Sunday, 19 October 2014

Authors Behaving Badly #3 Kathleen Hale

Welcome to my new blog message which alerts reviewers to rude and obnoxious authors out there who won't take no for an answer when asking for reviews or who abuse reviewers for what they write or for turning them down etc .

I also share stories about authors in the news who have got themselves into a bit of trouble for engaging with fans or critics.

This week I am covering the strange story of Kathleen Hale. This author was a bit upset by a one star review which she felt complained about things that were not true about her book, and despite warnings from Goodreads and friends, she decided to respond to the remarks, setting off a bizarre change of events.  So was Ms Hale an Author Behaving Badly or rightly defending her book against unfair reviews?

OK, let me start by saying that I am a reviewer. Only a handful of people read my reviews and way less than a hundred people follow my blog. I review everything I read because I like to put my thoughts down for my own reference, so I can refer back to it as I have a poor memory. It helps me decide about future reading choices. I don't write my reviews to entertain anyone, I don't care if nobody reads them and I don't do reviews to upset or humiliate authors. (though a few of my early reviews were not nice) And I hate it when people decide to come to my reviews to argue because they don't agree with me-it really gets my back up as all I'm doing is stating MY opinion of a book. I don't force people to avoid books I don't like and I don't set out to persuade people to agree with me. Other readers can make up their own minds if they read it and I respect their right to disagree if they respect my right too.

Now I can understand why authors can be upset by poor reviews-this is their baby that they may have worked on for years and they are proud of it. They WANT people to love it! But too many authors don't seem to get that one man's trash is another man's treasure. You cannot please everyone. You will never persuade everyone to love your book as no book on the planet will ever be loved by everybody. You need to learn to let it go and accept reality. You will always get bad reviews. Ask Stephen King or JK Rowling.

Of course there are different kinds of bad reviews. I mostly try to write constructive reviews that point out exactly why I didn't like the book ie love triangles, nasty MC, too much sex, just didn't connect with it, too slow etc. I try to point out anything I did like. This lets other readers make a more informed choice about whether or not the book is their kind of read. My one star reviews can actually HELP an author, crazy as that might sound. If I say I disliked the book because it was verging on erotica, fans of that genre might want to try the book. Those who hate erotica will avoid the book and thus will not write a bad review of it. So the author can benefit from this kind of 'negative' review. There are the other reviews which can be pretty nasty or have personal attacks on the author. I can imagine that these might be harder to ignore. But it does you no good to get into a fight about it. Just let it go.

I have not read the book in question or seen the review, so I won't comment on that. I don't know what conversation took place after Ms Hale responded to the review. What I can say is that getting into a debate with a reviewer who hates your book will never end well for the author. The reviewer will defend his/her position with 'this is MY opinion and I'm entitled to it', other readers will back him/her up and have a go at you for coming to his/her review to attack, your fans rush to shout at the reviewer and before you know it you get labelled Author Behaving Badly, which is very bad for your reputation.

While I can understand her frustration about a bad review etc, what Ms Hale did over the next few months was pretty bizarre, bordering on obsessed. I recommend that you read the article the author wrote for The Guardian newspaper, detailing her campaign against the reviewer. 

Have you read it? OK. Is it acceptable to:
-stalk your reviewer on every social networking site
-use the book club's desire to help you promote your book to get the address of the reviewer you are stalking online
-pay for background checks on the person living at the address provided
-visit the woman's house
-telephone her at work multiple times
-get publishing house contacts to give you info about books being delivered to her house
-continue to DM her after she blocks you on other sites and sets her account to private and makes it clear she doesn't want to talk to you?

I mean I GET you were frustrated by the review and wanted to ask her about it. I GET that you felt you were being trolled after you engaged with her. But surely it is not right to stalk and harrass her at home and at work? There is no justification for that. And none of it would have happened if you had followed the advice not to leave that first comment. It was just one book review!!! I have seen plenty people defending Ms Hale, as is their right, and I get why they think it is time to get tough on trolls. Some troll behaviour is trully appalling and should be stopped. But I would ask them to consider this. Trolls hate to be ignored and love getting a reaction. If this reviewer was a troll as is alleged, surely ignoring her was the best way to go? Was she really a troll if she was offering imput for the author's next book and only responded in the negative after the author confronted her about the review? Was Ms Hale right to defend her book and try to unmask the reviewer? People will debate all this I'm sure. 

But I want people to think about this-if you write a one star review and the author isn't happy about it, would you want her on your doorstep or contacting you at work? If you are an author would you want a reviewer who hated your book coming to visit you? 

I know I wouldn't.

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