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Agony Editor: Authors should avoid online review sites

Dear Agony Editor,

Can we just agree that authors need to get together and burn the Goodreads website to the ground already?



Dear Matches,

No, we cannot agree to burn Goodreads to the ground. Websites are inflammable. (And yes, I’m speaking from experience.) Goodreads, for anyone unaware, is a website where readers can track and rate what they’re reading.

I might be making some sweeping assumptions here as you don’t explicitly state why you want to burn it down. But I’m going to assume you’ve received some less-than-positive reader reviews on the site. And, if I were to go a little deeper into that assumption, I bet you were on the site when you weren’t in the best headspace to read those negative reviews.

While bad reviews can sting, they’re a reality of putting something out into the world. There’s absolutely no way to gauge how anyone will react or, in the worst cases, not react to your work. Regardless of how unfair and cruel readers may seem with their reviews, there are two things you need to keep in mind. First, what anyone thinks of you, or your work, is none of your business. You already know you’re a rock star. So what do you care about someone else’s opinion? Second, don’t take any reviews personally. It’s not easy, I know. But if you take the positive reviews personally, you’ll need to take the negative reviews personally.

Besides, reviews aren’t for you. They’re for readers. And that’s the primary function of a site like Goodreads. So stay away. And never, ever respond to a negative review. If nothing else, take comfort in the fact that, when it comes to such   rating sites, you’re not alone.

Talk to your local restaurant owner, teacher, Uber driver, or plumber. For better or worse, we live in a world where people’s opinions can be posted, tagged, and shared in a matter of seconds. But that doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to subject yourself to those opinions. Edit the voices you expose yourself to, avoid sites that could negatively affect you, and protect yourself with your strongest armour – your written word.

Brian Francis is the author of Natural Order, Fruit, and Break in Case of Emergency.

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