It seems like there’s been a lot of tension in the book community lately. I’ve seen posts about negative interactions on social media – especially Twitter – popping up left and right, and a quite a few people have decided to take a break from their social media accounts.
I can’t comment on the social media climate personally as I don’t participate in it. I don’t use Goodreads to interact with other people, only to keep track of books, and I have a personal Facebook I use sparingly to keep up with family. I’m basically a caveman.
So when Sara over at the Bibliophagist made a post about a negative interaction on Twitter, this time not with a fellow book lover but with widely known author Mackenzi Lee, it made me wonder… Should the behavior of authors have a stand in whether or not we read their books? I just bought a copy of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a few months ago and I’ve heard great things about it. Should I skip it now instead?
Sara’s post drudged up a memory from years and years ago. Up until I started this website and then this blog, I didn’t ever post text reviews on Goodreads. I much preferred (and honestly, still do) reading other people’s reviews of books. One of the most active reviewers at that time was Wendy Darling and I remember being disappointed when she shelved one of Simone Elkeles’s books on a ‘will never read’ shelf. Come to find out, it was because Elkeles had responded negatively to someone’s 3 star review. I did some intense googling and managed to find the post:
This is the link to the review that Simone Elkeles commented on: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/138220761
If you scroll down there’s a screen shot of the comment that Elkeles deleted. Can I be controversial for a second? I think this review was done in bad taste. I get that the idea was to do a review that was more creative than the standard form, but this read more like a review of the author than a review of the book. It reflected personality traits and portrayed the author as someone who interrupts and is conceited. In a link to a blog post made directly after the incident, it was clearly stated that Elkeles asked the author to take the review down because it was an impersonation, and when the post stayed up – with a disclaimer stating that the interview obviously wasn’t real – Elkeles sent a directly worded comment saying, among other things, that she’s all for a review but that the post wasn’t a review, it was one person making fun of another.
All that to say, I think it’s important to look into the situation fully and remember that authors are humans and they’re going to make mistakes (important to note here, I’m not talking about consistently poor behavior. That isn’t a mistake, that’s a personality). Should Mackenzi Lee have responded to tweets the way that she did? Absolutely not. There was no antagonistic behavior to prompt her to snap. He politely and professionally addressed a concern and she could have taken the opportunity to address the pressure she’d been under to release the story along with a quick apology for the change of plans and a nod and wink at the fact that those who preordered got the story for free. It was a great chance for her to turn the situation into a more positive experience for those who were annoyed and smooth the waters a bit. Simone Elkeles could have done the same thing. She could have turned her frustration with the review into good PR by offering to do a real interview with the reviewer.
Personally, I don’t change my reading plans based on the actions or interactions an author has. If I was planning to read a book before an author did or said something that’s deemed out of line, I don’t take it off of my TBR and I don’t hesitate if I want to buy a copy. Most of the time these interactions fly way over my radar anyways, and because I don’t have social media I don’t follow or interact with authors on those platforms. A good middle ground if you are someone who still wants to read a book but doesn’t necessarily want to support the author is checking the book out from the library. You get to read the book without using your own money to purchase it, and your library gets to add another circulation to the tally (which can ultimately end in more monetary and community support for them). It’s a win win!
What do you think? Should we stop reading author’s books if they’ve had poor behavior in their past? Does it depend on the amount or type of bad behavior? Does it depend on if they issue an apology/delete their comments and posts? Where do we draw the line? So many questions!