Indie Authors And Goodreads Review Policies

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

Earlier this month, I saw some articles about Goodreads and their new review policies, and I wonder if it will impact indie authors like the whole Amazon review debacle did/does (for more on that, read Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews and More On Amazon Reviews And Indie Authors).  I also wonder if the fact that Amazon has recently acquired Goodreads has anything to do with this recent review change (even though Goodreads denies this).  I’ve read that a lot of people believe that Amazon reviews are suspect, but many readers seem to feel that Goodreads reviews are more reliable.  Is that being questioned now?

Indie Authors And Goodreads Reviews

Initially Goodreads didn’t seem to monitor their reviews much, if at all.  Readers could say pretty much what they wanted without any repercussions from Goodreads (and authors could too – see below).  And authors could review and star-rate their own reviews, and at the moment, this practice continues (unlike Amazon, who now says that authors cannot review each other’s works).  Initially, the policy stated that reviews should be based on the book, and the reviews should not harass anyone.  Pretty simple and straightforward.  Only Goodreads didn’t really enforce this…

Indie Authors And What Started Goodreads Review Revisions

But apparently somebody didn’t play nice, and it finally caught Goodreads attention.  Goodreads and Indie AuthorsWhat happened?  It seems to have started when Goodreads became aware of reviews that had nothing to do with the book, but were attacking author behavior (many of these reviewers even admitted to having not read the books they were reviewing).  As Goodreads moved to address this, they have also had to address what readers perceive to be bad behavior on the part of authors.

Indie Authors And Goodreads New Review Policy

Goodreads review policy states:

  • reviews should be about the book
  • members are not permitted to harass or threaten other people

In addition, they have now made it easier to find the flag button, to make it easier to alert Goodreads staff about a concern.  They are now trying to educate authors about the review policies (more on this below), and they will delete content focused on author behavior.  You can read their blog about the changes here.

Sounds okay, right?  Read on…

Indie Authors, Censorship And Bullying

indie authors and bullyingReaders then cried foul, saying that Goodreads is condoning poor behavior on the part of authors.  Some of this came from authors who innocently questioned Goodreads review policies on message boards, and then were attacked by readers.  Who knows what language was used, or the tone, but Goodreads seemed to feel it amounted to bullying, and they acted by deleting these type of reviews.   And readers felt to take down the negative reviews that attacked the authors was censorship (for a specific example, read this post).

Indie Authors And The Future Of Goodreads

I am one who remains skeptical of Goodreads now that Amazon has acquired it.  It doesn’t surprise me that Goodreads is now deleting some reviews, and it won’t surprise me if we see more deleted reviews with very little explanation or justification.  What I think might be different for Goodreads is that the site is a social site, not a merchandising site, like Amazon.  Users are more vocal, and this may carry more weight with Goodreads as well.  And the damage may have been done, as I’ve read many posts saying users don’t trust Goodreads anymore, or that they are leaving the site.

Indie Authors – What Should You Do?

My personal take is that authors should not publicly respond to negative reviews.  It’s better to just let it all go, move on, and keep writing.  If you engage readers, especially in a public forum, you are opening yourself up to being misunderstood, misinterpreted, and unfortunately, bullied.  We live in an Internet age where it’s easy to cyber-attack someone because there’s not a threat of physical retaliation, and things can get ugly quickly.  It’s not worth it.

If you do respond, you should always be professional.  I am, quite frankly, flabbergasted at the authors who publicly attack readers, take issue with negative comments and so on.  It marks you as an amateur, and I’ve yet to see a case where it positively impacts your career (but I can site many cases where it’s hurt or destroyed careers).  Let it go…

What do you think of the new Goodreads review policy?

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
This entry was posted in Indie Author Handbook and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Indie Authors And Goodreads Review Policies

  1. Tasha Turner says:

    I’ve been disappointed at how GR has handled the situation. In the past they let a lot of stuff that violated their existing policy stay up. Had they simply started enforcing their policies after informing users publicly a week or so before-hand people would not be all up-in-arms.

    Many authors have not made sure they understood how GR worked and had an attitude that their books were “their space” which was wrong but somewhat understandable since they were invited to add books. Instead of following the convention of “never respond to criticism” and “quietly & privately ask questions when you don’t understand something” they did stuff and they were attacked. Good rule of thumb anywhere is learn the written and unwritten rules & culture before engaging. Too many new writers just jump in and don’t read the Terms of Service or watch how a site works. Find a mentor, Google is your friend, read industry blogs so you know what to do and have someone to ask questions privately.

    Readers and reviewers were unofficially encouraged by GR to do whatever they wanted as long as it was not actual threats as GR did not remove reviews for other things. This made things even harder for newbie authors who jumped in without taking the time to learn.

    Is GR still of value? I think it is. I suspect the uproar will blow over. Authors need to remember GR is NOT their home it’s a place they are a guest in. The more involved you are in groups as a reader the better your experience will be. If you use it as a personal promotional drive-by think twice about doing more than having a profile and putting your books up. It’s social media so only use it if you intend to be social. Never get into discussions about your book unless you are in a group you started or someone asks you about your book. Don’t respond to negative comments about your book in the review section. Think very carefully about responding in a group discussion to negative comments about your book.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think there is culpability on all sides, and what saddens me overall is that people can’t be professional and courteous, no matter what the situation :)

  2. Mark says:

    Part of me thinks that anyone should be able to ask an honest question, but there’s a fine line between being honestly curious and territorial. Oftentimes authors don’t know the difference, but the same can be said for readers/reviewers.

    I don’t care how much I hate a book, I wouldn’t do most of the things that some GR reviewers were doing. Those things don’t encourage people to improve their writing, which is what I try to accomplish when I write a negative review. I want that author to come back and surprise me the next time. By no means do I wish them harm, but a lot of reviewers take the exact opposite stance, it seems … even if they don’t threaten physical harm. I don’t understand why. Why must they be so hateful?

    That’s the kind of behavior that has no place in the process, but like you said and the other commenter mentioned, author response can be just as ugly.

    A response from GR was long overdue. Do I think it’s a good thing overall? Yes. Will it be enforced correctly? Tough to say. Time will tell.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      You bring up some great points, and as an author, I love the review that is nice but can help me as well. I laugh off the ones that take it personally, like I intentionally tried to ruin their reading experience. Oh well…
      Thanks for the comment.

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