Our 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.
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
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:
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:
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!