My Goodreads Pledge

Goodreads. Oh, goodreads. I love goodreads, but it’s been a tumultuous, scary place lately, for both writers and reviewers. Scarier still, I’m both—with four years of reviewing under my belt and a novel forthcoming in 2013.

A few people have asked what we can do to heal the damage that’s been done over the past year or so in the YA community. Initially, I thought I might draft some ethical guidelines for community participants, some suggestions or pronouncements on behavior. But when it comes down to it, I think people (both authors and reviewers) have faced too much criticism and judgment lately, and I don’t want to do anything that might be perceived as adding to the pile on.

But I figured what I could do is to talk about the kind of behavior you could expect from me, going forward, as both a reviewer and an author. Some of this might seem simplistic or self-evident, but I think it can’t hurt to say it, to let you know who I am, and where my values lie. I care about my many author and reviewer friends, and those that I’m sure to encounter there in the future. I wanted to pledge the following to you, because respect, integrity, and accountability are important to me.

As an author:

  • I will not make disparaging remarks regarding consumer reviewers (either individually, or as a group) in public venues such as twitter or blogs.
  • I will not attempt to game online ratings systems in favor of my own works or works by my associates.
  • I will respect a reader’s right to hold and express critical opinions of my work. I understand that statements of diverse opinion are important for consumer purposes, for reasons of building reader community, and for productive discussion within the young adult community as a whole.
  • If I choose to interact with readers about reviews, I will comport myself in a professional manner. I will refrain from making disparaging remarks about a reader’s intelligence, education, age, gender, sexuality, political beliefs, or appearance.
  • I will not stalk, harass, or bully individual reviewers or those who associate with them.
  • I will refrain from offering unsolicited career advice to reviewers.
  • I will not lecture or condescend to reviewers who disagree with me or dislike my work.
  • I will use reporting methods available to me to report hate speech made against me, as well as libelous or slanderous remarks. When encountering such speech, I understand that it is both safer for me and legally prudent to allow site moderators or my lawyers handle such incidents rather than addressing them myself.
  • I will respect the right of other parties to engage in private discourse regarding reviews. I will refrain from making private conversations public against the wishes of the participants.
  • I will take ownership of my mistakes. I will recognize hurtful actions I have made and apologize for them, rather than attempting to justify or excuse hurtful behavior.

As a reviewer:

  • I will respect an author’s right to make a living off their creative works. Although I may choose to negatively review a work or may choose to refrain from reading a book myself, I will not participate in, organize, or encourage blacklists of authors or titles.
  • I will refrain from making assumptions about an author’s financial status. I will not allow perceived wealth or connections impact my discussion of a work.
  • I will do my best to evaluate a work on its merits and weaknesses alone.
  • I will respect an author’s right to a private life. I will refrain from making disparaging remarks about his or her family, personal life, appearance, or religion.
  • I will not attempt to game online ratings systems in favor of my own reviews or reviews by my associates.
  • I will respect the right of other readers to disagree with my critical assessments. I understand that statements of diverse opinion are important for consumer purposes, for reasons of building reader community, and for productive discussion within the young adult community as a whole.
  • I will not stalk, harass, or bully individual authors or those who associate with them.
  • I will not participate in or encourage hate speech, libel, or slander. I will speak up against instances of hate speech, libel, and slander in an attempt to make the critical community a safe space for all participants. When appropriate, I will use reporting methods available to me to report slanderous speech.
  • I will respect the right of other parties to engage in private discourse regarding reviews. I will refrain from making private conversations public against the wishes of the participants.
  • I will take ownership of my mistakes. I will recognize hurtful actions I have made and apologize for them, rather than attempting to justify or excuse hurtful behavior.

If you feel similarly, that goodreads and the community there is important to you (either as an author or a reviewer), I encourage you to figure out where your values lie, to make your own promises, and to hold yourself accountable  to them.

One last thought. I’m a member of another community, metafilter, which has a policy called “Brand New Day.” Under this policy, any member can join under a new user name in order to shed the drama and baggage of the past. I think the YA community as a whole could use a Brand New Day—one without the weight of old grudges, arguments or drama. It’s a new year, and in my eyes, at least, we all could use a chance to wipe the slate clean.