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The Laws of the Cyberian Jungle: What Authors Need to Know to Stay Safe Online by Anne R. Allen

We’re pleased to welcome back author and blogger Anne R. Allen [1]!  

Everybody tells new authors to build an Internet presence, but they don’t talk much about the dangers that lurk here.

Unfortunately, there are lots of mean people in Cyberia. Anonymity can make otherwise normal people devolve into cybermonkeys throwing around verbal poop.

Even writers.

After I wrote a post on “Gangs of New Media [2]” last year, dozens of people contacted me with heartbreaking tales of online bullying in the publishing industry. Authors, readers, and reviewers alike had horror stories. And more recently, social media guru Kristen Lamb ran a week-long series of blogposts in January 2014 on “Goodreads Gangs and Amazon Attacks”. [3] The comments ran into the hundreds on each post. Everybody seems to have a bully story.

Amazon and Goodreads have made some attempts to crack down, and you can help by reporting abuse when you see it.

Meanwhile, writers need to learn how to avoid gang-infested neighborhoods and stay off the radar of the bullies and vigilantes.

Unfortunately, marketers sometimes tell us to go into those neighborhoods and do the very things that will set off attacks. I’ve seen “marketing handbooks” that are the equivalent of sending children into gangland wearing a rival gang’s colors.

There’s no way to protect yourself 100% from these people. I’ve been sent death threats just for saying I’ve witnessed bullying.

One thing you can do is not give them an excuse to terrorize you. Follow the rules. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but you’re safer if the bullies don’t notice you.

However, ferreting out those rules can be daunting. Even when they’re posted, they’re usually obfuscated by legal jargon written in a fly-speck font. I’ve only learned the following by trial and error. Lots of error.

Rule #1: Never Spam

Easy to say; harder to follow.

What is spam? It’s unwanted promotion: the digital equivalent of those sales pitch phone calls you get just as you’re sitting down to a family dinner.Anne R. Allen [4]

But one person’s spam is another person’s “savvy marketing.” One of our biggest problems is that spam is defined differently depending on where you are.

Here’s a detailed post on how NOT to spam  [5]on specific sites like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, forums, etc. Each site has different rules.

A few authors have spammed and gamed the system  [6]so badly that we’re all paying the price.

Some readers have reacted so negatively they’ve invented a bizarre dichotomy of readers vs. writers. They consider anybody who writes to be the mortal enemy of “readers.”

Don’t ask me where they think their reading material comes from. A Magical Book Stork in the Sky may be involved.

Rule #2: Never Trade Reviews

One of the tricks of the early Amazon-gaming authors was to give a book a 5-star review, then contact the reviewed author and demand a 5-star in return. If the targeted author refused, the 5-star would be reduced to a one-star.

Not all trading of reviews is the result of blackmail. Lots of authors drop hints they expect a quid pro quo when they’ve written a good review. But if you do, you’ll be violating Amazon’s TOS.

One of Amazon’s rules is that you can’t review a product if you will benefit from the proceeds. That’s why your Mom can’t give you a review. Or your editor.

You also can’t review if you have a “rival” product. In the great Amazon review purge following the purchased-review scandal of 2012 [7], thousands of reviews were removed, some simply because they were by a “rival” author in the same genre—even if they were raves. I hear that rule has been relaxed now, but it’s good to be aware it can be a problem.

If you fear another purge by the “review police”, you can give the author a spotlight or interview on your blog or offer a blurb to be included in the “editorial reviews” instead of appearing to trade.

Rule #3: Don’t Pay for Customer Reviews

Buying “customer reviews” is a major no-no. When John Locke got caught doing it a couple of years ago [8], his reputation was seriously compromised.

It’s OK to pay for a professional review from KirkusPublisher’s Weekly, or other respected publication like Library Journal. But those reviews can’t be posted on Amazon as “customer reviews.” You can paste a quote into the “editorial reviews” section. But a customer review is not supposed to be for sale.

Even a free book is considered “payment” by some, so book review bloggers are required to post disclaimers when they review a book they have received from the author or publisher, although free review copies have always been a standard practice in the industry.

Free book/free review seems a good trade to me, as long as the reviewer isn’t obligated to review (it’s often a kindness if they refuse). Most reviewers work hard for no pay.

Rule #4: Never Respond to Your Reviews

If a review violates the rules, you can ask admin to remove it, but responding—even to a good review—makes some reviewers nervous. They don’t want to feel authors are looking over their shoulders.

On places like Goodreads, people will call you a “badly behaving author” simply for thanking a thoughtful reviewer for a good review. (I’m only talking about review sites here: not blogs. Most book bloggers welcome a thank-you for a nice review.)

What you can do when you get a fantastic review is follow the reviewer on other social media and hope they’ll initiate contact.

But never comment on nasty reviews. People who write cruel reviews are getting pleasure from your pain. Don’t invite them to dish out more.

Here are a few facts about reviews that may help to keep your fingers off the keyboard when the nasties hit:

1) Online review sites do not require reviewers to read a book and often allow people to rate a product even before it’s available to anyone. Camilla Randall Box Set [9]It’s something videogame companies did in the early days to gauge interest in a new game. Now, unfortunately, it’s become a convention in online bookselling.

2) One of the most common nasties is the “I hate this genre” review. I’ve seen plenty of review pages by people who apparently do nothing but troll Amazon for books in genres they hate (especially chick lit and romance) so they can write one-star reviews. The reviews usually have nothing to do with the specific book. Unfortunately, reviewers have that right. 

3) Bestsellers pretty much always get snarky reviews. So accept it as a mark of success. Sometimes they’re from sour-grape wannabes and sometimes from sock puppets. (Those are other authors with fake id’s trying to get you “out of the way” if you’re on a bestseller list.) But sock puppetry is hard to prove. If the person has no other reviews and mentions a “rival” book, report abuse and hope the Zon will give you a hearing.

4) Free books are magnets for cruel reviews. It’s one of the reasons free books aren’t working as well as they used to. [10]

Give-aways of free paper review copies on Goodreads and other book sites are being gamed. I often see authors complain that their expensive review copies are immediately sold on Amazon as “new” and they get no review, or worse, a one-sentence one-star.

So I advise that authors only send paper review copies to bloggers and reviewers they have a prior relationship with. NOTE: Always query a book review blogger before sending a review copy.

5) Your readers can usually spot a troll review and may even buy the book because of it. There really are a lot more nice people than nasty ones. One way to fight all this is to be one of the good guys.

Writing honest reviews of books you like is the best way to negate the effects of the trolls.

Rule # 5: Always Report Abuse (and take a screenshot)

Cyberbullying crimes are new—and span continents—but when a few sociopaths interfere with the bottom line of multinational corporations, you can be sure somebody’s going to figure out how to control them.

That may result in restricted freedom for us all, so cutting down on it now is in everybody’s interest. That’s why you need to report abuse whenever you see it.  Awesome Screenshot [11] is a tool that puts a button right on your toolbar. You can record the abuse and send it as an attachment to site administrators.

NOTE: a negative, snarky review is not abuse. A review that’s obscene, threatening, or attacks the author personally is. So is an ad for another author’s book or services.

So you have to live with a review that says: 

“This wud be the wurstest buk i ever red, if i wudda reeddid it.” 

But you can report one that says:

“I won’t read this book because the author is a cyberslut who sexted with my cousin’s best friend’s boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend.”


“Somebody should *@#! you sidewayswith a %*%@#!!!”


“This book is soooo boring. My erotic romance FIFTY SHADES OF DRYING PAINT is much more exciting. Here’s the link.”

A barrage of One-star personal attacks, called “swarming” [12] can usually be removed, although it may take some time. Character assassination by “review” is one of the more heinous misuses of Amazon and Goodreads.

Even if you don’t see an immediate result, things are probably happening behind the scenes. Site admin. usually pays attention to abuse reports only after they get a lot. So report.

Rule #6: Never Argue with a Drunk or a Fool

Internet bullies are both. They are literally drunk on their own rage. Rage can trigger endorphins that create a high similar to cocaine or meth.

How far do you think you’d get using reason and logic with a crazed tweaker on the street? Right. Then don’t try it on the Internet. Even if they are wrong. Because guess what? They almost always are.

The most important thing to remember when you encounter unpleasantness is: take a breath, verify facts, and don’t over-react. As Bob Mayer [13] said, “The internet is a very dangerous place. I’ve seen internet lynch mobs go crazy over the slightest thing (done it myself a time or two) but a day or two of waiting and watching isn’t going to change anything.”

When cybermonkeys start tossing verbal feces around a forum or blog, treat it like any other pile of poop.

You can send private messages of support to victims, but don’t stand up for them in cyberpublic no matter how much your inner Atticus Finch is hurting to speak. I did and have the one-star reviews to prove it. 

If the abuse happens on your own blog: do not respond. Take a screenshot and delete the comment immediately. 

As the blog owner, it is your job to keep your readers safe, not provide a forum for “free speech.”  “Free speech” is only a right in a public space, not a private home or business. Your blog, like Goodreads and Amazon, is privately owned. If someone threatens somebody’s life on your blog, report it to law enforcement just as you would if they did so in your house.

e-age [14]Rule #7 Stay Out of Rough Neighborhoods

Absolute Write is no longer recommended. I used to suggest looking there for info on bogus agents and scam publishers. These days, it’s so dominated by bitter, bad-tempered snark, you might be safer with the scammers.

Amazon Forums: The “Deadwood” of the publishing frontier. Out of control with vigilantism and infighting.

LinkedIn Writers Groups. Some may be safe, but I’ve seen too many rageaholics spreading misinformation. Plus LinkedIn tricks you into letting them invade your personal address book. They once notified me a friend wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn—two months after he died. He was a Luddite who’d never been on social media, so I know they took his name from my own contacts list. Creepy.

Goodreads: If you venture into the wrong place, or comment on a review—even if it’s not of your own book—the place can seem like Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies. After a nasty brouhaha last year, they made small steps toward cleaning up the site, but if you’re published, don’t let on. The site is for readers only. To be really safe, follow the advice one agent tells her clients: “Go to Goodreads to put up an author profile. Link to your blog. Log out. Never go back.”

Rule #8: Change your definition of “review” and don’t take online reviews so seriously

1) An online product review is nothing like a traditional book review. When most of us think of a book review, we think of something in the New York Times, or a thoughtful assessment of a work written by a sincere blogger. But online product reviews—as established in the early days of the Internet—are essentially comments, like the comments you see at the end of online news stories or a You Tube entry.

2) Cruel, angry reviews say more about the reviewer than they do about your book. And they put you in excellent company.  I know yours hurt like a physical wound, but it helps to read some of the idiotic one-stars of the classics [15].

3)  It’s an urban myth that Amazon requires a certain number of reviews or stars or “likes” on your author page to “move you up the ranks.” Only one thing does that: sales. For actual readers, it’s much more important to have a few good reviews and some good editorial reviews from well-known authors. So don’t obsess.

4) Many people treat reviews as a place for comic relief. Some can be hilarious. Actor George Takei has “top reviewer” status on Amazon for his reviews of odd products [16]. I dare you not to laugh.

5) Bad reviews don’t always mean bad sales. The week I got a bunch of one-stars from a gang of notorious bullies, my sales quadrupled.

6) Amazon has an ultra-competitive “top 500/100/50 reviewer” program and you can get caught in the infighting. It has nothing to do with you or your book. Reviewer-on-reviewer bullying and competition can be toxic. I’ve seen them use review comments and “useful” voting buttons to harass each other. Or they give one-stars to books their rivals love. This is obvious breach of Amazon rules, so clicking the “report abuse” button can solve the problem if enough people report.

7) NOTE: Most people who write product reviews and comments are sincere, helpful customers, and some Amazon book reviewers are old school literary experts who could be published in any literary magazine. 

The best way to clean up the review system is add your honest reviews to the mix. Join the ranks of the sincere and helpful! Every time you write a review that’s genuinely about the book and keeps the reader in mind (not your personal agenda or bad hair day), you help fight the bad guys. Write a review of your favorite book this week!

What about you? Have you run into bullying in the online writing world? Did you try reporting it? Did you get results? Do you have any other tips for keeping off the radar of the vigilantes and cyber-meanies?

Author Loucinda McGary joins us on Wednesday, February 19th.


LadyLake_(3)_smaller [17]Anne’s latest, THE LADY OF THE LAKEWOOD DINER [18] debuted in December. It’s a comedy about a six-decade friendship between an aging rock star and her childhood best friend—the owner of a seedy diner in Central Maine, who might be the only person who can figure out who’s been trying to kill the rock diva.


Anne R. Allen is the author of seven romantic-comedy mysteries. She has also written a guidebook for authors with Catherine Ryan Hyde: HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE [19]. Her blog, “Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris [1]” was named one of the Best 101 Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest.


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48 Comments To "The Laws of the Cyberian Jungle: What Authors Need to Know to Stay Safe Online by Anne R. Allen"

#1 Comment By Ruth Harris On February 17, 2014 @ 6:59 am

Anne, thanks for a terrific cautionary post!

There should probably be a special category for the kinds of reviews you refer to: RUI. Reviewing Under the Influence. 😉

#2 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:09 am

Ruth–LOL. You’re right–and I hadn’t thought about that before. Drinking and reviewing is probably at the core of a lot of those infuriatingly clueless reviews we have to learn to live with.

#3 Comment By Heather Webb On February 17, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Thank you for the thoughtful post. I’ll be sharing this all over the net today!

#4 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:10 am

Thanks for sharing, Heather!

#5 Comment By Sonali Dev On February 17, 2014 @ 7:17 am

Thank you SO much for this, Anne!

I’ve been researching away on the best way to market my book, and so much of that points to the internet. I would never have suspected any of this. Now I feel sufficiently armed and warned.

Thanks again!

#6 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:12 am

Sonali–Marketers tell writers to go out on the Interwebz and sell books, but unfortunately, they don’t tell us how. They also don’t warn us about how many people will be annoyed if we do it in a direct-sales way.

#7 Comment By Carrie Spencer On February 17, 2014 @ 8:39 am

Morning Anne!

Ah, so much to say on this subject!

First, follow George Takei on FB, he’s hysterical. =)

Next, to anyone who remembers the author who kept commenting “FU” to the reviewer a year or so ago? That solidifies the don’t ever comment back to a bad review! You’ll never win…

DO use the report abuse button. It works.

DO follow these rules not only in your author life, but in your non-author life as well.

And I’ll add one more…=0) If you are an author and you leave a snide/snarky/rude comment on someone else’s blog? Guess how many sales you’ve just lost…mine for sure.

Great post Anne, thanks so much for joining us again!


ps, here’s a [26] on a Brain Scientist’s Take on Bad Reviews

#8 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:17 am

Carrie–I love George Takei. If I need something to post on my FB page, I can always find something to share on his.

I do remember that author meltdown. Authors who argue with reviewers always end up looking bad. Careers die that way.

Good point about snarky comments on blogs–or anywhere. They can make lots of enemies. Ditto saying you think a popular writer is terrible. You’ve just lost all the fans of that writer.

#9 Comment By Suz Brockmann On February 17, 2014 @ 8:54 am

Another great Romance University blog!

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Anne!

I’m gonna bookmark to this blog! It’s one I’ll be reading again. And again! 🙂

#10 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:17 am

Suz–Thanks! I always enjoy visiting Romance U.

#11 Comment By Helena Fairfax On February 17, 2014 @ 9:46 am

Hi Anne,
I’ve been thinking about whether you should respond to reviewers for a while now, especially since reading this post on how you should [27] People say that in the future promoting books is going to be all about making personal contact with readers. I’ve heard authors suggest sending a thank you message to people who leave a good review, as part of that personal contact. Like you, though, I feel readers will object to having an author “breathe down their neck”. So I’m glad to read your post and find you share my gut instinct to just let reviewers alone.
It’s an important topic, and, given how much bullying and trolling is out there, authors need to constantly learn new lessons in how to handle the cyber world. Like I say, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, so thanks for a great post!

#12 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:27 am

Helena-I read that post back in 2012 when it came out and I just re-read it and disagree with it even more. Getting in somebody’s face after they’ve written a nasty review (perhaps under the influence as Ruth says) is just not smart. It’s like picking a fight with a drunk in a bar. Maybe a few will be intimidated enough to change their review, but most won’t. They’re much more likely to round up a posse of other reviewers and make your life hell. It’s absolutely against the TOS on Goodreads and most Amazon reviewers consider it a violation of their code, too. If there’s a special circumstance, like bad formatting that has been fixed, you might want to contact the reviewer and apologize and offer a better version of the book, but other than that, stay away. Half my one stars come from sock puppets anyway. There’s nothing to “learn’ from them except that somebody’s hiring people from Fivrr to bring down my ranking.

#13 Comment By Mary Jo Burke On February 17, 2014 @ 10:07 am

Hi Anne,

I only leave a review if I liked the book. I also believe what goes around comes around. Be careful out there.

#14 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 11:28 am

Mary Jo–So true. In book reviews, like anything else, the best rule is the Golden one.

#15 Comment By Brigette Manie On February 17, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

Thanks so much for this article. It’s a keeper and a wonderful guide for navigating cyberspace etiquette and rules–written and unwritten.

#16 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

Brigette–It’s those unwritten rules that can trip you up. What’s perfectly okay on one site is going to get hackles up on another. It took me a long time to learn this stuff-most of it the hard way.

#17 Comment By Will On February 17, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

So well put Anne, as usual. I think I WOULD agree with pretty much everything here, if I qualified for enough notice to even get a bad review! So far, I’m starting out small, but the quality is high and I would never look down on that.
But who knows, maybe I need some online-bookselling initiation scars…

#18 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

Will–It’s true that your first one-star review is a moment to celebrate. It means you’ve arrived. ALL bestselling novelists have one-star reviews. It’s fun to read them. They’re usually angry and clueless, but sometimes they’re even helpful in a twisty way.

#19 Comment By Mari Barnes On February 17, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

Thanks for this timely and much-needed post. I’m going to steer all my writerly friends here!

#20 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 3:57 pm

Mari–Thanks for spreading the word. There’s so much misinformation out there.

#21 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On February 17, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

Yikes – the old Hill Street Blues line, “Be careful out there” really applies to the world of book reviews, too. I’ve seen plenty of crazy out there, but I didn’t realize what a minefield it was. Thanks so much for filling us in on some of the dangers. Great post!

#22 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

Becke–That old police sergeant’s warning is really true in the Internet age. People do stuff online they’d never do in person. “Minefield” is a good word for it. People are just batpoop crazy out here and we have to be aware. Nothing will save you from them entirely, but if you know how to stay out of their way, it helps.

#23 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On February 17, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

I’ve never had a bad online experience personally, but many of my friends have – especially those who are published authors. There are some wackos out there!

#24 Comment By Jennifer Tanner On February 17, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

Hi Anne,

Thanks for an excellent and comprehensive post. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m amazed at how much personal info some authors share on social media.

As for negative reviews…everyone thinks they’re an expert! Sometimes they’re amusing to read, especially if the review is rife with grammar and punctuation errors. 🙂

Great to have you back!

#25 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 17, 2014 @ 6:02 pm

Jen–Thanks for inviting me! I always like visiting Romance U.

You’re right about the TMI problem. People seem to think nobody can read their @tweets but the recipient. Um, no. The crazies know you’re having a latte at that Starbucks too. Remember the agent who got stalked and beat up when the guy was following her movements on Foursquare.

Nasty reviews can be hilarious. And the reviewers never seem to see how badly their ignorance reflects on them. Ruth Harris is right. The Zon should post a warning: “Don’t drink and review, people!”

#26 Comment By Jenny Twist On February 18, 2014 @ 2:51 am

Great post. I’m passing it on to my favourite author group.
Thank you Anne

#27 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 18, 2014 @ 11:21 am

Jenny–Thanks for passing on the info. Might help some authors not make newbie mistakes.

#28 Comment By Bea On February 18, 2014 @ 6:13 am

Hi, I have a couple clarifications re rule #3.
In the US, the FTC requires all bloggers, including book bloggers, to state how they acquired the item they are reviewing. So, if an author sends me a book to review, I am legally required to state that I received it from the author (or publisher) in exchange for an honest review. Also, that disclosure must appear before any links in the post. Many bloggers fail to follow that latter requirement.

Also, Amazon, at least in the US, will try to verify that you purchased from them the item that you are reviewing. If you did not purchase it, you must state how you acquired it.

RE: “Always query a book review blogger before sending a review copy.” – YES!!!!!! And be sure to read and follow the blog’s review policy or many bloggers will delete your request. Fail to follow the directions with enough bloggers and word will spread, ensuring that many bloggers will delete your email as soon as they receive it.

Good article, thanks.

#29 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 18, 2014 @ 11:41 am

BEA– Thanks for the reminder. I didn’t intend this as a guide for reviewers, so I didn’t mention that disclosure is required. You do need to state if you received a free copy of a book. A silly rule, IMO, since reviewers have received free copies of books since Gutenberg.

But it’s perfectly acceptable at Amazon and Goodreads to review a book you’ve never read. Go figure.

I review books on Amazon (US) and have never been asked to say where I got my copy, so it is BIG news to me that you’ve been asked. I’ve never seen a review that says “I got this as a gift from my Aunt Sally” or “I bought this at my local indie bookstore” but it sure would be nice if that’s a new policy!

If half the people who write reviews had read the book or used the product, it would bring a huge improvement in the quality of “customer reviews”.

I have a post on my own blog this week about the importance of following guidelines when querying bloggers. “Guidelines” means “hard and fast rules”. Ignore them at your peril!

#30 Comment By Beverly Diehl On February 19, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

You don’t, actually, have to tell Amazon where/how you got the book in your review, though if you got it via Amazon, yes, they will tag your review and indicate it.

I’ve reviewed books that I read through the library, or were gifts or hand-me-downs, without needing to make a disclaimer. I *do* always state where I got the book when it’s from an author, publisher, or via Netgalley.

#31 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 19, 2014 @ 11:55 pm

Beverly–That’s how I’ve always understood it. I didn’t think you had to say you got it from the library or Aunt Sally. But I think people give more weight to “verified purchase” reviews. Not sure if they should, but that’s what I hear people say. When the “verified purchase” is a freebie, it doesn’t hold much power, IMO.

#32 Comment By Brian On February 18, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

First. I’m not a romance writer, but I do find this website excellent. This post is a good example. I had no idea of the magnitude of this problem.

I will take your advice in both the Cyberian post and the Not Spam link.

Thanks again.

PS I’m not a romance writer because I’m not good at it.

#33 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 18, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

Brian–I agree RU is great resource no matter what genre you write. I love their balanced and forward-looking posts.

I’m not technically a Romance writer either. I write funny mysteries from a female POV and there’s always a romance interest, but it’s not the main focus. My publisher calls my genre “chick lit noir.”

Yeah, we really do need to be careful out there, and I wish marketers took the dangers more seriously.

#34 Comment By Susan Spence On February 18, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

I wouldn’t say that writers deserve what they get, but many of them bring it on themselves. It is really hard not to be hurt by a bad review, but however it’s dealt with, it has to be done in private. It’s a big turnoff when a writer engages a reviewer.

My experience is that the reviewer is having a bad day, or for whatever reason, wants to pick a fight and who wants anything to do with that type of person. It seems to have more to do with the reviewers unhappy life than with the author or the book anyway.

#35 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 18, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

Susan–You’re right, but many newbies don’t know. It’s human nature to want to defend ourselves, but with book reviews, we have to squelch that urge. We need to let out the anger in private real life. Buy chocolate, wine or call the BFF, but do not say anything online. Bad stuff is sure to follow.

Some bad reviews are totally legit, of course. Some books are published way before they’re ready, or maybe they shouldn’t have been published at all. But a thoughtful reviewer can usually find a few good things to say. A troll review (or a bad-day review) is usually just generic snark and rage. Or shows an extreme political agenda.

#36 Comment By Deborah Bayles On February 18, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

Excellent article, Anne. I’m going to make this required reading for my “Using Technology for Communication” class at Cuesta College. This will really help out my “good guy” students to combat those students who are “Trolls in Training.”

#37 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 18, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

Deborah–How awesome to have this piece taught in college! There really are more good guys out there than bad ones, but it helps to be forewarned about the baddies.

#38 Comment By Rick Carufel On February 19, 2014 @ 3:24 am

Great post Anne. I’d like to say a few things to add to your post.

First and perhaps most important is due to the victim rich environment offered by Goodreads and Amazon, the annoying trolls have evolved into stalker gangs who target indie authors and stalk, bully, harass, discredit, defame, libel and terrorize indie writers. Once they target an author they will not stop. their goal is to destroy the reputation, career and livelihood of new writers. Neither Goodreads nor Amazon will do a thing to stop it.

Second although an author should never respond to a valid negative review, they should scream bloody murder over fake rating, reviews and personal attacks.

Lastly understand there are trolls on both sides of the issues. websites like stopthegrbullies.com are just as bad as the trolls. STGRB is attack after attack on members of goodreads. I don’t condone the actions of the GR trolls but the real villains are not the goodreads members, they are withing the TOS and guidelines of goodreads.

The real villains are the websites like goodreads.com and Amazon Forums who, by allowing such behavior encourage and protect the stalker trolls. As a result of allowing fake reviews and ratings on books that have not been bought or read the APIs from both goodreads and Amazon are complete frauds.

#39 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 19, 2014 @ 10:45 am

Rich–I like the term “victim-rich” environment. This post is an attempt to keep new authors from offering themselves up as victims because they’re ignorant of the rules.

I agree that it’s up to Amazon to police the sites they own and rid them of gang behavior. I wish they’d do a whole lot more to stop it.

#40 Comment By Deb Kinnard On February 19, 2014 @ 9:28 am

I’m interested in your comment about Absolute Write. For me, the Water Cooler has been a source of good information. Well meaning newbie publishers, scam presses in sheep’s clothing–where else can newer writers be referred to get this sort of comprehensive “I’ve been there and here’s why I won’t go back” information?

Granted, there’s some snark. I’ve seen creative exchanges that deteriorate. But that happens everywhere and I don’t know of any better aggregator of so many items of useful information.

#41 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 19, 2014 @ 11:01 am

Deb–Absolute Write used to be a good source,and I highly recommended it. But like Goodreads and the Amazon Forums, it has become troll habitat. I’ve had attacks on me launched from AW, including death threats accompanied by pictures of my home. And I don’t even visit AW. Somebody just decided they didn’t like one of my blogposts.

So I see what goes on there as lot more than “creative exchanges”. They’re harboring and encouraging dangerous sociopaths.

Go to Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware for validated information on scammers. There are lots of scams out there, so writers need to be aware. But I’m not going to send a writer to a forum where they’re likely to meet nasty verbal attacks, or worse.

#42 Comment By Beverly Diehl On February 19, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

Thanks Anne, words of wisdom as always.

I would add, even if you do become a troll target (one of my GR author friends has), you cannot let fighting trolls become your life, so you spend more time trying to track them down and report them and obsessing than you do on writing your own WIP. Yes, look out for them, yes, report them, but don’t let them win by stewing over them and the trollish poo they love to fling…

They don’t deserve rent-free space in your head. Save that for your characters.

#43 Comment By Anne R. Allen On February 19, 2014 @ 11:47 pm

Beverly–Wise words indeed. That’s why I say “call maintenance and move on.” Don’t look back. A troll is a troll. You can’t change them.

You can only change the way you react to them, which is the way you would to any other mess stinking up the street. Don’t carry it home.

Stalking and trying to punish trolls is engaging with them. They have won if they take any of your time. Leave them to their own karma.

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