Goodreads

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This article is about the book website. For the Sentinel fanfic, see A Good Read.

Website
Name: Goodreads
Owner/Maintainer: Amazon
Dates: 2006-present
Type: Social cataloging site/book review community
Fandom: N/A
URL: http://www.goodreads.com/
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Goodreads is a website for fans of books to catalog, review, and discuss the source materials they consume.

While the main focus of Goodreads is professionally published books, some fanwork fans have also found a community there. This has led to much discussion regarding the value and audience for reviews and ratings, control of fannish personal information, fandom and profit, what constitutes a public space, the effects of mainstreaming on fandom and fanworks, differing definitions of fans and fandom, and differing community norms that sometimes lead to culture clashes.

For more commentary, see Goodreads/Links for Further Reading.

Fanfic and Goodreads

Although the site is intended for professionally published and self-published books, some readers use the site to post reviews of fanfic they have read. Fan Fiction is a browsable genre on the site, along with subgenres Slash Fiction, Femslash, and Real Person Fiction. Not all reviews are written: readers can "review" a story by clicking on a 1-5 star rating. A list feature also allows fans to group fanfics together. See the fanfiction and fanfic tags. Many members also use Goodreads to tag stories "to read later" or to track their progress in reading a novel.

However, in order for a Goodreads user to do anything--post a review, tag to read later, add to a list, or put on their bookshelf--the item in question must have a catalog record on Goodreads. So the first Goodreads user to read a fanfic would create the record. Most of these are listed as self-published ebooks since Goodreads bibliographic entries aren't designed to accommodate fanfic. Because these entries also provide a space to upload a book cover (although it is not required), many fanfic entries have fanart book covers included; the fanart selected may or may not have been made specifically for the fic. When a fanfic entry is created, Goodreads automatically creates a stub entry for the fan author, which caused problems later; see #Control of Personal Information.

In July 2012, members of the Goodreads Librarians Group discussed the policy of allowing readers to post reviews of and make rec lists of fanfiction. The main criteria seems to be (a) the work must be "self-published", (b) completed and (c) novel-length.

Fanfic authors can request that Goodreads remove the records for their fanfiction[1], although this has the effect of erasing the book from every reader's reading list and deleting all reviews and comments[2]. The 2012 Goodreads thread seems to imply that the practice of allowing fanfiction to be listed on Goodreads began in 2010.[3] The earliest discussion of allowing fanfiction to be reviewed on Goodreads appears to have taken place in 2009 and was centered on whether to remove Cassandra Claire's Draco Trilogy on plagiarism grounds.[4] The entries for the trilogy appear to have been deleted during the course of the discussion, but were later added again.[5] It appears that there is no mechanism for preventing the future re-creation of deleted records; some fic records deleted during the December 2014 purge have also reappeared, but previous reviews and ratings are lost.

December 2014

In December 2014, a group of fans on tumblr began advocating for the removal of fan fiction from Goodreads and sent out various "PSAs" and alerts via their blogs. The first alert was sent December 13, entitled "Why It’s Bad Fandom Etiquette To Put Other People's Fics On Goodreads".[6] The title and content of the post implied but didn't state that actual stories were being uploaded without permission to Goodreads, and this impression may have contributed to the outraged reaction as reports of archiving without permission are usually an effective call to arms and result in swift justice. However, many critics did not make this mistake and raised a number of other issues. (For example, some fanart was uploaded without permission.) See #Some Topics Regarding Reviews of Fanfiction Posted at Goodreads.

Four days later, the number of fanfiction listings on Goodreads had dropped as fan writers began requesting removal of their listings. Below are unofficial numbers compiled by Morgan Dawn:[7]

"Within the first 72 hrs, 2% of the wincest and J2 tagged fanfic entries on Goodreads have been removed (presumably at the author’s request).....This of course has no statistical meaning. Or accuracy.....

I looked at a few favorite lists [of fanfiction on Goodreads], so here are more stats

  • On two multi-fandom slash fanfic lists between 6-8% of the stories and reviews have been deleted[8]
  • Harry Potter slash list: No change
  • Sterek list: 17% of the stories and reviews removed[9]
  • One Direction list (I think this list includes all types, het and slash): 6% of the stories and reviews deleted
  • Merlin: 18% of the stories and reviews removed....

In 2013, there were 7,500 fanworks listed under various permutations of “fan fiction” (note some stories may have multiple tags driving the numbers up. and some stories may only have fandom specific tags, driving the numbers down)

By Dec 17, 2014, around 10,573 stories using the fanfiction tag still remain."[10]

The strong negative reaction may have led some fan authors who had been using Goodreads to track and rate fanfiction on their own Goodreads shelves to request that their fan fiction be removed and to stop using the service for fanfiction.[11] It may also have caused some fans to start asking whether they were allowed to recommend or list stories in other traditional fannish spaces such as Livejournal.[12] And finally, at least one fan used the Goodreads debate to argue that the practice of downloading fanfic and converting it to be read on an eReader was a violation of fandom rules of conduct.[13]

This led at least one fan to comment:

"The Goodreads fan community was strangled in its cradle by the tumblr weeds."[14]

Needless to say, most fans outside Goodreads did not see the events in this light, feeling that their privacy and right to control the visibility and access to their fanworks was at stake. See the "Comments" section below.

Goodreads and Authors

The community on Goodreads has a long history of bad experiences with authors who couldn't handle negative reviews[15], up to and including a case a few months before the 2014 fanfic wank of a pseudonymous reviewer getting stalked and outed by an author who unapologetically published the whole tale in The Guardian newspaper.[16] This is nothing new; see Interrogating the text from the wrong perspective. Some readers have responded to Authors Behaving Badly by writing negative reviews of their novels, setting up Do Not Read shelves, and giving one-star ratings, often to books they haven't actually read. A notorious doxxing site, Stop the GoodReads Bullies (STGRB), was started in response.[17] To counteract the escalating war between readers and authors, Goodreads adopted a new (or implemented an existing) policy in 2013 of deleting ad hominem reviews and do-not-read shelves; readers were outraged.[citation needed] So fanfic writers suddenly showing up and demanding fanfic entries be deleted likely looked like more of the same ABB nonsense.

Perhaps partly because of this history, to many Goodreads readers, interaction with the author is seen as an unwanted intrusion into their "safe space."

"Not every reader wants the writer's presence in their discussion of the writer's work. In fact, some readers hate writers commenting on their reviewspace (that space where a user can post their review, and it's not always a review because Goodreads allow opinion in general, barring things like defamation). Readers want the ability to discuss the text without the writers telling them in their face on the reader's own space that they're wrong or whatever. It's straight-up intimidation and borders on censorship if the intent is to silence the voice of the readers. In your part of fandom, it may be common for the writers to interact with readers. But here on Goodreads and its surrounding communities, in particular on book blogs, it is advised you ask if the reader with an opinion of your work wants your writer's presence in the reader's space...." [18]

Another Goodreads member explained that while there are other places where fans can rec stories, Goodreads is where she and her friends have chosen to build their fan community with its emphasis on reviews for readers and not authors:

"The reason that I love that there are fanfics on Goodreads is that I obviously enjoy reading them, but I have limited time and can’t read them all, so GR has helped me pick the most interesting fic and read it. I can’t tell you how many amazing ones I found through GR.

Yes, I’m aware of the long rec lists out there, but I have some friends on GR whom I trust, and those are the ones I want to get recommendation from, and I just don’t want to annoy them every time with message of recommendations. I could just go on their list on GR and pick one.

Also, while I like to write reviews to authors about what I like and didn’t like and how could they improve, I also feel uncomfortable doing so sometimes, especially if I don’t know the writer. There are ones out there who just don’t take criticism well, even if you also mention what you did like about a story as well as what you don’t.

And that’s also what GR is there for, for me to write what I honestly think about a book without having to do in a place where I know that the author will read my review, or without fearing a backlash from the author (although it still happens, but that’s another story.)"[19]

Some Topics Regarding Reviews of Fanfiction Posted at Goodreads

screencap of a fanfic entry on Goodreads. Note that the accompanying "book cover" does not appear on the fanfic itself, although the author links to the photograph it is based on; the cover may have been designed specifically for Goodreads

Some topics discussed below:

  • reviewing/discussing fiction is not the same as archiving/uploading actual fiction
  • visibility
  • control of discussion
  • fannish spaces vs non-fannish spaces
  • differing expectations based on culture
  • fandom and profit
  • what is a "book"
  • reviews of fanworks: are they fanworks themselves and separate from their source material?
  • are Goodreads members who read fanfiction part of the "fandom" community?

General Objections

Some fanfic writers have objected to reviews of their fic being posted to Goodreads. Some objections appear to be based on the mistaken belief that the fics themselves were uploaded to the site, but other fans object to the fic being linked to or discussed in non-fannish spaces on the grounds that this would bring unwanted attention from nonfans and TPTB.

Furthermore, fanfic reviews by non-fans often misunderstand the point of fanfic--fic that relies on knowledge of canon and fanon is criticized, while ATG fic is praised.[20] In April 2014, an anon on Fail_fandomanon commented, "I found one of my Teen Wolf fanfics on there and most of the reviews are actual complaints that 'you can't fully enjoy this unless you've watched the show'."[21][22]

In July, LiveJournal user youcantseeus commented,

...a lot of the reviewers didn't seem to have much familiarity with fan fiction culture or what fan fiction was all about. Presumably, they were just wandering around the Goodreads Harry Potter discussions and then stumbled across some fic. There were a lot of complaints that various fics "weren't like the Harry Potter books." Goodreads is a space that most people use to review professionally published books. So when fan works are discussed within this space for reviewing professionally published books, they are held up directly against professionally published works (often the ones they are based on) and compared in a one-to-one fashion. This makes me uncomfortable mainly because most of the fan fiction that I read and write is not meant to be a mimicry of the series it is based on.[23]

The other main objection to fan fiction being listed on Goodreads is that some believe it can lead to increased visibility of their fandom activities.[24]

Throughout the Goodreads discussions, numerous pre-existing and long-standing points of contention became involved, making communication and understanding even more difficult. Some of those issues are outlined below.

"Goodreads Readers Are Not Fans"

Some writers feel that because the main focus of Goodreads is on professionally published books, Goodreads members are not part of the fan community:

"Including fan fic in the Good Reads database isn’t against the ToS of Good Reads, but *think* about this stuff before you do it! And respect a culture you are not a member of."[25]
"This is the point: Goodreads isn’t fandom. Fandom isn’t migrating there. There’s a Venn Diagram of two circles, one for fandom, one for book readers, and there’s a tiny sliver where they intersect, that’s it. This isn’t a new IJ, DW, etc. It’s been there all along, Dorothy, and it’s its own thang. That’s like saying LinkedIn is the new FB. Uh, no."[26]
"[My fan stories] are not meant for casual public consumption, they are fanworks meant to be shared in a specific and protected community."[27]
"...I think that many of the people listing fanfic on their GR bookshelves are fannish enough to consume fic and art but not fannish enough to participate in fandom with us? ....GR (from a user pov) is not about communicating with the author. It’s about talking to other readers. They don’t even want author interaction there. I’ve only seen a few fandom places like that, and one was full of rather argumentative people who spent a lot of time critiquing fanfic on a specific forum...."[28]
Not surprisingly, this has left many Goodreads fans feeling unwelcome:
"Apparently we aren't welcome to participate in fandom as we're not... Well I'm not sure why we're not welcome!"[29]
"I haven't been able to bring myself to read any Sterek fics (or any other type of fic, to be honest) since this happened. It's just too damn depressing having people tell me I'm not 'fandom' enough to be reading their stories. This felt like it came out of nowhere and one day I woke up and I was being called a bad guy for something I did out of love of these stories. Like I said, depressing. And I've lost upwards of 30 stories on my shelves since this had begun, and probably will lose more. That's 30 stories I will probably never get a chance to reread or recommend. And a bunch of authors who I wouldn't touch now with a ten foot pole because they thought tearing me and others down just to build their (highly unfounded) case was a good idea."[30]
"Thank you. I would also like to mention that we who review on Goodreads are really sad when our reviews disappear, which is what happens when a fic listing is removed. Just FYI when you are making your decision. We really are fans, you know. We talk about fics, recommend them to each other, make lists of our favorites, put them on our bookshelves with tags like “tentacle love.” We approach it a little differently, but we are fans."[31]

Other fans pointed out that some Goodreads members were in fact "fans" and used Goodreads because it was easier for them to keep track of all the material they stored on their eReaders.

"....if fandom people are posting reviews to GR, then this is now a fandom space as well, no less so than livejournal, dreamwidth, or tumblr. (And please don't claim they somehow aren't legitimate fandom people because they don't fit a particular definition. The gamer boys tried that with the "fake gamer girls" tag and it was just as unfair.) No one stopped fandom from migrating to these different platforms, but I guarantee there was a similar kerfuffle. Fandom is where fandom goes."[32]

Reviews and Ratings

Other writers object to their fanfic being listed on a website where any reader can "rate" it, feeling that this in of itself is demoralizing.

"I’ve heard mixed reports on [asking Goodreads to remove your fic listing working] working, but it’s worth a shot if you’re an fanfiction author who doesn’t want their work listed on a site like this and subject to a five-star rating system designed to make you feel like crap."[33]
See also
"Apparently I have three stories on there and they all have pretty mediocre ratings, lol. What a bunch of bastards."[34]

and

"Seriously. Like, I’d be DNW over having an author profile page over there regardless, but when someone added me just to give me 3/5 stars like… YOU CLEARLY DON’T FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT MY FIC ONE WAY OR THE OTHER SO WHY THE HELL DID YOU FEEL IT NECESSARY TO IDK, man. Like… lol, the closest thing I can compare it to is someone saying, “You’re cute for a fat girl.” Like… “For a mediocre fic, it’s at least worth the effort of putting it on goodreads to tell you.” Like.. IDEK. THANKS BUT NO THANKS, PERSON???ID"[35]
This has led one author to wonder if the reasons some fans are upset with fanfic on Goodreads is due to the fear of being judged by others:
"However, in reading all the frantic objections to the linking/reviewing (and to be clear, the technology of the categorizing software and the way GR functions has a lot to do with encouraging this trend) the overriding tone of hostility and absolutely fury seems out of proportional to the act.

And then I realized the real issue, which should have been obvious to me but got lost in the greater issues of ownership and fandom etiquette (as if there were a single accepted), and it's that people don't like being judged.

Sorry, I'm a bit slow. God knows I don't like being judged, but then I have the simple expedient of not going to the site and not searching for my fiction there if I don't want to see, so there's that. It's like being afraid of heights and not looking over the edge of the cliff. And there's also the small fact that I've kind of put myself out there to be judged, already, at least in people's minds. It's kind of what being a writer's all about, or a creator. I've already taken that step. I took it the first time I hit "post." It was absolutely terrifying, yes. It remains terrifying every single time I do it."[36]

Other writers have commented on how reading negative reviews colors their experience with the Goodreads community:

"The thing that confuses me about the whole posting fanfic on Goodreads thing is that pretty much the same people are adding/commenting on each fic and don’t seem to enjoy it?? Like, if you disliked it, why put yourself through reading more of my work?...#and [37] the first review on NBLAM is on google and is just somone bitching about how furstrated they were with the fic."[38]

And:

"I would also like to add that Goodreads is the absolute worst place to do this kind of thing anyways. It is a cesspool of assholishness populated, in the most part, by people who do nothing but tear down other authors and their work for no reason."[39]
After reading one review, a tumblr fan posted:
"Let’s keep the stunning ‘Good Read’ community right where it is, far away from me..."[40]

Many fans attempted to argue that fandom had collectively decided that reviewing fanfic without permission was no longer permitted:

"Now, you could argue that fandom culture needs to move to a space where unsolicited crit is expected/welcomed, but that’s another conversation entirely. Right now, fandom creators and consumers are working under the unspoken ‘rule’ that unsolicited concrit is a no go. Putting our fic on goodreads is breaking that rule and so the behaviour is copping cultural backlash, as it should."[41]

Others claim that fandom had never allowed reviews without permission:

"I remember the good old days when people had to ask for crit and it wasn't offered unless asked for."[42]

Others disagree, pointing out that fandom has a 40-year history of critically reviewing fanfiction, one that did not disappear with the advent of the Internet:

"Re the good old days on concrit - well in my day, you did not have to ask permission to submit an LOC or write a review. And even when we migrated to the Internet, reviews and feedback were offered without so much as a by your leave. So clearly the good old days have mutated too."

And:

"There's another thing I need to make clear: there is no such thing as a right not to be reviewed. Not for things which are freely available for the public to read. Remember that thing called "Free Speech"? Speech that has to be vetted isn't free. In other words, as a matter of principle, I will never, ever, ask permission before reviewing something." [43]

And:

"And regarding the "crit wasn't offered unless you asked for it"... when was that, because there are letterzines going back to the 70's that were packed with unrequested flaming critiques, including declarations of the authors' education, personality and moral standards, based on either their fic or their participation in the social aspects of the zines. To be fair, the crit was rarely in the same zine as the stories... but critique on GR is not the same as commenting on the story with it. GR reviews are for readers, not for the author--and I very much want review sites to be comfortable places for readers to say "I didn't like this, and here's why." Even if the "why" translates to "because I'm an immature, close-minded bigot, and this story contained ideas that made me uncomfortable" or "because the author supports [cause I hate] on her website."[44]

On the topic of reviews, many wonder why Goodreads members are not reviewing the fic where it is posted. Here, this fan muses over whether it may have to do with the fact that Goodreads is the readers' fandom space so naturally they would choose to comment there.

"If all you want to do is review something....You can do that on ao3, tumblr, ff.net, lj, and basically everywhere you see fanworks posted. In fact, to put it on GR you had to find it somewhere. Why not review it there or your usual social platform? (Is GR anyone’s usual platform? I want to know)"[45]
One writer argued that Goodreads was a recent outgrowth of the overall incivility in anonymous communities thereby allowing readers to leave negative reviews:
"Maybe it's the fact that [Goodreads] was effectively serving to take anonymemes like bandflesh and spn gossip's fanfic discussion public: a place to trash without fear of imagined recourse (because I'm unclear on what's stopping these people from just leaving poor reviews on AO3: if you're the kind of person that is going to argue for the "value of free speech over the writer's so-called rights any day" I sincerely doubt you have problems hurting someone's feelings in your quest to talk shit on the internet in between middle-school classes)."[46]
In response, a Goodreads member suggested that shy writers focus on the mainly positive feedback offered in traditional fandom spaces:
"Q: Do you see why fanfic authors don’t want people leaving reviews?

A: I do. I have observed that the culture of fandom is to leave only positive responses to fics. Authors aren’t writing for money, and they are often young and shy. They want encouragement, not negativity.

Q: So do you admit it is wrong to do this [posting reviews to Goodreads]?

A: No. Even understanding where the authors are coming from, I feel it is appropriate to rate and review fanfic and leave reviews for others. This is as much a response to your work as your fanfic is to the original work. I submit that the appropriate remedy for authors is to not read reviews. Stick to the comments at your archive, and you will not see anything that upsets you."[47]

An added objection is that if the reviews are removed from the place where the author originally posted their fanfic, the authors were being made invisible and their contributions ignored:

"This is literally just shifting reviews and ratings to a platform that takes them away from a place the authors can see them: authors who are, unlike the published authors for whom GR is designed, getting no other compensation for their work except those reviews and ratings. It’s hard not to see it as another element of entitlement re: fanfiction — that those who write it are so invisible (or in the case of “BNFs,” so untouchable/inconsequential due to perceived popularity) that once the fic is online there’s no obligation to acknowledge it as the product of a human being rather than an autonomous system...."[48]

Perhaps, some speculate, the problem is that there is no fandom safe space for the reviewers of fanfiction:

"....there are no structures or forums for critical reader discussion in fandom. But that doesn’t mean critical reader discussion doesn’t happen. I’m under no illusion that readers don’t discuss the pros and cons of my fic behind my back. Heck, there are recommendations blogs in fandom that actually GRADE fic as if you’re at school right here on Tumblr. Maybe it’s a shortcoming of fandom culture that there is no safe space for readers to talk about how they experience a story."[49]
In fact, as one Goodreads fan wrote:
"[The fanfic is] still on the AO3 fanfic site, but I don't know how to find the good ones there. No reviews or ratings there."
The only option, she was told, was to use the AO3 search function and look for the most kudos.[50]

Control of Personal Information

Because Goodreads automatically creates a "stub" or basic entry for each author, many fan writers feel that this creates the impression that they have listed their fanfic on Goodreads or that people are impersonating them. [51]

Others note that sometimes too much personal info is added to their profiles. In one instance a photo that came from the author's twitter was included. The author initially thought the picture came from a locked twitter post, but later acknowledged that it was not. [52] Others are unhappy that their multiple fandom social media accounts (LJ, tumblr, twitter) are listed in their fan writer profiles. [53] On the flip side, some fans also complain if the links to their social media accounts are incorrect.[54]

In a few cases links have been made between fan writer and professional writer identities using publicly accessible info.[55] This included a fan writer who had occasionally listed her professional writing name on her fan blogs and who had responded to reviews and recommendations of her professionally published book under her fan name.[56]

Obtaining details for this second group of fan writers is difficult because few want to attract more attention to the connections to their professional writing identities. This has led many fans to say: just because the info is accessible and searchable, does not mean it should be included on the author's profile without their permission:

"Never, ever, ever, ever post user or profile information about me anywhere without my consent. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the information seems to be or how freely available it is on my blog, I’m very particular about what information I post and where, taking it upon yourself to override that without my knowledge and/or consent is a dick move of the highest order." [57]

Fandom and Profit

On the topic of compensation, some fans feel that the listing of their fanfic on any website that makes money runs afoul of the fannish prohibition against profiting from fanworks.[58] They do so even while acknowledging that most of their chosen platforms (tumblr, LJ, Youtube, etc.) are in fact profit-making enterprises.[59]

"I understand goodreads as a listmaking thing, as a review archive like it was before before Amazon acquired it, but my stuff ain’t for selling unless I say it’s for selling and I object to goodreads/Amazon commodifying the information it gets on my fic. Like I understand, say, review tumblrs, or reclists, or whatever; they offer the same sort of listmaking thing within fandom. Just - goodreads certainly isn’t fandom and it very certainly isn’t only a reclist review archive anymore. It’s information that Amazon can (ostensibly) use to profit from. Amazon paid shitloads of money for goodreads for exactly that reason, because in a business like theirs, the taste-patterns of prospective customers is akin to liquid gold. (Says the woman with a free tumblr whose taste-patterns in media from the last two years are now owned by yahoo. I am cognizant of my own hypocrisy.)"[60]

Content Notes

Some fan writers began adding notes to their profile pages requesting that fans obtain permission before recommending, reviewing or commenting on their fanfic. Such statements can range from a request that all discussion be limited to the platform where the fic was posted:

"Please if you’re going to comment/review my stories please do so on my AO3 story postings....as I feel that’s a much better forum for fandom conversations than Goodreads."[61]

and

"Please do NOT add my fanfic to Goodreads. I am fundamentally opposed to taking fanworks out of fandom. Any fanfic of mine that you see on Goodreads was added without my permission, another huge no no."[62]

Some fans request that other fans avoid discussing or linking to their fanfic in publicly accessible places:

"Please do NOT post links to my works on sites such as Good Reads. A rec on a tumblr is one thing, a publicly accessible database is quite another. Please respect your authors and ask permission before doing such a thing."[63]

Other variations include: mentioning them or their fanfic on places where "published" works are reviewed.

"(I politely ask that you do not add my handle or any of my works to Goodreads or any other review site for published works.)"[64]

Some demand limits on who may read or share their fanworks and even limit how it may be shared:

"This work is intended for the private enjoyment of the reader. I do not give permission to this work being shared with or read aloud by the press, or anyone working on said production of Teen Wolf, including but not limited to cast, crew, writers, or producers. I also do not give permission share this work on third-party websites such as Goodreads, which I believe is a resource intended for published works outside of fandom."[65]

This fan attempts to be specific and cover a multitude of situations: (a) reposting (b) linking, (c) mentioning, or (d) reading or sharing excerpts:

"PLEASE DO NOT: repost this story anywhere (links are fine, recs are fantastic, reposting is bad), mention it on any non-fandom site such as (but not limited to) Goodreads, or read/share any excerpt from it in any public forum (radio, television, convention, etc) without the express written permission from the author. Thank you!"[66]
In this author's note, posted at the KSArchive, the author lists what she considers fandom spaces. Unlike some, her list is more expansive, but it still defines Goodreads as outside of fandom:
"I share my work in the venues I know it is appreciated--it is for me to decide where that work goes, and while I know this is the internet, it's totally not okay with me to have all kinds of ghost profiles on websites I don't know anything about. So please, don't do this. Save a copy to your Kindle, save the links to your LJ, Tumblr, Facebook document, just please do not put me on your shelf on a library website, like Goodreads. That pulls my work out of fandom and shares it with people whose eyes it was never intended for."[67]
Other fans ask for banning all recommendations without permission:
"If you want to rec my one of my stories somewhere, ask me first please."[68]

Several authors added their objection to fanfiction appearing on Goodreads in the form of meta essays and posted them to AO3.[69] One fan indicated that if their wishes were not honored, they would permanently remove their fanfic from AO3.[70]

In response, a fan who uses Goodreads posted "An Appeal from the Fanfiction Fans over on Goodreads" on A03:
"We love your fanfic over on Goodreads, please forgive us if we sometimes get over-enthusiastic. We truly are fans of the authors here and the shows in question. We are very sad that so many authors have removed their profiles along with our reviews. We are not monsters, just fans! All your GR author profiles have now been stripped back to basics apart from a few links. Each story carries the url link to AO3 (LJ, tumblr, etc) and a description, no story content is ever uploaded. We try to always credit cover art, sometimes you need to expand the page to see it."[71]

What Is A Public Space?

Because each fan may define "publicly accessible" differently (and in fact what is considered 'public' has changed multiple times over the decades), this had led some to argue that the writer's wishes as to where their fanfic should be discussed should rest ultimately with them:

"Fandom is migratory. I get that, I do. We’re all stumbling around Tumblr, Wattpad, DeviantArt, etc. And it’s because those are the places of our choosing. We’re sharing these places with each other. That’s awesome! We’re collectively moving to spaces to do what we do because we find these spaces safe for our fannish hearts. *cough*

Not awesome: someone deciding I should be archived somewhere I don’t wish to be, slapping up stolen artwork for a cover, and then people who aren’t connected to the source material in any way trying to have some type of academic (ha) breakdown of my fic. It’s like me critiquing a novel written in Spanish. Yeah, I may know many of the words, but that’s it.

[mountain] And whether you roll your eyes or not (hey! Your prerogative!) doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like it. And if my asking through the main Contact Us page that my works be removed on principle of me not wanting to be sued, harassed, etc. upsets you, then scroll on. It may not work. I got my profile changed, so who’s to say that they may not reconsider their policy of allowing any and everyone to slap whatever on their servers when that’s not the purpose they serve? [/molehill]

I have no ISBN. My fanfics are not “published” with intent for commercial sale, because I don’t want to be sued. Maybe I’ll add “WIP” to everything I write to really point out how their own rules are being violated, IDK.

My ultimate point is this: I didn’t ask for it, I don’t like the potentiality of being sued (a Nonny brought up a GREAT point last night of RPF. WOW, talk about really crossing the streams and exposing people to Real Legal Issues!! Have none of you heard of how litigious some actors can be?)and most importantly: FANFIC BELONGS TO FANDOM. We’ve designated our spaces. I’ve specifically chosen the AO3. That is where I am comfortable discussing anything I’ve written, or anything I’ve read."[72]
A few authors have attempted to define "public" as distinct from "fannish" spaces. Most spaces that are listed are open to the public and indexed by Google, but some allow the users to lock their entries if they so choose:
"If you do like my work and want to keep track of it, there are plenty of fandom-specific options: friend my LJ account; subscribe to my AO3 page; start your own pinboard or delicious account and use to it bookmark all of your favourite fics."[73]

Other fans point out that the boundaries between "public spaces" and "fannish spaces" are permeable and that the "rules" are not clear:

"I wish people would ask before they do things, but at the same time, how many people ask before reblogging fic or art so that more people will see it and come back to the author or artist to say nice things? It seems naive to think that fandom is a non-permeable space that non-fans aren’t going to find. That there are rules that say you can share your enthusiasm about something fannish here, but not there....So the question becomes, how does this differ from fannish recommendation lists and reviews on other sites? I’ve belonged to LJ comms that review and recommend fic, and I’ve certainly seen it done on tumblr. What makes goodreads different?"[74]

Effect of Mainstreaming

Others framed the debate as one of the many consequences that may follow with fanfiction mainstreaming:

"Although [the Goodreads debate] isn't the same as the past debates fandom has had about transforming fan work (via remix, or podfic, etc.), I thought that how fandom handled it — providing blanket person or including restrictions/guidelines on profile pages — was an uneven, but potentially viable, solution (at least it worked well for me). But this is a little more complicated, because nothing's been changed in this case. As the essay above says, what's happening is that fanfic is being placed into a new context alongside professionally published books that have undergone different types of editing and gone through very different processes to exist, and it can be stressful. For myself, I'm fine with it, but it makes a lot of sense why others are dubious about this becoming normalized as culture shifts to view fanfic as just another thing to read."[75]
While many fans welcome the mainstreaming of fanfiction, they'd rather see more separation between published book and amateur fanworks:
"On one hand, this illustrates how mainstream fic is becoming, which is fantastic. It’s amazing to think how fanfiction was received when I got into fandom at 18; it was a dirty little secret. I love that creating it and reading it is becoming normalized. But it’s a category of its own. If Goodreads categorized it as fanfiction rather than books, I’d actually feel much happier about it. Really happy, actually."[76]

Different Community Norms Leads to Culture Clash

Irrespective of whether a reader qualifies as a "fan" or not, many Goodreads readers say they were unaware of any community standards that prohibited them from listing their favorite fanfics on Goodreads. Complicating the discussion is that members of the Goodreads community have their own community norms and expectations, some which are directly at odds with fandom expectations. (See #Goodreads and Authors above.)

As one reader explained:
"Fanfic writers should probably be aware that not everyone who reads their work will be members of the community/conforming to the same norms, so they shouldn't be surprised if their books end up on Goodreads. Especially for fics that are published on Archive of Our Own - when readers can download ebooks in multiple formats, it's kind of hard to argue that these are unpublished works that shouldn't be in GRs. ..... Since I wanted to be part of the hockey rpf fandom, I've chosen to follow the community norms [and not list those fanfics on Goodreads]."[77]

Not all fans object to the inclusion of fanfic reviews on Goodreads. In one tumblr exchange, a fan was confused over misleading statements that fanfic was being uploaded to Goodreads instead of being listed and reviewed. In the course of the follow-up discussion, an alternative interpretation emerged, one which looked at the wider culture of Goodreads and and how it differs from some areas of fandom culture of today:

myrinthinks asked:

Ah, I didn't know that it's solely for reviewing purposes (or I hadn't when I sent this ask yesterday, I've since read your little summary of what is and isn't going on). Still, so weird. Why not just comment on AO3? It's really weird to me to want to "reach people outside of fandom" when they probably don't have any interest in fanfic (or knowledge about how it works) to begin with. Really sideeying the GR people who let that slide, too.

[goddammitstacey replied]: The GR people are operating within their own set of guidelines that have seen a heap of shit from ABB (Authors Behaving Badly). Their go-to stance is the defence of readers and their right to express their opinions on public works without fear of copping shit from authors in a tizzy about unfavourable reviews.[78]

An example of this culture clash can be found in this Goodreads Status Update.[79]

An excerpt from a Goodreads member:

"In conclusion, writers can do whatever with their work. It's their right. They can keep writing. They can write in Pig Latin. They can quit writing. They can limit access to their writing. They can delete all of it. Whatever.

What writers cannot do is demand readers to do anything about our opinion of said work. They cannot demand how readers think about the fanfiction. They cannot demand readers not to make a list of fanfictions the reader have read, not to post the list publicly on Goodreads by cataloging and shelving its item, not to rate the fanfiction, not to review the fanfiction, not to review the fanfiction by the same standard as professionally published books, not to review with snarky animated pictures, etc.....

If writers shut down their fanfiction as a consequence of we readers choosing to practice our right of free speech by posting a review of their fanfiction on Goodreads, then the writers have every right to shut down and thus practicing their right to their intellectual property. And you know, this has happened to professionally published authors in certain BBA events and good riddance I say because readers do not need any writer who threatens readers. Anyway, no one side should tells the other side what to do with their intellectual property. No one. People can request, but at the end of the day, the fanfictions belong to the writers and the reviews belongs to the readers. There's your balance."
The commentator goes on to point out that the definition of 'fandom' is global and norms vary from country to country and community to community, making it difficult to speak for all of fandom:
"Can we stop assuming that this is a universal fandom etiquette? Because it is not. Not for my Japanese light novel fandoms."

Others attempted to point out that the fandom world was much larger than AO3 or Tumblr and that the key to moving forward was to acknowledge this diversity:

But it’s worth noting, for context, that Goodreads does have a large fanfiction community where people actively set up author profiles and seek reviews on their fanfiction as books. This isn’t a deception — people are clear it’s fanfic, and that it’s generally part of fanfic’s free culture (although this blurs on Goodreads because of things like Amazon Worlds which has been a hit in the romance community), and your stuff hasn’t been linked for the sole purpose of people mocking fanfic (that doesn’t mean Goodreads reviews on everything, fanfic included, don’t sometimes get kind of intense — they can and they do)..... But just, there are fanfic cultures other than Tumblr and A03 and the edges of them almost never touch. What is violating of one culture’s rules about how to engage with fanfic just seems normal to other fanfic culture......But it’s important to remember always that assuming everyone is working from the same culture rules re: fandom works less and less every day. There are whole swathes of fannish production and discussion that are almost completely unaware of each other.....And I think the whole situation would be less scary to navigate if people were aware as a general rule that Goodreads is a space where fic happens, and that space has rules different than those that are pretty standard around Tumblr and AO3."[80]

Moving Forward

Ultimately, as one writer pointed out, the conflict surrounding fanfic on Goodreads will require some adjustments and understanding on the parts of both communities:

"The GR people are operating within their own set of guidelines that have seen a heap of shit from ABB (Authors Behaving Badly). Their go-to stance is the defence of readers and their right to express their opinions on public works without fear of copping shit from authors in a tizzy about unfavourable reviews.

With that in mind, I totally understand their approach to this situation. Part of me is even happy they think fanfic deserves to stand next to professionally published works and be counted. Whoo progress!

Unfortunately, their culture of supporting reader autonomy doesn’t really mesh with our culture of supporting creators’ control of their fanworks. Neither culture is wrong of course. They’re just different enough that this clash has been a bit of a shock for everyone involved.

[tumblr tags appearing at the bottom of goddammitstacey's post]:[81]

  1. Ask goddammitstacey a question #fandom #myrinthinks #all the threads I've read seem to just point towards a massive communication fail between the two communities #I've not seen anyone being a dick publicly yet #we're all just trying to back our corners because unfortunately non-malicious people are accidentally coming at us from angles we've had shit from previously."[82]
Another writer argues that the introduction of fanfiction to a wider audience may be a positive thing for fandom:
"What else could happen?

People could love fanfic. People could discover fanfic. People could discover fandom and fan culture.

I’m reminded of a quote by Marianne Williamson:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?"[83]

Other Listing and Review Platforms

Further Reading

Essays and Meta:

General Terms:

The December 2014 Fail_fandomanon Discussion

References

  1. Goodreads Librarians Group - Policies & Practices: Fanfiction (showing1-24of24), Archived version. Note that professionally published authors are not afforded the same opportunity to erase discussion of their works. The initial fanfiction removal policy may have appeared complex but has been greatly streamlined: an author need only contact support, provide basic identifying info and Goodreads will remove the author's profile page and listings. A more recent overview of the policy was posted here: Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Fanfiction Deletion (showing51-59of59), Archived version - see message 59. In a private email to a Livejournal fan author dated Dec 20, 2014, Goodreads support indicated that they had no current plans to change their policy: ""While we can't prevent members from re-adding a fan fiction work to the site in the future, we will be happy to remove it again if the author requests it. We will also remove any cover art at the request of the artist. We have no plans to change our fan fiction policy at this time, in part because we have many Goodreads Authors who only write fan fiction." Play me my song... - I need some help, Archived version
  2. See Tailtiu's comment in Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Fanfiction Deletion (showing1-50of59), Archived version, December 15, 2014. See Bitchie's December 16, 2014 comment: I just hate the way all this came about, and that many of us have been made to feel flat unwelcome in the fandom, as well as lost a bunch of our own content. Many of us had some great discussions on our review pages, and those are just gone, *poof!* with no notification, and no way to recover it. And I guess Goodreads got me... - Ami's Hoard, Archived version
  3. Goodreads Librarians Group - Policies & Practices: Policy on fanfic being listed on GR as 'published books'? (showing1-14of14), Archived version
  4. Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Plagiarised Fanfiction on Goodreads? (showing1-50of66), Archived version
  5. Lisa commented Well, It looks as though they're gone. midway through the discussion. Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Plagiarised Fanfiction on Goodreads? (showing1-50of66), Archived version, comment by Lisa 19 July 2009. However, entries for The Draco Trilogy existed on the site as of 4 January 2015, with reviews posted 2013-2014.
  6. Ingberry, Why It's Bad Fandom Etiquette To Put Other..., Archived version
  7. The numbers were arrived by comparing the number of stories tagged with variations of the phrase "fan fiction" using Google cache results against the numbers that still appeared on Dec 17, 2014.
  8. By Dec 21, 2014, one week after the initial Tumblr PSA was sent by Ingberry, the number increased to 10%. Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed Dec 21, 2014).
  9. By Dec 21, 2014, one week after the initial Tumblr PSA was sent by Ingberry, the number increased to 20%. Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed Dec 21, 2014).
  10. Random stats, Archived version
  11. meus_ venator's bookshelf, Archived version; meus_ venator author page, Archived version
  12. simplybeing. Comment in "Good reads" post by etoile-etiolee, Archived version ("I have recced the shit out of a whole bunch of your stories in j2_recs... do you want me to remove them? I will. Just say the word.").
  13. I'm Not Bitter, Just Unsweetened, Archived version
  14. Email sent to Morgan Dawn on Dec 18, 2014, quoted anonymously with permission.
  15. For example, see Goodreads and Me: Not a Love Story, posted by thefourthvine to Dreamwidth 29 March 2015.
  16. See Dear Author's writeup, On the importance of pseudonymous activity, posted October 19, 2014.
  17. See the extremely condensed version of events at Salon. Battle of the trolls: Kathleen Hale reveals the war raging between authors and readers, Oct 21, 2014.
  18. Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Fanfiction Deletion (showing1-50of59), Archived version
  19. Goodreads, Fanfiction and ‘Bad Fandom Etiquette’, Archived version
  20. For example, see Readers Who Add Fanfics to Goodreads, Archived version, posted by ohmyjetsabel on Tumblr. See also the differing reactions of fans and nonfans to the Teen Wolf fic DILF.
  21. Fanfiction on Goodreads in Fail. Fandom. Anon. - Springtime is icumen in, lhude sing nonny - FFA Post # 316, Archived version
  22. A perfect example can be found in a Goodreads review criticizing the lack of character description in a My Chemical Romance fanfic: "Another related problem was that all of the characters were introduced as if everyone already knew everything about them, barely given a physical or character description. If i didn't have google handy and didn't like all the bands i couldn't have enjoyed this book." Sannah's review of (To Die Will Be) An Awfully Big Adventure, Archived version, posted March 12, 2013.
  23. youcantseeus youcantseeus - Fan fiction reviews on goodreads: icky or not?, Archived version posted to LiveJournal 18 July 2014. (Accessed 14 December 2014.)
  24. Ingberry, Why It's Bad Fandom Etiquette To Put Other..., Archived version
  25. Allochthon - Regarding Good Reads, Archived version.
  26. I Like Nice Things, Archived version (post removed before archive link could be created)
  27. The Gospel of Avith • More on me being really uncomfortable with (read:..., Archived version
  28. Being with me - Goodreads, fandom, and I should be asleep right now., Archived version
  29. Susan on Twitter: "@rAdelaidegrl A lot of fanfic authors don't like it that people are reviewing their work in GoodReads, so a lot has been removed. :(", Archived version
  30. comment left by one Goodreads member in Lisa Henry - The Blog: My (generally disorganised) thoughts on the current fanfiction shitfight on Goodreads, Archived version
  31. Charmingly Euphemistic — More on me being really uncomfortable with (read:..., Archived version
  32. Chris - Status Update - comment 55, Archived version
  33. reblogging a post calling out to authors who do not want their work subject to a five-star rating system, Archived version
  34. what do your werecoyote eyes see?, Archived version
  35. untitled Tumblr post by affectingly, Archived version
  36. fandom is where fandom goes, Archived version, dreamwidth post by esteefee.
  37. For those not familiar with tumbler, tags are often added to the posts using "#" for separation. The tags often offer additional commentary.
  38. Unresolved Sexual Tension And Growling, The thing that confuses me about the whole posting..., Archived version
  39. A Profound Bond = Love, Archived version
  40. Actually, you know what?, Archived version
  41. Stacey Lehane — juno-magic: stuffimgoingtohellfor:..., Archived version
  42. comment in morgandawn, Archived version. This exchange once again illustrates the lengthy history of fans confusing constructive criticism intended for the author with reviews intended for the reader. For more see Concrit and Reviews.
  43. "I know the use of "Free Speech" as a rallying call has a tendency to be abused in these days, but the ability to raise an objective, critical voice is one of the cornerstones of a free society. I'm not trying to play my "Free Speech" card in order to peddle pornography or to say abusive and vile things. I am here trying to hold up an honest mirror to the state of fan fiction as I see it. And some people will say, "Aw, it's only fanfic, what does it matter?" It matters because honesty matters. I will not be bullied into lying, I will not be censored, I will not be dictated to by those who demand that I change the way I do this. I'm stubborn that way. The more they rant and get on their high horse, the more stubborn I will be. Constructive, polite suggestions will always be listened to, however. So long as you don't ask me to be dishonest. 8-)" Kat Space/reference link, posted perhaps in the late 1990s, accessed June 6, 2013.
  44. comment in morgandawn, Archived version. See also Commonplace book -- Sherlockiana, More on me being really uncomfortable with (read:..., Archived version ("Heck, reviews are usually something folks WANT. And we’ve lauded good prolific reviewers since the days when we were all learning html to post to geocities.")
  45. Being with me - Goodreads, fandom, and I should be asleep right now., Archived version
  46. linzeestyle, Archived version
  47. Why people use Goodreads to catalog and review fanfic: a Q and A, Archived version
  48. They call me free, Archived version.
  49. 'i do not believe in safe spaces there's a big world around us you can't control culture once you put something out there it's out there for better or worse', Archived version
  50. Susan on Twitter: "@rAdelaidegrl A lot of fanfic authors don't like it that people are reviewing their work in GoodReads, so a lot has been removed. :(", Archived version
  51. PSA, Archived version Re claims of fraudulent impersonation: When adding a fan novel to Goodreads, the reader cannot add personal info to the author's profile. The only changes that can made to to the author's profile are by the author or super-users known as Goodreads Librarians. See message 59 in Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Fanfiction Deletion (showing51-59of59), Archived version.
  52. Possibly, I'm Insane, Archived version. See also: "...my bad, because I *did* have it out there. I’ve now taken it off my Twitter, and I’m sorry if I gave the impression that it should be used with my fic posting."Possibly, I'm Insane, Archived version
  53. we were beautiful (Why It's Bad Fandom Etiquette To Put Other...), Archived version
  54. dr.girlfriend — Why It's Bad Fandom Etiquette To Put Other People's Fics On Goodreads, Archived version
  55. See message 52 Goodreads Librarians Group - Book Issues: Fanfiction Deletion (showing51-59of59), Archived version and message 65 Chris’s Status Update - Dec 12, 2014 05:29PM, Archived version
  56. Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes and research, accessed Dec 21, 2014.
  57. Stacey Lehane Tag goodreads-armageddon, Archived version Examples of other publicly accessible and indexed information that has been included: the writer's nationality, birth dates (posted publicly by the author in other locations), icons and avatars.
  58. In March 2013, Goodreads was purchased by Amazon.
  59. Tumblr was bought by Yahoo in June 2013, and LiveJournal and YouTube run advertising on fan pages).
  60. Fandom Entanglement, Archived version. See also Kit Walker on Twitter: "AO3 isn't just a legally protected space, it's a nonprofit. Goodreads, on the other hand, is a for-profit site owned by Amazon.", Archived version
  61. so after scrolling past a dozen articles here on..., Archived version
  62. Stoney - Profile, Archived version
  63. Allochthon - Regarding Good Reads, Archived version.
  64. eldee - Profile, Archived version
  65. not french and probably a mistake - bleep0bleep - Teen Wolf (TV), Teen Wolf (TV) RPF [Archive of Our Own], Archived version
  66. Notice in One Direction (Band) Story [Archive of Our Own], Archived version
  67. Kirk/Spock Fanfiction :: Pamdizzle, Archived version
  68. Play me my song... - Good reads, Archived version
  69. Author PSA about Goodreads Situation - cleflink - Supernatural RPF [Archive of Our Own], Archived version
  70. My work here is not to share on goodreads - etoile_etiolee - Supernatural RPF, Supernatural [Archive of Our Own], Archived version ("I will permanently remove my stories, link and art from AO3 if it happens again.")
  71. An Appeal from the Fanfiction Fans over on Goodreads - FanofFanFiction8357 - Original Work [Archive of Our Own], Archived version
  72. Last on Goodreads- aka last long post (omg sorry), Archived version (post removed before archive link could be created)
  73. Interestingly this fan does not list Tumblr as an acceptable fandom-specific space. Tumblr does not give members the option to restrict access to their posts. Many fans choose not to exercise the "locking" or restricted access function. cleflink: Goodreads, Archived version
  74. devol (More on me being really uncomfortable with (read:...), Archived version.
  75. ladybusiness, Archived version
  76. welcome to hell. we have angels. - The thing about fanworks being included on..., Archived version
  77. Chris - Status - comments 4 & 23, Archived version
  78. See the Wikipedia entry on Goodreads' changes to their review policy here. An alternative view about the Goodreads review changes can be read here. Source: Stacey Lehane — Ah, I didn't know that it's solely for reviewing..., Archived version
  79. Chris’s Status Update - Dec 12, 2014 05:29PM, Archived version
  80. Goodreads does have a large fanfiction community, Archived version
  81. For those not familiar with tumbler, tags are often added to the posts using "#" for separation. The tags often offer additional commentary.
  82. Stacey Lehane — Ah, I didn't know that it's solely for reviewing..., Archived version
  83. what is the worst thing that can happen?, Archived version