The Book Community & Authors Behaving Badly

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Every once and a while, it comes up within the book community that a specific author has done something they probably shouldn’t have. Whether it’s calling out reviewers, doing something harmful, or just being a plain jackass, it’s happened more than a few times.

These authors aren’t necessarily my problem. While I agree that they need to stop, I also believe that the book community needs to stop excusing their behavior.

Now, I know people are going to say something with just that introduction: “We don’t excuse their behavior! We call them out and stop buying their books!” And, yes, the book community does call author out and sometimes even boycott their books. I know some people who will completely stop reading an author if they’ve said one or two problematic things, and that isn’t the problem either.

The problem isn’t that we aren’t doing anything. The problem is that we forget.

I can pull out the names of a handful of authors who have done some incredibly terrible shit. I can also pull out a list of reviewers and book bloggers who still support these people, despite calling them out in the initial uproar of these authors doing something. I can pull out a list of names of authors who have gotten their terrible, past comments and actions excused because they did one thing or another that was seen in a positive light. I can pull out a handful of authors who have barely, if at all, suffered from their harmful comments and actions.

Have an example: Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Some of you are probably thinking “What has he done?” or “That can’t be right! I didn’t hear anything.” or even “But he’s such a sweetheart!! He would never :((“

And, yes, I’ve seen all of them.

Just over a year ago, he emailed a teen about their review of his book The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. It went into how the teen read his book wrong, was attacking both his character and his editor’s character, and how they had hurt his feelings because the reviewer was obviously lying or writing the review with the intent on hurting his career. The review was over a half year old at that point, and the teen had gotten a copy of the book via the publisher, in exchange for a review. The teen had also emailed the publisher about problematic phrases in the book before the book was released, but was dismissed.

There was an uproar when the teen posted something about it. People were angry.

And then people forgot, because BAS is such a sweet man, and nobody wants to think about how such a sweet old man did something like that to a teen. And then he did it again. To another reviewer. I won’t say who the second reviewer was, but I will come out and say that, a year ago, I got that email from BAS.

I’m not typing this up for pity points. Hell, this is making me panic just from typing it up, because I was in such a horrible place after I received that email. I’m typing this up because, after the initial two day uproar, people went on saying what an amazing guy BAS is, and how he is so sweet. (I recently also posted a Twitter thread about this. I wonder how long it will be before people go back to blissfully ignoring the shit he’s pulled.)

People are willing to support a man who not only emailed two reviewers, but attacked them. And this isn’t just with BAS. It’s with a whole ton more authors who are still given the time of day after doing harmful, problematic shit. The book community decides to forget about these problems because it’s their favorite author, or because they’re such a good advocate they would never!

But how is anyone going to learn between wrong and right without consequences.

An author will keep doing shitty things if there are no consequences. I know of very few authors who have actually faced consequences for some of the shit that they pulled, even if they seemed like decent people before anything came to light. They learned that what they did was wrong, and now they’re less likely to do it again.

The book community, largely, has a serious problem when they forget about problematic authors in favor of getting the latest popular ARC or their new favorite book. They brush it under the carpet like it never even happened, hoping against hope that it won’t come up again, because then that would show, once again, how shitty their favorite author is.

As a community, book bloggers and reviewers and other authors need to stop excusing others’ behavior because they’re one of your faves. That kind of behavior is harmful and dangerous.

How do you feel about this? Do you have any experience with problematic authors you want people to know about? Feel free to comment (or email)!

- Avery (2)

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20 thoughts on “The Book Community & Authors Behaving Badly

  1. Hi, Avery,
    I have had experiences of both authors and reviewers “behaving badly”; even entire groups have ganged up on one person (not always me; no), which is a middle school/bullying mentality at its worst. I’ve had individuals or groups complain that my review was “too negative” and/or “hurt the author’s feelings” and told that I should “take it down” or change it.
    While I can appreciate your wanting to “call out” authors and reviewers who treat one another badly and not allow the memories of such bad behavior to fade, i think you overestimate your influence or that of anyone, really. We are not able to control someone else’s behavior.
    Plus, it’s a slippery slope we get on when we try to alter someone else’s behaviors. In the above examples, those people had no authority or right to tell me what to put in my book review. Authors who publish books or anyone else who puts our art out for the public to scrutinize need to grow a thicker skin and not be so easily thrown by reviews that aren’t 5 stars or from those reviewers who have serious critiques to make of our work.
    There are still some authors and review groups who INSIST that NO ONE should post any review with fewer than 3 stars. ABSURD. I completely disagree with and won’t adhere to that, nor should anyone else. If ALL books get 3, 4 or 5 stars, review ratings become meaningless (many already are).
    Even those whose reviews were done “irresponsibly” (they haven’t read the book, they left ridiculous comments that have nothing to do with that book, etc.) aren’t in our power to alter. Our choices are: learn from a negative review, ignore it, or celebrate it. But, don’t censor reviewers, please.
    Authors or anyone who reacts to reviews with awful comments or threats is a jerk and should be ignored or reported. But, we can’t change their habits, personality or choices. Best to stop trying.
    When someone’s online behavior upsets you, report it, make your point, then move on. That’s all anyone can do. Get back to your own writing, reviewing, happy-making moments and let those jerks go.
    Otherwise, you give away your valuable time to trolls. Why do that?
    IMO, life is too short to get all hung up on how badly someone else is behaving, especially when we can’t “fix” it.
    I POST every review I get, good, medium or bad, because I still have so few. I appreciate that someone took their time to read and then write about my books. Some comments are laughably off-topic or plain useless, but I do not let it get me down.
    Best to you all,
    Sally Ember, Ed.D.

    • Hi Sally,
      I’m not saying people need to change themself. I’m just saying why people’s current behavior is harmful.

      And it’s also one thing when someone’s “troll” is constantly praised to be a wonderful, caring person, when they’re actually not, and a completely different thing when the person is an actual troll.

      Like I said, I’m not telling people to do anything. I’m just pointing out where they could do better.

  2. I absolutely don’t want to upset you, because I understand that you were by receiving such an email. I don’t want to neglect or deny this entire thing going on, but maybe it’s different in different countries. I have never ever seen people in my country, who mainly blog in Dutch however, talking about problematic authors. Maybe it’s because we don’t really care about it, or we don’t see it. Like it’s not brought to our attention. Or, we tend to not make a deal out of it since that is quite part of our culture. I personally prefer to judge a book rather than an author. I have to say that I, fortunately, have not experienced anything bad with authors or publishers. I really hope you’re okay!

  3. I’m so sorry that a year later this is still stressing you out. This time last year, I remember taking all his books off my Goodreads tbr because he really went out of his lane and his actions are inexcusable. I just wish more people did the same, but AADDTSOTU still remains a huge favorite in the community.
    You make so many great points in this post, and I want to thank you for posting it despite the anxiety it caused you. It’s a shame that established authors never lose popularity from going out of their lane or doing other really crappy things. I can think of several others whom I won’t name.
    But also the only ones I can think of whose careers were ruined for doing bad things weren’t established beforehand anyway. For example: The Handbook for Mortals girl who was “on the NYT Bestseller list for 23 hours” 🙄 and Tr*st*na Wr*ght. But they also didn’t get ruined for harassing reviewers who didn’t like their book(s). I hate that we don’t, as a community, blacklist these people. Anyway, this comment is getting hella long so thank you again for posting this and take care of yourself 💚💚💚

    • I guess it’s just that BAS continues to be placed on this pedistal and no one cares. Ari&Dante was special to me, but I just can’t look at it any more without remembering BAS.

      TW&LS are some of the few authors that I meant. They’ve faced minor consequences for their actions, mainly just public shame, and nothing more.

      Thank you for your support! 💗

  4. Thank you so much for writing this! It must take so much courage, because I know how I’d feel after receiving an email like that…

    After reading his Ari and Dante book, I fell in love with his writing and these characters. But then I tried to read The Inexplicable Logic one, and I just couldn’t do it. I DNF’ed it, and I guess I’m lucky enough not to have been harassed by him. I won’t be reading his other books and I think I downloaded a screenshot of a horrible comment he left on a blog so I still have that one.

    I will admit that sometimes I’m just not aware of controversy surrounding an author, or an author behaving in an awful way. If I’ve been away from the bookish community for a bit, and I didn’t keep up with my social media, I’m just not aware. Maybe I should start Googling every author before reading their book, but that seems sad…

    I do agree with you. There should be more consequences to behaving like this, and there is absolutely no excuse for it. There are certain authors I won’t be reading anymore, like SJM, BAS, K*thleen H*le…

    • Thank you! I was also a big fan of his Ari&Dante, and was excited to get my hands on Inexplicable Logic. Since then, though, I’ve had to get rid of all of his books from my collection just from how he has acted.

      I will admit the same thing. Sometimes things just aren’t spread, or people want to keep it between a few, and then it’s impossible to figure out who the problem originated with. I often figure things out after I’ve read their book, and it’s definitely difficult to deal with.

  5. I’m so happy I found this post of yours, and I’m going to refer & link to it in a discussion post on my blog, if that’s okay with you! 🙂

    This is really such an amazing post, and thank you so much for sharing, Avery! 🙂 <3

  6. This is such a great post! I think it’s so ridiculous when authors attack reviewers, especially when they asked the reviewers to review the book. Any everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, so even if the reviewer thought the book was bad, they’re allowed to! And authors, who are generally grown-ass adults (like BAS), should at this point honestly be used to criticism and should embrace it

  7. this was such a great post!!!??? ❤ And I’m so sad/disappointed/hurt about BAS and his letters,,, I love his book Ari and Dante, and if I separate that particular book from the author it’s still my favorite, but after reading this post I’m not sure if I can read any of his other books. ++I’ve also seen BAS write kind of uncomfortable/aggressive things on Twitter? I hate supporting assholes. I love Ari and Dante thoooooo skfdjklsjdf THIS BREAKS MY SMOL HEART???

    • I feel the same way. Ari&Dante was huge for me, but ever since I got that email I can’t look at it the same. I understand that other people are also attached to it, but BAS is not what people always say he is. Thanks 💔

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