Update 3: 87 wonderful folks have signed the petition so far. PLEASE help us spread the word. And if you know of anyone who has been reluctant to sign because they require the name and address, just let them know to UNCHECK the "Make This Public" box. I've looked at the signature file, and the address doesn't show up when the box is unchecked. Hope that helps!
UPDATE 2: I received the answer (posted below) from Goodreads in response to my additional explanation. In response, I posted a petition on Change.org that should explain WHY this is so important. Please take a look or send your own response. Their answer doesn't make sense. The pre-read interest level and the post-read rating should be two different things!
To see the petition, go here: http://www.change.org/petitions/goodreadscom-protect-books-from-being-rated-before-copies-are-available-to-be-read?share_id=rnHVzWAqaR&utm
And here's the note I got back from Goodreads:
Thanks for contacting us. Goodreads policy allows users to rate a book as soon as it is listed on the site. While most users use the star-ratings to review a book, some like to use the rating system to indicate interest or excitement in an upcoming title. There is not one set way to use the rating system.
Additionally, it’s not a simple matter to prevent ratings of a book based upon publication date. The publication date is frequently inaccurate. Thousands of our users receive advanced copies of books; we have no way of knowing when ARCs for individual books are sent out. There is no universal standard in the industry for that. In the end, we have no way of knowing that any person on the site has read any of the books they claim to have read. Verifying this would be impractical.
Please keep in mind that when users rate a book that has not yet come out, other users tend to take the rating with a grain of salt.
If you feel a user is being abusive in other ways, please let us know and we'll look into the matter further.
UPDATE: Evidently, Goodreads is responding that this early rating is a "valid use" of the rating system.
Please see the bottom of this post for the letter I recommend sending in response to their response!
So I was on Twitter the other night--I wish I had more time to spend there--and I happened to see a tweet from a writer about getting a two-star review on Goodreads for a book that no one has read yet. Now, to clarify, by no one, I do mean NO ONE. The book is still in manuscript form. There are no ARCs, no copies, no nada. Needless to say, it's a little unnerving, not to mention unfair, to find that someone doesn't like the book when they clearly haven't read it yet.
How can this happen, you wonder? I wondered too, so I asked her to explain.
It turns out that there is no mechanism in Goodreads to distinguish between an author's advance post about an upcoming book, and a book that is out there and ready for reviews. Many authors have evidently had their books rated before people have read them.
Now I may be naive, but it strikes me that this is something we could, and should, change. It should be a relatively easy fix, too. All it needs is a date field: available for rating after XX/XX/XXXX. And so long as that date hasn't passed yet, the author should be able to change it, in case ARCs are late going out. But once the date has passed, the book is fair game.
What do you think? Does that make sense as an approach toward Goodreads? Do you have any alternate suggestions?
Let's work together to fix this hole in Goodreads and make it more fair to authors. Hopefully, several voices raised together will be heard.
Since everyone's time is at a premium and I haven't personally experienced this situation, I wanted to post my draft letter for critique in case anyone has suggestions. Once we have the facts/approach right, if anyone wants to use that same letter, I'd be happy to share. This letter, or one of your own devising, can be posted to the Goodread's contact page (http://www.goodreads.com/about/contact_us)
in support of a requested fix to the problem.
Please make suggestions to improve the letter below, or otherwise let me know where I've screwed up. I just wanted to start the conversation going.
Dear Goodreads Staff,
It has come to my attention that once an author creates a Goodreads page and adds their "in the pipeline" book, there is no way to keep people from rating/reviewing the book before copies are actually available for reading. This seems to be a hole in the system, and I wondered if it might be possible to add a date available for rating field for each book to eliminate this loophole. Such a field could contain the date ARCs will be released, and would, ideally, be changeable by the author prior to that date in case ARCs are delayed.
An additional service to authors might allow for a field to help build pre-publicity buzz or let fans build pre-release support, a way to show that someone is looking forward to reading a book once it becomes available. This could be as simple as allowing a book to be added to a TBR pile, and then showing the number of times it appears in a TBR pile for any book that hasn't yet passed the ARC release date.
I hope you will consider these suggestions.
Thank you and best regards,
Blah, blah, moi
So what do you think? Anything worthwhile in this? Changes? Gripes? Grudges? Grumbles?
Response I am sending (and recommending) to the stock, "this is a valid use" answer that Goodreads is sending back:
Dear Goodreads Staff,
That cannot be a valid use of ratings so long as the ratings factor into total ratings for the book, nor can it be a valid use when such ratings can actually deter someone from buying the book or reading it once an actual copy becomes available. Pre-release ratings can be highly prejudician to a book's success, not to mention demoralizing for an author and the editorial team.
Furthermore, it has been brought to our attention that anyone can add a book and attribute it to an author, even if the book does not exist.
The Goodreads site performs such a service to readers and authors alike. It is truly a shame to allow an easily-fixed loophole to become a policy that makes no sense and damages the very industry you serve.
Thanks for the help, everyone!