Monday, December 30, 2013

It's About To Get Personal - Or My Thoughts on Goodreads, Author Interactions, Trolls and Opinion Shaming

Not my pic, but it illustrates my point/the topic of this post!
   You want to be a book blogger, huh?  I'm sure plenty of other bloggers have much advice (both good, bad and seemingly bizarre) to dole out generously.  Most of it is probably FAR more interesting than mine and more along the lines of what you would like to hear.  What prompted me to voice my thoughts on these topics (better known as rage button-issues!) would be an incident that happened last night when I was doing a status update on Goodreads for a book that I'm reading.  I won't name any names, but I noticed that the overall rating of the book had dropped dramatically in the last week since I looked at it's Goodreads page.  
     So, I started looking at reviews to see what was going on.  Apparently someone posted a review questioning a few things about the books and had a discussion going in the comments with their friends.  The author dropped themselves into the conversation and gave some unsought explanations for their questions.  I can see how this would be jarring to the reader and make them feel unsafe to express their opinion or like they were being attacked.  That said, it escalated from respectfully WTF? style dialogue to all out rage-mongering on the part of the blogger and as a result lots of people marked it DO-NOT-READ, TROLLS, and gave it one star reviews.  Here I am, weighing in on the situation (and ones like it that happen all the time) to give you my personal dos and don'ts for author interaction/opinion expression:

My Personal DOs for Respectful Opinions/Interactions on Social Media
  1. DO feel free to express your opinions.  That said, do it in a respectful and constructively critical manner.  If you have nothing to add to why you hated it, do not be surprised if someone (maybe not even the author) tries to start a dialogue with you.  Be prepared for it.  Try to be intelligent about it.
  2. DO make sure they are your opinions.  It is wonderful to stand behind your friends and take their part on things.  But if you have not read something, do not mark it as ONE STAR out of FIVE STARS.  If you have not cracked the spine, you have all the right to mark it as do-not-read for whatever reasons you fancy.  But to trash the rating of the author's hard work with no real opinions to share as to why (except for personal, rage-y ones) is just downright malicious.  You're rating the author, not the book!!!   Which is not what the forum is for.
       ***That said, if you want to add a note as to why you're forgoing the book in where the review usually 
              is, that's definitely the more mature and respectful option.  It adds reason that others can see, with 
              any malicious action behind it.

      3.  DO engage in relationships with authors and other readers.  It is really fun to meet new people 
           that share your interests.  Be they authors, or just fellow readers/bloggers it can be fun to get into 
           debates and make book suggestions to others.  Differing opinions are exciting because they can lead 
           to awesome new experiences/wisdom on both sides.  Treat the how you'd treat your real-life friends: 
           with respect and care.

My Personal DON'Ts for Respectful Opinions/Interactions (i.e. SANITY!!!) on Social Media

  1. DON'T engage.  I have been fairly lucky that the majority of my negative/critical reviews are generally not commented on by the author themselves.  I have HOWEVER, had this happen a couple of times.  Lots of times, I don't even notice because I tend to keep my book discussion to my favorite groups threads or my blog.  I always feel bad when it happens.  And yes it does feel like they invaded my personal space.  But you know the best way to get over it?  IGNORE IT.  If you don't engage people who are asking for an argument or want to start a shitstorm, they can't start one.  If they keep harassing you, while you ignore them, it's easy to prove who the malicious party was.  ENGAGING leads to hurtful comments, discussion that only becomes more hateful and less intelligent as it continues on and it angers other bloggers too.  Keep it to your reviews, private discussions and places you know you won't be interrupted.  Or just IGNORE.
  2. DON'T actively create your own shitstorm when you feel threatened or wronged.  Yes, it might get everyone else's attention and cause everyone to spotlight the author/other fan's wrongdoings.  Everyone else can see what they're doing and how wrong it is.  Freaking YAY FOR YOU.  It might satisfy you in the short run, but it will also inevitably draw negative attention to you as well.  It might even draw the attention/ire/horrible acts of OTHER rude assholes on the Internet.  Just because they know they can start something with you and get somewhere.  By just letting things go, I guarantee you can completely bypass 99.9% of any drama waiting to tag along with you.
  3. DON'T one star review books that you have never read for yourself.  This has got to be MY ABSOLUTE BIGGEST PET PEEVE.  EVER.  Especially on Goodreads, where people seem to just rate things low or the lowest possible, just for the Hell of it!  I go on there looking to find reviews or ratings of the books themselves, from others who have read them.  Didn't enjoy it, be honest.  There's nothing wrong with that! :D  Loved it?  Shout it from the hilltops!  Didn't read it, but you're pissed off about author/trolling drama?  DO NOT RATE THE BOOK ITSELF.  Shelve it accordingly, write in the review box about what is irking you, complain to all your friends, etc.  The book is not the author.  They are separate entities!  It could be a masterpiece!  It could change people's lives and the entire world (most of them probably won't, but still!) around us with its pages!!!  Do not punish the book (and the people who might love it anyways) because of the author.  Yes, they profit from it.  It might hurt your soul a little bit, but it is the honest and best way to handle the situation.  One starring a book that you have never read a word of is just as malicious as a trolling author or fan butting in on your social media life!  Don't stoop that low.

     Every single person in this world is entitled to their opinion!  Shaming someone else for their opinion is NEVER okay, even if it just means commenting on a post when you know it will make someone uncomfortable.  If they ask you to leave, then do it.  You might just be trying to make them "understand" something.  But what you're most likely to do is make yourself look like a complete ASSHOLE, no matter how polite you are about it.  They don't want your opinion, didn't ask for it and don't want any further dialogue.  ABORT NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE (in most cases, it's already too late at this point in the eyes of most involved).  Well, I said what I have to say on the matter.
     As someone who has been on Facebook longer than I've been blogging, Twitter for only about six months, and Goodreads for almost three years, I find the easiest way to avoid this kind of thing is to have a life/things to keep busy with outside of social media!  Things won't sting as badly if your Goodreads/Twitter/Facebook accounts aren't the sum of your life and opinions.  They are an addition to you and yes, someone else trying to censor that is an injustice.  But be involved in real life too! :D  Go join a physical book club, hang with some friends, do something fun.  DON'T be logged in 24/7.  It will save your sanity and so will limiting your emotions to your books!  Before Goodreads, I never would have known that an author was behaving badly in regards to reviews, etc.  So I pretend like it doesn't exist now and just do my thing with the books!

P.S.  The books are what matter the most, after all.  The personal shit is secondary and either awesome or not awesome.  That's just life and that's my opinion, such as it is.  Feel free to disagree with me and start a shitstorm in the comments if you want.  Just know that you've been forewarned - I WON'T ENGAGE.

JK.  I totally lied - I engaged! LOL  Sorry, gotta love a horrible joke every now and then!


  1. I completely agree with you on all of this! I had no idea about author drama until early this (well last) year when I started blogging for real. And while I understand why people are getting upset...when it comes down to it, I'm all about the book. If I end up thinking author is super despicable, then I suppose I just won't buy his book *Shrugs* (I haven't come to this realization about anyone yet honestly, as none of the authors I like have been involved in any of these - to my knowledge). If you look back at it, a lot of authors of the classics were pretty well known as being total tools. Or you look in my field (classical music) and you've got people like Wagner. He was a pretty despicable dude, but when it comes down to it, he did completely change music as it was known at the time, and you know what? Tristan and Isolde continues to be one of the most beautiful operas, despite the composer being an anti-semite.

    And I've read some of the people who were against the author. While I don't think the authors made the best choice by talking to the reviewer, some of the responses were awful! I couldn't believe how some of these people were talking about the author or other reviewers! I hadn't seen this side of Goodreads before so I was pretty shocked. It's always a little bit disheartening when you realize one of the sites you are always on starts reading like youtube comments :-/

    1. I always feel like I never know what's going on until it's already over! And yes, the comments about that author devolved into something rather nasty on the part of the bloggers rather quickly. Social media is a blessing and a curse: it lets us get closer to our authors and have more discussions of our books. But it also shows us all their faults up close and personal too. Maybe because of the times we live in, the microscope they're under, etc. we expect them (unfairly) to be on their best behavior 24/7. And yeah, a lot of creative 'geniuses' from back in the day were complete d-bags! :D Thanks for weighing in Elizabeth. Good to know I'm not alone on this one. Probably the most hilarious thing to me about this, is that the author guidelines on GR flat out advise NOT TO ENGAGE negative reviews because it will only make things worse. They used the word engage! It cracked me up and vindicated me a bit too.


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