When the Book Community Becomes A Battleground

Anyone who spends a good amount of time in the bookish communities on multiple platforms has probably seen the various dramas or conflicts that have risen to public notice recently. While not invalidating or making light of some of the controversies, there are some very simple ways to avoid said conflict, for both readers and writers.

In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to forget even the simplest steps, but a lot of times if you make these steps a habit, you can avoid some conflicts entirely.

This post isn’t written out of some sense of contempt or frustration. However, I have seen the conflict rise to a point where it has been pitting writers against readers and vice versa. And to me, this seems the height of insanity. We do not have to be at this level of chaos. We just don’t.

Full disclosure, I’m coming from both sides of the conflict. As a life-long reader, and recent book reviewer, I understand that side. As a writer posting my work publicly and working to get published or self-publish, I understand that side as well. So, as a reader, book reviewer, and writer, may I offer some tips.

To Writers

Stay off of Goodreads – as a writer, I mean. Sure, you can make your lists, maintain your author page, and respond to any direct questions, but I would suggest, that, mostly always, you do not look at the reviews on your Goodreads book page. Just stay away. If you really need to see a review or two, have a friend or loved one go through them, and copy and paste them for you.

Your social media page is your space – the block and delete buttons are perfectly okay for you to use. If you have a reader who insists on spreading negativity all over your personal social media account, the block button works wonders. On the flip side, if you have an over-enthusiastic fan who thinks that defending you means bullying and harassing other people, they don’t need access to your page, because they obviously can’t handle it.

There’s no need to “start beef” with other writers – If there’s something legitimate that’s going down between you and another author, like plagiarism or a personal attack of some kind, then that’s different. But in other ways, for example, if you know you don’t like their genre or their books, don’t review them, don’t talk about them, and for sure don’t trash talk about them. Whatever issues you have with them are yours, and yours alone, and there’s no need to involve your readers, which will then involve their readers . . . and so on. Like I said, if it’s something legitimate that needs to be spoken about in public, that’s different, but always remember that once something is put out into the public sphere, it can never come back.

You’re never going to change their minds – There may be reviewers who seem to have it out for you, who may even hate-read your books just to make a video with the next hot take. You don’t answer to them. Not everyone’s going to like you. Block them, and carry on. What we’re not going to do, is start leaving comments on their page or their followers’ pages, and argue. It’s pointless, and as writers, we don’t have time for things that are pointless. Block them, and move on.

To Readers

No, you can’t change them – Whether you have legitimate issues with an author or you’re just really mad that your favorite character died, stalking every single one of their social media pages and leaving comment after negative comment is not going to do anything. It’s just not. Stop. Also, fighting with other book reviewers or readers about it may get you views on your socials, but once it becomes a pattern, you become known more for your negativity and conflict than for anything to actually do with books.

Remember your original desire – why did you start an online social media page dedicated to books? What was your original desire? Did you want to become known as a book reviewer or book influencer? Did you start it as a hobby? Did you start it because you love books? Does your current content show that, at all?

There are opinions, and then there are critiques – and they are not the same. “I hated that this character died” does not mean the book was bad, it just means it was not for you. “This character dying derailed the entire plot, and the ending was weak because of it” is more of a critique. By the way, both are valid forms of book reviewing, and you can be as arbitrary about presenting one or the other on your own social pages as you want, but they are not the same, and it does help to be clear about the difference.

Your social pages are your own spaces – you can say what you want on your own social media pages. And you have every right to delete comments or block people that are constantly bringing negativity to your page, whether it’s an author or reader.

These last two are more personal decisions I’ve made, but I have a feeling that I’m not alone on these either. Also, they are for both readers and writers.

Reviewing the book you DNF’ed – If you didn’t finish the book, you didn’t get the whole story, so how can your review be trusted? It’s one thing to mention that you didn’t finish a book you were talking about reading before because X, Y, Z, it’s another thing to do a full 3 minute Tik Tok review, or Booktube rant about a book you didn’t even finish. It’s almost like those people who randomly go on Goodreads or Amazon and give a one-star review. There’s something low-key dishonest about it. Also, why are you spending so much time on a book you didn’t like?

There are ways to avoid controversy – in some ways, some of the controversy authors face is because of what and how they wrote. Whether it’s controversy about how they wrote a POC character when they are not POC, or how they are presenting a romantic relationship or a character from a certain religion or culture . . . there are tips and discourses and guides all over the internet to help you avoid these pitfalls. Use them.

And lastly – If you’re just looking for book lovers and a peaceful and joyful space about books and writing and pretty book pictures, the book community is supposed to be your fun, relaxing space where you go to unwind – BLOCK, BLOCK, BLOCK until your feed is exactly how you want it. We have enough conflict as it is – we don’t need it in every area of our lives.

Happy Reading, Happy Book Reviewing, Happy Writing!

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