Feral Friday - Goodreads Changes

It’s Feral Friday! And we here at Book Nerd Reviews thought we would discuss a topic that really sends us feral.

This week, we’re talking about recent changes to Goodreads policy:

Kristy’s say:

Goodreads have recently revised their policy for review guidelines, and have made some modifications. Goodreads posted an announcement regarding a policy change about reviews here (or the full review guidelines can be found here).

But in summary, their announcement states the simple principals of reviewing are:

  1. Reviews should be about the book.
  2. Members are not permitted to harass or threaten other people.

And Goodreads have identified key areas where they could implement changes to ensure that these principal are being upheld. The changes are:

  • Make it easier for anyone who feels concerned about content on Goodreads to get help from Goodreads staff.
  • Better education for authors about Goodreads and our review guidelines.
  • Delete content focused on author behavior.

Some of these changes have caused quite a stir amongst members, particularly ‘Delete content focused on author behavior’, as this includes deleting reviews or shelves that focus on personal opinions on an author’s behaviour, personal beliefs or personal life.

Basically, Goodreads have included the right to immediately delete (without notification) any review, or shelf, that focuses on an author’s behaviour or personal life, rather than the book itself. This has caused a lot of concern and unrest amongst some Goodread members, with some saying that Goodreads is catering this social media site towards authors rather than readers, or that these new rules are nothing but censorship.

My opinion on Goodreads changes? Well, I am fine with the new rules. I personally believe that reviews should be based on the book itself, not on a personal opinion of the author as an individual. Of course things such as an author’s writing style and ability will affect your enjoyment of a book, so therefore is relevant in a review, but their personal life or beliefs are not. If an author’s personal beliefs are incorporated into the story, then this can be addressed without attacking the author’s right to have their beliefs (or attacking them directly). I just believe that all reviews should be focused on the story and the writing.

Now I am not saying that you can’t have an opinion on the author themselves, your personal opinion of an author’s beliefs or behaviour will naturally come into it when you are deciding to read their book - and I think that is perfectly acceptable. I just don’t’ see how that is relevant to a reviewing their book. Note the difference between reading a book and reviewing a book. If someone has minor issues with an author’s personal beliefs, opinions or behaviour, then they may still pick up that authors book, and in this case they have every right to review that book however they like, but I don’t think any issues with the author as a person should be included in the review. But, if someone feels strongly against an author’s personal life or beliefs, then they probably wouldn’t actually read their book - and if they don’t read the book, then they can’t really review it (as any “review” in that case would be their opinion on the author, not on the book itself).

Shelves are also under attack if they are focused on author behaviour. Shelves such as “not interested” are within the guidelines, but shelves such as “author is a jerk” will be removed. And once again, this is fine with me as well. I will admit, that there are authors that I will not read due to their personal behaviour, but my personal opinion is if I don’t like them to the point that I will not read their book, why would I add them to any of my Goodread shelves? I think it is just easier to look straight past their books and focus on ones I do want to read.

Of course, the targeting of shelves could get a little out of hand, and there are still a lot of grey areas. For example, a shelf named “due to author” could be construed as focusing on author behaviour. I would be disappointed if this was the case, as I would certainly put an author such as Laini Taylor in a shelf titled this, and would be “due to author” - but due to the fact that I think she is an awesome writer (there are others I would include in this shelf, but that list is quite long).

Some also feel that these new guidelines gives the author a right to get a review removed if they don’t like it, or have the right to react badly to a negative review - and as far as I can tell, this is incorrect. Goodreads have clearly stated that negative reviews are acceptable, and comments such as “it sucked” or “bad writing” seem to be okay as well, as they are not personal attacks against the author, so the author has no “right” to have them removed. Nor do they have the “right” to react badly to such reviews - Goodreads have made it clear that they will not accept harassing or attacking behaviour, and that includes authors as well. If an author reacts badly to a review, it can be reported, and it seems it will be responded too appropriately.

Now to the point that people feel that Goodreads is catering to authors only. I disagree with this, as if this was the case, they would ban negative reviews completely. And, to be honest, there are just as many authors who do not go on Goodreads, as there are ones that do. I have seen multiple “big name” authors say that the do not read reviews on Goodreads, and the main reason for this is due to personal attacks. I think that this is very sad, as any author should be able to read a review, either positive or negative, without their personal life being criticised.

At the end of the day, there will be varying opinions on the new Goodreads guidelines, and I respect everyone’s right to have their own opinion, but mine in a nutshell is: a review should be about the book itself - positive or negative.

Melissa’s say:

I am going to be blunt about this - it’s about time. Now some of what I am about to say might get me flamed a little, but as a disclaimer before I start, I just want to say - I am on no ones side when it comes to author/blogger wars. Truly. I cringe when I see authors lashing out at bloggers for not liking their books, and equally so, I cringe when I see bloggers bullying authors as retaliation. NEITHER SIDE IS RIGHT.

Anyone who has been on Goodreads will know the exact reason these polices have been changed - and it’s got nothing to do with Goodreads wanting to sensor people, or control the way books are reviewed, or even to stop negative reviews from being posted. It’s simply to stop author bashing.

I have seen PLENTY of examples of shelves people have created that are solely about the author and not in regards to the book itself. And if you haven’t seen what I am talking about - here is a whole bunch of shelf names from Goodreads (I am not naming names, just shelves):

authors-be-crazy, victim-of-troll-attack, shelf-censored-by-goodreads, its-not-me-its-you, doesnt-deserve-my-money, not-happening, nope, barks-and-bites, badly-behaving-author, abusive-attention-whore, x-shenanigans, never, authors-drunk-on-self-unimportance, i-d-rather-be-murdered, not-happening, no-thank-you, author-attacks, avoid-the-trolls-please, blacklisted, trolls, who-s-being-a-bad-author, nevah-evah-evah, books-i-wont-support, unlikely-to-read-this

I understand there are authors out there who behave badly, however that being said, I choose to act as an adult. I won’t read their books, but I am also not going to influence other peoples decisions at the same time by slamming them on Goodreads. This is their livelihood people - and yes, some people are not very nice. But that doesn’t mean we destroy their careers over it.

Goodreads is designed for people to review BOOKS, not review authors behaviour. And when you have people adding these books to their inappropriately named shelves as well as giving books they have not even read 1 star reviews, one would have to think this is getting to a point where you could call it cyber bullying.

I don’t care who started it first. Let’s just grow up and act like adults. Everyone! Goodreads changed their policies, not to stop negative reviews. But solely to stamp out this toxic behaviour. And I for one am slow-clapping Goodreads on this move.

Cleaning up Goodreads simply means that the rest of us can just get on with business - reading books, loving books and reviewing books.


What are your thoughts on Goodreads recent changes to their policies? Are you completely against it (and if so tell us why, we promise not to bite your head off! lol), or like us, do you think this is a positive change? Let us know in your comments below!

What do you think?

  • Wattle says:

    I can see why Goodreads have changed their policy, I find it quite abhorrent that people think attacking an author is a good thing to do in the first place. There’s plenty of authors whose writing I do not like, I simply don’t read it. If I have an opinion of the author personally, I keep it to myself. It’s not hard.

    Just this week I saw an author/blogger argument break out because the author commented on a bad review, perhaps to ask why (not sure what he said exactly, I didn’t want to look into it). It was nuts :/

    I do think Goodreads could have gone about it better though. They just announced it (kind of like FaceBook do) and the lack of warning isn’t super imo. Some people might want to change their reviews, or perhaps delete them themselves. They could get a 24 hour warning to re-name their shelves or change their review to suit the guidelines.

    Having said that, why one would want a ‘do not want’ shelf is beyond me, aren’t we meant to focus on books we seek out to read, not to hate on others?

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Wattle! I do agree with you on your thoughts that Goodreads could have perhaps handled the situation a little bit better themselves, it was quite rushed - and perhaps their approach of not giving warning was what put people offside in the first place, as opposed to the change in policy itself.

      Very well said though - author bashing is just not on. Can’t we all just get along? ;)
      Melissa recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #55My Profile

  • Fan-freakin-tastic! You ladies have exactly summed up my entire thoughts on this topic! I don’t think that Goodreads did this to be pro author at all, in fact I think it might be more pro reader now. A lot of people outside of the book blogging community just do not care about the author/blogger drama going on and just want to read reviews of the BOOK! I even do not especially care about the drama, I think it’s ridiculous and the more it’s talked about the more fuel is added to the fire on both sides. I think the shelving was completely out of hand, and there used to be even worse shelves than the ones Melissa listed (I think most of them have probably been deleted); I personally just don’t care to give that much effort to list books I don’t even want to read. My Goodreads has approx 1800 books on it now, and those are ones I want to read, I certainly don’t want to litter it up more with ones I don’t want to read! I think that if you really have such thoughts about an author, post it on your own blog!

    Enough of my rambling, I just got so excited when I seen this post because I haven’t seen any yet that are not against it :) Wonderful!!!!

  • Like Melissa, I am in no one’s sides. All I do in Goodreads is post reviews, shelf books, and participate in groups. That’s it. All of my shelves does not have titles like “THIS BOOK SUCKED TO DEATH” or “UGLY WRITING”. My shelves are simply organized by alphabet, genres, like/dislike, arcs, physical arcs, year, and if the book is for a book tour. That’s it. So I guess I’m not being affected by the GR changes, but the ones being affected are the people who harass authors and name their shelves like “THE AUTHOR SUCKS”. I think the change are leaning more to the positive side though, but it still has its flaws. I just don’t like how they’re not sending a notification that they would be deleting the shelf/shelves.


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  • Sarah E says:

    THANK YOU ALL! Finally someone else actually agrees with my thoughts on it. I’m not bothered by the changes at all - they don’t affect me because I don’t have horrible, vicious reviews or ridiculous titles for my shelves. I’ve always been annoyed by the shelves thing.

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