Do You Bully?

If you follow any authors/readers/book bloggers on Twitter, you’ll know that there was a BIG kerfuffle this past week or so about people leaving nasty reviews on the Goodreads. These aren’t just people leaving honest reviews that they didn’t enjoy a book. They are much more than that, verging on violent, criminal statements that are not only angering the Goodreads community, but making authors pull their books from the site completely.

If you use Goodreads for the book reviews to see what to read next, it can be very helpful. Sometimes, a new author or new book will emerge and gain a great following before the book really hits the shelves. (Most books are pre-released so that reviews can be published once the book hits stores.) This can really help a new book grab followers. Not all reviews are positive, and that’s not really the goal. If every book was given a good review, how would we know the difference between something outstanding and something that’s just okay? But the people who are taking the reviews to the next level, making threats and suggesting some authors should meet terrible fates, are going too far. And so far, Goodreads isn’t changing their policies, but they are looking into it.

According to a few authors, Goodreads has been quoted as saying “We take all these comments very seriously.” And if an unacceptable (threatening, malicious) comment is reported to them, they do everything to remove the comments right away. Similarly, they are encouraging people who use Goodreads to contact them with any concerns or questions they might have about the matter. Hopefully, this is the starting ground to making a few changes that might improve the author/reader/reviewer experience. You can read a very enlightening article about it here.  

Most of this issue came to light when a young unpublished author new to Goodreads asked a question about how she was getting reviews on her book that no one had actually read yet. When someone explained that she was getting stars based on ratings of “interest”…(they weren’t actual reviews), the trouble began. As with many sites that allow comments to be left without being monitored first, the bullies jumped in and started leaving horrific comments just because they thought the question was naive, or maybe they just like to cause trouble. Who knows? It escalated from there and the author, faced with rape and death threats, chose not to self-publish her book at all.


The experience of negative reviews can be difficult for any author, I’m sure, but compound a first book with feeling like you have to keep looking over your shoulder each time you leave the house, and it’s downright unbelievable. Yes, people should have the right to leave their opinions about a book, and that’s what Goodreads is all about. They should not, however, be able to make threats and malicious comments about the person who wrote the book. They don’t know them. The author has done nothing more than write a book. This is not reason enough for someone to hate them (especially when the content is fiction, and not controversial in the least).

A lot of authors have written about this problem, and as a result, people have flocked to the mentioned reviews as though they were a car crash. Many people have taken down the links to anything that seems to be promoting the problem instead of solving it.  And Goodreads has also removed a lot of the comments, so they just aren’t there to see anymore, which is a positive step forward. But should these people who bully online (usually anonymously) in comments sections be held up to some sort of charges?  If you were to threaten someone in the “real” world, no doubt the police would be at your door and you would probably face some sort of consequence. Police do a great job of tracking down online child pornographers, for example, so why can’t they put some resources into definite hate tactics? Or maybe it’s up to the people who run the sites to do a better job of monitoring this type of problem. Right now, it’s only caused a few authors to pull their hard work and dreams from the internet, but how far does it have to go for a bigger stand to be taken?

What do you think about bullying in comments?

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