Saturday, August 24, 2013

Freedom of Speech vs. Malicious Slander: How Do You Navigate This Slippery Slope?

Welcome to Sassy Vixen Publishing. I'm Tammy Dennings Maggy aka The Vixen. It's been quite a week around here and in the publishing cyber world in general. As you can see, SVP has another fabulous logo/banner courtesy of our friend and fellow Seduced Muse, Nicole Morgan. I wanted to show it off a bit and get you all used to seeing it. It'll be appearing from time to time whenever we here at SVP feel the need to address some issues going on around all of us. 

Oh and you better believe you'll be seeing this or some version of it on all our covers! 

full article HERE
Back to the reason for today's post. I'm sure many of you have at least heard of an author confronting a reader on Goodreads for the low rating she gave to her book—one that wasn't even published yet.  How about the huge mess with another author after a controversial guest post she did about "selling out" to write erotica? 

In the latter case, several readers rated her books 1 and 2 stars simply because of the statements in the blog post and not on the merits of the books in question. Yet again, some of the ratings were for the next books in the series—NONE of which had even been written yet.

Sounds crazy doesn't it? How can anyone rate or review a book, music,  or any other product for that matter without having at in their possession? Isn't it against the "rules" of the review sites?

They do it because they can and yes it actually is against the rules of the sites in question. The site owners and administrators just choose to ignore it and let the unfair behavior continue. Well, that's not entirely true. The admins will step in if the one who has been targeted by the low ratings either delete their objections or even delete their entire accounts.

That's right. You didn't misread that. Goodreads, Facebook, and even Amazon have taken the side of the "bully." Their acceptance of this bad behavior simply reinforces it and makes it worse...much ,much worse.

What starts out as a claim to rate books they DON'T want to read has turned into a brutal mud slinging-high school-mean girl/boy mentality. Not only do both sides launch attacks on each other, but in some cases author and reviewer reputations have been damaged beyond repair. The whole thing becomes a "he said, she said" issue and the lines are drawn. You can try to stay neutral, but eventually you'll have to decide how to handle it when the bullies come knocking on your door.

Now the flip side—authors and their minions going after a reviewer because they disagree with their opinion/rating of their book. In this case, I'm referring to an actual review based on reading the ENTIRE book in question.  These reviews are OPINIONS folks! You can't please everyone all the time. 

You may have thirty 4 and 5 star reviews under your belt written by your friends, family, and a few others who truly enjoyed your work. These don't negate the 2 and 3 star reviews given. There may be legitimate reasons for the ratings and if you'd bother to read the review with a critical eye, you'd find out and just maybe learn something in the process. 

Go ahead and complain about the review—privately. Don't vent on any social media, website or blog about the reviewer or how their review was totally unfair and couldn't possibly have read the same book you wrote.  All this does is add fuel to a fire that could rage out of control. You may THINK you're not commenting on the review itself, but by talking about it with your followers, you're basically asking them to stick up for you and your book. 

Don't you dare think the rest of us haven't figured this out yet! I've seen it time and time again. When a reviewer is swamped with comments on their blog or their submission on a review site from your fans, it's blatantly obvious they're there because YOU told them about the review and how badly it made you feel. 

Do you really think you're better than Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or even Shakespeare? How about George R. R. Martin or J. R. R. Tolkien? Each and every single one of them have low rated reviews for their most famous works to go along with the 4 and 5 starred ones. That's part of the process and the reality of being a published author.

article with this photo is HERE

So buck up, buttercup! You are NOT all that and a bag of chips. If you don't like bullies, then don't be one yourself and most certainly don't create them by being the puppeteer. Bullying will only stop if we all take a moment and THINK before we react.  

Take home message here: Your writing won't be everyone's cup of tea. You will get some low ball ratings and reviews. That's a fact of life. You can choose to look at them with a critical eye and LEARN from them to become a better writer, or you can jump head on into the cesspool and resort to the grade school behavior of name calling and asking your friends to join you in the fisticuffs.  

You've worked too hard to build up your reputation as a writer, reviewer or blogger. Take a moment or three to think before you react publicly. I'm not saying don't be upset, just do it privately. 

So what's it gonna be? Handling all of it with grace and dignity or get sent to the principal's office for detention or even expulsion? The choice is yours.

~The Vixen


  1. This whole mess is so annoying. Personally I love Goodreads. It is one of my favorite ways of tracking my reading and finding new authors/books.

    It is sad that bullies can push authors around. I have been using the site for a few years and never considered rating a book I had not read.

  2. I can't imagine using the rating system as a way to indicate I don't want to read a book or don't find it interesting. I didn't even know you could do that until recently.

    We are working hard to stop bullying in schools but when it happens on sites like these what is that telling our kids? That's it's "ok" to bully someone when you're distant from them and don't know them personally? It's really sad.

  3. Thank you both for stopping by.

    It is annoying and incredibly sad. It also pisses me off to no end. We are supposed to be professionals and both sides break down and resort to name calling and threats. It doesn't stay on one site either. With the ability to gather information with just a few keystrokes, we can make or break someone's career and reputation. Why take that route? Why not work together to make it pleasurable for all?

    I've watched authors rip apart other authors, reviewers and bloggers and I've watched the blogger community come together to try to destroy an author and her future livelihood. It's hard to sit back and NOT say anything, but if you jump to anyone's defense, you too get tossed in front of the firing squad.

    Yes there are "authors" out there who've stolen the work of others and have tried to pass it off as their own. Those should be called out and handled accordingly. That doesn't mean we need to form a mob to swamp their social media pages and websites. It means reporting them to Amazon and other outlets. It means informing the authors who've had their work plagiarized or outright stolen so they can take immediate legal action.

    As for's a great idea if everyone follows the rules/TOS. I don't think the admins there should allow horrible shelf titles such as "not in a million years," "author is a bitch," "writes like a third grader," and "not on your life." Those shelves were made by people trying to get attention for being nasty. Facebook will delete your page if you have offensive titles, why won't Goodreads?

    Now that Amazon owns Goodreads, maybe they'll hire someone to go through and make sure it's a safe and fun place for readers and authors to interact with each other.