We’re on to “those” people – Trolls

Remember in the “olden” days when products sold based on marketing, advertising and word-of-mouth? Well, those days have been long gone ever since the Internet. Now anyone can buy a product on Amazon.com or Sephora or a myriad of other consumer sites and post his or her review of the purchased product. As if other consumers are waiting with bated breath for their reviews.

Reviews have their place, of course. I’d much rather see what others thought of an expensive makeup item Sephora sells before doling out the dough, only to be disappointed. Sites like Steepster.com, in which testers log tasted tea, give participants a chance to review more than just one company’s product. And if you’re investing in a larger purchase – a computer, or a TV – reading reviews from fellow consumers can save you time, money and effort.

The problem is most reviews are on the honor system. You assume that the person reviewing the item has actually purchased/tried/used or in the case of booksellers, read the book. There are exemptions; eBay tracks feedback from actual buyers (although their system is flawed for other reasons), and Adagio Teas requires their customers to purchase the tea before they can actually review.

Take one person with a grudge against a product, company or even a person/author, and the entire review and rating structure is skewed.

This is happening on sites like Amazon.com and GoodReads. While Amazon.com does list your purchased products on an “order” page, there’s no stopping reviewers from posting a review about a product they haven’t actually consumed. (I did a test run on a product – but not a book – that I’ve tried in the past but never purchased from Amazon.com. The review is there.)

GoodReads seems like a good idea in theory. The site is comprised of reviewed books by readers of all level, experience, skill, attitude, temperament, and mental capacity. Readers can log books without having to prove they’ve actually read them. But like many theories the application doesn’t work for the human population, as people are selfishly motivated. And fickle.

GoodReads has a bully problem. Many “reviewers” (known as “trolls”) personally attack authors without actually reading their work, literally judge books by their covers, and harass authors for their politics, beliefs, and other factors that shouldn’t go into the review of fiction. This isn’t a situation of authors not liking negative reviews. The reviews have little to do with the books themselves, and many times the reviewers admit they only read a passage or two and passed judgment.

So GoodReads changed their moderation policy. Their new guidelines require book reviews to be about the book and not the author, among some other changes. This was brought about after many authors pulled their own books from the site and complained. Trolls were committing crimes against these authors – anything from harassment to cyberbullying campaigns and God knows what else.

Trolls responded in kind by leaving one-star ratings on the authors’ books involved (including anyone who spoke out in favor of the changes, siding with the content creators or authors). There was a mass exodus to other book review sites too. But luckily trolls’ criminal behavior has been so widespread on blogs, social media and online that the other book review sites say, “No thanks,” and don’t let these folks join.

Take the post by Stop GoodReads Bullies referencing book review site, booklikes. Clearly people have had enough with this psychodrama.

I’m working on an investigative piece about this kind of behavior, and I hope the trend of review sites ditching these trolls continues.

I say this proudly, even as I’ve received threats and nasty email responses myself. I will be including some of them in my post next week. I think I befuddle the Trolls because I’m not yet a published book author – and my professional work can’t be “reviewed” by them – yet I defend the bullied authors.

Also, added bonus: threats to a federal agent are punishable with jail time and fines. Item of note, Trolls. Yes, I’m her. Your worst nightmare.

We’re on to you, Trolls, and this time, we’ll be the only ones laughing.


37 thoughts on “We’re on to “those” people – Trolls

  1. Pingback: Good advice for a Monday | The Sky Behind Me Blog

  2. You are speaking for yourself, not the federal government. On your personal blog, you are just another private citizen.

    • Of course, I never said I was speaking on behalf of the federal government. Obviously this is an activity I conduct in my personal capacity and not in my role for the federal government.
      However, crimes against me as a federal employee are punishable with fines and/or jail time (or both). This is clearly outlined in the federal statutes designed to protect federal employees both on the job and in their personal capacity.
      We have free speech, much to the current administration’s chagrin. I have no issue with people who don’t like what I have to say, but I do take offense if people not only try to tell me I don’t have that right, but also attack, harass and commit crimes against me for what I have to say.
      On the other hand, if my words upset someone, obviously there is truth behind them.

  3. Pingback: One Story Slinger | When Reviewers Attack – Prologue of GoodReads Bullying Investigation (Case #09-2013)

  4. Didn’t know the new rules about goodreads. Love the last bit.

  5. Pingback: Book Reviews: Who Needs Them? Authors Do! – A. G. Zalens

  6. I’m not a troll. I usually read the book first and then give it a bad review. Goodreads, Google+ Author sites, everything is just wishful thinking. Independent Authors are writing garbage. its time to create some standard to weed out the weaklings. Trolls might just be frustrated authors that can’t get a decent book noticed in the garbage dump.

    • Our issue isn’t with people reading the book and not liking the story. That’s perfectly understandable – everyone has an opinion and books are subjective on so many levels.

      We find fault with people who don’t read the books they are reviewing, and personally attack and terrorize the authors. Many of these trolls are acting criminally and review sites are turning the other cheek out of fear of reprisal.

      Most of the trolls I’ve come across have poor grammar, can’t communicate their ideas, and are just ganging up on authors to be bullies. I highly doubt they are fellow authors, and if they are, they have no standing to critique work when I can barely understand their “logic.”

      I certainly welcome your opinion. I didn’t originally understand the heart of this matter – I thought authors were just complaining about negative reviews. That’s not it, it’s about HOW the review is being tabulated and WHY.

  7. Hi Carolynne! Thank goodness for you! It’s about time someone tackles this problem.

  8. Excellent!

  9. Great post, Carolynne. Anything I could add would merely be a reiteration, but I want to thank you for working on chemotherapy for this cancer.

  10. Thank you for your contribution to the writing community. I am about to publish my first novel on Amazon, and am in the process of getting reviews. I am on Goodreads – what would be your advice at this stage of the troll war? It sounds like staying away for now would be best practice?

    • Thank you for reading! 🙂 I personally would avoid GoodReads – I have an account on there only so I can look at the comments and see the policies. I don’t have any books there and encourage authors to seek reviews elsewhere.

      GoodReads does have the right to operate their site as they see fit – but we authors have the write to pull our books if we’re not comfortable with the way they do business.

      I’m addressing this in my next post about this investigation due out this week so stay tuned!

  11. A good article. I am lucky as the reviews I have received have been from people who have actually read my books. I notice on Amazon that reviews by people who have purchased the book from Amazon are shown as “verified purchases”. This is a good idea but does not prevent people from buying a book for the sole purpose of trashing it or it’s author.

    • Thanks for the support and for reading! 🙂

      You’re correct about the “verified purchase” reviewers – and I’m sure there are folks out there who would purchase books solely to trash the authors. I’d rather buy books I know I would enjoy, but to each his own, right? 😉

  12. Reblogged this on Becky's Book Notes and commented:
    This is a great post from Carolyn Keene that all new and aspiring authors should read! Please inform yourself of the bad out there!

  13. Great post! I’m following now and I am going to re-blog this. I have a review blog for debut authors and aspiring authors while I work on my own debut novel. I am lucky I guess. I haven’t experienced this myself, but I follow a blog of someone that has been to the extreme. The author suggested she commit suicide! That is just sick! Those of us that are credible and well-meaning need to stick together. I refuse to review a book that I haven’t read from cover to cover. That is my review policy. That is the one occasion that I will email the author–if I can’t finish their book, I’ll write and explain why I can’t review it. So far, that’s only happened once. Best of luck on launching reviews on your site! 🙂 I look forward to reading your future posts.

    • Omigosh – that author absolutely should not do that! Don’t let the bullies win! If I can make it through years of torture from my own family and my peers, anyone can. This is something I’ll touch on in a more personal post later.

      We do need to stick together! And I agree with your review policy 100%! I’ve made a similar promise and I will do everything I can to stick to it.

      Thanks for reading & for the support! 🙂

  14. Fabulous blog post, Carolynne! Thanks for having the courage to take a stand against these psychos – for that’s what they are. One of my good friends is a best-selling author on Amazon, and she experienced this type of bullying. Unfortunately, her publisher couldn’t do a thing about it. She was practically in tears when it happened, and wondered why? Why? I was so angry when she told me, so we rallied all our friends to click “like” on all her 4-5 star reviews (which is what her work receives) to lower the unfair 1 star “review” a troll gave her. Nor was this “review” based on the book – the troll only read ONE PARAGRAPH! It was simply a sick, personal attack. Thankfully, our support pushed the nasty troll down the list.
    I’m sure once my debut novel goes on there, it’ll be open to this attack as well, regardless it was shortlisted in two national and international writing competitions. But like you, Carolynne, I’m a fighter!

    • Thanks for reading and for your words of encouragement! 🙂

      Yes, I think any of us who stand against bullying will have their work under more scrutiny but I too welcome the challenge.

      Please let me know when your book is published. I’d love to feature you and review the book! 🙂 (You could also guest post if you’d like.)

  15. Reblogged this on Savvy Writers & e-Books online and commented:
    Remember last weeks blog: Got a 1-Star Review? What Can You Do?
    “I heard this from many authors, and don’t even want to call them reviews – as these people totally

    ignore the rules how to write a book review – rather bashing authors and their work. Some people are

    hoarding free books, without checking them before, they don’t even read the “Look Inside” part on

    Amazon’s page and then, when it is not the right genre or a book in a series, or when it is too long or

    too short, they write harsh complaints, instead of writing a fair and professional review.
    Scathing and destructive reviews can be posted for reasons such as:
    Scathing and destructive reviews can be posted for reasons such as:

    The review is from a competitor (friend)
    The reviewer is envious to not be able to write her/himself
    He/she is an all around miserable person.
    Carolynne Keenan has written a great blog post about these “review trolls” – and what Goodreads is now doing about it. Don’t miss to also read the author comments.

  16. I think anyone that writes and publishes has experienced this. We all know that everyone has a right their opinion. I’m all for that, but tracking and trashing some ones life work just because they can isn’t right or helpful. You endure it, and hopefully get past it, with real reviews from readers good or bad who have actually read your work, not scanned it for talking points. Ok use your real name and email address if you want to review. How about that? Being anonymous makes it easy to be a bully. I don’t mind you not liking what I write, don’t buy it again, but making it personal is not right.

    • “Being anonymous makes it easy to be a bully.” You are absolutely right! They can hide behind the computer screens and think they are safe, taking comfort in the anonymity.

      We don’t find fault with folks not liking the stories, it’s what they do afterwards and how they attack the authors that’s criminal. And you’re correct – it’s OK if you don’t like the work itself, but trashing the author is what I’m after to end.

      Thanks for reading and for your comments! 🙂

  17. Pingback: 1 Star Reviews. Are You Comfortable With Them? | The Literary Syndicate

  18. I admire your courage, Carolynne, in your willingness to dig into this troll problem and write about what you are discovering. I’m looking forward to further posts.

    • Thanks for reading! Finally my feisty attitude and unwillingness to back down from a fight are helping me! 😉 The post about the investigation into reviewing sites and these petty trolls will post next week, so stay tuned! 🙂

  19. Your “added bonus” just made my day. I am a victim of the “trolls.” I have an award winning novel that has taken a bashing on Goodreads. I thought that the purchase of GR by Amazon would make a difference…it has not. The thread about the “changes in review policy” is so disturbing on so many levels. If you read the comments after the post, and don’t feel the need to hire a personal body guard, you have bigger balls than I do.

    The readers/reviewers are outraged and crying foul. They speak of censorship and freedom of speach…crying over the removal of slanderous reviews of authors.

    My question, is where in the definition of a review, does it state destroy and Author…

    — noun

    a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation.
    the process of going over a subject again in study or recitation in order to fix it in the memory or summarize the facts.
    an exercise designed or intended for study of this kind.
    a general survey of something, especially in words; a report or account of something.
    an inspection or examination by viewing, especially a formal inspection of any military or naval force, parade, or the like.
    a periodical publication containing articles on current events or affairs, books, art, etc.: a literary review.
    a judicial reexamination, as by a higher court, of the decision or proceedings in a case.
    a second or repeated view of something.
    a viewing of the past; contemplation or consideration of past events, circumstances, or facts.
    Bridge. a recapitulation of the bids made by all players.
    Theater , revue.
    — verb (used with object)

    to go over (lessons, studies, work, etc.) in review.
    to view, look at, or look over again.
    to inspect, especially formally or officially: to review the troops.
    to survey mentally; take a survey of: to review the situation.
    to discuss (a book, play, etc.) in a critical review; write a critical report upon.
    to look back upon; view retrospectively.
    to present a survey of in speech or writing.
    Law. to reexamine judicially: a decision to review the case.
    Bridge. to repeat and summarize (all bids made by the players).
    — verb (used without object)

    to write reviews; review books, movies, etc., as for a newspaper or periodical: He reviews for some small-town newspaper.

    I don’t see character assassination, author bashing, personal attacks, slander, liable, threats of bodily harm, etc.., etc. anywhere in this definition. The fact that this behavior by readers is allowed, is deplorable on so many levels. But the fact that a few have chosen to be unprofessional and engage, has made many authors have to suffer. We are considered “cry babies” at best for wanting this behavior to be stopped and “censors of free speech” at worst.

    I am thrilled you are onto this…I will share this EVERYWHERE.

    All the best to you…

    Taylor Fulks~Author

    • Thank you for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and don’t worry, I’m not stopping anytime soon. I’ve seen many of the comments on the GoodReads policy change and they are beyond disturbing. Bullying on any level is an issue that is close to my heart. I’m passionate about curbing bullying, as a former victim growing up. I’m not one to sit idly by when innocent people are being attacked. This was the sole reason I entered the field of journalism years ago. My true love is fiction writing, and I hope to one day become successful and published as a novelist, but in the meantime, I try to use my love of writing in other ways – and defending fellow writers absolutely qualifies.

      I’d love to feature you AND review your book on my blog. 🙂 If you’re interested, please email me, or stop by my Facebook or Twitter pages.

      Thanks for sharing the post with your followers on Twitter and friends. I’m hopeful that if we writers stand united against these “trolls” we’ll win every battle and eventually the war!

  20. Excellent post. There is much on the Internet about the medically addictive qualities of trolling. Some of the worst cases have shown behaviour similar to substance addiction.

    • Thank you for your thoughts! In my investigation, I have found some interesting perspectives on the bullying “addiction.” I will be including this in my story. I’ll look around for the cases comparing it to substance addiction. Mental illness + substance addiction = deadly combo. Thanks for passing along the info! 🙂

  21. A great blog entry! This didn’t just begin with Goodreads. Many fan fiction writers (especially anyone with a readership who received genuinely positive reviews) were stalked and trolled by these same people who’ve now joined the ranks at Goodreads. It’s a combination of guerilla marketing by mainstream publishing, “serious” writers whose steel-belt grammar is impeccable but who can’t write a story to save their lives (who therefore single out anyone with a readership), jealous writers who aren’t willing to build their market, psychopaths of various descriptions who need attention, and general anti-social jerks who are emotional adolescents. Readers deserve to have their experiences known, however, when bully groups with an agenda gang up to insist only one point of view is known, the honest writers suffer. Good for booklikes for taking a stand — and thanks for standing there with them.

    • Thank you for reading and for the kind words! You’re right, this has been going on a lot longer – which is a scary thought. You’ve touched on the single underlying theme – these “trolls” are jealous and psychotic. Many of them don’t have the ability to write well, so they take out their insecurities and the hatred of their limits on people who do. Bullying 101: Make fun of others because when bullies just hate themselves.

      I grew up in a childhood rampant with bullying – from my mother to my peers. This reality has given me a different perspective on life in general. I can easily empathize with authors going through this, but I can focus my anger on the instigators and enablers. I hope others will stand with us too as we take down the trolls one by one, site by site.

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