Sadie Forsythe's Reviews > Dragonbride

Dragonbride by Raani York
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bookshelves: to-read

Good lord, what a mess has grown around this poor book. Ms. York made a mistake that, if she'd paid any attention to the indie reader/writer world (or listened to those who did warn her), she should have known better than to make. And she paid the standard price for it, as readers took offence at being told, AGAIN, how an author would like their book reviewed.

Generally happens something like this, one person or multiple people simultaneously see the post, maybe makes some noise about it, rate and/or review the book. That rating/review is seen on the feeds of all their friends, some of which check it out, have a similar reaction and take a similar action. Thus, that book moves on to the feeds of all of their friends, etc. etc. etc. And as we've all seen this before, the standard reaction has become a 1✮-I'm-not-interested rating. It's not so much organised as organically developed into a routine.

I've never been a fan of 1✮ing a book, but I recognise that GR's TOC allows it and respect readers right to rate/review a book based on anything they like. I quote someone else, who used not liking orange covers as a perfectly legitimate reason to 1✮ a book. It is, like it or not.

But now there appears to be an effort to counter the 1✮ ratings with 5✮ ratings. On Jan 23rd alone, 250 5✮ ratings were submitted, many from brand new accounts with no other books listed. That seems to have more than made up for the 38 1✮s and it's hard to imagine it could be anything but an actual campaign to inflate the book's rating average.

For one, there is no pre-established behaviour that individuals are falling back on, as there is with the punishing 1✮s. For another, it would be difficult (though admittedly probably not impossible) for the book to be sweeping through feeds so quickly, especially without accompanying reviews to advise the friends what the rating is about and prompt enough curiosity to investigate. And they certainly can't be seeing friends' ratings on feeds they don't yet have on their brand new, friendless profiles. So, I can only conclude someone somewhere has arranged to return fire on Ms. York's behalf.

And this is significantly different that the 1✮ carpet-bombing that has become a ritualised behaviour among reviewers. In that case it's a series of individuals deciding on their own to take a certain action. Yes, that action has been pre-established through past experience, but it's still individuals (in this case, 38 of them) who chose on their own to do something. They each carry the weight of their own actions. In this new 5✮ flood, it's a single individual who has contacted his friends to instruct them to a certain action. Yes, it's still individuals choosing to follow those directions, but it's a single person prompting a following to 5✮ one author and 1✮ another, carrying the responsibility of impetus for at least 250 other people. That is a horse of a different color, indeed

I'd be interested to know if this was with or without Ms. York's consent, because I don't see this helping her at all. For one, when her rating was in the dumps due to a 1✮ carpet-bombing, it was easy for future readers to see what exactly happened and why exactly the rating was so low. They could then choose whether to ignore those ratings/reviews or not. (Many readers, myself included, tend to ignore a numerical rating and pay significantly more attention to the content of a review.) Now, however, the event that led to the low rating in the first place is being concealed, buried under a mountain of even hollower 5✮ ratings. And as they are review-less and will garner fewer likes, they are unlikely to ever climb above the 1✮s to top the review lists. They remain largely unseen.

This muddies Dragonbride's value even further and can only hurt it in the end. Because now, it's not readily apparent that Ms. York sustained what some would call an attack, but it appears as if she's inspired others to manipulate her book's rating. And it will always be obvious, as the nice little review graph will show heavy 5 & 1 star ratings and almost nothing in between. Just in case anyone needs to be told, this doesn't look good for an author. It trashes their credibility.

Even more confusingly, in conjuncture with the 5✮ carpet...can it still be called carpet-bombing...there seems to be a simultaneous campaign to 1✮ another author (though either on a much smaller scale or much less successfully, but over several books). Again, the simultaneous occurrence and too fast for believable snowballing, leads one to question if it's not coordinated. I'm not sure why this second author was chosen for retaliation. I never noticed her being particularly out to get York or unusually vocal about her book.

Again, this can only make Ms. York look bad. And as the one thing she's done right in all of this is not engage people and be polite, I suspect it's not at her behest. I could be wrong, of course, but one does wonder. Whether she sought people to start this or not, she's certainly aware of it. She's been online since this started. She friended the person who sent out the call to action. Now that it's not needed to float her book's average, she's removed her own 5✮ rating for the book. She's liked the few 5✮ reviews, knowing they can't have actually read the book in the time available. (Not reviewing a book if you haven't read all of it was on her own initial wish-list of reviewer behaviours.) She definitely knows it's happening and has been as silent on it as she had the negative attention.

I've been fairly active in discussing Ms. York's blog post and eventual apology. I see value in doing so. It's through such discussions that opinions develop, grow and change. Participants and observers both learn from it. I understand and support the right of readers to rate a book anyway they like, even unfortunately in an organised, retaliatory fashion (though I find it distasteful). But I'm feeling increasingly sorry for Ms. York. Either she has some exceptional skill for always doing just the wrong thing to benefit herself or she's stuck in the middle of, not only people academically discussing her posts and publicly shaming her behaviour (frequently different people in the same threads) but also a tit-for-tat war with star ratings as artillery. (Personally, I suspect it's a bit of both. I think she leans toward victim-centered behaviour that leads to actions that alienate readers and someone else took advantage of that to help her out.Unfortunately, that appears to be more about his agenda than actually helping her and it's just making her look petty and unscrupulous, which isn't really a help to her.)

No one is benefitting from this—not the author, not the book, not the rabble-rousers, and certainly not the poor reader who one day wants to know what other readers thought of Dragonbride and can't make heads or tails of the hundreds of reviews/rating cluttering its feed.

It's just my opinion, of course, but there it is.

Edit 1/30/15: Since I posted this, last week, there have been further waves of drama. I figured I might as well add them to the list. A representative of Dragon Knight Chronicles, which I believe is some sort of author collective that functions as a publishing group (though I could be wrong on the details) commented on several threads that they had picked Dragonbride up and were having it reedited. This garnered some hostility as their own book doesn't appear much better edited than Dragonbride, in the opinion of some readers.

What's more, it was stated that Raani York's doctor took her computer access away for mental health reason, suggesting that she had been pushed toward mental breakdown by this affair. (This despite her Goodreads status showing her active in the same time period.) To me, this seems a bit over-dramatic and in a very real sense felt like one more person, that wasn't actually Ms. York, jumping on the bandwagon and stirring the pot and making it worse.

The 1-star campaign against Linda Hilton has evolved to include death threats and, I believe, even a report to the FBI for cyber crimes. (I don't know much about this situation, but it seems utterly beyond the pale--the threats, not the report.)

Now it would appear that Zoe Desh, author of Authors vs. Goodreads (which is an aniti-Goodreads pamphlet) has taken on Ms. York's cause by posting tweets like the following:

Zoe @zoedesh
Full scale rating nuclear war just broke out on #Goodreads: (Linda Hilton, excommunicated)

Zoe @zoedesh
Follow (Raani York, still standing)
When is Goodreads rating system going to embarrass #Amazon?
#authors paying attention?

So, here's one more pot-stirrer jumping in the mix. I notice Ms. York has now taken her blog, her Twitter and her GR accounts down. It would appear she really is either trying to disappear or been driven into exile.

I hereby declare this to be the most clustered clusterf*ck I've so far encountered here on Goodreads. (Though, unlike Desh, I don't blame that on Goodreads.) Too many people trying to "help" poor little Raani York and just making things worse, if in no other way but by keeping it from dying. Might I suggest that it's time to just leave it alone.
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Reading Progress

January 23, 2015 – Shelved
January 23, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Emma Sea (new)

Emma Sea She apologised??

message 2: by Sadie (new) - added it

Sadie Forsythe Kind of, it was more like an apology to her friends and supporters that they may have been effected by the attack directed at her. But it did include the words 'I'm sorry.' She's taken it down now, but I'm sure a Google will find you screenshots. I put them on my blog post about it and I'm probably not the only person who did, so they're out there.

message 3: by Emma Sea (new)

Emma Sea that was a great blog post, thank you for writing it. Also I enjoyed your post on the Authors Vs Goodreads booklet.

message 4: by Sadie (new) - added it

Sadie Forsythe Thanks Emma.

message 5: by Sadie (last edited Feb 07, 2015 07:49PM) (new) - added it

Sadie Forsythe Kevin,

I'm going to respond this once. I've no desire to enter the fray in the standing argument you apparently have with several other GR members, so I'm not interested in a back and forwards with you. But I want to clarify something.

First, I've removed the edit as you asked. Not so much because you asked, but because it honestly makes more sense if the account isn't yours and because I only added it after the fact as an interesting aside anyway. It's loss is not significant.

As to why I didn't step in and help Ms. York when I felt sorry for her (as if little 'ol me would have any influence), I'd invite you to look at the positioning of that sentence in the above piece of writing. (I won't call it a review. It isn't.) It's at the end, after discussing your rallying cry to save Ms. York's book and attack Ms. Hilton's (though I suspect the latter was more of a predictable side-effect than a direct instruction on your part, could be wrong though—It' pretty shitty either way, really).

Yes, what happened to Dragonbride was unfortunate, but it was also 100% expectable. If Ms. York paid any attention to the environment of the profession she's trying to break into, she would have known this. Even a little research would have informed her of the exact danger of writing the post she did. (And even after writing it, people warned her and she still proceeded with it.) I don't even mean this in a vague, 'it's a bad idea' way. She would have known exactly what the response would be, as you've just said, you've seen it again and again.

Unfortunately, as we've all seen, a failure to do the even the minimal work toward understanding the rules of the game isn't an excuse for breaking them, at least not an excuse to have your misdemeanour excused. This is the real mistake Ms. York made. She seemed to be working under the misapprehension that 'it' wouldn't happen to her and her book and when 'it' did, that she wasn't actually responsible for 'it.' That it wasn't her own action that led to a pre-established and normalised response.

I see your interference as something else entirely. 38 1 star rating/reviews, most with content stating their opposition to the book is based on a blog post, makes it fairly apparent to future readers that those reviews are ignorable in relation to the 'should I read this book' question.

I'd ask you to imagine a reader six months from now, who's never heard of Raani York but is like a lot of us, willing to give indies a try but savvy to the games some of them play (buying reviews, swapping reviews w/ fellow authors, using sock puppets, etc). A lot of readers are offended by these attempts to bolster a book's rating. They consider it cheating the system and misleading the reader.

That reader won't know anything more about this drama than what's in the 38 1 star reviews and they won't know about your wattpad battle cry either. What they'll see is a 1 star carpet-bombing, followed by a flood of empty 5 star ratings. Do you know what the most likely thought in their head is likely to be? My guess is, 'Oh, this author went out and bought herself some ratings. I'm not interested in that type of author.'

All those 5 stars are not damaging to Dragonbride, as the 1 stars were. They're damaging to Ms. York's credibility and reputation, in other words, harmful to Ms. York herself. So when I say I'm feeling increasingly sorry for her, it's not because of the 1 star carpet-bombing in response to her ill-advised blog post. It's because of those 5 stars, which are about as helpful to her as my 3 year old is to me in the kitchen.

But you are right that she doesn't have to apologise. She doesn't have to have the same opinion as everyone else. However, if she wants to succeed as an author, especially an author on GR, she does have to make concessions to her readers. And just like any politician, or athlete, or celebrity who grits their teeth and mumbles a public apology at the instruction of his/her PR manager, I do think Ms. York does need to do the same if she wishes to maintain a favourable public imagine. If she wants to fade into obscurity she can do so with or without anything she likes. But it will be significantly more difficult if she depends on time alone to distance her from this debacle, especially the latter half of it.

And lastly, as you've inferred that had I used my influence as a fellow GR member to help Ms. York when I saw unearned damage to her occurring, let me ask you, had I emailed you out of the blue and said, 'Kevin, this is a bad thing you're doing. You should stop.' would you have? I expect not, so it's not me or secondary members like me who are to be held accountable for this mess.

message 6: by Emma Sea (last edited Jan 25, 2015 08:05PM) (new)

Emma Sea Hi Kevin, serious question.

When you say , "THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU OR ANYONE ELSE HELP HER?" what exactly do you have in mind for people to do?

I saw York ignore strongly-worded kindly advice to remove her post. I saw people on threads reminding readers that she was naive, not ill-intentioned. I also saw your efforts, which seemed to me as even more ill-advised than York's initial post.

So what is it you think is going to defuse these situations in future?Because yes, this will happen again.

message 7: by Makhda (new) - added it

Makhda Sadie wrote: "Kevin,

I'm going to respond this once. I've no desire to enter the fray in the standing argument you apparently have with several other GR members, so I'm not interested in a back and forwards wi..."

'Oh, this author went out and bought herself some ratings. I'm not interested in that type of author.'

Well said, Sadie. You've just read my mind.^^

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