July 25, 2012

Nice Girls Don’t Review Books

That's my cat! He's now a LOLcat.
This year has been convoluted at best, ugly and frightening at its worst. What started as a series of flameouts and dramas involving authors behaving badly, took an unexpected turn in the form of a blogger plagiarizing. Worse, now we’re in the presence of something that’s disturbing and demoralizing: the Stop the Goodreads Bullies (StGRB). They are a group of people who created a website dedicated to hating, intimidating and bullying, all in the name of a twisted version of good used as an excuse to hide their hateful ways. They consider negative reviews as bullying and personally attacking authors. They say they want everyone to be nice, when in truth what they really want is revenge. These are people who went off their rockers and decided to punish, intimidate and demoralize reviewers (1). Let’s focus on the “be nice” part.

Even before the creation of the StGRB site, the phrase “be nice” kept showing every time there was a drama associated to a negative review. And I kept wondering what “be nice” means. Is it just writing positive, good reviews? Is it not calling attention to authors/bloggers behaving badly? Is it possible to write a negative nice review? More important, do we have to be nice? I have several things to say about this (and about the bullies), so I made a list:

1. “Be nice” is used as a poor excuse to thwart critical analysis.

2. Yes, we should be nice... To the readers! How? By giving them our honest opinions. Readers may use that review to buy a book or to compare and talk about their own reading experience. Disguising a review to make it nice is not nice.

3. Reviews are opinions. The only adjective that goes with “review” is “honest”. We don’t have to be nice about it.

4. Respectful and nice are not the same thing. We should always be respectful, which means leaving the author out of it, no personal insults, no personal anything.

5. I understand when authors refer to their books as their babies. I may consider it an exaggeration, but I understand the hard work and passion that goes into it. Books are an important part of an author’s life.

         5.1. I also understand the passion that goes into reading. I invest time and money in books and every   time I pick one I do it expecting to love it. If I don’t love it, I have the right to be angry about it, to say so  and to explain why. Books are an important part of my life. 

6. I can read. I can understand what I read. I can form my own opinion. I can decide for myself whether a review is honest and reliable or not. Negative reviews are often more helpful than the gushing, positive ones.

7. I love books. I don’t want them to suck. There’s no malicious intent behind a negative review. This is true to most reviewers, even those who write the snarkiest reviews. Those who do have malicious intent are easy to spot and ignore. Give the reader credit.

8. Negative doesn’t mean bad.

9. I understand that not everyone likes negative reviews, especially if you’re the author or a fan of the book. However, articles of public consumption are constantly subjected to criticism. If you can’t take it, don’t put yourself in the position to receive it. Or at least try to ignore it. How? Don’t read the reviews.

10. Disagreeing with someone is not bullying. Other things that are not bullying include: 
  • Negative reviews.
  • Snarky reviews.
  • Special shelves dedicated to authors behaving badly.
  • Being an asshole.
  • Throwing a temper tantrum when someone gives your book a negative review.
  • Telling people when someone who got a negative review threw a temper tantrum.

11. Things that are bullying:
  • Posting personal information about a reviewer including where they live, work and places they frequent.
  • Creating a website whose only purpose is to target people and incite violence.
  • Making threatening phone calls.
  • Making people feel unsafe.
  • Endangering people.
someecards.com - A douche bag of your magnitude could cleanse a whale's vagina.
More Someecards here.

The problem with the StGRB isn’t that they are upset about negative reviews. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that they are stalking, posting personal information of reviewers and inciting violence. They are endangering people.

Finally, I want to say that just as one blogger plagiarizing doesn’t define the rest of us; the people behind the StGRB site do not represent other authors and members of the community. Bulling and plagiarizing is a reflection of who they are as individuals, they don’t behave in such reproachable and vile ways because they are authors or bloggers, they do it because they are hateful. They would have found a way to hurt others regardless of their job description and platform. 

(1) A lot has been said about them and much more eloquently than I could ever put it. So I’ll just link to some excellent posts, including this one that I think everyone should read because it shows just how bad these people are. For more info there’s Dear Author’s take and Foz Meadows’. The train wreck that was the Huffington Post's Blog publishing an article written by the people behind StGRB, their subsequent poor apology, and Foz Meadow’s response. The Book Pushers wrote an excellent post about the issue of "be nice".

ETA: another great post about Goodreads, this time by Sunita.


  1. As a literary agent, I saw reviews posted on Goodreads before the ARCS were even available. The "reviewers" had not even read the books. This a problem. There is no quality control on Goodreads. At least on other sites, a book can not be reviewed until it is at least close to publication or published.

    1. I’ve seen those reviews of books that haven’t even been written yet. I don’t like them, but I don’t think they are a problem either. What I do is ignore them because I can tell –as I’m sure everyone else can—that they are not helpful. Do you find these early reviews problematic in general, or just when they are negative?

    2. Logan, your comment tells me you do not understand the nature of GoodReads. Those are not reviews, they're not supposed to be reviews — no one with common sense believe they are reviews. They're reactions and they're acceptable to display in readers' review-space.

      You're forgetting the fact that GoodReads is also a social networking site. It might help if you think of the review-space on GoodReads like a restricted form of blogging. It will greatly help you if you stop thinking GoodReads as a professional place for reviewers. "Quality control" (whatever that means) is detrimental to GoodReads where common readers gather and talk about books in any way they want.

    3. We've all seen those and 99% of the time they're conveying excitement about the book. I've maybe seen one or two pre-publication reviews that were negative ('I've read every book from this author but I just can't anymore.') They're obviously not reviews. (I do have problems with rating books without reading them, but that isn't the same thing.) I don't think any of the 39 people who have liked my "review" of The Casual Vacancy are confused and think that it's a review of the actual book and not just my excitement at a new JK Rowling book.

      I have to agree with the sentiment of Brie's last sentence. It's not the plethora of positive/excited pre-reviews that upsets people, it's the tiny minority of negative ones (and let me reiterate, I have never seen any retaliatory negative pre-reviews).

  2. Awesome post. :)

    Logan, the problem with quality control? Who decides what is quality? The prebook release buzz available via goodreads is excellent (and free) promo.

    Readers aren't stupid-they know when a review comes out & the book isn't available yet. They don't need protection.

    1. Thanks Shiloh!

      I have a feeling Logan's problem isn't early, positive buzz (emphasis on positive). And I don't think it's the readers he wants protected...

  3. I think in all of this drama, bloggers forget who they write for: readers. Not publishers, not authors. If a book wasn't good, I think it's ok to say so - because we have our readers in mind. I would want someone to tell me, save your money and don't by x book.

    Great perspective. Thanks for being real and honest.

    1. Hi Lisa!

      I actually think it's never been clearer that we blog/review for other readers. The people attacking reviewers are the ones who need a reminder. And as you said, I rely on reviews to point me towards new books. If I can't trust their honesty then the review is useless.

  4. Let's talk for a sec about this whole "my book is my baby" thing. I have kids and I write books. I love my kids and I love my books. I tried my best with all of them and I worked hard to get them ready to go out into the world. I want people to like them and when they don't, it hurts me. I think that's a perfectly natural response. But here's what I don't do. I don't go to the playground and beat up the kid who takes my kids turn on the swings. When some kid calls my kid a poopyhead, I don't firebomb their home. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that while it's OK to feel protective of the things you love, it's not OK attack people who don't like them.

    1. But here's what I don't do. I don't go to the playground and beat up the kid who takes my kids turn on the swings. When some kid calls my kid a poopyhead, I don't firebomb their home.

      Exactly! It's OK to feel bad and protective, it's not OK to attack people's opinions, as hurtful as they may be.

  5. I remember the Nice Girls circle in Fandom (all of mine had one this, hence the capped F), which this GRB site seems to be the author equivalent of. These are the people who police what is allowed to be said about people in an effort to Be Nice. The thing is, an opinion isn't meant to anything more than that: an opinion. No one has to agree, and frequently we don't agree. That's okay. Simply means we're all coming at something differently. However...

    Bullying by intimidation, stalking/abuse (ie, putting information out there for someone to physically assault) and any other number of dangers doesn't mean the "good guys" win. All that represents is a willingness to be a hypocritical human being.

    1. Anyone who believes the StGRB are the good guys need a reality check. You may not like any of the reviewers featured there, but thinking they deserve it or that they had it coming is wrong. And honestly, those who agree with the StGRB scare me more than the people behind the website.

  6. Great opinion piece! I don't have anything to add so I like to share this magnificent comment I found on another book blog with you:

    "I’m thinking it’s about time we started using the term Nice Girls ™ to describe this passive-agressive, you’re-a-bully-if-you-disagree-with-me, ever-so-politely-threatening bullshit behaviour.

    Like, Nice Guys ™ are douches who think that if they do lots of nice things for a girl, she owes him sex.

    Nice Girls ™ think any vicious or illegal action is okay if they like the person doing it." —Wahoo Suze (http://dearauthor.com/news/wednesday-news-chicklitgirls-charge-95-for-reviews-threaten-lawsuit-to-the-author-who-publicized-this-bn-goes-web-based-and-promises-new-screen-for-readers/#comment-387811)

  7. Great post! I don't understand why people forget that reviews are for readers. I don't set out to write a certain kind of review. I set out to write an honest review. I write it to let other people know what I felt about the book and help them decide to read or not read it. Or I write them to work out/express my feelings about a book, and if I help other people with it, so much the better.

    I just don't understand the hate for Goodreads and all these calls to "be nice" there. I think publishers see the value of it. I don't have a blog. I only rate and review on that site and yet I get approved for galleys on NetGalley. Doesn't that say something about how beneficial the site is? And let me tell you, my most hateful review has over 1900 likes but has actually convinced more than a few people to read the thing (who even knows the number of people who haven't told me so). There have been negative reviews that have convinced me to read books. There have been many times I've wanted to read a book for a particular reason, then I read negative reviews that complained about that very reason and I got excited to read it. Negative reviews work both ways. I'm sure it hurts to see them, but it's a part of the process. Getting upset and labeling them as anything other than a negative review is ridiculous.

    1. I think for the most part people understand this, the problem is that those who don't are really loud.

      This is an interesting article that talks a bit about the problem with GR being aimed towards readers but also authors and how the lack of boundaries complicates the dynamic. Everyone should read it, actually. I’ll add it to the post.

    2. That is a really good blog post. It brings up a lot of issues with the way Goodreads is structured that people may not have thought of. We'll have to see where they're going with this policy clarification, but right now I'm not hopeful.

  8. WOW, i honestly cannot believe the nerve of people. great post! ~dixie

  9. Excellent post! I loved that you included 'Being an asshole' as not bullying. So many people are quick to throw around the word 'bullying' just because someone disagrees with them. Nope...that's not bullying. Not even close.

    1. I think those who throw around the word bullying have no idea what bullying is.

  10. WOW I had no idea about this STGRBullies site. As I'm only on goodreads to add my books and enter a few giveaways I haven't delved this far into it.

    I don't get the hub bub about bad review. Not everyone is going to like everything and people should just deal with it. As long as a reviewer isn't attacking an author personally, they are allowed to think how they want about the author's work.

    Now I have to go read all the posts about hat's going on. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    And posting people's personal information to attack them is despicable and I think the offended parties to threaten real legal action.

    1. Then I just ruined your day because that site is sickening. Read this post: http://gossamerobsessions.blogspot.com/2012/07/liar-liar-pants-on-fire.html That's pretty much all you should know, you don't give them more pageviews and you get to see some of the content they took down and they lied about. It's pretty sick.

  11. "Nice" is almost always used to stifle language or behavior that makes the person using the term uncomfortable. It's a control thing, and it can be really limiting to discourse among supposed equals. It's particularly common to see it used to control the discourse of women, as we see in most of these instances of targeting reviewers.

    Great post!

    1. Well, you know, women have to shut up and be nice. Criticism and dissent aren't ladylike.

  12. I'm just nodding along like a bobble head, with nothing to add. Fantastic post.

    1. Excuse me while I faint... This is the fangirl moment that could not be because as much as I'm over the moon to have you comment on the blog, this is a post I wish I'd never had reasons to write.


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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.