Good morning everyone. As the title of this blog says, I’m going to talk about abuse of a sort today. I’ve given this a huge amount of thought over the past 16 or so hours, and it’s stuck with me to such an extent that before I go to work today, I have to get this off my mind and out in the open.
Let me be very clear before you read further–what you are reading are only MY thoughts on some of the issues I’m about to broach. So please don’t seek anyone out to voice a defence of any kind. If you have things you wish to say on your own behalf once we’re done, then by all means, speak freely.
Last evening an author friend invited me to join a newly formed group on Facebook. The group is called AAA Authors Against Abuse. I’m in favour of that fight, so I looked at their About/mission statement, as it were. It reads like this:
If you agree with us that Goodreads should sort out their bully problem, and wish to join us but are unwilling to do so publicly, you can still help and support us, as well as request information and updates by contacting us at our email address above:
This group is for authors to work together and find a way to stop the endless attacks on authors from goodreads and amazon. Post no links to books here. This group is for finding solutions to troll problems and nothing else.
So, I joined, suspicious of something that occurred approximately a week ago as I write this. To many authors and readers in the community of Goodreads, the name Lauren Howard/Lauren Pippa is legendary now, and not in a good way. I asked very carefully if the Lauren Howard issue had been talked about, and was told it had. One author said it appeared to be a legitimate case of bullying. I then asked if they had read a very balanced and reasoned version of the events that surrounded Ms. Howard and her experience of “abuse” by the Goodreads community. I posted a link to this article, something that had been posted in a well-respected marketing group earlier this week. The blogger took several hours to look into what happened, illustrates with screen caps the author’s own words and later careless attitude in proclaiming the uproar she incited was a case of PMS. The post is long, but it is detailed and objective. There is no denying this was a situation that rapidly got out of control and has left many, many people gaping in astonishment.
Within ten minutes of my posting this link, a moderator of the group informed me that the link was removed and I was not to post “links to propaganda and speculation” as their purpose was to oppose abuse. In doing this, their purpose also becomes to suppress the truth, which is often step one to the supporter of the “abused” becoming an unintentional abuser themselves. The truth is immutable and irrefutable, it’s not a flexible thing, nor is it malleable to suit a need. What the truth is, however, is subject to interpretation, and in that broad venue, everything is subjective to the individual interpreting the meaning. To make an informed view and form an intelligent mindset, people have to be able to reason for themselves. In order to do that, the facts must be visible, or at least accessible to people. A balanced view is neither propaganda nor speculation when the facts are presented in an orderly and impartial manner. The author’s total lack of concern for what she incited indicates that she will never accept responsibility for her part in things. Many people feel this victim was really the creator of an elaborate scam. I have no opinion either way, because I was not involved in this, except in the aftermath as an observer.
I do believe that Ms. Howard was naïve and confused when she questioned what she was seeing on the Goodreads site, and it’s unfortunate that emotions began to take over reason so rapidly. A lot of anger began to direct the course of events as they went viral, and the truth was quickly kicked to the curb in favour of the drama that was unfolding. For some, this became yet another battle cry to invoke change at the giant Amazon corporation. I have an author page at Goodreads, I check it about once a week now. I have never really done more than look at Goodreads, so I am not in a position to “judge” the community there based on any personal experience beyond their odd rating systems.
Do I think that the combined might of Amazon and Goodreads needs to be better “policed” for authors and readers alike? Yes, absolutely. But not at the expense of suppressing the truth in individual instances. I will never support any group of people who are unwilling to listen to all sides of a story, and form their opinions based on all the facts that can be presented. My experience with this group lasted 10-15 minutes before I deleted my post and left them to wage their war in whatever manner they deem appropriate. I wish them luck, and hold no ill will. I do however maintain that a presentation of facts is neither propaganda nor speculation, and it IS essential to intelligent choice. Two authors who were in the group at the time of the post contacted me privately to thank me for showing them the article from this blogger because it gave them that precious opportunity to form an educated opinion. One of those two people had already left the group when she spoke to me.
The issue of Goodreads lies in the ability for readers and non-readers to rate books, and sling mud in groups, etc. Much as I dislike it, I accept that as a fact of life, and a fact of this business. Amazon policy is ever-changing, whether it ever changes to favour the author truly IS the stuff of speculation, as we all know. I have a whole string of one-star ratings from the same person at Goodreads. Was I bothered? Yes, for about a day. Then it was dismissed. It’s part of the job. Subjective to opinion, and every opinion is a valid one. I know of one author whose newest work has a string of sixteen 5-star reviews on it, and nothing else. To the buying public, this is not an indication of a great book, it’s a show of support for someone all the reviewers know personally. That kind of support often turns people off a book, not on to it. My books have five star reviews, and in some cases really bad reviews and one-star ratings grudgingly granted. It’s all opinion, isn’t it? No one is going to appeal to every reader. THAT is not abuse of any system.
Freedom of speech is a cry to battle for those with a cause. But like all freedoms, it can be abused. To use a false cry of bullying and abuse to support what may very well be a well-meaning effort to support change corrupts the ideal/goal from the start. Perhaps that more than anything else is why I walked out of that group last night. Whatever people choose to do, if you want it to be a positive thing, you have to be open-minded and value all views, not just those that support you without question. Without that balance of opposing views, you become an abuser of the very principle you think you’re defending. Authors, in my opinion, need to accept that people will behave badly, and they will trash your books from time to time. The only “defence” is to continue working and leave the “trolls” and the “abusers” to indulge in their small-minded campaigns. What will remain true is the simple fact that GOOD books will appeal to real readers. By continuing to write and do your job, without going to battle with publishers, Amazon, or anyone else, you earn the respect of your readership–who remember not just the book, but the grace with which the author conducts herself/himself when under fire.
In closing, do I think Amazon and Goodreads need to change? Again, yes. Policy needs to be better balanced, to insure both readers and authors are protected and benefit from this massive corporate bookstore presence.
Also, to anyone who would like to read the article that was posted, you can find it by clicking HERE