Soapbox Saturday #2: Respect and Netiquette (and what it means to have a thick skin)

I think some of you might already know what this post is going to be about, probably not because of the title on its own, but probably because of events that happened in the past week or so if you’ve been around the Goodreads community or happened upon a rather scathing blog post made by an author who I’m – frankly – still trying to wrap my head around as far as the discourse she’s acting under.  There have already been some very eloquent posts given on the subject of this, one of which is this lovely post written by Stacia Kane.

I myself sat on my hands on this one because I didn’t know how to approach it.  Should I be specific, should I name names, should I try to write an exposition on what it means to treat others with respect in a social media platform as well as beyond it?  Heck, I didn’t think I’d actually sit down to write about this because you’d think it’s common sense on what not to do.  When it happened – it got under my skin.  The post made by the author in question should’ve never been written – it’s not only full of personal attacks and inaccuracies, but it discusses an incident that I think people have been trying to progress from for a while now.  You’d think it’d be common sense for someone to not post someone else’s personal details on the internet in an attempt to “out” or intimidate them from expressing an opinion.  It happened to someone I highly respect for their reviews and overall contributions.  I’ll give a rundown of what happened under the cut, but I think it’s hard to give two sides to this tale because there really isn’t another side to defend – what this author did was wrong.  Very wrong.

More under the cut.  Fair warning in advance, this is going to be a long post.  I’ve broken it into sections to make the read most specific.  This is probably the only way that I can best talk about this – by being open about the issue in the larger spectrum and then giving my two cents on it.

The Issue – Part I:  The Controversy Over Kiera Cass’s “The Selection”

Earlier this year, in January, months before the release of “The Selection” by Kiera Cass, a rather disconcerting event took place in which Cass’s agent, Elana Roth, called a prominent reviewer on Goodreads – Wendy Darling  – a “bitch” on Twitter. Further, Cass and Roth publicly wrote tweets that conspired to try to downvote Wendy’s review and recruit others to do the same.  Suffice to say, the incident blew up – rocking the YA community as well as several bloggers, readers, reviewers, and authors alike.  It was one of the initial incidents in a long string of author/reviewer clashes that have occurred in the early months of 2012, highlighted even in an article for Publishers Weekly.

I’ll give two cents about my reaction to this because I haven’t talked about it other than some personal discussions I’ve had on Goodreads, in social media, as well as in person.  Heck, I’ve talked about it with my sister, who like me, also reads ARCs and reviews books from time to time. (She doesn’t review as often as I do, but I’ve been thinking about having her do guest posts on the blog if she has the time to spare. My own posts have been sporadic as of late, but hopefully it should even out in the coming weeks as I have the time to read and review.)

I actually really wanted to read “The Selection” at first – I had some qualms admittedly, but a story pitched as a dystopian novel with elements of the reality show “The Bachelor” seemed like an interesting combination of two rather dissimilar elements. And the heroine’s blue ball dress, I’ll admit, caught my eye. (I’m easily drawn to the color blue, plus I like seeing pictures of and wearing pretty gowns.)

It’s important to remember that when you’re an author putting your work for display in the social medium, you want to let the work sell itself. If the behavior you display in a social medium is negative and condescending towards anyone expressing an honest opinion of your work, it’s going to reflect on how your work comes across in some mediums. It may even damage your reputation for future considerations.  For Cass, I think the controversy would’ve never happened if both the agent and author had let Wendy Darling’s review stand as it were, because it was only one opinion among many.   Instead, they treated it as a measure where it was a factor contingent upon the book’s success.  That’s not true.  One opinion isn’t going to stop people from picking up a work on its own merits.  One-star, two-star, or even three star reviews aren’t going to break the success of a work – they’re expressed opinions based on personal assessments of a work as perceived by their readers.  I’ve said it many times before, even in my last Soapbox Saturday entry – I think it’s important to respect the right for others to express their opinions on a work – no matter on what end of the scale they fall.  I think Cass and her agent’s behaviors spoke more to dissuade some readers/reviewers from reading the book – and I would include myself among that camp. For me, I don’t see how it’s acceptable to engage in personally attacking anyone for expressing an honest opinion of a work  – of a tangible work that’s subject to critical assessment.  It’s not professional behavior when you engage in namecalling or ostracizing. When you’re working as a writer – a profession where your work is subject to review, you have to have a thick skin.  You have to know how to conduct yourself when your work is being discussed.  I’m not saying ignore the issue entirely or play it off like it’s nothing – I’m saying come to terms with it in a way that’s conducive to your well-being and still respects the rights of others – whether its the people you’re close to or strangers you’ve never met.

If negative reviews of your work hurt you – it’s not a bad thing to walk away from them without engaging them and do something else.  If I get a tough critique,  I don’t engage.  I meditate, exercise, watch Avatar the Last Airbender or another of my favorite series, listen to music, freewrite, or do something that clears my head.  If I need to make a clarification, I do.  There have been times when I’ve knee-jerked and jumped to defenses in critiques given to me, but I don’t think I’ve seen or reacted in the way that I’ve seen other individuals have in the past several months this year.  People do it in this industry, but you have to learn how to handle yourself responsibly, and that responsibility is on you.  If you don’t, chances are you’re going to burn yourself as well as the other person you’re engaging. And it never ends well when it comes across that way.

If negative reviews of a work that you’ve read and loved hurt you, it’s not a bad thing to walk away from them either without engagement, because we all have different opinions.  If you do choose to engage, you have to be able to hold your ground without denouncing the other person’s opinions, thoughts, or ideas.   At the end of the day, we have to be able to recognize and realize that those various opinions of a work exist and that it’s perfectly fine and healthy to have and express them.  However, there are distinct differences between critically assessing a work and denouncing someone in a personal attack that threatens them and their personal livelihood.  More on that in a little bit.

The incident revolving around “The Selection” has long been dropped for some time, and is not the incident I wish to highlight in this entry.  It’s only the precursor for an author – who wasn’t even a part of this initial event – that decided to write a supposed “review”/expose on Wendy Darling and the events surrounding “The Selection” controversy that had my blood boiling to the brim.

The Issue – Part 2:  A Self-Pubbed Author versus “the Goodreads Trolls” – Cyber-bullying?

On May 29th, 2012, a self-published author (whose name will not be mentioned because her entry does carry offense) wrote an entry on her blog that expresses her take on the controversies surrounding “The Selection”.  She penned the entry as being one of several events where she claims a string of authors, including herself, had been victims of cyber-bullying by reviewers from the book community, Goodreads.  But in a shocking display – she directs her attack on reviewer Wendy Darling – by posting her real name (instead of her alias, which shares the moniker of a beloved character from Peter Pan), her real photo, her email address, along with personal details with respect to her family.  She uses the information, then, to write an attack against Wendy Darling and reviewers/friends of hers in the Goodreads community.

This image was taken from, from Kat Kennedy’s entry “Vanity Author Rampages Again”. I chose this image to represent this turn of events, because I don’t want to link directly to the author’s blog post. I don’t condone this kind of exposure/collection of personal information on anyone.

The blog post claims that they (Wendy Darling, et. al) have been participants in a series of attacks that have acted against authors and their supporters.  She also goes on to call Wendy Darling  a “bully” and launches into an accusation of the group stalking the authors and attacking them in multiple measures. She calls those who use online aliases “cowardly” in the realm of those attacks as well. She also claims that Wendy conspired to have Publishers Weekly write the article. I’m not even going to touch the veracity of that latter claim, because it doesn’t have any founding, it’s a statement on her (the author’s) part.

The author concludes with this note:

“It’s not okay to sick your bully friends on someone just so they can stalk and harass her relentlessly.  It’s not okay to get your buddies at Publisher’s Weekly to write a story about her, telling everyone she did something that she actually didn’t do and then getting everyone to hate her.  You know what that’s called?  It’s called cyber-bullying, plain and simple.  And I’m not okay with it.  A lot of people aren’t.  So, stop pretending to be the victim here because you’re not a victim.  You’re a bully.”

I’m going to leave you with thinking about those words as I move into my two cents on this matter.

My two cents

Let’s address one part of this right off the bat: many people have online monikers – myself included.  Rose is a penname I’ve had for a very long time – years even.  I told myself if I ever had the opportunity to be a writer, I’d use a penname, not that I dislike my real name, but it was just something that I wanted to do for me, myself and I.  Rose has a number of endearments attached to it for me – it’s my favorite flower, a character in a TV series I love, and a name that someone attributed to me on behalf of my writing style in a poetry class I took back in my undergraduate uni days.  Many people in my real life know me by that and my real name (which is hard for some people to get right on the first go around.)  I don’t find using an alias or moniker to be a cowardly thing, and certainly not a measure to “hide” anything by.  People who know me by either name know I’m the same person inside and out.  My sister teased me once when she was going through a bunch of anonymous feedback passages, out of thousands, she knew which one I wrote just from my writing style.

Still, I do keep my real name and my moniker separate for my own personal reasons. While I have an open book personality to an extent, I also believe in the right to privacy and using a moniker because I want to use one, for my own reasons.  I believe in that, and that other people have that right as well.

So, how does one react when someone takes it upon themselves to disclose their moniker (or in this case, a moniker of someone you know and respect) without their permission and uses it to degrade and patronize them?   How does anyone react to that?   This is what this author did to Wendy Darling in her post. And it’s not something that should happen to anyone, no matter who they are or what background they have.

The self-published author who made this post made many an accusation against one individual and members of an online community, attributing a group of individuals who write about books to be of a hive mind and bullying a group of authors, including Wendy Darling in that definition.  The post, collectively speaking, was filled with many one-sided claims that were either falsehoods or logical fallacies, alongside turning into one giant personal attack.  The self-pubbed author didn’t have any basis or links of tangible proof, as one would have if they’re delving into or discussing a source in which they weren’t a primary party within (for the record, this author had nothing to do with “The Selection” controversy – she only wrote about it.  She later clarifies it in an addendum to her post).

Wendy took to her own blog to write a post clarifying the matter in detail, and that didn’t come until after the author in question posted her unfounded “rant” – a rant that comes across months after the initial incident.  There’s no one preventing the author from talking about the incident in its aftermath, she has the right to discuss it – but there were several claims here that attacked Wendy Darling personally, her friends, her supporters, etc – as if the author in question were a part of the incident and speaking on Cass’s behalf.   It was a mean spirited post intended as an attack.  I don’t know much about this author’s professional work, only that I know she’s written four books and she writes in YA fantasy.  And from the measure of things – it’s not the only time she’s patronized or attacked others for having an opinion that differed from hers.

What I also know is this – You don’t patronize another person on your blog for their opinion by posting their personal details – that’s intimidation and denouncing to that individual.  Whatever trade you might be in – you don’t do that to another person – it’s not the mark of a professional, nor of proper netiquette.  It was a line that should’ve never been crossed.

What baffles me about the biggest offense in this particular post are also the justifications she gives in the aftermath of the fallout that occurred after her initial post outing Wendy’s details. For example:

2) The information gathered about [Wendy] was researched, not by me or any other author, but by a large group of readers/reviewers/bloggers who are completely fed up with her behavior and the behavior of her GR friends.  And trust me when I say that there are A LOT of these bloggers and they are still watching and researching the GR bullies.  I’m not telling them to do it.  They are doing it of their own accord.

Riiiight…let’s back this up a bit.  I’m not sure how the author in question is getting out of this anything wrong in Wendy’s behavior specifically in this matter, based on the accounts of what actually happened according to the links I’ve posted above.

And since when is it okay for a group of individuals (as here unnamed other than the generic “bloggers/readers/reviewers”) to scout out an individual’s personal details in an attempt to intimidate them or denounce their opinions or person? I call the argument B.S, because it skirts responsibility of the posting – the author posted these details – not anyone else, she bears responsibility in this.  Another claim:

3) All information about [Wendy] was public information published online by her.  Even the article that was found that links her real name to her pseudo name – it was published by her.

Still doesn’t give the author the right to publish Wendy Darling’s personal details without her permission and link them to her pseudonym and then go on to denounce her, with twisting and mixing of facts she didn’t bother to educate herself upon. None whatsoever.

I think in the contrast of things, she’s actually engaging in what she’s speaking out against – she’s being a bully.  A particularly strong bully, using the names of other authors to make her point as well.  The post, collectively speaking, was in terrible taste.  There have been several people who were trying to constructively tell her just how wrong she was, but in every attempt, she’s claimed that they’ve bullied her, and has allowed the content to remain standing – including Wendy Darling’s alleged personal details.

I’m…honestly at a loss for words on this.  I don’t see how anyone can’t see how wrong of an action this is to take against any person, let alone a reader who loves books, though who manages to be critical, yet respectful.  In this, my heart goes out to Wendy and I hope the matter’s settled with no further problems on her behalf.

One other note: I understand, and feel for, people who have been victims of cyberbullying or cyberharassment  – who have been so hurt and so crippled to the point where they can’t live or function.  I do encourage people that if they are being victimized in either of the these measures – the resources are out there for you.  Know that you aren’t alone and can get the help you need.  You don’t have to suffer alone.

On the subject of engaging in proper netiquette – indeed, we all have the right to our opinions, but intimidating someone on behalf of their opinions, status, character or otherwise, and posting their public details in an attempt to deter them from being able to speak their piece – I don’t condone that.  Not at all.  From my eye, the author who made that post needs to take a good long look in the mirror and educate herself on the reality of what netiquette and engaging with others in a respectful way truly entails.




  1. The vile person in question has a history of bullying behaviour herself – apparently she was banned from Goodreads following many warnings about her behaviour. What does that tell you?

    Her own blog – which I won’t link to because I’m not going to reward her with the traffic – is a mine of lies, vitriol and misinformation. That said, she’s probably loving all the attention she’s drawn for herself, those sort of people usually do.

    What I would really like to know is how these people think it reflects on them? Their careers? I read a comment on this very matter from someone who basically said that these sort of rants are good because they raise awareness of a writer and increase their sales. I’m not so sure, I think it’s pissing in the wind to be honest – eventually it’s all going to come back on you.

    I know that I, for one, have refused to read certain authors work after these sort of stunts – the subject in question here is one of them. I’m not going to support the rant, not going to fund that sort of shit, and I’m not going to humour any more drama. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

    But, the person in question isn’t a full time writer. She’s a small time, self published author with a day job. Does she not realise that her employer, potential employers, clients and colleagues will come across all of this too? Perhaps she is someone who could benefit with ‘hiding’ behind a pen name.


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