There’s another story going around of an author behaving badly, and this time, it’s a doozy: the author in question confesses to having developed an unhealthy obsession with a reviewer who 1-starred her YA novel on Goodreads, and ultimately went so far as to show up on the reviewer’s doorstep. Her actual, physical doorstep.
This story is out in circulation because the author in question wrote an article about her experiences in stalking the reviewer, and a certain major online publication ran the article. The article itself is less a confessional of the author’s unwise choices, much less her learning from those choices, and more an attempt at analysis of the pathologies in online book-reviewing culture and investigation of whether the 1-star reviewer is who she says she is. The author admits that she was warned not to engage with the reviewer, and makes a show of declaring that she, the author, is not entirely stable and that her stalking the reviewer was an inappropriate thing to do, but the substance of her piece is more an argument that her writing was treated unfairly and that she had no other recourse than to engage with the reviewer. If we take her story at face-value, we might ultimately conclude that the reviewer is more of a problem than the author, and that the author’s obsession, while regrettable, was an understandable response to the reviewer’s apparent determination to ruin her career.
The response to this author’s story of diving too far down the rabbit hole has been less about sympathy with her insanity and more about raking her over the coals for losing her shit over a negative review. Which is fine. Given the author’s inability to walk away from a 1-star review (out of many 1-star reviews for her book, oddly enough), and her willingness to fall in with the crowd that characterizes negative reviewing as “bullying,” I don’t trust this author’s analysis of the supposed perfidies of the Goodreads community. I don’t even trust her version of events. Her article gestures at being self-critical, but it’s ultimately self-serving more than anything else, and for that reason, all her commentary on the alleged toxicity of book-reviewing culture is suspect.
You may have noticed that I’ve written all this blog entry so far without naming anyone or anything except Goodreads? If you haven’t seen the story already, I’ve probably given you enough information to find the author’s name through Google, but here’s what I realized in reading another analysis of this author’s behavior on another, very high-traffic site:
We’re giving her what she wants.
What a brand-new novelist needs more than anything else is to be talked about. She needs people to read her book, and pay for it, but if she gets enough people talking about her, even if the talk is overwhelmingly negative, the readers and paying customers will follow.
I never heard of this author until today. Without her getting her bad behavior attached to her name on major websites, I probably would have never heard of her.
As we speak, there are plenty of Goodreads members adding the author’s name to their Will Not Read No Not Ever lists, but I’m sure there are many more people looking up her name on Amazon just to see what all the fuss is about, and many of those people are paying for her novel.
She’s profiting from her bad behavior. She’s using her unhealthy response to criticism to build notoriety, and she’s able to do this because of the copious amounts of critical analysis of her reviewer-stalking with her name and face attached. The major online publication rewarded her bad behavior by running her article. “Some names have been changed,” it says at the bottom, but the author’s name is very much intact. All the other websites weighing in on the inappropriateness of her actions are also rewarding her, because they are very much using her name. That sends a bad message to other (unknown, ethics-impaired) authors, and it makes more reviewers unsafe.
I’ve written about other badly-behaved authors before, though none of them went as far as showing up on someone’s doorstep. I’m starting to think maybe I shouldn’t have used their names. I’m starting to think the most radical way we can handle stories like this one is to refuse to name the author. Don’t add to their Google results. Don’t help them build name recognition. Don’t send new readers their way.