Kernels of Nonsense: The Ugly Side of Book Blogging

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I discuss various book and blogging related topics. This week I was unfortunately reminded that although being a book blogger is a great and rewarding experience, it also has an ugly side.

Early last week a fellow blogger tweeted that she had been plagiarized. Another blogger had taken her review, slapped her own name on it, and posted it both on her blog and on Goodreads. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only victim, as several other bloggers were also plagiarized by the same person. While this didn’t come as a huge surprise (I’ve come across several plagiarizing incidents since joining Twitter), it was a reminder that as book bloggers (and bloggers in general), we are susceptible to this kind of thing simply because of the open online environment in which we operate.

In the two years that I have been blogging, I haven’t been plagiarized (at least not to my own knowledge), but it is something that I’m aware of, even though as a community we often don’t discuss it. As far as I can tell, plagiarism among bloggers is rare and because bloggers are so well-connected with one another, word spreads rather quickly when an incident does happen. But the online world is vast and I’m sure there are instances of plagiarism that go unnoticed.

As book bloggers, words are important to us. We are passionate about reading and we became book bloggers in order to share that passion with others. Taking someone else’s words and claiming them as your own is not only dishonest, it robs the original author of the credit they deserve. While we may never be able to rid our community of this kind of wrong-doing, it is important for us to look out for one another.

Unfortunately, this was not the only incident that came to my attention this past week. On the same day another blogger came forward to report that he had been contacted by an individual who claimed to be a part of Penguin Random House. This individual requested his address in order to send him ARCs for review. But once he received a package from this individual, he became suspicious and eventually learned this person was not a Penguin Random House employee, but an author named Christine Catlin who created a fake identity in order to get bloggers to review her book. You can see the blogger’s full post here.

When I first saw this story on Twitter, I panicked a little. I was one of the bloggers “Corinne Rosanna Catlin” had contacted. I went from feeling truly horrified to disgusted to wondering if I did something wrong by trusting this person. A few days after learning that I had also been a victim of this individual, my own package arrived. At the time it put a pretty big knot in my stomach and to a lesser degree, still does. I now have this woman’s book Spectaccolo in my possession, along with an ARC that she obtained (it has a price tag on the back) and I have no idea what to do with them.

catfishstory

After having a couple of days to fume inwardly and work out my own feelings of self-pity, I’m now at the point where I almost feel sorry for this author. She’s essentially shot herself in the foot. She’s unlikely to have a successful writing career under her own name, and her book’s ratings on Goodreads and Amazon have taken a nose-dive since this story broke. While she could have gotten bloggers to review her book by simply asking, book bloggers are now highly unlikely to review her book. Though she deceived me and who knows how many other bloggers, I don’t think she meant it in a malicious way and it is because of this that I can be forgiving. I won’t be reading her book, but I’m ready to move past this whole experience.

This incident regrettably brought to mind what happened with author Kathleen Hale back in 2014. If you’re not familiar with this story (brace yourself), author Kathleen Hale was so distraught over a negative review she received for her book that she essentially stalked a blogger both online and in real life. When Hale discovered this blogger was not using her real name, she used deceptive means in order to gain access to the blogger’s address and then drove to her house to confront her. There are far too many examples of authors’ bad behavior toward bloggers and reviewers and is just another example of the ugly side of book blogging that we don’t often talk about.

Sometimes being a book blogger is not all rainbows and unicorns (or in this case, big books and pretty books). We operate in a digital world where anyone can become a blogger and anyone can contact us. This makes us vulnerable. It is so important for us to look out for one another, to communicate with each other if someone contacts you that you’re unsure about, to inform your fellow bloggers if you discover someone has been plagiarizing their work. We’ll never be able to do away with people taking advantage of those within this blogosphere, so these experiences raise an important question, what can we do to better protect ourselves and the community?

Have you ever been plagiarized? How did you handle it? What steps do you think bloggers should take in order to protect themselves and other bloggers? Do you believe we are too trusting in the book blogging community? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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41 thoughts on “Kernels of Nonsense: The Ugly Side of Book Blogging

  1. Oh this is all sucks sometimes, I was a little confused on the catfishing thing, so thanks for clearing that up. I feel like us bloggers are usually such a nice group and it’s horrible when something bad happens to one of us, but it’s also great how we all stick together and defend each other

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to help. I agree, my book blogging experience so far has been extremely positive. There are so many wonderful people within the community, bloggers and authors alike, so this feels like a horrible violation. Agreed, it’s really important we stick together and is just another reason why I love this community.

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  2. I’ve never been plagiarized or seen it happen thankfully. That is scary about the author masquerading as a publisher especially in light of the Kathleen Hale situation and it seemed like there were several incidents of bloggers being physically attacked by authors a year a two ago. I think you’re right about the author getting reviews if she had simply asked honestly or maybe even tried a blog tour or something like that. The dishonesty instantly makes me nervous. Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you can’t help but think about Kathleen Hale and other incidents when something like this happens. I know exactly what incident you are referring to, about the author that tracked a reviewer down to her place of work and physically assaulted her. It’s terrible. It’s too bad that this author didn’t just reached out to bloggers in an honest way, she would have had more success.

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Alicia, and it is definitely important to be alert. Sadly, what that author did will definitely ruin her success, but even worse…other unknown writers will find readers less willing to give their books a try. A few years ago, I decided to only accept books for review from entities like Amazon Vine, NetGalley, or authors I know. I had received books from unknown authors that were truly appalling, and I hate having to give negative reviews. Perhaps this author decided to take the actions she took because she feared readers would not review the book of an “unknown.”

    Nonetheless, she shot herself in the foot with this action.

    Let’s all be wary out there…and keep the lines of communication open between bloggers in the community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really unfortunate for those indie authors looking for bloggers to review their books, I’ve certainly become more wary. Perhaps this author’s motivation stems from not trusting bloggers would be interested in her book otherwise, who really knows. She really did condemn herself. Yes, let’s continue to look out for one another and keep each other informed.

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  4. I haven’t been plagiarized – that I know of. Actually, I haven’t even thought of it very much. But like elsewhere, I expect it’s can be quite an issue.

    I remember hearing about Kathleen Hale – that’s so scary to think that could actually happen and that someone would go that far!

    I hadn’t heard about Christine Caitlin…like you said she’s shot herself in the foot. I wouldn’t read it either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine it would be awful to discover your review on someone else’s blog when you worked really hard on it. The Kathleen Hale incident was the first time I realized that not everyone in the book blogging community is…let’s just say, reasonable rational. I’m glad to provide you with info on Catlin, it’s important that we all stay informed.

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  5. This has really been a crazy past week in the book blogging world. I have heard of SO many book bloggers who got trapped in this scheme, I’m shocked that I wasn’t contacted. I’ve heard the email address looked legitimate, and oftentimes as a blogger email and letterhead is all we have to go on when chatting with a publisher. It’s definitely going to make me a lot more wary when interacting with publishers via email, and I’m thankful that I use a PO Box most of the time for receiving mail.

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  6. It seems like there are so many bloggers being plagiarized anymore…I haven’t had this happen to me but I can’t imagine how horrible it must feel to see something that you worked so hard on posted somewhere else by someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cases of plagiarism just keep coming up and often times there are multiple victims at once. It’s just a terrible thing to do to a person and there really is no justifiable reason. It’s especially awful when there is no one to really police these plagiarizers.

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  7. Oh no, I’m so sorry you fell victim to this catfishing fiasco too Alicia! I can only imagine the dread that came over you as you sat and realized that some clever yet creepy author is now in possession of your physical contact information!

    I honestly do not know if I have been plagiarized. I’ve thought about it and what I would do should I fall victim to it, and in all honesty, I just cannot allow myself to let it consume me or rob me of my joy for writing. I know that there are resources out there that can help keep track of the traffic on your blog, but they are resources that you would need to invest in, and I don’t know if this is something I want to pour my money into you know?

    I’m merely a speck of dust in the book blogging community. There are so many acclaimed book bloggers out there and as shameful as this may sound, I feel like I should just let the pioneers run the course. Ugh! Sounds awful I know 😦

    The other thing I can’t wrap my mind around is how these plagiarists even get caught! Like, where do you even begin to look and see if you’ve been plagiarized? How do you take the time to sit and scour the endless list of book blogs or reviews on Goodreads, Amazon? There are so many! I just don’t have the time to pour my energy into something that is important, yes, but frivolous at the same time. To me, my reviews, they’re just thoughts and words I don’t even get paid to write. Ugh, all this political correctness is overwhelming to say the least.

    Nevertheless, thanks for gearing up the wit to write up this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was more of a matter of feeling kind of humiliated than being afraid of what she might do with my info. I do know of several plagiarism sites that you can pay and then you can enter text to see what websites it’s found on. You are by no means a speck, Claudia. No matter the size of our blogs, we all deserve the respect of those within the community. As for how these people have been caught, someone usually notices that a review is very similar to one they’ve already read, does a little digging, and takes steps to inform the victim. Usually, there’s more than one victim, so really it’s just a matter of googling a part of a review to see what comes up.

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  8. I definitely agree about the author shooting herself in the foot. It’s a very unsettling situation in all instances you’ve mentioned. I think it’s easy to forget how volatile people are and if they feel trapped they could lash out; especially on the Internet where it’s easier to find information and really hurt someone as well as make them feel unsafe. Great post! You brought up a lot of good points and I’m just hoping that this plagiarism fad that seems to be happening a lot lately goes away.

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  9. I don’t understand what that author was thinking… Bloggers and reviewers take books all the time when they are just approached by the author. While its not as serious as stalking someone, she has put a great big ‘cannot be trusted’ label on her head the will insure people wont want to work with her.

    While I haven’t come across plagiarism myself, I have taken a bit of heat from an unhappy author after I reviewed his book. I was new to blogging/reviewing, probably under 6 months, so I was reading anything and everything which ended up with me giving ratings all over the place. This author was in my lower spectrum and was not happy about it. He continuously messaged me on any social media platform he could find me on, commented on how I give a lot of low reviews (which was not the case, they were pretty even), asked why I was wasting my time, and told me that because of this is I try to publish this will make me get shunned by publishers and authors alike and I had better just stop.

    Luckily for me after a few of these he lost steam and stopped, but it was a bit distressing. Sometimes I wonder how they think these things will help them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m can’t say why she thought it was a good idea either. I can’t imagine anyone is going to want to publish her books or any bloggers who would volunteer to review them. What a scary experience for you! I’m glad to hear he eventually stopped his tirade, if this had happened in “real life”, it would easily be called harassment. I haven’t experience any outright hostility from authors, but more like passive aggressiveness. It’s one the reasons I rarely accept review requests. It’s unfortunate that so many authors find it hard to swallow the fact that not everyone is going to like their book.

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      • Its sad because I know one of the reasons I started reviewing was to experience new authors and I am sure you it was the same for you, but bad behaviour from authors has left you not wanting to accept requests. It ruins some of the fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent piece! Will be doing something similar soon on my experience with plagiarism, but without mentioning the individual involved. That cat-fishing scenario is just horrible – she contacted so many bloggers, I would say she’s blacklisted herself really. R xx

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  13. This is so sad. I just don’t understand why people feel the need to plagiarize… and for god’s sake, isn’t there such a thing called guilty conscience? I mean, how can you just take another person’s hard work and claim it as your own like that? It’s disgusting to even think about! :/

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