Soapbox Saturday: The Author Who Cried Bully, and Few Heard the Truth

Hey guys, Rose here.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Soapbox Saturday entry, but it’s been a rather eventful week to say the least,  I have a headache just thinking about the current topic, because…this isn’t an easy topic to write on, but I”m going to give as even a presentation as my nerves can allow on this. I’m shaking at the thought of realizing everything that’s happened and the prejudgments and assuming tones that people have taken on regarding this case.  There are a lot of falsehoods running about and I want to set the record straight from what I’ve personally taken a few hours of my time to dig into what happened and approach it as someone who observed it from the outside of measures.

It might shock a few people at the title and notation, but this is pretty much an apt summary for what happened in the past week.  In this case, the author who cried bully (even threats of rape and sodomy) and it was pretty much the spark which ignited a flame of controversy that not only landed heavily loaded criticisms against an entire book community, but in the citations after the fallout, she laughed off the misunderstanding on a case of “PMS” and quickly left the situation leaving a lot of people shaking and completely wiping herself of any responsibility to what happened.

I have a hard time feeling sympathy for someone who not only had such disregard for so many people and blatantly misconstruing situations, but failing to accept responsibility.  And NO, a quick apology and claims of “PMS” or moodiness or effectively walking away from the situation is not going to help matters.

It’s really NOT funny that in the mix of an misunderstanding that said person proceeds to throw the whole female gender under the bus for things that could’ve been prevented by responsible practice on several levels – if only playing by E.A.R. (I’ll explain this in my respective post).

I’m absolutely livid at this entire measure because it’s a slap in the face to people who are/were:

1. victims of bullying/cyberbullying

2.  victims of sexual violence or harassment or those victim to ACTUAL threats of sexual violence/harassment

3.  concerned about the further complication of bullying and cyberbullying into buzzwords with reduced meanings

4.  concerned about a rift between authors/writers and reviewers/bloggers/readers

5.  concerned members (like myself) at the Goodreads community who are actually people who just want to read books and not engage in any kind of drama whatsoever.

6. people who have their own rating systems to gauge interest in a book within the current rating system, and are subsequently attacked by people who don’t respect the lines of being able to use rating systems personally without fear or retribution from someone who has a stake in the work (in this case, the author).

I don’t think Pippa realizes just how significant the range of people she affected, hurt, and misled by this when she so quickly leaped in and made all of these irresponsible claims about bullying and lack of response in a public venue (the internet is NOT private), and it being GR policy to allow horrible things to happen.

Before I continue further, I’m going to leave a link here as to what bullying IS NOT.  I encourage people to read it before moving on in this article.  While there are some notations I disagree with, I think the majority of it is actually an apt summary of where people are uninformed as to what bullying is.  I would also encourage that people read Emily Bazelon’s “Sticks and Stones” if you haven’t already done so.  It’s not only a really enlightening, emotional, and thoroughly investigated read, but also names numerous TRUSTED resources about bullying.

Granted, no incident of bullying is going to be the same from individual to individual, incident to incident, but it’s important to know that bullying is really contingent on the basis of INTENT and REPETITION.  I cannot stress that enough.

And these things aren’t even that common of an occurrence in my experience on the Goodreads site (though I would say it is an issue that has come to more prominence that needs to be dealt with, and I offer some suggested solutions near the end of this post.)

People – authors especially – I just want to say stop blaming the Goodreads community (or any social network for that matter) for the mistakes that you make.   And don’t make conclusions based on prejudgments that you know absolutely nothing about the terms for.  If you do something wrong, the blame remains with you. Period.  It remains with you until you own up to it and make steps to either make amends to the thing(s) that you did, or take it as a learning experience and recoup responsibly.  You’re far more likely to be respected if you face problems head on and own up to it, rather than projecting your problems and a so called “ruined” career on other people or things that you either don’t understand or aren’t responsible enough to look into with a more careful lens.

And if you are unaware of a situation, please be sure to look into all possible outlets before you jump the gun and make an assumption.  Simply leaping into the fray before seeing what really went on never helps.  I am very surprised at the number of professional authors, even in the past week, who are so quick to make assertions and lack the insight on the danger of making sweeping generalizations on an entire community like Goodreads without considering that it doesn’t compose the majority or the frequency of their claims, nor did their reflections truthfully reflect the actual terms of the situation discussed.

I’m struggling to try to present this in an even manner that calls out this irresponsible behavior, but at the same time proposes constructive solutions as to what can be done about it.  So ladies, gentlemen, I’m going to try to tackle this from the perspective of someone who shelved a book for her own personal reasons…and ended up stumbling onto a can of wiggling worms.

Discovering the Curious Case of Lauren Pippa/Lauren Howard

learningtolovecoverrose
This is the unreleased debut book by Lauren PIppa (a.k.a. Lauren Howard) – “Learning to Love”. It was set to be released in August 2013.  The author has stated that she’s since cancelled the publication of this book.

You guys know that I regularly peruse the Goodreads community as a way to look for books of various genres and peruse recommendations from friends and respected fellow readers. I keep shelves accordingly to express what books I’ve read, what books I want to read, what books I may be interested in but not sure about, and also express what books I won’t be reading/reviewing with a ten foot pole.   I happened to peruse a bunch of New Adult recommended books, and I came across one linked book that had to do with a teacher-student relationship, “Learning to Love”.  At the time, the book was noted to be by “Lauren Howard.”

Here’s the blurb:

Innocence personified, Aimee dreamed of the day she’d meet her Prince Charming… but love at first sight isn’t always as simple as a fairy tale. 

When Aimee discovers that Ezra, the drop-dead gorgeous tattooed hunk that rocked her world, is her new professor, she is forced to make a difficult decision between right and wrong. 

But to Ezra, Aimee is the light in his darkness and he won’t let her go without a fight. 

With the lines of morality starting to blur, can Aimee and Ezra build their relationship on a secret… or will secrets only lead to heartbreak?

– – – – –

The unreleased debut:

A New Adult Contemporary Romance novel recommended for mature readers over the age of 17 due to strong language, sexual situations and themes of erotica, as well as controversial topics.

My first response to the possibility of reading this was “no.”  Not my cuppa.  It’s not so much the designation of it being New Adult or the content of the work (I can handle all of that, and personally speaking, I have been picking up more New Adult novels that I’ve liked in comparison to where I started – but I still have issues with the age group’s heavy cliches and derivative elements).  I said no to this particular work because it’s derivative to the point this work has already been done before.  Note the names of the characters?

BIG Hint.  But don't tell anyone.  Aria wants you to keep it a secret.
BIG Hint. But don’t tell anyone. Aria wants you to keep it a secret.

Yeah, the Pretty Little Liars connection is close.  The teacher’s name is Ezra,  the student’s name is Aimee in the book.  In the PLL series: Teacher is named Ezra,  Student named Aria.     Part of me wanted to think it was an odd coincidence, but I’ve been burned too many times by fan-fiction pulled to publish so…yeah. I’m not so much saying this was the case with this book, but the similarity made me think this might’ve been a heavily derivative work.  I figured it was in my best interest to just say it wasn’t my cuppa and move on.  So I added it to my not my cuppa shelf while on the book page on Goodreads.

But then when looking at the reviews for the book, I saw over 70 5-star reviews making claims of defending the author against “bullying”.    At the time, there were only 5 1-star reviews and one 2-star review along with it.  I’m mentally saying  “Wait…what happened here?”

I’m not one to jump into the foray and prejudge things before I know all the facts.  So I did some digging.  Took me about a couple of hours to get up to speed on some dimensions of what happened.  The can of worms pretty much blew up in my face.

The story that was “sold” by a few widespread articles, including this alleged expose by SALON, was that Lauren Pippa (Howard) was threatened with rape, sodomy and such by reviewers on Goodreads (even implying staff inaction) over asking a simple question. The article quotes:

You don’t necessarily think the world of bookworms would be full of bullies. Readers, after all, are assumed to be a more evolved species, capable of articulating higher sentiments than “You suck.” Well, not always. Just a short time ago, Lauren Howard was gearing up for the release of her self-published debut novel, “Learning to Love,”  a tale in which “love at first sight isn’t always as simple as a fairy tale.” But then the Goodreads crowd reportedly decided to assert its dominance over the fledgling author, and that’s when things changed.

As the 22-year-old self-proclaimed “shopaholic, pop culture junkie, book lover and writer” explained on her blog Tuesday, she has now decided to not release the book, and the “main reason is recent occurrences on the website Goodreads.” She claims that though her book was not yet in the hands of potential reviewers, readers were already giving it two-star reviews. “I asked about this on a Goodreads message board,” she says, “and it was explained to me that people can rate as a way of expressing their interest in the book.” But by then, she writes, she’d triggered the ire of some of the community for questioning it. “People started to rate 1-star to prove ‘we can rate whatever the hell we want.’ My book was added to shelves named ‘author should be sodomized’ and ‘should be raped in prison’ and other violent offensive things, all for asking a simple question as a newcomer to the website.” She adds that “I’ve contacted Goodreads directly and nothing has been done because, again, this is acceptable behaviour.”

Something didn’t seem right to me on this from the very beginning tones on this article, because…in the three years I’ve been a part of the Goodreads service, I’ve never known Goodreads staff to not be responsive to the abuse of its TOS, which can be found here.  I’ve had relatively few unpleasant interactions on the site (though I could probably tell you about friends of mine who have been pretty much gut punched.  Most of the time it has been by authors who had a bad reaction to a review or shelf and don’t have a thick skin or the tolerance not to engage.  Other times the abuse has been by users who are fans who go through the critical reviews and bombard people with abusive PMs and comments simply because it’s a different or strongly worded opinion versus their own.   It’s happened enough to where the author/reviewer community’s been strained because over expressing honest, critical opinions, bloggers/reviewers/readers are afraid that new or sensitive authors may berate or target them in personal ways over their rating of said author’s (or even other author’s) books.  Some bloggers have stopped blogging altogether, afraid of such interactions.  

Quite many of the attacking authors are those who do not know the nature of reviews and ratings in their purpose nor how to interact with some degree of emotional distance on a social media community for their professions (and yes, WRITING, is a profession).  There have been quite a few who have been major published authors with best selling titles who have engaged negatively with reviewers just as well as self-published authors, though the stigma seems to settle that “self published authors” are the more likely ones to engage in this behavior.  That statement couldn’t be more false, since it seems to happen among both who, again, lack an understanding on the nature of “reviewing” and the appropriate gauge of professional boundaries in a social media measure.

Very rarely have I seen a reviewer aggressive with an author to the point where the author has been subsequently “bullied” – not saying it doesn’t happen, but it depends on the case-by-case basis of the events and who was involved in the exchange and the frequency and nature of the exchanges.  We could go back and forth on this for days on individual notations, but I’m going to stick to this particular incident for now.  Bear with me.

You guys know how I feel about bullying, threatening other people by their person; simply put, I don’t tolerate it and it gets under my skin. I don’t think anyone should tolerate that kind of behavior, and it should be reported when observed immediately to people who have the power to help.  

My thoughts at the time were that if such shelves were threatening her with rape or sodomy, they should’ve been removed without question. (It’s not what happened, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.)

The keyword in all of this – patience.  I’ve personally reported things to GR staff in the past and they usually got to it within 24-48 hours from what my own experiences have lent reporting abuse of the TOS – and those were in business days.   If something happens on a weekend, it may take until the next business day for something to be addressed (which is what I think happened in this case with a slower response time.)  And I speak from the experience of being a regular reviewer on Goodreads (though my reviewing network actually reaches many other book reviewing communities like BookLikes and Shelfari.)

When looking at the shelves on Goodreads for myself RE: this book – I didn’t see anything at first, but I figured much of the exchange had probably disappeared after the whole scuffle had occurred (I only knew about this in the latter parts of this week, but I sat on my hands because there were a lot of heated exchanges about the issue still going back and forth).

When I started asking around after the dust settled…oh man, let me just say that the Salon article and others got the whole measure wrong.  This whole thing started over a book rating that really had no attachments to it, but was met with criticism from the very get go.   What Pippa did is NOT how you use social media and not how you go about trying to resolve a problem.  Especially when you can misconstrue the whole thing into a huge maelstrom that quickly becomes one misunderstanding after the next and generalizes an entire community of people and even misrepresents the individuals and intentions of those involved.

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Some of you are probably asking “What really happened here?”  Some think it was the author being naive, others believe it was a publicity stunt to get marketing for her book.  And some (like myself) are just wondering what the eff went on. I can’t make a statement as to what Pippa’s motivations were definitively.  But I think Pippa both could’ve been more responsible and more forthcoming about the things that actually happened. What happened wasn’t bullying as much as it was a series of misunderstandings (and grossly irresponsible actions on the author’s part) that turned hostile.  Call it hostile, call it crude, but such things are still NOT termed bullying by such definition.  So there has to be some truth shed on this situation for what it really was. (And yeah, I chose this Aladdin gif just to illustrate an emphasis on truth.  😛 )

The Timeline of Events

Let’s break this down into a timeline.

In sum, Lauren Pippa/Howard had promoted her book by distributing ARC copies of her work.  You would think – “Okay, yeah, so of course she would expect reviews about her work to come out, right?” Especially since it was slated to come out at the end of this month.

I think the earliest point of conflict occurred around August 19th, 2013.  There was a reviewer who left a two star review on the work.  No written review, no comments, just a rating.

Pippa panicked to say the least.

She went to Goodreads Feedback to try to report on the situation, but there was very little to be done considering the review was: 1. a two star rating, 2. had no review attached, and 3.  could’ve been a number of reasons for the rating that weren’t iven.  Goodreads Feedback members tried to tell Lauren these very same measures and how to get help.  I’ve included the screenshot where Pippa created a topic in GR Feedback, but some of her posts were removed either by her own discretion, or by staff where she violated TOS and berated the reviewer in question.  I’ve captured what remained of the respective conversation.

Goodreads Feedback - Suggestions & Questions- Low rating spam-troll accounts SS
This is a screencap I took as of today’s date of the thread that Lauren Pippa created in Goodreads Feedback, accusing the two star reviewer of being a troll/spammer from the get-go. People actually did try to help her, and even Goodreads staff told her whom to contact to get help on the issue. But I don’t know if she ever really took any of the notations/advice given to her seriously because of the fallout that occurred afterward.

She even went to Goodreads librarians to try to get the book removed.

But one thing Pippa did not realize (or didn’t regard) was that Goodreads librarians are NOT Goodreads staff.   They are volunteers that are involved in the maintenance of book data – which includes covers,  book descriptions, and basically making sure the database is maintained for books that may be OOP (out of print) and need to be added in.   I became a Goodreads Librarian shortly around the time I joined because I wanted to help the database (and I might’ve become one because I wanted to add in some of my mother’s romance books from the 70s and 80s – don’t judge me!).

If Pippa had known the TOS and responsibilities in the Goodreads social media community and asked about it without jumping to conclusions, she would’ve learned the following:

1.  Goodreads is like a catalog database for books.  Librarians CANNOT remove books from the database or change vital metadata without reason once they are added, or they will lose librarian privileges.

2.  Rating books without a review attached is within the TOS.  Rating books before they’re released (as are often the case for people who have ARCs) are allowed.   Rating books to express interest or disinterest of a book are allowed.   Reviews that aren’t about the book may be hidden or removed (and the user banned) at the discretion of Goodreads staff on a case-by-case basis.

3. Librarians, again, are not Goodreads staff.  If a review is out of TOS, Pippa could’ve chosen to flag the review as well as any offensive comments and Goodreads would’ve gotten to them in a timely fashion.  Or, even moreso, she could’ve emailed Goodreads staff directly.  And learning these guidelines is just a matter of reading.

She did NOT have to engage the reviewer personally and question the reviewer’s motives for the two star rating. That was her starting an aggressive tactic based on her own previous assumptions.

The reviewer who gave the rating  may not have received an ARC copy of the book,  but could’ve been just rating as per interest of the upcoming release.  If there’s one thing for an author (and readers, mind you) to remember, no two people have the same way of using a rating system, despite its delineations.  It can be used to gauge interest, disinterest, perception of quality, or other dimensions surrounding a work, especially in a system of allowances like Goodreads has, and it’s important to understand that.  In that line, it is up to the READER OF THAT REVIEW to gauge whether that review helps them to determine their interest in a book.  If it works, fine.  If it doesn’t, then he or she doesn’t have to use it and can just move on.

And if anything a review/rating is an assessment of one’s own experience and perception of quality or interest/disinterest in a work.  It’s NOT meant for the author necessarily, nor do ratings in themselves become the hinge point for an author’s career. People will pick up books or not regardless of reviews (review actually help, they rarely hurt, even negative reviews can make people curious enough to read a work.)   There are multiple factors that go into a person picking up a book – I know it’s that way for me.  I judge books on blurbs, covers, word of mouth, themes, opening lines, genres, subgenres…you get the picture – it’s many things.  

I find it hard to understand how people can’t grasp this and make it all about “the review” or “ratings” alone, which are subjective measures that could be used objectively at the reviewer’s discretion.  And on a site like Goodreads where it is meant to be a community that fosters the interactions of readers and their experiences/perceptions of books, you would think that authors would respect the distance and not treat ratings as if it’s the bane of their careers.  On the contrary, and perhaps ironically in this case, attitude can be a significant factor in establishing rapport or intimidating/turning off their audience.

Initial interaction of Pippa and supporters on a Goodreads user's two-star review.
Initial interaction of Pippa, et. al on a Goodreads user’s two-star rating of “Learning to Love”.

Pippa’s post was the first post on the initial reactions. Heated exchanges occurred and prompted people to add Pippa to various “do not read” shelves for her perceived attack on the reviewer.  But it was a couple of shelves in the aftermath of this event that sparked Pippa’s further misconstruing of things.

The actual naming of the shelves in question were: “aggressive male affection in prison” and “sodomy by lawn sculpture.”   The user who had the shelves had them for quite some time before shelving Pippa’s books, according to her account of things, and it had been an inside joke as expressed by the user to communicate books she wasn’t interested in.  The Goodreads user: TinaNicole (note the singular person, not several people) with these shelves made this statement in the aftermath of events:

People may think they’re distasteful and I apologize for that. They’re both inside jokes and were never meant to offend but they are in no way referencing any person. They were, also, both my shelves. It wasn’t several different users.

Nonetheless, Pippa took the shelves as a personal affront and attack.

Pippa took to Twitlonger, posting the following:

LaurensTwitlongerAugust19th

She also took to Tumblr:

laurenstumblrannouncingcancellation

And adamantly kept affirming her claims that the shelves were meant as personal attacks against her, even on Goodreads:

laurenpippacommentary4

And the SALON article, among other media outlets – for what reason that remains to be known, somehow picked up the story and it went viral.   Suffice to say, there were a lot of angry users of Goodreads – reviewers, bloggers, and the like, who were not happy with the portrayals of the Goodreads community at large made by Pippa, nor the inaccuracies in the portrayal of the events that *actually* happened.   There were also heated exchanges and “revenge” ratings of 5-stars set to offset the “bullying” reviews of 1-star.  But what’s interesting in this discrepancy – the fact that Pippa had complained about people rating things before they read them, and well…the sheer number of the supporters who came in to simply rate the book on Pippa’s behalf were doing the thing she was speaking against in the first place.  There are more than 100 5-star ratings on Goodreads for “Learning to Love” as of this date.

And the book is said to never be released.

Heated exchanges of events occurred from people who perceived the measures as “bullying” and those weighing in debated about the shelving, ratings, users, and policies of Goodreads.  Pippa was reached out to by several bestselling authors (who ironically had their own controversies and issues with “targeting” reviewers) – including E.L. James, Jamie McGuire, among others.  But it quickly became a measure that Pippa was becoming a poster child for incidents of “bullying” on Goodreads by people who spoke against the service….when the notations in her posts…well, never happened the way she said they happened.

People called out Pippa on the discrepancies in her story.  Pippa later posted a retraction (now deleted), which is contained in the following:

retractedapologypippa
Image courtesy of Barbara on Goodreads.

But the odd part of all this,  Pippa decided to change her name, come back to Goodreads to request a name change for a book she doesn’t plan on publishing, and…blames the entire event on overreaction, misconstrued details by the media, and…PMS *winces*:

PMSandfollowupretractiongoodreadspippa

In the aftermath, TinaNicole had this to say:

…I’m getting really tired of people telling other people that disagreeing or calling someone out is bullying. I’m tired of hearing how wrong everyone is on both sides. The only comments from the beginning that were in any way abusive were from Lauren’s friends and supporters…

Regular GRs members were NOT getting deleted left and right, nor were any of their comments. The only things getting deleted were what the author herself deleted, the few nasty things from her friends (that are all still evident in others reply posts or ss’s) and the accts Lauren’s supporters opened, that day, to do nothing but five star her book and harass anyone who disagreed with their behavior.

I can’t even count how many comments and discussion threads I’ve read in the last few days where people are screaming for change and oh, the horror of it all but in the next sentence are calling librarians GRs employees and questioning what a shelf is for. Whaaaa?

Its been proven that Lauren, in fact, lied about being threatened with rape, sodomy and murder. Yet, no one seems all that concerned. They’re now latching on to the idea that GRs is an awful place with big meanies who have opinions and actually have gall to voice them without dipping them in sugar first. She left a lot of people with egg on their faces and instead of placing blame where it belongs, firmly on Lauren’s shoulders, they’re switching goal posts.

This whole circus has somehow turned into a way for people to try and put their own standards and morals onto others. I shouldn’t have to keep my opinions to myself because someone may think it’s not nice enough and neither should anyone else.

Everyone keeps coming back to “We should all be nice”. Only problem with that is we all have different ideas as to what qualifies as “nice”.

User JennyJen on Goodreads had interesting thoughts to spare on the situation (quoted in parts):

…Likewise, if someone is doing something wrong on GR, you’re able to flag them and then let the GR staff handle it. The funny thing with this entire situation is that had the author flagged that review/rating, nothing would have been done, because it did not violate any rules. Instead of moving on, as people suggested to her, she took it upon herself to go police and harass the reviewer. Then she went around lying about the fallout.

I understand being upset that someone rated your book with one or two stars before reading it, but I don’t understand:

– attacking the person for it
– calling them a troll
– trying to take them down
– linking them in a group so that people can go and do what exactly?
– ignoring when your friends make heinous comments to them, some actually involving the violence that you cried so loudly about before

I do not understand how it’s okay for an “author” to be running off at the mouth all over the internet and paraphrasing names of shelves so that people will pity her and come and inflate her book with 190+ five-star ratings. That sickens me. It sickens me more that all those people did not take a single moment to actually look into what really happened. Instead, they’ve all cried foul and done exactly that which the author chastised in the very beginning. I don’t see her complaining about any of these five-star ratings. I don’t see anyone saying that that is wrong.

…Everyone in support of the “author” has accepted everything at face value, even though she herself has gone publicly to say that it was all a big misunderstanding and I had PMS and blah blah blah and oh, those sodomy, rape, and death threats? They didn’t actually happen the way I said they did. Rather, they didn’t happen at all. (paraphrasing)

That’s what this is about. That’s what people should focus on. Instead, everyone is harking on a couple of premature ratings As an excuse for their ignorant crusade. Go look at the rating details. I think there are like 10+ one-star ratings and 190+ five-star. WTF. How can anyone take these people seriously when they haven’t bothered to look for any information? All this stuff is easily available for anyone to find and none of these people have even attempted it. Instead, you have a bunch of them saying that they actually saw these threats and that there were so many and from different people. The “author” said they didn’t exist, so how did you see them?

So it somewhat begs the question as to what to make of all of these events.  Since the retraction, Pippa has left the matter, claiming wanting “nothing to do with it.”  But it’s left a lot of people scratching heads as to what happened, why it happened, and what can be done in the aftermath of things.

Honestly,  I have a hard time writing words about my own reactions, but I’m going to make an attempt to reason with this.

My reactions:

Dude….where do I begin?

First of all, I think I’m just going to say that PIppa’s actions were puerile and unprofessional.  That’s me being honest, guys.  She wasn’t just the naive 22 year old writer who stumbled onto a pack of ravenous bullies who poked and prodded at her and wanted to ruin her career.   Lauren Pippa failed to read the Goodreads TOS, she ignored the advice that was given to her, she made all kinds of outlandish claims in social media which were equivalent to “BULLY, BULLY, RAPE THREAT, RAPE THREAT, DANGER, DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!”

And everybody heard her then.

Basically it came across as that scene from Disney’s Pocahontas (I’m including a lot of Disney references in here aren’t I?) where arrows and bayonets are taken up and everyone’s yelling “Savages! Savages!”

But no one really listened or care what actually happened, nor commented on Pippa’s wrongdoing for what it was.  And even when Lauren Pippa posted the retraction and apology, no one heard that, they just heard the battle cries and were quick to impose their own versions of changes (which are pretty much already in place on Goodreads), or attributions on how Goodreads works when really they have no idea how to use the social media system at all or the levels of management it actually has.

And if you’re someone sitting on the sidelines watching all of this fall out (*raises hand*) , it’s enough to drive you bonkers.

Look, I would never say that anyone deserves to be attacked by their person for whatever reason.  That’s inexcusable, and given that Pippa did take offense from the shelves, I understood that.  Even the person who had the shelves understood that as well and made no qualms about the fact that they (at least one of them) were taken down by GR staff.  The other I think TinaNicole took down herself.

What bothered me was the fact that Pippa took her outrage to other social media outlets and proceeded to cry out things in the heat of emotion (or perhaps something else entirely, you be the judge) that weren’t accurate.   You don’t do that as a professional – writer or not.  And granted Pippa may be naive or wet behind the ears, but this whole situation created a darned ripple in a problem that’s been building and buliding over time like a bubble waiting to burst.  All because of a lack of understanding on how Goodreads works and how its users use it.   And all because some authors don’t know how to maintain a sense of distance or choosing their battles.  Some things you just can’t fight or control.

My personal experience: GR isn’t the devil’s abyss or anything of the sort.  How would you explain how hundreds of writers are able to use the site with little to no problems?  How do you explain awesome authors like Karina Halle (who just released a book in this last week) being able to use the service with very few problems and interacting with their awesome readers?  The vast majority of authors and readers who use the service have absolutely NO problems.  And it boils down to knowing how to use social media and be vigilant in your interactions.

And I really don’t understand authors or users signaling out individual people who call out problematic behavior.  Heck, if it’s problematic, people try to speak out about it and some are especially passionate considering the level of attacks that have been launched against them in the past.  I understand that there are some people who are unaware of said attacks, and that might be cause for defense and overreach, but it isn’t that hard to take a step back and play things by E.A.R.

*Evaluate

*Assess

*Respond

Whenever you get into a problematic situation where contentions are high, stop yourself a moment and actually step back from the conversation.  Take a breath, calm down, note what is said and the note the situation for what it is (Evaluate) and try to reason why it’s said and things are happening (Assess).  Then given what you have, act accordingly (respond).  Sometimes the only thing you can do from a situation is walk away – there’s no shame in that.  Sometimes you have pick your battles carefully, even if you’re feeling pressed against the wall in the face of conflict that may put you ill at ease.

There are going to be a lot of people who read this post who have opinions on how to rate books, what measures go into “ruining” an author’s career, where lines are crossed between reader/reviewer and author/writer, but honestly – I don’t believe in the turf war.  I fume regularly at the idea that there’s some kind of division and that the two should never mix.  Heck, I’m an aspiring writer and firm critic/lover of books.  I give my honest opinions on things, sometimes quite sharply, but do it with the intention of elucidating the things I see, read, and interpret. I wear both reader and writer hats, and I have no shame or fear in taking on those roles.  But I know – and have learned for better and worse – that you have to respect other people’s spaces and opinions  and their respective expression.  Some opinions may not sit well with you, but you move forward and dance to the beat of your own drum.  You let the opinions of the person who gives them stand on their own, you learn to have a thick skin in the face of criticism.

Now as for the discussion on bullying, nothing about this situation was an example of bullying, as baffling and unpleasant of an exchange as it may’ve been.  Let’s clear that distinction out right now.  I’m annoyed and tired of people saying that when someone acting in a public sphere  is being called out on taking irresponsible actions, misconstruing situations, and basically throwing other GOOD people under the bus on the basis of assumption, prejudice or ignorance is “bullying.”  That’s not bullying, that taking a person to task for the problematic things they did.  And in this case, Lauren Pippa DID a LOT of things wrong here.  I don’t think she should be berated by her person for doing it, but she sure as heck deserves to be taken to task when it hurts other people, especially a whole community of people on the basis of misconceptions and projected fabrications.  

And the thing about it is, she led other people to think that such things happened to her when really they did not, and she didn’t assertively strike it down when she figured the truth out of the haze of whatever emotion she was acting within.  I don’t know what her motivations were, and it still baffles me in terms of what she did and why she did it.  I’d like to think she wasn’t intentionally leading other people on, but honestly – when someone breaks your trust by the actions they take, it’s hard to rebuild.  The whole passive-aggressiveness of it all really was tell-tale in this whole event, and it caused a lot of problems that could’ve been prevented or mitigated in some way.  But Pippa didn’t assume that responsibility, and it shows her naivete or lack of acceptance about the whole situation.  And I think that’s what has a lot of people, including yours truly – upset about it even in the aftermath because it’s causing problems not only for reviewers and authors who use Goodreads responsibly, but is making mistaken attributes of “bullying” and “trolling” as buzz terms that didn’t apply here. Everything here was a series of chain reactions – one elicited response after another, after another, after another to result in the fall out.  But it was NOT bullying.

The article I noted above on what isn’t bullying had some good notations, but I took issue with it on the level that you can’t always define a specific incident as being bullying unless you take each party involved for the context, intention, and repetition of events.   Those are all key issues.  And until other people learn to stop using it as a buzz term and figure out what it truly entails, it’s going to get misconstrued and then the people who suffer in it when it actually happens  – whether they may be victims of one’s bullying tactics, or the bully who can’t escape the mental triggers that’s causing them to lash out, or the bystanders who don’t always know what to do –  our society is not going to improve on recognizing where it occurs and how to act on it.   Those in its web are going to continue to suffer because people won’t take the time to understand its dimensions and whom it hurts.  Bullying hurts everybody.  Learn not to jump to conclusions and draw assumptions when you don’t know the full story of the things that happen.

With that, I leave the matter here.

Until next entry,

~Rose

Edit: 7/27/2013: In case anyone hasn’t seen these posts, John has some interesting thoughts and also screenshots about what happened in the following posts:

http://darkwriter67.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/reality-on-goodreads-your-mileage-may-vary/

http://darkwriter67.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/addendum-reality-on-goodreads/

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34 comments

  1. Wow. I’m exhausted. I missed this whole scuttle. You did a great job of bringing it all out. In fact, I’m glad I missed it in progress because you’re right, what a mess!
    I agree with your analysis and will share. Thanks

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    • You are quite welcome, Mardra and thank you. 🙂 Even catching this tale on its end part, I cringed watching some of the interactions going down. I’ll admit Pippa’s actions gave me a degree of secondhand embarrassment. I really hope people find out the truth about this tale the more it spreads, because there are a lot of fabrications still going around on the net about it, and it’s quite frustrating.

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  2. Wow, this is a novel in itself.
    Until about an hour ago I had never visited or read a book blog.
    This sorry tale with its many twists and turns had me changing sides on many occasions. Then it dawned on me that Pippa was (originally)only guilty of not understanding the way the GR community rolls. She was / is still too emotionally attached to her novel and she was wounded.

    The reviewer community pulled together as communities do and she went into wild panic mode in her quest for supporters.

    Rent a mob just bubble under the surface of Twitters murky depths, they ofter don’t even know who they are attacking or why – but that’s all part of their sport.

    As it snowballed (as these things always do). She was no longer in control and totally out of her depth. I was feeling a bit sorry for her TBH. I can see (as an outsider) that her original question on GR could / would / might have been taken in a different way if she wasn’t a jumped up newbie author, kicking off.

    She regained her strength thanks to the trolling, malicious behaviour of her supporters and the excessive removing of content and comments. Words are laid down too easily in this social media world. You should think first and not delete with haste. It changes the story, takes things out of context and makes people really mad.

    I switched sides again. Then the PMS and name change were just too much for my frazzled mind to digest.

    If I look at this without my cynical hat on, I go with the view that at least she had the balls to attempt to apologise and say she had been WAY WAAAAY wrong but I am cynical and if promotion is the name of the game in your part of the blogging world, well she has done one hell of a good job.

    It’s a sad state that the trolls always jump aboard the hate train yelling bully, cliques and victimisation. That won’t change until people are made accountable for the words they so viscously throw without thought or regard for the human they seek to destroy from the comfort of their living rooms. The Hunger Games for the social media generation. Sport.

    Than you for sharing this.

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    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, geekisnewchic. Yeah, I could definitely see this being a novel in itself for events and complexity. I think whatever issues Pippa/Howard can work out from this point, she needs to work out. It was certainly a measure that spiraled out of control – and once it hit a point, there wasn’t much that could be done to recover it.

      I definitely wish things didn’t reach this level at all, but I’m hoping with people knowing the truth about it, others will know what not to do and what really happened in the matter.

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    • Can I just say – “rent a mob” is a great saying for social media mentalities.
      Where can I get one? There’s a few things I’d like to storm the castle and go over…

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  3. This was fascinating to read, thank you for the eloquent break down. While reading here about the events, I too asked myself ‘Wow how did it get so out of hand?” and I was then reminded of advice given to me by a wise tutor in college. I did a four year degree in Creative Writing with hopes of pursuing my goal of becoming a published author. One day during a ‘Creative and The Industry’ seminar the tutor was asked about self publishing, he said that yes it can be a wonderful and liberating thing but he also pointed out what he felt was the HUGE problem with self publishing ; that the author is often (and usually without realizing it) not really ready to share their work.

    This he said is where literary agents and publishing houses prove themselves to be an important step in the author’s journey to publication. He told us (himself a published author) that a publishing House will NOT publish your book if they feel you are not yet ready to cut the ties with it and allow it to live on it’s own out in the world. He said that they will instead send you to spend time with an editor and have you read the feedback and understandings of in house readers, this step helps to toughen the skin and when the book finally hits the shelf, the author will not feel quite so much like the book is a helpless newborn but rather a piece that has passed by many eyes and has matured. Skipping all of these procedures can often lead to an author who is overly sensitive and ill equipped to handle even the slightest disparaging remark (which sounds like just what occurred here) he also went on to say that by the time a novel reaches commercial publication the author will have gone through often dozens and dozens of rejections from agents and publishing houses alike and this acts of a sort of preparation for any negative reactions they may face. His words of wisdom made me truly think about how ready I would really have to be to take the step of self publishing. And it sounds like unfortunately (for the innocent people on GoodReads who had their names dragged through the mud) that she really was not ready. Again brilliant piece!

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  4. I applaud you. I was terrified to do the post I did the other day. Thought…oh lord here comes the nasty. Like you, before I knee-jerked into the fray to help a poor bullied young author, did some digging and discovered the same as you. http://bobbiromans.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/randomness-bullies-noble-romance-prologues/

    What made me stop and guffaw, was how quick the anti-bullies, became the bullies. Not all. But it was becoming close. I can’t count the numerous emails and messages stating “did you hear” and “they were leaving Goodreads.”

    Thank you for posting, in timeline detail. I’m all for stopping a bully, but when one screams of true ‘fear’ and ‘rape’ they better mean it. If they don’t, it could downplay someone who really is and that is…DANGEROUS.

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  5. Interesting. As an author who has published a book under a pseudonym. I had the experience of a 1 star rating after getting 4.5’s and 5’s from all my other readers. I clicked on the reviewer’s name to find out more about her. She has “reviewed” several hundred books…supposedly. Also interesting was that for more than 90% of her reviews she gave 1 star. WTF? Had she actually purchased all the books she claims to have “read” in the past twelve months, she would have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $18,000 on e-published and print books. She also would have had to have read them NON-STOP for more months to accomplish this task… Unless her super power is seeing a book cover online and through telekinetic osmosis, she sucked in every single word of the book and was then qualified to post a review.

    Goodreads, like Amazon, sometimes functions like the old summer school book reading club. There is some sort of psychological reward for having “read” more books than any of the other kids over your summer vacation. On Amazon, the reward for reviewing the most products is discounted goods. Out of curiosity, I sent the reviewer a note and first thanked her for purchasing my book. Then I asked her if she would be so kind as to give me specifics on why she disliked the book enough to have rated it only one star, and that I was sincerely interested in her opinion so that my future books will be better written with input from reviewers like her.

    Response? Hell no. The very next day, her 1 star review was removed from my book. As I suspected, she’s a drive by-serial book basher, doing it to raise her number of books “read” on her Goodreads profile. As an author, having to wade through the river of crap that is the “rating system” is making me and some really great writers shy away from ever writing anything for publication again.

    Unlike being an athlete who dives into the pool with their competition and anyone with eyeballs that work can see who came in 1st, 2nd or 3rd-even if there is a whole section of booing haters in the bleachers, writers will never have the chance to even get up on the starting blocks as long as their are people whose hobby is book bashing. Their undeserved and random low rating keep our books from even being found in a book search as the search algorithm favors books with high star ratings when a genre is searched.

    I can only guess that the drive by- book bashers couldn’t write a grocery list if their life depended on it and the jealousy over seeing other people actually sitting their butts down to crank out 60 to 90,000 words on a topic, just sends them into their parent’s basement with a gallon of Hagen-Daz and a fiery need to burn the first person they run across.

    This IS the new playground for school yard bullies and mean girls and what they are too self absorbed to realize is that THEY are making publishing and writing a hostile environment for authors and for people who love to read GOOD writing. It’s very sad.

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    • With all due respect, WordNinjaGirl, as an aspiring author myself and a very active critical reviewer, I completely disagree with you. And the fact that you attribute such activity to the part of “mean girls” and “school yard bullies” is EXACTLY the point I was making in my post about using bullying as a buzz term. It conveys a misunderstanding of what bullying is – a mentality that needs to be fought against, not people – a MENTALITY.

      And the mean girls attribution? That’s a misogynistic terming that very dangerous and limiting in its terminology. Young ladies are not the only ones who bully, and to limit it to such a measure is not sensitive to the problem that bullying in its dimensions fully encompasses.

      My post in this measure was penned to actually knock down many of the stereotypes that your post notes.

      For one, an author’s career is not made by reviews or ratings alone. It’s by writing and also gaining an audience with that writing. If you continue to write, your career will find you, your readers will come based on the interest in your work. And yes, people will pick up your books for a multitude of reasons other than reviews or ratings in themselves – it’s not a singular outlet. I feel that an author has to maintain some degree of emotional distance from the “ratings” and “reviews” they get. It’s one thing if a review attacks you by your person whether it’s by your race, gender, sexual orientation, weight, appearance, or some such (And speaking as a woman of color, I feel quite strongly about such attacks) – those measures of a review I deem as personal attacks and they do not constitute reviews of a work in dimensions. And those would be the kind of reviews that are removed for good reason on Goodreads or other social mediums where book reviews are shared like BookLikes and Shelfari.

      However, I don’t feel that the vast majority of critical reviews about books are in that category, and for all intents and purposes – like I noted in this post, bullying is a matter examining INTENT, REPETITION, and CONTEXT with respect to the individuals or groups involved. Making blanket assertions and assumptions is NOT the key to understanding these measures.

      While I do not deny the existence of some reviewers who leave ratings for purposes of ill intent, it’s difficult to have a gauge for intention when you don’t know the context for which it occurs. Personally speaking, had you emailed me over a rating in the same way you did that reviewer, I’d be terribly offended. Outraged even. Granted I usually try to leave reviews on everything I read, but sometimes, I don’t have the time with the massive amount of books I read. And heck, I myself give a lot of 1-star reviews. It doesn’t mean I hate books or am a “hater” or “mean girl” – it means I read a lot and have my own personal dimensions to speak from. And I think that’s true of a lot of reviewers.

      Actions like that are reason why some bloggers and reviewers have quit blogging or sharing reviews on places like Goodreads and Amazon. It’s an intimidation tactic that authors need to learn to NOT do. You have to know when to pick your battles. intimidating your audience is not a good way to do it.

      My personal perspective? If you read your reviews (sometimes it’s a good alternative to not read them at all), and get even one bad rating or review, let alone 10 or 100, don’t sweat it. Other ratings will follow and buffer it out, even from people who put a lot of time into their reflections. Usually, readers can gauge for themselves how helpful a rating or review may be to them. If the 1-star rating turns them away, then you really can’t do anything about it.

      If it doesn’t, then they’ll make the decision as to whether to peruse your work. Sometimes negative reviews or ratings can actually give interest to a work. I know sometime before that I perused a book with a low average rating on Goodreads and I ended up giving it 5-stars. I understood why people were divided on it though, because of the controversial content and the narrator’s actions (or rather inaction.)

      Allow your audience and your readers to find your work on their own, and focus on maintaining a positive rapport. Reviews are personal experiences or reflections over a work or the perceived quality of a work. You don’t have to engage the negative perspectives. It may be disheartening to get a negative review, for any reason, on something you work hard on, but that’s the lay of the land in this business. It happens. I would not be so quick to jump to assumptions on why people rate works the way they do, unless it’s a clear cut case of abuse. If you suspect abuse, you talk to the management of the place that review’s hosted on, whether it’s Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, Booklikes or any other social media outlet. They will help you versus you trying to make the push on your own, and winding up in a situation that’s opening a can of worms.

      Just two cents.

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  6. Speaking in overall terms. As a whole of the writing community. I heart them. Totally. Don’t let the squabbles seen on places like Goodreads, or other, dishearten you.

    The community as a whole has more backbone and heart than any other I’ve ever seen.

    A popular bloggers spouse was murdered. They had children. Before you could blink, authors, editors, agents and even publishing houses were there doing an auction to raise money and sending phone numbers for support. Same when the tornadoes devastated Oklahoma.

    In another case, someone lost a house to fire…the community was there.

    I have been stunned by the generosity of so many from everything from true emergencies to simply a well established author helping a newbie by sharing the wisdoms they’ve learned.

    It’s there. The love. But much like any other profession, it has it’s ‘moments’.

    JIMHO

    🙂

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  7. I still don’t understand. Had people put her book on these shelves with nasty names she claimed they created just for her, or was this part made up by her?

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    • Excellent question, Zrinka.

      The first thing you should know is that these shelves were already in place before Pippa was ever added to them. That’s the first thing.

      Second, the user (not multiple people) who had these shelves had them as a private joke among her peers for the purposes of keeping track of books that she wasn’t interested in for her own reasons. The GR user with these shelves had them well before this situation and before Pippa’s book was added to them.

      Pippa grossly exaggerated the naming of the actual shelves. Now whether or not she lied about it deliberately or was acting in a panic of emotion, it’s hard to say, but it was still a falsehood that spread across social media, which she didn’t clarify until it was far too late for anyone to realize the truth.

      I hope that answers your question. I personally don’t know what Pippa’s motivations were in all of this, but I think what left a foul taste in my mouth about it was the fact that she completely misrepresented Goodreads and the situation for what it was, and it hurt a lot of people.

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  8. Thanks for investigating this and sharing the details. So many petitions, warnings, etc. fly around the Internet that it too easy to sign on or pass them along without ever looking into the validity. I avoid getting involved if I don’t know the truth, but who has time to explore every single claim? I’m glad to hear that Goodreads is not the dangerous place it’s been made out to be lately. (I’m on it with two author profiles, but not very active.)

    Interesting observation that it’s not just (or even primarily) self published authors overreacting to this kind of thing. I would have thought self published authors could be more reactive, only because if they went directly to SP, they don’t necessarily have the thick skin built up from years of rejections. But that could be true for debut authors who sold one of their first manuscripts, or even successful authors who haven’t faced rejections and bad reviews in a while, and haven’t figured out how the Internet has changed things.

    Or, you know, anyone who’s cranky or suffering from… PMS. (Groan. Hate that excuse.)

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    • Agreed on your collective post, Kris – I think so many people leapt with both feet over this measure that they didn’t consider the events for what they were, and acted upon knee-jerk reactions.

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  9. Whew! I’m getting too old to understand this new world of “cyber-bullying”, but it does sound like Ms. Pippa pulled a “P.T. Barnum” on folks. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity–just publicity,” Barnum said, so by trying to make her book stand out in the crowd of thousands of other books coming out that day she decided to create her own controversy to make the headlines. With the advent of cheap/easy self-publishing, this sort of behavior is bound to happen I dare say. I’m very glad my publishers watch out for their authors. This truly is the benefit to traditional publishing verses self-pubbed/Kindle route, IMO. Going it alone means you’re at the mercy of the “social site mob”–or even your own mental illness/lack of maturity.

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    • Great comment, Cindy. I don’t know – even with the “gatekeeping” that traditional publishing houses tend to have, there are still authors in those measures who don’t know how to use social media and have crossed boundaries in big ways. I don’t think it’s limited to self-published authors, and as I mentioned in my post – that’s a stereotype that isn’t true considering the various case of things like this happening. Sadly, it’s happened more than most would think.

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  10. This is enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to investigate the matter. I stopped reading reviews of my books a while ago. I don’t want other people’s opinions to influence my work. I also don’t want to engage in any emotional drama. Once I became a published author, I also stopped leaving “critical” reviews of other people’s work on Amazon. If I can’t say anything nice about a book, I keep it to myself. I agree with most of what you’ve said but I also agree with WordNinjaGirl that you may look at things differently once it’s your work that’s out their in the world for people to both adore and hate. No one likes to be told their “baby” is ugly…

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    • Thanks Karen, I appreciate your comment and respect your thoughts. 🙂

      Personally speaking, I don’t know – I don’t think my ability to review books will change, because I always feel the need to share my honest thoughts on what I read, and I’m an avid reader – I don’t think I’m ever going to stop reviewing, I don’t see myself doing it. I have several friends who are published (some are self-published, and others have actually been picked up by major publishing houses) authors who also write reviews and give their honest two cents across the star rating board and voice – quite objectively – what they liked and didn’t like about a work.

      I think it’s dependent on what you feel comfortable with, and I can’t judge personal practices. I can respect that.

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  11. Are there stats regarding the relationships between stars and sales, here and on Amazon? Because author friends DO feel that they have to have ratings around 4 or so, and any rating lower than 4 seriously hurts them. I don’t easily give 5-star reviews or even 4s all that often, and I’ve had debates with some people….They’d rather you gave a higher number of stars and then crushed them in the review, or gave no stars at all officially and then just verbally, in the review said what you would give. Because really–if you’re looking at Netflix and a movie sounds good but it has 2 stars, you are probably not going there, and same with a hotel, and same with a book. Anyway, they say this does affect book sales.

    I am really not sure what to do with about this myself and am tempted to go with option 2, above. Opt out of the official star system but offer a rating in my written review that I then defend. Still thinking about this. The thing is, so much goes into the stars, and it’s different for every book–you can’t be consistent, so then you can’t be fair. My standards are going to be higher for a literary novel than they are for an escape book or for some journalistic nonfiction about the brain. Someone can take 10 years writing a beautiful short story collection that has one or two weaker pieces and therefore gets 4 stars, while A Wizard of Earthsea gets 5 on the strength of I loved it when I was 12.

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    • Hi Claudia, thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my post.

      Firstly, there are a LOT of articles that talk about the impact of consumer reviews on sales, though generally speaking, some tend to conflict in impact. Here’s a link you may find helpful to go through yourself and judge – I found it doing some research on review impact myself and while I haven’t gone through every article, much of what I found was illuminating as to why some have the ideals they have about consumer reviews (like book reviews): http://www.behind-the-enemy-lines.com/2011/08/impact-of-online-reviews-annotated.html

      I may have a blog post in the future going through some of these articles and having an open discussion on it, but I’m not sure when that will be.

      Second, I’m of the mind that a review system is designed to help you, the consumer (whether it’s of a book or other media or services) express how YOU feel about the quality of a work – for me it boils down to honesty. If you rate five stars to a book you loved as a kid and express sentiments in that vein (whether through just the rating and/or a review to couple it), that’s fine – that’s your honest opinion. If you rate four stars to someone who worked ten years on a short story collection, regardless of how hard the author worked on that collection – that 4 star rating, along with any other thoughts you may couple with it in the review – is your honest rating. Other reviewers will appreciate that sentiment because it’s tailored to the perception of your experience.

      I think that the rating should be based on how you feel about the work and what your experience lent in reading that work. If you choose to express that with a star rating, a non-rated review, or a star rating with a review, that’s your decision and entirely up to you. Do not allow anyone else to tell you otherwise. But I would say that your review should not necessarily be reflective of what you think would be most helpful to the author, but rather what is most true to your experience of the work. If you have a positive review that’s noted in your words or star rating, other readers who come across your review will appreciate your words and be more likely to pick up the book of their OWN accord, not based on what the author thinks may help their sales. Usually when a book goes out into the world, it’s out of the author’s hands. They can market it and say “Hey, this is what my book is about” and build a base based on positive rapport and advertising, but when it comes to review – an author doesn’t have the jurisdiction to control what people say about their experiences of a work, because experiences are an intimate thing and vary across a wide scale.

      I think there are some authors, and even some readers, who tend to place too much emphasis on star ratings for reviews – when really it’s a system designed to help you express what your experience of a book was, and people (readers, buyers) can take what they want from that. But a high star review isn’t always enough to sell a book.. It’s not so much just the star rating that may sell a work to a person picking up a book, but rather word of mouth and a number of other factors – like genre appeal, pricing, author/reader rapport, etc.

      When I review, I realize that there may be people who feel differently than me about a work (whether I give it high ratings, low ratings, or the large measure between), but I reflect on my personal experiences with a star rating based on my own system, as well as expanded thoughts in the reviews that I write. I think the mere mention of a work, even if its a lesser known work can be enough to give it leverage and have people check it out and judge for themselves. Even reviews of 1-star books I’ve rated still get sales from people who may say “I still want to check this out anyway, because it sounds like it could be for me based on the type of story it is and the elements that bothered the reviewer may not necessarily bother me.”

      Similarly, I mention (actually in one of my upcoming posts tomorrow) that some highly rated books don’t sell well, while some critically panned books still manage to do well regardless, because of variant factors that stand outside of ratings.

      Long story short: I think you’re the only person who can determine how you want to reflect on your experience of reading – no one else. If something works best for you, go with your gut and write your reviews/reflections the way that works best for you. I think whomever may come across your reflections will appreciate you for taking the time to share, and what you recommend.

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  12. BTW I didn’t get the impression WordNinjaGirl was harassing, just that she genuinely wanted to understand the dynamic… Whether her conclusions are accurate remains to be seen. And I think her point about seeing how you feel later isn’t that you won’t want want to be criticized, necessarily, but that you too may feel mystified. Perhaps TOO much feedback from the masses may not be a good thing. Perhaps that’s really what the issue is here. I was looking through the 50 shades reviews recently when someone linked to some of the funny (negative) reviews. Then I thought the 5-star reviews might be even funnier. And you know what? People are really, really weird. What people find engaging or offensive or boring or confusing or fascinating… There really is no accounting for it. It’s too bad more books don’t reach more people, actually, because if that one can provoke such a wide response, there’s no doubt that nearly ANY book could. All of them could.

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    • I don’t think WordNinjaGirl’s actions were intended to harass either, but I think it should be said that if an author messages a critical reviewer asking them why they rated something the way they did – it can be both a measure of intimidation towards that reviewer and a conflict of interest on an author’s part. And in the role of a professional writer acting in an marketing industry – it’s something that’s not wise to do or jump to conclusions on. Hence why I was adamant about how it’s in poor form. I agree that whether or not the conclusions she made were accurate remains to be seen, but I’ve seen this happen time and time again – and being a reviewer myself – I’ve been on the receiving end (alongside many reviewing peers) of this kind of exchange many, many times. It never really ends well for an author to pinpoint and question individual reviewers. The work that an author writes should be able to sell itself in quality and perception on its own terms.

      Consumer reviewers are intended in the measure of informing other consumers why they felt a book worked or didn’t work for them. An author may read these reviews, but the reviews themselves aren’t designed for them on specific feedback. A work should be able to sell itself and in the lay of the book world – it’s inevitable that a book will get many ratings – in high scale, low scale, or somewhere in the middle. I think an author does need to maintain a buffer distance from the critique they may receive in the social reviewing realm because it can be stressful to rely so much on ratings/reviews for quality. Targeting specific reviewers on their feedback isn’t the way to do it.

      It’s recommended that many authors should not read their reviews if it’s so much that the reviewing dynamic is either overwhelming to their craft or may make them feel insecure on a personal measure. But if authors DO read their reviews, they can actually gain some form of feedback from those who voluntarily offer their two cents in the review itself. But it’s usually considered poor form for an author to comment on a consumer review.

      I myself don’t mind getting positive messages from authors who like my positive reviews, or even a simple “Thanks for taking the time to review with your honest opinion” from authors whom I may give critical reviews to. But further interaction from that point makes me weary because my opinion stands on its own and usually once I write a review or rate something – I’ve said my piece and leave it alone, unless other readers want to discuss the content of the book or may have similar sentiments that I do (or if they feel differently, a casual, mutual debate is fine). Others may not be comfortable with any interaction at all from an author, because it feels like the author is trying to manipulate the market or manipulate the opinion of that person when really, the reviewer may not want to give any other feedback other than the rating and/or review – they’ve already made their statement in the expression of the rating and/or review. And no person should be forced to give feedback if they do not choose to.

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  13. Not to hijack someone else blog, but to clarify a few things that have been huge topics of conversation lately.

    Ratings matter in the sense that Amazon has magic numbers for authors. So many review/ratings = KDD (special sales/promotions) etc, eligibility.

    Do the publishers probably watch? Doubtful. If genuine low stars with backed up detailed reviews…maybe. (if there is enough) I think at most, publishers look at the bottom line dollar of who is making the sales, and who isn’t.

    Now, as far as reviews overall.

    There were some events lately where the reviews were not standard normal reviews. Not even in the snarky sense.

    While freedom of speech allows for “Author is a moron”- “Author should never write again.” and such…

    The events which spawned numerous blog posts, were an author (crying wolf) over stating she was being physically threatened. Later she recanted stating she “misunderstood and had PMS”.

    Either way though, threats of physical violence should not be tolerated. There are shelves and review ‘tags’ with names such as ‘author should be raped’ ‘author should be sodomized’ that should be banned from Goodreads.. Thing is, how they would be able to monitor is anyone’s guess.

    What if a book had such…and a review warned potential readers. Book has scenes of rape…etc.

    In a nut shell, it boils down to hoping people just use some common sense when posting them. Hated it to the point you want to make fun of and snark, mean, but not illegal. Refraining from anything which could be honestly taken as a threat…don’t. It CAN be in certain cases (levels) illegal.

    As is the latest blogs saying there are those (on both sides of this fence) leaving ppls REAL telephone numbers, kids school information, etc.

    Wrong, wrong, way, way wrong.

    JIMHO

    Bobbi

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    • Bobbi, you’re more than welcome to offer your opinion on this blog and are not hijacking in any way. I appreciate yours (and quite frankly everyone’s comments) on this topic.

      It can be contentious because the very nature of this discussion is controversial, I think – we have different perceptions in the go-betweens, but it’s discussions like this in an open environment that give clarity to how people think, feel, perceive such situations.

      I agree that absolutely NO threats of physical violence or otherwise should be tolerated. Nor should bullying or threatening anyone’s person be tolerated either. But I think there needs to be clarification on perceptions of actions and reactions and clarity on that matter brought so that – in the spectrum of things – people learn what to do and what not to do in the measure of things from discussion over incidents like this. We may bring different perspectives to the interpretation of events, but ultimately the goal should be to look at events like this – see how they were caused, see how they were resolved, see what probably could’ve prevented the measures, and see what actions could be taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s ultimately what I did with reflecting on this matter and trying to bring clarity to it.

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