Musing Musers: Blacklisting

15 March, 2012 Musing Musers 43 comments

Blacklisting: a list of persons who are disapproved of or are to be punished or boycotted- Merriam-Webster online dictionary

There has been, in the reading community, a big controversy over, what some people consider, blacklisting.  This is in regards to the placement of books, by readers, on a Do Not Read shelf – for whatever reason that reader feels justifies the act.  I’ve seen both sides of the argument discussed eloquently and oftentimes felt conflicted over whether to keep and maintain my own Do Not Read list.

Then I rolled that confliction up into a little ball, blew some mystical smoke up that ball’s ass and followed it around the internet until it found this for me:

I should mention now that this is how I find all of my images - so much better than Google Search and the magical ball with mystical smoke up its ass is too high to remember your search terms or sell them to advertisers.


Blacklisting has a lot of negative connotations surrounding it.  A simple google search will show the blacklisting of Hollywood scriptwriters and associates for suspected communist ties.  The fight to stop the American government from blacklisting internet sites (Australia already does this, unfortunately) is rightfully virulent and vocal.  Real Estate appraisers were blacklisted for not giving inflated prices at a bank’s request – these are all bad things!

My goodness?!  Does that mean *I’m* doing a bad thing?

Blacklisting has significant effects on those blacklisted.  It affects their ability to work, their livelihood – it tries to interfere with what services those people receive (credit or tenancy) or who they can associate with (usually other industry professionals, or being blacklisted from restaurants etc).  A perfect example is Redner Games threatening to blacklist reviewers who had given Duke Nukem a bad review!


The blacklisted Hollywood professionals and the internet sites reek of unfairness, prejudice and a deliberate attempt to curtail individualism and freedoms.  But is all blacklisting bad?  For example, people who can not control their finances are blacklisted from credit to protect themselves and companies from financial ruin.

So is shelving books Do Not Read blacklisting?  Are Goodreaders behaving badly, and purposely alienating and trying to harm people?

Some say, yes.  There’s no difference between negative shelving and a concerted attempt to attack authors and curb their behaviour.

But I think there’s a couple of crucial differences between blacklisting and I wish to express that difference through the powers of interpretive dance!  ROBOT DANCE!







Once again, blame the mystical ball of ass gas

I really don’t know how I can make this any clearer.

The Goodreads shelf is not an evil faceless corporation (represented by the masked, anonymous man dancing in a g-string).  It is CONSUMERS.  Using the only fucking power consumers have to say, “Hey!  If you are a jack ass to me – I won’t want to read your books!”  We’re the tiny robot at the throes of someone with a remote control!  We don’t have any other power except to express our displeasure in our tiny little corner of the internet.  See the hate and shame on that robot’s face?  LOOK AT IT!!!

Visual representation of the robots face

What kind of nefarious schemes are people thinking is behind the Do Not Read (and other derivatives) shelf?  Do you think we have monthly meetings?  We send out fliers?  We coordinate and picket shops selling your books?

Look, and I hate to say this because it seems this was obviously a secret.  But for a long time now, if an author behaved like a dick publicly enough – people ALL ON THEIR OWN and without conferring with each other – would decide not to buy their books. This is not a new concept.  This is the price of being a dick in public, which is insanely easy to do on the internet and some people need to adjust to the way that medium changes the publishing game.  For saying what I say and how I say it, there are people who do not provide ARCs to me.  I have my little whines, I do my own “Y u no give me arcs?” and then I move the fuck on with my life!  Because that’s how it works!  This is not like a game provider not providing future games to people who post negative reviews, by the way – because that’s wrong and an organized effort to stamp out free expression of a product.    But if individual publishers think my dickish behaviour is not right for their book, they’re under no contractual obligation to provide me with ARCs as much as I am under no contractual obligation to not fill up my reviews with poor-taste dick jokes and pictures of half naked men.

You're welcome, by the way!

Conversely, some people like reviews filled with poor-taste dick jokes and half naked men and those people are Karsten Knight and other authors who realize that when Stephanie and I love a book, we promote the hell out of it and we’re actually pretty good at doing that.

I should probably relate the story behind my own Do Not Read list.

I created a Do Not Read list mid last year to remember authors who had been particularly malicious to reviewers.  I had originally kept it as a private file on my computer, but this was problematic.

For starters I have a notoriously bad memory.  Leaving notes for myself is often not effective at all unless they’re pathetically explicit.  I’ve gotten in the habit of ignoring notes from my past self asking me to seek retribution for vague crimes I can’t remember. Mr Kennedy was sick of being inexplicably round-house kicked to the head with no reassurance that the crime was worth that fourth concussion.

Forgetting I even had a database and who was on it, I found myself adding books on Goodreads by authors I didn’t want to read – or mixing those authors up with other authors and plotting my devious revenge on the wrong people.  Frankly, I shouldn’t have to refer to a word document every time I want to add a book to my to-read shelf.  At least with the list on Goodreads, if I went to add a book to my to-read shelf, I could see that it was already on my do-not-read shelf and decide whether to keep it there or take it off and read it.

The problem was, some people would occasionally comment on a book in my list and ask what the author had done to deserve a place. With so many acting up, I simply didn’t remember them all and if I did remember their name, I didn’t necessarily remember what they did.  And if I did remember their type of offense, finding the information for other people asking for an explanation (and links/proof) becomes impossible.  You can see the moment here, where I realized the system was still failing and that maybe innocent authors were ending up on my list or bad authors were escaping it.

So this is how my list goes now.  If I see an author mistreating reviewers or raging against them or trying to temper reviewer’s confidence in being able to express themselves, then I put them on the list.  Then I put the links so that I know what happened and why and so that, one day, I might take them off the list if I change my mind – which has happened, by the way.

Because unlike an organization that has the power to amass resources to pick on the little guy and ruin their life or subvert their ability to make an income – all I can do is add a little book to a little list.  In the vast majority of cases, it is successful authors – people who most likely won’t really feel the financial pressure, and who have access to a fanbase most of us couldn’t dream of, who are picking on the little guys.  They use intimidation tactics or they get their friends to help or their fans to erode the reviewers confidence.  And if that reviewer is new and there’s nobody to stick up for them then this is incredibly, overwhelmingly intimidating.

There is no organization or planned attack, or greater plan via the Goodreads shelf.  There is simply consumers shelving their books to keep track of them, as they’ve always done.  Is my Absolute Favourites shelf under attack?  Or my Beyond Awesome shelf a problem?  It’s how I, and many other Goodreaders organize our books.  Not an attack.  I do not tell people what authors to read or not read.  My intention is not to attack authors, but to remember and determine which authors will receive my money and time.

But that’s not for all, and sometimes as Book Riot says, there’s benefit to reading books by authors who are jerks – and I absolutely agree.  Mark Twain is by no means my favourite historical person, and yet, I would read his works.  Stiefvater’s blogposts diminishing the role of online reviewers certainly raises my ire and despite once personally attacking a good friend of mine, she has never made my Do Not Read list.  It’s an entirely personal thing and I believe consumers have the right to publicly state who they will, and will not read.

Whilst it must be uncomfortable for authors to see a mass of consumers place their books on Do Not Read shelf, they are by no means powerless or defenseless and in the end, that shouldn’t stop them from doing what they do – they simply shouldn’t expect everyone to like it.  I don’t expect everyone to like my work.  I don’t bother people talking about me on their blogs – but when they come to my personal space to attack me, I take issue with that.  And when they send fans after reviewers who are basically defenseless and with a limited online friend network – then I want to take a stand against that as an individual.

But really, this is one of those issues that really SHOULDN’T be an issue.  Protecting an environment of free speech is an issue.  Fair and safe spaces for Goodreaders to express their thoughts is an issue.  Finding ways to kidnap David Tennant and force him to return to Doctor Who IS AN ISSUE.  If people can’t recognize a marked difference between organizations forming a strategic attack to cripple and force individuals to comply, and consumers shelving a book for personal reference then we stand at vast, opposing sides of this discourse and have absolutely no way of beginning to address some of the bigger problems in the Author/Reviewer community.

But surely, SURELY we can all agree…





That David Tennat was a fantastic Doctor Who


Face it. It's true




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

43 Responses to “Musing Musers: Blacklisting”

  1. KB/KT Grant

    Authors think Goodreads will make or break them regarding reviews. I can say as an reviewer and as a author, that’s false. There are far too many people other there, millions of readers not using Goodreads or who have no idea what Goodreads is. So getting “blacklisted” is not the end of the world, just like getting a bad review or no review on Amazon. Again I should know because as an author I have very mixed reviews for my books, very little reviews on Amazon and I made a nice sum of money last year and forecasting to double my earnings this year.

    Goodreads are for readers, not authors, so if readers want to have a “blackball” list, so what?
    KB/KT Grant recently posted…A Bid For Love Blog Tour! *CBLS Promotions*My Profile

    • Zabet

      I don’t personally have a “Do Not Read” shelf. But I do have a “Split Your Wrists Before Reading Sequel” shelf – which is for particularly bad writing, not necessarily bad behavior. As you mentioned, we have all made these decisions before, we hear about someone raving against reviews, the public, little blue smurfs, or whatever gets your back up, then we make a conscious decision NOT to support that person in any way. However, the DNR shelf, makes it public and, in doing so, many in the industry think that you are influencing other readers to make the same decision, and, in fact, you are. But IMO, there is nothing wrong with that. In choosing to be an author, these people put themselves in the public eye. With that choice, comes the demand to NOT BE AN ASSHOLE, at least, not where anyone can see it. If they break this code, I choose not to support them and, because we have freedom of speech, I can tell anyone I like about this decision. I can write it on my forehead and parade around town if I feel like it.

      I don’t read books by assholes
      I don’t go to movies starring assholes
      I don’t shop at stores that I know are run by assholes
      I am a consumer and I have the right to make these decisions.

  2. Stephanie Sinclair

    Great post, Kat! What really gets me are people who think that just because you are a popular reviewer on GoodReads, having hundreds of followers, that you should be held to some higher standard with shelving your books, giving negative reviews, ect.


    No. If pubs and authors really had an issue, they could just as easily stop sending/approving people for ARCs. And if an author doesn’t want their book added to my “Yeah, Not Gonna Happen” shelf (for my own personal use), then they should conduct themselves accordingly in public. My money, my rules.

  3. Nicola

    What a wonderful post!

    I have a ”never” shelf for my own sanity. I cannot keep track of these books in my head and I have no intention of making a document somewhere separate from my Goodreads. Goodreads is where I keep track of my books- the ones I loved, hated, want to read and yes, have no intention of reading. If I start spreading that out in to documents it loses all its convenience.

    I’m not on a mission to ruin any author’s career. I do not care in the slightest what books other people buy or do not buy. When I decide I don’t like an author’s behaviour, or I read a review that makes me realize I would never like the book, I put them on my ‘never’ shelf and… move on my life. I don’t spend my time plotting ways to screw with the author’s career. I just click on the shelf, exit the page and probably never think about the book again.

    I think I have about a dozen books on my shelf. I can’t even think of what’s on there off the top of my head- which is why I need it! I don’t see how putting a book on a ”will-never-read” shelf is any worse than some of the crap reviewers had to put up with at the beginning of this year. Authors are adults- professionals- and the decisions they make will have consequences, both good and bad. I don’t feel sorry about it.

    I’ve even added books to my wishlist shelf after controversy because I knew I’d love the books anyway.
    Nicola recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #3My Profile

  4. Kelly L.

    Great post. I too use my “do not want” shelf as a reminder to myself. It’s not an organized boycott, I don’t care if anyone else buys the books, I’m just trying to keep myself from accidentally buying them. And bad author behavior isn’t the only thing that lands a book on there. I have at least two books that are on there because of animal cruelty; I was told what the scenes contain, don’t want to read them, and don’t want to accidentally forget and buy the book and be blindsided by it. Heck, sometimes a book lands there because it just sounds dull.

    My memory can be crap sometimes, and I can especially thwart myself if the titles are generic or if the cover changes when the paperback comes out.

  5. Kelly L.

    And as “proof” that it’s just reminders to me, I’ve never bothered listing Orson Scott Card on the DNW list. I don’t read his books anymore, true, but he’s easy to remember because he’s unusually famous and also has a memorable name. The DNW list is for if the author’s name is Mary Smith and the book is called Darkness and has a cover with a prom dress girl, and I want to remember not to accidentally pick that from the many, many others that look similar to someone with a crap memory.
    Kelly L. recently posted…Hide Me Among the Graves: Clever “secret history” fantasyMy Profile

  6. Jenn Anne

    Awesome post. I may end up making a list of my own. Not to offend anyone, just to keep myself informed. I really like that you voiced your opinion so strongly. Way to go!

  7. Sede PK

    Excellent post, Kat. And loving all the good comments here so far. Clearly to me these few authors are either paranoid or narcissistic or both that they seriously believe we readers have THAT much free time and give THAT much shit to organize a boycott on their books. It probably explode these few authors’ mind to know that we readers don’t think every second of our life about them. And the fact that their behavior — or rather their misbehavior — might affect our reading and purchasing decision. Really. Their ego amaze me.
    Sede PK recently posted…ExperimentBL626: What would you do if the person you love was trapped under ice? Read Decker\’s story only on the #FRACTURE page Profile

  8. Kaethe

    Hear, hear! I went and took a look at my Stricken shelf, just to see what was there. Wow, a lot more than I’d have guessed, but a very small number compared to To Read (I’ve struck 0.018%, for numbers geeks).

    In this context, I think “blacklisting” is the equivalent of “reverse racism”. There may be a day when some GoodReader has enough prestige and followers to exert influence, but for now the power is still firmly on the side of the publishers.
    Kaethe recently posted…An Open Letter to Some Publishers, AKA Library HatersMy Profile

  9. Ewa S-R

    This is actually a really great argument in favour of starting a Do Not Read type list. I love the idea and will probably do it from hereon in. It’s crazy that when it comes down to it expressing an opinion in some manner, even just adding a book to a list, can be something you’re criticized for. Absolutely marvellous blog and I agree with everything (except Matt Smith is a better Doctor than Tennant, bless his little cotton socks!).
    Ewa S-R recently posted…The Rules of Civility by Amor TowlesMy Profile

      • Iola

        Ewa living in some deluded world. Bring Back David Tennant!

        But she’s a reviewer. She has a right to her opinion, no matter how deluded it is. And neither you nor me, Matt Smith nor David Tennant (or the BBC) have the right to tell her that her opinion is wrong. That’s the point of reviewing – and why I can choose to have a Do Not Read shelf if I want. Or not.

        Personally, I’m still pining for Adric, the companion who was killed off in around 1985 when the spaceship he was on crashed into Earth.

  10. Elizabeth May

    Great post, Kat!

    I really think readers should be able to shelve their books however they please, under whichever label suits them. Whether that be “do not read,” or, “these books are more awesome than kittens.”

  11. Rogue

    I have to agree. David is an amazing Doctor. I cried when they ended the season.

    Great article (as always). The problem with being late to comment is everyone already said what you wanted to. :\
    Rogue recently posted…Mad Monday [2]My Profile

    • Kat Kennedy

      I just watched him transform! But I’ve only seen season 4 so I’m devastated! I feel like David Tennant and I should have had more time!

  12. Kate C.

    I’m going to take my writer pants off and put my reader pants on for a second here. Because as a writer, what you say is ABSOLUTELY, 100% TRUE! And I also feel pretty strongly about badly behaving authors.

    As a reader though, I will probably never have a DNR list, simply because it feels like book banning. I know, I know. Who would ever care about my opinion, even if I did have one? No one, probably. And I completely understand your reasoning, I do. But I hate book banning lists. I think that saying “Don’t read this book, because…” is not the way to go through life. Even if an author is a total asshat. There are so many awesome books out there, who despite having IDIOT authors or authors who give money to the campaign against gay marriage or authors that are in favor of one in a 1000 things that I am against…
    A DNR list may not feel like a book banning list, but in a lot of ways it is. Even if you change your opinion later on. Even if what the author wrote is atrocious. Or what they believe is atrocious. Or what they say is atrocious. Because you may not be telling people DNR, but that’s what they take from it. Maybe if you change the name to “Books I’m personally Not going to read”. *shrugs*

    That is my take on DNR lists. I think of all the people that HAVE them, you are probably the most responsible and reasonable person. I think you’ve addressed all sides of the argument, and I think you’re an adult and can do whatever your personal beliefs dictate. 🙂
    Kate C. recently posted…I Need a Little Understanding…My Profile

    • Kat Kennedy

      I always respect your opinion, Kate. Which is also a way of saying that it’s good to have friends with differing, fresh opinions even when I don’t agree with them.

      So please, continue to be so cool and who you are!

      But this is why I disagree – book banning is an attempt to subvert information or stories that the banner disagrees with. Like Catcher in the Rye – which people disapprove of for whatever reason. That’s dumb and trying to deny other people information and experiences because of your own prejudices. Book banning is done by concerned citizens who are organized, relatively structured and with a clear goal of forcing their standards on everyone else.

      The Goodreads shelf is not organized, its purpose depends on the individual. There is no clear goal, there is no group of citizens trying to stop people from reading books. The Goodreads Shelf is nothing more than each consumers personal shelf of books that they have no interest in reading – for whatever reason that may be.

      For me, that list is reserved for authors who pick on readers and reviewers. I have limited resources and time 100ish books a year is as much as I can do. I have no intention of wasting that time, energy and money on authors on that list. But the list is completely subjective and it is not permanent. Most of the people on that list I may have no intention of reading – but there are a couple I’ve been considering just to make my own opinion on their controversial work – DESPITE their behaviour!

      It’s not the content I oppose – it’s my personal standards for which authors I support.

      • Kate C.

        🙂 Awww, Kat. Of all the book bloggers in all the world, I heart you the most. Truth.

        You have no organization, you are just a person keeping your own list, for yourself. And with good reason. But, you are also part of a grassroots DNR list. For when the FABULOUS Kat Kennedy puts a book on her DNR list, everyone wants to know why. Then it’s like a coin in a pond and the ripples flow out. So I guess I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be at describing WHY it feels like a book ban. I see book bans for every reason under the sun. Philip Pullman was hardcore banned by a lot of readers in the Christian community (at least the one I am a part of) because of his comments about Christianity and God. Not because of what was in his book. Heck, half the people who I know that banned it had never even glanced through the pages. I read all the books in the His Dark Materials series and was never offended by a single one (and was actually shocked to hear about his leanings, since I didn’t really get that from his books. Then again, I don’t tend to read deeply into books. Not like you book bloggers. :))
        So I see and understand your reasoning for why DNR lists shouldn’t count as book banning, but I see what results as an unintended consequence.
        But you know what? That isn’t your problem. You should be free to express your disgust at author behavior in any way you see fit, and indeed to proclaim it in every forum of goodreads. I’ve certainly harped on it on my tiny blog. (And here is the writer part of me back). Nothing is more reprehensible to me than a writer that can’t keep their shit together. I have certainly had my fair share of scathing reviews. And yes, maybe they stung, but I realized, “Hey, this person actually READ something I WROTE.” That is so freaking amazing! Because 10 years ago, I would have laughed my ass off if anyone had ever told me that would happen. I’m sorry there are authors out there who don’t realize what a gift it is that you guys do what you do. It sucks and I wish they’d just GROW UP. It’s a pretty immature attitude and also very selfish. Again, though, that is just my opinion.
        Kate C. recently posted…I Need a Little Understanding…My Profile

        • Kate C.

          BTW: Forgot to say, I love these types of entries, because they always get my tired brain buzzing and I feel like I can THINK again for a minute. So thanks!

  13. Shelley

    I’m not a blogger, I don’t review a lot on goodreads, and I’ve never received an ARC. I say this to illustrate that I am probably one of those goodread followers that authors/publishers apparently think has no mind of their own and will simply read or not read something based on a single review. I look at lots of reviews for a book before I buy it. I also look at the reasons for a do not read book before I decide not to read it. I have a mind of my own and don’t simply do what I’m told.
    P. S. love the sexy pics and dick jokes 🙂

  14. Lexie B.

    This post is fantastic and I agree with everything you’ve said. The way I see it, if authors don’t want to be blacklisted, then they shouldn’t blatantly bash reviewers via e-mail or Twitter or any other means. It’s not as if people suddenly decided that this author is despicable; the author made some shitty choices and did some shitty things, and now people don’t want to read their work.

    Also, I’m surprised more publishers don’t send you ARCs. You’ve got a huge number of people who read and love your reviews, both on Goodreads and on here, so any review of yours, even negative, is bound to generate publicity. Plus, some people then decide to read it just for the lulz.
    Lexie B. recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (12)My Profile

    • Kat Kennedy

      No publisher has ever come out and said that they aren’t giving me ARCs because I have offended them.

      But there is one or two publishers who, despite me meeting ALL of their Netgalley criteria, have never accepted my request for ARCs (and I’ve made many, many requests.)

      Then there were a couple of anonymous tips about why that might be.

  15. Belle

    Awesome post! I just can’t get my head around the way certain authors have been acting lately – it’s so unprofessional. As for Goodreads shelves, they’re personal ways of organising books and you have every right to create a list that you’re not interested in reading.
    Belle recently posted…Review: Wonder by R. J. PalacioMy Profile

  16. Nafiza Azad

    Well said, dude. I don’t think black listing books on GR…well, I don’t think it can even be called “black listing” since it’s not a collective thing and is a personal reflection of a reader’s taste and the author’s misbehavior. I find it extremely odd that authors (publishers etc) would go so far as to want to dictate how (and what) a reader labels her shelves as. I wonder if they think this “black listing” (for lack of a better word) started with the advent of GR. Or if they are scared that one person’s shelf will influence others and that will snowball into a whole boycott (which is not going to happen, I mean, look at Twilight). Anyway, my point is, awesome post is awesome. You get cookies for it.
    Nafiza Azad recently posted…In Which Nafiza Talks About RatingsMy Profile

  17. Adam A.

    I’ve never really had a problem with like banning authors until Keira Cass (who I thought was out of line). I enjoyed reading this!

    But on a side note, have these authors not realized that not most of the general public doesn’t sit down there and think about a book’s Goodreads reviews before they buy it? If that were true, half of the books that end up on the NYT Bestseller’s list would have never been there. If the public is interested in your book, you’ll know.
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    • Adam A.

      By the way, this wasn’t meant to be like a demeaning of Goodreads reviews because I love to read them and they do give me a better sense of what books I should read.

      But the point is, people will read a book if they really want to regardless of what reviews it gets. You can’t please everyone and that’s something authors need to realize before they even publish a book.
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  18. Allie

    I disagree with one of your statements. David Tennant was not a fantastic Doctor Who. He was the best Doctor Who EVER.

  19. Donna @ Bites

    People need to chill the eff out. Seriously. It’s a Goodreads bookshelf and they’re acting like it’s going to be the destruction of authors as we know it. There is a simple solution to this: DON’T BE A DOUCHE. Apparently that’s easier said than done but it’s a good goal to have. I have the memory of a gnat on meth so my Goodreads shelves have become enormously useful to me. I don’t have a Do Not Read shelf simple because the authors I have come across that are douches that have turned me off of their work in perpetuity have all been authors of books I wouldn’t have read to begin with. Nice little non-issue there. But in the case of someone like, say, Anne Rice, she’s been at douche level long enough that her past douchery has stuck with me for all these years. I won’t read her work now because of that and mainly for the fact that I really can’t tolerate her writing. Anyone else really hasn’t made a blimp.

    But I won’t chastise others for having that list. It’s a personal list. Just like the reviews posted on Goodreads. Personal opinion. Why can people not grasp this concept?

  20. IoanaStefania

    Bahaha, this was awesome. In my opinion, if you’re allowed to post a negative review, then I see no harm in having a DNR shelf. 
    And since I won’t have anyone tell me not to post an honest, yet negative review, even though that’s what I felt about the book, I sure as hell won’t delete my DNR shelf either. I see no difference between the two things.
    Wholeheartedly agree with you. Tennant was the best Doctor eva!:)

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