farce can be found here.

Anonymous said...

Love this post. I fully agree. I never read reviews anymore from people who are not my friends on Goodreads. There are too many cruel reviews that don't serve the purpose of what a review is supposed to do!

Maureen Healy said...

As an author, I appreciate you standing up!!! I've mostly got good reviews but when I did see the brief one that I was going to H-E-double hockey sticks I was shocked. Goodreads needs to police these reviews and really keep a policy of ethics and integrity regarding how people conduct themselves. Bravo!

jenna123 said...

One more thing. I get where your coming from and that you have good intentions. That being said the fact that you called out specific people for negatively reviewing your friends book isn't a good thing. You care about your friend, like her work, and want to help. Sending your thousands of followers after book reviewers to protect her is overkill that's damaging to the people your moving against. I really do believe that you have the best intentions but that doesn't excuse what you've started

Anonymous said...

"Citizen reviews are not written for authors--they are reviews of PRODUCTS meant to share with fellow consumers."

It would be nice, Wendy, if many of those reviews were actually written about the PRODUCTS, but they're not, are they? You should know. Many are written about the AUTHORS or bombed with one-stars because an author happens to be the victim of the latest attack. Many of the reviews/ratings on Goodreads are completely false, either because the reviewer didn't read the book or because the book has never been release or will never be released. Or because reviewers hate an author.

The fact is, Wendy, you're just angry because STGRB outed you for something you did to Kiera Cass after she tried to apologize to you. Spitting in someone's face and starting a hate campaign against them through your friends at PW AFTER the person has tried to apologize is NOT COOL!

Own up to your mistakes, Wendy, and stop harassing Nathan for speaking out against something that is clearly wrong on Goodreads.

Leah Raeder said...

Nathan, I urge you to remove the links to individual Goodreads reviews from this post.

You must be aware that you are a well-known, enormously popular blogger.

By linking to these reviews, you are indirectly painting targets on the reviewers' backs.

As others have commented above--particularly Wendy Darling--there is a long and ugly history of GR reviewers being attacked for expressing their opinions.

Please do not fuel the fire. Remove the links and screencaps. You are using your power in an unethical and potentially harmful way.

Ashley said...

I actually disagree. I mean, I think bullying on Goodreads is awful, but I don't think any of the reviews you linked to count as bullying.

I consider a "review" bullying when the reviewer insults, harasses, or bashes an author. Example: "This book is so horrible, did the author not even finish high school?" That's a statement where the reviewer brings the author into the harshness of the review. But all the reviews you linked to are about the BOOK -- not about the author. Yes the reviewers get worked up and upset and rage, but it's all done in the name of the book. There's a difference between writing a very negative/snarky review and bullying or harassing.

Not everyone loves a book, and reviews shouldn't be limited to being positive. There's nothing wrong with readers getting upset and ranting a little, as long as they're not bashing or harassing the author in the process. And in those cases, the author isn't really brought into it at all.

Nathan Bransford said...

Okay, links to specific reviews removed. Having people targeted was never my intent at all.

Stephanie said...

As an indie writer, I am constantly thankful for sites like Goodreads and book blogs that allow my books to have a viable place in the publishing world, even if they are not backed by huge corporate publishers. I'm concerned by this article, especially the reference to STGRB, as many other commenters have also noted. And I don't think linking to individual reviews in this article is the most appropriate or effective tactic. We need to respect readers as being intelligent enough to read both positive AND negative, even snarky, reviews and form their own opinions.

Anonymous said...

This is such a childish point of view that negative reviews are bullying. If someone doesn't like your book, face it, it's not for everyone. They're permitted to say they don't like it.

Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog said...

Hey Anonymous, your Melissa is showing.

And none of those reviews talked about the author. I implore you to give an example. Without heavy editing.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the general gist of your post and agree with it somewhat- bullying is on GR and frankly everyone needs to grow up- I admit to being dismayed that you spent your time vilifying reviewers and yet nothing is said about the same behavior shown from authors and STGRB. If you're going to address the topic then it needs to be addressed from all sides. I saw your remark that you don't read everything on the internet but I would think you would verify your sources and the examples you posted about.

I just read the first review of September Girls. Is it sarcastic? Yes. Is it long winded? Yes. Is the use of gifs annoying? In my opinion, yes. Does the reviewer bully the author? No. Does she curse the author, question their intelligence, and wish death on them? No. She made a frank assessment of the book and stated her feelings about it. If a reader can't be frank and tell other readers how they felt about the book, then really, what's the point of reviewing anymore? If a negative review instantly becomes bully fodder, then why bother?

Goodreads is not a professional review site. There is no money exchanged. There is not contract between the author and the reviewer or the reviewer and the site. This is Jo Shamo offering their opinion of a book they read. Nothing more or less. Regardless of the prevailing opinions, reviews on goodreads can't make or break an author. Do you know what does? The author's own behavior.

It's time everyone, authors and reviewers, owned up to their own behavior.

stopdropreload said...

Aha! I knew there was an Absolute Write thread with a detailed breakdown of Stop The Goodreads Bullies' tactics, and here it is.

Relevant to the discussion, in more ways than one:

Anonymous said...

What a lot of poppycock some of these comments are. You all know perfectly well that bully reviews that aren't about the book are happening. The only people EVER found defending their right to do as they please on GR are the bullies themselves.
Yes, I am an attacked author on Goodreads, and I actually see some familiar bullies leaving comments here in favour of what they perceive to be just 'negative reviews'. Nathan is right, STGRB is right. There is a massive difference between leaving a negative review and leaving a review that attacks the author and not the book. There is a massive difference in shelving a book 'not interested' and shelving a book 'sodomy by lawn sculpture'. If you honestly can't tell the difference, then you should be ashamed of yourselves. Someone here said that the 'sodomy by lawn sculpture' shelf was the reviewer simply saying that she would rather do that than read the book? What about the shelves that say things like: 'attention-whoring-much', 'jealous loser and wannabe', 'pays for facebook fans' etc. Are these reviewers talking about themselves? Do you rally think so? Get real! Those shelves by known bullies on GR are deliberate attempts to demean and harm the reputation of the author. And you know they are. Lying trolls!

Anonymous said...

I've see many of the bully cases. Some authors were personally attacked for things they never did. Take a peek at goodreads follies too. They aren't in operation anymore but have some evidence of ways the bullies have acted and in cases completely fabricated events in their attempt to slander an author.

Anonymous said...

"Like HuffPost and Salon, anyone who cites STGRB pretty much loses their credibility in my eyes. Have you actually been on that site? Or read the many articles refuting their content? STGRB published reviewers' real names, jobs, photos, etc and even threatened a reviewer repeatedly via her home phone and joked about kicking her puppy's head around like a soccer ball."

That's right, Wendy, keep lying and also telling all your followers to keep spreading these lies. STGRB has threatened NO ONE. What did they actually do? They made a list of people called Badly Behaving Goodreaders and warned their readers to STAY AWAY from these people. The have NEVER stalked or threatened or harassed any of them. This is the biggest lie you've spread isn't it, Wendy. And why? Because you're on their list as one of the biggest offenders.

Isobel Carr said...

I completely disagree that the reviews we're talking about are "bullying". Bullying implies some kind of power over the victim. It also implies that the victim cannot escape. None of this is true when it comes to reviews, be they ever so harsh. Unless you pull a “Misery”, or bombard the author with emails, it is impossible to “bully” an author with bad reviews.

As an author, bad reviews have no power over me. I simply don't read them. When I need to pull review quotes, both GoodReads and Amazon allow me to choose to only view the good reviews. There is no reason for any author who feels they’re too delicate to take hash reviews (and yes, I often do feel too delicate) to expose themselves to them. End of story.

Jules said...

Um whoa, it seems to me like a lot of the people closely involved with this issue have decided to wander over and continue their arguments in your comments section, and take it out on you personally. Shame on them.

Thanks for shedding light on this issue, Nathan. I agree that bullying - from reviewers and authors alike - needs to stop, and Goodreads should definitely update their policies.

Lily Owen said...

You are so right! I recently had an argument with a girl on goodreads about her trashy review to a book I love. You're right, it doesn't worth arguing.

Tracy L said...

Wow, interesting debate. I love Goodreads. I write and read others' reviews all the time. However I take all reviews here and elsewhere (TripAdvisor, Amazon, etc) with a grain of salt. Online opinions are just so varied: written by people of different ages, socioeconomic groups, areas of the country, etc. You might find a romance book with several 5 star ratings and all kinds of praise, but who is writing those reviews? People who love romance novels! For those of us who don't read romance, this is not a convincing review. Please dear authors, trust that most of us are using our brains to decipher the crud from the facts. And if a review appears fake or biased, I discard it immediately.

Anonymous said...

You may also notice: look at the list of "authors behaving badly" they made, to paint targets in the authors backs. Did they take their lists down so the author would not e targeted? No. Some of these authors were contacted in their HOME and threatened by these bullies. If you look at when those authors were added to that list and look at when the majority of their negative "reviews" were left, you will see a very clear pattern of fake negative reviews. Some even try to guide as real reviews, but the claims in the reviews are not true. For example saying a book about vampire cowboys in outter space it a total rip off of the TV show sons of anarchy and then listing similarities such as how they are both about goats living in china and in both the book and the TV show they stop by Japan to eat a kangaroo. That is an example that hasn't really happened but I fear using a real example for I don't want any authors I reference to be attacked. But look around, read these books, and see for yourself. Some of the one star reviews that almost look real COMPLETELY LIE and were posted at the height of that author's online attack.

Anonymous said...

Yeah the anon comments going at the reviewers don't seem like bulling at all...yeah these are the people agreeing with you. Well done.

Carol said...

There is a big difference between cruelty and constructive comments on the book. When I first started using Goodreads, both to post reviews of books, and to put my own book out there, I was advised by a very wise person to find something good to say about each book I was reviewing. So what if it's not going to win an award? Sometimes a book can just be fun to read. The author put their heart and soul into writing this book, so they deserve a little thanks for sharing it with the world. Goodreads was started so people could share the books they enjoyed with others. So be kind, people!

Anonymous said...

You will be next, Nathan.

You will soon receive an onslaught of negative reviews that make no sense to what you have written or which attack you personally for speaking up about this.

The bullies are already making successful attempts at silencing you. Keep in mind the people berating you, such as Wendy darling, are some of the people bullies themselves. People who leave one star ratings based on things they claim the author did (true, not true, or just manipulated to appear true) and not about the book itself.

You will be attacked.

You will be next.

Good luck.

Keep digging for the truth.

Anonymous said...

"You will be next, Nathan.

You will soon receive an onslaught of negative reviews that make no sense to what you have written or which attack you personally for speaking up about this.

The bullies are already making successful attempts at silencing you. Keep in mind the people berating you, such as Wendy darling, are some of the people bullies themselves. People who leave one star ratings based on things they claim the author did (true, not true, or just manipulated to appear true) and not about the book itself.

You will be attacked.

You will be next.

Good luck.

Keep digging for the truth."


I was just about to say this.

Anonymous said...

Let us not miss the point:

Reviews should be about the product. Not about output the book.

Opinions of characters are not always opinions of authors so hating a character for molesting someone is not an excuse to publicly call an author a rapist or pedophile. Keep it about the book.

Stop rating books just to have revenge on an author for saying they love some TV show you hate

Freedom of speech does not include lies or slander, even if you tell more lies it manipulate the truth to try to make the lies okay. And it does not excuse leaving fake negative reviews on a product. And even "professionals" have the right to speak up when they see these kin if wrong doings happening. It doesn't make then any less professional to do so.

Shiloh Walker said...

This isn't about 'fighting back'... if an author puts a work out there for public consumption, s/he needs to be prepared to handle what comes after. Just end of. I *do* think *PERSONAL ATTACKS* go over the line, but most of the so-called mean reviews do focus on the book. If a book sucks in that reviewer's opinion, they can hire somebody skywrite for I all care.

I'd also like to point out, that issue with Lauren Howard actually started when one of her readers attacked a reviewer... that was what started everything. This reader said "Why don't you stick your hand in a blender?" And the author said nothing. It all escalated from there.

It would be wonderful if we could live in a world where people could voice an opinion without being met with threats of violence, but that has to start on both sides, and in cases with LH, it likely wouldn't have started if she'd upfront cut people off when the threats of violence started from her side. It devolved from there when she kept trying to 'defend' her book, and explain why she'd done some of the stuff she'd done instead of simply saying... 'Hey, I messed up. I'm sorry.'

There was also some very big misdirection over the 'shelving' thing that led to the 'rape' threats thing, IIRC. There's a post about it, w/screenshot where the author even admitted there was no cyber-bullying

The bottom line is you can't 'defend' your book from another person's opinion. They've got a right to have that opinion, whether it's over the cover, the blurb, the font, the names of the characters, etc.

I'd imagine Stephen King and Nora Roberts are just a few of the authors who've had less than complimentary reviews posted on GR, but I don't see them wringing their hands over it.

Maybe some authors just 'get' the fact that readers are going to have an opinion, and trying to 'defend' your book...(change that person's opinion) just isn't going to happen.

When some of these authors learn that GR is a community for the readers, maybe this stuff will stop. But not until then.

Anonymous said...


Now imagine this vitriol against you--or your book. These people now attacking you for not knowing everything about everything are taking it easy on you because you're "someone." Imagine if you were a nobody-debut-author.

No, I don't agree with STGRB either. I think both sides are angry, mean, and looking for a fight. I wish they'd all go away.

Yes, those of you attacking STGRB, the rest of the world thinks you're bad too, and your meanness to Nathan here proves it. Get off your damn high horse.

Anonymous said...

About the product, not about the author *

Anonymous said...

I went through a difficult time with bullying on GR for my debut novel, Blythe being the one who began it all. I have stayed quiet on this subject, because I learned that authors cannot defend themselves without risk of personal attack. Unfortunately, these type of “reviews” that attack the author’s character or say blatantly false things about the book, can influence others not to read it. This may ultimately hurt or end an authors’ career. Honesty about a book is one thing, especially when done with tact, but the bullying that occurs on GR, with the sites’ support as I discovered, is unconscionable.

I see there are some people out there claiming that you are being one-sided by not explaining HOW bad reviews are bullying, and by not discussing "authors behaving badly." Well, I wanted to post some of the frightening details about what happened to me on GR, but once again, I have been warned that the only response an author can give to this type of attack is to shut up. These attacking reviews ARE bullying because if the author makes a peep about any of it, they get slammed and put on the “Authors Behaving Badly” list, also on GR. The author's voice has been forcefully silenced. This reminds me of the old saying, "Pick on someone your own age"... Authors are being told by reviewers, agents, and publishers that they need to be speechless one-year-olds in the face of older kid bulling. That was never a fair fight to begin with, that's why this is bullying. (No one is talking about the fair reviews, good or bad, here. I like to think that most of us know a bullying review when we read one.) Thank you so much for posting this, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

Notice all the anon comments. People are afraid to give their point of view against the bullies for fear they will be targeted next. Why should they be afraid if people are only posting honest opinions about books? Thing is, they are afraid because that is not what happens. What happens is people are targeted, but on a list or talked about on amazon fora, and then their books get a sudden influx of negative reviews, some "about the book" (but clearly not really) and some that are downright about the author. Some bullies are smart and try to hide it though. But you will see books that have 5 reviews over a year and then get 20 one star reviews in the space of a week, coincidentally after being listed by the bullies as an author behaving badly. Most people don't know how to figure out when the author was targeted versus when their negative reviews came in, but if you do that you can more easily decider the real negative reviews from the fake negative reviews. Maybe authors shouldn't care they are getting fake reviews that hurt their sales unfairly, but readers should care that other readers are intentionally deceiving then about a book just to have unjust revenge on an author for things that, in many cases, they never actually did. Many of the targeted authors just got on the bullies radar at the wrong time. It's bad luck. It could happen to anyone. And some authors bully with them or support then because tht is the only way to be protected from their attacks.

Amanda said...

Holy conspiracy theories, batman.

Anonymous said...

Geeze, looking at these comments... Can I dislike both sides equally?

Fine, those reviews Nathan linked to weren't good "bullying" examples, but I've seen ones that were, so his point is valid.

And yes, STGRB has done some awful things as well.

But just because the other side is wrong doesn't mean your side is automatically right and innocent. NEITHER side is innocent, and attacking Nathan for stepping into the middle of this ugliness is just making his point that people are too mean.

Count me out from both sides. You go right on with your point, Nathan.

Lauren Morrill said...

Bullying is when the reviewer writes a nasty review and then proceeds to email it to you every day, tweet it at you, and post it ad nauseum on your Facebook page. Otherwise? They're just opinions, yo, and nobody's making you read them.

Complaining about Goodreads reviews is like going to a kiddie playground and complaining that the slide is too short and the swings are too small. IT'S NOT FOR YOU.

If you're going to read reviews, you need to accept that some will be joyful and some will be measured and some will be total misreadings of the words you labored over for months, if not years ... if you can't accept them all, then you need to avoid reading them. Period.

Anonymous said...

Count me in as one of the not-yet-published authors who has seen enough from both sides to know that I don't want to associate with any of them.

I'm Anonymous because of exactly what Anon 3:41 said. I don't want to be targeted before I'm even published. I *HAVE* seen it happen too many times.

But I also don't think STGRB is the right approach either. And God knows associating with them is a death sentence from the bullies who do exist.

Sorry you stepped into the middle of this, Nathan. This is one situation where speaking up means people assume you've taken sides, and the other side then targets you. Oh joy.

kdrausin said...

Thanks for letting me know about this, Nathan. I haven't checked my reviews on Goodreads lately and now if there's a really bad one I'll feel much better. Thank you.

kdrausin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Travis Knudsen said...

I work as a meteorologist at a TV station in the PNW. And while it is sad to see online bullying, it happens everywhere. Some of the emails/letters myself and my co-workers get (especially the ladies) are horrendous. It makes it very difficult to have faith in humanity as a whole. It is too easy to feel detached or hidden behind a monitor.

I applaud you for standing up and trying to put a spotlight on an issue!

Mikalroy said...

Hi Nathan. Thoughtful post but seems somehow beside the point. While no one likes vitriolic reviewers on Goodreads, the option (as with any comment section on any site) is to not take seriously what these people write. They are legion and plague just about every book, and there is a sharp whiff of hater hysteria that makes it easy to skip their comments.

That's one issue.

The other thing you seem to be commenting on is that authors' feelings are hurt by these ridiculous "reviews." Honestly, I feel authors need to toughen up already. Publishing a book isn't a hug fest. It's a commercial transaction. Part of selling a book to a stranger is that the stranger is then entitled (by virtue of having paid money for the work) to pass a judgment on it. The author is the one who began this transaction; the purchaser's response is part of what comes back along with the likely tiny royalty.

I read only those reviews of people I know and trust; everyone else on Goodreads can take a flyer.

Beth said...

I'm a reader and Goodreads reviewer and a contributor to a pop culture blog where I often write about books. I've never been called a bully (that I know of), but I do sometimes write lengthy negative reviews.

This post made me wonder, "Crap, am I an a$$hole? Have I left reviews that have hurt authors or made other readers think I'm unnecessarily hateful?" I actually went to my 1 and 2 star books this morning and read some of my harsher reviews, checking every line for what might be misconstrued as bullying.

I felt embarrassed all of the sudden for every review I've left on a book I didn't like. I don't want to look like an dick, online or otherwise. But I realized as I read that I've yet to call an author a name, malign their education or common sense, or shelve their book onto something "punny" and crude. I just ... say what I think of the book. Period.

Are there things I wouldn't say to an author's face? YES. I don't think I would say 90% of those things. But the author is not my audience ... other readers are. So, should I tailor my reviews to what I would say to the author in person? HEAVEN FORBID. The necessary niceties would preclude all honesty.

For some authors, reviewing is difficult because I know them personally, or I know that they read the blog. And sure, in those circumstances I might be slightly less snarky. But I won't forsake what I truly think.

Saucy Sally said...

The kind of bullying often complained about on GR goes beyond trolls or even snarky, one star reviews. These bullies roam in packs and will actively attack authors. By actively, I mean they go outside of GR to pull in their prey. I've seen them go after an author on Twitter and/or Amazon and bait them (once they have the author ensnared, they delete their comments). Yeah, authors should ignore these attacks, but it's hard not to defend yourself when 5-6 people are striking out at you or your book, often with outrageous and erroneous claims about the content. It's like watching a pack of lions take down a lone baby water buffalo. It's gruesome!

Laura McMeeking said...

Good post. I've never understood "book" reviews that are not about the book nor are a review. They aren't helpful to the reader, which is the point of having the review. In response to some saying that it shouldn't matter, that you can just ignore those, as a reader, it's incredibly annoying to have to sort through a bunch of reviews to figure out that a book that has a 3.5 star rating should actually have a higher rating. These bad non-reviews are actually pulling down the average rating, making it more difficult to tell from just a rating which books have the best reviews. I don't have time to read through them all and quite often go by the number of stars or the numerical rating.

Jerri Hines said...

As someone who has endured 'the bullies of Goodreads', I understand it might be hard for others to understand the magnitude of what these bullies have done. When I first experienced these bullies, I didn't know what hit me. It was back in February, 2012. It hasn't stopped. Not only have I endured many one star reviews from this group, I had two blogs set up against my book, I was the subject of many blogs by one in particular bully who takes pride in her negativity. I have been called names, made fun of because of my religion, even my dogs have been mentioned. Back in December she even blamed me for the CT school shootings. I had to take down the first book that was attacked and put it back up under another name and offer it free. By the time, it was discovered what I had done, I had enough good reviews theirs didn't make that much of a difference, but before this bully discovered what I had done, she left 5 more comments under a book I took down. I have never gone after this group of bullies myself. Instead, I have gone to Amazon and Goodreads. Both, while sympathetic, have done nothing. The bullies that have gone after me are even Goodread Librarians. I believe that everyone has their opinions and that they matter. I believe that everyone has the right to leave a review, but these reviews step over the line. You would have to wonder why someone who hates your writing insist on reviewing your books after a year and a half. She even intimidates anyone who tries to defend me. Mr. Bransford is correct. Enough is enough. I'm certain I will have a backlash from this comment, but if he can bring attention to this issue, I can support his contention.
I would also like to add I've met so many great readers and authors on Goodreads...and Amazon has been extremely good for Indie authors. I feel like I've rambled, but there was so much that has happened to me by this group...I couldn't cover it in this short space... I should have said simply— Mr. Bransford, Thank you. Jerri Hines/Colleen Connally

Sam Beringer said...

God, reading those I felt sorry for the author. And I didn't even read their work.

I'll admit that I do insult some authors, though it's more pointing out their behavior in public. But saying "I wish this person would get raped or killed" is crossing the line.

This actually reminds me of one post Jim Butcher had on his livejournal where he was venting about some nastier reviews left on Amazon regarding his books. One review was a whole rant on how Butcher was a horrible person because his protagonist made a harmless comment about Joe McCarthy's paranoia when McCarthy was apparently an American Hero (please don't dwell too much on that). Butcher stated that he was fine with negative reviews, but the ones he posted seemed to go the extra mile just to be malicious.

Anonymous said...

All of these book reviewers and goodreads fans have swayed my opinion. It’s not considered bullying if you’re not talking about the author! If you’re talking about the author’s product, you have the right to be as vitriolic and caustic as you want. If I want to call an author’s work a putrid abortion that should never have seen the light of day and then share my opinions with as many people as possible so we can all cackle at each other, I’m not being a bully! I’m simply providing an honest, straight-forward review.

Now, if I called an author a bad person, I agree, that would be completely unacceptable. One does not attack the author personally, and one would be a horrible person for it. But if I want to dedicate 2000 words and fifteen assorted gifs and memes as to why an author’s story was the most ridiculous tripe, the most egregious of offences, the most disgusting attempt at storytelling I’ve ever seen, why would you call me a bully?

And furthermore, I am simply a blogger with thousands of viewers. If you contend that my reviews are rude and improper, I will remind you that I am not bound by professional regulations of any sort. If I compare reading your words to being sodomized by an HIV-infected tampon, then I expect your professionalism to be upheld to its highest standard. Because that’s what you, author, should be: a complete professional.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read a 75,000 word novel that I can tell I deplore after 10 pages so I can spend three hours and 1,500 words on a massive take-down so other vapid people can tell me how witty I am.

And don’t you dare call me a bully.

Jessa Russo (Stadtler) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This last post, written by "anonymous," at 4:21 PM, is just what Nathan is speaking about. Here we have the perfect example of a bully. Someone who doesn't give a whit if they ruin an author's career, or cause others not to read something that could entertain to possibly save lives. (Yes, literature has done that for many.) People like you have lost sight of kindness, of making the world a better place, by taking your negative views and making them as spiteful as possible. So let me be the first to say it: YOU ARE A BULLY. I dared. And there's nothing you can do about it but resort to more ugliness, which seems to be your method.

Anonymous said...

Psst- anonymous @4:31. It was satire.

-anonymous @4:21

Anonymous said...

Nathan if you want to read a good article about the bullying on Goodreads and what STGRB has done to stop it, read this:

It's appalling what has happened to some authors. One author had her information stalked and posted online. Then she got a threatening phone call from one of these people that STGRB calls bullies. The bullying on Goodreads has gotten horribly, horribly out of hand.

Jessa Russo (Stadtler) said...

Second time I've deleted my comment today because I just can't find a way to put my thoughts on this into words.

But frankly, the bottom line is this:

Authors write because they love the written word.

Readers read because they love the written word.

Will I love everything you write? Doubtful. And vice versa. But I swear there's a way to hate a book without demeaning the author, or personally attacking the author, and I think getting to THAT point is the bottom line of this post AND this debate.

And now I'm off to focus on the writing I'm *supposed* to be doing instead of this. lol

Just be kind. It's so super easy. I promise. IT WON'T EVEN HURT, YOU GUYS. ;-)

Anonymous said...

It seems like some of the members of STGRB have made their way onto this post judging by the sudden influx of anonymous commentators.

PJ Dominicis said...

Thank you for writing about this, Nathan. I came close to deleting my Goodreads author account several months after a blogger "critic" and her fervid followers went after me, and then after the readers who came to my defense.

My crime? I complained that her review of my debut novel was unfair because she had personal issues with the subject matter, so her entire review was really about that instead of the novel. She also quoted things out of context to make her points. So I politely cried foul. And then it began!

Her followers went on attack-mode like an angry swarm of wasps. I could not believe the vulgar and abusive comments they were bombarding me with. My readers tried to defend me, but then they too became targets.

I was distraught. My boyfriend had to contact Goodreads and complain. They removed the worst comments; however, some still remain. Then to top everything off, the bullies hacked my account and erased my entire Goodreads blog. (My stupidity for using the name of one of my characters as a password.)

If you look at the reviews of my novel you will find some good reviews, one horrid review from that blogger, and lovely comments like this one from that blogger's followers: "marked it as author-sh*tlisted-will-not-read…" And that was one of the nicer ones.

I later received emails from other authors who had similar experiences with this blogger critic.

End of story: now I seldom go on the Goodreads site, and I would never post anything there again.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, okay, so you say 4:41. :) However, the real bullies sound just like this, self-righteous, arrogant, and shamelessly bold, and I find it impossible to tell the satirists from the hecklers.

Anonymous said...

"STGRB published reviewers' real names, jobs, photos, etc and even threatened a reviewer repeatedly via her home phone and joked about kicking her puppy's head around like a soccer ball."

I've read STGRB's posts since its inception in July 2012 and I have yet to see evidence supporting these claims. The person Wendy Darling is referring to here, the reviewer who allegedly was called and harassed, is Lucy Davis (Wendy's GR friend), who lied about receiving these calls. She had no number to show HuffPo's Andrew Losowsky or the police. She never went to the police about it and had no one to corroborate her story. Lucy, on the other hand, has been proven to stalk authors, look up their personal identifiable information and threaten to publish it online. If you all want to see a screenshot of that, go here:

Shaun Duke said...

Just a note: that little Goodreads group you mention also wants to stop people from posting negative reviews of books which focus on the *merits* of the book itself. This includes someone saying they hated the book because it was poorly written.

There is a lot of abuse on Goodreads, certainly (just as there is on any online community), but I'm naturally skeptical of groups which think a harsh review is the same as saying an author deserves to be raped. One is legitimate, though harsh, criticism; the other is borderline illegal.

Anonymous said...

"It seems like some of the members of STGRB have made their way onto this post judging by the sudden influx of anonymous commentators."

Oh okay, Anonymous 4:45.

Pot meet kettle.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 4:45, are you saying that YOU are a member of STGRB since you, too, posted as Anonymous?

Jessa Russo, I have read all your comments, deleted and otherwise, and they are all great. I love your points. Well said, and also thanks for reminding me that I have to write today. :)

Lesley said...

I think it's pretty unfair to remove the links to the negative reviews because of concern about those reviewers being targeted but to then leave the image of Blythe's review at the top of the post.

Nathan Bransford said...


There isn't an actual link though which is why I left it? At some point these reviews are just out there, anyone can click over to the page and see them, no?

Aitch748 said...

I'll just repost what I posted on another site about this ugly little war between authors who are expected to be thick-skinned professionals and reviewers who are allowed to be as childish and spiteful and vitriolic as they like:

Certain people on Goodreads pretend to be book reviewers in order to pick fights with authors.

The situation is this:

(1) Reviewers should be free to say what they like, within reason, about the books they review.

(2) It is unprofessional for an author to protest a negative review of one of his books.

But the bullies on Goodreads have interpreted this to mean:

(1) Reviewers get to use whatever gutter language they want and vent their hostility toward the author, personally, in whatever way the reviewers feel like. They get to lie about both the book and the author, and they have no obligation to be professional, civil, truthful, sane, or even readable. They even get to tag the author's books -- all of them, including books the reviewer has never read -- on shelves with ugly, childish names that suggest that the author is a misbehaving crybaby who hates free speech and deserves to have felonies committed against him.

(2) Authors who take the bait and respond to the libel in a review -- hell, authors who make any response whatsoever to a review, no matter how civil or justified the response might be -- deserve to be destroyed, on Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. as well as on Goodreads, and the whole Internet needs to know that this author is a walking well of excrement who does not deserve to be read by anyone. In fact, anyone who does read this author's books and dares to speak up in the author's defense also deserves attack, because that person is probably a sock puppet that the author created anyway, because nobody sane could possibly like anything this author wrote.

In other words, these fake book reviewers believe that they have the bully's perfect setup: a situation where they can bait and pester and harass someone who is in no position to fight back.

And because the powers-that-be at Goodreads (1) have to be dragged kicking and screaming into reining in even the most disruptive "reviewer," and (2) are quicker to admonish and even ban authors who talk back to "reviewers," that means that Goodreads is a hostile environment for authors.

Yet every once in a while, there is another article on the Web, telling authors that they are missing out on a golden opportunity to promote their books if they are not signed up with Goodreads. So a new author signs up, attempts to promote her work, and learns the hard way that the membership there is extremely hostile to authors promoting their work -- and that apologizing for breaking the rules just encourages the "reviewers" to ramp up the harassment further. [Also note some of the reactions right here on this thread to Nathan, accusing him of failing to do his research, and continuing to scold him even after he amended his article.]

So Goodreads is useless to authors -- but it's a wonderful place if you want a setup that lets you be as nasty as you want about an author's work, even if you've never read the work, yet prohibits the author from making any sort of reply.

Doug Brown said...

Well said. As an author, I know bad reviews do hurt. But when they are just maliciously bad for the sake of being mean, it's unfortunate. I know that it gets to even the most successful artists, so how could it not bother starving artists and everyone in between? I recently read an interview with Nine Inch Nails front man, Trent Reznor, where he talks about how much the online bullying bothered him until he recently said he just didn't care anymore. He said it a little more colorfully than that, but you get the point. Having said all that, there is an important distinction between a poor review and just being malicious. My books have been criticized in reviews and, agree or disagree, I felt they were fair. My books have also been shredded and I've been personally attacked. That doesn't seem fair. I'm not a complainer and I'm not complaining now, I'm just making a point.

Anonymous said...

I think STGRb are nothing but a bunch of crap-stirrers looking from drama where there doesn't have to be drama. Most of their evidence really isn't evidence at all and they only provide part of the story that they want their readers to know. They take things out of context and they never question whether or not the author stepped over the line. In my opinion, a book is just like any other product. If I can buy a golf club and give it a terrible review and bitch and moan and call names, etc. (and I can do it all without the president of the company calling me names and trying to get back at me), then I should be able to buy a book, say what I want about it and bitch and moan without the author stepping in. I don't write reviews for authors. I write them for other readers. I won't tell anyone that they are (insert choice word here), but that's my opinion. I'm a writer. I don't care about reviews on Goodreads. I don't even read them unless I have to or I am asked to. I also think that sales won't be hurt as much by having a bad review, as it would if I freaked out on one of my readers. I would never cross that line and other people might want to recheck their priorities.

Aitch748 said...

I'll also point out that whenever STGRB posts an article about people on Goodreads baiting another author, the post includes both screenshots and links, so you can see for yourself whether the poster is telling the truth or just exaggerating for the sake of drama.

Mike Jung said...

I think a common reaction to thoughts about aggressive, toxic behavior on GoodReads is to assume that the person expressing those thoughts is stating that everyone on GoodReads engages in that kind of behavior. That is a misperception and an overreaction. It's valid to note that there are a lot of people on GoodReads who are overtly decent, articulate, thoughtful reviewers - they deserve some acknowledgment for their style of engagement. They participate in and contribute to our culture of letters in a way that promotes its health and welfare, and we need them.

There ARE quite a lot of people who do engage in aggressive, toxic behavior on GoodReads, however, and more and more I find it difficult to accept the assertion that metaphors about rape, torture, murder, hate crime, and warfare are completely fine to use as long as they're applied solely to the book in question, and not the author. The greater the intensity of the toxic behavior, the more difficult I find it to keep it contained within a neat little box.

There are also people who engage in what I unquestionably describe as bullying. I know authors who GR reviewers have described on a personal level in the ugliest, most hateful terms. I know of an incident in which GR reviewers found which school an author's child goes to and posted that information as part of a string of aggressive, toxic comments. There have undoubtedly been many incidents in which GR reviewers have openly communicated about posting the greatest possible number of negative comments on venues outside of GoodReads. Those behaviors are not merely negative reviews of the work. I can't see how it's conscionable to defend them as such.

Is GoodReads actually for reviewers only? I don't know, although it seems like a restrictive way to define the space. I've always thought of it as a place for readers, which I personally believe is a group that includes people who aren't interested in being reviewers. I've yet to meet a professional author who isn't also a devoted reader.

I do think that readers are entitled to have and express their opinions of an author's work. And I also think one of the previous individuals to comment on this post made a point worth remembering - many GoodReads reviewers are not professionals in any sense of the word. That doesn't mean a GR reviewer who's not a professional is incapable of clarity, insight, and genuine elucidation - as I said before, plenty of GR reviewers ARE capable of those things. There are GR reviewers who care very much about being decent and ethical.

However, the people making the most toxic and aggressive comments on GoodReads are probably not people who feel any responsibility to adhere to even vaguely defined standards of ethics or decency. That IS their right, of course - free and open discourse, even when it's ugly, is something we all have the right to engage in, at least as long as it doesn't cross over into the realm of hate speech or slander.

That doesn't mean it contributes to our culture of letters in a positive or useful way, however. Free speech that's ugly but protected by the letter of the law can still be destructive. I don't think every review on GoodReads is destructive in that way, but I do think some of them are.

Carroll Bryant said...

I have no problem at all with a reader trashing my book(s). They're just books. However, I do have a problem with someone trashing me in a book review. Especially when they don't know me. And in my book reviews, I have been called just about everything under the sun. LOL Including - but not limited to - a rapist, stalker and even a pedophile.

I don't even mind people going to my Youtube channel and trashing my songs.

But yes, there is a huge difference between a bad review that is honest and a review that bullies.

Tom Braun said...

Wow, this is a... popular... topic.

My negligible contribution is this: I have noted that GoodReads ratings tend to be little bit more level-headed then those on, say, Amazon. And as such I've come to rely on them more.

For instance, a fairly mediocre book will likely warrant a 4 1/2 star average rating on Amazon, whereas on GoodReads it's more likely to have a 3 star rating.

I don't think this comes down to the excessive negativity of GoodReads reviews. Instead it seems like people are just more accepting of the fact that a three star review doesn't mean the book was the worst thing you ever read in your life.

Now, the specific reviews you linked to did not seem particularly abusive to me with the exception of their over-reliance on GIFs. I would expect an abusive review to include personal attacks, unsupported claims or to give no indication that the person has actually read the book. I skimmed the reviews, but none of them seemed to do this.

I feel like there may have been some confusion about the difference between what the book was saying and what the characters in the book were saying, but I haven't read the book so I can't say for sure.

From my perspective, GoodReads remains head-and-shoulders above the YouTube comments section, and I even prefer it to Amazon.

Anonymous said...

This Carroll Bryant above me is one of the worst people that contribute to STGRB. I want everyone to know that. He has personally called people "cunts, fat whore, etc." on his blog and harasses a few reviewers, one of which shut down her blog to get away from him. He is not a nice person.

Amanda said...

I'm a Goodreads librarian and while I think it's ridiculous to suggest that reviewers can't say whatever they want within the site's TOS about a product they paid good money for, others here have already said that better than I can.

I will say, in reference to STGRB, that one of the authors associated with the site sent friends to threaten me with violence on Goodreads. I'm not in any "gang of reviewers," I don't leave negative reviews about authors, I have no snarky shelves- I mostly blog about classics, written by long dead authors. I had to pull professional strings to get to the community manager on a weekend to have the person and their sock puppets removed from the site. Your point will be better served by disassociating yourself from such a histrionic and possibly dangerous website.

Anonymous said...

Really, Amanda? You have proof of this no doubt.

No? You don't? Interesting.

Also, you say, "an author associated with the site"? How exactly is this author associated with the site? Did anyone on the site tell this author to attack you? Did they encourage it?

I can answer that for you. No, they didn't. Because STGRB does not condone that behavior. They say it again and again on their site. You should probably also point that out before you blame STGRB for anything that supposedly happened to you.

Amanda said...

Yes, actually, I do. I have screenshots and I have the emails sent to and from myself and the community manager, which I would be glad to show to Nathan. The author is "associated" with the site in that he has posted on it. Snark at me all you want from behind your anonymous tag, but I was threatened, I can prove it, and that's the end of that.

Anonymous said...

"This Carroll Bryant above me is one of the worst people that contribute to STGRB. I want everyone to know that. He has personally called people "cunts, fat whore, etc." on his blog and harasses a few reviewers, one of which shut down her blog to get away from him. He is not a nice person."

Another lie. The person you mention was Amanda Welling who was investigated by the police for death threats against Carroll. Not only was her blog removed, but also her Twitter account, her GR account and her Facebook account.

If you're going to come and leave a comment libeling someone, you should really get your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

They may or may not condone that behavior, Anon, but they sure condone a lot of bad behavior on their site, including and not limited to, doc dropping.

Anonymous said...

"The author is "associated" with the site in that he has posted on it."

So blame the author who did this. Not the site. STGRB had nothing to do with it.

Laura W. said...

As much as I like this blog, I have to disagree with this post. I think you made an error in singling out this image. You said, "Reviews like these demean and dehumanize authors," but all the critiques the reviewer made of the book were about the book. Yes, writers put so much of themselves into their books -- but this review had perfectly valid, if sarcastic, things to say about said book. She said it was boring, predictable, had insta-love, etc. They are all valid critiques of the book and valid reasons why someone would dislike it. Could it have been said more nicely and politely? Absolutely. Does it deserve to be compared to other reviewers who threaten authors and say they should be gang-raped in prison? Absolutely NOT.

I take issue with this post because you seem to be saying that the line should be drawn when reviewers begin personally attacking the writer. I would count threats in that category, obviously, as well as bullying comments about how "they can't write" or "they should consider a different career." That seems to be where you're saying the line should be drawn...yet you pair this post with a review that, while negative, doesn't even come close to that. Saying mean things about the BOOK isn't saying that the "author should be sodomized" or "abusing the person who wrote the book." Where in this example did the reviewer abuse the author? She basically said "this book was terrible," but that's her opinion, and it's about the book. Not the person. It can be hard not to take things personally, but from what the review says -- and what the bullies you've talked about here say -- I sincerely doubt she meant it that way.

Anonymous said...

"They may or may not condone that behavior, Anon, but they sure condone a lot of bad behavior"

Not quite, Anonymous. Get your facts straight Anonymous:

Linda Parkins said...

Well put, reviewer Jessa Russo.

I have a thought, too.

If I run a review blog with 10,000 readers that I make money off of through ads, etc, then I can say anything I want, because I'm not a professional.

But if I am an authors with 100 readers and my book is free so I make no money at all, then I can't say anything ever, because I'm a professional.

(I'm neither. I'm just making a point.)


1) Fake reviews should not be acceptable, positive or negative.

2) Reviews about the author and not the book should not be acceptable, positive or negative.

3) Free speech does not include the right to slander.

4) Saying it's not slander if it's true doesn't mean much if you are lying about what is true. (Sad I have to even say this.)

Amanda said...

I do blame the author- I also realize that it's telling that someone who is violent (or at least wants people to think he is in order to silence them) then posts regularly on a site that claims to be anti-bullying.

Distancing oneself from such a website can only serve to make your opinion more credible.

Anonymous said...

The reviewer (of course you had to use her name, STGRB!) actually shut down her blog and all of her social media accounts so that Carroll would stop posting libelous statements about her and associating her with another blogger he has beef with. I know this because, not only am I friends with her in real life, I also know for a fact that nobody came to arrest her or investigate her. She dropped off the face of the earth to try to get away from all of this silly drama. Show me proof that she has been investigated by the FBI or the cyber police or whomever else is in your conspiracy theories. I see her at school all of time and she is one of my best friends. She thinks it is hysterical that STGRB thinks that men in suits and ties came to her house and dragged her away.

Anonymous said...

So if STGRB doesn't believe in doc dropping, then what is this:

Anonymous said...

(A couple years back a friend of mine discovered that putting "Hayden Christiansen porn" in your blog post would send the hit count skyrocketing. I see now it doesn't hold a candle to "STGRB".)

Anonymous said...

An example of the type of person that supports STGRB and contributes to their site in some degree

Laura W. said... I guess what I'm saying is that from the different (and to my POV, conflicting) examples you've given in this post, I don't actually understand where you're saying the line should be drawn.

(I just know that if someone compared a review that I wrote which was critical and negative but still addressed valid flaws in the book, to a review where someone threatened to rape the author, I would be hugely upset and offended and would be afraid to post a review on GoodReads ever again.)

I see where you're coming from to a certain point, but I don't quite understand where you're going with this, and I will have to respectfully disagree with you as you seem to imply that only bullies write one-star reviews. Unless that's not what you're saying? But then I don't quite know what you're saying since you lumped that one-star person in with the "I want to rape and kill this author" people.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the post shouldn't have been how Reviewer A maligned Author B. Maybe the post should have been how easy it is for people to lose their humanity when they are anonymous. I bet that some of the most vitriolic reviewers have kids and spouses that they love, have pets that mean the world to them and they go to church on Sunday. I bet a lot of them would never even think of saying those awful things to an author's face. I suspect that those things could be true of the people on STGRB as well.

But with the anonymity of the internet, it's just easy. Easy to be mean. Easy to be hurt. Easy to take things too far.

That goes for both sides of the debate here.

While it's totally not cool to make personal threats against someone because you don't like their book. It's is not only uncool, it's dangerous and foolhardy to out someone's personal information -- home address, where they work, where they pick up their kids -- on the internet. Tacitly inviting someone else to take action you wouldn't take yourself doesn't mean you're not complicit if something happens. It's impossible to know what kind of mental stability is involved in the public on the other side of your keyboard. (While not directly related, let's not forget poor Pam van Hylckama Vlieg and how social media brought a very angry person directly to her.) How awful would it be if you never meant it to go that far, yet something you said on the internet really led to someone being physically hurt.

Authors, it's a job. Part of the job is putting up with unpleasant reviews, fake reviews and things not always going as one would like. For the rest of us, use common sense. I would like to think that we are all capable of sorting out the real reviews from the crazy ones. I discount the excessively enthusiastic reviews as well as the excessively negative ones.

And really, play nice. No one needs their hand put in a blender because their book wasn't your taste. Gah.

Anonymous said...

The people who are whining the hardest about STGRB are probably the ones who have bullied and have totally lost the point of your post. Per usual for this group.

Observer said...

Part 1

I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but I see a lot of defense saying the author brought it on themselves, that they shouldn't read the reviews, they shouldn't respond.

I agree with that idea, I do. But that idea is ignoring reality and not addressing the real problem.

The reality is that sometimes authors do ignore reviews. Then the reviewer tweets at them. Says what do you think. Or intentionally posts slander that if not defended against, could cause the author personal harm - such as calling an author a pedophile, that is a serious claim to make.

I have seen cases where the author is not aware of the bullies or their game. They see something that looks like a clear misunderstanding. They think, "Oh, what a simple misunderstanding. I will just clear it up."
So they respond, and then are told they are attacking the reviewer. This sounds like it couldn't possibly be how it goes down, but I'm a reviewer on goodreads for many years and I have SEEN THIS FIRST HAND. This is how it goes down. I didn't believe it until I saw it myself.

Observer said...

Part 2

It looks something like this:

Bully: "I saw the author on Twitter say they hate black people."

(someone tweets this comment thread to the author)

The Author: There must be some confusion. What I said was that I saw someone HATING ON a black person. My next tweet was how I stepped in and put an end to it.

Bully: "You're a racist and you have no business being here."

The Author: Please look at what I actually said. I truly am not a racist. In fact, I am black myself.

Bully: "The Author is stealing pictures from other people to pretend to be black."

Skeptic: "That doesn't make sense. If they are racist, why would they pretend to be black? I saw their tweet. It wasn't racist."

Bully #2: The Author has a sock puppet account. Anyone who would stick up for the a racist authors would have to be racist themselves or a sock puppet of the author.

Skeptic: I've been a member of Goodreads for 6 years, before the author even published their book.

Bully #2: Guess you are a racist then.

Author: I really think this was just a mistake.

Bully #3: Author, you really should stay out of this. You're acting extremely unprofessional, and because of this I now won't read your book.

(note: they never heard of the book before now)

*Bully #3 shelves book: I would rather shove razor blades in my eyes than read this book.*

Bully #4: I see we have another author behaving badly on our hands!

*Bully #4 adds book to author behaving badly list*

*Bully's 1-3 vote for the new addition on the author's behaving badly list*

Bully #5 that hasn't seen that thread yet but sees the list change comments: What did that author do?

*Bully #4 links Bully #5 to the discussion thread.*

Bully #5: God, will these authors ever learn! Reviewers have the right to say anything they want! If they can't handle reviews, they shouldn't publish.

Bully #6: Amen!

*Bully #6 links to Amazon fora where they have started a discussion alerting other people to this authors who is "butt hurt."*

Author: I think there is some confusion. I'm not racist, and I'm not complaining about any reviews!

Bully #7: Look at this review I just posted on their book! Someone down-voted it. SMH. *links to review*

Bullies #1-6 vote for the review on amazon and goodreads. Bully #7 posts the link to the amazon fora thread, where more bullies also vote for the reviews.

The review reads:

Author: Hang on a second, here!! This isn't fair! My book is about two monkeys falling in love! No black people get killed.

Author response 2: There aren't even any black people IN the novel!

Bully #8: You really should attack reviewers for their opinions.

Bully #9: So you didn't put black people in your book because you are racist against them. That proves our point.

Author: That's not what I said. The book is about monkeys. There aren't any white or asian people in the book either... It's an all animal cast. i don't think it's fair the book got rated without having even been read.

Bullies 1-9 leave 1 star reviews on goodreads with a comment that says "Author bullies reviewers over negative reviews"

A few other bullies leave reviews on Amazon also. The author goes from have 3 five star, 2 four stars, and 1 two star review (accumulated over a period of a year) to having 3 five star, 2 four star, and 15 one star reviews in the space of 48 hours. No new copies have sold. The new reviews are not verified purchases. The 15 one-star reviews have 68 votes each as "helpful". 70% of these reviews at some point mention the author's bad behavior.

Observer said...

Part 3

The Author, seeing now that this isn't a misunderstanding after all, vents on facebook:
"I just don't understand how I got 14 one star reviews in 2 days when I haven't sold any more copies on Amazon."

Bully #11: Aww, look, the author is butt hurt over a couple negative reviews and trying to say they aren't genuine.

Author: Well, the reviews aren't verified...

Bully #12: That doesn't mean anything. They could have bought a copy in print or some where else.

Author: The book is enrolled in Kindle Select. It's not available anywhere else.

Bully #12: Just accept that people hate your book and the rest of us don't want to read it because of your behaviour.

Bully #13: Maybe they borrowed the book from a friend?

Author: The borrow feature is turned off, and I only sold 5 copies so far. It's a brand new book.

*More negative reviews*
*More claims of author being racist*
*More claims of not having thick skin*
*More claims of not being professional*
*More negative votes on their good reviews and positive votes on their negative reviews*
*More claims of author attacking reviewers*
*Several of the bullies blog about the events, with a twist.*

One of the blogs posts this screen shot in evidence that the author is racist:

"There aren't even any black people IN the novel!"

Author: That's not fair. You didn't show what I said before that. You are taking it out of context.

Bully #4: How can it be out of context if it's exactly what you said? You brought this on yourself by being butt hurt over negative reviews.

Author: This started because you though I said something racist, not about book reviews.

Bully #11: You just don't know when to stop!!!

Author realized bully #11 is right and backs out. For the next month, the bullies continue to slander the author and leave negative reviews. A new author "screws up" and is put on the chopping block in place of the bloody skeletal mush of the last author. The negative reviews taper off. The new author on the chopping block starts getting negative reviews from the same people, who swear they read the book and are giving an honest opinion.

And so the cycle continues, on and on, attacking and silencing one author at a time and claiming that all they are guilty of is "posting an honest review"

Nathan Bransford said...

1) I think this discussion has been great and for the most part very very positive from both sides. THANK YOU for that. You guys are awesome.

2) Could we please halt the discussion of STGRB? Both sides have aired their arguments, and it was never my intention to wade into that space. I really didn't know about the controversy. But let's please not let that derail this discussion because it's tangential to this post.

3) Laura W. and anon @6:06, to pick out just two from many, make some terrific points.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, that's PUBLIC information posted online by the bullies themselves. That's not at all what Lucy Davis did or the GR bullies who stalk the Amazon forums. Lucy and her ilk looked up phone numbers and addresses, among other private information, and published it or threatened to publish it with malicious intent. That's much more sinister.

Regina Richards said...

Thanks for this post, Nathan. This is an issue that really needs to be addressed if Goodreads wants to maintain it's credibility. Review Bully could send both authors and readers elsewhere eventually if this isn't addressed.

Eric Coyote said...

I use jiu-jitsu to fight bad reviews. I Tweet them and post them on my Facebook fan page, especially the really awful ones. The best way to deal with bullies is to make fun of their childish behavior. I've also found every time someone posts a bad review, my sales go up.

Kate Bond said...

I guess...I mean, look. I am a book reviewer with a successful professional writer husband, so I have a great deal of empathy for writers and how a person who sits in a dark room telling stories about his imaginary friends for a living might react to negative feedback. I get it. I have never attacked an author personally, but when a book promotes misogynistic or racist themes, I react viscerally. Because if you promote misogynistic views, you are a misogynist. If you promote racist views, you are racist. Period. And i will say, "I don't know what this author was thinking. This book is harmful to young women because of x, y, and z, and it was irresponsible of the author to promote views like this." and that's not attacking the author.

My husband is a professional television writer. Every week io9--a PROFESSIONAL blog where writers are paid--reviews his show. Sometimes the reviews are funny. Sometimes they make absolutely no sense. Sometimes the reviewer says things like, "Apparently the writer's room thought it would be interesting if they...[insert whatever]," and then they go on to cite something the network forced the showrunners to add to the script. Do you know what no one on that writing staff does in response? Comment in any way publicly. Do you know what they don't do when they see tweets that read, "This episode was fucking garbage?" Respond publicly in any way. This is because they are PROFESSIONAL writers, and they know that when you create a product for public consumption, you need to be prepared for public feedback.

A friend of mine created a tv show called Do No Harm. It aired on NBC last season. It was the lowest rated tv drama in network television history. Two of my close friends were on the writing staff. It was hard for them when the negative reviews started coming in. It really, really was. But, again, none of them begrudged the public their right to an opinion.

As long as personal attacks are not launched at the creators of content (and none of the reviews you cited contained personal attacks--in fact, one was almost entirely comprised of quotes from the book), consumers will vent their frustrations about products they found to be lacking in quality (or, in the case of September Girls, misogynistic--and misogyny is an attack on women, who have historically been an oppressed people across nearly all cultures) and sing the praises of products they particularly enjoyed.

I am disheartened by posts like this poorly-researched drivel (seriously, just google that website. They actively attack and stalk authors and reviewers) because they are harmful to indie and small-press authors who rely on bloggers and goodreads to promote their books.

Anonymous said...

Observer at 6:18 (and the next few), that was so funny! I can attest that this is pretty much exactly what happens. I can't believe how close it was too conversations I saw, down to details like the way they take part of a sentence you once said and cut and paste to put it out of context. Brilliantly done!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nathan. You got it.

Aitch748 said...

I agree -- the three-part post by Observer at 6:18 PM makes the same point many of us have been trying to make about the troll gang on Goodreads. Nice job.

It's not enough not to comment on a review; an author also has to tread carefully when somebody insists on visiting him on his own blog and specifically asking him to comment on a review.

So the situation isn't as simple as authors being "speshul snowflakes" and having meltdowns when a reviewer says that their books aren't up to snuff; the situation is more like trolls going out of their way to be unfair and thus provoke a reaction from the author that can be taken out of context and used as evidence that the author himself is bad enough as a person that people should be boycotting his work.

Mark Noce said...

I def agree with this, although I've seen the opposite as well...i.e. authors who cannot take any criticism of their books. Honesty is important, but these instances sound like they're just people with an ax to grind (shrug).

Anonymous said...

If in order to get your point across you need to be anything less than human, anything less than professional, and treat any one any less than you would want your child, or mother or even your dog treated - you are the lowest of the low.

These "bloggers" spout off about their feelings being hurt and how they need to be apologized too, never once to they stop and think about the CAREER - not hobby SOMEONES EFFING CAREER they ruined because they made a snap judgement about a person they didn't know, about a book they had never read. Poor Lauren Howard - my heart breaks for this girl.

Thank you Nathan, for being strong enough to post what I have wanted to say for a long time.

Magdalena Munro said...

Ahh...remember the days when a bad review in the Sunday NYT Magazine could kill a book? While I (often) shiver at the wild wild west atmosphere out there in electronic land, I hold onto hope that a few nasty people won't ruin the life of a book. Thank you for mentioning human kindness and dignity which often does go by the wayside behind our keyboards. I remember I was featured in a Huffington Post blog in 2009 during their series on unemployment. My blog was about the irony of "the recruiter not finding work" and it was an earnest account of how I was struggling to find a job. The picture I chose to post was of me and my son. I remember one person (anonymous...of course) that said how "dumb my son and I looked" in his comment. I remembered then and today how we can choose to let these people (often projecting their own misery) hurt us or see if for what it is and move on. Thanks for the post Nathan!

Muzz05 said...

The problem isn't authors reading the nasty reviews, the problem is potential sales lost over false reviews. Authors write books because they love to write, but they also want to make money. When someone posts that your book is so bad that the reader wanted to burn it after they threw up, that affects sales. That is a problem. I'm sure the trolls wouldn't want us calling their work and falsely accusing them of something that could get them fired. It's the same thing, messing with someones livelihood for kicks.

Elizabeth Yu-Gesualdi said...

I recently received a one star rating for my novel Broken Road. No review, just the one star rating. I was saddened by it and to be honest, I had gotten spoiled by all the 5 star ratings and great reviews that the book had been receiving. I knew it was coming, but was still taken aback by it. Then all of a sudden, I received a private message from a young girl informing me that she and her friends were "having fun by going around screwing with authors by giving them lousy ratings." I wanted to scream! Instead, I did nothing. Well, by that I mean I didn't respond to her message. I was afraid that if I did, she would add a horrible review to go with the lousy rating. I did contact GR and informed them of the situation. They responded immediately and said that they would look into the situation and take care of it. Well, it's been 3 weeks and her 1 star rating is still there to taunt me on a daily basis! When I click on her name, I see that her account is still active and she is having a wonderful time ripping authors and novels apart in the many groups that she is a member of. Ugh. So frustrating!

Anonymous said...

I think what it all boils down to is YOU and ONLY YOU are responsible for our own actions.

Regardless of what the other person is saying, it is up to you to either behave like an intelligent rational human being or to throw yourself into fray and mud sling with everyone else.

The best thing to always remember is when you sling mud around, you will always end up with some on yourself.

Muzz05 said...

While I agree that that website went to far, this article is about the Goodreads bullies. They go too far every day, they don't care if the things that they say send a person into a tailspin, they don't care if authors lose sales and can't pay their bills, I have no sympathy for them at all. I'm sick to death of hearing that authors have had to pull their books off of Goodreads because their ratings have tanked due to troll revue tactics. So they have no sales. If you think bad reviews don't hurt sales, you are sadly mistaken. Even if I don't read the review, if I see a book with a bunch of 1 & 2 star reviews, I'm not even reading the blurb, much less buying it. Amazon allows you to report these types of reviews and I hope Goodreads starts that now because, although I will post revues there at an authors request, I no longer use Goodreads and don't plan on starting because I get too angry over this nonsense from supposed adults!

daniel t. radke said...

In response to Laura W.-

Good points, and I agree with most of them, except the ones you're sorta glossing over.

Could Blythe Harris have been less sarcastic? Less biting in her review? Yes. To me, that's the point.

I don't think people shouldn't have the right to be an asshole and as scathing as they want to be. And I don't think we should ban one star reviews. If I got a calm, polite one star review and it contained very valid points as to why he/she didn't like it, great! I'll use the information to better myself as a writer.

But if someone gave me the Blythe Harris treatment? Multiple pages of sarcasm and nasty gifs and scorched page? So they can, what, get more followers and everyone can have a nice laugh at the author's expense? I'd probably curl up in a ball and sob for a week.

And I love all the comments on Twitter from Blythe and her buddies. They're all aghast at how Nathan singled her review out. How it's somehow not technically bullying because the author him/herself wasn't attacked directly. She was still being incredibly mean. And I'm talking popular-blonde-hot-chick-in-every-high-school-movie-ever mean.

If you look past Nathan making an equivalent of Blythe's review and people saying the author should kill themselves, you'll see he's just saying, "Can't we all be a little nicer?"

And it seems the response from Blythe and other book bloggers has been a deafening "No."

Anonymous said...

I did ignore them, and then I was followed to my FB, Twitter, my accounts where hacked, I started getting spammed vulgar messages on my blog.. Oh the list goes on. Why you ask, because I asked a question about a review and asked a on one of my books, about a vulgar shelving. I was told that it was a legitimate review. The shelf was "eff you for your crapy book" . In fact I HAVE to post this anonymously because I fear being attacked again. In fact STGRB, counseled me as a new author and KEPT ME from responding to any of my attacks, They gave me good advice. I blocked my Bullies from my twitter and FB account. Canceled my website, because they began attacking my readers. And I had to delete and rebuild my blog. My book page on GR was RAPED by these people. The shelvings they used on my books are disgusting and filled with vulgar language. I haven't complained publicly, haven't blogged about it, haven't given these people any reason to stalk me all over the web. In fact I "sucked it up" but that does NOT alleviate the anxiety, fear and chronic depression I've been dealing with.

wendy said...

Also, when reading the responses to Twitter posts made by celebrities, or responses to almost anyone uploading videos on YouTube, I'm gob-smacked by the horrific nature of some of those responses. I'd hate to be a celebrity and have to put myself out there only to encounter this kind of insanity. And vile, non-nonsensical hateful posts are insanity - not to be taken seriously. Although that's easy for me to say, I admit, as I've not been on the receiving end for the most part. But I suspect it's a warped juvenile mind that is responsible, so these responders are more to be pitied for the tortuous state they must be in psychologically than given any credence or the power to upset. It sounds like the terrible reviews on Good Reads are, like the aforementioned YouTube and Twitter posts, extreme and ridiculous and should not be taken seriously by anyone. In real life would we allow an immature teenager with a perpetually bad attitude and warped understanding of life to define who we are? I'm not saying these derogatory and vile posts encountered on the internet are by adolescents, but I do believe they are made by those who have the maturity level of children - troubled children without empathy but plenty of anger and a warped sense of self and how the world really works.

When a human being is acting in any kind of negative way, especially as in the above, this is a signal that something is wrong with that person - and, therefore, they are in a very unhappy place with themselves and their lives. We can't allow the judgement or actions of such people to influence our own thinking or define who we are as such negative actions and words only define their source - not those they are attacking. However, given that the negative people are wounded, themselves, attacking them in retaliation is like attacking someone who is already hurt/sick and not functioning properly. I'd like to suggest either ignoring such diatribe or showing kindness along with some words of wisdom, because more than anything the truth can set us free, especially minds that are clouded with anger, fear and despair. All these illusory states of mind do more harm to the human psyche than anything else and are our real enemies - not each other.

Melody Valadez said...

Wow. How could people do this? Don't people realize this is a *book review* site, not an *author review* site? It's for people who love books and can still respect and honor the ones they don't like. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above said, "You will be next, Nathan." Those words couldn't have been more true. Guess whose book they've already started attacking with derogatory shelving:

Melody Clark said...

Thank you, Nathan. And amen.

Anonymous said...

Goodreads is a good premise, but the execution leaves much to be desired. To say the site is flawed is being generous. The gang mentality has taken something that could be a great community and given it a terrible reputation. So much so, that as an author, I'm posting this as anonymous to avoid backlash for my honest opinion. Authors in the corner with your mouths shut where you belong and take your beating!

Anonymous said...

I guess I haven't seen or heard about the inception as you said about STGRB. I've never seen any evidence of that on their site. Other than the screen shots of bullying behavior. I have however, been on the receiving end of being a victim of GR Bullies. STGRB has helped me focus on my writing and ignore the attacks. And NO, critical book reviews ARE NOT the reason I was attacked. I wish it was my books they ripped into. Unless you have experienced this level of hatred and malice, it's easy to tell authors to grow a "thick skin".

Christine London said...

I wonder if Amazon, now that they own Good Reads, will rein this in--as they do on Amazon.

Josin L. McQuein said...


You've removed the links, but the image at the top of the page still identifies the reviewer. You might want to crop her name out.

Rick Carufel said...

Hi Nathan,
I notice the trolls have found your blog. You will now experience first hand these criminals in action. They have your number now and will persecute you endlessly. These are a gang of serial stalker trolls who will make every effort to stalk, bully, harass, defame, libel and terrorize you from here on out, welcome to the group.

Anonymous said...

Rick Carufel is a convicted cocaine dealer and has repeatedly attacked reviewers. This is the sort of person that STGRB likes to hang out with.

Your comments section has been over-taken by STGRB supporters who, obviously, have found this article because they sniff out anything that shows them in a semi-positive light. Google is an amazing tool to use before writing an article like this.

Anonymous said...

"you'll see he's just saying, "Can't we all be a little nicer?"

And it seems the response from Blythe and other book bloggers has been a deafening "No.""


Anonymous said...

Wow. In the big and important scheme of things, Goodreads is an awesome site for both readers and authors. It is truly sad you are inciting fear and giving such poor advice to young budding authors. I have been a member and reviewer since 2008, and I can't tell you how many new authors I learned about from that site and went on to endorse.

I think its biggest problem isn't a bully culture (which is miniscule in actuality), but the cloud of fear that new and naive authors such as yourself are irresponsibly spreading with articles like yours -- poorly researched and full of hearsay conjecture.

With a little research, you would learn that most of the screen shots on that site you support are used to tell a very edited version of a story, and they rarely tell the full version. They are yellow journalists, pure and simple. They are an angry group founded by a person who was kicked off of GR for a multitude of violations.

Yes, there have been some author/reader fights on Goodreads. And Goodreads does step in when notified to delete, ban and/or close comments as needed.

Authors and reviewers both behave horribly at times. I hate that you make this all about the reviewers. Shame on you for spreading that perception.

I am not justifying any of the attacks, regardless of where it happens or who started it (including in your own blog comments, as you can tell it is not just a Goodreads thing). There are always two sides to a story, and you didn't get either side right.

If you want to stop anything, how about stopping naïve bloggers and authors from spreading rumors that cause undo fear? Seriously, if you want to help young authors, tell them not to respond to their negative reviews. PERIOD. It will only make things worse. Remind them that negative reviews are not a personal attack, but are simply part of the cycle of life as a published writer. Remind them that they are the professionals in the equation of author and reader. And most of all, remind them that no matter how much the wish they could control what is posted on the internet, it’s just a pipe dream. Spreading rumors will not make it a reality. Ignoring it is their option.

Anonymous said...


How would your husband respond if 60 people banned together to claim he was a pedophile that has been molesting his own children?

This isn't just reviews. Yes, things like this are posted IN reviews, but there are also whole ongoing discussions defaming the character of writers. Even writers who don't respond to negative reviews.

You can bet even "professionals" take a stand against this. To the point of lawsuits. The difference between high-paid professionals and starving artists is that high paid professionals can sue the asses off these people, where starving artists can do nothing but grin and bear it.

A negative review is a negative review. I agree with you there. Slander is not the same thing as a negative review. Making excuses to make it sound like that is the case comes across as callous and willfully ignorant.

Kathryn Lang said...

I have no problem with bad reviews that explain WHY it is a bad review (didn't connect with the characters, didn't like the tone, didn't like the voice of the author) because it gives readers an understanding.

I DO take issue with rude and unconstructive reviews just for the sake of doing it.

Anonymous said...

How ironic.

Lu Lu said...

I've seen this all before.

Anonymous said...

Are a handful of reviewers on Goodreads toxic and nasty? Absolutely. Does it matter at all? Nope.

I've fallen victim to the cycle of nastiness that 3-part anonymous poster pretty accurately described. But this is all just a drop in the bucket. Mainstream readers, by and large, have never even heard of Goodreads.

Anne Mackin said...

Good for you, Nathan Bransford, for taking on this issue. And what a shame your thoughtful blog entry stirred up both a lot of defensiveness on the part of some reviewers as well as some sad nonsense.
Here's an example of misuse of the Goodreads review system. Someone gives your book a one-star rating without saying a word about it. It's not even clear that the person read it. No reviewing involved there; just nastiness. Goodreads should take action.

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't you be able to post a one-star rating without saying anything? Maybe the person didn't want to go all out and really trash the book, so they left a simple rating. Again, the rating and the review isn't for the author. It's for the reviewer and the other readers.

Anonymous said...

I have to register my disgust at the utter lack of research and thought that went into this post.
First of all, as many others have stated, there is a very clear line between writing a review that is critical of the content of a novel and threatening an author. The reviews you decided to call out read the novel, found the content misogynistic, and stated as such. Reviewers at Goodreads aren't obligated to act as cheerleaders for all authors. In fact many reviewers, I would include those targeted in your post in this group, feel they have a responsibility to their readership to give their honest opinion. That is a sign of integrity, not bullying. Maybe you personally find the use of gifs inappropriately snarky, but different reviewers use different styles and Michiko Kakutani has been crueler in the past. Plus, when it comes to serious issues such as misogyny or racism, anger is most definitely justified.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, 1 star reviews without comments is 'abuse'??

Why dot we just tell GR to remove all rating less than five stars, and require authors to approve or decline all posts anywhere on the Internet?


Anonymous said...

The vitriolic reviews and black-banning of authors is not something I care for, but a big fat NO to telling them to do otherwise. NO to suggesting anyone should tone it down and consider the author's feelings. The internet is full of misinformation, fake reviewers telling me a book is fantastic. No way should anyone tone down their emotional responses and thoughts about a product they bought, because the producer or seller's feelings might get hurt.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Wow. Just goes to show what power readers have--or think the have--over authors these days.

It is true, and always has been,that people will buy books and other products recommended to them, by either a trusted adviser--like, in the past, professional paid bookreviewers--or close or even distant acquaintance, as in the case now of social media.

But it is equally true that writers, especially published, should not get in fights with critics--which book reviewers of any stripe ultimately amount to.

The old adage was that you should never get in a public fight with "someone who buys their ink by the barrel."

There is also a theory that "there is no such thing as bad long as they spell your name right."

Writers--and other artists--have been fighting critics since roughly the first symbol was devised for a language or idea. Hopefully, readers develop a sense for whose recommendations or derision is valid, and whose is just some kind of "I should have been the one the publisher chose, not this crap slinger!"

All this to say actually thank you, Nathan, for your defense of writers as human beings with feelings and pride and purpose that is often fragile. We write because we believe we have something to say. And we hope someone will want to read it.

If they don't, it doesn't mean they're right and we're wrong. It just means either they have some valid points buried under their vitriol, or they don't. And either way, like being beaten at something, hopefully it will make a writer try harder or be better with the next book.

Because even a reader's site should not be all praise and flowers for every work that someone sees fit to publish.

By the same token, just because someone saw fit to publish someone, it doesn't mean that someone needs to be treated as some sort of half-human, half literary god, ESPECIALLY by readers.

In this day of even famous authors writing their own reviews under a pseudonym, on Amazon, or great writers being skipped over by agents and publishers because they're working at something that doesn't necessarily have "million seller" written all over its face, or we learn that the publishers, which no longer have much of their own publicity department, pay people to write positive reviews or pay book sellers for better display, I think it good to know there are groups out there trying to keep everyone civil.

Though I admit, I long for a good, old-fashioned literary rivalry, like between Faulkner and Hemingway...:)

And to think, I JUST joined Goodreads as an author at the urging of some friends...:(

Jill Sorenson said...

I didn't read the reviews for September Girls, but I remember agreeing w/ the author when he tweeted: I am not responsible for your interpretation. Some readers at the time thought he should take responsibility for the problematic content, IIRC. When a glowing review came out at Booksmugglers, I wondered if he could also take credit for this more positive point of view. It is my feeling that authors shouldn't get involved in reviews or interpretations, but I'm still uncertain about our responsibility to readers. If I write an offensive stereotype, am I responsible for any harm caused? I'd like to take credit for the good responses and brush off the bad.

Maybe there is a book you loathe, Nathan. Find some scathing, gif-laden reviews for that book and see if you feel that they are unfair. Or check out some gushing reviews for that same book. Ugh, right?

I think it's fine to disagree with a review or question the reviewing style (of books you didn't write). But would you be this critical of the review/style if you hated (or didn't read) the book? If yes, okay. If not, something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Rather than believing every comment from those who are saying STGRB is such a bad site, why don't you actually go and look at the site Nathan? You used to be an agent-act like one and not someone who has no clue how to do research.

Nathan Bransford said...


I have never in my life trashed an author in a review. I would rather read a fair critique of a book I loved than an over the top one star review of a book I also didn't care for.

Laura Benson said...

Wow! I'm just gobsmacked at some of the responses here. I LOVE Nathan and he always writes thought-provoking posts.

Obviously this is a hot topic.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog Nathan! The example review screencap cited in this article is not an example of "bullying" in my opinion, however, so it does not serve to bolster the article's argument. It's not even personal in nature or vitriolic in the least bit; it's just a personal opinion had by the reviewer, which happens to be a negative one. And I find the supplementary meme to be humorous rather than harmful!

Goodreads is a social networking site in the end - and like other social networking sites, it can draw out honest opinions from users, which has its pluses and minuses as might be expected. You get the good and the bad, sometimes the ridiculous, and sometimes, unfortunately, the vicious. I agree hate speech or "trolling" is always unwanted feedback and can be discouraging or even terrifying for authors or anyone else to receive, but behind the veil of the Internet it may not be written with express intent to personally injure the author. More likely such feedback is written for fellow readers like themselves, and is conceived with the assumption that the actual author will likely never read those harsh words. Irresponsible as this may seem on the part of the reviewer, not everyone is aware of the power of their words and no discourse is always civil, so we cannot enforce that Internet discussions always remain at an enlightened level. It's all part of the charms of the Internet! I think if an author is particularly sensitive about such commentary, he or she should consider avoiding Internet hotbeds for literary criticism. :)

Anonymous said...

Some new shelves for Nathan's book:


Don't worry, Nathan, most of us don't feel this way. And we all know this would happen to you.

The few posting these things and shelving this way are loud and banded together and will campaign against your book as though they are PETA and you are opening testing carcinogenics on puppies.

I shouldn't say that, because really, the bullies may start saying Nathan is killing puppies and that my post here is proof of that.

I will never be able to follow their logic. Good luck to you, Nathan. You are already beginning to witness these attacks first hand, and it's only the tip of the iceberg. It's much worse than you surmised in your initial post, I'm afraid.

You will be shocked when you see how far they take it.

Anonymous said...

Please, before continuing criticising users of goodreads for leaving 1-star ratings, their meaning:
1-star: did not like it
2-star: it was ok
3-star: liked it
4-star: really liked it
5-star: it was amazing

(Note the star ratings on goodreads differs to those on Amazon).

1. These ratings are completely subjective, emotional responses. They do not specify quality of product or even appropriateness to genre. A negative rating could be a response to a personal trigger (eg racism) just as a 5-star response can be a fan-squee.
2. There is only a single choice for a "negative" response - 1-star.
3. The goodreads system does not require users to leave a review, nor a rating. Many members do not feel competent to leave a review (they aren't writers after all!) or fear the blow-back from authors if they do (I wonder why?).
4. Any rating system that fails to acknowledge a negative response fails before it begins.

The goodreads "how it works" page may give you a better understanding of goodreads expectations for it's members. Surely it would behoove all users of the site (authors, readers, and reviewers) to comprehend the system before casting judgements?

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that for a site that is for "Readers" Authors are encouraged to join. They have created the option of Author profiles, something that says "This site is for authors, too." They have created options for authors to advertise through them, once members, also something that says "This site is for authors, too."

Goodreads is a joke. Any idea how many books on that site have reviews and ratings and aren't even books yet? Some might not ever even be books! Some are just there for the comedy of proving that 90% of the reviews on that site are fake.

More reliable than Amazon, some say? they are either trolls or easily disillusioned. Goodreads has more fake ratings than any other review site on this planet.

Aitch748 said...

"I will never be able to follow their logic."

Hate has its own logic and interprets everything in the worst way possible. Although I am amazed that the troll gang is operating so openly.

Before today, I'm guessing, the trolls weren't putting Nathan's books on shelves with names like "total-asshole-author" or "fuck-this-book-for-being-illiterate" -- but now, they are, and we're watching them do it almost in real time, in the space of just a few hours. Somehow I doubt all these people just happened to get curious about your books, read them all, and rated them at the same time.

Sorry this is happening to your books, Nathan, but the good news is that the trolls are proving your point even better than you did. ;)

donnamusing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cole Carroll said...

Simple solution: next time someone attacks you personally on any platform, tell them you'll pay for their airfare and lodging to come out and tell it straight to your face. That'll shut them up.

They're cowards. Cowards congregate on the internet because they usually have no friends or anyone that cares about them.

And that fact alone should allow you to sleep fine at night.

I read a story about a boxer who lost a fight and had a guy hounding him with personal attacks on twitter non-stop. The boxer found out where he lived and sat out front his house waiting for the guy to come out. The guy hid inside for hours until he finally broke down and came out crying to apologize.

I always try and think big picture. Would someone like Grisham, or King, or Nora Roberts give a damn about these losers on GoodReads? Hell no, they're too busy getting paid and actually writing.

There's a limit to these forms of social media and it's best not to engage in any thing related to trolls or anything else like that. Life's too short.

donnamusing said...

I completely agree with you, Laura Benson! I give your comment five stars!

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