As those who follow me know, I deleted my Goodreads account two years ago. It was a decision I made because of negative reviews killing my inclination to write. It was that or quit writing/publishing altogether. I chose to concentrate on my writing career rather than the bad reviews.
I have never pretended that I handle bad reviews very well. Mostly I used to end up having a bit of a cry and didn’t say much about it. The few times I did say anything in public I lived to regret it.
I have never deliberately engaged in conversation with a reviewer about something they have said negatively about my books, although one or two have contacted me.
But today I am thinking that while I don’t handle bad reviews very well, at least I haven’t done what one author has done – and that is turn stalker on the reviewer to the point of visiting the reviewer’s home and contacting her at work. At least that is what she believes she has done. You can read the full story here and I honestly think it makes for some frightening reading.
An author going to this length to confront the reviewer is just one of the things that worries me about this whole incident. Why did the book club hand over a reviewer’s address? Is this normal practice? I would certainly hope not!
What worries me the most though is the reaction to people who have read this story today. They tend to fall into two camps. Those on the side of the writer and those on the side of the reviewer.
Those on the side of the writer seem to think she has done nothing wrong, even going so far as to try to justify her actions. I’m sorry, but I do not believe there is any way to justify this level of stalking. I am actually surprised the police aren’t already involved and speaking to the author about her own behaviour.
Then in the other camp are those who are firmly on the side of the reviewer. Sorry, I don’t fall into that camp either. Now, I haven’t seen what she has allegedly done to troll the author or anyone else, but I have seen others do that. I have seen reviews posted purely to attack an author by people who have not read the book they are supposedly reviewing. There are reviewers out there who deliberately bait authors for whatever reason they tell themselves.
Today I saw a suggestion that Goodreads could make an option to make reviews private so that readers could discuss books without being harassed by authors. I think that is a good idea, save for one thing. Reviewers who deliberately bait authors won’t use the facility. They want their comments to be seen and they want to get a reaction. I responded to the suggestion in those terms. The reply I got made it clear that the suggester did not believe such reviewers existed.
Thankfully I have never been targeted by this type of reviewer. It is just the plain old “this book is shit” reviews that sent me running from Goodreads never to return. But to actually take the side of the reviewer in this whole drama to the extent as to dismiss the existence of any trolls in the Goodreads community at all is quite frankly laughable. I don’t believe anyone can claim to have read every single review of every single book on the Goodreads site. So unless you have, do not presume to tell me that there is not a single troll amongst the reviewers.
Internet trolls exist. They exist on review sites like Goodreads as well as elsewhere. I pity anyone who does not believe this to be the case.
Now, maybe the author featured in The Guardian today was bullied and harassed by the reviewer. I don’t know. If she was then the reviewer was at fault in her actions. But that doesn’t justify the author’s actions. Two wrongs don’t make a right. A bad review even from a troll does not justify stalking.
Honestly, I have no sympathy for either the author or the reviewer in this particular drama.
One final thought, the story in the publishing world today brought to mind another recent story in the news. This one may not have made it to the USA, but was big news over here this month.
Online bullying is a growing problem and burying your head in the sand and denying it exists won’t make it go away. All it does is give the bullies the freedom to continue with their activities without fear of reprisal.