An Author Behaved Badly…Very Badly

October 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Books, Miscellaneous | Leave a comment
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speshul snowflakeDisclaimer: I do not review YA books, post reviews on Goodreads or use a pseudonym for my reviews.  Also, I have cordial-to-great relationships with authors.  So there’s that.

 Last week a corner of the internet blew up.  Short version: YA author, Kathleen Hale, read a one star review of her first novel on Goodreads, became obsessed, did some online and real life reviewer stalking over a number of months, then got a piece about it published in the Guardian.  Some people, who have their own issues — I’m looking at you, Anne Rice —  drank the Hale kool-aid, tweeted support for Hale and applauded her for standing up to bullies.

Which would be all well and good if Hale or her supporters had a grasp on how the internet really works.  And by “how the internet really works” I mean that if you piss off enough people in a really public way, those people are going to start digging around the internet. Of course, that’s what Immediately happened because, by stalking a real, live person who happened to review books in a snarky manner, Hale angered a lot of book blogger/reviewers and, incidentally, a number of authors.  The fact that, in her article, Hale cast Stop the Goodreads Bullies in a favorable light did not go unnoticed either.  Using STGRB in conjunction with your bad author behavior is a major red flag to reviewers.  You might as well paint a target on yourself, jump up and scream, “Come and get me.”

And now we’re going to have a brief pause for a PSA: If you are an author, do not use STGRB to validate what you’re doing.  STGRB was founded by indie author, Michelle Douthit, who herself was banned from Goodreads for verbal abuse of reviewers and creating sock puppets to boost her own reviews (big Goodreads no-nos). Among other egregious offenses, STGRB has, in the past, doxxed reviewers who made their hit list.  Hit list is my term; not STGRB’s, but if it quacks like duck…

Anyway, in very short order, Kathleen Hale’s version of events in her Guardian piece was pretty thoroughly discredited, and, in all honesty, it wasn’t really that hard to discredit Kathleen Hale.  It took a modicum of effort.   A little back tracking and screen-shotting on Goodreads and twitter pretty much did the trick, and showed that the timeline-facts didn’t match up with Kathleen Hale’s account. Someone also unearthed that this wasn’t the first time Kathleen Hale had stalked someone.  As a teenager, she stalked, assaulted (had to go to court for that one) and, post-assault, continued to online stalk and confront her teenage victim, for which she ended up with the police at her door.  But I think, as evidenced by this latest incident, the lessons from the first episode of stalking went unlearned.

So, all in all, last week was fascinating in a kind of  “I just can’t stop looking at this trainwreck” way, and I have a few take-aways from the entire mess:

Some authors really need to stay away from Goodreads reviews.  A lot of reviewers there use snark.  Now, I’m not a fan of snark as a reviewing tool.  Too many people just aren’t that good at getting snark to come across with the right tone in the written word.  When not done well, snark sounds petulant and bratty.  At worst, the snarker ends up sounding like a tool.  Be that as it may, snark is allowed on Goodreads, so if you can’t handle, stay away.

If you’re going to write a polarizing book, you need to accept that a lot of people aren’t going to like it or get your dark humor.  Maybe they aren’t dark humor people, or maybe you didn’t write it well enough to get the dark humor across.  Some of those people who dislike your book are going to write reviews that will reflect that, and some of those reviews will be snarky.  That’s their right.  GTFU and deal with it like an adult.  That means don’t stalk anyone because your speshul snowflake feelings were hurt.

Stalking a reviewer and publicizing it is not good career planning for a YA author.  When people are riled up, they can (and will) stoop to pettiness.  They will lower your book ranking because you have behaved like an unhinged asshat.

Don’t concoct a conspiracy theory that a reviewer is out to destroy your career because the reviewer *gasp* used a pseudonym.  That ends up making you sound a bit deranged.  And while I love the idea that one reviewer on Goodreads wields so much power they can wreck an author’s career with a single one star review, reality compels me to accept that as delusional thinking.

Learn to use privilege constructively, rather than, say, to do a hit piece on a pretty much powerless reviewer.  Also don’t try to pass yourself off as a journalist after you’ve done something stupid and the sh*t has hit the fan.  Yes, I know Fox News has confused us all, but really bad self-reporting doesn’t make you a journalist.

If you are absolutely compelled to self report your bad behavior for what you are sure sounded like a good idea at the time, try your best to cop a contrite attitude instead of a sorry, not sorry one.

A respected publication like the Guardian should probably make use of their own journalistic standard of ethics and actually vet an article for truth before publication.  They might also want to reconsider giving a stalker a public venue in which to blame her victim.

If you’re an elitist who supports reviewer stalking and thinks reviewing doesn’t belong in the hands of the people who are actually buying your books, get over it.  Goodreads, Amazon and book bloggers aren’t going anywhere, and the internet is a great equalizer.  Get off your high horse and learn to deal with the new reality.

Do not ever dox.  Do not dox in any way, shape or form.  Do not “light” dox (in your Guardian hit piece) or full on dox.  Just don’t dox.  It’s vile and it puts you on the same level as gamergaters.  And no one wants to be considered that low.

Lastly, anyone who thinks it’s okay to stalk another human being over a bad book review, needs to go home and rethink their life.

Reported by Geralyn

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