A Blogger’s response to Hale’s article “Are you a catfish reviewer?”
It’s been about 3 weeks now since the Guardian posted an article by author, Kathleen Hale, titled “Am I being catfished?’ – an author confronts her number one critic. As I read through the article, a very long and detailed article, I felt a sickening feeling develop in my stomach. In this article, the author describes her reaction to receiving a one-star review and the steps that she took the address this issue. I’m not going to recount everything that occurred, as there are other authors and bloggers who have discussed it much more succulently than I can.
Alex Hurst’s Hale vs Harris, and the Breach of Online Ethics” and The Moonlight Reader – When Manipulation Masquerades as Memoir: The #HaleNo edition provide good summaries of the events, as does Dear Author – ‘On the importance of pseudonymous activity. You can see other blogs/discussions on the topic by searching the hashtag – #haleno (this works in google as well as twitter and facebook).
What I want to talk about in this blog is more about why reviewers reacted the way they did and why they are concerned about the actions of 2 authors (another author, Richard Brittain, recently attacked a reviewer with a wine bottle in Scotland).
I’ve seen posts on Facebook and in other forms of social media where it has been said (and I’m paraphrasing), “why are bloggers letting two people control their actions?” My initial reaction to that post was, why shouldn’t we freak out? I mean, two instances being reported in less than a week of reviews being stalked/attacked for simply expressing their opinion.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that kind of freaks me out a little bit – with my background in psychology, it could be hypothesized that for every reported incident there are multiple unreported. So for the two that were reported, there could be 10-20 unreported events, where authors who disagreed with bad reviews took some type of action against said reviewer. It could be something like:
• posting the negative review on their Facebook page and having friends/followers attack the reviewer
• attacking a review who didn’t understand their work (because obviously, if you give a book a negative review, it is because you didn’t understand it)
• posting an article in an online magazine about how reviewers are out to trash your book, or
• an article on how to avoid bad book reviewers (this happened to me several years ago when I started reviewing books on my blog).
Whatever the case may be, as a blogger, the action of these authors is making me reconsider my stance on reviewing, especially reviewing those that have been provided from the author.
There was quite a bit of discussion throughout the blogging community on how we (the universal we) wanted to handle the situation. Were we going to quit blogging completely and lock blogs down? Would we limit reviews to authors who were well-established (although that in and of itself isn’t a guarantee of good behavior)? Or was there an alternative option? Ultimately, a review blackout was proposed and accepted by many bloggers and while we continued to discuss bookish things, no new book reviews would be published during an identified period. Some bloggers opted for a week-long blackout, others for longer. Katiebabs has a good discussion of the #BloggerBlackout HERE. Personally, I haven’t posted anything to my blog since Oct 22, although I have plenty of reviews that need to be published.
I’m not saying that I am going to quit blogging, not by a long shot, but I am going to be much more circumspect in accepting books for review and the policies that I will be applying when I screen books for review. This whole incident has also made me consider what precautionary measures, if any, I should take in order to protect myself. Recently, a blogger mentioned at a panel that she has contingency plans in place for her children should she be threatened by an author. For myself and others, our livelihoods could be affected, should be author, or fan decide to take action against a negative review. I’ve heard reports of workplaces being contacted by authors in an attempt to gain information about reviewers, for what purpose I don’t know (and do I really want to?) Ultimately, risking my career isn’t worth it for a hobby and that is just what blogging is to me, it is a hobby. One that I enjoy and want to continue (and will do so as long as I am able), but is it worth the risk?
Authors, SEO Specialist, Reviewers, Readers.. anyone who has been reading the news has seen the Hale incident. In response to this and many other incidents cropping up, have been brought together by AUTHOR CEO founder, Naomi Blackburn brought a group of us together for this Blog Train. Each of us are sharing a specific aspect of the issue as a positive response to the incident. We invite you to join with your own response