How to REALLY handle Goodreads Bullies

Oh, what a shit storm. I’m not even gonna link to any of the vile sites that are a part of this problem.  Not even the GR site itself.

Authors, you aren’t making this easy on yourselves. The best thing any author can do is just STOP USING GOODREADS!!  You can still be a “Goodreads Author” if you only check the website once every three months. And even then, your involvement is up to you. You can read your reviews or not read your reviews. You can interact in groups or not interact in groups. Just make sure you check your messages once in a while in case you have fan mail.  Some readers prefer to contact you there, regardless of the preferred contact info you listed in the back of your book.

There’s also this really cool function called “ignore.” You can look at all the scathing reviews left for your book or anyone else’s, and then go down the list, ignoring those who left them. Goodreads will give you the option of viewing the review again if you want but you don’t have to. A lot of readers already ignore the “meanies” because they prefer a positive environment.

There’s no way to keep your books off of Goodreads if you publish, traditionally or Indie. I do both and I have ten pseudonyms. I rarely use Goodreads. I’d rather spend my time writing more books than looking for new reviews about my books. What’s the point of that? Is it going to change what I write?  No, because readers’ opinions are all over the place.  I couldn’t possibly please them all. My reviews range from “I wish this horrible book would die,” to “I just found my new favorite author!” And that’s how it’s always going to be.  You need to write for your audience. Focus on them and no one else.

A lot of readers already know about the negativity that exists at Goodreads and many of them ignore it. There are a lot of tactful readers on the site who just want to have a fun time and discuss the books they enjoy, without snark.  They know better than to pay attention to the over-the-top scathing reviews that include animated .gifs and such. Writer, when you get a review like that, be thankful!  Someone spent their time on YOU!  Okay, it was probably some loser who spends all their free time on Twitter and still lives with their parents because they’re too socially inept to find a job, but still.  That loser took their precious time to craft a long, hateful review of something you wrote – and they don’t even know you.  A lot of other readers ignore that person, trust me. And other writers are jealous that you’re getting any attention at all.

What to do

I write this from experience. I went through something in 2011. A reviewer confused one of my pseudonyms with someone else. A few of my readers tried to defend me, but I was the one targeted because I’d obviously put those readers up to it, right?  No. I didn’t know it was happening until it had gone on for a while. I won’t say more about it except “it’s good to have close friends who are lawyers.”

– Never respond to a review or engage any of these people. If you already have, make sure your response is tactful. And take screen shots of all of your interactions, immediately, because the other person may delete theirs and you need proof of who said what. From here on out, no more communication. Do not mention them on a blog or anywhere else.

– If the ensuing response is an immediate gathering of Goodreads reviewers, armed and ready to add you to “badly behaving author” shelves, take screen shots but do not get involved. Do not respond. Do not create fake Goodreads accounts to respond on your behalf. Just let it go. Screen shot public conversations you see about your book on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, etc, if you find them.

– Here’s the most important thing: if they say anything about reading your book just to leave you a bad review, or about combining efforts to vote your reviews up and down at Amazon, screen shot the heck out of it. Most importantly, if you have a trail leading from Goodreads (and / or Twitter) to Amazon or any other online book store, you may have a case for defamation. Why? Because if you can prove that people colluded to hurt your book sales and were successful, they may have affected your income. That’s where it crosses the line to a legal issue. But make sure to document everything because online defamation can be really hard to prove without screen shots, time stamps, Google analytics data, etc. Ever wonder why a book reviewer disappears from Goodreads or Amazon all of a sudden, never to be heard from again? Hmm. 🙂

– If you must go the route of contacting a lawyer, remember it’s important that your nose is kept clean. It MAY be okay if your response was minimal, or you can clearly show the reviewers initially contacted you to bait you. But if you engage them repeatedly over a matter of days, you could be considered just as guilty as the nasty reviewer who gathered friends to target you. In other words, do not stoop to their level.

– On the bright side, what happens to most people in this situation is this: ignoring the trolls makes them go away. They move on to new victims, quickly, because they are always making inflammatory comments and angering other people just like you.  They have a lot of enemies. I imagine they need a spreadsheet to keep them all straight.

– Also on the bright side – sometimes their bad reviews, even those left at Amazon, can lead to sales for you. That means you have no legal recourse because they did not hurt your sales. In fact, they may have boosted your sales. No, this does NOT mean you owe them any of your money. I checked.

Do Goodreads bullies really exist?

Yes. And they aren’t going anywhere. Most people at Goodreads already ignore them, as I stated above. Many of these “bullies” have unhappy lives and they live for writing their snarky book reviews. It’s all they have. Some are writers who are afraid to publish their own work for fear of it being ripped apart by reviewers just like themselves.

Book reviews are the last platform left where hostile people can openly take out their frustrations because if an author responds in any way, the author is ALWAYS in the wrong. And they love that. For an author, it might seem unfair that these people are not only insulting your work, but your readers, by accusing them of leaving fake reviews when you know darn well those reviews are all genuine. It makes an author feel helpless while it’s going on, but it doesn’t mean your career is over.

Let go of your ego, author. You have written a book and it’s out there for public consumption. People can do what they want with it.  Yes, some of their reviews are uncalled for and unnecessarily hurtful.  Trust me, you aren’t the only one who feels that way. Other readers see it and form their own opinions.  Most people are cognizant enough to know “bat shit crazy” when they see it.

Most of these reviewers hide behind anonymous accounts. If their family or friends knew what they were writing about other people, they would perhaps be appalled. Or perhaps not. I’m sure many of these people are open about what they do. That’s their choice. Many of them are completely different offline from the people they pretend to be online.

Again, you always have the option to ignore. Either that, or stop writing. These people aren’t going anywhere. How you deal with them is up to you. Just remember to document everything if you are the subject of an attack.

Or, get their real addresses and send them “thank you” cards when you hit the Kindle top 100 because of all the “bad publicity” they tried to give you.

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