The Choices of Kathleen Hale

Next week I will be a guest of the Surrey International Writers' Conference in British Columbia, Canada, and one of the workshops I've giving is on reviews. Specifically, it's called, Reviews: How to Get Reviewed, and How to Put a Review in your Rearview Mirror. I'm a blogger and reviewer who regularly gives negative review to books, and I'm also an author of two books, both of which have received positive and negative reviews. I both write and receive reviews regularly, but it's not that experience that gives me an understanding of where Kathleen Hale went wrong.

In an article published by The Guardian today, Kathleen Hale details how she targeted a reviewer on GoodReads who had given her upcoming book a negative review.

When Kathleen Hale stalked, monitored, and then personally harassed by phone and in person a reviewer who disliked her book, she had crossed what should be an obvious line of acceptable behavior. Hale repeatedly sought engagement and demanded attention from a person who did not consent to that contact, and moreover sought through every possible means to unmask a person's pseudonym because she wanted to, and she thought she had the right to do so.

There is a line between how you feel about a review, and what you do in response to it. 

Here, in convenient list form, are two things I have learned as a reader, a reviewer, and an author – a micro-version of the workshop that usually lasts an hour or 90 minutes. 

First: 

When you publish a book, when you create anything and release it into the world as entertainment to be consumed and enjoyed by other people, you lose all control of the conversation about your creation.

I have written about this at length in a book edited by Brian O'Leary and Hugh McGuire. But here's the shorter version: once it's published, it's not under your control anymore. Your name is on the cover, and your name is likely part of the review, positive or negative, as well. But you cannot control what people say about it, and chasing people down, arguing with them about what they said, rounding up other people to tell that person they are wrong, is not helping. It's attempting to quell what could be a beneficial conversation. Negative and positive reviews have a purpose, and they both have important purposes – several purposes, really.

Second: 

You and your book are SEPARATE THINGS. They are NOT THE SAME.

“Oh, I was reviewed by X. They flayed me alive.”
“I got a review at that site. They ripped me to pieces.”

As far as I am aware at this time, I have no magical powers to flay people, my eyes don't turn black and creepy, and I am not definitely not Alyson Hannigan. So I don't flay people, living or dead. If I had that skill, I imagine I'd be very popular among people who need to field dress an elk.

And I don't rip people to shreds, either. I don't have that kind of upper body strength, to be honest.

I may have disliked a book. Another reader may have disliked a book. That happens a lot. But the book and the author are separate things.  A book is not the author, and the author is not the book. If I am offended, angry, disappointed, outraged or completely over the moon with glee about a book, that has very little to do with the author personally.

Truly wonderful people whom I like very much personally write books that are utterly not my thing. And there are books I absolutely adore with every cell in my body that were written by people who I find utterly repugnant on a personal level. Great art is often made by raging assholes. Raging ass work is often created by wonderful human beings.

(Also, where your line of raging asshole prevents you from enjoying a person's work is entirely yours to decide.)

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? 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?

As detailed in her own account of her harassment of a GoodReads reviewer, Hale seems to believe she is entitled to know who and where this reviewer is, where she goes on vacation and what other names she might be using. When Hale obtained this person's address, she didn't send the signed books and call it done. She uses it to further her research. She shows up at the woman's house. She calls her at her place of employment. She's entitled to a conversation that she “longs” for and she's going to have it.

But a review isn't an invitation to an author for a conversation. Most of the time, I advise that authors should stay out of the comments of a review. There are a number of reasons, but first and foremost is that, again, a review is not an invitation to an author for a discussion about the review or the reviewer's opinion.

(Also: the Guardian and Hale are both using “Catfishing” incorrectly. “Catfishing” is the deliberate creation of a fake identity to lure a person into a relationship who otherwise would have nothing to do with you. It's hiding your identity and misrepresenting yourself for the purposes of establishing a relationship with someone. Electing to use a pseudonym online is not catfishing. ETA: Jane at DearAuthor explains in detail how inaccurate Hale's account of the reviewer's behavior was, and that Hale was catfishing to gain information on the reviewer.)

I don't understand why the Guardian chose to publish that essay. I don't understand the thought process of the editor who gave it the green light and effectively condoned the stalking and harassment of a reviewer. The fact that the Guardian published it is as disturbing and abhorrent as Hale's actions – to say nothing of the degree to which she and the editors at the Guardian both seem to lack understanding of how inappropriate those actions were. The fear and horror and wariness that Hale's and the Guardian's decisions have created in many people is absolutely real and justified.

However, as confused and horrified as I am by Kathleen Hale's actions, her decision to write and brag about them, and the decision to publish them, I am equally confident that the connection we have to one another as writers, readers, authors and reviewers is not an inherently bad thing. We're all still figuring out how to interact with one another, but I do believe that that given the choice, most people will choose to be kind.

I'm beyond sad that there are people who lauded, praised and congratulated Kathleen Hale for her actions (and repeatedly misused and misattributed the word “bully”), but I do NOT think Kathleen Hale's actions represent us as authors, or us as reviewers and bloggers, or us as people who reside in book-focused spaces online. I believe we are kind, and I believe we are better than that.

Kathleen Hale's actions and her decision to write about them were abhorrent and beyond inappropriate, reachable only through hours of hiking into the Realm of Really Goddam Wrong. Even if the Guardian doesn't see that, and the people who supported and praised her don't see that, and if Kathleen Hale herself doesn't see that, I believe that most of us recognize how wrong she was.

But, more importantly, I believe we know better than that, and that while we may not always agree or get along, we are not enemies.

Categorized:

Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Serendipitous says:

    There’s no question that Hale was way out of the bounds of normal, safe and sane behavior under any circumstances.  But please let’s not forget that the blogger – if she really was a blogger – was also out of line.  Her behavior wasn’t just bullying, it was obsessive and narcissistic.

    Faking her identity, stealing pictures of her neighbor and her neighbor’s pets, and stirring things up on Twitter for the express purpose of bating Hale are also reprehensible behaviors that shouldn’t be condoned.  There are people out there who will write bad reviews and try to escalate the humiliation of an author just for kicks.

    Most people are highly professional review bloggers or columnists, or are just your average reader who wants to give an opinion of a book that she or he read.  Incidents like this, where two clearly unbalanced people egg each other on, are thankfully out of the norm – at least, at this point. While the Web has connected more people than anyone thought possible, and in a positive way, it’s also got some truly awful dark corners. The anonymity brings out the worst in people who are probably already predisposed to destructive behavior.

    Both of these women deserve equal blame, imo. They cast a bad shadow on all of the normal readers, writers, and reviewers in this world.

  2. 2
    Laura says:

    I love you. I really want to just copy and paste this to my blog. I won’t but you said it so much better than I can. 🙂

  3. 3
    pamelia says:

    What Serendipitous said!  That’s a whole lotta cray cray between the blogger and the author.  Sheesh!

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    @Serendipitous:

    But please let’s not forget that the blogger – if she really was a blogger – was also out of line.  Her behavior wasn’t just bullying, it was obsessive and narcissistic.

    Faking her identity, stealing pictures of her neighbor and her neighbor’s pets, and stirring things up on Twitter for the express purpose of bating Hale are also reprehensible behaviors that shouldn’t be condoned.  There are people out there who will write bad reviews and try to escalate the humiliation of an author just for kicks.

    Whose account do I have of that behavior? Kathleen Hale’s. I don’t trust her version of anything at this point, because I call into question her judgment on pretty much everything especially since the GoodReads thread that set off Hale’s stalking was not at all about Hale and entirely about the book and that reviewer’s reaction to it (the book. Not Hale).

    Moreover, the author, especially one published by HarperTeen, is still in the position of power, here. Hale has a publicist (one who is probably drinking heavily at this point) and a marketing plan and an entire publishing house on her side. What actual power does the reviewer have in response? 

    Like I said, when you publish a book, you relinquish control over what is said about it. The control you have is your reaction to what is said. Hale’s decisions and her reaction are the issue, especially when the reported behavior of the reviewer is being recounted by Hale herself. I trust her perspective not at all.

  5. 5
    Meoskop says:

    I have yet to see a shred of proof that the blogger did any of the things Hale alleged. I will not take the word of someone who has admitted to two separate stalking incidents in her recent writings. I will not blame the victim on the say so of the victimizer.

  6. 6

    I agree completely. I don’t care who you are or what you do, you have a right NOT to be stalked by someone else for whatever reason. I don’t care who you are or what you do, you do NOT have the right stalk anyone for any reason.

  7. 7
    Karin says:

    Well, I now know what donotlink.com is, so that was useful. But did anyone else notice that Hale made some of her bad decisions while drinking? Who the hell gets drunk on bourbon while sitting home alone in the afternoon? I seriously feel she needs to get help. I don’t know what The Guardian’s excuse is, maybe the editors were drunk too?

  8. 8
    Kim says:

    Sarah, thank you so much for this…. I am so tired of the victim blaming today!  Thank you for your reasoned response to @Serendipitous.  I was sitting here trying to figure out what to say to her without sounding like a shrieking banshee.  You had the words that I did not.  I will take NOTHING that Kathleen Hale says as truth.  She is a crazed stalker as far as I am concerned.  These are not the actions of a reasoned individual. 

    I am also remembering any authors who seem to think that her essay and actions were a big win for authors everywhere.  They are no longer on my TBR list or future purchase wishlist.

    THIS is one of the biggest reasons people have online pseudonyms. 

    Again, Sarah, thanks for the sanity.

  9. 9
    Kaetrin says:

    Everything you said Sarah.  +1 x a million.

  10. 10
    simeon beresford says:

    Hale lost me when she admitted to tweeting when drunk.

  11. 11
    Tashenka says:

    In the beginning of the essay, KH claims the reviewer couldn’t possibly have read the book because her book didn’t contain a rape. This is not true. From what I’ve read in multiple reviews, the 16-year-old main character is in a sexual relationship with someone several years older than she is. In the state of Wisconsin, where the book is set, the age of consent is 18. The reviewer is correct that this is statutory rape (which she indicates in the review).

  12. 12
    Serendipitous says:

    Stalking is never justifiable. It’s unconscionable. It shows Hale’s instability, not to mention her unprofessionalism.  I would say she at least acknowledged her drinking and her emotional vulnerability to reviews, which led to stupid and frightening actions on her part.

    I’ve never, ever, ever seen a blogger – or anyone who wants to be respected for their reviews and comments – say “Fuck you” in a book review. I’ve never seen one engage other readers as Blythe did to continue the negative conversation about this book.  Of course she didn’t deserve to be stalked. No one does.  Reading through the Goodreads conversations, and seeing that someone else warned Hale about Blythe, I’d say there’s at least two sides to this story. 

    For the record, I agree with what you say about authors ignoring bad reviews and accepting that once they release their book out into the wild, they have no control over the reaction.  Authors can behave badly.  They can also be on the receiving end of some pretty abusive behavior. 
     

  13. 13
    jaime says:

    Serendipitous:

    I’m wondering where you’ve seen reader reviews before, because that sort of conversation happens all the time on Goodreads and in other reader-oriented areas of the internet.

    “Fuck you” does not merit stalking. A conversation about how much a person hates a book does not merit stalking. And absolutely NONE of that is abusive behavior towards an author, because none of it is actually directed at her.

    I have to say, I find the fact that you’re attempting to push any of the blame for this onto the reviewer is pretty awful. There aren’t “two sides” to every story, not in the sense that the blame can be spread. I don’t care what kind of language a person uses on the internet, or how they talk about a book. None of it justifies what Ms. Hale did, and none of it justifies your “well, she WAS wearing a really short skirt” sort of commentary.

  14. 14
    Kim says:

    @Serendipitous, “Stalking is never justifiable” was a promising start, but then it rolled into the blogger really deserving it anyway.  The “two sides to this story” line is so much like domestic violence arguments…. well, what he did was awful, BUT, we don’t really know the whole story and somehow she may have brought it on herself?  Is that basically what we are saying?  I’m sorry, I am usually a quiet reader of this blog, but I can’t understand the disconnect some people are having with this situation.  The blogger stated her opinion, perhaps not in the way you or I would have, but it’s HER opinion and she has that right.  Then, the author stalks her to her doorstep, and there are those, you among them, who think it’s understandable.  No, I’m sorry, that is so far over the line, you can’t see the line anymore.  If Kathleen Hale has issues, that is sad, and I hope that she deals with them and receives the help she needs … but we never blame the victim!  Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, the blogger was the victim here, not Hale.  Also, the author always has the power in these situations, especially an author with a major publishing house.  I can tell you, I have read scathing reviews of books that I really loved.  Everyone has their own book taste!  However, if at any time, that same author pulled something even a fraction as bad as this, they would permanently be off my buy list!  It would color everything that I read by them forever.  A bad review doesn’t stick with me, bad author behavior does.

  15. 15
    Bekka says:

    @Serendipitous:

    I’m wondering where you have any actual evidence that Blythe led a campaign against this author. I’d like to see it.

  16. 16
    Vicki says:

    Initially, when people began arguing and discussing and hanging out in coffee houses (aka, the public sphere and, yes, I am reading too much Habermas), a person’s arguments were seen as separate from the person themselves. Their views and their personal lives were not necessarily entwined. Sadly, as we moved through the 20th century and into the 21st, we began having trouble seeing the difference. When we disagree with someone’s opinion, rather than argue against the opinion, we attack the person. Logical fallacy, people. And, really, that is where Hale went wrong. Attack the argument, not the person.

  17. 17
    Cat says:

    Thank you for writing this, Sarah. You’re a voice of reason. I can’t believe some people are actually calling the reviewer a “bully” simply based on Hale’s word. After reading her POV in that article, I question Hale’s perception. I wouldn’t trust anything she says. Where is her evidence? Where are screen shots?

    What was Hale hoping to accomplish by writing that article – telling her side of the story? All she’s done is make herself look bad to people, many of whom have never even heard of her. I looked at the reviews and comments on Good Reads, and the ones from today are negative based on the article, not the book. One reviewer pulled her previously-written review out of anger over the article (I assume it was a positive review). I certainly will never read any Kathleen Hale books in the future. Or Anne Rice’s. Or any more Guardian articles.

  18. 18

    I just want to hug the book bloggers and reviewers upset by this. They – we – have been under attack for years now, and this is just another outrageous slap in the face, after the EC/DA suit.

    When I compare the sane, kind, incredibly funny clever women (and guys) I know who share their wit and wisdom with us for free with the hatefulness of the recently unmasked RequiresHate (the *only* book blogger I’ve ever heard of who actually went out of her way to hurt anyone), the cruelty of the people (person) behind STGRB, and those authors who think it’s their right to shit on anyone who doesn’t adore them (I’m looking at Anne Rice today, as well as Kathleen Hale), I know which side I want to be on, and always will be on.

    I stand with you guys. Anyone who goes after reviewers should be a pariah. Don’t forget, don’t forgive.

  19. 19
    Aly says:

    When I started reading the article, I immediately checked the BAD REVIEW that started it all. I thought it must be a very long, aggressive and malicious review, to make the author feel that insulted…

    … but it was actually so SHORT and unremarkable.

    This author crossed so many lines of decency by stalking that reviewer. It doesn’t matter if that person lied about their name… they didn’t deserve that kind of harassment.

    The reviews on Goodreads are already so unreliable, with authors buying reviews and certain reviewers giving 5-star glowing reviews to EVERYTHING so they can get more ARCs.
    It’s sad that readers nowadays can actually be criticized if they’re honest about their negative opinions on a book.

  20. 20
    Julaine says:

    While reading about this today I was angered beyond belief.  That any author thought this was acceptable behavior.  That anyone would condone it.  That The Guardian would give this woman an international platform to further the victimization of the reviewer and most importantly that some people could not see the imbalance of presenting only one side of this story and not questioning the veracity of the so-called facts.  It was incredibly irresponsible of The Guardian to publish this piece. 

    Nothing, and I mean nothing justified Ms. Hale’s behavior.

  21. 21

    I once wrote up a short post for my blog about authors behaving badly. Anne Rice and Alice Hoffman were mentioned, as was a third author. This author had reacted to a one-sentence review by going to the reviewer’s personal blog, where the reviewer had mentioned he had issues with depression. The author commented on the blog to suggest the reviewer jump from a window and take his cat with him.

    I posted my article. The next day I got a call at home from that author, wanting me to take the post down. At the time, I thought the author was crazy, but compared to Kathleen Hale… I think I was fortunate.

  22. 22
    Sarah Wynde says:

    Really well said, thank you! I was reading posts on a reddit thread that were making me question what planet I lived on—there is absolutely nothing a reviewer could write or say that would justify that author’s behavior—so it was an enormous relief to find your words in my RSS feed.

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    @Marian:

    HOLY GOD. That is freaking terrifying, getting a call at home like that. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  24. 24

    Thanks, Sarah. It helped that he was calling from an area code in the States, and I’m in Canada – not that that would dissuade a really obsessive stalker.

    The best part? The author asked me not to make his contact information public, perhaps so no one would try to call him at home.

  25. 25
    SB Sarah says:

    @Marian:

    I know that this is rather Canadian of me (and I’m not Canadian) but I feel like I should apologize to you on that person’s behalf. UGH.

  26. 26

    Of course I agree that Hale’s actions are unconscionable. An author should never stalk a reviewer or go to her home. When I first read the article, I got the impression that Hale knew what she’d done was wrong. The Guardian gave her the platform, and the rope to hang herself, but I don’t believe they endorsed her behavior as justifiable or “okay.” She doesn’t present her behavior as okay.

    However, she uses Blythe’s name. I assume the real name was changed, but why not change that one also? The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt. Hale clearly wanted to out Blythe and humiliate her. And then I saw the story about the peroxide, and yikes. The Guardian should have insisted that Blythe’s pseudonym was changed also.

    The bad review hadn’t destroyed Hale’s career, but this might.

    I have some thoughts about anonymous reviewing in general. I’ve said before that I don’t think authors should review anonymously. The standards of behavior for authors are higher. Reviewers who are not authors have every right to review anonymously. But why use fake photos or false information, other than the name? I won’t take Hale’s word for it about this particular case, but I think it raises some questions.

    I hate it when authors set up sockpuppet accounts to promote their work, or use fake info and fake pics. There’s a male author (he claims to be anyway) whose info looks so fake to me, I roll my eyes every time I see it. If his pic and bio are fake, are the reviews fake also? Bought and paid for? Ugh.

    This is the same idea I apply to reviewers. I always assume reviews are honest opinions, but when a person invents an entire identity, I wonder if they are saying and doing things to fit in or get attention. No one is hurt by it, perhaps. What about the real person in the photo—are they hurt? Do they know?

    Authors can be affected also. There seems to be an in-crowd among the YA set, and I’ve seen them 1-starring books based on other bad reviews. I remember Bennett Madison getting a rash of bad reviews from readers who hadn’t read his book. Was his career destroyed? I doubt it. But I’d probably be worried about it if I wrote YA. Hale has a lot of power and influence. She’s got plenty of great reviews. That’s not true for every author.

    We know that reviews are huge for authors, and they absolutely make a difference as far as sales. Negative reviews get more hits and attention. Why is it so hard to believe that reviews can have a detrimental affect, as well as a positive one? It can’t be one or the other. Either reviews matter, or they don’t.

    Which maybe sounds like I’m saying reviewers shouldn’t write negative reviews because boohoo poor authors my children are hungry cup of coffee blah blah blah. That’s not what I’m saying. I’ve always supported honest reviews and I always will. These are just things I’ve been thinking about since the article broke, and have considered before when the topic comes up.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  27. 27
    Kim says:

    Ms. Sorenson,

    First, this isn’t about what the blogger did or did not do “wrong”.  I think it should be fairly obvious at this point that there are many reasons for online anonymity… Job, family, church, oh, also SAFETY!  How can that even be a question after this story? 

    Second, bad reviews shouldn’t be published because of their “detrimental effect” for the author?  I know that you say that’s NOT what your saying, but honestly I can’t tell.  It just sounds like you are trying to say that it’s a problem with the review system, and not as much with an off the rails author who did something awful. 

    I hope that I am reading your comment wrong, but I still can’t see how this isn’t more of blaming the victim.  If I have misread your meaning, I apologize…. I just don’t understand anyone even discussing the victim’s actions in this situation.  Also, our main source for the victim’s actions is her stalker.  I tend to be skeptical of that narrative.

  28. 28

    Kim,

    I’m not questioning her right to be anonymous or her reasons. Those are obvious. She did nothing to warrant Hale’s absurd overreaction. I never said bad reviews shouldn’t be published. I’m all for honest reviews, anonymous or not. I’m against fake personal info (beyond a pseudonym) and fake credentials because that isn’t honest. That’s all.

    I know this is the wrong time to say that, but there is never a good time to point these things out. During the last STGRB debate at Dear Author, I mentioned that I have seen personal threats made towards authors. I’ve also been mentioned on the STGRB site as a “bully to avoid,” probably because I’ve publicly criticized Ann Rice and others for their terrible responses to reviews. I’m not a defender of badly behaving authors.

  29. 29
    laj says:

    How exciting! You are going to B.C.! Gorgeous views, great restaurants, amazing shopping and
    CLEAN AIR! Have a great time!

  30. 30
    Lea says:

    Thank you Sarah for your commonsensical analysis of this sorry and I don’t mind saying frightening situation. I agree that what is beyond sad is the numbers of individuals that have praised and condoned the irrational behavior described by that woman in the Guardian article. The horrible comments that follow that post and the discussion in online forums supporting a shameless invasion of a person’s privacy and security is breathtaking.

    It’s comments such as this: https://twitter.com/damiengwalter/status/523813741130182656 that are beyond the pale. Sociopathic behavior is equated with serial killers along with other equally horrific acts of violence, not sharing thoughts about what someone has read in a book!

    Staying clear of online controversy in the book blogging / reviewing world is a policy that I’ve personally tried to adopt of late. I’ve learned name calling and insults with regard to book reviews can come from readers and authors alike, none of it is acceptable but a physical threat to one’s safety and security isn’t something that myself and many of my online acquaintances have given much thought to. However, when sharing thoughts online about books we read or the publishing world in general risks someone physically invading one’s home and work life &/or risk of being sued then it forces changes to be made.

    So:

    I’m abandoning Goodreads as a platform to post reviews and thoughts about books and moving to a different and seemingly more civilized and quieter site.

    I’ll keep posting reviews at the current blog as it is strictly for books we would recommend if readers are interested.

    I’m no longer accepting review books from authors I don’t know. I’ll continue accepting referrals from publicists linked with publishers who I know and trust and from rational authors I’ve dealt with in the past. To the best of my ability, I’m going to privatize any information I write online & take any other measures I see fit to safeguard the safety and security of myself and my family.

    Some may think these measures are silly and reactionary, but to be honest I don’t give a rat’s ass. If no one sees what I have to say, all the better. When there is the possibility of being targeted by an individual who has no sense of decency or respect for others then it’s best to be safe then sorry.

    Thank you for a providing a forum where we can discuss this issue.

  31. 31
    kkw says:

    This is scary and horrifying and insane. Seriously, while I’m not currently full of sympathy for her, I think that author needs help. Everything about this is just…not OK.

    Some readers seem to have been taken in by the narration – it’s engaging and open and if you don’t have much exposure to mental illness, might not ring all kinds of alarm bells? Maybe?

    Also, maybe you could interpret it as rilly rilly romantic? Like this is how we know they’re meant 2b 2getha foreva? No? Twilight humor in poor taste?

    Anyway. Regarding the question of when to engage, if you should engage, with online detractors, and whether people can deserve to be vilified, shamed and/or confronted (not stalked. I think we can all agree, never stalked) for the things they write online, this is a great, inspiring article that I think makes clear (if it needed to be clearer) that Hale hasn’t got a leg to stand on:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/troll-slayer

  32. 32
    Mandi says:

    Very well said Sarah

  33. 33
    MK says:

    I would like to point out the review was not “Fuck you” but rather “Fuck this.” It was NOT aimed at Kathleen but at her book.

  34. 34

    I think where many authors go wrong is in the personalization, as you mentioned. However, it doesn’t help when reviewers use phrases like “this author sucks” and other terms that speak to the author and not the work.

    I’ve had my fair share of both bad and good reviews and when I was starting out it was very difficult to read the (thankfully few) ad hominem attacks by readers who simply didn’t like a story I wrote.

    First, I learned not to personalize, then I learned not to read them at all. But, I think both authors and reviewers need to do a double check on their behavior to ensure a) authors allow readers to have a free flowing conversation without their interference and b) reviewers keep their reviews to the work and not the author.

    Regards,
    Elene

  35. 35
    azteclady says:

    Excuse me, Ms Sallinger, but I’m more than a bit taken aback by this:

    eviewers need to do a double check on their behavior to ensure a) authors allow readers to have a free flowing conversation without their interference and b) reviewers keep their reviews to the work and not the author.

    So reviewers should mind their words? Otherwise they should expect stalking and doxxing, and it would be their fault, because the authors are the ones who allow the conversation between reviewers and readers to even happen?

    Are you shitting me?

  36. 36
    Lamaha says:

    She did not say Fuck you. She said Fuck that. Meaning basically, she had given up on the book.

  37. 37

    @azteclady:

    My actual words were “both authors and reviewers

    I think authors go crazy over reviews and have no right to interfere (as I stated) and I damn sure don’t condone Kathleen Hale nothing I stated remotely implies I do. I do, however, believe reviewers should review a story/book not the author.

    No, I am not shitting you.

  38. 38
    Sandy James says:

    First off…you may not be aware of it, but you helped me a lot, Sarah, when you conducted your workshop at RWA this summer. Your advice is always in my head whenever I feel like fretting about any review. “Reviews are for readers, not for authors.”

    Second…Reviewers are usually commenting on the story, not the author. If a writer expects every reader/reviewer to love her work, she’s going to go crazy because that just won’t happen. If reading reviews bothers you, stay the hell away from them! But to stalk a reviewer? Reprehensible.

    I’ve only had one review that I’ve ever wished I could respond to, but even if I’d had that opportunity, I probably would have done whatever I needed to to prevent myself from writing a reply. An author commenting on a review—with the exception of thanking the reviewer for her time—is a fool. In this case, the reader didn’t like that I had sex in my romance. (Sex in a romance? Who knew?) She said, ” I always wonder if the writer is a frustrated person with little satisfaction in life to find it necessary to write such trashy stories.”

    Rather than comment about her words, I’ll simply let them speak for themselves.

  39. 39
    azteclady says:

    Ms Sallinger, I still don’t think that reviewers should be told to mind their manners. Yes, the review should be about the book and not the author, but the problem is that even when the review is clearly about the books, there are authors who will start with “my baby! you dissed the child of my sould!” and therefore will take it personal. There’s not winning for a reviewer, and being told to be more careful? That’s authors trying to control a conversation they should have no part in.

    Ms James, one wonders what she’s reading such trashy stories herself. Which sucks, because we romance readers are so often accused of being lonely, sex-starved spinsters to begin with.

  40. 40
    azteclady says:

    Crap. Typos. Apologies.

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