Let’s Talk Bookish – When An Author Has Gone Too Far

Hi guys and welcome to Let’s Talk Bookish! Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by me, where we discuss chosen topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

Today’s topic is: When An Author Has Gone Too Far – Do you think authors have a right to call out/attack reviewers because of negative reviews?

I had a certain author in mind when I chose this topic, and after a bit of research into the whole scandal, I’m kind of terrified to say what I’m going to say below. It also gave me a bunch of new topic ideas so that’s a plus! But I don’t know if I’ll sleep well tonight, so that’s a minus. But this is my blog, my space, and I want to try and explain my point.

*Note: I’ve added a page to my blog where you can find the topics for all the months. Check back around the last Sunday of each month for the next month’s topics.

To frankly answer my own question: No, I don’t think it’s fair or right for authors to call out or attack reviewers because of negative reviews.

Do I think that maybe the reviewer is at fault sometimes? Yes, maybe.

But that doesn’t mean the author should call them out. As far as I’m concerned, authors shouldn’t be reading negative reviews* to start with.

And that’s for several reasons. Here’s my main two:

1.I highly doubt it’s good for the author’s mental health or self-esteem to be reading about why someone hated a book that they wrote and poured their heart into.

2.Because reviewers and the bookish community in general will probably fly into a fit if the author does read a negative review, and then decides to comment because they are trying to protect and defend their hard labor.

That’s the truth. If I wrote a book now, I’d probably make my settings permanently show only 5, 4, and 3 star reviews so that I could sleep peacefully at night. I would not want to read that somebody hated it, that they thought it was trash, and that how in the world did it get published because that would just make me hate myself, or worse, hate the reviewer and then I’d do something stupid because I’m hurt and angry (even then, there is a zero point infinite zero one percent chance that I will do something stupid because I’m a chicken anyway).

So, in conclusion: Authors should not read negative reviews and should avoid them like the plague, and they definitely shouldn’t try to comment, or get aggressive about it, because that would make everything worse. Even calling them out is a passive aggressive way of attacking them, because that author’s fans will go and attack that reviewer for them, even if they never explicitly said they should.

*Note: By negative reviews, I mean reviews that are more of the ranting type. I think there’s a difference between a 1 star review that is calm and not attacking the book, and a 1 star review that is just ranting and disappointment about the book. The author could possibly learn from the former, but the latter, not so much.

Now for the controversial bit of this post (well, I think it’s controversial).

This author that I had in mind was one who I initially was horrified to find out that she had done what she did. I was even more shocked and disgusted when she wrote an article about it. Oh, and to ice the cake of my shock and anger, she was now including this article as an updated essay and was going to publish it in a collection of other essays 5 years later aka 2019.

But then I read a rather interesting article, and now I’m not as mad at her as I was before please don’t kill me.

This author is Kathleen Hale.

*quietly waits for all the memories to flood in and the shock to come back*

And for those of you who don’t know who she is: She wrote a YA book back in 2014, and after seeing a negative review by a certain blogger, she tracked them down, found out they were using a pen name, and decided to go confront her, but ended up not ringing the woman’s doorbell. And the whole community blew up, because she stalked the reviewer.

So, before you pound out a furious comment, hear me out okay?

First of all, I agree, she did do something wrong. As a reviewer, as a blogger, it scared me, and yes, I am still horrified that she did it, and then she confessed to doing it, wrote a whole article about it, and yet nothing happened besides an uproar in the bookish world.

But I guess that’s punishment enough.

Goodreads and reviewers in general can make or break an author. That’s just the way things are now. Take a look at another recent issue, the Blood Heir controversy. Because of a few influential reviewers and the ensuing uproar, the author pulled her own book. But thankfully it’s back. You can hear me rage about that here.

Now, back to Hale.

5 years after the initial uproar, she’s decided to publish a collection of essays including her infamous article, now called Catfish, that she wrote for The Guardian, telling about what she did. (The link leads to the article that she wrote back then)

Based on what I said above, as far as I’m concerned, she should not have read a negative review, and she should have definitely turned the other cheek if she accidentally stumbled across it.

But she didn’t. And everything that happened, happened.

I understand why Hale would do something like that. If we all take a second, I’m sure we all can understand and see why she did that. We all might not do it, but it is not a far fetched and absolutely crazy notion okay maybe it is. Someone attacked her debut, her baby, and she was hurt by that. And she chose a drastic method to avenge for this crime.

Okay, so you’re wondering, where’s the controversial bit? What is it that you’re so afraid to say?

Are you ready? Cause here it is: Maybe we are being too brutal, too hurtful about this whole fiasco and to the author.

No, I have not lost my mind, and no, I am not crazy. Well, last time I checked I wasn’t.

And if you don’t understand why this author/situation might be controversial, I ask that you take a look at the GR page for her new essay collection. I’ll even link it here to save you a few clicks. I’m sure, if you’ve taken a quick look, you can see that the general consensus is that there is no way ANYBODY is willing to come anywhere near this book. And that they are still really livid 5 years later.

But why would I think that maybe we aren’t being fair? Why would I think that we are being too harsh? Because this same anger that Hale is facing right now, that she faced since The Guardian article, is the very same one that we preach against on any normal day.

Spread love. Not hate.

Some of you may have been on #TeamBloodHeir from the Blood Heir controversy, and I can remember that my argument was, we aren’t giving the book or the author a chance. That we aren’t being fair. Isn’t that what’s happening with Hale now?

But I can’t compare Blood Heir and Kathleen Hale. For one, the former is a book and the later a person. Hale has done something horrible in the past, and she’s chosen to write about it again now, re-igniting the hate and anger all over again. And as far as I’ve seen, she still hasn’t apologized for it.

But I can compare her book, and Blood Heir. They are both books, with no crimes committed by them. One might say that Hale’s book is a collection of essays about herself, and so it can still be counted as the “author”, but it’s still a book, with 5 other essays about other topics.

It’s not right for Hale to portray herself as a victim, because she honestly brought this on herself. But it’s also not right for people to threaten her or threaten her family. But then again, she did the same to someone else, so I guess it’s karma. And some will argue that she might be making that stuff about being threatened up to try and be the victim Um, it’s not far-fetched at all to believe that she might have been threatened. Frankly, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t. But still, we should be better than this, better than her. But like the Buzzfeed article that spurred all this thinking of mine said, “Hell hath no fury like book bloggers scorned”. Okay, enough buts.

Ignoring her, not buying her book, stating that you will not read her book, yes I completely understand doing that. Not allowing her back into a community that she betrayed, I understand that. Giving 1 star reviews that is supposed to be used to rate a book, not an author – I don’t get that. The book could be good, the author…not so much.

Take A.J. Finn’s book, The Woman in the Window, for instance. People are still reading it, people are still rating it based on how much they enjoyed the book, but nobody’s talking about the fact that the author has done a whole lot of questionable things. And if you don’t know about this, here’s a long and detailed article about it.

This is an example of everybody reviewing the book based on the book, not based on the author, and that’s good.

Why can’t we do that for Kathleen Hale Is a Crazy Stalker? Why all the 1 star reviews of a book that hasn’t been read?

I’m hoping, and would really really like to think that gender has nothing to do with this, but one has to wonder. I’m seriously hoping that people just don’t know about A. J. Finn, but that seems a bit hard to believe, because things spread like wild fire in the bookish community.

This has gone off in a whole new direction, and I apologize, but I just had to get that in there too. I think I’m going to stop here, or I might continue on into a whole new topic that I want to save for another date. I’ve kind of already delved into this new topic, but shhh

Quick re-cap: I think that an author should definitely not read negative reviews, and should stay away from them like the plague, but I also think that we are a bit hypocritical when we attack authors for doing wrong things, and not giving them room to grow or giving their new books a chance. However, that doesn’t mean I condone or agree with anything Hale did. On the contrary, I think what she did was horrible. But we are also being a bit horrible about this as well, especially with the 1 star ratings for a book that hasn’t been read.

I like reading about controversies and others do too. It gets people talking. And the point of this is for people to talk, to give their opinions, so I’m nervous but excited to see what everyone thinks about this!

And if you’re still here with me after that long and unbelievable ramble (this post is more than 2000 words long!!), I just want to say thank you, you are amazing, and I’m so glad you made it out of my thoughts alive!!

This Week’s Participants:

Jane @ Blogger Books | Ruqs @ Many Things Bookish | Syl @ Books and Coffee

What do you think about authors who call our/attack reviewers? Do you think they have a right to be angry? What are your thoughts on the Hale situation? Was my post as controversial as I think it is? Did you know about the A. J. Finn controversy?

Discuss with me in the comments below!

20 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – When An Author Has Gone Too Far

  1. I was going to say that I disagreed about authors reading bad reviews but then I saw that you clarified the fact further and I agree. I don’t think they should read reviews that are basically just rants and insults. I do think if someone writes about what they disliked in a balanced way – as constructive criticism – then that’s different and they should read that. If they feel up to it anyway; I’d probably be terrified to look at any reviews.

    This is the first time that I’ve heard of the situation you mentioned but it sounds unnerving to say the least. I think I’d be wary about reading, or at least reviewing, anything by the author but I’d never give a one star review of a book that I’ve never read. To be honest I just try to avoid those sort of things. I’ve seen books receive both love and hate over different situations but I don’t look into them too much as, if I pick the book up, I want to judge it for myself and not go into it with her feelings towards the author. That being said I did add a book to my TBR after one author apparently made comments about another taking the name from them /: I didn’t look into the details, just looked the book up and realized it sounded like one I’d love. So I have both on my TBR and try not to think about what was said as id rather not have it cloud my judgement

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you do! There is a huge difference between constructive criticism and rants. Haha, I’d be terrified as well, and would stick to only positive ones if I could.

      It is a really disturbing situation, and it really shocked me. I understand the outrage, but I wouldn’t give a 1 star rating since I haven’t read the book, and I’m glad you agree with that. Yeah, that’s a big problem, because if I were to ever pick up the author’s book, this whole situation would be at the back of my mind and my review would end up being biased and unfair since I am already inclined to dislike it. I try to not let whatever controversies determine how I like a book, but it’s not always so easy lol

      Thank you for stopping by and happy reading 💚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it is really troubling to learn about. When people rate a book down because of something like this or rate it highly because they like the author but haven’t read the book it just undermines the rating system though. And I agree, it is hard to put those kind of things out of your mind. I think that’s why I try to avoid learning too much about them 😅

        Thanks (: happy reading to you too

        Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG this post gave me chills (the controversial part!!)! But first to your amazing point: I also don’t think that reading negative reviews as a debut author is very helpful, I would be a total wreck after reading that someone hated my book! I know I wrote that constructive criticism is good and it is, no question, but I think it’s best if you receive the constructive criticism from a selected group of friends or reviewers instead of having to read the whole web’s negative response to your book – so totally on your side!
    To the controversial part now: first, amazing job on describing the case! I had heard about it many times but I’m too young (or don’t have my blog long enough!) to have witnessed it myself, so great description! Secondly, I also totally understand you! Reading the reviews on her essay is brutal! What she did is super wrong (and creepy), but we shouldn’t hate her like this!!!!
    Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, lol!
      Yeah, I’d be staying away from negative reviews so as to feel okay, and not die of sadness. Hmm, that makes sense, but I still think you need outside opinions besides family and friends.

      *bows* Thank you so much!! Oh, I really hope nobody ever has to witness something like that again. Yeah, she did something wrong, but we are being a bit too mean about it. I’m so so glad you agree!

      Happy reading to you too 💚


  3. This is such an interesting post. After reading it, I went and read some other articles about Katherine Hale. I think that she was judged very harshly for what she did, and although what she did was wrong, reviews like the one that started it all shouldn’t be allowed in the first place. The fact that it also kind of ruined her career is also a unfair.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you liked it. Yeah, the backlash was intense, but some of it was well deserved. However, I think it has gone a bit over-board now. Hmm, I kind of agree, but then there is freedom of speech, so we can’t really stop people from reviewing books however they like.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. On the topic of reviews that are less than favorable…I used to always tag the author in review posts, but I stopped. I only tag the author and publisher if I rate the book a 4 or 5 star rating. If I give it a 3 (rarely do I give a 2 or 1), I don’t. There’s no need to draw attention to it. I enjoy when a review states WHY they didn’t like it (couldn’t get into a character, didn’t like the plot, etc) as opposed to just saying the book wasn’t good. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I absolutely loved reading this one and I wholeheartedly agree! Yes, there is a huge difference between rant reviews and constructive criticism; yes, book reviewers do end up going too far themselves; and yes, rating a book (or any piece of art) based on the artist boils my blood—doesn’t matter if it’s to give an unfair 5 star or 1 star review.
    Very well done JJ dear 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “I think that an author should definitely not read negative reviews, and should definitely stay away from them like the plague” I have to say I kinda disagree. I think authors should take all kinds of feedback into account. If an author only reads positive things, how will they evolve as an author? I’m not saying they should focus on negativity only, and definitely not on comments that just bash their work with no constructive criticism, but sometimes negative feedback is good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I do understand, but I think there’s a difference between negative reviews and reviews that offer constructive criticism. If a review is angry ranting, then that is a negative review, but reviews where there is something that an author can learn or get feedback from, wouldn’t that be more of a neutral or maybe even disappointed review not a negative one? Because the reviewer is more likely to be calm enough in a “neutral” review to give advice or feedback that might help the author, whereas a negative review is probably somebody angrily raging about why the book was the worst. As an author, I wouldn’t mind reading the former, but the latter would just make me feel mad.

      I don’t know, what do you think?

      Liked by 2 people

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