I've heard more than once from other authors that I shouldn't read reviews on Goodreads or pay any attention to the platform. It took me six published books to finally find out why. Goodreads tolerates if not actively encourages trolling and has turned into something like Reddit. I had to leave Reddit because that's where white supremacists and right-wing radicals roam free. These "good" people trolled me to death after I dared to share a post about Trump they disliked.
Something similar is happening on Goodreads, the only difference is that the troll there have specialized in trolling books and authors whom, for whatever reason, they disapprove of. Much like Trump supporters, nothing that isn't in accord with their views and personal opinions should exist and they make sure to express this in a form of 1-star reviews and troll the comments under the writer's blog posts.
Given the average of the ratings these very special "readers" give to books, it seems there is nothing they like and rate positively. Would it be possible for a real book lover to rate hundreds upon hundreds of books with 2 stars average?! I don't think so.
Also, the content of these "reviews" speak for itself. That is, of course, if they even bother to publish as much as a word instead of just giving a 1-star. There are reviews such as, "I'm exercising my freedom of speech and give this book 1-star." And then there are rants about the author posted as a 1-star review.
People who leave that kind of "reviews" are not readers, they are trolls. These people are not on Goodreads to give valuable feedback, they are there simply to troll and do as much damage as possible while Goodreads keeps turning a blind eye.
Goodreads does absolutely nothing about it
Trolling is nothing new and social platforms are trying to deal with it in different ways. When Reddit, for instance, did nothing about it, it turned into a haven for the far right, racists, sexists, and radical Trump supporters. Facebook, as another example, waited till murders have been committed and streamed live before it started to act.
Since nothing but writers' careers and books are at stake on Goodreads (and, I guess, who cares about those), the platform simply lets the trolls do as they please. I do not see this as the fault of the trolls, though. After all, trolls are maladjusted individuals who are trying to deal with their frustrations by taking it out on others.
The one at fault here is Goodreads. Even though Goodreads put some review rules in place, that's completely meaningless if nobody cares to enforce them. The rules, for instance, clearly forbid personal attacks on the author in book reviews. The idea is that the reviews should be about the book and not personal vendetta.
At least three of the 1-star reviews for my latest book are clearly breaking this rule yet Goodreads did absolutely nothing about them. I flagged and reported them, but nothing happened. The offending reviews remain where they were and Goodreads never as much as responded to my emails and reports.
So what does this tell me about Goodreads? Is this a platform that cares one iota about the authors? Or is it a troll-friendly environment where organized attacks by packs of trolls are well-established practice? The answer is clear.
What to do?
This might not happen to you with your first or second or even the third book. It happened to me with my fifth book and got worse with the sixth one. It only started to happen after I submitted my books to book review services. I can only wish it would happen before I invested any time and money into Goodreads .
At one point, this might happen to you too. I’m far from the only one who has experienced this. You might be fine while you’re flying under the radar but as soon as you start giving your books away for free to trolls who pose as reviewers at book review services, you risk getting in trouble.
The only review service I’ve had good experience with so far is NetGalley. I’ve also had a good experience with directly contacting a book blogger I found in Book Sirens review directory. Unless you are looking for trolls and freeloaders, I’d strongly advise against using Booksprout. Be extra careful with any such services. Like many writers before me, I’ll also stop using Goodreads and paying for ads there.