Author Five-Stars Own Books on Goodreads; Makes a Mountain Out of a Molehill on Tumblr

(Image by Kaetrin)

NOTE: This post does not contain links to the Tumblr posts, to protect the OP. But direct quotes are in italics. Author names include asterisks to hopefully prevent authors and their followers from ego-surfing their way here, so hopefully they won’t target me.

After my two posts last week, I thought I was all ranted out for the month. Until yesterday (Tuesday).

Since authors aren’t always good at keeping their blogs updated, I also subscribe to their Tumblrs via Feedly. And one of the authors I follow unfortunately reblogged a particular post by a particular author.

Remember 2015? Someone posted on Tumblr that they found J*hn Gr**n “creepy”, and someone else tagged the author into it, and JG claimed that the OP had called him a child molester, WHICH THEY DIDN’T. And JG’s many followers, including other authors and THEIR fans, sent the OP so much harassment that they left Tumblr.

That incident should’ve taught all authors about power differentials, and how authors have more power – and connections – than someone who’s a reader but not an author. Because when an author reblogs an OP’s Tumblr post with a comment defending against something of which they weren’t accused, the author’s followers… (See previous paragraph.)

It’s happened again. On January 8th, an eighteen-year-old (according to her profile) posted:

“When an author rates their own book on goodreads

Seriously!? How fucking conceited are you?! Go back in your goddamn lane man. This isn’t for you! Ugh, I’m so pissed. If you’re a goodreads author don’t do anything on goodreads besides answer questions and announce your next book. Don’t look at your book and comment on reviews. Don’t rate your own goddamn book.”

Clearly she was venting. The reason why we advise authors NOT to read reviews of their own books is because many an author has read reviews of their work, and it affects them negatively. They get sad or angry, and bring attention to the review so their fans can admonish the reviewer and reassure the author. It’s really in the authors’ best interest to NOT read Goodreads reviews so they can avoid being personally affected.

I agree that authors should stay out of reader spaces, unless the author can be trusted not to wield their power against readers. Goodreads was originally conceived as a safe space for READERS only, until Goodreads realised they could make money off authors by selling them ad space, so then they actively courted authors.

And what happens when some authors enter reader spaces? They make it all about them, including five-starring their own books to skew the books’ Average Ratings. And they get defensive on Tumblr when readers suggest that authors NOT star-rate their own books, and leave it to unbiased readers (readers who didn’t also WRITE the book in question).

The OP did NOT @ the author in question, so the author was not directly contacted or alerted. The author’s name and book title were in the tags. (Also a misspelling of the author’s other name – she writes under two.) Tags are for organisation so that the poster, and those who wish to read up on posts about a particular subject, can find the posts.

I don’t know if the author – V*ct*r** Schw*b, also published as V. E. Schw*b (we’ll call her VES for short) – ego-surfed to find the post, but she reblogged with a comment:

“This seems a little harsh for something directed specifically at me. Sorry you have so much anger about something that really doesn’t impact your life. I spend years on those books, and so yeah, even if no one else thinks I earned those stars, I’m giving them to myself as a marker of blood, sweat, and tears. Plus I use the review space on there to tell readers a little more about the books and their backstories.

Let’s remember, readers. Authors are people, too.”

Let’s go through this:

“directed specifically at me” – She was not @’d. Unless VES searched for her own name in Tumblr’s tags, she wouldn’t have seen the post. Tagging is NOT the same as @’ing.

“something that really doesn’t impact your life” – Yet ONE Tumblr post impacts VES’s?

“I spend years on those books” – The OP never said the author didn’t.

“I’m giving them to myself as a marker of blood, sweat, and tears” – That’s not how star-ratings work. They’re about the book – NOT the author.

“Authors are people, too.” – The OP never said authors aren’t.

I’m totally fine with authors shelving their books on Goodreads, by the way – many name their shelf “I wrote this”. And yes, some authors use the review space to post an author’s note, or spam for an upcoming blog tour or release. I side-eye those, but they don’t really matter. To be fair, I really only pay attention to Friends’ Average Rating on Goodreads, but those stars that authors give their own work skews the book’s overall Average Rating.

(Authors who choose to self-rate pretty much always rate five stars. Though a writer acquaintance one-starred one of her own novels, because she was reading her backlist objectively and tracking her progress as a writer.)

Essentially, VES and her followers and THEIR followers, etc. did exactly what JG did last year – completely over-blow and misunderstand the OP’s point, and circle-jerk reassurances for the author ensued, along with insults against the OP.

This OP hasn’t left Tumblr (yet). But she has posted about her original post in regards to Goodreads, and the author’s followers’ reactions:

“I admit that it probably is harsh. To me it adds a pressure to the reader and I’ve heard of numerous authors harassing readers for not liking a book. That’s my point. Plus my post before the author reblogged and commented on it had zero notes. No one pays attention to my blog and no one was going to pay any attention to that post so why make a big deal out of someone who literally doesn’t matter on this stupid website.”

She didn’t expect anyone to pay attention to her post. It was her own Tumblr, not a community/group post (or whatever Tumblr has), and her followers are nowhere near the number of VES’s. She never @’d the author to alert her. And now the post has OVER 600 notes (at time of drafting this post) and counting. Why? Because VES didn’t ignore the post. Even though her followers believe that the OP should’ve ignored the self-star-ratings. (Ignorance isn’t allowed to go both ways, apparently.)

Hypocritical or double-standards? “Don’t be an asshole to authors” commented another author on the thread telling the OP what not to do. But being an “asshole” to people on Tumblr who didn’t contact them is totally OK?

The big problem here is NOT the self-star-rating. Though I really dislike it, and wish Goodreads would put something in place preventing authors from self-rating. Sockpuppeting is NOT OK on Goodreads, though – users have been banned for that. I don’t know Goodreads’s stance on circle-jerk reviews, though. (When authors five-star their fellow author friends’ books, and the reciprocity.) And VES is fairly popular, so it’s not as if she’s some unknown self-published author desperate for ANY five-star review – even if it’s only from herself.

The big problem is that VES linked to the OP, and set off a chain of people insulting the OP and saying untrue things about her post. (“[D]ick”; “Fuck you OP, fuck you”; “vitriol”; “angry”; “hateful”; “rude”; “asshole”; “ignorant”; “dickwozzle”; “hatred”. And that’s just a handful.) And yes, I’ve fallen into repeating myself throughout this post, because VES and her followers and their followers, etc. learned nothing from the JG incident. Well, they did – that they think it’s totally OK for ADULTS and their followers to pick on a TEENAGER. Because authors are totally allowed to specifically target any reader who doesn’t agree with them.

The OP later posted:

“The author new that no one was going to care about what I had to say but decided to act as if she were a victim. The author knows how many follows she has and what reaction she’ll get. I had one person message me asking for me to clarify. Everyone else just thinks I’m spreading hate but none of them realize that no one would have seen it if she didn’t bring it into the limelight.”

And:

“That’s what is getting at me. I didn’t say anything about her writing or how much work she put in her book. If my favorite author did the same thing I would still make the post. I think it’s wrong. No one realizes that she victimized herself.”

Authors, if you could stop wielding your power against teenagers on the Internet, that would be really appreciated. I don’t enjoy ranting (though it’s somewhat cathartic). All I really want is for authors to learn from their own mistakes, and from other authors’ mistakes.

But in this case, VES seems to think she did nothing wrong. Not surprising, considering that she rates her own books five stars.

And the 600+ notes are full of fallacies:

“Of course people are going to read their own reviews and look at feedback, it’s how they IMPROVE.” – If VES was looking to “improve”, she wouldn’t have rated her own book five stars, because her rating indicates that she thinks the book doesn’t need improvement.

“Fuck off with your lane bullshit and policing of how people interact with others giving them feedback.” – Goodreads was supposed to be a safe space for readers to share their book opinions with other readers – NOT with the authors. Until Goodreads decided they could make money off authors by selling them ad space, so Goodreads actively courted authors. So yes, Goodreads is part of the problem, and is no longer a safe space for readers. Neither is Tumblr, obviously. So where IS a safe space for readers to be free to discuss books in their lane without authors cutting in and tooting their own horn?

VES wrote: “For some reason there’s a pervasive opinion that authors somehow become suddenly cut loose from their community when they sell a book, that we are rendered islands. But that’s bullshit, and really unfair.” – Authors are most welcome to read and review books. They can even choose to read, and like, other people’s reviews of the authors’ books. The small request is to NOT star-rate one’s own work. Is that really so much to ask? Far too much to ask of VES, apparently, who values her own books more than reader spaces. Way to stand up for the reading community.

VES wrote: “and this IS still my community.” – Because it’s all about you, yes; you’ve made that clear.

“You know what I do when I don’t like a book? I say nothing and move on to the next book.” – So what do you do when you don’t like a Tumblr post? Say nothing and move on to something else? You didn’t here.

“How about you stop policing what other people do with their own accounts and you worry about you.” – How about you stop policing what other people do with their Tumblrs, and you worry about you?

“Also, you can ignore the author’s review if you want.” – You can ignore the OP’s Tumblr post if you want.

“you shouldn’t go by the numbered rating on it’s own anyways.” – Then maybe the author shouldn’t have added her five-star rating anyway.

“I much prefer when I see authors super involved in the community.” – Remember when K*thl**n H*l* was super involved in the community so much that she stalked a Goodreads reviewer, phoned her at work, and left something on her doorstep? Do you much prefer that, in comparison to an author NOT star-rating their own book?

“the original post is so hateful and unnecessary i can’t stand it” – The author’s targeting of the OP is so unnecessary I can’t stand it.

“You’re allowed to rate, review, and interact with reviewers in a professional manner.” – Targeting an eighteen-year-old on Tumblr is professional?

“They put in so much hard work, and they deserve to be proud of what they do.” – See below:

Q. How can I let everyone know that I’m really proud of my work?
A. Post on social media, “I’m really proud of my work.” No need to star-rate your own books on Goodreads.

“Dude, I’ll give her next book a 5/5 stars without reading it.” – See below, from when VES petitioned Goodreads in 2011:

VES wrote: “But Goodreads has a flaw. A soul-killing one. It lets people rate books that are not available yet. And by ‘not available’ I don’t mean ‘not on shelves.’ I mean NOT AVAILABLE IN ANY FORM, MY AGENT/EDITOR HAVE NOT EVEN SEEN THIS IT IS IN PIECES ON MY FLOOR. […] If nothing else, this issue and your responses are a reminder of the power of VOICE in our community.” – And look how VES is using her VOICE now.

So yeah, commenter – VES doesn’t want your pre-ARC five stars.

“it honestly boggles my mind that someone would be so pissed that authors are happy with their own books. they worked for years for them, OP.” – It’s great that authors are happy with their own books. The OP never said authors don’t work for years on them. She just requested PLEASE NO SELF-STAR-RATING!

“i hope this person sees the error of their ways” – I hope VES sees the error of targeting a teenager on Tumblr.

“What’s the point of ranting at an author for rating her own book? Dang people, rant over things that matter.” – What’s the point of an author ranting at a reader? To further alienate and humiliate a teenager?

“SO many authors rate their own books…so by saying that you are offending so many people.” – But offending other people who DON’T approve of self-star-rating is totally OK?

“Only a dickwozzle would tell an author not to, and I’m seriously not interested in listening to dickwozzles.” – Unless you’re commenting on this matter based on hearsay, you DID listen to the “dickwozzle” OP enough to comment.

“How much self-hate do you have that you think everyone else has to hate what they create also?” – You don’t have to “hate” what you create. Just don’t star-rate it on Goodreads.

“they write these books for you? the fuck are you to tell them what to do?” – If authors write for professional publication, in which people pay to read their work, then authors write for their own income. There’s nothing wrong with that. But VES didn’t write her books for the OP.

“Little OP is upset that the author’s review got more likes than his/her’s did.” – This is about star-ratings, not review popularity. But VES made herself look more popular by skewing her book’s average. The OP doesn’t seem to be jealous at all, yet the author subTweeted:

VES wrote: “99% of the hate I get is from aspiring writers.”

And:

VES wrote: “That doesn’t explain where the MEANNESS comes from. Vast majority of my hate mail/messages come from these people.”

Because the author doesn’t believe that any criticism that she doesn’t agree with is valid, therefore it must be out of jealousy, and it must be “hate” and “meanness”.

“in the year 2016 of our lord and savior, pls try and love yourself more” – VES, please try and love yourself more by ignoring people on Tumblr who don’t even @ you.

Other people bring up good points, though:

“Also Goodreads is a little confusing on that front. When an author tries to ADD their own book, it automatically pops up a box where you’re supposed to rate and review. You can get out of that without leaving a rating, but it’s very counter-intuitive and looks like you have to. I accidentally rated a couple of my own books because of that before I figured it out.” – True; this is something Goodreads needs to improve.

“And I think it really says a lot when the notes on this post are filled with people screeching at the OP for even daring to have this opinion. Like, congrats people, you’re yelling at a teenager for suggesting it’s strange and conceited to put glowing reviews of your own books online.” – Glowing five stars, but yes.

“Yeah, I mean, this isn’t the first time I see tumblr posts criticizing authors rating their own books. But I haven’t seen those posts blow up with notes because authors tagged in those posts generally know better than to respond. Because they know what responding will do to the OP. It’s especially weird when you look at how she presented what you were saying. Nowhere in your post did you say that she ‘didn’t earn’ good ratings, that her writing was bad; nowhere did you say ‘authors aren’t people’. Most people wouldn’t have even known she was tagged in the post if she hadn’t explicitly pointed that out. She’s painting this post like it was some horrible attack on her and her writing, and surely she KNOWS what result that’s going to have?” – VES either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about how her behaviour, and that of her followers, affect the OP. Everything’s about VES, remember?

So before authors tell readers to “ignore” stuff, maybe authors need to tell themselves to “ignore” stuff, too. Because clearly VES values her own star-rating more than anyone else’s opinion.

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14 responses to “Author Five-Stars Own Books on Goodreads; Makes a Mountain Out of a Molehill on Tumblr

  1. What. A. Bitch. (you know I mean the author)

  2. Where the “meanness”comes from is authors behaving like this.

    She must be incredibly stupid to not know about the Streisand effect

  3. What even the fuck is this?

    • What’s even more interesting? Someone found a New Year’s post by the author on her blog, in which she claimed to she wanted to self-care and avoid ego-surfing. Meanwhile, the OP posted on the 8th, and the author reblogged with comment on the 9th.

      The author barely even lasted a week into her “challenge” before she gave in to ego-surfing. I kind of feel sorry for her, but that doesn’t excuse her targeting a teenager on Tumblr.

  4. Debbie's Spurts

    Goodreads staff has confirmed the circle jerks aren’t allowed (no reviewing in order to get a review of your own book no matter if reviews are directly exchanged or otherwise assigned). The FTC has always confirmed that the service of a review of your own commercial product/interest is a form of payment (as is if you got/gave the book free for review) to be disclosed if review on consumer review sites or in with consumer reviews — goodreads used to allow review exchanges so long as disclosed they were review-to-get-reviewed and if got book free but stopped after Amazon buyout (presumably because all the review swaps and review swap groups refused to comply with U.S. consumer disclosure laws or because the last thing Amazon wanted was more FTC fines to deal with).

    • Thing is, even if we know authors aren’t in an organised ‘review me highly and I’ll review you highly’ group, we still know which authors are good friends. They have the same agent, or same publisher, or share a group blog, or attend events together. That’s still kind of circle-jerk to me, though not officially.

  5. Debbie's Spurts

    Not completely on topic but authors SHOULD shelve their books on goodreads — on shelf names related to the book’s genre.

    Those shelvings are how goodreads crowdsources the book’s genre and goodreads doesn’t care who shelves. Many indie books don’t show a genre on the goodreads book page because no one shelved the book appropriately.

    For readers, seeing genre on book page is helpful. A little discovered book with a too brief description mentioning “werewolf” for example could be horror, paranormal romance, folklore or any number of genres.

    For authors, on goodreads there are features, email lists and all kinds of genre related displays (“promotions”) including readers being able to explore by genre, see new releases by genre, be notified of new releases …

    • I’m too lazy to shelve by genre 😉 Sometimes because I’m not entirely sure which genre a book it is (because when reading it, it may not seem like it fits with what genre the publisher markets it as).

      Read
      To Read
      Own
      To Swap
      DNF
      Down with this sort of thing

      I’m so basic 😉

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