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Goodreads Announces New Content Policy – Now Deletes Reviews Which Mention Author Behavior

1110730419_204cee0fde[1]Goodreads has long been struggling to decide between the opposing needs of reader/reviewers and of authors, and today the latter group has finally won out.

Goodreads announced a new content policy on Friday. In addition to a few token gestures in support of an anti-bullying policy, this Amazon-owned online community has announced that they will now delete bookshelves and reviews that focus on author behavior:

We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. Starting today, we will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior. If you have questions about why a review was removed, send an email to [email protected]. (And to answer the obvious question: of course, it’s appropriate to talk about an author within the context of a review as it relates to the book. If it’s an autobiography, then clearly you might end up talking about their lives. And often it’s relevant to understand an author’s background and how it influenced the story or the setting.)

The reviews  and bookshelves with titles like "Authors Behaving Badly" will be deleted without warning or notice, which IMO as a moderator of Mobileread Forums (since December 2007) is in and of itself unprofessional.

Update: I’ve realized that some parts of this post were written in the heat of the moment and are a tad hyperbolic. I have crossed some sections out because they are a little over the top.

This policy is so one-sided as to be actively hostile to the reader/reviewers that used to be the very reason that Goodreads existed. It won’t have the least effect on authors behaving badly, but it will make it harder for reviewers to tell everyone about the abusive behavior.

This new policy gives abusive authors carte blanche to be jerks elsewhere (twitter, FB, email, blogs), but it removes one of the better ways that reviewers can share knowledge about authors behaving badly.

In fact, let me give you an example of the shenanigans that an author can now pull outside of Goodreads.

Back in April I wrote a post about Anne Rice siccing her fans on a reviewer. My post would not be allowed on Goodreads because it discussed an author’s behavior, but it is entirely relevant to whether you or I might want to read Anne Rice’s novels.

And if that doesn’t convince you, consider some of the comments left on this page on Goodreads. The commenters point out that the author was using the book to stalk a girl he was obsessed with. If these were reviews, they would be deleted even though they validly influence my buying decisions.

And in case you’re thinking that this will stop authors from being bullied, you’re wrong. This content policy will have only the slightest effect on reviewers bullying authors; at best the negative behavior will be moved offsite.

Also, there is an order of magnitude difference between deleting bullying reviews and deleting all reviews that focus on an author’s behavior.  One could be covered under a general anti-bullying policy, while the other oddles authors goes too far.

Update: Here’s a comment I left in response to a reader. I think it offers a more reasoned argument.

This new policy throws the baby out with the bathwater.

It is an orthogonal solution that solves a small part if the bullying issue but then continues on to mess with all sorts of other unrelated issues that aren’t problems. This policy affects more content than just what the bullies post to harass authors, and I object out of principle.

Does GR have a bullying problem? Clearly. But the root of the problem is that GR isn’t moderating the behavior of the community and the site has turned toxic. Fix the lack of moderation and fix the toxic nature of GR and GR won’t have to remove reviews that comment on author behavior. Or if they do it will be because a particular example was bullying, and not just a commentary on an author’s behavior.

I am all in favor of fixing the bullying problem but that would involve real work in making GR members behave. That means more staff which would require more money than simply deleting reviews.

And to make matters worse, Goodreads has already started deleting reviews and bookshelves with absolutely no notice or warning. The very fist comment on the announcement, which was posted a mere 13 minutes after the announcement, reported that:

Goodreads has already started deleting reviews and shelves they deem to go against this new rule without giving any warning whatsoever. No one has been given a grace period to perhaps save their reviews or move them. GR just outright deleted them.

Even if your shelf can be misconstrued to be negative towards authors, it will be deleted.

TBH, I am not surprised. Goodreads has been moving towards a pro-author/anti-reviewer policy for well over a year now. I can recall reading criticisms of it as early as last July. Here’s an excerpt of a blog post I published at the time:

But I’ve lately been looking over a series of blog posts (one, two, three, four) by Dear Author reviewer and blogger VacuousMinx concerning some friction that arose in recent months between reader-reviewers and the authors who are also encouraged to use the site. As a result of this friction, Goodreads has recently issued new guidelines, which are unabashedly a lot more favorable toward writers than readers. It seems Goodreads has a pretty clear idea on what side its bread is buttered, and if you’re a reader that bread is always going to land buttered-side down.

In short, the reviewer guidelines seem rather harsh, filled with “thou shalt nots”. The author guidelines are filled with friendly suggestions. Where reviewers are warned that Goodreads will delete reviews that are not “appropriate or a high enough level of quality” (though without any specific details supplied as to what criteria they use for judging), authors are told that it’s “not advisable” to spam the people who read or added your book because that might result in getting flagged as a spammer. And if authors are flagged as spammers, Goodreads “will have to take action.”

In light of last year’s policy changes, today’s news really comes as no surprise.

It’s sad, disappointing, and makes Goodreads considerably less useful as a resource for readers, but it is not a surprise.

P.S. Does anyone want to take a bet on how long it will be until Goodreads decides to delete comments that discuss an author’s behavior? I say 6 months.

image by danxoneil

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Kelly Robinson September 20, 2013 um 10:19 pm

This makes me very unhappy. It’s a knee-jerk response to some recent negative publicity that riled up a lot of people who aren’t even users of the site.

I use Goodreads mostly as a way of tracking my books — what I’ve read and what I own, and I ought to be able to shelve them in whatever way suits me best.

Linda Polovchik September 20, 2013 um 10:51 pm

Now you are making me paranoid. I’ve only given two bad reviews on goodreads: one was because the guy just couldn’t write and the other was clearly hawking his other products thru his book and the goodreads site. I joined because I thought it was a readers site now I guess I will look over my shoulder before I review.

Heidi October 4, 2013 um 12:21 pm

I don’t think this is the type of review they are talking about…there is a group of people who are purposely trying to attack authors by adding them to lists like authors behaving badly or books I wouldn’t read if I was dead. what you are talking about is within the scope of a normal review.

Binko Barnes September 20, 2013 um 11:01 pm

Now that they have been purchased by Amazon Goodreads exists for precisely one purpose – to sell books. Like all large corporations Amazon cares nothing for encouraging open expression or providing a forum for readers to speak freely. They care about maximizing sales.

In a couple of years Goodreads is likely to completely merge with the comments sections on the Amazon website. Before that happens you can expect to see a lot more rules about what you can and can’t say.

The promise of Goodreads was to provide readers with a place where they could gather and express their love of reading that was free of heavy-handed corporate control. But that’s all down the toilet now.

Tony Hursh September 21, 2013 um 12:04 am

If they get too heavy-handed (which it sounds like they already have done), someone will launch a competitor with different policies.

Nicole September 21, 2013 um 3:34 am

This is what I’m hoping!

Nicole September 21, 2013 um 3:48 am

Actually I forgot that LibraryThing exists and I think has existed since before Shelfari or GoodReads. I am going to move there, I think.

Will October 8, 2013 um 10:49 am

LibraryThing has already deleted people for trying to abuse the tagging system in the same way this group of people uses Goodreads shelves for their own agenda.

Most of the drama is overblown. All they’ve done is decide to curtail the obvious trolling a little. People are over reacting because the biggest offenders are shouting censorship all over the place, when what they’re doing is minimal and most users will never notice the difference.

George September 21, 2013 um 12:07 am

Heck, Nate, I’m surprised Goodreads hasn’t removed this post of yours yet.

Sorry that Goodreads is continuing down this road. I was using them primarily to track the books I’ve read and to give them star ratings without necessarily having to write out a review like one has to do on Amazon to rate a book. But looks like I’ll have to consider dumping them. Life’s too short for the games these companies want to play sometimes.

Sara September 21, 2013 um 2:16 am

But the rest of their post, which you don’t have on here, states that they’ve also changed author guidelines. I would have to say they’re trying to take the nonsense out and have it be about book reviews. They’re saying that authors who comment on reviews will be deleted. Of say that’s fair.

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2013 um 7:14 am

First, this is an interesting example of how Goodreads is interacting authors:

"They’re saying that authors who comment on reviews will be deleted."

That’s not what I am seeing in the author guidelines:

Reviews that violate the guidelines will be summarily deleted without notice. Author comments won’t be. I would say that this is still a very ones-sided policy.

Sara September 21, 2013 um 12:45 pm

That notification seems a bit ridiculous. A note to let them know they got a bad review will only make them go look at it, causing strife. It seems as though they have dumbed down the site and are treating the authors a if they were children. I can’t imagine authors will want a note for each and every bad review. I bet they also don’t like being coddled and told its nappy time and here is a cookie because you got a bad review.

Sunita September 21, 2013 um 9:22 am

Nice post, Nate, and thanks for linking to my now-shuttered VM blog. My last posts there were about the Amazon acquisition, and while none of us knew what the ramifications would be, a lot of GR members seemed to take a wait and see attitude (and thought I was overstating the downside risks). I don’t blame them, but Az’s track record of maintaining non-market-enhancing practices in the sites it buys are not great.

GR has doubled its membership since I wrote the four posts in the summer of 2012 that you link to above. My guess is that they are more than willing to jettison the highest contributing members because they can get a lot of the librarian stuff from Az now, and they’ll take rankings over thoughtful reviews as long as the rankings bring eyeballs. The new people will form groups and communities (maybe not as many, or as thoughtful), and GR will continue to push giveaways and sell ads. There are so many self-published authors worried about discoverability that they probably won’t suffer much.

It’s a shame, but honestly, in the last 18 months I have not seen anything from the GR owners or upper management that would suggest they care about the high-contributing GR member. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2013 um 9:26 am

Thank you for leaving your posts up.

AH@badassbookreviews September 21, 2013 um 1:34 pm

I was quite disappointed by this new policy. I think that an author’s behavior does impact my book buying experience. Certain authors are on "autobuy" because of the way that they interact with their readers. Others, I shy away from, just because I don’t need added drama in my life.

I think that the way that this announcement was handled was completely unacceptable. They only announced the change on their Feedback group (not every member of GR is a member of the Feedback group) so the majority of members did not see the changes. They announced it at 4PM on a Friday and quickly retreated. Users were not given a chance to back up their data.

A lot of GR users have opened up accounts on and are migrating their data there. Meanwhile Booklikes is really, really slow because of all the new traffic.

Emma September 21, 2013 um 7:58 pm

Really, how many have left?

J. R. Tomlin September 21, 2013 um 2:16 pm

About time! I am a LONG way from the only author who decided it wasn’t worth the risk of posting reviews on GoodReads. Far too many have been hounded by mobs for posting an unpopular viewpoint on a novel.

If someone wants to know how authors behave, there are plenty of other places to go. Goodreads is supposed to be about books and reading, not authors.

Anna Karenina September 21, 2013 um 4:03 pm

>>Goodreads is supposed to be about books and reading, not authors.<<

Books don't just magically appear. They are written by authors. Thus, authors go hand and glove with books and reading.

You may not care about an author's behavior when you buy books, but many people do. And when authors behave badly because they get a review that highlights their lack of writing ability, many readers are interested.

Emma September 21, 2013 um 8:03 pm

Goodreads is a business now. Their product is books. All they are doing is protecting their best fiduciary interests. Reviews were never the issue in this case or with the bullying.

Anna Karenina September 21, 2013 um 8:23 pm

Reviews were always the issue. In spite of some of the BBAs saying they don’t mind "honest negative reviews," those are the very reviews where authors started behaving badly.

Authors attacked reviewers when the reviews showed that the author couldn’t spell, punctuate or write a coherent plot (along with a host of other problems in books).

Authors who can really handle "honest negative reviews" don’t get accused of behaving badly.

Emma September 21, 2013 um 9:38 pm

There will be no argument Ann. I simply stated my opinion same as you. The tone of your reply is angry and it needn’t be.

Anna Karenina September 21, 2013 um 10:30 pm

Re: Your reply (had to reply to a previous comment, as there was no reply box to your most recent comment):

>> Emma // Sep 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm

There will be no argument Ann. I simply stated my opinion same as you. The tone of your reply is angry and it needn’t be.<<

Perhaps you have me confused with someone else, since my name is Anna (not Ann) and I can find nothing in my comment that hints at being angry (since I'm not).

I stated my opinion, you responded with your opinion, I responded with my opinion. No argument, just discussion.

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2013 um 4:41 pm

"Far too many have been hounded by mobs for posting an unpopular viewpoint on a novel."

Yes, and it’s that kind of behavior that some authors (and their fanclubs) will now be able to get away with. Now no one will be able to call them on it.

Sam Edge September 21, 2013 um 3:32 pm

I have alway loved to write. Since the barriers to self publishing have been lowered in recent years I have taken the opportunity to self-publish on Kindle Amazon. As a newcomer to the scene I am a little horrified at the infighting between readers /reviewers and authors. (To be honest I found GR to be not so bad – but that shows what I know)

Maybe I just haven’t been around long enough and need a good dust up for initiation. As I was reading this post and the comments I thought all this bad blood must be a product of the internet and all the marketing shenanigans that goes on. Then I remembered my favourite author – Samuel Clemens. This must be why he went by "Mark Twain". Kind Regards, "Sam Edge"

Rick Taubold September 21, 2013 um 3:43 pm

I’m an author as well as a reader, and my decision to buy/read or not buy/read a book is based solely on the merits of the book and the writing and has absolutely (nor should it) nothing to do with the author’s behavior or personality.

At the same time, on any book review site the reviews should be about ONE thing and one thing only: the merits of the book. Whether you think the author is a great person or an a-hole has no place in any review. The only thing that belong are comments on the quality of the product, in this the case the writing itself, not on the speed of delivery, the customer service of the seller, or the physical condition of the book. You’re reviewing the book’s CONTENTS, nothing else, and it’s a shame that some readers forget this. Any other comments and complaints belong in other venues, not in the book review itself.

In other words, remember WHAT you’re supposed to be reviewing and you won’t go wrong. Likewise, the review from the person who mentioned giving a bad review to an author who hawked his other stuff through his book and the Goodreads site had no place in a Goodreads review, no matter how upsetting it was. It’s like complaining to a librarian that you’re upset with your high property taxes when you should be talking to the politicians who levy those taxes.

Review the book, folks, nothing else, and take your other issues to the appropriate venue.

M.T. Dismuke September 21, 2013 um 5:18 pm

Agree 100%

Linda September 22, 2013 um 6:57 pm

In other words, remember WHAT you’re supposed to be reviewing and you won’t go wrong. Likewise, the review from the person who mentioned giving a bad review to an author who hawked his other stuff through his book and the Goodreads site had no place in a Goodreads review, no matter how upsetting it was. It’s like complaining to a librarian that you’re upset with your high property taxes when you should be talking to the politicians who levy those taxes.

I guess that comment above was directed at me. I did not give that author a bad review of his book. He was given 3 stars which is about average. He received many more bad and good reveiws and must have gotten over it. I felt that I would have enjoyed the book more if he wasn’t "selling" his other books in it. Maybe that was why he asked me to read and review the book. I do agree with the other contributor in that I read a book for it’s contents and do not pay any attention to bad behaviours of other reviewers or authors. Putting yourself out there whether you are reviewer or authors does has it’s consequences. You can’t make everybody happy. For the time being, I will stay with Goodreads as it has everything I look for in a book lover’s website. It’s easy to use and has a wide and varried audience of authors, readers, and reviewers.

Dale Day September 21, 2013 um 4:45 pm

I have some Indie novels on Amazon that received negative comments from people I angered on a discussion forum. I know for a fact they never read any of the novels! But, I can’t get them removed.

Will the same thing happen at Goodreads? {which I STILL haven’t figured out how to use!}

Stan Arnold June 22, 2014 um 7:28 pm

Hi Dale Day,
I agree, I have excellent reviews, apart from a one-star who admitted he’d only read the first chapter. Amazon said they’d do nothing. Now they’re starting to remove genuine good reviews and will not discuss how or why they are doing it. And yes – I also agree that Goodreads is confusing in the extreme. Time to start up in competition – but have you tried understanding WordPress!!!! (I’ve been a copywriter for 20 years, and I know that if I wrote anything as bad as Goodreads or WordPress I’d be fired, and deservedly so.
Stan Arnold

M.T. Dismuke September 21, 2013 um 4:50 pm

Let’s call a spade a spade as I’ve seen the critics have posted many times on this same topic. First off, people need to quit calling them reviews. The review and shelving space reserved on Goodreads is for books. It states it in their TOS and is implied. If you can overcome that burden by proving it is for something else, then you actually have a case, until that point, it’s just an opinion gone wild. Anything else OTHER than a review used in the review and shelf space is considered spam to everyone else just as you would consider me spamming if I were to leave a comment about something other than a response to your blog post. Would you allow it? I highly doubt it.

Secondly, you claim you want to know these things about authors, well then my friend, feel free to browse the internet. Would you like your Mc D’s hamburger served with pictures of the slaughter house? I would think not. Once again, that would be out of line and unappropriated. If you want to meet the cow before you eat it’s beef go right ahead, but the rest of us do not want any part of it. We just want to know if it tastes good.

Emma September 21, 2013 um 6:38 pm

Very well stated M.T. Dismuke. I believe a review about the book actually discusses the book. If a reader disagrees with the author’s point of view, with relation to the book they have read, then to mention that in the review is perfectly legit and informative for potential readers looking to possibly read/buy the book.

However, using the space to call out an author because the did or said something a reader perceived as "bad" or "inappropriate" is just malicious. The truth is an author’s book REVIEW page is for his/her books not the daily gossip of he said she said or he did this and she did that.

If I don’t particularly like an author I avoid them based on MY opinion and not someone else’s. I do not try to force my opinion of that person on others. That is call being an adult. And yes I have reviewed books and read books I have not liked. Again I limit my responses to the book’s content, because that is what I have paid for and read, not the author’s personal preferences, attitude, life choices or person life history!

Angela Booth September 23, 2013 um 12:44 am

Yes, indeed. Great point about the beef/ cow. 🙂 I can’t see GR slashing too many reviews and bookshelves, but it’s easy to see why they’re taking action. Too many news stories mean that there’s a growing perception that there’s something wrong on the site. Can’t blame them for wanting to clean it up.

Jess September 21, 2013 um 5:24 pm

Look at it from a legal standpoint. A lot of authors targeted weren’t behaving badly so the things said about then were slander (or perhaps libel. I admit I get the two mixed up). However, lying about a book is just a dickhead thing. It’s not illegal. We will see the slanderous reviews of author behavior exchanged for fake critical reviews of books that have never been read and continues fake one stars. The problem isn’t goodreads. The problem is dishonest people who enjoy hurting others. As for the authors, i am sure they will still be attacked elsewhere. Why care so badly whether it’s done on goodreads or elsewhere? Amazon never allowed author reviews on book pages and they own goodreads now. Goodreads, however, has always been quick to ban authors for any minor infraction, so reporting them is the best course of action. No one I saying authors who genuinely are nasty won’t be met with consequence. Finally, this is the Internet. Sites make their rules. If you don’t like them, go elsewhere. If someone is "attacking" you, report it to the police. The problem for goodreads has been that the readers sayin they were attacked often really weren’t. They had no leg to stand on legally. But what some of these authors went through, like one being called a pedophile!, was genuinely illegal treatment. So goodreads is covering their nuts and rightfully so. I’m just glad I can now read book reviews without having the review space cluttered with other readers' petty drama. Yes I will side with authors slightly on this one because I’m a reader and was attacked by the same clique of reader bullies. If it was just authors they attacked maybe I would believe it but the authors didn’t attack me the readers did for speaking up when they were unfairly attacking an author who CLEARLY did nothing wrong. These people will bully anyone. If not authors then someone else. I’m sure some authors in the past did "misbehave" but the undermine themselves by attackin the innocent too and even if an author is being a dick, geez just report them!

Renee September 21, 2013 um 5:48 pm

Last year, on goodreads, I stumbled over some readers who were clearly slimy bullies gleefully discussing books they rated as 1 star or shelved under crappy names but hadn’t read because they didn’t like the author. I don’t have a clue as to how, whether I followed a review or jumped through some groups trying to find one that looked interesting but the upshot was that as a lifelong reader I was appalled so I like the attempt at some new guidelines. I had never gone to the site much because I felt it was clunky and ugly but I had had several "flesh and blood real life friends" find me there and email me with friend requests so I thought I’d give it another whirl and occasionally I’ll go back to see what is on their shelves but that rude hateful batch of readers who made toddlers in the midst of the terrible twos look angelic kept me from wanting to have much to do with the site. That said, I doubt the new guidelines will help or harm much, people will always find away around whatever policy they don’t like.

If I find out something out about an author that keeps me from reading that author fine – IF it comes from several reputable sources but I’m not going to take the comment of some unknown vicious "reviewer" and call it truth without a lot more info. Anyone who can figure out how to post a comment/review/blog post or whatever on the internet can post whatever they feel they can get away with – that doesn’t make it true or even right to do it. When I read a review I want a review of the book not some diatribe about how much of a meanie the writer is supposed to be.

Lissa September 21, 2013 um 5:52 pm

I think you guys aren’t getting the point. Authors don’t all behave badly but more and more reviews/readers are just being outright mean and talking about the lives of people they’ve never met and will never meet. Hate groups go on GR to target entire genres. And reviewers/readers don’t have pages posted to everyone who can rate them and yell at them about their personal life where the rest of the world can see. I’ve seen so many authors that no longer interact with readers because they get hateful replies, even people who’ve stopped writing because they’ve had things like: you write gay fiction so therefore you’re going to hell and should be gang-raped to death.

If we all act with a little decorum it’s not an issue. I’ve written negative reviews about a book, never an author. What they do day to day is their issue, not mine. If I read about someone being stupid might it affect how I buy their book? Yeah, but I’d rather that be honest, than just something in a review on one of their books. When you put personal comments in a review about a book it makes you look like a person with a vendetta. Write a blog about it, post it on Facebook, but don’t judge a book on it. Judge the book, not the author’s personal life since you don’t have a right to those.

And I hear so often that because someone is published it gives people the right to look at their personal life, no it doesn’t. They are models or actors, they hide behind the written word for a reason. Many never even go to signings because they just don’t have a likable personality. And that’s okay cause they still write books that someone likes. Publishing a book does not mean you’re Examiner material. That’s why 90% of authors use pseudonyms.

Now I do think GR should be giving warning before it deletes something, however they’ve had over two years of complaints (no this is not a new problem). That is only fair, or at least for them to send a message like FB, we’ve deleted you for xyz. However, it isn’t like we pay them for the service so they can do whatever the heck they want. Just like Facebook and all it’s stupid upgrades.

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2013 um 6:12 pm

Now that I have read all these counter-arguments I am getting the strong impression that we are missing a more important point, and that is that authors are being treated as a special group. Many have presented good arguments that this is an anti-bullying policy, but that doesn’t change the fact that this rule is designed to only protect one subset of Goodreads users above all others.

I object to that on principle. Rules should be crafted to protect everyone, and a platform should be designed to treat all users equally. This one group shouldn’t be treated as special snowflakes – especially not on a website called ****reads.

M.T. Dismuke September 21, 2013 um 6:22 pm

Goodreads has been deleting author accounts for as long as I’ve know about the website. They just updated their author terms and made them even stricter. Author’s can’t even send out friend requests or say thank you now without possible warnings or deletion. I’d say those are pretty strict rules. No, I wasn’t banned from GR if somebody decides to jump in and claim that. I don’t have an account because I deleted it myself months ago. I may actually return if things clean up and once again purchase their advertising. When I was an active member, I paid for revolving advertising through them, but the blatant abuse of the policy and lack of moderation ran me and my money off such as it did with hundreds of other authors. It’s a good start and change. The real test is to see if they actually stick with and enforce their TOS.

Renee September 21, 2013 um 8:04 pm

I don’t necessarily consider authors a "special" group, but, and I mean this as simply my opinion, author behavior on goodreads has never been an issue for me. There have been author tantrums, blog posts, and actions that I find appalling but they have not happened on goodreads. I am not saying it doesn’t happen because the law of averages says when people are in a group where opinion giving is what the group is created for someone is going to get bitchy and that can be an author just as well as a reader but AS a reader I find I’d rather be protected from the reader subset – they are much scarier.

Emma September 21, 2013 um 8:16 pm

You shouldn’t have to be protected from either one. :). Unfortunately it’s not easy to control human behavior.

Renee September 21, 2013 um 10:29 pm

Too true!!

Mira September 21, 2013 um 6:47 pm

Nate, I agree with some of your posts in the past, but I do not agree with you here. The bullying culture at Goodreads has gone beyond bullying and entered the realm of harassment and battering. Authors are baited and harassed onto their personal sites and into their lives, by groups that have gathered together for that purpose. The bullies use intimidation, escalating abuse, and pack attacks to harass the victim.

If you want to see an example of this type of bullying behavior, you might read this post by Nathan Bransford. Then read the comments, and the threats. Nathan was attacked en masse for this post and it was then taken to Goodreads. One-star reviews, tweets, blog posts and shelves denigrating him and his books, as a result of this one post.

This behavior needs to stop. It is completely out of control and putting Goodreads at risk for lawsuits. Also, I know several authors who are boycotting the site. There is no point to having a site where readers review books, if authors will not frequent the site because it is not safe for them.

In addition, Goodreads profits from authors. It makes money because authors post books there. Without authors, it does not have a site. And it has a bottom-line business responsibility to protect authors from persecution, harassment and danger.

As for the idea that this being is one-sided, Goodreads also tightened their author policy, which you do not mention at all in your post (?).

Also, I’m sure there are authors behaving badly. But they are not doing it in packs. They are not getting together and targeting readers on the same level that the cliques on Goodreads are. And Goodreads is already extremely strict with its author policy. I completely applaud them for now becoming strict on author harassment.

The reality is that is has been one-sided, completely in favor of the reader, who was pretty much allowed to enact any type of verbal violence on writers that it (they) wanted. It is now becoming more balanced, and taking harassment and humiliation out of the mix. Thank goodness. Authors do not deserve to be harassed simply for writing a book.

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2013 um 7:21 pm

The problem with everyone bringing up the bullying issue on GR is that this new policy won’t just affect that one issue.

This new policy throws the baby out with the bathwater.

It is an orthogonal solution that solves a small part if the bullying issue but then continues on to mess with all sorts of other unrelated issues that aren’t problems. This policy affects more content than just what the bullies post to harass authors, and I object out of principle.

Does GR have a bullying problem? Clearly.

But the root of the problem is that GR isn’t moderating the behavior of the community and the site has turned toxic. Fix the lack of moderation and fix the toxic nature of GR and GR won’t have to remove reviews that comment on author behavior. Or if they do it will be because a particular example was bullying, and not just a commentary on an author’s behavior.

I am all in favor of fixing the bullying problem but that would involve real work in making GR members behave. That means more staff which would require more money than simply deleting reviews.

Mira September 21, 2013 um 7:48 pm


I hear what you are saying, and it’s a fair point. This policy affects everyone, even the majority who aren’t bullies, and is that over-kill? Is it unfair?

Also, I think you are right about Goodreads and staffing. I suspect, with over (I think) over 20 million members, Goodreads does not want to put out the money to hire that kind of staff.

But, on the other hand, that kind of moderating, although it sounds reasonable, can raise a lot of tricky legal issues. What is the line between expressing an opinion versus harassment? Why is Goodreads moderating one member and not another? It can open the door to accusations of discrimination and targeting on the part of Goodreads.

Goodreads already has a term of service stating that harassing and humiliating reviews are not allowed. I think one of the reason they tightened their policy today is that is just too vague and open for interpretation.

I really think Goodreads had to take this kind of action. It makes it purely objective and focuses on books. It doesn’t silence the information that an author is acting badly, people can post that elsewhere. It just re-focuses the site, and in one fell swoop, stops the bullying in it’s tracks.

Last point – Goodreads knew the type of flack it would get for this decision. It went ahead anyway, which tells you the type of pressure it’s under. It really had to do something.

Emma September 21, 2013 um 8:21 pm

I agree Mira and Nate I believe you bring up a very good point as well. This is such a touchy and complicated issue. Can’t we all just get along?

Mira September 22, 2013 um 1:19 am

Thanks Emma, I wish that were true too!

So, one more quick point, Nate – and I do appreciate being able to discuss this here, even if we’re somewhat in disagreement.

The other reason that moderating is difficult is even if you ban a member, they can simply re-join under another name. It happens frequently there.

I think their solution, moderating content, rather than members, is simple and effective.

ginmar September 23, 2013 um 2:24 pm

I see the BBAs have arrived en masse but the funny thing is, they’re leaving out some crucial facts.

They always do this.

They’re trying to point to a recent scandal, where some butthurt newbie freaked out over GR’s rating device. Here’s where these BBAs reveal how blind they really are. GR used to be for readers—–that means that readers could organize lists of books according to their level of interest, so GR’s algorithm could refine its RECOMENDATIONS to them. If you have to rate everything five stars you’re just going to get recced EVERYTHING.

So this butthurt newb saw somebody had shelved her book and whipped up a frenzy by claiming she’d been threatened. Funny thing, that. HER defenders told people to "go stick your hand in a blender" and other things. Those comments were eventually deleted but here’s the
thing: people SAW those remarks. They RESPONDED to them. They QUOTED them.

Her claims of death and rape threats? Nobody saw a one except for one writer who claimed she’d seen dozens…..but I guess she’s saving the proof for a special occasion because she disappeared.

And this is to say nothing about That Site, where some of the "writers" commenting here are members in good standing. You know That Site? The site that started all this crap. The site that stalks reviewers. The site that doxxes people and encourages threats. The site that has repeatedly published names, addresses, jobs, and times people like to go to restaurants. All for what they call bullying—–which in their world means "pointing out bad grammar, plot, and spelling." And behavior—-like denying Sandy Hook happened. Like threatening reviewers—-or rallying groups of fans to game ratings systems of sites.

By the way, the little newb I mentioned backed off—–after, that is, she got lots of attention. She claimed it was "PMS" that made her make crap up.

Rick September 23, 2013 um 3:34 pm

This is your sociopathic stalker troll. She believes that in every instance she attacks an author it is fully justified because in classic psychpathic logic the victim is always to blame. Note the very first thing she does is establish that all authors are BBAs. That means Badly Behaving Authors, thereby demonizing them and justifying attacking them. These people are dangerous and will eventually either cause a suicide or attack an author. This is a new internet phenomenon. There have been cyber stalkers and harassers in the past but this is the first time they’ve actually organized into a gang that serially stalk, bully, harass, defame, libel and terrorize authors on a large scale. Thanks to the policies of goodreads and Amazon Forums, who up until not have protected and encouraged these criminals, this new organized serial gang-stalking has been made possible.

ginmar September 23, 2013 um 3:54 pm

I rest my case. Even That Site won’t have anything to do with him any longer. Offering a bounty to stalk first grade teachers isn’t exactly the sort of thing the Feds look kindly on, Rickie.

Rick Carufel October 1, 2013 um 4:03 pm

Were you not unbalanced by your delusions of expertise, authority and importance you’d stop lying and realize Janet Hinkle was outed long ago. I am seeking the identities of those who stalk me. The feds did investigate and you know what, I was told it is perfectly legal to seek the identities of those who hide behind aliases to stalk, bully, harass, defame, libel and terrorize. I even have a secret adviser as a result who gives me free legal advise. This just shows the feds like you stalker trolls as much as I do.

Rick Gualtieri September 21, 2013 um 7:22 pm

I’m concerned about the new policy changes, but not panicked. I read the rules and to me it seems like author behavior is fair game to mention as long as the review itself is focused on the book.

Honestly, I don’t see this being more than a phyrric victory at best for the worst BBA offenders. Word of mouth still exists and simply can’t be censored in this day and age. Act like a jerk and people will let others know through myriad channels.

Likewise, this ruling won’t magically turn crap books into gold. The one star reviews for garbage still stands. All the complaints, posturing, or threats in the world won’t change that.

I expect their to be a lot of posturing regarding this, but I have little doubt that end result that some are hoping for – a magical increase in book sales – simply won’t materialize. Once that happens, who will they then have to blame?

Rick September 21, 2013 um 8:13 pm

Lets just clarify a few things here. This is all smoke and mirrors with no substance. No reviews are being removed. No trolls are getting banned. the only thing happening is GR is removing insultingly named lists. They have also changed the author guidelines to define ANY input from an author on the GR site is spam. So they have in fact changed the rules so any post, comment, message or friend request by only authors is spam and grounds for banning. The troll have been campaigning for months for this and GR has granted their wish.
Gr does not want authors on their site just the authors intellectual property. GR is not making any improvements just the opposite, they are creating an even more oppressive, hostile website to authors. They steal content and fraudulently sell fake review as their API. The site is corrupt and caters the cyber-terrorists who they in every way they can to destroy authors careers.

ginmar September 23, 2013 um 2:31 pm

This person has repeatedly published the name and address of a grade school teacher because he claimed she’s a bully—–but he’s the one searching for hackers who can help him with some project of his. Earlier, he was part of a group that urged people to call her school and get her fired.

Rick September 23, 2013 um 3:14 pm

This post is a prime example of the troll attacks and character assassination that goes on at Goodreads. This troll is one of the stalkers who, once they target an authors, stalker them across the internet and defames and libels them at every opportunity.

ginmar September 23, 2013 um 3:56 pm

FYI, people: talking about an author, period, is stalking to this guy——but his placing a bounty on a school teacher one third his age—–who has never written a single review—–is not.

Rick September 23, 2013 um 6:15 pm

I have as the troll states offered to pay for the real identities of the stalker trolls so legal action can be taken against them. Anonymity is the great armor of the stalker trolls, take that away and they no longer wish to play.
I have also been report to the authorities over this and have been told it is perfectly legal. As the result of the investigation I now have a legal adviser who is somehow connected to the investigation who tells me exactly how to do thing so it is all legal. Clearly some circles of law enforcement don’t like stalker trolls as much as I do.

ginmar September 23, 2013 um 9:36 pm

So he admits it. What he doesn’t admit is that That Site booted him over his stalking. Stalking’s a federal crime, Rickie. With your criminal record, the next bust will probably put you away for a long long time. Threatening a school full of little kids after you ranted Sandy Hook didn’t happen? You should just head on down to your local police station and turn yourself in.

And this is pretty emblematic of your basic Badly-Behaving Writer. His victims could probably call the cops and have him arrested right now. Crossing the state lines and soliciting is the big leagues. Let him bluster all he wants. He’s still trying to hurt a grade school teacher who was sarcastic to him online

pidgeon92 September 21, 2013 um 10:50 pm

Myself, I want to read reviews of books, not of authors. I don’t have the energy to concern myself with the personal craziness of every person I encounter.

Lyn Gala September 22, 2013 um 5:05 pm

I am an author, and I can’t support this. When people organize their own shelves, that is a personal choice. Have I had books shelved under titles that made me raise my eyebrows? Sure. However, it’s not my shelf, my review or my choice. People are allowed to hate things. I do think GR needs to better police the bullying on all sides, but taking away the right of people to organize their own lists is just dumb.

William September 23, 2013 um 5:17 am

This isn’t about reviews. It’s about trolling. The sad people that get their jollies by vandalising book pages because SOMEONE THEY DON’T KNOW ON THE INTERNET put the author’s name on a list.

A review requires reading a book. Not reading with intent to crap on it like Coaxial publicly admits doing, but reading a book with intent to enjoy or at least make an unbiased opinion.

Dress it up how you like, carpetbombing, group attacks on any new target on any excuse and having more books on your negative shelves than on your read shelves is a sign of a recognised form of addiction.

It isn’t about books or reviews. Just that fix you get when you feel like you might have done something to hurt someone else.

It’s past time Goodreads started pulling the plug on this, though getting their reputation back will take some doing because it was left too long.

ginmar September 23, 2013 um 2:33 pm

Yeah, I’d like to see proof that Coaxial said anything like it, and justification for why she can’t write any review she wants. She buys your book, she gets to write a review.

Will October 8, 2013 um 10:56 am

If everyone only reviewed/commented on books they had bought, or even been given, there wouldn’t be a problem.

It’s the silly people that got their kicks making up nasty shelf names to descend on any author whose name was put on a list BY SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET THAT YOU DON’T KNOW that spoiled it for the rest. People are on that list just for having someone on their friends list that they didn’t know either. It got stupid.

Nate Hoffelder October 11, 2013 um 12:15 pm

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