|Badge made by Kaetrin. Image attribution: Jorge Stolfi|
I almost used a hashtag on the title, but I decided not to. You’re welcome!
By now, and especially if you are a blogger, you have probably heard about how author Kathleen Hale went through great lengths to obtain a reviewer’s personal info, her home address included, and then proceeded to use that info to visit the blogger’s house and call her at work. Then she wrote an article about it and The Guardian published it (I'm not linking to it, but I'm sure you can find it).
The rest is (ongoing) history.
I think (and wish with all my heart) that this is a one-off*. But it’s hard not to be concerned when a reviewer suffers such a violation of her privacy and her negative reviews are portrayed as trolling and bullying, as if such things justified stalking someone. Worse, no one is being held accountable, some people are praising Hale, others are saying the reviewer deserved it, the mainstream media seems to have forgotten how to research and fact-check, and the publisher remains silent. This last part is of special interest, because on her account Hale says that she verified the reviewer’s address with “a contact in a publishing house”, which, even if it wasn’t HarperTeen, still makes their silence and lack of reassurance that they take their bloggers’ privacy seriously, quite worrisome.
Needless to say, this isn't enough:
@dearauthor We were not involved in this incident, and we do not disclose our blogger contact information as a general matter.Because, among other things, "we do not disclose our blogger contact information as a general matter" (emphasis mine) isn't the same as "we do not disclose our bloggers contact information".
— HarperTeen (@harperteen) October 20, 2014
Another thing that concerns me is that some seem to overlook the power disparity between this reviewer and Hale, who is not only a professional with a machinery working for her (publishers, publicists, agents, etc.) but her engagement to Simon Rich also makes her particularly well-connected to the New York literary world. Whereas, on the other hand, we have a hobbyist reviewer who posts her reviews on a free blogging platform and on Goodreads, a bookish social network designed to host reader reviews. But of course, some sacrifice accuracy in favor of false equivalences that I wish I could say fool no one, but that many seem to think are spot on comparisons that normalize appalling, dangerous behavior.
In response to this, a few bloggers have decided to do a review blackout for a couple of days (until the 27th). It’s, perhaps, a small protest, but I hope it sends the message that bloggers and reviewers aren’t promotional tools to be discarded when they become too much trouble or to be ignored when authors decide to put our safety at risk, and to remind ourselves, as well as the community of readers, that we’re here to talk about books.
I have also taken a few measures to ensure my safety as well as yours:
- I’ve made sure my NetGalley account has my contact info set to “Private”, so that no one, not even the publishers, can see it. You can easily do this on your profile under the Settings tab by clicking on the eye symbol next to the information you want to make private. I don’t know if this page is accessible to readers who use screen readers or any other type of assistive technology, though.
- I no longer accept physical review copies, opting only to review e-books. This policy has actually been in place for a couple years now, but I’ve made it official.
- I also think it’s important to keep pressuring HarperTeen and HarperCollins to categorically respond to our privacy concerns, so if you are a blogger and they have your address, here’s a link to all of their publicity contacts. I suggest emailing them to let them know we don't feel safe working with them.
Dear Author: The Importance of Pseudonymous Activity
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: The Choices of Kathleen Hale
Vacuous Minx: The Rising Costs of Membership in the Book Talk Community and Blog Blackouts and Minor Adjustments to VM
Bibliodaze: An Open Letter to Kathleen Hale
Book Thingo: Shenanigans in Social Media: An Author Brags About Stalking a Reader as well as Kat’s Storify account of some of twitter’s most egregious responses.
ETA to include this link: A response to the support received by Kathleen Hale after she stalked a book blogger
ETA 2 to include this link: Class and Privilege: The Listen Linda Edition
*Actually, it isn’t, because this is an escalation of what Stop the Goodreads Bullies started in 2012, and I’m frightened just thinking about what will come next.