Learning To Loathe

A new writer named Lauren Howard wrote a novel called Learning To Love that she planned to release this month.  She has since changed her mind, and explains that she will not be releasing the book–at all–in this blog post.

Why?  Because of GoodReads.

Evidently she added the book prior to the release (something that GoodReads encourages authors to do.)  Someone who had not read the book rated it at two stars.  Ms. Howard took to a GoodReads forum to ask why someone would give a book a rating prior to reading it.  The answer she received is that people evidently use book ratings to show if they would be interested in reading a particular book.

Now, that’s news to me, and it sounds kind of odd.  I mean, I could go through and rate whole genres with one star.  I don’t read westerns, for example, does that mean that I should go and rate everything by Louis L’amour one star? What purpose does it serve to tell people what books I am planning not to read?

But, okay, GoodReads allows preemptive ratings.  Fair enough, it’s their site, they can do what they want.  What happened next is less understandable.

Evidently some took offense that an author would question the validity of a review, and a campaign was started to give Learning To Love–remember this book has not been released–one star reviews, to teach Ms. Howard a lesson.  (I am not making that up–that’s in the actual text of one of the reviews.)

UPDATE: I have been challenged to find the review in which the phrase “teach her a lesson” was used and I cannot.  Upon reflection, I believe that phrase appeared in a comment thread, not a review, but I cannot find the thread, I believe that thread may have been deleted.

Ms. Howard says that she then contacted GoodReads and was told that the GoodReads policy was not to remove reader ratings or replies to author posts.

Ms. Howard then decided to cancel the launch.  She states that she has contacted GoodReads to get the book removed, as of this writing it’s still there.

Now, I have heard similar things about GoodReads before.  I haven’t passed them along because I don’t want to spread rumors without proof.  In this case, I have the proof.  I have seen the links, I have seen the comments.  Seeing these things makes other stories that I had heard–stories that I rejected as exaggerations–much more credible.

I am not going to delete my GoodReads account.  I may still keep posting my reviews of indie books there (assuming that I ever have time to read for pleasure again).  However, I am not putting my own work up there.  If someone else does, it seems that there isn’t anything I can do about it, so I’m not going to worry about it.

As far as I am concerned, this incident destroys any last vestiges of credibility that the GoodReads review system once had.  When people post ratings on an author’s work as a punishment for that author’s comments in a forum thread, and publicly proclaim that is what they are doing, and the management does nothing, then it’s pretty clear that the site as a whole is useless for book ratings.

Other people have posted five star reviews of Learning To Love as a response to the one star campaign.  While that is heartening from a human interest standpoint, I have to admit that it’s every bit as dishonest.  The book is not yet released (and now, may never be).  The only people who should be rating or reviewing it are those people to whom the author has sent review copies.

I have no idea what impact Amazon’s acquisition of GoodReads had (if any) on this.  For what it is worth, I have heard similar rumors from long before the merger.  It may be that Amazon will change the review policies.  It may be that they will not.  But until I have seen some evidence that the site will be holding reviewers accountable for using the star rating as a tool for punishing authors, I won’t be using the site to promote my own work.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Learning To Loathe

  1. mrsgillies says:

    That’s bullsh*t!!!

    • Green Embers says:

      Yup, complete and utter bullshit. I know they also allow reviews pre-release for people who have ARC copies but still…. rating something two stars without having read it just because you think you won’t like it? That is eff’d up beyond comparison. I love the idea of Goodreads but they need to handle this better.

      • mrsgillies says:

        I can understand leaving a review if you have an ARC because you ACTUALLY read it. However rating something that you’ve never read just because you think you won’t like it? I could just go around and rate with one star all the erotica novels because i don’t like sex. What does that achieve? Nothing. Goodreads do need to handle this better! Someones dream has been crushed! And their spirit.

      • Green Embers says:

        Personally I hope this person publishes under a different title and pen name and then see if any of these same people rate her book high, lol. Like send out ARCs to all those people. Then later reveal that this was the same book they rated 1 star without having read it, ahahaha.

      • mrsgillies says:

        Haha! That’s a great idea. You should put it to them.

  2. oh dear, that’s very disheartening. Makes you think though, what avenues does a self-published author have? Sometimes they seem to be dwindling. Or maybe that’s just me losing interest.

  3. Same thing happened to one of our books. I contacted GR, they gave me the same response. BS is right…

  4. Yup. Been there – had a two-star review based on the fact that they didn’t want to read my book. I contacted GR and got the same response: “Tough Sh*t”.

  5. Jade Reyner says:

    I have also posted about this today although from a different angle. You are right, the proof is there and there is no way that it can be acceptable on any level. Thank you for also highlighting this issue.

  6. I’m rethinking my future books too. Not taking stuff down that is outright abusive and bullying is lazy and hurts the site. This is similar, though more sickening, than the 1-star Amazon reviews that talk about delivery times instead of the product. People are mistaking these systems for forums and fail to realize the effect it has. I read about some of the hate bookshelves on another blog post. Who lets an ‘authors who should be raped in prison’ list stay on-line? Forget policy. That’s horrific.

  7. Elle Knowles says:

    I would never rate something I haven’t read yet!

  8. ameliabishop says:

    I was just discussing this on facebook yesterday, such a sad situation. I have never trusted goodreads reviews. Say what you will about amazon, at least you can read “verified purchase” reviews with some confidence.
    It’s a shame, though. The idea behind goodreads is so worthwhile. But I agree with Charles above, free speech is one thing. Allowing users to create violent and threatening shelf titles and launch e-mail hate campaigns crosses the line into harassment.

  9. cyelkoth5637 says:

    The biggest upset for me is that the author isn’t even putting her book out now. That is such a shame! I wish there was a way to just remove it from Goodreads and still release the book. Or is it that too much damage has already been done?

  10. Rick Carufel says:

    What’s happened to Lauren is an everyday but minor occurrence on Badreads. There resides a murder of trolls who wallow at both badreads and the Amazon forum. These are not your average forum trolls with snarky remarks. These are a new breed, stalker trolls. They are organized and their abuse is serial. Their attacks are usually far more vicious than what they’ve done to Lauren. They are out to destroy the reputations, careers and livelihood of authors through stalking, bullying, harassment, criminal defamation and libel. Both badreads and Amazon support them and defend them, In fact the badreads site and Amazon forums are anti-author and pro-troll. Read this:


    and this:


  11. Sad, very sad. Makes me think about next book…

  12. Reblogged this on Marilyn Slagel and commented:
    This is very disheartening for us, very sad.

  13. Help Me Help Holly ♥ says:

    That’s crazy!!! The poor author 😦 At least on Amazon you have to justify your rating, on Goodreads people can one or two star without even an explanation why. Am about to launch my next book – I’ve put it on Goodreads but am now second guessing

  14. Jenni says:

    This has happened to tons of authors.
    Kiera Cass for something her agent said.
    Leigh Fallon and Jamie McGuire. Not sure what they did but I think they were attacked because of how successful they became.
    Rebecca Hamilton went through it when she responded to a review, not complaining about the review but joining some discuss on the meaning of words.
    I have read a few cases on Goodreads Follies worth checking out here http://goodreadsfollies.blogspot.com/ They have gathered evidence. At first I thought the same as you, that these authors must have done something or were overreacting. Some of them did let themselves get dragged into it. They didn’t do anything wrong but in a way they were hurting themselves by engaging in it all. For a while I shut down my book review blog and stopped reviewing all together because the people involved were starting to attack any bloggers that defended the authors currently on the radar.
    I am glad you are speaking up about it. I hope you don’t get dragged into it. They can be vengeful.
    It is asinine that Goodreads keeps books on their site that aren’t being published. The fake one star ratings make the site useless. Like you there are whole genres I could rate one star. I will still to verified review sources and skip sites like Goodreads where the ratings are so easily manipulated based on people’s opinion of the author or the author’s genre.

  15. Pingback: Lauren Pippa/Howard throws a tantrum; the internet falls all over itself to give her candy. Bike still on order. | Three Rs

  16. threears says:

    I would be curious to see your reference for this statement: “Evidently some took offense that an author would question the validity of a review, and a campaign was started to give Learning To Love–remember this book has not been released–one star reviews, to teach Ms. Howard a lesson. (I am not making that up–that’s in the actual text of one of the reviews”. First in that a “campaign” implies this was an organized movement, where people were encouraged to get out and vote. No such thing happened. Second, I have not seen any one-star review with “actual text” that says what you claim to have seen. I have, however, seen a tweet from Lauren claiming such. As we now know, Lauren tends to do a lot of interpreting when she reads. The comment — not review — I believe you are referencing says: “And reviewers have the right to rate a book however they feel like, with absolutely no justification what so ever.” You can “interpret” that all you want, but what it *actually* says is not what you claim.

    It’s great that you’ve written a follow-up post, but seeing as the original post has been reblogged, it would be nice if you would either correct it or post an addendum to it, as well.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I believe that the phrase “teach her a lesson” came from a comment in one of the forums. I can not now find that particular thread, it may have been deleted. I will update this post to reflect that.

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  18. Synova says:

    Does it make any difference if it’s a “campaign” or if it’s just a manifestation of an incredibly toxic environment?

    I’ve about had it with “good people” justifying their horrible behavior via word-lawyering. “Hey we all ganged up on someone in a very shItty way, but it wasn’t *directed* by anyone so we’re not *actually* disgusting people…

    Really? That’s the excuse?

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