When Reviewers Attack – Prologue of GoodReads Bullying Investigation (Case #09-2013)

It’s early on a quiet Saturday morning. The house is calm (kids and spouse are asleep), and you’re enjoying a cuppa joe or tea – or maybe a glass of OJ. You’ve caught up on the news – well, the comics, that’s most important! – so you’ve decided to check your author inbox. Or maybe you opt to check out reviews of a recently-released book to Amazon.com, or GoodReads.

As an author, you have the expectation that not every reader will like your books. After all, not every publisher liked the story, and heck, not even all your friends did. Their opinions aren’t supposed to be personal – it’s not that they don’t like you, as a person, but the story wasn’t their cuppa tea. You don’t like everything you read either.

But you can have the expectation that a person reviewing your book has read the story in its entirety. You can assume that reviewer has given the book a fair read-through, and is honest. You should be able to assume that the reviewer will not discuss your personal life story or judge the book based on you, the author.

This is how reviews are supposed to work. (And this is how reviews are conducted here, at One Story Slinger.) Reviews on book review sites should be about the book under review. Other readers don’t need a diatribe on why a reviewer dislikes a particular genre, or a lecture on the “evils” of the author’s politics (unless the book is about said politics). Who cares? If you can’t judge a book based on the quality of the story in the pages, you have no business reviewing them.

But so many readers out there are reviewing books poorly – and several have gone one step beyond “poor” into “libelous and slanderous” territory. Still others have ventured into the “criminal” zone by stalking authors, harassing them, and even threatening them.

I was skeptical at first – I’ll admit that. I thought this was about authors not liking reviews from readers and complaining about negative responses for their books. That’s not the issue at all, dear readers. This is about authors standing up for themselves against criminal behavior, against readers who are bullying and terrorizing them, readers who suffer from a mental illness.

That’s right. These “reviewers” AKA “trolls” have a mental illness. They hide behind their computers and think they are clever by taunting hardworking writers, harassing authors and engaging in violent, disruptive behavior. But they didn’t count on me. And they never saw me coming.

This is the prologue to my three-part investigation into the cyber-bullying, criminal behavior and general harassment these trolls are perpetrating on authors they have personal grudges or issues with.

In this investigation, I spoke with authors who have been attacked unfairly and I’ve seen first hand the “reviews” left by the trolls. I’ve read every reviewing policy for the sites involved in this story – if they existed, that is. (GoodReads and Amazon.com are the two big names). I’ve taunted the trolls myself in hopes that they would respond in kind. (And they did.) I’ve tried to get answers for authors on how to cope with this phenomenon. I’ve researched causes and symptoms of mental illnesses like the ones the trolls have.

And I’ve reached several powerful conclusions – to be revealed in Part 3.

So, stay tuned to One Story Slinger this weekend for an all-access pass into my investigation “When Reviewers Attack.”

In the meantime, check out some of my earlier posts on the subject to get more background information:

We’re on to “those” people – Trolls: https://onestoryslinger.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/were-on-to-those-people-trolls/

Trolls Be Damned: https://onestoryslinger.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/trolls-be-damned/

Case #09-2013 – GoodReads Bullying Investigation: https://onestoryslinger.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/case-09-2013-goodreads-bullying-investigation/

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7 thoughts on “When Reviewers Attack – Prologue of GoodReads Bullying Investigation (Case #09-2013)

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  2. Pingback: One Story Slinger | When Reviewers Attack – Part Three – Take Control Against Trolls Who Attack

  3. Pingback: One Story Slinger | When Reviewers Attack – Part Two – Evidence of Crimes

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  5. While I have not written any reviews that are abusive, I have not personally been involved in any reviewer vs. author situation (well, there was a friend being blackballed, but it was on GR and handled using their flags to removed comments that violated their TOS- but that’s another story)… I am not a reviewer that you are targeting, is my point. However, I find your opinion to be a an affront to all reviewers. “Bullying” is a term that is thrown around at the drop of a hat these days, and belittles those who actually experience it. By labeling reviewers as a ‘bully’, ‘Troll’, ‘mentally ill’, etc. you are opening hunting season on ALL reviewers. Good reviewers, regardless of their level of reading and/or style of reviewing. If you don’t like a reviewer’s style- it’s very easy to just NOT READ THEIR REVIEW.

    There is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to review a book. In response to your statement “readers don’t need a diatribe on why a reviewer dislikes a particular genre” – If someone has a hatred for love triangles, then by all means I want them to elaborate their opinion because maybe I as a reader do not, and would still like to read the book. Often, I look specifically at the bad reviews just to get an idea of why some didn’t like it. If they say “I don’t like YA” and that book ended up being a YA- then I know I can easily dismiss their review as mirroring any thoughts I might end up having.

    “or a lecture on the “evils” of the author’s politics”… Again, if you don’t like knowing that a children’s book was written by a man currently IN PRISON for being a pedophile- that’s fine and dandy for you and by all means ignore those reviews. But writing is an art form, and like any art form the artist is part of the brand and product. Music, Movies, Art, Writing… there are hundreds of examples that can be shown that the artist (and that artist’s behavior, public opinions, incarceration, physical appearance) can and does change how their ‘products’ are received. Just ask Mel Gibson, Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Orson Scott Wells, Michael Jackson, Jerry Lee Lewis, O.J. Simpson, or even Jane Fonda. For some readers, that is important and it’s not ‘wrong’ to include it in a review; reviews are ultimately opinions.

    I am not saying it’s OK to participate in actual online criminal behavior, at all. Criminal behavior should be brought to the proper authorities and punished accordingly. Hurt feelings, on the other hand, is not necessarily an attack. Just because YOU don’t like specific reviewers, or reviews, is no reason to start a witch hunt and hand out torches and pitchforks. Just my two cents, I am just trying to give an opposing view in a civil manner.

    • You’re misunderstanding the situation, but perhaps it’s my fault in not being clear.
      I have no issue with people who don’t like books and leave negative reviews explaining why. I do have a problem with people targeting authors and bullying them by committing crimes against them. Publishing their address online, encouraging violence towards them and their families, hacking into their personal accounts, creating false identities on social media and pretending to be them – this is what I take issue with. These are all violations of anti-stalking, and cyber-bullying laws on the books both at the federal level and for many states.
      There are plenty of reviewers out there who are honest (either read the entire book or say they couldn’t) and leave great reviews – even if a review is negative in nature that doesn’t mean it’s “bad.” But a review with just one-star and no explanation designed as retaliation against authors who stood up against the criminal behavior against them on GoodReads? That’s a review I take issue with.
      I agree with you that “hurt feelings” aren’t an attack – I completely agree with that statement. And yes in my investigation I found plenty of instances in which authors were upset at a negative review and felt attacked – but there was no proof of crime against that person. And the review explained why the reader didn’t care for the book. That’s OK with me, personally. You gotta have a thick skin in this business; mine was developed growing up in the household I did and in my original career path as a journalist.
      You don’t even have to like the author, artist, etc. For example, I’m a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine’s music, but good lord, their politics? No thanks. I don’t judge their music, their sound, on their politics. That’s stupid, they’re in the entertainment business. There are plenty of authors out there – heck, directors, actors, even – whose work I love, but I probably wouldn’t be friends with them in the real world. (And they probably wouldn’t be friends with me either!)
      My issue is with the criminal behavior that is going unchecked, and the gang mentality that so many of these trolls project and encourage. Posting someone’s address online, coordinating trips to harass them in person, all of those examples are where I draw the line and say something’s gotta change.
      I appreciate your comments, though, and your opinion – you’re entitled to it, of course. 🙂 And you’re helping me realize I’m not being as clear about the issue I think needs to be resolved – the criminal aspect of it.
      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

  6. I look forward to reading your forthcoming posts on trolling. As an author I haven’t suffered from this (touch wood) but it must be incredibly stressful for those who have been subjected to it.

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