October 22, 2014 Discussion 4


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.

4 Responses to “Safe”

  1. Kelly

    Brilliant piece and thanks for summing up what so many if us are feeling. Since the story was released, there’s been so many incredible authors who have supported not only a reviewers right to feel safe and able to share their opinion without fear of retribution, but also slammed the offending author for what really is criminal behaviour. For me, this isn’t an author verses reader debate, but the right for everyone in the same community to feel safe. And Kathleen Hale’s actions have stolen that basic free right for so many readers and reviewers, not to mention bloggers.

    The authors who are applauding her actions I believe are taking her ‘story’ at face value. Considering this situation filters down and effects them too, you’d think that perhaps they would look into what Hale is saying, not just cheer on her narcissistic story recount of events.

    You raise a really good point, on one hand we’re not only labelled all as failed authors and that’s why authors believe we write negative reviews, but we’re pointless or irrelevant. But write a negative review and we can ruin a career? Bullshit. That’s ludicrous. To put it bluntly and I won’t sugarcoat it: If your book isn’t well written, chances are you’ll receive less as than favourable reviews. One review won’t make or break you. We’re consumers and you’re selling us your product, so we’re entitled to have and share our opinions.

    The argument against Hale is ridiculous. ‘Blythe’ criticised her novel. The author couldn’t separate herself from her work. So even if we were to keep reviews strictly about what’s between the covers, some authors (the small few) will always see it as a personal attack.

  2. Dragana

    You basically wrote my opinion about this awful event.
    I was thinking about making my blog more personal and all this really made me double check my decision. Do I really want to have someone obsessively stalk me because I wrote a negative review? Is someone already stalking me? I don’t know if I will ever feel safe again.

  3. Rochelle Sharpe

    I read Hale’s article and I was so uncomfortable while reading it. Hale did stalk and harass the reviewer and took things too far. I just can’t believe she went to the reviewers house! Hale seems to think it was her right to do this since the reviewer went by a pen name, which the reviewer had every right to do.I think Hale was also trying to claim she wasn’t a real reviewer because she went by a pen name, yet she has a book blog with hundreds of reviews and gets books sent to her from publishers, sounds like a reviewer to me.
    I wish more authors would remember that reviews are for the readers and not their own ego. If I am going to read a book, I am going to read a book, even if it has a bad review. I only look to reviews if I am indecisive and I think a lot of people are the same. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t like your book, that’s life. Don’t start drinking and then stalking some because of it.
    The Guardian shouldn’t have posted this article, it can’t possibly be legal to promote illegal activities this way.

Leave a Reply to Rochelle Sharpe Cancel reply