Goodreads Karma

I’ve always been a fan of lists. That combined with my affinity for collecting things (or in other words never throwing anything away) made Goodreads the sort of delicious pastime primed to become my next addiction. When I first joined a year ago I spent hours scouring my memory for every book I’d ever read, rating them, and sorting them to various cleverly named bookshelves.

But then I wrote a book, I decided to go indie, and soon began the process of soliciting my own reviews. It was slow-going to say the least. I think I sent out 150 emails resulting in maybe 30 responses and only 10 or so actual reviews. Not ideal considering how important reviews are for a debut author.

Since then a few more have trickled in, including my first negative review ever and it got me thinking about the books I’d rated and which were now visible to the public since I’d switched to an author profile. Right now I’m nobody. I don’t have a slew of readers anxiously awaiting my next book. I don’t have a ton of blog followers. And I bet no one other than me has even checked out the books I’ve rated on Goodreads.

But what if that were to change? What if someone was a fan of my books and then they came across my not so stellar rating of one of their favorites and decided not to pick up my next release? Or what if they’d never read anything by me before and that low rating of the novel that literally changed their life caused them to write me off for good?

I know these are dramatic scenarios. But the point is that I don’t want a reader to ever feel torn when considering whether or not to support me as an author or as a person. Not only that but there are enough readers out there actively rating books that I’d rather just share the ones I enjoyed. So I removed all of the books from my “read” shelf that hadn’t warranted four or more stars, choosing to share only the ones that I would honestly recommend.

I still think that reviews are not only important but necessary. But I think that authors, especially indie authors, should be wary of criticizing the competition. Even if you think it’s your right as a reader to rate the books you’ve read and share your opinion, the fact that you wear both hats should make you mindful of not only your potential influence but of the potential backlash of criticizing another’s work. I’m not saying that it’s right or fair. And I’m not encouraging anyone to be dishonest by supporting a book they secretly hate. But what I am saying is that it might be more beneficial for all of us as a writing community to support each other by only championing the books we truly loved and ignoring the rest.

Thougts? What do you think the role of the author should be when it comes to criticizing or recommending books?


3 thoughts on “Goodreads Karma

  1. I did the same thing a few months ago, although I may have left some 3-stars (non-worded) on there, but I think I removed anything less than a 4, and for the same reason – karma. If it can bite you in the ass, it will. Murphy says so!

    I stay away from Goodreads. It’s the best way to ruin my day, so I ignore it completely now. At the end of the day, it’s Amazon I buy books from, and it’s Amazon reviews I read, not Goodreads. But that’s me.

  2. This is a really good question. On the one hand, reviews, good or bad, happen in the context of social media. The new interactions between readers and authors that this environment makes possible are so much fun. I love reading my favorite author’s blogs and discovering what songs they listened to when they were writing, their favorite cookie recipes, etc. But on the other, it makes me feel bad when I don’t like their latest books.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it would be really sad if the chummy culture of the Internet killed criticism. My book isn’t out yet, but I would hate for someone not to take it seriously — which would mean responding substantively if not positively — because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Being nice about it is almost as bad as being mean, you know?

    But of course, the Internet also engenders the opposite reaction — the “this is anonymous so I’ll say whatever I want” reaction — which is also no good. One of my friends had someone give her book a one-star Amazon review with the explanation “bad book, nothing happened” (that’s verbatim). Um, what the heck? Can you review reviews?

    So I think the right answer is that I try to leave reviews that are never wholly negative, never personal, but are also thoughtful and substantive and focus on the positive. Even when I don’t like, or don’t finish, a book, I always find something nice to say and I always write a few hundred words.

  3. Personally I keep two Goodreads profiles. One is my author profile, and the second is my personal (private) profile that I only give to friends and where I can rate the books I read freely. 🙂

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