Amber Skye Forbes

Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes

Proper Etiquette for Writing Reviews on Goodreads

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First off, I know I said I was going to do a post on my love for marketing my own book, but, well, I decided this one needs to take precedence.

I was reading the reviews on a favorite book of mine that I received as an ARC from Spencer Hill Press, and my heart broke into a million pieces upon reading one review. I will not name the book or author, as I don’t want to embarrass her, but hers is a book I hold dear to my heart because SHP publishes books that bigger houses may not pick up because they are so different and new. While it’s the only book I have read from SHP, I will be following them to see what other books they produce. In any case, I fell in love with her book upon seeing the cover and reading the description. I didn’t even care about the reviews because it is the kind of book I read: dark and eerie. That’s my thing. And I totally GOT the book. I have some strong literary analysis skills, and while the book wasn’t perfect (what book is), I was able to analyze the characters and situations to understand why they did what they did–and it all made perfect sense, given the threatening environment they’re in. I so wish I could name the book and author, because hers is a book I support fully, but I sadly can’t.

But the review I read was so nasty and so despicable, and while it attacked the book, the attack on the book also attacked the author, and I was so enraged that I felt like posting a response, but I held back, knowing it would do better on my blog.

This reviewer was deplorable. It isn’t that she gave it a 1 star–my book has several three star ratings, but they are so thoughtful and so considerate and they’re rooting for me to grow as a writer, which warms my heart. I even asked one reviewer for some tips on making the sequel shine.

Her review was not thoughtfully written, and, in fact, it was nasty–and included an AGGRAVATING gif. I hate gifs posted in reviews on Goodreads, even if the review was good. I don’t fault her for her opinions, as I felt they could have been written in a more thoughtful, intelligent manner, but then she said this at the end of her review: Fuck you, book. To me, this is also an attack on the author as well, as she is the one who wrote this book, who worked hard on it, who poured her heart into it, who wrote the book she wanted, and that SHP worked really hard on it for her too. Behind every book is a human being who worked REALLY hard on that book, and I feel like sometimes reviewers forget that. You take a risk when you buy a book, knowing that you might love it or hate it, so take some responsibility, too.

I don’t like, *ahem*, asshole critics. I HATED Simon Cowell on American Idol. I don’t know why so many loved him. I also hate some of the critics on some of those cooking shows. Sure, hate can sometimes inspire one to get better, but for many, it just tears them down and makes them want to give up on the one thing they love. Constructive criticism, people. Is that so hard?

So the ‘fuck you, book’ doesn’t sound too bad, but then it gets worse with the people replying to the review. I’m not going to quote them word for word. Some said they wanted this book burned. Another comment in the review said the book was so stupid, that it made her teeth hurt, and a commenter wanted to keep this review, even though he/she had never read the book. Someone wanted all the characters to die–in fact, the person’s brain broke just reading the review! Some thought the review was hilarious. Others thought the book would give cancer to those who read it (ableism much?). Some wanted the reviewer herself to burn the book, even though this commenter HADN’T READ IT! So many people who replied to this ONE STAR review had never read it. I think one star reviews should be taken with a grain of salt more than the other stars in the rating process, simply because most one star reviews are poorly written and are filled with so much assholery that I’m surprised people take the review itself seriously. This is why I often retreat to three star reviews, because they are mostly unbiased.

I’m not saying people aren’t allowed to post one star reviews, but I think they should do so intelligently and explain, really explain, why they feel the way they do about this book instead of forgetting that there is a human being who wrote this book. Like I don’t like Twilight, but I would never go on there and be so mean and nasty about it. In fact, I just rated it a one star and left it at that because sometimes it is hard not to get nasty when you feel like you’ve wasted your time reading a book you didn’t enjoy. So if you feel like you are going to get so nasty that you inevitably attack the author, DON’T WRITE A THING.

When you write a review, especially if you have some criticism to give, make it constructive. Make it so that it encourages the author to become better, even if it is a one star review. We writers do want to get better with each book, and readers need to realize this. As I’ve said before, I’m taking my three star reviews of When Stars Die and applying them to the sequel so that the sequel is MUCH better than When Stars Die–that’s the hope, but I know I can’t please everyone. If I read a book, and I didn’t ever want to read a book from that author again, I would still want the author to keep writing, and I would hold on to the hope that the author got better so that maybe one day I could go back to him/her and see what he/she has out now. Stephenie Meyer is my least favorite author, but this doesn’t mean I want her to quit writing. I hope she continues to get better, in fact. She deserves the success she has gotten because she did work REALLY hard on that book, and I know that because agents make you edit the crap out of your book. Editors at houses make you edit the crap out of that book. Even if the book still doesn’t seem publishable, editing, at the end of the day, is a little bit based on opinion–except for the grammar parts, of course.

So how do you feel about nasty reviews?

Tomorrow, I’m going to blog about how much an indie author can make, because, while I love this blogger, I also laughed at her “realistic” numbers she was posting, and I have something to say.

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9 comments on “Proper Etiquette for Writing Reviews on Goodreads

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    November 4, 2013

    I have a few of those and they drove me nuts. I’m trying to accept the philosophies of ‘you can’t please everyone’, ‘some people are assholes’, and ‘some people just want to see others fail’. There’s really no excuse for the attacks even if you despise the book. Sadly, it’s unavoidable.

    • amberskyef
      November 4, 2013

      I know it would be censoring, but sometimes I wish Goodreads would have some sort of filtering system to get rid of reviews that aren’t really reviews. Reviews, to me, are constructive and mostly well-written. Also, reviews with gifs should be banned. They are irritating.

      • Charles Yallowitz
        November 4, 2013

        I read a week ago that they’re implementing a system where ‘abusive’ reviews and bookshelves are being scanned for and deleted. I’m not sure how it works, but it supposedly goes after reviews that are written only to insult the author.

      • amberskyef
        November 4, 2013

        I applaud them for that. I know others have cried censorship, but some reviews really do nothing at all for a book. Reviews are meant to help a reader decide if he/she wants to buy the book, but nasty reviews, even if people think they’re funny, don’t contribute anything, in my opinion.

      • Charles Yallowitz
        November 4, 2013

        I’m hoping the system works out. I read the censorship cries, but it reminds me of freedom of speech versus bullying. You can say whatever you want, but the game changes when you’re hurting people.

  2. sknicholls
    November 4, 2013

    I have never read a nasty review that made me laugh. It breaks my heart.

  3. JessDarb
    August 13, 2014

    I disagree. There’s nothing I find more pointless, irritating, and childish than fans of a book actively contradicting, insulting, or otherwise complaining about a negative review of said book. I started a one-star Goodreads review of a bestselling novel once with “Fuck this book and the horse it rode in on,” and fans of the book and author attacked me with gendered insults, insulted my intelligence, and basically told me that my opinion was WRONG. I’m not easily shaken by that shit, but I was mostly baffled and amused. A person is allowed to express their opinion on a book honestly, no matter what that opinion is. We are not required to follow any sort of “etiquette” that ensures constructive criticism of a book. Some books elicit extremely strong negative opinions, and a private person reviewing on Goodreads should express those opinions however they see fit. I don’t see “Fuck you book” as an insult to the author. I see it as a reviewer expressing their honest frustration with the time they wasted reading a particular book.
    I’m sorry you felt so hurt by this vitriolic review, but I think to police such reviews amounts to censorship and it neuters the effectiveness of Goodreads. If there are personal threats of violence to authors or reviewers, or racist/sexist/ableist/heterosexist/cissexist insults, then that is out of line. But a book is a book, it causes strong emotions, and Goodreads users have the right to express those emotions how they see fit, regardless of the hurt feelings of the book’s fans or author.

    • amberskyef
      August 13, 2014

      Books do cause extreme emotions, but it doesn’t do anyone any good to read a review that wasn’t properly thought out in the first place. That review looks absolutely unintelligent at the end of the day. I tend to not take reviews like that serious to begin with, because when you start a review that way, honestly, I’m not going to look favorably upon the reviewer, and you probably don’t care about that. But then others, who haven’t even read the book, are going to take your review seriously–and they may in fact like the book, but because you decided to start your review that way, they may never buy a book they could potentially enjoy. A review like that completely ignores that others are going to enjoy it.

      It’s unintelligent drivel at the end of the day.
      .

      • JessDarb
        August 13, 2014

        I’m pretty sure my strongly-worded negative reviews aren’t “unintelligent drivel,” but ok. Look at it this way: the people who follow my reviews on Goodreads do so because they have similar taste in books and similar opinions on various genres. And vice versa. When I read a snarky or strongly-worded negative review from someone who shares my literary tastes, it’s useful to me because I have learned to trust their opinion. I make book purchases based on our shared tastes. Similarly, if I read a glowingly positive review of a book from a Goodreads user who I disagree with on most levels of literary taste, I definitely won’t buy the book. This is what makes Goodreads so useful: the ability to build communities based on shared tastes and opinions.
        I maintain that a strongly-worded negative review is just as useful to readers as a positive one or a gently middle-of-the-road one that offers critical feedback, as you contend is demanded by “Goodreads etiquette.” I think it would be a mistake to censor negative reviews that don’t veer into the realm of bigotry or violent threats.
        But I think we might be coming at the issue from different directions. I’m a reader. You’re an author and a friend to other authors. Clearly we use Goodreads for wildly different purposes. I am not invested at all in providing authors with critical feedback to improve their craft… at least not when I’m reading and reviewing for enjoyment on Goodreads rather than at work (I’m an editor). Instead, my purpose in reviewing books on Goodreads is to share my opinion with readers who have similar tastes. Those readers deserve my honesty and frankly I don’t feel like pulling punches when I sincerely disliked a book.

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