That Which You Want For Yourself, Seek For Mankind

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Mutual blows

If you’ve been paying any attention to what’s been happening over at Goodreads then you know there has been ongoing controversy. In brief, readers have been accused of behaving badly by using the reviewing system to harangue “innocent” writers.  On the flip side, writers have been accused (rightfully so) of trolling for perspective readers and reviews and of having ongoing tit for tat arguments over less than stellar reviews of their books. I’ve seen a couple of these. Not a pretty sight and more than a little embarrassing.

The result of all this hoopla has been a revision of Goodreads policies which some people believe is tantamount to censoring.
I’ve read a few posts in the blogosphere about this issue and have seen some great points made. This is what I think. Revising and reestablishing  guidelines to ensure appropriate behavior (in this case, defined by me as respectful, non-vulgar, and matching with the general understanding of what is considered decent) is not censorship in the “violating ones right to free speech” kind of way, so much as it protects the rights of others not to feel oppressed or threatened. In fact, I believe that Goodreads revised policy will ensure that everyone will be able to freely express opinions and thoughts that may be unpopular in an inclusive environment.

I know it may sound like it, but I didn’t just contradict myself. There is a distinct difference between expressing unpopular views and being downright mean and hurtful. And since one of the main purposes of Goodreads is for readers to track and rate the books they read, I don’t think it’s too much to expect that the books will be rated and reviewed as opposed to their authors.

What comes immediately to mind is the debacle Revealing Eden by Foyt. The people who read that book had some pretty strong opinions about it and some very creative posts were written denouncing what the vast majority of readers thought was, at the least, a very racist book. But, there were some people who thought the book had literary merit, and they expressed their views too. Unfortunately, some of the people who liked Save the Pearls were berated and ridiculed for having their opinion. This spawned two camps of people: victims and abusers. Each camp accused the other of bullying. All for a book with a 2/5 star rating. Yay, for Foyt as she gets lots of publicity. Boo, for the sensible folk watching the train derailment as it happens.

As Goodreads is a site primarily for readers, the idea that authors rake through the membership pools, friending people en masse in search of positive reviews is cheesy. Even worse are the authors who respond to reviews of their books. As a writer, I have absolutely no expectation that everyone who reads An Unproductive Woman will love it. That would be me living in Lala Land. And while I certainly wish for nothing but positive reviews I’ve steeled myself for the bad as well.

My advice to writers too sensitive to tolerate a bad review is to: “Suck it up, my friend, and get over yourself.”

And if you just can’t: “Find something else to do.”

The sad thing about the fact that Goodreads felt the need to revise their policies is that everyone over at Goodreads is an adult and yet, here we are. If I ran the world, this would be my list of guidelines for appropriate conduct over at Goodreads:

  1. That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.

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