Thursday, 30 October 2014

Catfishing.....

What's a catfish? Well, I have two in my aquarium - beautifully weird creatures with odd little faces who have trebled in size since they moved in with me about three years ago.

But catfish appear to have taken over a whole new meaning in the days of the internet. It's all to do with creating fake online identities in order to con people - see the definitions in Urban Dictionary and on Digital Trends.

Which leads me on to this Guardian article that's been doing the rounds recently. Am I being catfished? Author publishes book. Gets talking to book blogger and alleges that book blogger has been publicly trashing her book anywhere and everywhere. Author engages with blogger. World explodes very messily online...

But then it all gets sinister, as author apparently thinks that blogger may not be who she is purporting to be. Author - take a deep breath here - finds out where blogger lives and pays her a visit! Yes, really. And then ... well, read the article. You couldn't make it up. Unless she did, of course. That's the thing with the internet isn't it? You never know what is and isn't real in the virtual world of cyberspace.

And we go one step further here with  a public condemnation of the whole event and the Guardian for giving it life...

It's a common-enough experience, responding to book reviews. I remember way back in 2011, the story of indie author Jacqueline Howett and her book review on Big Al's Books and Pals that went viral. Now Big Al says it like it is. I should know - I got a very meh book review from him a while back. Did I say a thing? Good God, no. Opinions are opinions and in any case several people contacted me later to say they'd bought my book after reading the review to see what the fuss was about and they didn't agree with him. But go read all the comments to the review - if ever there was a perfect example of why you should never, ever respond to a book review...

8 comments:

madwippitt said...

Not ever never? In the past I have responded to the positive ones to say thank you for buying and glad they enjoyed it ... should I go back and delete?

Lee said...

It's probably even best not to read reviews of your work at all -- if you can withstand the temptation.

(I've also learned the pitfalls from earlier errors in judgement.)

Chris Longmuir said...

I read the Catfishing article and thought the author's response was quite odd. She seemed to become totally obsessed with the reviewer and the stalking was certainly over the top and quite disturbing. I did start to wonder about her mental health.

Mari Biella said...

Over time, I've come to the conclusion that it's probably better not to respond to either good or bad reviews, even if it's in a civilised way. Reviews are ultimately for readers, not authors (though I certainly can't withstand the temptation to look at reviews of my own books!), and once your book's "out there" people can say what they like about it. One of the contradictions inherent in being a writer, I think, is that we're pretty sensitive as a rule, but also need very thick hides once the reviews start rolling in!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I think I agree with you, Debbie. I try not to read negative reviews - and never go to Goodreads at all. I've followed this catfishing story with interest. It caused mild ructions on The Passive Voice blog - but even when they fall out, they do it very politely which is one of the reasons why I like the blog so much. Anyway, some people sympathized with the author and some with the reviewer. It was interesting to see both sides. I began by feeling a bit sorry for the author, but then I changed my mind - and I definitely don't think the Guardian should have given this space or publicity. However, some people made the point that if you are posting a review, you are 'putting yourself out there' in much the same way as somebody publishing a novel - and you won't be entirely immune from somebody who decides to call you out on it. Everyone agreed, though, that going to somebody's house was a very bad idea indeed!

Lydia Bennet said...

I don't think writers should respond to reviews in general though there are situations where e.g., Amazon, does allow response e.g. if someone's posting huge spoilers or you know they are sock puppets with an agenda. or if it's the wrong book, as a Facebook author friend of mine had happen recently - people slagging off her book for all sorts of strange things which weren't in it! However this reviewer hadn't read the book and was leading a campaign of bullying on twitter by claiming the book was all sorts of -ist and people believed that without bothering to check and hounded the author for it. She did go too far, but not as far as the author who tracked down a one star reviewer hundreds of miles away, turned up at her workplace and felled her with a wine bottle. Case awaiting trial. I would call that a bit much...

Debbie Bennett said...

I never respond to positive reviews either (unless I know the reader and I'd thank them elsewhere). It's a bit stalker-ish, IMO and I don't want the reader think I'm obsessively watching my own page - even if I am!

Lee said...

On occasion I've thanked a positive reviewer, and they seem to appreciate it, but for the most part I avoid communication unless it's a comment on my own website. The one recent exception: a reviewer at B&N claimed that I was copying the title of someone else's book, and I left a polite note that in fact I'd issued a revised edition of my own novel. So there are circumstances where a cordial but disengaged response may be useful.