Hi! So, I had a few thoughts about reviewers and authors which are inspired by my other, more emotional thoughts about the events of the last week or so in this otherwise amazing community. They originally appeared at the end of a wonderful Tumblr post by Lauren DeStefano, and you can read the original here. Below I’ve reposted just the thoughts I added to her post.
I am so very grateful for authors like Lauren who have come and publicly spoken against Ms. Hale’s behaviour.
My first read of the article (some 30 minutes after it was published, when it hadn’t gone viral and had only 2 comments on it) scared me. I sat at my laptop, horrified at the breach of privacy this author had carefully, gleefully regaled us with.
That an author could take so personally a series of status updates about their book horrified me.
That an author could use sympathetic contacts at a publisher to verify a reviewer’s mailing address (which is most likely also where they live) terrified me.
The two comments (now hundreds) commending Ms. Hale’s behaviour, calling her brave, applauding her stalking of another person and then crowing about it in the media sickened me.
People were very quick to call this reviewer’s behaviour “bullying”. Saying you didn’t like something isn’t bullying. We all have a right to our own opinions and tastes, and in countries like Australia and the USA, we’re lucky enough to have the freedom to express them as long as we’re not endangering the safety and well-being of someone else.
Ms. Hale claims that the online bullying included turning other reviewers against her book, such that other reviewers were now vowing not to read the book, or were reviewing the book (sometimes favourably) but linking back to THAT review for an alternate take on things. How can this be bullying, any more than telling your friends that the latest Tom Cruise movie isn’t that great and they should perhaps spend their money elsewhere?
It’s long been known that professional, industry reviews are biased: against women, against genre fiction, against diversity. So if you’re a female writer with a YA novel, your publisher’s main marketing strategy includes teen magazines, online blogs, and yes, online reviewers.
When these online reviewers are praising the work, are encouraging their friends to grab it and read it, raving about it on their social media networks, the only people to stand up and say they are doing a disservice to the book-reviewing world are the traditional critics, who I assume are scared that the way they’ve always done things is changing.
No author stands up and writes articles in the Guardian about how horrible online reviewers are for giving their book 5 stars and buying multiple copies for their friends, and how their opinion doesn’t count because they’re only amateurs.
And yet, if an online reviewer has the gall to dislike something in public, there’s a group of authors (a vocal minority) that come out in force. The same reviewers who would have been their friends and their supporters if they’d given 4 or 5 stars are now accused of being jealous of an author’s success, pathetic wanna-be writers who can’t handle that someone else landed a contract.
These authors are contradicting themselves because on one hand they’re claiming that one bad review has the potential to ruin careers (which is absurd, given that the biggest online reviewer still only has a fraction of the readership of a newspaper), while simultaneously proclaiming online bloggers as unnecessary, as charlatans who peddle their book-hate on unsuspecting authors and who shouldn’t be allowed a voice.
They call us obsessed with authors and their success or failure while applauding an author for calling a reviewer’s workplace and pretending to be fact-checking the things she’d found out by obsessively viewing the reviewer’s Instagram and personal Facebook accounts.
They call us stalkers while applauding the author’s “courage” in showing up to a reviewer’s home.
And we don’t feel safe.