12 Mar 2017

Goodreads Sucks and is Not Worthwhile

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Goodreads sucks. It’s as simple as that.

Let me explain.

I’ve been on the internet before it was called the Internet – back in my day it was called ARPANET and consisted of less than a thousand systems (we called them nodes.) During the intervening years, I’ve experienced just about everything that can be experienced. I even remember the first worm (a type of computer virus) – the Morris worm, the first spam message, and the first major search engine – AltaVista.

Okay, now I feel old.

Goodreads and Manners

Never have I experienced such negativity and just plain bad manners as on Goodreads. The place seemed filled with “Goodreads trolls” who seemingly have nothing better to do than pounce on authors.

Goodreads is owned by Amazon, but as far as I can tell, it is run by a nebulous group of volunteers called Librarians. These folks, for the most part, have been helpful, friendly and competent. It’s just odd that you don’t email or call a support group if you need help. You drop a message into a forum and a librarian will pick it up and take care of you. This seems odd to me, but so far it’s worked for me. I prefer the concept of a dedicated group of PAID support people.

The problem I’ve run into on Goodreads is the overwhelming abundance of negativity concerning reviews and comments.

First. Goodreads is strange in that you can “review” a book but not leave any explanation. Thus, a reader can do one click to give a one or two star review without explaining why. This really sucks. What didn’t they like? There’s no way to know. Were they in a bad mood, did they not like the plot, did they find a grammar error? Who knows?

These kinds of “hit-and-run” reviews are worthless to readers and writers. Readers aren’t given a way to judge what was wrong, and writers are not given a chance to improve their work. There is no value of any kind to this method.

Second, when text reviews are left, they are quite often extremely negative. Not just negative – I’ve found Goodreads reviews tend to be vicious to the extreme. It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy to write negative reviews and torpedo books.

In my mind, there are very few books that should ever receive a one star review. That means, to me, that there is NOTHING good about the book. Surely there’s something good. In fact, few books deserve two stars.

Most books deserve three stars – that’s the middle. It means “it was okay.”

Yet looking through reviews on Goodreads, there is a huge preponderance of 1 and 2 star ratings (usually without reviews.)

I know a lot of authors, hundreds of them, and I’m meeting more every day. Not a single one of them deserves those kinds of reviews or ratings. They all work hard on their books to produce the best possible product that they can. Sure, there are some books I don’t like because it’s not my taste or whatever, I just don’t leave a review at all.

Their books may not be great, but they are not 1 star – which translates to “worthless garbage.”

For a while, I spent a large amount of time trying to figure out Goodreads and I finally gave up. The site is confusing, the ratings horribly inconsistent, and the hostility almost palpable.

I’ve given up. Goodreads sucks. I’ve found it’s just not worth the time and effort. There are far better places to engage with readers, authors and my audience.

References

See also

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Richard Lowe Jr

Richard Lowe Jr

Owner & Senior Writer, Copywriter, Ghostwriter, WordPress Implementation at The Writing King
Richard is the Owner and Senior Writer for The Writing King, a bestselling author, and ghostwriter. He's written and published 63 books, ghostwritten 16 books, as well as hundreds of blog articles.
Richard Lowe Jr

@richardlowejr

Author of Focus on LinkedIn, Safe Computing, Surviving Disasters, Help! My Boss is Whacko!, Insider Secrets from a Professional Ghostwriter and many others
Richard Lowe Jr
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Sionnach
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Sionnach

Thank you for this post. My books have been on Goodreads for two years. I’ve learned to grit my teeth and ignore the one-star rating-only trolls. (I’ve even found one who ONLY leaves these and appears to ‘read’ about six books a week. I reported her but was told she hadn’t violated the TOS.) I’ve tried to bask in the good reviews and ignore the mean-spirited ones. Monday, however, one of my books received a spiteful review from o Goodreads librarian. Her review is now the second one anyone who looks at the book sees. Several of her friends commented… Read more »

M Chand
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M Chand

I’m actually most upset with the reviews that are overly positive! Just look at the reviews for Cursed child by JK Rowling! Some of the reviews actually say it’s bad but they still give it 5 stars anyway! I also believe the demographic is heavily skewed to younger female audiences (admittedly the stats show that they are the bulk of readers) but it means that in general there is a weighting towards YA type fiction that really isn’t good at all! I’m ok wiht people enjoying (Although I will say they need to read more) but the problem is it’s… Read more »

Chelsea
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Chelsea

Thank you Richard, I totally agree with all your comments. Goodreads is a way for negative people to write nasty remarks – probably because they don’t have any meaningful existence and they are plain nasty. What happened to ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.’

Aubrey
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Putting my books on Goodreads was a huge mistake. They were written as short reads based on my grad class papers that I received A’s on each one. I have totally uninformed idiots who complained about the length or interest they found. Forensic Psychology is not a subject for the average, barely educated person to comment on, especially at the graduate level. I looked at my profile recently and I had loads of 2 and 3 star reviews on my books basically because it wasn’t interesting to the dolt who got it for free.

Sierra G
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Sierra G

In the genres I read the ratings are skewed the other way. There are terrible books that get 5 start reviews from readers who gush about how interesting the characters were or how great the story was. Anyone who gets to Chapter 5 in some of these books know the reviews are better fiction than the book being reviewed. Also, there are books that haven’t been published yet (or even had a publication date announced) which have lengthy reviews and high ratings. To see how skewed the reviews are search for collections such as the 50 worst books on Goodreads… Read more »

LuAnne Turnage
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Great discussion, Mr. Lowe! could you point out some of those other “better” places you mentioned on your blog? I’m a newbie author and always looking for others sites that are recommended.
Thanks

Tim Holt
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Tim Holt

> Most books deserve three stars – that’s the middle. It means “it was okay.” This is explicitly not true. If you hover over two stars when rating a book, a popup appears describing *that* as “It was okay”. Personally, if I’m rating a book negatively, I don’t care how much I disliked it; one degree of precision is good enough for me. I love that I have enough precision in a 5-star rating system to denote books that have literally been life-changing (5-stars). Books I adore are 4 stars. Books I enjoyed are 3 stars, and books that were… Read more »