The Growing Pains of the Book Blogging Community

7 April, 2012 Musing Musers 17 comments

In 1944 a children’s book club sent a volume about penguins to a 10-year-old girl, enclosing a card seeking her opinion.

She wrote, “This book gives me more information about penguins than I care to have.”

American diplomat Hugh Gibson called it the finest piece of literary criticism he had ever read.

From Futility Closet


The growing question in the book blogging/Goodreader community since the New Year began has been, what’s in the water?  Why all the drama?  It does seem like the community is in an uproar.  This has created an incredible divide amongst the differing camps.  It separates book bloggers from other book bloggers and authors from other authors and it also causes friction between book bloggers and authors.

But this is nothing new for any growing community who will inevitably break off into left wing, right wing and the moderates.  It’s happened in every community that’s ever existed and for proof of that look back to the many sub sects of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, then the political groups – hell even the torrid and vicious arguments in the math community over whether you’re in a camp who believes 0.999999999999 = 1 or not – and I’m not even kidding about that.

So what we’re doing, essentially, is naturally breaking up into philosophical camps that place us on either side of the line between the moderates (Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?!), which is the Be Nicers and the Assholes When We Yearn for Artistic Autonomy.  Which I realize makes us the AwwYeaa acronym, but I’m strangely okay with that.

I’ve spoken before on how trying to play nicely together may be useless.  Because each other’s very existence kind of gets on our nerves.  Be Nicers will continue to be enraged by severely negative reviews and AWWYEAAers will continue to be enraged by severely terrible books.  <– Stephanie is forcing me to include that they will be enraged at being told HOW to review.  Sorry.  I do not enjoy or relish knowing that my words hurt or offend people, but understand that it would be as contrary to my nature to temper my honesty, as it would be to a Be Nicer to purposely cause offense to an author.

But instead of arguing over who is right and who is wrong and thus should win the turf, the time has come to recognize that we have broken into two separate groups with our own conflicting views over what is good, what is bad, who is right, and who is wrong.

The problem comes when we violate each other’s spaces and don’t respect different territory.  Just as Be Nicers need to refrain from commenting on reviews they don’t agree with, AWWYEAAers need to refrain from commenting on dissenting blog posts that they don’t agree with.  We’re never going to be able to start moving forward and focusing on the importance of reading if we are continually caught up in our internal struggles.  This will only make us a ridicule to outsiders and embarrass us as we were when our drama featured in both The Guardian and Publisher’s weekly.

There are vulnerable people on either side who are getting caught up in the crossfire.  Not only the new reviewers who get lambasted by authors, but the new Goodreaders who don’t understand that being disrespectful on a review will get them hammered.

I received this PM the other day and I’ve been given permission to make these excerpts public:

“Back in January when I joined Goodreads, I posted on one of your reviews in defense of a book I liked and received a little backlash. I got a little defensive over comments by other users, but when I understood the bad etiquette of my doing, I apologized to you then on the thread.”

“I am not that kind of person, and I see myself as someone who is very open minded, and respectful.”

This is an intelligent, eloquent, respectful person who unwittingly stumbled unto a turf war and suffered from it.  What is disturbing in its similarity is how Sophie, a relatively new Goodreader, was mostly alone and unconnected when an and her fans attacked her review en mass.   What is disturbing is how often I receive emails to people similar to these two people.  This should not be happening.

Let us all step back and remember that no matter what line of the divide we are on, we should all be able to agree that fostering a love of reading, and a love of book-discussion is a goal we can all agree on.  This vision is going to be impeded by our infighting.  Instead of making this an intimidating community, this should be a welcoming community where budding readers and reviewers are welcomed and protected as they find their place.  But it is time for us to meet, not as adversaries on the battle field, but as diplomats on a mission to peace.

People such as the above Goodreader may have been put off of Goodreads by the reception they received, just as novice reviewers have been put off reviewing by author attacks.  Other people may be put off by what they perceive to be a needlessly antagonistic environment.

We need a new system.  One that does not make an unruly, hateful mob of us – but that insulates and supports threatened reviewers.  Buzz Worthy News, a weekly segment we have here on Cuddlebuggery, serves that purpose to an extent.  It’s predecessor once gave some aid to Sophia by educating people to her cause and giving her support to inoculate her against the attacks.  However, it can’t serve the purpose of providing immediate relief to a reviewer.  It can not mobilize aid when it is most needed.  And that aid would need to be provided without the lighting of pitchforks and vicious slurs that would drive away innocent commenters or harm those who have made an innocent mistake.

Some would say it’s impossible to meet all of these conflicting needs.   For other communities, maybe.  But this is a book community.  We are readers and dreamers, and maybe that will be the difference.  Maybe if enough of us come together in a spirit of book blogging partisanship, we can create a community that we can be proud of.

But for now, the first step, is the prolific use of the x button on our internet browsers for posts and reviews that we vehemently don’t agree with.



Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy

17 Responses to “The Growing Pains of the Book Blogging Community”

  1. Shelley

    I have to admit that there have been times when I wanted to give a different perspective and take part in a discussion. Instead I just sit back and read because I don’t know how it will be taken by others. I would never be disrespectful, but that doesn’t always matter. I dislike drama to a great degree. I work with middle schoolers where that rules. I’d rather not deal with it on my off time. I’m putting this out there because I wonder how others approach this. How do you attempt a discussion? What makes you mad when someone disagrees (other than that person making disrespectful attacks)? Hey, look at me attempting a discussion! I’m going to pat myself on the back for facing a fear.

  2. Donna @ Bites

    The only time I’ll actually get snarky in the comments on one of my posts or a review is if the commenter can’t discuss something intelligently, either by using phrases like “You don’t get to judge until you write a bestseller that sells millions of books.” or results to immediately lambasting me via name calling and other effects that further proves their irrationality as a human being. Or people that openly admit to wanting to stalk my reviews so they can shove them back up my own ass. Those people get blocked. Otherwise, if people are capable of not going insane and taking it as a personal affront when someone doesn’t like something they do, the world would be a better place. Cracked actually just did an article the other day about dismissive arguments people use when they’re wrong. I see these, I snark because they’re obviously ridiculous. The internet is at least 20 years old. If people don’t know how to control themselves on it by now then, quite frankly, that’s their own damn fault. It’s not like the internet was born yesterday but obviously people’s common sense gets flushed on a daily basis.

    My moniker is people can tell me how I need to review when I can start telling them how they need to read.
    Donna @ Bites recently posted…80s Awesomeness! ~ 154My Profile

  3. KM

    I like your last bit of advice there: “But for now, the first step, is the pro­lific use of the x but­ton on our inter­net browsers for posts and reviews that we vehe­mently don’t agree with.” I think that’s DEFINITELY something we all need to practice – just because we CAN comment on someone’s review doesn’t mean we SHOULD. lol

    I tend to fall in the middle/moderate category of this issue, though I usually lean more toward the “Be Nicers.” But that’s because I’m trying to maintain good karma online as I try to query my novel. Actually, one of my favorite agents was involved in the Kiera Cass debacle, and I’ve seriously considered not querying her because of it. But the more I think about it, at least she stood up for the author she represents.

    But I’m having a hard time understanding why everyone can’t just write their reviews and not get upset when someone else writes a different type of review. I have vehemently disagreed with some reviews, but I refuse to bash that reviewer. We can agree to disagree. 🙂
    KM recently posted…Happy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop: Jeff Sampson Giveaway!My Profile

  4. desiree1612

    Amen to that! Can’t we all just get along and appreciate each other for what we are- writers and book bloggers/reviewers. Even if we don’t like what the other has to say? Everyone is entitled to their free speech and opinions!
    Have you guys entered into the IBBA’s? I would love to see you win.

  5. Kate C.

    My thoughts are always, “why can’t we all get along?” That is pretty much my only thought on this that is a public one. My other opinions are mostly for my own conduct, but I realize not every author can keep quiet when their book is reviewed, just like not every fan can stand by when a book they enjoy is reviewed poorly.

    I hate to feel like we are sectioning off. I always have much more fun trying to understand the differing opinions than I do arguing against them. If only everyone could just be OKAY with feeling differently about things. I guess that is probably biologically impossible, though. As humans we want to tribe up, and we want everyone to be in “our” tribe. Not possible. And when someone ISN’T in your tribe, then they are outsiders. Strangers. Unwelcome at the tribal parties. 🙁
    Kate C. recently posted…Wednesday Whirlwind…My Profile

  6. Misty

    “Just as Be Nicers need to refrain from com­ment­ing on reviews they don’t agree with, AWWYEAAers need to refrain from com­ment­ing on dis­sent­ing blog posts that they don’t agree with.”

    Agreed. I could really give a shit about who likes whose review and who doesn’t, but I am SO SICK of all of the pot-stirring on the flimsiest excuse. When someone is actually being pushed around or someone is really being a douche, sure, defend your friends and non-assholes everywhere.
    But if someone is just expressing their opinion all nice and mild-like, no matter what side it falls on, don’t distort and link it every damn where. Just let it go. Go look at a rainbow and stop starting shit.
    Misty recently posted…Friday Face Off: The Language of FlowersMy Profile

  7. Lexie B.

    I fully agree. I think it is inevitable in any community that there will be dissenting opinions on major issues, some to the extent that it really does form major groups. But that shouldn’t distract us from the fact that, in the end, we are still one community and we do still have one thing in common: we love books. Period. We may disagree on how one writes a review and how one interacts with authors and more, but in the end . . . we all love books, and that’s what should matter most.
    Lexie B. recently posted…In My Mailbox (8)My Profile

  8. Lelia Taylor

    Kat, you’ve laid this all out quite nicely. I fall somewhere in the middle but, most of all, I respect anyone’s opinion as long as it really is a considered thought and not just a baseless attack. It’s rare for me to argue for or against a commenter’s reaction to a review but I will if it’s patently unfair. As for my own reviews, I’ll respond to a dissenting opinion if that person has taken a respectful approach. You’re right—support of a love of reading is the important part of all this.
    Lelia Taylor recently posted…A Joyous Easter To All!My Profile

  9. Chicklitgirl

    You’re right about what you wrote.
    And it happened to me too, and I felt so attacked and hurt and so ugh.
    A book reviewer wrote a horrible review of the Tyra Bank’s book on GR, and I commented, saying that maybe she was being a bit too harsh.
    That’s all I said! I mean, really wasn’t trying to say or do anything, or be mean or rude in anyway, I was just saying that it doesn’t matter if Tyra is a model, people shouldn’t be so biased about her book and say it sucks without giving it a chance and stuff. But I started off with just saying MAYBE she was being a bit too harsh.
    I understand it was her opinion, but I was just saying that maybe she didnt have to be so mean about it.
    And omg, people start being so MEAN, and then obv I got defensive, I mean, it was downright bitchy and I mean, I’ve seen a ton of nice book bloggers and I didn’t get it.
    But now reading posts like yours and other similar posts, the difference between the types is obvious. I understand it, but I don’t like it.
    I wish they hadn’t been so harsh. And I wish this post was up around that time so I had a better understanding of what was going on.

    Also another thing, I respect her opinion, I just wish she and her friends were nicer in telling me to gtfo, because I honestly didn’t mean to be rude/bad/stupid/troll like or whatever.

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