Authors Behaving Badly (Or, What NOT to Do on Goodreads)

The other day, I witnessed an exchange on a Goodreads group that made me cringe and left me baffled. An author (we’ll call him Writer) had posted his new release on a group forum…not once, not twice, but thirteen times. In the space of two hours. In clear violation of the group rules, and on the wrong topic thread on the discussion board, and despite being asked by the group moderator not to post after the first time!!!

And the worst part? This wasn’t even a new author. Writer actually had several books out already, so in my opinion, there was absolutely no excuse for his behavior…especially when he began a diatribe against the other group members in the discussion.

Scratch that. There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior from anyone.

The upshot of the whole mess was that several group members retaliated by giving Writer’s book one-star ratings, he retaliated with more nasty comments, they retaliated with more ratings, and…well. I think you get the picture. Suffice it to say that if he was trying to draw attention to his new book, he succeeded…but in the worst possible way.

It was kind of like watching the proverbial train wreck. On one level, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Writer. I know from experience how hard it is to get the word out about your books when you’re an itty bitty fish in a ginormous ocean filled with gazillions of other fish, and I felt for him.

On another level, I couldn’t help but want to smack him upside the head. Seriously. Because apart from displaying sheer bad judgment (not to mention deplorable manners), Writer may have done serious–and possibly irreparable–damage to his reputation. Many of the readers on Goodreads also have review blogs (or have friends who do), and word on the Internet travels faster than you can imagine. At this point, chances are pretty good that Writer’s current book and all future ones have been blacklisted by more than one…something his publishing career may never recover from.

What could/should he have done instead of breaking just about every rule of online etiquette? Imagine how much differently Writer’s interaction with the group would have gone if he’d read the rules first and posted once in the correct thread. Or if he’d responded to the polite reminder to do so (and yes, it was very polite) with an apology instead of snark. Or if he’d responded to the group’s increasing anger by shutting up and leaving instead of continuing to lob verbal grenades.

The bottom line is that if you want to promote your book on Goodreads, you need to practice a little common sense–and common courtesy–there.

  1. Take the time to read Goodreads’ tips on using its author program.
  2. If you join a group (a great way to meet like-minded bookish people), read the rules about promoting your own books…and follow them.
  3. Contribute something. Don’t just post your own books there, build a library of what you’re reading. Share your thoughts. Participate as a reader as well as a writer. Be social.
  4. And above all: never, ever, ever, ever respond to a negative review!!! If you can’t grow a thick enough skin to read that someone doesn’t like your creation, don’t read it at all. Even if getting drawn into a free-for-all as the author above did doesn’t lead to career suicide, it’s a nasty road to go down…so don’t.

A couple of great resources for ideas on using Goodreads as an author can be found in The Ultimate Guide to Goodreads for Authors and in 8 Ways Authors Can Use Goodreads to Promote Their Book.

Now go forth and socialize…nicely! 😉

P.S. Comments? Questions? Leave them below…and if you decide to share this post using the buttons below (hint, hint!), thank you! :)

8 thoughts on “Authors Behaving Badly (Or, What NOT to Do on Goodreads)

  1. I wish I could say I was surprised but this behavior happens all too often. I wish the group members hadn’t responded by one-starring the book but I understand it. Some days it feels like a war between authors and bloggers, and that’s not good for anyone.

    • Linda

      While I don’t condone the members’ reaction, either, I also understand it, Bea. I’m not sure what the solution is, except to keep trying to educate authors a few at a time. Hopefully the word will spread and hostilities will at least diminish. 😉

  2. This happens in Facebook groups too. I’m in a couple and we have plenty of ‘drive-by’s (people who post and never participate), even when NO PROMOTION is printed in the banner. In my opinion, being that disrespectful to other authors and people should come with some kind of punishment. I don’t know if flinging one-star reviews is the answer. Maybe a permanent ban from the group. You get banned from enough places and sooner or later you catch on.

    • Linda

      That would have been a better solution by far, Darke, though I didn’t get the impression that this author was particularly willing to learn. At least the group members would have saved face in this debacle!

  3. I’ve seen this happen, both on Goodreads and on Facebook. I’ve also had authors I have never heard of tweet me the equivalent of “Buy my book!”, which is another big no-no. I understand authors want to promote their work. I get that, honest. But as you said, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about doing that.

    I agree with Bea on the group members’ actions. As hard as it may be sometimes to be the better person, we bloggers and readers shouldn’t stoop to that level. Yes, we get upset, frustrated, whatever. But retaliating in that way isn’t the solution. But that’s just my opinion, too 😉

    • Linda

      There are so, so, SO many faux pas made online by writers, Reanna. I agree that retaliation isn’t the answer, but wow…I would have been sorely tempted myself with this guy. 😛

  4. jane

    I need advice. Did a review swap on goodreads. I read the book and put up the review. The author started sending me emails. She wanted to meet before posting my review. I asked why. Long story short – she owns a vanity press and wanted to sell her services. I politely thanked her, but declined (she kept sending me emails). She got angry and posted a bad review of my book. I’m hurt. It’s unethical and dishonest. Especially as other people will read the review and won’t know the stunt she tried to pull. I’m ignoring the review and further emails from her. Is this the right strategy?

    • Linda

      Ouch. That truly sucks, Jane, and I’m so sorry you’ve had such a rough experience. You might try contacting Goodreads itself about the issue (you can find their contact information on the About page), telling them exactly what you told me. If they decline to become involved in the matter, then sadly, there’s not much else I can think of that you can do. I would personally continue to ignore her until she goes away (can you maybe block her email?)…and to ignore the review as well. The last thing you want to do is become involved in an online war with her — those never go well. What you CAN do is start looking for others to review your book in order to counterbalance her negative review. Have you tried approaching book bloggers? Many of them are friendly to self-pubbed authors, and most also post their reviews on Goodreads. If you’re not sure how to approach bloggers, check out my article on book blogger etiquette at All the very best of luck to you!!

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