Thursday, October 10, 2013

Goodreads and the "Community"

Here is an interesting perspective on Goodreads and the "community" that it has created.

First, I have to say that I really like Goodreads for all of the reasons stated in the article. It gives a place where authors can engage readers and vice versa. It gives a good "landing place" for your novel. It also connects to your blog, so that what I'm typing here will show up there eventually. Goodreads is a great site for authors and readers.

Dealing with negative reviews is tough, however. As authors, we spend so much time with our work that it is easy to be sensitive about it. The books we write are like our children, and nobody wants to have their little snowflakes criticized. That being said, though, once we bring our work to the table and release it, it's up to the public to judge it, even if we might think that judgment is unfair, incorrect, or even spiteful in origin.

Introducing the social aspect between author and reader also brought along unintended side effects. There have always been trolls. There have always been haters. There have always been bullies. Neither the internet nor Goodreads created these things. Whether it stems from professional jealousy, boredom, or the joy of making others' lives more difficult, these social dynamics are not new, what's new is that there is no longer any "buffer" between the trolls/haters/bullies and the authors. A site like Goodreads merely gives a place to concentrate the vitriol like never before.

I've been involved in several "communities" online on various subjects, and no matter the rules, or what efforts you go through to make a better place, there are going to be people who thrive on destroying it. The fact that sites have popped up to defend the two camps outside of the Goodreads moderation speaks volumes about the players involved. It's nothing new, but it is indeed poisonous to any idea of "community". Those sites are akin to the high school clique word-of-mouth smear campaigns that Suzy is a dirty little whore, and she should no longer be considered as one of the Popular Ones.

One of my short stories, a freebie I released on a lark, mostly, got a pretty scathing review from a Goodreads reader. It did not say so directly, but the undercurrent of the review was that I should give up writing. My first instinct was to defend myself.

I thought about responses I could make. "Sorry you didn't like it. Would you like a refund?" was the front runner, since it was a free book, after all. In second place was something about his questionable parentage that I won't deign to repeat here.

However strong the impulse was to sally forth the defenses, I decided to take the professional route and say nothing. If he didn't like it, or didn't understand the book? Whatever. His loss.

Will I stop writing because he didn't like it?

Fuck no.

To stop writing because someone didn't like my work would be to give away the power of my voice. Nobody has that kind of power over me except me and I'm not going to relinquish it without a fight to the death.

I did address getting the negative review in my Google Plus stream, but it was a post about taking it all in stride, and neither pointed toward the reviewer nor his review.  It was a sort of Google Plus shrug. After all, I had been posting on G+ when I got good reviews, I thought it was only fair that I should post when I got negative ones, too.

Overall, I think I chose the more professional route.

As an author in this Brave New World, you should, too.


  1. I come across these types quite frequently with what I do as well. Jabs such as: you're trying too hard, attention whore, you have too much time on your hands; and questions that arise during writing a rant that challenge my positions on a topic, or a written satire I've published that people attempt to interpret literally. Hate mail that state I am despicable for posting such articles that challenge their own beliefs and convictions, or being too long-winded for them, being funny in one instance and then offending them in another instance, or when I state something they don't agree with otherwise, that I take myself too seriously when they insult my intelligence or skill or sense of morals simply because I am "humorist" or comedian in their mind that I must have no feelings or take what I do seriously at all; they'll ask me rhetorical questions like "are you psychotic?" because I've written something that apparently is so incredibly above their heads, using words and concepts that are too big for them to grasp — the list goes on.

    Most of time I see most of it as trolling, because no one can be that stupid, can they? Well, often they are. In the long run I just ignore them all and keep writing because that's what rewards me and gives me satisfaction. Those who appreciate it in the long run are much more worthy of my time and attention than those who are truly wasting their time dishing out non-contructive criticism.

    1. Your brand of comedy is edgy, and the masses doesn't usually appreciate edge. I mean, those witchcraft sketches went over like gangbusters for the pagans but you put one witchcraft comedian in Salem and then it's nothing but flamewars...

      I personally love your brand of comedy, Static. I think the edginess might be mistaken for 'callousness' in the interpretation by the masses, though. You just keep on doing what you do, and I'll keep laughing my ass off.

  2. Well, thank you and likewise — whatever you continue to write will surely be entertaining as well.

    The audacity of some people to think their opinions matter, and that we aren't entitled to our own. May they end up with their noses stuck in the south end of a northbound skunk. :P