Over the Christmas holiday, I decided to leave GoodReads. Since then, two people have emailed to inquire what happened to my account. So, I thought I would take the time to explain in a blog post.
GoodReads is a great social networking site for authors and readers. There are numerous reading groups you can join. There are always book giveaways to sign up for. You can keep up with your favorite authors who are also members, and authors can connect with their readers. You can also rate books you’ve read, create reading lists, and then there’s the business of reviewing books if you choose. I’ve always said it’s a lot like Facebook for book lovers.
So why did I choose to leave, you ask?
It basically came down to the task of book reviewing. Notice in the previous paragraph that I labeled it a “business.” Reviewing used to be quite a professional hobby of mine and has grown over the last decade as I matured as a reader. I even created an indie review site (The LL Book Review) almost five years ago out of this hobby. I posted reviews here on my site, on LLBR, on GoodReads, and on Amazon. On Amazon, I’m currently a top 1,000 reviewer. I receive review requests from unknown authors several times a week.
At LLBR, I frequently coached my fellow reviewers by telling them not to finish reading books that they would rate less than three stars – and certainly don’t bother reviewing them. Therefore, the quality of the reviews we did post remained of a higher caliber and the site’s reputation as a reputable indie review site (that did not charge fees for reviews) quickly grew and we received more requests for reviews than we could handle, even after we had a dozen reviewers on board.
With so many reviewers now reading for LLBR, I stepped back from the site earlier this year and decided to just play web master instead of reviewing so many indie books myself. That’s not to say I wasn’t still reading (I finished my 70th book for the year today.) and posting reviews here on my personal site or at Amazon. I’ve read more NYT Bestsellers and traditionally published books this year than ever before. I even read J.K. Rowling’s “adult” book, along with the first of the the 50 Shades trilogy. And I read all three Hunger Games books too! I point this out because I used to brag that I never liked reading what everyone else was reading. And at one time in my life, that was definitely a true statement. To this day, I’ve never read a Harry Potter book and have no plans to.
With reviewing comes the daunting task of rating a book using a star system on some sites, which is quite different on Amazon than it is on GoodReads. Author Robin Tidwell does a great job of explaining it in this blog post from earlier this month. The biggest difference between GoodReads and Amazon is that you can rate a book on GoodReads without even having to post a review. For an author, this can be very frustrating because if you get a low star rating from someone you immediately want to know why, but you just have to accept being left in the dark most times.
As an author myself, sure I frowned at the low star ratings my books got but after having published three books in the past nine years I’ve toughened up a bit and tried not to let them affect me. I’ve come to accept that readers are entitled to their opinions of my work and I should accept that not everyone is going to like what I’ve written. As a reviewer, I expect other authors to expect the same from me. And as a reviewer, I grew tired of being a cheerleader for other indie books when I really wasn’t getting anything in return. So from time to time, I had no qualms about posting a bad review. Yep, there, I said it. I’ve rated books poorly and on purpose. It was never out of spite. It was because I have an opinion, and that’s what reviews are. They are opinions, and they are not always positive ones. Reviewing books was never about scratching each others’ back for me. Any stars I gave, 1 star or 5 stars, was given honestly and not because I might have been friends with an author. I know that may be hard to believe, especially in the indie world where authors are well known for posting reviews of each others’ work. In fact, there’s been lots of criticism for this over at Amazon this year.
And that’s why I left GoodReads. I’ve grown tired of the politics of book reviewing. I cringe at the idea that someone expects me to review a book positively just because they suggested it to me, or because I am an indie author like them. I have frequently told people that if we all liked to read the same thing then there would only have to be one book to read. But there’s not. There’s thousands. And I have often snarled up my nose at what my friends were reading. But that’s okay. Reading is one task that can easily bring strangers together. No one sees toilet paper in your cart at Target and let’s you know they use the same kind! But a person might see a book in your hand on a plane and tell you that they read it and loved it.
For years, I’ve shared my love of books with my friends and family, and that in itself is a daunting task because you hope they might enjoy a book as much as you do. But, that hasn’t happened every time and I’d be selfish to think it should. I don’t beat myself up over it. It’s just what makes reading so personal for each of us that love to do it. And it is that personal aspect that pushed me to want to cancel my GoodReads account.
I love to read more than anything else, but I’m just tired of it being a public hobby. I’m tired of the responsibility of walking that fine line between being a reviewer and also being an author. So, one way for me to erase that line came easy to me. Leave GoodReads. The temptation to rate a book without reviewing it is gone. Now, that being said, I do still plan to post reviews at Amazon and probably here on my own personal site. But as far as reading goes, I’m looking forward to it going back to being more of a personal hobby for me next year.
There won’t be a reading challenge next year. No race to read and post reviews as quick as I can. Don’t ask me to read your book; I probably won’t. Don’t suggest books to me to read, and I won’t suggest any to you either. As for books that I do read and how much I like them or not, let’s still be honest. It’s in the stars. Isn’t it?