Stop the literary vampires from sucking the lifeblood out of readers

I've been avoiding the Stop the Goodreads Bullies (STGRB) controversy for a while. Hell, I thought the whole thing would blow over. I mean, seriously — authors hunting down and exposing readers who dislike their books? How can any author see that as a good career move?

But I've been wrong before and I was wrong about this blowing over. In fact, now that Anne Rice has joined in the campaign there's a chance this could snowball into a larger "reader versus author" fight. Which would be a true shame because most authors are disgusted by the actions of Rice and her fellow STGRBers.

In case you haven't heard of STGRB, a few authors have long complained that receiving large numbers of bad reviews on literary social media sites like Goodreads is equivalent to being bullied. As a result they started a campaign to punish readers who post multiple "bad" reviews. For more on this, I suggest reading Foz Meadows' analysis from several years ago, or this Dear Author post

But since Anne Rice joined the campaign the controversy has dialed itself up to 11. For example, when author Jenny Trout recently protested the campaign on Rice's Facebook fan page, Trout and others were blocked, with Rice calling them "gangster bullies."

Really? Fellow authors disagreeing with how Rice and others are acting makes them gangsters and bullies? 

The only bullying going on here is how these supposedly aggrieved authors are bullying their readers. The truth about being an author is that not everyone will like your stories. It's that simple. If you can't handle that truth then don't write fiction.

What really disgusts me about STGRB is how these authors are using their power and large fanbases against individual readers. In this I'm in total agreement with what Cyndy Aleo said in her amazing post "When good authors go to the dark side": 

So there are a few things I can't deal with online. I can't tolerate people who go off half-cocked without doing research. I can't tolerate people who have a huge online following who pick on smaller people. And I especially lose it when I see a combination of the two.

Aleo is absolutely right.

There's also another problem — the STGRB campaign has the potential to hurt all authors. If readers are afraid to voice their opinion online, they'll eventually avoid making any online comments about fiction, no matter if those comments are positive or negative. There's already a trend of businesses suing people for negative reviews on Yelp. Do we really want to expand censorship tactics like these to Goodreads? 

So what's an author to do if they receive a bad Goodreads review? Well, in Cyndy Aleo's essay she gives a great hint on how to handle that very situation — by remembering that Goodreads isn't for authors! It's for readers. For reviewers.

But I suspect the authors behind the STGRB campaign don't want reviewers — they want cheerleaders

As an author, I won't lie and say I enjoy negative reviews. But I also like having readers. And you can't have readers without also having some people who don't like your fiction.

So to every reader who has commented about fiction on Goodreads or Amazon or anywhere else — thank you. Please also know that Anne Rice and the other bullies behind the STGRB campaign don't speak for all authors.