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. What 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
Readers 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?