Goodreads: Reader Connection or Troll Fields?

I found, at first, Goodreads a useful tool.I could track the books I was reading and put a review up in any style I wanted without being censored for crass words. Swear words are part of my life, I’m not ashamed to say. Once I got my first contract, I had a tool to upload every book I’ve written onto one handy site. Genius!

Then I saw the darkside, something I muddled through on other sites. It’s not the sharpness of steel that would lay these foul creatures to rest, I thought, but a sharp witted tongue. I have the means but should I tread that thorny path?

Imagine the creator(s) of Goodreads sitting down and describing a beautiful place where authors and readers could frollick and mingle. A glorious book euphoria for all to enjoy. Then, as many sites on the internet eventually face, the trolls crawled out of the virtual woodwork and caused havoc.

Once you open that door, you better be prepared to gird your loins. (this photo was taken in Stavanger, Norway by me)

But where, I wonder, is the line between good old fashioned snark and author bashing? Have I crossed the line myself? Sarcasm, after all, doesn’t translation well in written form. There’s no smileys to guide the way or a special font. Worst of all, the internet gives a person a certain amount of anonimity. Faceless masses in a digital playground finding the strength to bully without reprecussions.

As a person who has felt the sting of a rejection or a bad review once a a book hits the world, I tread a little carefully out and about. Even the slightest peep could seriously joepardize everything you’ve tried to accomplish in your writing career. It’s far more easier to destroy than to build. I’ve seen a tidal wave come and sweep me up in a broad generalization over something I never did just because of one comment I made. A mark that took over a year to fade. People love to jump on the hate train and hurl insults for the sake of doing so. I wonder one thing when I see it–are their lives so decidedly boring and retched that their only gratification comes in the face of slandering and vilifying another? I watched an episode of Almost Human, first airing on 06 January 2014, that showed the ugly side of the internet. It’s not the first show to do it in the format they did but its affects are no less chilling.

In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if someone self-published, used an indie publisher, or scored an agent with the big 5/6 to get their book out there? We could argue all day and then some on the little bits of that whole statement. You know, proper editing, cover art, or how long it took to create your masterpiece. The point is, however, when an author puts something on the block, it’s baring their soul for the whole world to see–good or bad. Not only do they need to prepare themselves for the onslaught of critics but the little minions that clamber after them.

On the flip side of things, I’ve also seen authors behaving like misguided children. It’s a hard task to sit on your hands or walk away from the keyboard when someone’s blasting you into a deep, dark hole. We’re supposed to be the bigger person in all of this. That includes speaking ill will about a genre–even one you wrote because you thought it was easy money. Writing a book about dirty little whores sticking popcicles up their hoohahs? Good for you! Typing away at the keys on the latest adventure of your puppy detective Spuds and his michevious sidekick Grieves the mouse? Go for it. Dream your dream for yourself because sometimes that’s all you got.

The fact remains that there’s something out there for everyone and that’s what Goodreads was most likely intended for. Not for authors or readers to trash others, to label books “I’d rather shove a red hot poker in my ass than read this”, or to vicious dogpile someone just trying to catch their break in a field that’s crawling with aspiring authors.

This business isn’t an overnight sensation and people are going to misstep. It’s the nature of the beast. I’m not saying to give false praise, I’m saying don’t be a cunt about what you do say.

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2 responses

  1. I’ve watched some of the Goodreads drama and been aware of kerfluffles and the like, typically popularized whenever someone responds to a negative review. It is difficult, as an author, to watch something as inherently personal as your work being ripped apart, so I can sympathize to a point. The trouble comes when authors try to guide the conversation or call upon their fans to come to their defense. Authors guilty of this likely forget that the writing part is personal, but the publishing part is business, and all business is subject to receiving negative reviews. In this case, when you’re putting something personal into the business realm, knowing where that line is can be difficult, but professionalism and quiet dignity goes a long way. Is it easy? No. I’ve received my fair share of negative reviews that had me whimpering or (truthfully) pissed off, and sometimes not responding is difficult…but it’s also the right thing to do, because YES, while you are a person and the work IS personal on some level, you are also the face of your brand, your business. Businesses that respond to criticism with hostility typically only receive more hostility. Amy Cakes, anyone?

    And with Goodreads…yes, it is a haven for negativity, but the comments field of any piece on the Internet — news articles, product reviews, company pages, etc., is subject to the same. Writing is like any other industry in that regard…and perhaps we notice it more because it’s OUR ideas, OUR books, OUR blood, sweat and tears that are being criticized (read: trashed), rather than the subject of an article, or a faceless corporation. But anyone who purchased my book is entitled to rake me over the coals. I won’t enjoy it. I will (and do) dread it, but it’s earned.

    Unless they’re pirates. Then they can go suck an egg.

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