Lou: Interwebs and drama go hand in hand like peas in a pod. It seems like the first and latter can’t survive without one another. We’ve documented many book kerfuffles online here at the blog. Some kerfuffles are amusing, others can make you angry, and others you simply can’t be arsed with.
Goodreads seems to attract a lot of drama and kerfuffles. Namely between a select few of authors against reviewers. These authors are not happy about the reviews they received and decided to show to their public that they weren’t happy. This ties in from Has’ post of Be Nice which if you so desire, can be recapped here. Things have turned incredibly frightening and have crossed the lines of flamewars into allegedly criminal activity. A group (or alleged person) of vigilante readers or authors have set up a site called Stop the GR bullies. We won’t link to the site because giving them hits only empowers them more. Stop the GR bullies is dedicated to outing and shaming the real life identities of reviewers on Goodreads. One of the reviewers has been threatened. Somebody rang her phone and told the person, “we know where to find you bitch,” and hung up.
What the everloving fuck is happening? Since when does a negative review or being mean about a book ever makes it OK to go down the route of stalking and harassing a person? Has and I have been talking about the reasons why they might go down this route. One: the person(s) could possibly have serious mental health problems; two: they like having the power to scare someone; and three: to silence dissent because if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
I think it’s a little of all three, but the last point sticks out for me. And that’s not having control over someone who doesn’t like your book. I’ve seen some personal views about this situation that has alarmed me. Some coming from authors that whilst disagree with what Stop the GR bullies are doing, they understand and empathise with the reasons behind it.
If I want to be a douchebag about a review, I have that every right. If I want to swear and curse, and say mean fucking things about a book, I have the right to do so. The author in question has every right to disagree with what I’ve said and tell me to fuck right off. But nobody has the right to make me fear for my life because I said your book sucks and decided to shelve you on Goodreads for authors to avoid. And when I say authors to avoid, all that means is not reading your books.
Has: I think this issue is never ever going to go away, but this year seems to be pretty epic with the huge meltdowns over reviews, especially on how to review and who does the reviewing. I think this is partly due to the changing face of publishing and the growing rise of bloggers, reviewers and social network sites such as Goodreads and Twitter, which adds a more direct interaction with readers, authors and publishers.
There’s this assumption that reviewers have to be respectful and nice, and another term that is thrown out a lot recently is unprofessional. I was once called this for a book I reviewed critically. Most negative reviews are very good about laying out why the book didn’t work for that reader and reviewer, and this won’t guarantee a lost sale for that book. I have bought books due to a bad review because it may have elements that appeal to me.
Nonetheless, if there is a reviewer who does cross the boundary from reviewing the book and attacks the author directly by snarking on their appearance or being personal, they will get called out on that by other readers or reviewers. Places like Goodreads or even review blogs are reader spaces to discuss the merits of a book and not the author. It is hard to make a distinction because there is always an element that will crossover. But haranguing, attacking or trying to change a reviewer’s mark into a better grade because they missed the point of the book, well that’s crossing the line. Any author guilty of doing the above is going to be marked to be avoided at all costs – and this is not due to the book, but the author’s reaction to the reviewer.
We are very tired of this issue that keeps popping its ugly head repeatedly, but I think this past week shows that being silent or ignoring it won’t make this go away. There will always be an incident when an author has a meltdown over a review but we won’t be silent and we won’t be intimidated. I just feel angry, and sorry that a group of reviewers are being targeted, and bullied for having opinions. Having opinions is the lifeblood of a good blogger. This shouldn’t be something that a reviewer has to fear for doing something they love.
MinnChica: After reading the different articles at Dear Author and Foz Meadows and other places, one of the things I want to clarify is one aspect of the warped definition of a “bully.”
I’ve seen people say that the reviewers at Goodreads are acting as bullies by placing an author on a Bratty-Authors-To-Avoid shelf. I have a HUGE problem with this argument. Let’s compare this situation to a regular everyday business. I’ve decided that I will not support Chick-fil-A as a company because of their anti-gay stance. I won’t buy their foods, I won’t support their business, and I am going to ask my friends to do the same. THIS IS NOT BULLYING. This is my boycotting a business because I don’t agree with their business practice, their morals, or their company policies. This is a common practice, and one that I’m sure everyone has done at one point in their life.
Likewise, a reader saying “I won’t support this author by buying their books because of their stance on this issue/their comment on this article/their belief in this practice” is the exact same thing. It is a boycott against an organization, not any kind of personal attack. Although in the author’s case, they are an organization of one, THE AUTHOR IS IN CHARGE OF HIS/HER OWN BRAND.
While some authors might not want to hear it, their comments on twitter, their online presence and their actions directly impact the everyday reader. I have plenty of authors who I refuse to purchase their books because of their behavior at conferences, their outlandish Twitter comments, and their general crappy disposition. I’m not saying Author X is a bad person, I’m just saying that my hard earned money will be spent on someone who I want to support, who I want to succeed. That is not bullying, it’s a conscious and personal choice to take my business elsewhere. Plain and simple.
If I stop buying Chick-fil-A and post on the blog about how I don’t want romancelandia to support them either, Chick-fil-A isn’t going to hunt me down and tell its loyal customers where I live and work, what days I go to the grocery store, or my personal telephone number. This “stop the bullies” site is doing exactly that. They are taking offense for another individual’s personal feelings and getting their revenge by purposefully outing who they think the bad guy really is.
THIS MENTALITY HAS NEVER AND WILL NEVER BE OKAY OR RIGHT.
E: In my non-bookpushing job I have raised my right hand and sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Part of that very document, The Constitution, includes what is known as The Bill of Rights or the first 10 Amendments. The Bill of Rights says in Amendment 1, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This quote came from Charters of Freedom a .gov site found here. When I read that I see that I am allowed to have an opinion and I am also allowed to voice my opinion. You are allowed to have an opinion of my opinion and to voice that. What I don’t see is that it is OK to post someone’s personal information because you DO NOT agree with their opinion. I see that you are allowed to peaceably gather and to ask the Government to change something. I do not see that posting someone’s personal information is peaceably gathering or asking the Government to change something.
Any product be it food, drink, a book, a poem, a movie, a show, a car, a truck, a recipe, or a piece of furniture that has been released for public consumption will result in different people thinking different things about it. Some might be good and some might be bad, but they will all be based on the individuals experience with that product and their past experiences which have shaped their opinions. Something that I think authors, reviewers and FANS need to remember is that different people will have different opinions about the same thing and based on Amendment 1 as quoted above that is ok.
A review is an opinion; it is not based in fact, it is not written in stone, it is one person’s opinion of a product they have consumed. Not everyone likes the same things. Just like not everyone speaks the same way. I might write a review, my opinion, in one way and a fellow bookpusher might have the same general opinion but their review will be written differently because they are a DIFFERENT person and has a DIFFERENT style. This does not mean that mine is right, better, wrong, or worse just DIFFERENT. I have grown to enjoy being part of the book community and interacting with authors, bloggers, readers and whatever combination of those three people are. If people didn’t have different opinions then we would all be reading the exact same book which would lead to a pretty boring existence.
In my opinion someone who puts another person’s, whose opinion they disagree with, private information out in public while refusing to state who they are is a coward of the worst sort. If you believe so strongly in your opinion then come out and own it. By taking this tactic you are not only acting as a bully, because we all know bullies are cowards at heart, but you are damaging whatever credibility your opinion had to begin with. Not to mention you are potentially putting people’s lives in danger. There are some really sick individuals out there who do some really horrific things to others. Obviously you are not willing to face that same danger you have just put people that you DISAGREE with in because you have not put your information on the same website publicly. What makes you different? Why should you be able to stay safe behind a wall when you purposefully tore one down that was in front of another human being?
Given that I have been put into situations that could have resulted in the loss of my life to defend our FREEDOMS to include the freedom to have an opinion, seeing other people decide that only they deserve that right really makes me sad. It is a shame to see a few individuals decide to taint a wonderful community because they are AFRAID of another person’s opinion. Their actions ARE NOT right and should NOT be accepted. Those freedoms listed in the constitution are for everyone not just those who hold ONE opinion.