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Middling on GoodReads...

After tossing a book aside in disgust last week, I chanced upon a random comment about Good Reads. I've heard things about it before, and I've actually joined and posted a few books with ratings (only 4 or 5 stars, however), but I haven't had the time to write full-on reviews.

I went on and looked up the book I didn't like, just to see what others were saying...and in one sense, it was very educational because a number of the reviewers pointed out correlations between the MC and Bella of Twilight fame. I hadn't noticed that (um, not having read the entire book), but as soon as I saw it mentioned, I immediately agreed. And no wonder I didn't really connect with this book, as it was very similar to Bella in many of the ways which made me put down Twilight, as well.

After looking up that book, I tried a few others I've read...and whoa. There's a ton of vitriol on that site! I'm astonished at how many people not only hate various books, but they also ream the authors. I haven't yet disassociated myself from GoodReads, but I won't be adding any more books. I'm trying to decide if it's even worth it to keep the few I've listed there (with ratings and no reviews) or if I should just pull out completely.

One thing's for sure -- I won't be looking at that site if I ever get published myself. Holy crap! It would be so hard to keep going after reading some of those reviews. Even though there is a mix of positive and negative for just about every book under the sun (which is a good reminder of subjectivity), the negative ones are so extreme.

But I'm curious -- how many published writers find that kind of feedback valuable? And if you're a member of GoodReads, what does it do for you? (I'm trying to decide how to handle my own participation.) As a reader, do you use it? (This was my first time reading through various reviews, and although it was interesting, it did nothing to change my opinions about the books I'd already read...but I could see that it might sway my thoughts if I was waiting to read a book.)

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( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
robinellen
Oct. 13th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
I don't blame you. I was stunned at the viciousness of some of those reviews...wow.
medwriter
Oct. 13th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
I don't go to Goodreads. I avoid the negativity. It does not help me as a writer or reader. I can make up my own mind about a book. I also will not buy a book written by someone who bashes another writer. IMHO the best way to become a better writer is to write, rewrite, and revise over and over again and not listen to bitter sounding people.
robinellen
Oct. 13th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
I agree. I'm really not sure how some of those incredibly negative reviews help anyone!
pamm
Oct. 13th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
I really like Goodreads because people are more likely to truly talk about how they feel than gloss over--I think on amazon, not as many people are likely to rate.

What I don't like is when someone gives a low rating without telling me why. As an author, it'd be nice to know why. It does help. And sometimes people just don't like it because they don't like it. They can't help it. It doesn't hurt my feelings.

It does upset me when they misrepresent the book with what they say, but I have no control over that.

Overall, I think Goodreads is good. I use it for myself when I'm trying to assess whether or not I want to read a book.

Now, for me personally, I am cautious about what I write on Goodreads simply because I know the author will read it and I don't want to hurt their feelings. But if I give a bad rating, I will explain why. (And negative for me is two or less stars--three or more is good.)
robinellen
Oct. 13th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
I think the reviews that surprised me (shocked me?) were those which were steeped in negativity. It was obvious from the get-go that the reader didn't like the book, but they didn't stop there. Instead, they went on to rail against not only the author but every idea the author's ever had! I'm all for honesty, but it seems a little over the top (from the few I read, that is).
pamm
Oct. 14th, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've seen that, but I think people are passionate when it comes to books, whether good or bad. I do understand where you're coming from, but the basic population puts authors on this mountaintop away from the real world. They truly don't think we read those reviews and even so, they don't know us and hated our book, so they really don't care. Now, if they met that person in real life, I think things would be different and they'd think about what they said and maybe they wouldn't get so personal against the author. BUT! That author put themselves out there as a public figure, just like actors and musicians do, so it comes with the territory.

I have seen some of those mean reviews and they do seem over the top, but I don't think the people are trying to be malicious. They really think this way about these books and these authors. I'm all for freedom to speak your mind. Wouldn't it be awful if these people couldn't speak their mind and had to censor their words?
robinellen
Oct. 14th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely not thinking they should be banned or censored -- I just wonder about that level of disgust, etc being leveled at a book and the author. It's certainly interesting.
ex_kmessner
Oct. 13th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)
Interesting...I actually love GoodReads. I get book suggestions there all the time - because my "friends" there are other writers, teachers, & librarians who like the same sorts of books. And as an author, I do read the reviews and actually find it way less stressful than other authors I know. Part of me wonders if I'm able to detach myself from the negative reviews because I work with kids and see them put perfectly good books back on shelves all the time, simply because they're not the right book for right now. It's never personal, and yet as authors, we manage to take it that way so often.

Anyway - I like it over there. I only rate books I like, only give five-star ratings, and try to write reviews that'll help other people decide about the whole "right book for me" issue.
robinellen
Oct. 13th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of setting it up to help those who are on the fence about whether or not a book will suit them...I could see doing that. If I end up doing that, I too will only write about books I love.
jenny_moss
Oct. 15th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
*hugs Kate*
laurenem6
Oct. 13th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
I'm a member, but I tend to hardly look at other people's reviews. Mainly I keep my GoodReads to keep track of what I read. I do rate the things I've read, but I don't write reviews. And even if I gave a book 2 stars, that doesn't mean it's a bad book, just that it wasn't for me.
robinellen
Oct. 13th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
I like the distinction (between bad book and not for me book) -- I think that's something that many reviewers over there have forgotten.
christine444
Oct. 13th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
I haven't looked at that site. The Amazon reviews can be that way sometimes. I usually only read those comments if I didn't care for the book, to see if others agreed. ;>)
robinellen
Oct. 13th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
I get that -- the books I looked up were all books I was kind of 'meh' about, though I did check a couple of books I loved, just to see. It's interesting, but after a bit, I wondered if some of the reviewers ever like *any* books!
patesden
Oct. 13th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
I'm a member of Shelfari and I haven't taken the time to join GoodReads, but I intend(ed) to. I'm glad you mentioned this. It makes me want to check out the site a bit more before I join.
robinellen
Oct. 14th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
That's kind of where I still am. I didn't do much reading before I joined and posted a few ratings -- and now I'm wanting to know more before I either start in completely (offering some kind of review along with the ratings) or just pull out.
writerjenn
Oct. 14th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
I have an author page there, and I've become a "fan" of authors whose work I like. My blog feeds to the author page. I accept friends there. I have posted giveaways of my book on Goodreads.

And that's all. I don't formally rate or review other people's books. I read my first few Goodreads reviews, and some were glowing and a couple were not, but at that time there was nothing vitriolic. There may or may not be now--I don't know, because I don't read them. The reviews are not for me. They're for readers to discuss the books with one another, and I've read enough reviews to have a sense of what people did and didn't like about my book. Reading more reviews will only put more voices in my head at a time when I need to be listening to my new characters. If someone really wants me to know what they thought, they usually send me an email or a tweet!
pamm
Oct. 14th, 2010 11:58 am (UTC)
That's a good way to be and I hope a lot of authors are like this. They probably have to be if their reviews get into the thousands! For me, I read every one. I can't help myself!
robinellen
Oct. 14th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
I think your position is a wise one -- and I hope that most published authors take it on.
jessica_shea
Oct. 14th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
I've been thinking about this myself. It seems like there's a lot of negativity. And as I meet more writers, I don't want anyone offended that I "only" gave their book a 3. I might just post what I'm reading, without adding any stars.
pamm
Oct. 14th, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
This is jmo, but I think you shouldn't censor yourself. If one of the people I know from the internet gives one of my books a three star or even a two or a one, I wouldn't be offended. I would just know they didn't like it that much. I would like for them to be honest and say why, though.
robinellen
Oct. 14th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
That's why I've only listed a few books which I gave four or five stars to. I guess I feel like my opinion is only one, therefore, if I don't like a book, it doesn't really mean much. But if I LOVE a book, I definitely want to promote it :)
sarah_prineas
Oct. 15th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
Dealing with Goodreads is tough!

As a writer, I don't read my books' reviews, not because they might hurt me, but because in the past I haven't found them to be all that useful (I like learning from reviews, both negative and positive).

As a reader, until last week I was actually reviewing books. Since I don't like half the books I read, some of my reviews were negative. A friend gave me a reality check about that, so I took down all my reviews unless they're four or five star ones.

So now I just use it to track my reading. It's good to have that list to refer to.
robinellen
Oct. 15th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
If I didn't have this blog, I think I would be much more interested in using GoodReads to track my reading. And I don't mind negative reviews when they're helpful (which some definitely are) -- but when they're filled with vitriol (my word of the day, apparently), I don't get it. Thankfully, I've never seen one author ream another like that.
fandoria
Oct. 15th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
I checked out GoodReads a few times but never signed up because I don't have the time and I noticed the same thing you did about the extreme nature of the negative reviews. It's one thing to say you didn't like a book but to be so mean about it... Forget how that makes me feel as a writer. As a reader, I can't stand it.
robinellen
Oct. 15th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I can't understand it, either. I mean, I'm passionate about books, but if I don't like something, I can't imagine going off on the author like some of those reviews do!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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