Do they have the right to their anonymity?
Do reviewers have rights?
In case you were wondering...the answer to all of these questions is a solid yes.
These questions and more have been circling the web, flying across a range of social media platforms. Although they haven't been asked outright, they're the basis of what I'd like to call 'The Kathleen Hale Debacle'.
I want to start off by saying that I mean no disrespect to anyone at all, by writing this post. But I want to address some key issues that have been bothering me and that have only been made worse by recent events.
Perhaps I am simply naive, or inexperienced, but to me...book reviewing is such a rewarding and amazing experience.
I look back on every experience I've had with authors, and book reviewing in general, with fondness. The authors I've worked with have treated me with nothing but the utmost respect, and I count many of them as good friends.
The 21st century is filled with technology that allows readers to interact with authors in ways previous generations could only dream of. Goodreads is one of many sites that helps foster these relationships. The 'bookworm community' has been a safehaven for young and old readers alike. And that is a special thing, and something that should not be taken for granted.
It shocked me to learn about an author (a.k.a Kathleen Hale) taking advantage of this relationship.
And yes, I'm using that term. She did take advantage of this ability to connect with readers and reviewers. She did abuse the privileges given to her. And nothing and nobody will convince me otherwise.
Because that blogger is a human being. And we should treat other human beings with the respect they deserve.
But of course, we all know this. From the time your mother or father sat you down and told you to 'play nice' with the other kids, you've known that even when someone angers you, it's best to walk away. Or deal with it in a civilized manner.
So why is that forgotten when it comes to reviewers?
I can speak for myself - being a reviewer is tough. Very tough.
Firstly, there's the matter of time. Finding time to sit down, read a book, highlight key quotes, make a draft of a review, finish the review, post in on social media sites and do all of that with no spelling errors is a lot of work!
Don't get me wrong, I love every second of it. But what I'm trying to say, although not very well, is that reviewers put in the hard yards too.
Authors are amazing, talented individuals who put so much time and effort into their books. And reviewers know this. That's why we aim to give authors the best reviews we can, that give accurate portrayals and aren't misleading.
Because we have a duty to other readers.
True, it's an author's book. True, we'd all like to give a book a 5 star rating and make everyone happy. I'd love to read a bunch of books that make me want to give them 5 stars all around! That would totally make my day :)
But the reality is, sometimes a book falls short.
And that's when this sense of duty kicks in for me. I'm posting a review that lots of other readers are going to take a look at. Odds are, they're leaving 'should I read this book?' comments as well.
Books cost money. Books take time to read. Choosing to go out and get a book isn't an easy decision to make for most people, and reviewers are meant to help with the process...not hinder it!
Which often leads to reviewers having to be honest. If the book didn't quite hit the mark, we're going to have to be honest with people.
Honest...or too honest?
I'll be the first to admit that there are some 'rage reviews' out there. Aaaaand I'll also admit that there have been books that were so poorly written I've felt the need to have a little rage myself!
But what it comes down to is that once that reader has bought that book, it's out of the author's hands.
If you don't agree with me, that's ok. But here's author Stacia Kane's wise words on the matter:
“Readers have the right to say whatever the f*** they want about a book. Period. They have that right.
If they hate the book because the MC says the word “delicious” and the reader believes it’s the Devil’s word and only evil people use it, they can shout from the rooftops “This book is s*** and don’t read it” if they want.
If they want to write a review entirely about how much they hate the cover, they can if they want.
If they want to make their review all about how their dog Foot Foot especially loved to pee on that particular book, they can.
(...) And you know what? If I hated Pop-Tarts and decided to go online and tell everyone how they smell like vomit and make me feel sick, that’s fine. Because I’m not under any obligation at all to like Pop-Tarts, or to keep silent about my dislike. Because I bought the product." [x]
But that isn't even the root of the issue.
Oh no. Because everyone can understand how reading a negative review might hurt someone's feelings. That isn't the issue.
The issue is knowing when enough is enough.
Speaking as an anonymous blogger myself (yes, my real name truly isn't Booknut101!) I just want to say how angry this whole 'author stalks blogger' situation made me.
I started blogging at the age of 16/17. And any wise person will tell you that it's not a good idea to throw your personal details around the Internet. So, I made up a pen name, so to speak. I also know lots and lots of bloggers who do not use their real names. They're wonderful people who give so much to the blogging and bookworm communities, no matter what name they blog under.
Is blogger anonymity an issue?
If the blogger is using their anonymity to harm an author in any way - by being personal, abusive online, or stalking the author - then I can see that certain measures may need to be taken to ensure that that blogger isn't abusing their rights.
But when a blogger posts up a bad review and an author tracks them down to their home...gosh, that's not even a little over the line. You've gone and flown over that line, heading straight for the nearest jail!
I don't care what Kathleen Hale's intentions were. It was an invasion of privacy, it was rude, disrespectful and even a little scary.
There is no excuse for stalking someone. Whether it's a reader stalking an author, or an author stalking a reader, or a publisher stalking both - stalking is wrong. W.R.O.N.G.
I've read tonnes of article on the Kathleen Hale case (including the lady's own on the matter) and let me just say, there have been some stand outs. One of my top choice is Smart Bitches post, which stated this thought-provoking paragraph:
"Hale's account of her determination to connect personally with the reviewer leads me to believe that for Hale, there was no separation between book and author. She "longed" to speak with the reviewer, as she said, and that longing makes me question why that contact was so important? Why would Hale order a background check, call that person at work, and then go to her home address?
There is a tiny silver lining.
Why was that so important? What was she hoping to gain?
What did she win through all that effort? That she was right, that one person was in fact using two names and one or both disliked Hale's book? That if she could just talk to this reviewer, she could...accomplish what? Changing her mind? By showing up on her porch and leaving a creepy book as a gift/message?"
And that is that this horrible situation has shed light on some key issues when it comes to the relationship between readers and authors. People are becoming more aware and hopefully this kind of thing can be prevented from happening to anyone else in the future.
I want to take this chance to send some warm hugs to every single author I've worked with. Whether it was for an interview, giveaway, blog hop, or ARC review - or I simply got the chance to read your book or review it, chat to you via social media, or share a laugh or two. Each one of you has made my life incredible! I love you all and I want to thank you for the respect and kindness you've showered me with <3
And to my fellow reviewers, I want to just say...I appreciate you all. I know how difficult it is to do what you do, and I think you all do it so well! I especially want to congratulate reviewers who manage to critique books tastefully, without going overboard. Respect is a two-way street and although free speech is important, so is common decency. Feel free to hate a book, but make an effort to focus on the book and not the person who wrote it.
Sooooo that's it! Thanks for taking the time to read this crazy little bookworm's thoughts. Talk to you guys soon ♥ ♥ ♥