Little more than a week ago, a website aimed at naming and shaming so-called Goodreads ‘bullies’ suddenly appeared online – called, appropriately enough, Stop the GR Bullies. Run by four concerned ‘readers and bloggers’ writing anonymously under the handles Athena, Peter Pan, Johnny Be Good and Stitch, the site thus far seems bent on punishing the creators of snide, snarky and negative book reviews by posting their handles, real names, locations and photos in one place, together with a warning about their supposed ‘level of toxicity’ and some (ironically) snide, snarky and negative commentary about them as people. There’s a lot here to unpack, but before I get started on why this is a horrifically bad idea, let’s start with some basic context.

As a website, Goodreads itself is something of a chimaera, being in roughly equal parts an online literary database, a social networking platform, a book review site, a promotional tool for bloggers, a promotional tool for authors, and a social forum for readers. This complexity is both its primary attraction and the single biggest source of contention among users, as the crowdsourced nature of much of the information available, in conjunction with the fact that the site itself has no in-house moderators – meaning that the majority of alleged violations of the terms of service must be manually referred to and assessed by Goodreads before they can possibly be removed – means that, to all intents and purposes, the site can and does frequently function like any large, unmoderated forum, viz: wildly. As the TOS is at pains to point out, Goodreads considers itself a third party where user content is concerned. To quote:

We are only acting as a passive conduit for your online distribution and publication of your User Content.

Of particular relevance in this case is the specific type of user content deemed inappropriate by the TOS. To quote again:

You agree not to post User Content that… (v) contains any information or content that we deem to be unlawful, harmful, abusive, racially or ethnically offensive, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, harassing, humiliating to other people (publicly or otherwise), libelous, threatening, profane, or otherwise objectionable.

However, it’s also relevant to note the following caveats (emphasis mine) – namely, that:

Goodreads reserves the right, but is not obligated, to reject and/or remove any User Content that Goodreads believes, in its sole discretion, violates these provisions… 

You understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to User Content that is inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree that Goodreads shall not be liable for any damages you allege to incur as a result of such User Content. Goodreads may provide tools for you to remove some User Content, but does not guarantee that all or any User Content will be removable.

In other words: even if you can argue compellingly that another member has violated the TOS with regards to user content, Goodreads is under no obligation to agree, to listen, or in fact do anything at all: their commitment is to passive third party provision of a useful service, not to the active moderation of user content, and while that’s certainly their legal right, in practical terms, it means that the onus for modding conversational threads, forums, reviews and everything else rests squarely with the user in question. To quote again:

You are solely responsible for your interactions with other Goodreads Users. We reserve the right, but have no obligation, to monitor disputes between you and other Users. Goodreads shall have no liability for your interactions with other Users, or for any User’s action or inaction.

In keeping with the universally applicable logic of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, every online community of sufficient size will inevitably attract trolls, harassment, bullying and all manner of accordant awfulness, with the level of active moderation being literally the only bulwark against anarchy. Not being a regular participant in Goodreads threads or forums – though I am an active user of the site as an author, reviewer and reader – I’m not in a position to comment on how often Goodreads actually steps in to ban abusive members, remove problematic comments or otherwise moderate user content either on demand or of their own volition: all I can note is that legally, they have no obligation to take any action at all. Clearly, though, a number of users feel that the lack of in-house moderation has lead to the creation of a negative, if not actively toxic, environment in some quarters, with the result that some members have now taken it upon themselves to lead a public campaign against those they deem to be the worst offenders.

One more piece of context, before we continue: both within Goodreads itself and throughout the wider book blogging community, the ongoing debate about niceness vs. snark in reviews is intensely relevant to the problem at hand. While the argument itself has many facets – should aspiring writers post negative reviews, or strive to embrace a ‘be nice’ attitude? are authors, editors, agents and publishers within their grounds to reject aspiring writers who’ve written negative reviews of authors they work with or know, or is this a form of discriminatory nepotism? is the primary purpose of book blogging to act as ‘cheerleaders’ for authors, or to give good consumer advice to readers? – what it frequently boils down to is a dispute over judgements of taste. Or, more specifically: at what volume or intensity does the presence of comedic snark in a book review see it go from being a professional opinion to unprofessional abuse?

It’s very much a your mileage may vary question, which is, I suspect, why Goodreads has the policy of passive non-interference that it does. By definition, not everyone is going to agree with a book review, and given that the utility of their service is predicated on people who love (or hate) books being free to discuss them, they’re naturally going to be loathe to police the tone of such conversations too heavily for fear of undermining their own purpose. However, it’s also important to note that, due to the Goodreads site layout, the usual handy metaphors for personal vs public pages – an intensely relevant distinction when it comes to questions of harassment, as it has the effect of dictating which party is the guest/invader, and which the host/native – don’t precisely apply. For instance: on a traditional internet forum, threads are analogous to public spaces, with the default authority resting either exclusively with the in-house moderators or creator/s, or jointly between the two. Abuse is, as elsewhere, defined as either vituperative ad hominem attacks or generic -ism-based slander; however, due to the clear distinction between attacking someone in a public thread and attacking them outside the context of the discussion – which is to say, on their user page, via email or, in instances where it’s not in direct response to something they’ve posted there, on their personal site – we don’t generally upgrade the abuse to bullying or harassment unless it makes that transition. To be clear: this doesn’t excuse abusive behaviour. Nonetheless, there is a relevant and meaningful distinction between saying, ‘I think Author X is a shit writer’ on a public thread, and going to their personal page to say, ‘I think you’re a shit writer’. On Goodreads, however, this distinction is blurred, because while reviews and their attendant conversational threads fall under the governance of the user-reviewer, they’re also attached to the relevant book and its author-governed page; meaning, in essence, that there’s an overlap between the author’s personal space (assuming the author in question is a member of the site) and the reviewer’s.

And, not surprisingly, this can cause major friction, not just between authors and negative reviewers, but between fans of authors and negative reviewers. In some instances, it’s analogous to carrying on a bitchy conversation within earshot of the person you’re talking about, with the added rider that, as this is also a professional space for the author, they’re not allowed to retaliate – or at least, they can do so, but regardless of the provocation, they’ll come off looking the worse. Which leads to fans – and, sometimes, friends – of authors leaping to their defense, often with disastrous results, and sometimes using language that’s on par with anything they’re actually objecting to.

But here’s the thing: any public figure, regardless of whether they’re an author, actor, sportsperson or journalist, must resign themselves to a certain amount of public criticism. Not everyone will like you, your work or even necessarily your profession, and nor will they be under any obligation to protect your sensibilities by being coy about it. A negative review might mean you lose sales, but that’s not a gross unfairness for which the reviewer should be punished, no matter how snarky they are: it is, rather, a legitimate reflection of the fact that, in their personal and professional estimation as a consumer of your work, they don’t believe that other people should buy it. And yes, you’re allowed to feel sad about that, but it’s still going to happen; it’s still going to be legal and normal. At times, your personal and public lives will blur, or else specific criticism will invite others to consider the relationship between your output and your private beliefs – and this will sometimes be relevant to discussions of your work and its themes, as per the fact that Stephanie Meyers’s Mormonism is relevant to the morality used in Twilight (for instance). Sometimes you’ll even be called names or find yourself on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks, where people say you’re a stupid, talentless hack as part of their review, and call into question both your morality and your convictions. And depending on the relevance of those accusations to your work and the problems the reviewer has with it, that can achieve anything from laying bare a deep-seated flaw in your worldview to highlighting nothing so much as the reviewer’s petty, vindictive ignorance.

But it isn’t bullying.

Because bullying is not a synonym for argument, disagreement or pejorative reactions. Bullying is not a synonym for disliking someone, or for thinking their work is rubbish. Bullying is not even a synonym for saying so, publicly and repeatedly, in a place where that person can hear it – although that’s certainly unpleasant. Bullying is when someone with a greater position of power and/or possessed of greater strength repeatedly and purposefully attacks, harasses, belittles and/or otherwise undermines someone in a position of lesser power and/or possessed of lesser strength. In the vast majority of circumstances, bullying trickles down; it does not travel up, and in instances where the author in question is a super-successful megastar, to say they’re being bullied by reviewers is to ignore the fundamental power-dynamics of bullying. Even on the Goodreads system, where authors can see exactly what readers and reviewers think of them, expressing a negative opinion is not the same as bullying, because although the conversation is visible, it’s not directed at the author; they are under no obligation to respond, or even to read it at all. Feeling sad and overwhelmed because people don’t like your book and have said so publicly might constitute a bad day, but it’s not the same as being bullied.

Cyberbullying among teenagers is a real and serious problem characterised by the sending of abusive messages by either single or multiple parties, the spreading of hurtful lies and rumours, the public display of information or images that were intended as private, and the confluence of systematic abuse both in the real world and online. Such attacks are vicious, personal, and often constitute criminal offenses; many have lead to suicide. What recently happened to Anita Sarkeesian was bullying of exactly this kind, where a number of individuals unknown to her engaged in an active attempt to publicly frighten, abuse and slander her – a situation which is demonstrably not the same as some snarky, unpaid reviewers slagging off a book. Similarly, when people leave vile, sexist comments on my blog, that’s not bullying: it’s offensive and abusive, yes, but all the power in the situation belongs to me, because I can delete the comments, ban the commenters, and publicly mock them for their opinions – and just as importantly, my posts are there because I want people to read and react to them. The fact that I’ve invited comment doesn’t mean abusive responses are justified, but it does mean I’m not being attacked or contacted in a vacuum: I have said a thing, and people are responding to it. That is not bullying. Obviously, it’s not impossible for authors to be bullied. An indie or self-published author without the support of an agency/publisher and their attendant legal teams, for instance – or, just as importantly, without hundreds of thousands of supportive fans – could easily be bullied by any sufficiently cruel individual who took it upon themselves to send regular hateful email, spam their site with negative criticism, leave abusive remarks on their personal profiles, and otherwise behave like a grade-A douche. But that’s not what we’re talking about here, because as far as I can make out, everything the Stop the GR Bullies crew objects to has happened either in a review, as part of a public comment thread, in response to a blog post, or in the course of personal conversations on Twitter.

Because – and I cannot stress this enough – simply disliking a book, no matter how publicly or how snarkily, is not the same as bullying. To say that getting a handful of mean reviews is even in the same ballpark as dealing with an ongoing campaign of personal abuse is insulting to everyone involved. If Athena and the Stop the GR Bullies mob had chosen any other word to describe the problem – if they’d stopped at calling it toxic and objected to it on those grounds – then I might be more sympathetic; after all, as stated above, Goodreads is a largely unmoderated site, and that doesn’t always lead to hugs and puppies. But conflating criticism with bullying is a serious problem – not just in this context, but as regards wider issues of social justice. Increasingly, ‘bullying’ is being bastardised into a go-to term to describe the actions of anyone who actively disagrees with you, to the point where some conservative politicians are now describing leftwingers who call them out on sexism and racism as bullies, or else have decided that ‘bully’ is just a meaningless epithet like ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’, which is arguably worse for suggesting that all three concepts are somehow mythical.

Which is why, in short, the Stop the GR Bullies website is an appalling idea on just about every level. Not only does it appropriate some actual bullying tactics – such as attempting to disseminate the real names and locations of its targets to strangers, then implicitly encouraging said strangers to engage in further harassment – while serving to further water down and confuse the actual, meaningful definition of bulling, but as a protest against the perceived abuse of the Goodreads TOS, it’s completely and utterly meaningless, because the whole site constitutes an active violation. Yes, you did read that right – because to quote again from the TOS (emphasis mine):

You agree not to engage in any of the following prohibited activities… (viii) using any information obtained from the Service in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person, or in order to contact, advertise to, solicit, or sell to any Member without their prior explicit consent.

And does Stop the GR Bullies use harassment as a tool? Oh, worse than that: some of what they say is actually libelous. Here’s a screengrab of their description of Kat Kennedy, a GR member and book blogger for Cuddlebuggery:

The inability of the poster, Athena, to distinguish between a reviewer speaking negatively about books in a professional capacity and the outright public slander of a private citizen by another private citizen is breathtaking, to say nothing of the fact that making a hate page is pretty much 101-grade material for how to be an internet bully. The rest of the site is in much the same vein, and where at least the original posters, whatever you think of them, have the excuse of (a) being in personal conversation with friends or (b) acting as reviewers, the site does not: its sole effect, despite its intended purpose, is to be vituperative in terms of language and downright sinister in its commitment to Googlestalking its targets, attempting to put up not only their names and photos, but details of their places of employment and personal circumstances.

I’m never gladdened to hear that some author or other has decided to quit Goodreads because of negative comments, reviews or any other reason. But Goodreads itself is an optional part of the author ecosystem – as, for that matter, is blogging, Tweeting, and every other type of social media. While Goodreads, as far as I know, lacks privacy controls (which is likely another contributing factor to the problem at hand: authors can’t opt out of seeing negative reviews or comments, while reviewers lack the ability to make the comment threads attached to their reviews private, both of which, if introduced as options, might go a long way towards easing the current tensions) other forms of social media do not. A blogger, for instance, has total control over whether or not to allow commenting on particular posts, while Twitter uses can lock their accounts so that only approved individuals can follow them. Anyone fearful of negative comments has the power to screen them out – and if, on the other hand, a reviewer or author blogs publicly with the intention of receiving responses, that doesn’t preclude them from encountering legitimately negative reactions. If someone writes a blog post and asks for comment, it’s not bullying to respond with strong disagreement: in the scientific world, that’s simply known as having an opinion. Similarly, if a comment makes you uncomfortable on your own blog, mod or ban away! It’s why the option exists. But don’t call it bullying when people show up and disagree with you – even if they’ve disagreed with you before – because that’s not what bullying means.

And as for the people who’ve created the website in question: you might want to stop and think about what you’re doing. As much as anyone you’ve taken issue with, you’re in violation of the Goodreads TOS, and hiding behind anonymity while attempting to strip it from others is a hypocrisy that seldom plays well on the internet. If you really want to change the culture at Goodreads, you’d be better off lobbying for the promotion of in-house or site-approved moderators, closed comment threads and a greater delineation of author and reviewer pages rather than engaging in essentially the same behaviour that’s got you so worked up in the first place. This whole situation may well get uglier before it gets better, and under the circumstances, it doesn’t seem like anyone is going to want to play nice.

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Comments
  1. Ros says:

    This from their first post:

    Our sources tells us that the GR bully known at The Holy Terror is really XXX who lives with her husband, XXX, in XXX. XXX and XXX frequent YYY and YYY usually on Sundays at 4:30 pm. XXX stays mostly indoors but our sources tell us that she and her husband have recently been seen walking along the sea wall.
    XXX is what we here at STGRB call a stalker

    The irony, it burns.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Pretty much, yes.

    • Kess says:

      It’s not really irony because they are giving her a taste of her own medicine.

      • fozmeadows says:

        There’s a big difference between responding to someone in kind and publishing details of their real name, address, partner and job online. That’s not retaliation; that’s escalation.

    • andrezbergen says:

      Sadly, Ros, having recently been on the receiving end of The Holy Terror’s venom – and watching her call in several mates to leave cantankerous remarks on the Goodreads page for my as-yet-unpublished novel, which none of them have read… well, I struggle to find sympathy. Karma, and all that jazz. But I do agree that this is a form of bullying in reverse, and it creates a cycle that shouldn’t have begun in the first place.

      • fozmeadows says:

        Out of curiosity, I had a look for THT’s remarks on your book – do you mean the thing where she’s shelved it here (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13602055-one-hundred-years-of-vicissitude), and a friend of hers has commented? Or or is there something else?

        • andrezbergen says:

          Actually, a group of her friends went straight there and shelved it with comments as follows: “marked it as never-ever”, “marked it as shitlist”, and “marked it as yeah-not-gonna-happen”. None of these people have read it – it’s not published until Oct. 26. Plus there’s a 3-page diatribe amongst she and her mates that went on for days, basically going hell for leather about me and authors in general. Prefer not to link to that here…. ;)

          • fozmeadows says:

            Fair enough!

            • andrezbergen says:

              Thanks, mate. But, aside from this experience, I agree with 99% of your sentiments here.

              • Jeff says:

                Andrez is not telling you the whole story there. Find out more here – http://www.goodreads.com/user_status/show/15499881

                • andrezbergen says:

                  Cheers, Jeff.
                  I’d prefer to have kept those pages private since a lot of things are said there which are unnecessary, by a lot of people.
                  In a nutshell, I never complained on Goodreads about a bad review – I understand those happen, and fair enough. I have a thick skin, and I do not believe my work is perfect. The sh*t hit the fan, so to speak, when The Holy Terror placed my novel in her Goodreads “SH*TLIST” for no apparent reason. It had not been published yet (that happens in October), and The Holy Terror had not read the book.
                  When I asked THT why, and further asked if she could remove it – or leave it there, pending an actual reading of the novel – she flew off the handle, mistaking a bit of light Aussie humour for inciting her to riot, and sent off a few irate PMs. The she started up the page you kindly linked up, in which a bunch of her friends personally attack me and my personality.
                  None of the people have read the book, but one of the accusations is sour grapes over a bad review – which isn’t the case at all. No one’s actually read it.
                  Even though she claims never to have “outed” me or my novel, The Holy Terror’s friends shelved the as-yet-unpublished novel with comments like “marked it as never-ever”, “marked it as shitlist”, and “marked it as yeah-not-gonna-happen”. One even placed it in a baby books listing – which I found kind of funny.
                  But none of these people have read it.
                  In the midst of sometimes mind-boggled frustration, I’ve tried to apologize and mend bridges, but this needs to go BOTH ways. THT doesn’t need to let loose this rage monster she apparently takes pride in. The fact is all this is pointless and childish and, yes, I’m including myself in the mix of immature.
                  As Foz so poignantly reminded us here, this kind of behaviour is unnecessary and starts its own vicious spiral, leading to terrible things like Stop the GR Bullies. Yes, terrible. I’ve said that from scratch as you’ll note above, in spite of recent digital fisticuffs with THT.
                  So, if anyone here is curious, by all means have a read through the link Jeff kindly provided. Otherwise, I’ll say it again, in public: Shannon, I’m sorry for somehow annoying you. Really. Would you mind if we collectively moved on from here?

                  • Anonymous says:

                    Shelves on goodreads are separate from ratings. That’s why there are shelves like “to read” or “requested from library” or “coming out in Fall 2012″. They’re organization tools, to help people categorize their books – read or unread, desired or…undesired.

                    From the sounds of things, someone – you or a well-meaning fan – sent out a promo message. I imagine you accept that while some people will respond to promo by planning to read the book, others will have a different reaction? And surely you can see that it’s her right to decide that she doesn’t want to read your book? Because that’s all the shelf is. A record of the fact that she decided not to read.

                    Her reaction might seem extreme to you, and maybe she could have been more polite, but that’s a long shot from being “venomous”. In any case, popular reviewers with a lot of friends and followers are bombarded with requests. So what seems innocuous to you could easily be the straw the breaks the camel’s back to someone who gets similar requests constantly.

                    • andrezbergen says:

                      Food for thought – cheers for the insight/other-side-of-the-coin observation.

                    • It wasn’t extreme at all—-and he’s not telling the whole story by a long shot at all. He pestered her repeatedly to change the shelf and explain it after she got spammed by one of his friends or whatever, then somebody came over to her status update—-which did not name names—-and bashed her for it. So: no. He’s leaving out a great deal. Funny the parts he leaves out make him look bad.

                    • Ninsta says:

                      This is also directed to Ginmar Rienne but there is no reply button for her. I have gone through the debate on goodreads and it is relatively hostile in there towards the author. To be straight up front, I know Andrez. We have been internet friends for over a year. During that time I have found him to be cheeky but honest, proud but flexible regarding criticism. He’s a nice fellow!
                      I think some of the problem here comes down to semantics – having lived in both America and Australia, there are some small culture differences that might be playing out here.
                      When Andrez wrote “you could just be nice and remove it since you haven’t read it and it wasn’t me who spammed you, anyway”, I can imagine him pasting a wink. It’s such an Australian thing to do, a form of cheeky “taking the piss” – which gets lost in the translating in the U.S.
                      So perhaps its simple?

                • Tracy says:

                  Ironically, reading that thread actually made him come off better than the users in that goodreads thread. Of course I’m absolutely opposed to the release of private information about users (or the threat to do so) but reading through that – the contact may have been ill-advised, but it was never bullying or even rude. Unlike the people in that thread, who DO come across as bullies, if they only had the power to do it. The author wasn’t bullied because they DO lack that power, but their mindset is pretty clear.

                • lucyndavis says:

                  We get spammed about books all the time. It’s annoying and unethical for an author to use goodreads recommend option as a personal advertising tool. There are PAID ways to advertise on goodreads. By flooding the top reviewers with nonsense, unrequested recommendations authors, or people in their immediate circles, are abusing both the site and the reviewer’s time.

                  The Holy Terror sorted the book as not to read — because really who wants to encourage that behavior from authors? We’re not on the site for you to gorilla market to us. I’ve sorted spammed reviewed that way in the past, especially when it is obvious the person sending it never took a look at any of the books I read. You are wasting my time and I certainly do not wish to ever accidentally give you money by reading your book or publicity by reading it.

                  After THT sorted it, the author got it in his head that her personal shelf somehow affected his omg-livelihood and continued to contact her to resort the book. She vented about the interaction in a status message with her friends, a status message that NEVER named the author, and he carried on until he realized he looked bad at which point he finally apologized. Because of his apology and THT’s belief he meant it I personally refrained from sorting his book the same way. However, his follow through on this site has pissed me off beyond overlooking his newness to the field. Grow up, Mr. Bergen. There was no need to add more fuel to the fire.

                  THT has been stalked and harassed by another independent author. Her name and images, restaurants she eats in, and inappropriate questions about her sex life have been detailed. Now would’ve been the time to let it the fuck go, not jump on the bandwagon.

                  Good sense, apparently you missed the day it was handed out.

      • Leaving LINES OF TEXT about your undoubtedly mediocre waste of perfectly good trees on an INTERNET FORUM is such a far cry from publishing real life addresses and letting slip the mentally unhinged masses of the Internet that I question your ability to even form a coherent thought, let alone putting them down on paper in an arrangement worth someone’s money.

        Shall I give you my address and home phone number now so you can risk me getting my pets decapitated because your feelings were hurt by a few lines of text?

  2. Spaz says:

    BRAVO!!! Thank you, you have successfully expressed exactly why I was so distraught when I discovered this “Stop the GR Bullies” mess.

  3. sonomalass says:

    This whole thing just makes me ill. Appropriating the term “bullying” for behavior that clearly doesn’t meet the definition was bad enough, but posting private information about GR users in an effort to intimidate them is really beyond the pale. These folks need to get a life.

    Thanks for expressing this so well!

  4. My mind has just blown up with this whole thing but I am not surprised at all with the wtfery and I have a good idea on who is behind this. I feel bad for the bloggers and reviewers caught up in this and what they have done is the definition of bullying.

  5. ThePageBoy says:

    Asides from the horrific appropriation and misapplication of ‘bullying’ maybe this whole mess of a situation will encourage people to look again at the act of art-criticism. To be honest, I’ve found far too many people using the score aggregation system that amazon, goodreads, meta-critic etc as a way of validating their opinion of the worth of something, ignoring the fact that criticism isn’t about whether something is objectively good or bad but rather critics are there to offer their opinion and reasons for it – NOT crucially, to invalidate everyone elses!

    I guess the reason that things get more complex on goodreads is that there is no clear dividing line (within that community) between those who produce and the audience, authors can be readers and vice versa. I guess this might make it easier for people to take things more personally but surely negative opinion is part and parcel of being not just an author but someone who makes art!

    Guess all I’m trying to say is that these guys make authors look petty and ‘criticism’ look spiteful. Sad faces all round…

    • stephscottil says:

      Well, all of what you said would require THOUGHT and REFLECTION. I don’t think we’re dealing with that here; it seems to be gut reaction and childish entitlement. Good thoughts on art criticism, though.

  6. willaful says:

    Thanks you for being a thoughtful voice of sanity, though I doubt it will have much effect. :-\

  7. Bullying isn’t just limited to teenagers, it’s alive and well in the science fiction/fantasy community. I was contacted with regards to being interviewed about the conflict between some fanzine people and some podcast people although I have intentionally distanced myself from this conflict, making my feelings known on the subject. The person who wanted to interview me on this topic was apparently offended when I said I’d agree to the interview but I couldn’t guarantee that I’d answer all questions until I saw the questions (it was to be an interview via email). This person then told me she would not interview me. In contrast, that same evening a man within the SFF community had issues with 2 out of 3 of her questions and was ‘unwilling or unable’ to answer them, so she sent him different questions. I was very unhappy with the manner in which I was treated, so I blogged about it without disclosing the identity of the woman who had contacted me. On Twitter that woman then outed herself, accusing me of not caring and of not wanting to participate in a snapshot of the Australian SFF scene. She also strongly implied if not outright stated that I knew the snapshot was to be kept confidential until later, and that I knowingly violated confidentiality that she had failed to mention in her emails. The comments on my blog were less than supportive, with one person escalating their comments and accusations beyond the bounds of reason until I blocked that person’s later comments. The woman who contacted me ceased to be my friend on facebook, which was fine. However, weeks later that same woman reanimated the conflict including posting a link to a post I made on my private facebook page to which she should not have had access; either she’d friended me again under a false identity or her friends were helping her stalk me. Interestingly enough, around the same time she provided evidence of her stalking on Twitter, one of her friends joined in, defending their decision to only interview me about the fanzine/podcast conflict although, by that stage, I had fanzines AND podcasts on my webpage. (I have been told that posting audio author interviews counts as podcasts.)

    I have some of the power that you mention in the above post because I have a website where I can block and ban people, however I’m independent with no support from a publisher or an SF club. I have received emails telling me to ‘downsize or fold’, and follow up emails from someone who is attacking what I’m doing WHILE EXPECTING TO BE PUBLISHED IN MY ZINE. (I’m not sure if he understands the irony here.) I’ve had emails from someone else repeatedly offering to tell me about all the negative and nasty things that fanzine people are saying about me in private forums. I’ve had a friend forward an email to me that contained libellous accusations from another person in the SF scene, to which I had to respond with a ‘cease and desist’ letter. I had other people from an SF yahoo groups list get hold of my personal email address in order to bully me as individuals and as groups via email off the yahoo list. This resulted in mixed success for them – I left the yahoo group but I did not stop Dark Matter – I again had to email these people ‘cease and desist’ letters. Before I left the group, however, I posted copies of some of their letters in the yahoo group; they weren’t happy about being held accountable and accused me of breach of copyright. In these examples, these weren’t strangers on the internet, these were people who live in Melbourne and we attend a lot of the same SFF related events.

    This has left me with a very sour taste in my mouth. I have seriously considered quitting Dark Matter as a result of the above events. I really don’t like writing reviews for lots of reasons, and your story about bullying those who write negative reviews is further discouragement. I think a lot of people need to think long and hard about the consequences of their actions. Do they really want a barren landscape or do they want a rich landscape with lots of commentary, author interviews, reviews etcetera from which to choose? If they want the latter, perhaps they need to be more tolerant of difference.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I’m really sorry to hear you’ve had those issues – you should definitely keep going with Dark Matter! As in your case, the power dynamic is extremely relevant in determining what constitutes bullying, and when people are working against you as a group in a situation where you have no such coterie to fall back on – and when their actions have consequences both online and offline – that’s definitely a form of active intimidation.

      To paraphrase xkcd, someone will always be wrong on the internet. But adopting scare tactics to fight scare tactics is never a great idea.

  8. Good post. Am appalled to even hear about the site you’re describing. I’m an author with a page on GR. I’m always pleased when someone takes the trouble to write a review. Criticism can sting sometimes, but if you dont want to be judged, don’t publish a book. I think the value of GR is that reviewers are often very honest about the personal reasons for their views and biases. This makes reviews more transparent and often more useful than some professional reviews which often don’t have space or inclination to discuss the assumptions they’re bringing to reviewing.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I very much agree. Something I like about Goodreads is the presence of reviewers who don’t hold to the existence of sacred cows – more than once, I’ve seen a book praised and hyped to the enth degree elsewhere online, only to buy it and find myself severely disappointed; but on Goodreads, I can generally get a good idea of whether something’s likely to piss me off or not. It doesn’t strike me as irrelevant that most, if not all, of the so-called ‘bullies’ are active feminists, or at least women who take strong issue with the positive depiction of abusive or otherwise problematic relationships in YA novels. Reviewers elsewhere who enjoy those kinds of stories, or who approach them from an uncritical viewpoint, tend to give glowing reviews of books whose gender roles make me physically angry. So for me, the negative reactions of others are frequently useful: there’s still the inevitable YMMV factor, but by and large, if a bunch of different reviewers are pointing out that Book X is essentially a showcase for domestic abuse and can list the ways in which this is condoned by the text, I’m going to take that on board.

  9. Jessica-Robyn says:

    This is incredibly well put! Truly excellent post!

    From what I’ve witness from the sidelines, eating my popcorn at a safe distance, there are a lot of different things at work in these author-reader conflicts. This time around I’m completely baffled.
    Starting a bullying website in order to bully people is beyond my understanding. Especially so if the show-runner is an adult and then I’m even more baffled.

    In each and every one oft these author-reader conflicts there seems to be an overwhelming lack of perspective. I can understand that for those unacquainted, the internet is an brutal place to visit. It takes years to adjust to the lawlessness and little sideway emoticons, but that’s just part of it. There is no avoiding it and I honestly don’t think that there is any prevision that would prevent what we’re witnessing here. This person is just breaking down, in a very dramatic fashion, because they are in a situation that they want to control, but can’t.

    This is by far the biggest drama I’ve seen this year and it’s frightening to think that the year is not over yet. I love GR, I love how honest people are about not only their opinions, but their experiences reading and how they relate what they read back into their own lives. It’s open and honest. But I’m glad to see things finally be made clear.

    Reviews are not bullying, reviews are commentary. Discussion and debate are not bullying. Bullying is bullying. End of story.

  10. Anne Lyle says:

    Interesting (albeit worrying) article. I’ve just contacted GR to ask for their comment on the “Stop…” site – I’ll let you know what they say.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Good to know! I’ve sent the site a message asking that they take down the personal information about the reviewers as it puts them in violation of both the Goodreads and the WordPress TOS (and the WordPress procedure for dealing with abuse requires that you try to sort it out directly with the site manager before getting them involved). Will see how it plays out!

  11. We can do something about this.

    stopthegrbullies.com appears to be hosted by GoDaddy. Here’s GoDaddy’s Abuse page:

    https://supportcenter.godaddy.com/Abuse/SpamReport.aspx?ci=22420

    Change the abuse type to “Miscellaneous” and send in a ticket about the harassment and libel which appear on STGRB.

  12. kallmaker says:

    In addition to agreeing with what you’ve posted, I’m appalled that people calling themselves “writers” came up with such an unimaginative way to describe their site. I suppose it’s better than calling the reviewers “Nazis” – which is equally wrong, even more thuggish and even less imaginative.

    It is classic bullying behavior to call someone else a bully while bullying them, however. And these “writers” have proven that point. Next, I’m sure this group of “writers” will claim “they started it,” which will confirm the developmental age of their common sense.

  13. Bunny says:

    I have recently been on the receiving end of some pretty viscious reviews. At first I was devastated. It was clearly meant to be snarky, not in any way helpful to a reader. But a good friend of mine (also a writer) reminded me that she had garnered LOTS of bad reviews and took it in stride. She’s an award-winning author.
    I also had to remember that the book in question was my first work. It was self-edited and a bit rough. I hadn’t had anybody but family and friends read it before it went to print. If I had it to do over, now that I’ve been in several writer’s groups and critique groups, the book would have been head over heels better. So the review, while snotty and blunt, may have a point.
    I would have liked to egg her house at first, but then I remembered to put on my big girl knickers and deal with it.

  14. Buzby McBuzzlePants says:

    I know it’s hard, and I can’t say I read all of the above which I’m sure is nuanced and balanced, but this can be boiled down to:

    Don’t be a dick.

    Don’t be a dick is harder than it sounds because if someone else is a dick, you still have to not be a dick. If you can see dickishness going on, you have to work out the point at which you’d be a dick to intervene, and the point at which you’d be a dick to not intervene.

    It’s not easy, but just… don’t be a dick.

  15. Rachel says:

    This whole thing is shameful. People need to just calm the hell down. If you don’t like the reviews you’re getting on GR, then STAY OFF GOODREADS! Are these people five? (maybe that’s an insult to five-year-olds)

  16. [...] [snip] The inability of the poster, Athena, to distinguish between a reviewer speaking negatively about books in a professional capacity and the outright public slander of a private citizen by another private citizen is breathtaking, to say nothing of the fact that making a hate page is pretty much 101-grade material for how to be an internet bully. The rest of the site is in much the same vein, and where at least the original posters, whatever you think of them, have the excuse of (a) being in personal conversation with friends or (b) acting as reviewers, the site does not: its sole effect, despite its intended purpose, is to be vituperative in terms of language and downright sinister in its commitment to Googlestalking its targets, attempting to put up not only their names and photos, but details of their places of employment and personal circumstances. - ibid [...]

  17. Clamps says:

    “Jihad.”

    Honestly, fuck that site.

  18. Thank you for the clear and well thought out post. I love when you pointed out that authors are “…under no obligation to respond.”

  19. Cora says:

    Some of the Goodreads reviews may be harsh, though in general the targets seem to be books with problematic content, which invite criticism. And strongly worded criticism has been common for decades, at least in my part of the world, to the point that I often go “Huh? If that’s considered offensive in the US, they should see our reviewers”. That said, there are a handful of online reviewers who really go overboard with the strong language and occasional semi-joking calls for violence against writers/filmmakers, etc… But those reviewers are easily avoided – just don’t read their blogs or Goodreads reviews.

    The “Stop the Goodreads bullies” site is infinitely worse, however, because even if the reviewers in question had been stalking authors (for which the site gives no evidence), there is no reason for publicly posting photos and personal information. Never mind that it is very telling that all of the alleged bullies are female and usually outspoken feminists and that they are attacked with specifically misogynist language, calling them fat, lazy, unfit mothers, etc… It’s just plain disgusting.

  20. [...] books are like toasters” Carolyn Jewel, “A Modest Proposal” Foz Meadows, “Bullying & Goodreads” Sarah Wendell, “A Few Words on Reviews, Reviewing, and Bullshit” Like this:LikeOne [...]

  21. [...] wrote a really detailed post about how they feel about this [...]

  22. [...] to the mix the new website devoted to outing and threatening certain readers accused of being “bullies” on Goodreads.   [note: I am linking to author and blogger Foz [...]

  23. Larissa says:

    As a Jewish and Israeli woman I am offended by the Jihad comment. Terrorism? Really?

    Great post!

  24. [...] who created the site any more attention than they deserve.  Instead, I’m linking you to Foz Meadows-Foz had done a pretty good run down on the [...]

  25. [...] journaling,’ and believe me – we do not want that. Besides, several other bloggers have summed it up far better than I [...]

  26. [...] (for values of “bullying” that seem to include posting negative reviews) by…acting like misogynistic bullies themselves. Good plan, guys; I’m sure Big Fred Nietzsche would approve. Or maybe not. I commend to your [...]

  27. Heather says:

    Another bully blogger is Bookish Andrea. She made it a point to try to ruin the career of indie authors by coming up with false accusations on authors she and her blogger friends have targeted to bully. She works on behalf of a group of her indie author friends who have asked them to buzz up their books by derailing competitor indie authors. Beware of her. She calls herself awesome for making herself feel good about bullying an author. She and her friends always state, “I hate to write bad reviews,” when they are purposely writing bad reviews with the purpose to bring down an author.

    • Whoa. You need to take a step back and get a grip on reality.

      I am a huge supporter of *all* indie authors. I have never, ever bullied anyone. You are the one who came to my review and called me a douche. You are the one who went to the pages of other reviewers and called them morons.I never called you any names, or bullied you in any manner. I actually encouraged other readers to check out the positive reviews and decide for themselves. I just don’t understand this.

      I’m not in a group designed to hurt up and coming authors. This is so freaking ridiculous. I don’t feel “awesome” for bullying. In fact, I would LOVE to see some screenshots backing this up. I do hate to write negative reviews. I think my review rating stats on GoodReads would back that up.

      I haven’t posted screen shots of your comments, but I can if I need to. I was content to let this go, but when I see blatantly false comments like this, I won’t be silent.

      Please, for your own good, stop.

    • There are so many things with this comment. First of all, Andrea has never disrespected ANY author. Go through her Goodreads or Amazon reviews and you will see that she is ALWAYS fair and respectful in her reviews. Believe me when I say that Andrea is NOT part of any kind of group bashing ANYONE. I’d like to see proof of these so called accusations against Andrea. If you are an author and you submit your work to a reviewer, you open yourself up to the possibility that the review may not LOVE your work. Bear that in mind.

    • Jessica says:

      Heather,
      Seriously? The only thing Bookish Andrea did was write an honest and fair review for a book that she did not care for. Not every book is for everyone. She is not rude in her reviews. She does not purposefully attacke indie authors. I know for a fact that she FULLY supports them.
      As for the “bullying” that is referred to, she was just retaliating to the author’s horrible comment on her review. It just seems to me that the author couldn’t take criticism and lashed out.
      In my opinion, the author handled it badly. Bookish Andrea has always treated authors with the utmost respect. Have you read her other reviews? Even the bad ones? For someone to call the other a “douche” just for having an opinion is bullying to me.
      So how dare that author make the claim for bullying when in turn, she is the one who started it all.
      Seriously. We are all adults right? It’s time we all start acting like it.

    • April says:

      Wow… these accusations are ridiculous. I’m sure she has better things to do with her life. I’m assuming you are the Author who called her a “douche” because you were unhappy with her not so glowing review. Are you like, ten? This isn’t middle school you know. Andrea is not ruining your career. She doesn’t need to. You’re doing a fine job of it yourself.

    • Valerie says:

      I’ve been visiting Andrea’s blog daily for over a month and see no evidence of your accusations. I do, however, remember seeing where you called her a douche on twitter. I’m thinking you need to stop this. It’s wrong.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Heather, I’ve read the review in question, and I don’t see anything wrong with it. I can sympathise with feeling angry that someone didn’t like your book, particularly if you think their logic was unjustified or unfair, but reasonable criticism – especially when it finishes by encouraging people to check out other positive reviews – really isn’t bullying. And if lots of people independently notice and comment on your reaction, that’s no more bullying than if you’d said something obnoxious at a crowded party, and then everyone in earshot started talking about it.

      Also: given my clear assertion that such accusations of bullying are invalid – if still sometimes legitimately unpleasant for the author – I’m a bit miffed as to why you chose this comment thread, of all places, to try and assert the opposite without so much as a passing acknowledgement of either my conclusion or the subsequent conversation surrounding it.

    • Cee says:

      Oh God. Shut up. Seriously, just stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. You need to get over your martyr complex, stop imagining conspiracies and grow thicker skin, or else find another career. Criticism GOES WITH THE TERRITORY.

      Just stop.

  28. [...] to a mildly critical review. This fresh slice of internet literary hell is what I am dubbing the Great Stop the Goodreads Bullies Cluster of [...]

  29. [...] to a mildly critical review. This fresh slice of internet literary hell is what I am dubbing the Great Stop the Goodreads Bullies Cluster of [...]

  30. [...] to a mildly critical review. This fresh slice of internet literary hell is what I am dubbing the Great Stop the Goodreads Bullies Cluster of 2012. Goodreads, for those who have not had it wander across their ken … is kind of [...]

  31. I’ve had a closer look at this issue, reading the post on being stalked by one of the targets of the STGRB website. People, this has NOTHING to do with the relationship between authors and readers. This story is about mental illness leading to stalking. That’s it.

    People involved with this debacle on GR believe this website has been set up by ONE vanity-published author. One non-professional. One amateur who had such a notorious history of pursuing reviewers on GR that her account AND 27 OTHER suspicious accounts were deleted from the site. This is the sort of person the entire publishing industry was set up to prevent ever getting into print.

    This is one writer who has never been subjected to the sometimes brain-melting waiting, frustration and criticism that all traditionally published authors learn to handle. One would-be writer who doesn’t have a furious publisher, agent and publicist ready and waiting to fire them for such behaviour. One wanna-be author who’s never had to handle a twenty-page editor’s report telling them all the ways in which their novel doesn’t work, followed by an entire closely-edited typescript with queries and corrections on every page. Does that sound like a complaint? It’s not. Those editor’s reports and copy-edits are gold; they’re proof that someone else takes your work seriously, that it’s worth criticising.

    I’m posting this not because I want to get involved in this mess but because I’m distressed at the number of angry comments on GR to the effect that ‘authors get paid for their books and have all the power and how dare they behave this way’. As I said, this is one vanity-published author, not ‘authors’ and certainly not ‘all authors’. What IS symptomatic about this story is that as traditional publishing models crumble, the firewalls that protect the public and reviewers from this kind of thing crumble too. When reviewing was under the control of the MSM, it was more than an author’s life was worth to say a word.

    If an author so much as hinted to a newspaper that they would be eternally grateful merely to be told if the august publication might at some unspecified future date consider reviewing their book, that author could find themselves permanently blacklisted. Someone as seemingly personality-disordered as this stalker would never be published or inflicted on the public in any way. This is not to say all traditionally-published authors are nice or even sane. Just that the barriers to prevent this kind of thing were a lot less porous. So please, can we stop with all the outrage at ‘authors’ in general. This is one very unwell person.

  32. [...] Author and Foz Meadows have written posts about this issue that sums up this ugly situation [...]

  33. [...] first became aware of the Stop the GR Bullies website, I blogged in some detail about why I thought it was a bad idea. Now that the site has been live for slightly more than a fortnight, my position on the matter has [...]

  34. [...] I blogged in some detail about why I thought it was a bad idea. Now that the site has been [...]

  35. [...] One thing is certain, however: the website’s behavior has upset many people, and its methods may be misguided. John Scalzi has some particularly smart things to say on the topic; so does Foz Meadows. [...]

  36. [...] first became aware of the Stop the GR Bullies website, I blogged in some detail about why I thought it was a bad idea. Now that the site has been live for slightly more than a fortnight, my position on the matter has [...]

  37. [...] Foz Meadows explained several days ago in Bullying and GoodReads: “Little more than a week ago, a website aimed at naming and shaming so-called Goodreads [...]

  38. [...] One thing is certain, however: the website’s behavior has upset many people, and its methods may be misguided. John Scalzi has some particularly smart things to say on the topic; so does Foz Meadows. [...]

  39. [...] First, the backstory. A few people felt sad about bad reviews on Goodreads, decided there were roving gangs of Goodreads bullies deliberately trying to tear down their brilliant work, and started a website intended to name and shame these negative reviewers. Seriously, that happened. I’m not linking to the website they started, because I refuse to give them any traffic, but this site does a damn fine job of summarizing the issues. [...]

  40. [...] Bullying & GoodReads (Foz Meadows) [7/10/12] [...]

  41. [...] even encouraging their users to post anonymously, review sites like Goodreads foster incivility. Foz Meadows puts it far more [...]

  42. [...] even encouraging their users to post anonymously, review sites like Goodreads foster incivility. Foz Meadows puts it far more eloquently: In keeping with the universally applicable logic of John Gabriel’s [...]

  43. Ben W says:

    Great post Foz, and I agree – I always check the reviews on Goodreads before the ‘official’ (ie: written for money) reviews. What level of honesty can you expect from someone who has to answer to a newspaper’s advertisers, especially if s/he is an author who doesn’t want to offend other author/reviewers? Also, hey, most authors on Goodreads are having their books reviewed by their friends after all, so to then bitch about bad reviews seems like sour grapes to me. After all, if you over-hype something you have to expect an equal and opposite reaction. Keep up the good work!

    • Ann Burlingham says:

      Ben, have you ever reviewed books for a newspaper? Have you ever worked in journalism? Reviewers and journalists do not have to answer to advertisers. Having occasionally reviewed books for a GLBT newspaper, and thinking of a friend who reviews books in his field for another, I can’t imagine either of thinking of anything but the book, the reader, and perhaps the word count. And that’s after I sold ads for a local small-town papers. Journalists and book reviewers are quite separate from the ad sales of any paper.

  44. [...] by readers/writers on the internet (if you want to know more about it you can read this post here ) and it got me to thinking about the right way and the wrong way to respond to a comment or [...]

  45. [...] at some considerable length.  Some of the authors who have spoken out against the StGRB site:  Foz Meadows, Stacia Kane, John Scalzi, Allison M Dickson, and L.M. Pruitt.  Some of the book blogs that have [...]

  46. [...] people may say. Attacking and author and giving a critique of a reading are two different things.  Foz Meadows discusses bad book reviews, GoodRead’s unmonitored forums, and the definition of b… over at her blog. Definitely interesting and thought [...]

  47. [...] poses for "literary culture." By way of counterpoint, here's a fascinating story, from Foz Meadows, about goodreads, bullies, and bullying goodreads bullies. Which would seem contrary to what Silverman is saying, given that goodreads is a social media [...]

  48. [...] Meadows made a great blog post about what is and is not bullying that sums it up as well as anything I could do.  (The first part [...]

  49. [...] Bullying & Goodreads Rate this:Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in tl;dr by mariethea. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  50. [...] flip over to STGRB. I spotted a post yesterday in the freshly pressed section which led me to this gem. Having never really heard of any of this stuff before, I read the articles and then found myself [...]

  51. honoriaplum says:

    Many years ago I wrote a critical, but fair and impersonal book review. I was expecting to enjoy the book, having ordered it especially, and began reading with the utmost goodwill. Well before the end, I knew it was the worst book I’d ever paid good money for.

    Just to check my judgement, I asked our book club to read it and share their opinions. Their verdict was unanimous – it was awful in every conceivable way. And we’re not a critical, literary bunch either. Some of us are very low-brow in our tastes (the group organiser is a devotee of series romances). But even our simple, pleasure reading gang could see that the book was poorly written, contained cardboard characters based on racial stereotypes, and failed to offer any compensation in the form of a plot.

    As a result, I wrote the one and only negative review I’ve ever written of a living author (I’ve written one other negative book review, but the author is dead, and presumably unhurt by my criticism). I was careful to criticise the elements of the book that irked, and avoided making personal remarks about the author. I even found something positive to say, but it was tough going.

    When I read this piece, I felt sick and afraid. I’m also angry. Will the author I reviewed single me out for abuse? Should I hunt down that old review and delete it? And in the unfortunate event that I ever read another terribly crafted book, will I feel safe to write an honest review again?

  52. Super article thanks for posting

  53. [...] behavior, some critics have accused it of waging its own bullying campaign. As author Foz Meadows pointed out on her blog, “any public figure, regardless of whether they’re an author, actor, sportsperson [...]

  54. [...] site where people list, rate and occasionally review the books they read? Occasional source of INSANE AMOUNTS OF FUCKWIT DRAMA over said reviews, which cause some writers to lose their shit because they didn’t get five [...]

  55. [...] profiles included locations, real names, and times and places of supposed daily activities (such as restaurant dining). The site also invited readers to submit photos of those profiled and more personal information [...]

  56. [...] Foz Meadows: “Run by four concerned ‘readers and bloggers’ writing anonymously under the handles Athena… [...]

  57. My experience with goodreads suggests that this site is far from the passive entity it makes itself out to be. Case in point: A number of years ago, I wrote a scholarly book on an aspect of popular entertainment that was published by Routledge, a scholarly press. Happily that book was well-received in academic circles and publications, and with other artists and writers who cited my work in their own. Recently a family member pointed out to me that a goodreads review of this book had popped up suddenly on the first page of my google name search, proclaiming that my book received a 2 star rating from 2 reviewers. Both reviewers noted that my book was too scholarly! Because of the irony of that situation, my relative decided to write a short, specific, positive review of my book for goodreads, which included five stars. A week after this positive review was posted on the site, goodreads had removed it, along with several other people (who were unknown to me) who had previously put my book on their wish list (or something like that). Bizarrely, as of today, goodreads rating of my book lists 3 reviewers at 2 stars—even though only the original two reviewers were to be found, no matter how many times one pushed the show all button.
    Prior to this experience, I confess I did not know that goodreads existed. I do have some concern about this site now, as most people browsing will not bother to actually click on the goodreads site for the context of this review rating. All they will see is 2 stars from 3 reviewers, which is at face value simply inaccurate.

    • This is Katherine again. Just checked the website. Goodreads has incorporated the three stars and restored the review and others on the site with the more engaging cover and is now on page 2 of my google name search. However, GOOGLE BOOKS which gets it info from goodreads is NOW on page 1 of my google name search, and includes the inaccurate information that I described above. So it remains a problem

      • GOOGLE/GOODREADS PASSIVE ENTITIES?: Just an update about my original comment that google books and goodreads are NOT passive entities. Interestingly enough goodreads after updating by review rating suddenly was removed from the first several pages of my google name search–in fact now I can’t find it all. Instead, google books took its place on the first page of my google name search with a two star rating from supposedly three reviewers. It actually used only the original two goodreads reviewers, states it has three reviews, and then does not include the five-star third review anywhere on the page, nor did it average in the five star review (which was succinct, professional, and specific). So at face value, Google books is now inaccurately representing my book. In addition, Google books also used my book’s boring non-descript library cover, instead of the more tantalizing paperbook cover that for example Amazon uses for my book. Finally, google books advertises other books on the same topic to sell, all with tantalizing covers and higher reviews.
        Since my book has been all over the internet for years, this google/goodreads incident has the appearance of google using my book, giving it a fake two star rating TO SELL OTHER BOOKS on the same topic by the authors it promotes. I am happy to be of service to help other authors and to promote a discussion of strip shows and sexualities. But I believe this can be accomplished without having to inaccurately attempt to downgrade the work of others. At this point, I believe that I am being harmed by google/goodreads inaccurate or sloppy review forums so that they can promote other authors, who, in any other circumstance I would be happy to support.

        • To clarify, google uses my book page to advertise other books on the same topic. Again I am happy to promote the work of other authors and discussions of strip shows, sexualities, and like issues. My objection is that it appears the google/goodreads may be using and artificially downgrading my book, which is all over the internet, to sell the work of other authors that I would happily support in any other circumstance. KLL

          • Update on my statement that google books /goodreads are NOT PASSIVE entities. After a week, suddenly goodreads is up on the first page of my google name search again–this time with the correct rating and number of reviews. BUT, right below it google books, which takes its information and ratings from goodreads has now “updated” its info about my book by saying it received 2-3 reviews with 2 star ratings–when again that is not the case. Google books is using my book, which is all over many sites on the web, to sell books they list right below mine–with an inaccurate rating on mine. I’ve emailed google books several times, and the writer of the “third” review that does not appear has also emailed them several times. We both repeatedly get replies that state since we are not members of googleplay books they can’t do anything for us!!! Are you kidding me? Misinformation, inaccurate information about a book rating on the part of google books, and one is told one has has to join googleplay books for a fee to remedy the situation? I think not. I think law suit as the inaccurate rating is doing me harm.

            • Well, as far as I am concerned, googlebooks and good reads are bully entities. After repeated emails about the problem of leaving out positive reviews and only showing the less positive ones, googlebooks is now displaying its site and rating for all to see right under my own website!–As the second entry on the first page of my google name search. It’s harming my business. It’s abuse. It’s simply not accurate even by goodread and googlebooks standards. And I believe this to be deliberate. Next step…

  58. dmculpepper says:

    Thank you, fozmeadows. I enjoyed this article very much. A site to combat true bullying (of any kind) has my blessing. The site in your article is one that promotes bullying and stalking and is truly shameful. To bully those who give negative reviews is childish and smacks of insecurity. I also didn’t know personal information is revealed on GoodReads. That, in itself, seems like a bad idea.

    A co-worker told me she left a review of my book on a site called “GoodReads.” I’d never heard of it before. I had to sign up as a member to read her review–and when I read it, I cringed. It was a 5-star review and it sounded so very, very fake. I know she enjoyed the book and she meant well by posting a review, but every sentence smacked of a fake review and, of course, in the review she said she knew me. I thought, “Okay, just ignore it and make sure no one else you know posts a review.” Well, that 5-star, cringe-worthy standing shot down to a 3-star standing when someone else (an author unknown to me–writing in the same genre) left a 1-star review. He commented on the many faults of my book and the faults I possess as an author. Did it hurt? Oh, yes, for about a day. Did I react? No. I just made it a point to avoid the GoodReads site.

    I have since had a 2-star review posted (by another author, unknown to me) on Amazon that again points out faults in my book and takes some solid punches at me, too. I’ve also had 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon and Amazon.UK. I’m learning to take the good with the bad–and I will never react to the bad. While the good reviews tend to stay focused on critiquing only the book, the bad reviews tend to comment harshly on me as a writer, too. I’m not sure why, but still, I will not react. I’m secure enough in my writing to carry on and my little book is still selling.

    I especially enjoyed Buzby McBuzzlePants’ comment: “Don’t be a dick….It’s not easy, but just… don’t be a dick.” I think I’ll make that my motto!

  59. [...] Bullying & Goodreads, 10 July 2012: A rundown of the issues surrounding the creation of the STGRB website, with emphasis [...]

  60. [...] ridiculous and problematic it is to equate reader’s reactions and reviews to bullying (because Foz Meadows expresses this sentiment much better than we ever could) or how these people are incapable of understanding satire, parody [...]

  61. Jennings says:

    I am appalled that people would try to combat “bullying” (and I agree with your definition, and that a bad review isn’t bullying) by setting up a stalking page, exposing personal info about people Good Lord, grow up! (On all sides, but we can’t be responsible for the bad reviews.) I am on GR, but never use it. I think the site is confusing, time consuming, and as far as I can tell, I’ve never gotten anything from any direct interaction there. I have enough to keep up with – I crossed that one off a long time ago. Bad reviews are going to happen. Period. I got a 1* on Amazon because the reviewer didn’t like how I dressed my characters when they were in India for 6 hours – the rest of the review was a tutorial on Indian dress. I mean, come on, you’ve got to laugh. Some people are miserable, and don’t have anything to do with their misery besides be trolls on public sites. They probably kick the cat, too. Since anyone reading those reviews to consider purchasing your book is smart enough to realize how stupid and irrelevent they are, your best course of action is to ignore it. Reviews on GR have always been tougher/rougher than what people (the same people) put on Amazon. It’s just the nature of the game. If you can’t take the heat…

  62. Interesting post. I am an author with one book on Goodreads. I don’t spend much time on it because I get a negative vibe. As an example, there is a writer, something Redfeather, I can’t quite remember his handle. He writes gay romance. He reviewed my book, so I checked out his page. There were a few comments and reviews that, as far as I could tell, were simply lashing out at him because he wrote gay romance. It was quite a turn-off seeing that kind of spite for no apparent reason, and I really felt sorry for him. Anyway, I’m avoided the site ever since. Not my kind of folks.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Homophobic abuse like that is definitely bullying; I can understand why it put you off the site.

      • Yeah, not a fan. I don’t even review books if I can’t give them at least a 3 – first, because if I disliked a book that much I wouldn’t finish it (and therefore, and not qualified to review it) and second, I don’t want to get into a review war with someone so I decided it’s not worth the risk. It’s the reality of being a writer and I’m okay with that.

    • E.L. Roberts says:

      His name is Red Haircrow. He is a very highly-rated and prolific author, very upbeat and has 45 comment going back to Feb 2011. Nothing negative at all. It looks like one comment was negative and he deleted it and replied to the person very politely.

      I find your post a bit odd because there is a strong LGBT presence on Goodreads and a very positive vibe. There are 48 groups tagged LGBT alone, one of them has 11.5K members.

      • Yes, you’re correct – Red Haircrow. I think they were more like shelf comments, sort of, “This book is disgusting…no one should read it…let’s start a group hating everything he writes…etc. I don’t drink so I wasn’t imagining things.:) Anyway, I’m glad they are no longer showing.

  63. […] by an attitude of universal professionalism. Online shit storms such as the mythical YA Mafia and Stop the Goodreads Bullies (both discussed with considerable insight by the wonderful Foz Meadows) are fuelled by a feeling […]

  64. E.L. Roberts says:

    There is a private group on Goodreads, quite a large group, called Badly Behaving Authors
    “A place for readers to push back against misbehaving authors”. Some of the authors rightly deserve what the members have to say against them and the en masse negative shelving that may result. Sometimes authors reply in the nastiest way to negative reviews on Amazon and carry it on to Goodreads. I can’t condone that. But there is a small coterie on this group that are obsessed, there isn’t another word for it, totally obsessed with any author that dared comment in any way on their’s or their friends reviews or even on a beloved self-pub author’s Twitter in a less that totally positive manner. They become bitchy, bullying, heartburningly vicious and way out of proportion to the original (and subsequent) insults.

    BUT they do it privately. It’s a koffee klatch. Just lines of text and shelving and is restricted to themselves. they don’t involve the whole world wide web, as to STGRB which aims to intimidate people in real life.

  65. […] not send thy fans after thy critics. Reviewers in the genre feel hard-done by, especially after the “Stop the Goodreads bullies” debacle where a cadre of mostly YA authors decided to try to harry and bully certain bloggers and […]

  66. […] the banners they had festooned all over the site. Unfortunately, the post I had that detailed the screencaps of their most terrible shit has gone down, but I saw all this stuff with my own eyes, and if my […]

  67. […] ide, nem hisztiből. Köszönjük Dworkyllnak az érdekes linkeket (ezt is meg ezt is), figyelem, adásban el nem hangzott […]

  68. […] even encouraging their users to post anonymously, review sites like Goodreads foster incivility. Foz Meadows puts it far more […]

  69. […] the issue of STGRB.com, FozMeadows calls them out. StopTheGoodreadsBullies.net, a website dedicated to proving that STGRB is made up […]

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