Investigated – How do you respond to author scandals?

Posted October 27, 2014 by Emz Chang in Investigated / 15 Comments

investigated

In light of the recent controversy with Kathleen Hale I think I need to revisit the question of how should books be judged? By their own merit or by their authors’ actions?

Who is Kathleen Hale?

Kathleen Hale is a HarperTeen author who published her debut novel earlier this year. She made waves in the book blogging community when she admitted she paid for a background check and stalked a book blogger for giving her book a bad review. Now it’s kind of blurry what happened – Hale claims the blogger bullied her in the review, but according to some, that’s a false accusation. Either way, bullied or not bullied, what Hale did is intolerable. You do not track down, stalk, and show up at someone’s front door just because you feel like you have been wronged. You just don’t do it. Not to mention, IT’S ILLEGAL. It’s also not something to be proud of or brag about, which she basically did in the article she wrote for the Guardian. This doesn’t just affect bloggers, but anyone who rates and reviews books.

Why is she relevant?

Many people responded to her article by giving her book one star ratings on Goodreads without personally reading it. I’m not writing this post to defend Hale and her actions, but I honestly do not believe it is fair to give her book one star ratings without even reading it. When I asked how books should be judged a few months ago, everyone pretty much agreed that books stand alone, away from the actions of their creators. But how can you judge a book you have never read? It’s one thing to boycott an author and all of his/her existing work because of what he/she did, it’s another thing to give those books bad ratings when you haven’t read them. And if you read and reviewed those books after knowing about the whole controversy with the author, your honesty in your review and the review itself is questionable.

What are bias and prejudice

I’m not saying that to be mean. I’m simply stating what I believe is true.

According to Google, prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” while bias is “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair”.
Bias and prejudices exist whether we like it or not. Sometimes it’s beneficial to the author, sometimes not. It’s like when you read a book written by one of your favorite authors (because it’s impossible just to have one). Even if the book isn’t that great and is poorly crafted, you’re more likely to just see the positives because you like the author. The same thing goes the other way around, with an author you despise. He/she could have written a wonderful book with beautifully crafted storytelling and characters you can connect with both on a personal and emotional level. But you could still hate it. You might even go as far as picking it apart, looking for things to hate about it because you are determined to hate it.

What are other ways to protest scandalous author behaviors?

While I think rating and reviewing books just based off an authors actions and words, alone wrong, there are other ways to take a stand against them. My personal favorite way to protest against authors I believe have done scandalous things is just to boycott them. I don’t buy their books. I don’t read their books. I don’t promote their books. I don’t follow them online. I try not to support them in any way. The whole controversy with Hale made me take her book off my TBR pile and I have not mentioned it by its title. I don’t and can’t support authors who don’t support readers.

But…

You can boycott the author all you want, but I also think it’s unfair to boycott the publisher of an author like Hale, authors that have said and done things they should not have, too. Boycotting the publisher will do nothing but hurt its other authors. Authors who are innocent in the whole controversy. Authors, many of which, have condemned Hale’s actions would never act in that way. Boycotting the publisher would not be fair to those authors.

What do you think?
How should books be judged – by their own merit or the actions of their authors?
Is it fair to rate a book you have never read?
Do you think bias and prejudice is a problem when reading and reviewing books?
How do you deal with authors like Hale, ones who have done/said things they shouldn’t have?

Emz Chang

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15 responses to “Investigated – How do you respond to author scandals?

  1. Great post today πŸ™‚
    I usually don’t pay attention to author drama, but the Hale situation stood out to me, because of something that happened on my old blog (I posted my story and my thoughts about the Hale situation on my blog last week). But while think Hale was way out of line, and I say as much on my blog, I would never take it further than that and start trashing her book with a false rating. That’s just wrong and it gives bloggers a bad reputation. I no longer have a goodreads account, but when I did, I was ALWAYS honest about my ratings. If I DNF a book, then I didn’t rate it etc.
    Bloggers/reviewers have a right to be upset about what happened, but some of them are only making it worse by giving Hale’s book a false rating.

    • I agree! By giving Hale’s book false ratings, bloggers are essentially backing up her point that bloggers lack credibility and honesty in their reviews.

      Thank you for always stopping by! I will miss you and your blog, but best of luck in whatever you do next! πŸ™‚

  2. I wasn’t interested in Hale’s book beforehand, all the scandal did we give me a few books to never put on my TBR. (From her and authors that support her).

    I also can’t separate a book from its author, once I learn that an author has done something I don’t condone, I won’t read the book.

    If an author of a book I’ve already read does something strange, I’m not sure if I’d lower my rating or not. I’m neutral about people giving Hale low ratings. Personally, I think she deserves the rating drop and people can make their own decisions regarding it. I won’t be doing it myself though, or boycotting the publisher. I don’t think forcing them into public action is going to help anything.

    Kaniesha @ Deux Lectrices recently posted: Kaniesha's TTT: Top New Series I Want To Start
    • While I do agree that she deserves the rating drop because of her actions, I don’t really like how people are essentially rating the book as if it was the author who wrote it. It’s not fair to the book and can give bloggers a bad rep. And while I do agree that boycotting the publisher and trying to force Harper into public action won’t really help, I think it would be nice if they at least acknowledged the situation and released a statement that they don’t condone Hale’s actions. By staying silent, they are giving a lot people the wrong impression that they feel Hale’s actions were justified.

      Thanks for stopping by Kaniesha! πŸ™‚

  3. I love this post so much, and I absolutely agree with you! I do take into account the character of the author when deciding whether or not to read and/or promote a title, but I would never rate a book I hadn’t read. That’s just petty – even though what Hale did was awful, we don’t want to become bullies ourselves. And it’s rude to people who want to see reviews of the actual book. The best thing to do is to add a disclaimer to your existing review (“I’ll leave my original thoughts here, but people who are interested in this title should be aware of this issue…”), or if you haven’t read it, just keep it off your Goodreads shelves.

    Bias in general is definitely a thing when it comes to reviewing books. We can’t change that fact – we’re humans with opinions and obviously have certain preferences – but normally I think that’s a good thing. Thanks to our unique biases, we can find bloggers and readers whose tastes align with our own. My readers might know that my reading tastes are biased in favor of contemporary and historical fiction, so if they have the same preferences, they’ll know my blog might be a good fit for them. But bias in the sense that you’re rating a book you haven’t read? That’s the bad kind.

    Emily @ Forever Literary recently posted: Before I Read All Fall Down
    • I think the disclaimer is a great idea for people who already have reviews up. And it’s better and more just than changing the rating. I totally agree bias is what makes us unique. I’m more lenient when rating Fantasy novels and more critical of Contemporary, but that’s just me. I think if you’re aware you a bias towards or against something, you should try to make it known you hold that bias and try to correct it (if applicable).

      Thanks for stopping by Emily! πŸ™‚

    • I try to stay out of it too. Although if the author did something and I feel like I have to say something about it, I will. Sometimes the best way to educate people is by using other people’s mistakes as an example of what not to do.

      Thanks for stopping by Julie! πŸ™‚

  4. Great post – I agree 100%. I wont rate a book I haven’t read and I’m not going to boycott a publisher because of an authors actions. I try to keep myself removed from what’s going on with author’s behavior, in fact, because I agree with what you’re saying about bias/prejudice. And I care a lot more about the books than the behavior of the authors that write them. I’ve met some really nice authors and couldn’t get into their books. I figure it stands to reason that some not so nice people could also write some damn good books. So I try hard to not know about author’s behavior until I’ve read their books. In situations like Hale’s, its pretty impossible not to know. And since I know how badly she can respond to a negative review, I decided to take her book off my shelves. I had wanted to read it, but I can’t see myself feeling comfortable with an honest review anytime in the near future. And I don’t believe I’ll be able to read it without remembering all this and it coloring my opinion. Its a shame really, because I might have liked the book. Anyway – great post!

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison |Book Review
    • I agree. The sad part is, it’s not just the reader’s perception of the author’s personality and actions that can be reflected in their ratings, but also background like gender and ethnicity. Sometimes I feel like life would be better if bias and prejudice didn’t exist. But honestly is what counts!

      Thanks for stopping by Berls! πŸ™‚

  5. I agree with so much of what you said in this post. Hale may be an author behaving badly, but bloggers who rate her book one star just because of her actions and not because they’ve read it, are behaving just as badly. I think that gets into the bigger conversation about how people use ratings on Goodreads, though. So many are under the impression that you should rate the books you WANT to read, based on how badly you want to read them (1-5 stars). I disagree completely with that. But, that’s another topic.

    All that said, authors behaving badly absolutely influence whether or not I’ll read their books. More than one well-known author has been totally removed from my Goodreads and will *never* be promoted again because of their antics online. I would never boycott a publisher, though, unless I felt they played a part in the situation. I do, however, think Harper should have issued a statement of some sort about Hale’s actions. What she did was sick and dangerous and, while I won’t be boycotting them personally, I understand why others might feel inclined to do so. It’s a shame, but I get it.

    Kim @ kimberlyfaye reads recently posted: Stacking the Shelves [65]
    • I totally agree with everything you said! People are misusing or misunderstanding the point of the rating system on Goodreads. There are some books that have ratings even before ARCs go out because they are being rated by cover art, series, author, and desire to be read. And Harper really should say something about the controversy. Keeping silent and ignoring it is giving a lot people the impression that it feels Hale’s actions were justified and that they don’t condemn actions like hers.

      Thanks for stopping by Kim! πŸ™‚