Goodreads claims to be the world’s largest online platform for readers and book recommendations. Elizabeth Chandler, a journalist at the Los Angeles Times, and her partner Otis Chandler launched the website in 2006. The platform was launched with the vision to create an online community of book lovers where they can share opinions and catalog their books.
Besides, Goodreads has social network features, allowing users to post their current reads, book recommendations, and most-wished books. They have followers and book clubs for multiple different genres. So, like other social media channels that let people interact, Goodreads also has negative characteristics like fake information, toxic comments/reviews, and online influencers.
Over the years, Goodreads has created a monopoly because of the staggering popularity and reputation it has gained. This book review platform can build or harm authors’ careers, causing them delayed publication, being pulled from the shelves, or even making authors change their content.
According to a 2021 article posted on Time.com, extortion scams and review bombing trolls made Goodreads a nightmare for many authors. Several authors received a ransom email from an anonymous server, pressuring them to pay for good reviews or get bombarded with fake one-star reviews.
Sometimes, review bombing is used in strange ways, like a tool to take revenge and damage reputation of an author, with or without any reason.
Pre-Publication Reviews and/or Ratings
This feature allows authors to get reviews and ratings for their books before their publication. As per this feature, publishers send Advance Reader Copies or ARCs to the media and bloggers to read and review the book ahead of publication. But this feature also encourages scam artists to extort money out of authors, like with the review-bombing scheme.
Chelsea Rae, a Goodreads user, says:
“A good example of this is, in my opinion, the latest Naomi Novik book, The Golden Enclaves. Before any ARCs had even been released, people were commenting with five stars and reviews along the lines of ‘can’t wait to read this!’ But when the book came out, most new reviews were negative or disappointed. And yet the book still holds a 4.3-star rating.”
So, Rae and many readers like her no longer trust the Goodreads rating system.
Authors and publishers use the ‘pre-publishing review’ feature as a promotional tool. More reviews and ratings translate to more engagement with their books. But at the same time, it may invite scams and abuses. It might backfire if authors write books that readers don’t like, leading to scathing reviews.
If the majority leaves positive reviews without reading the book, the reviews can add distrust towards the Goodreads platform. So, Goodreads has to decide – which matters the most: engagement or authenticity?