date: 18 August 2016 at 12:04:44

Are you a writer?

If you are, you probably have a sensitive soul.

And sooner or later, you’ll come across a Goodreads review.

Some of them are good, though most of them are bad. Not just negative, but bad. That’s true in our case, anyway. It’s best to stay away from Goodreads until you’ve published three or five, or more books. At that point, the nasty comments don’t sting so much, and you may even feel like laughing. 

But let’s get down to what it means to get a bad review on Goodreads.

Evidently, it means very little, as people continue to read your books for a million other reasons – curiosity about the story, the setting, or the characters. The fact that some Goodreads reporter feels the need to pour vitriol on the poor writer probably amounts to little more than this: they bought (or worse, they borrowed) your book, they didn’t like it, and they resent the waste of their time and/or money.

I often feel that way myself after finishing, or not finishing, a novel I have bought. But I don’t rush off to Goodreads with my unhappiness or lack of satisfaction. A crueller punishment is to set the book aside and forget about it. Sometimes, I even give the author a second chance. He or she may have written other books which are worth reading.

So who are the nasty reviewers on Goodreads?

I can only speak for myself, of course, and I only make this point because I found it instructive. This morning, while looking for something else, I came across a Goodreads reference to our first novel, Critique of Criminal Reason, which was published ten years ago in 2006. I have been a signed-up member of Goodreads for years, but I never post on the site, and simply cancel all the notifications which regularly drop into my mailbox. Critique of Criminal Reason has now amassed 97 reviews and 674 views...

Here’s the comment I read:

One star

I have become increasingly skeptical towards books that have famous people from the past as characters, but I thought I could give this one a chance: what a waste of money...

Fair enough, I say. If you are only interested in ‘famous people from the past,’ then this novel may not have been what you were looking for. The ‘famous person’ who appeared in our first historical crime novel was the Prussian philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Maybe the reader wasn’t prepared for a Prussian philosopher. In any case, Kant dies in the first book of a series of four, and while there are fleeting references to Kant in the three later novels, he is not a major character.

Thanks for ‘giving us a chance...’

However, one chance was not enough, it seems. One of the things I like about Goodreads is that it encourages people to read. One of the things I dislike about the website is that it encourages people to judge what they have read (and, perhaps, not understood) and to make sweeping statements based on their own prejudices, i.e., ‘I have become increasingly skeptical (sic)...’ Well, I mean to say, why punish me because you have lost faith in something?  

The fatal ‘One Star...’

To be honest, if I hate a book, I give it no stars. That is, I don’t even mention to my real friends that I have read it. And what are the five stars for, in any case? One for the prose, another for the story, a third for the characters, another one for snappy dialogue, and number five to say, hey, wow, I really loved that one?

The fact that an editor published the book suggests that the writing is passable, that the story is engaging, the characters are intriguing, and that, overall, the publisher was happy to lay out his hard-earned cash and invest in the novel. 

If someone slags your novel, don’t get worked up about it.

The truth is, they are jealous that your publisher gave you five stars.

‘What a waste of money...’

This comment makes me chuckle. All the way to the bank, as Liberace is reputed to have said. More humbly, I wonder what the Goodreads reader would have wasted his money on, if he hadn’t wasted it on me.


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