61qb49aMC9LOur book, Mah Jongg – The Art of the Game, has finally been delivered to most of you. This has been a long and crazy three years to put this book together and your response has been so very rewarding. But something has happened and I wanted to get your opinion.

You might be familiar with Goodreads, a website now owned by Amazon that claims, “Rate books that you’ve read. Goodreads learns about your personal tastes from your ratings.” The key phrase here is “rate books that you’ve READ.”

We couldn’t help but notice that a reader by the name of Ann (and that is very unfortunate for me!) has rated our book only three stars out of a possible 5.


We know that we can’t take it personally if someone isn’t wild about the book. But here is the problem…read on…

When “Ann” rated this book, we hadn’t even finished editing it yet! The finished book didn’t go to Tuttle Publishing until August and the book was then finally printed in mid-August and not released until November 18th. So how could “Ann” have read this book to rate it before we had even finished writing it? I wrote to her (her email address is available with her review) asking how she could have read our book to give it a three-star rating but, as you might imagine, I never heard back from her.

So, I wrote to Goodreads:

On Thu, 20 Nov at 2:09 pm ,  aisrael wrote:

question type: question
from email: aisrael
summary: inquiry
Hi – I see that our book, Mah Jongg The Art of the Game, has a three star rating from someone by the name of Ann (unfortunate for me since that is my name and I am the co-author of the book) – Here is the link: 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20736536-mah-jongg?from_search=true#other_reviews And here is my question – how could she have rated the book when it wasn’t even printed on the date that she rated it on June, 2014 – it wasn’t printed until August, 2014. I really question how you can keep this rating up here when there is no way she could have seen any part of this book in June, 2014. This is obviously a phony rating and I am asking you to delete it. Thank you for your attention to this matter. This is very upsetting since all of our reviews out there thus far have been extraordinarily wonderful. All the best, 
Ann M. Israel 
co-author, Mah Jongg The Art of the Game
Goodreads sent back a canned response:
Hi Ann,
Thanks for contacting us! We have taken a careful look at the review, but unfortunately it did not meet our standards for removal. To clarify, Goodreads policy allows users to rate a book as soon as it is listed on the site. We do not dictate on what basis Goodreads members form their personal opinions about a book, so we have no rules about reading the full text of a book before rating and reviewing it. We recognize that not everyone will agree with this policy, but it is one that has worked well for the Goodreads community over time. We hope this clarifies our approach to pre-release reviews.  If you feel a user is being abusive in other ways, please let us know and we’ll look into the matter further.

Sincerely, The Goodreads Team

But I thought the Goodreads tag line said,  “Rate books that you’ve read“, right? So, she could not have possibly read the book on June 10th. That warranted another message from me to Goodreads:
On Fri, 21 Nov at 8:58 pm ,  aisrael wrote:

Thank you for your response. However, I find it hard to believe that our book was listed on your site in June, 2014 since it had not even gone to the printer yet. The book was not at the printer until mid-August, 2014. I am very concerned about your policy regarding removal of a review. Something is very strange  – and not right – about a person being allowed to rate a book when it hadn’t even been printed yet. In fact, when she wrote the review we hadn’t really even begun the editing process with our publisher. Please reexamine your standards for removal in this case as the rating clearly cannot be based on any knowledge about the book. Again, I don’t know how it could have been listed on your site in June. I look forward to hearing back from you regarding this matter.
Ann M. Israel
And once again, Goodreads sent back a canned response filled with platitudes:
Hi Ann,
Thank you for your response.  It looks like your book was imported from an external book database earlier in the year.  We receive book information from a variety of third-party aggregators, including publisher databases and Ingram, so that our information is as accurate as possible.  We have many pre-publication books on the site, as we’re striving to be a complete database of both published works and to-be-published works. 
As we previously mentioned, we don’t dictate on what basis Goodreads members form their personal opinions about a book, and we do allow pre-release ratings and reviews on the site.  In addition, thousands of our users receive advanced copies of books either through giveaways or through outreach from authors and publishers. In turn, they write reviews which help other readers learn about a book in anticipation of its publication. This pre-launch buzz is an established and important part of the book world, both for readers and authors.
As this rating doesn’t break our rules, we cannot remove it.  We’re very sorry about that.  However, we will certainly take your feedback into consideration as we continue to improve the site.  In the meantime, please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns.
Sincerely, The Goodreads Team

This brings me to today’s posting on the blog: what do you think about this? What would you suggest? The bottom line here is that we really do not take this personally but it does seem suspicious to me since it would have been impossible for this “Ann” to have READ our book on June 10th. Forget reading it – how could she ever have seen any part of the book on that date since, once again, we were just beginning the editing process and the book had not even been finished…I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this. And feel free to leave your own rating about the book on Goodreads AND/OR complain to Goodreads should you feel like doing so! Thanks so much!

Ann xxo


  1. Jacquie Hassan

    I have a copy of your book. It is largely a beautiful picture book . It really hardly qualifies as a good read, more a good look and swoon at the gorgeous tiles. Suggest you get over this because you clearly are taking this personally! This kind of thing goes on all the time in the publishing world. If we only bought books based on other people’s opinions we would never buy anything! BTW the pictures are gorgeous!


  2. Kate

    Out of curiosity I took a look at the page,
    My thoughts
    it is on her “want to read” list, perhaps the 3 stars is some kind of code to herself.
    or perhaps she just clicked on the star in error.
    I know I sometimes just click on books I want to add and click away much too quickly,,,
    You could post on her review page yourself in an innocent way or even PM her.
    I agree the answer from Goodreads was BS


  3. Shirley Hanick

    I just joined Goodreads and reviewed your book. 5 stars from me . My friends were so excited to get their own copy.. I had shared it with each group the last time they played at my home and the response was so positive that I gave them all an early holiday gift.


  4. Pamela

    Get all of us to rate your book on Goodreads and we will drown her review with our five stars. Other than that I like Kate’s idea for you to make a note on her page. Love the book. Heading over to Goodreads right now.


  5. trpics

    probably the best you can do is make an entry contradicting “Ann” on Amazon explaining the situation since Goodread does not intend to delete to comment.


  6. Lori Todd

    i agree that we should all flood Goodreads with great reviews. I wonder Ann if you want to send another email to Ann kindly requesting that she delete her obviously mistaken and harmful rating. And finally, I wonder if you have an attorney friend who might write a fearsome letter on scary letterhead regarding damaging policies and practices. I wish there were a way we could all rate Goodreads….


    1. mahjonggandme Post author

      Thanks, Lori. I don’t know if I will send another email to Ann but yes, I do have attorney friends who could write a very strong and “scary” letter…that’s a good thought!
      Ann xxo


  7. Caren H.

    I, too, just joined Goodreads and wrote a Five Star review. I will be giving your book to others as gifts this season!


  8. Marita Rohde

    Since the 18th of November your book is available in Germany too. I ordered it from a german online bookshop and received it yesterday. It is absolutely fantastic! Congratulations to all of you. I love your texts and the wonderful photos. No idea how it could be rated before it was available. I would like to give a five star rating to you and I’ll recommend it to all my european mah jongg friends.
    Greetings from good old Germany


  9. S1

    Not to worry. The other Ann’s rating will be unseen in the well-desered flurry of 5s. Such is the price of fame!


  10. Tracy C.

    Just left you a 5-star review. I really loved the book and gorgeous photography. Fear not – You’re already showing basically a 5-star rating from a mere glance at the star icons. 🙂


  11. Judith Johnston

    My rating would be 5 stars plus. I was absolutely delighted when I returned home from holidays this week to find your book had been delivered. It is absolutely fantastic and I have been showing it to all my Mah Jongg friends. Living in Australia, we have not been privileged to buy the various MJ sets available in the USA over the past 8 decades. The set I purchased in 1962 came from Hong Kong – an ordinary Chinese set. Some of the tiles depicted in your book are just so beautiful. It is the 25th book about Mah Jongg that I have – the others are rule books. Thank you so much for such a magnificent book.
    Judith J


Comments are closed.