How many of you remember The Great Selection Debacle of 2012?
I think all this probably happened before many folks in my corner started book blogging, but I’m sure there’s a handful of you who have heard about it. I bring this up again not because of any particular incident, nor because I think people should burn everything written by Kiera Cass (I’ve read the first three Selection books twice). I bring it up because I think it’s important to remember the effects of disrespecting one another’s place in this community.
So gather ’round, loves. Pull up a chair and get toasty by the campfire. Let me weave you a tale.
Once upon a time, back in 2012 when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I fresh out of college – a baby blogger – Wendy Darling was the queen of book reviewers. She’s still a formidable force in her own private Goodreads community, but she’s successful because she writes very honest, very respectful, in-depth reviews. If you’re looking to read a book, her reviews are great to read, because they give you a really good sense of what’s inside, without spoiling anything.
As an author, if Wendy Darling gave your book a glowing review, you knew it was going on a lot of TBRs. But, if she gave it a one-star review, it was pretty likely she was going to influence readers in the opposite direction. This is true of any influential reviewer on Goodreads. It hurts to know someone didn’t like your book, and it hurts doubly so when that person may inspire others to drop it from their TBR.
Something like this can be handled with grace, or it can be handled with fire and brimstone.
In the case of The Selection, it was handled with the latter. It was a choice made, perhaps one some members involved now regret – I don’t know. Either way, on January 13th, 2012, Wendy Darling posted a one-star review of The Selection.
If you have a little time, I suggest you read the review and go through some of the comments. Wendy definitely has a community and this was a time where more discussions happened in review comments than in groups, so they were out there in the open for anyone to see. The conversation is a lot of friendliness and joking around, until things got real.
By the time we hit comment 224, we already see people getting mad because Wendy openly admitted to skimming the book after page 168. She could have said she read it all the way through, since she did take the time to follow the plot, even if she wasn’t reading in detail. But she chose to be honest and say she lost interest. This, it seems, was the spark that lit the flame.
Author Kiera Cass and her agent, Elena Roth, were aware of the review by the time comment 230 was posted, where Wendy screencapped a public Twitter conversation. Do keep in mind that the completed review had been on Goodreads for less than 24 hours at this time.
The fallout is immediate. Wendy’s comment in 232 says it very well:
“This is no different than my going onto an author’s blog and telling them they have no right to write worthless drivel, and then calling her names in public.”
What started as an honest review became a public meltdown. In followup posts about the debacle, Wendy talks about the trolls and hate mail she received from fans after the review went viral, how the public fallout began to affect her life, and why she still believes it was a valid review.
Can you imagine being put in that position? As a reader or blogger?
I want to look at this example and talk a little bit about what went wrong:
- Everything was discussed publicly.
- People were emotional instead of rational.
- It got personal when the agent (Elena Roth) started name-calling.
- Maybe authors should not read Goodreads reviews of their books?
I can get really specific, but those four points encompass a single big thing: a line was crossed between author and reader. While I personally put more blame on the agent for the escalation of the situation, there was panic when a bad review was widely liked and the publication team wanted to take action.
It should never have reached that point. Goodreads is a great and terrible place in that it’s a public stomping ground for book lovers of all sorts, and it leaves authors vulnerable to find out that people hate the things they’ve poured their lifeblood into. Because of the way this situation was handled, because of how much Wendy Darling was harassed for sharing her perfectly valid views, Kiera Cass is now and will forever be on many people’s “Never Ever Read” lists.
This should not have happened. The relationship between a reviewer and the publication team of a book requires respect – you can’t make everyone love your art. All you can ask is a careful, honest discussion about the book when you receive a negative review – conversation about parts that didn’t work, and you can hope that those things are not true for all readers. Respect for the validity of one another’s honest opinions is what makes this community work.
Without it, there’s chaos.
Please take this post as an object lesson, or a reminder of the importance of being honest and kind to one another.
Please continue to leave honest reviews in the community, whether those are one-star or five. Please continue to talk about why you love or hate a book in a respectful way. Support other reviewers and bloggers, as well as the authors you love. And nolite te bastardes carborundorum, my loves.
Don’t let the bastards get you down.
This week’s Book Blogger hop asks:
What author do you not read and why?
Short answer: Strictly speaking, I haven’t avoided anyone directly? I try to separate the works and the authors – especially since I borrow a lot of my books from Overdrive, so I’m not necessarily putting money in their pockets anyway? I hear that Terry Goodkin is a real jerk, but I’ve read Wizard’s First Rule, for example.
I know this is a controversial opinion, so please know I absolutely respect everyone’s right to boycott certain authors, actors, or other entertainers.