I used to be the blogger called YAL Book Briefs, but I grew bored of the handle and changed my name to Howdy YAL. I also respond to MJ. I like to read, write, eat truffles, and watch bad Lifetime movies.
When I announced that I was doing a Blogger Blackout earlier this week, I said that I would be having some awareness posts (this is one of them). I thought today I’d talk about how hostile reader and author relations have become and how perplexing it is-to me as a reader and what can we (as a reader/blogger) do about it.
Some background: I started my first blog in Spring 2011. I didn’t post often really until the beginning of 2012 since A) I was in law school, B) I was studying abroad in law school, and C) I ended up getting severally ill that fall with whopping cough and a host of other nasty infections that kept me in the doctor’s office a good third of the year (to the point I got very used to getting my blood tested). However, when I started feeling halfway human again I started blogging again and it was just as I was immersing myself in the blogging community that relations turned nasty.
I don’t know what was the turning point. Before I even blogged I saw negative and snarky reviews. It was nothing new. But there wasn’t near the amount of author drama as there is now. No Twitter tantrums. No cries of “bullying”. No hate site ran by someone who clearly has lost touch with reality. And there wasn’ t an author intent on stalking someone just because they didn’t like their book and were vocal about it.
So, what changed?
My first thought was more interaction between reader and writer. GoodReads had really taken off on this point, and most every author had a Twitter account. But there was Twitter and GoodReads before 2012. Same with self publishing which is what a lot of people blame the problem on. Which I think is silly since a lot of these meltdowns (cough, Kathleen Hale, cough) were committed by traditionally published authors.
Culture could also play a role. There were various events in our society (i.e. media awareness campaigns) that discussed bullying in maybe too broad of terms. And I guess to the ill informed would make a bad review look like bullying, but such an accusation to one who was actually bullied is just aggravating.
Just to reiterate:
So what is it?
My conclusions: there’s not one factor that points towards the poor relations. Sure, certain events like a certain site that is essentially a propaganda piece that bad reviews=bullying probably furthered the behavior, but it certainly didn’t start the downward spiral of what has become an almost hostile community. Not only between authors and reviewers, but between reviewers as well.
And I’m tired of it. I really am. See this post if you want to read my entire rant about trolls in general in the community.
To backtrack, no one should have to hold their breath every time they write a review for a book that gets less than four stars just because it might hurt the author’s feelings. God knows, there have been times I’ve posted less than flattering reviews and I’m like is this the one that’s going to cause some loon to seek out my personal information?
I have actually had my fair share of trolls and dealt with a couple of author trolls in the past. While most of the trolls have been rabid unpublished fan poodles for certain books, the author ones are the ones that have me raising my eyebrows. Grant it, the two authors I’m thinking about on top of my head I did not even read their book (one hasn’t even published his yet). Rather, they were ragging on reviews I wrote for two rather popular authors.
I tried rationalizing with them. I tried the whole you’re an author you should know better mantra, but it didn’t work.
And that’s something that often happens in these situations logic ceases to exist.
Kathleen Hale’s case is a prime example of that. Throughout her article, she keeps trying to justify her actions. Regardless of whether Blythe was a troll or not, she shouldn’t have went to the woman’s house. She shouldn’t have called her. She should’ve left well enough alone.
But she didn’t.
And many others don’t either.
However, it’s not wrong in their heads becuase it’s justified since said reviewer hurt their paper baby and therefore them as well.
So, how do you deal with someone like this?
You don’t. Not really.
If you ever find yourself dealing with an author meltdown, it’s probably the best to do the following:
1) Take Screenshots:In case the author does decide to demonize you in the future, you can always have proof to back your side of the story up. While the most fanatic of fan poodles probably won’t believe you, it will provide proof to those who actually have common sense.
2) Think Before you Engage: More than likely the response you get back is not going to be an apology. If you just don’t want to deal with it hit the block button. If you do decide to engage try to be rational and think what you’re going to say. Remember, your words are probably going to be twisted against you. Again, once you say something take screenshots.
3) If It’s on GoodReads use the quote feature: That way if they do delete,well, not everything will be gone.
4) Make Sure Anything Concerning Your Personal Information Is Kept Personal: The last thing you want is another Kathleen Hale, so keep anything that’s personal and you don’t want being found personal.
I get that while these tips can help, but in some cases they’re not going to be enough. Author and reader relations are at an all time low, but at the same time there are some really great authors out there.
The new reality that book bloggers live in is scary. While there are steps that we can take to limit some of the impact that occurs, it’s not going to limit it all together. And in some cases, it probably won’t do us much good. So, why continue blogging then?
Because it shows them that they didn’t win. Well, that’s my mantra anyway. My voice is not going to be kept quiet, just because some author doesn’t like the fact I hated his or her paper baby. That and I like reviewing (sans drama it actually relaxes me).
Yeah but what about authors like Kathleen Hale….
And that is the elephant in the room.
Yeah, something about that needs to be done. But what can you do? Authors like Hale have networks that bloggers do not have. To be honest, I thought about writing a complaint letter to Harper Collins, The Guardian, and her packager (using my PO Box address of course). I’ve have had some success in the past when writing letters to corporate and at the very least there would be official documentation of my grievance (I’ll send it via certified snail mail, it makes more of an impression than email and they can’t use the it got lost in the mail excuse). However, I don’t think it’s going to be one letter that changes things. I think the blogging community is going to have to come together. And not just with the Hale situation.
There needs to be some sort of accountability for what’s been going on. Other professionals-doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.-have to follow an ethics code. Lots of companies have customer service policies in place. And something akin to this needs to happen in the publishing world. I don’t know if the individual publishing company should enact their own codes, or if the various author/publishing groups need to enact one themselves, or even the selling outlets-such as Amazon-should have some sort of ethics policy for their sellers. But something needs to happen. Events like the Hale situation are unacceptable. While certain authors whine about how mean and evil bullying reviewers are, maybe they are the ones who should look in the mirror.