Author’s Debut Dropped After Review Bombing Books on Goodreads

A controversy erupted in the literary world when an author, known for leaving negative Goodreads reviews on other authors’ debut books, was dropped by her publisher and agent due to online uproar.

Del Rey Books, a U.S. publisher, removed Cait Corrain’s debut novel, Crown of Starlight, from its 2024 lineup after accusations surfaced that she engaged in “review bombing” other authors by posting negative reviews on their books. Her agent also severed ties with her.

Xiran Jay Zhao, another author, revealed on TikTok that Corrain had been leaving one-star reviews on Goodreads for months, targeting mainly first-time authors of color. These reviews were posted under fake accounts, while Corrain simultaneously praised her own upcoming book.

Initially denying the claims, Corrain eventually admitted to her actions in a detailed apology posted early Tuesday. She attributed her behavior on Goodreads to a psychological breakdown following a change in medication.

“Review bombing” is a tactic where low ratings, often one star, are given to a book to negatively impact its overall rating. Corrain was found to have created several fake Goodreads accounts for this purpose, targeting authors like R.M. Virtues, K.M. Enright, Frances White, Kamilah Cole, Molly X. Chang, Thea Guanzon, and Bethany Baptiste.

When Zhao brought the issue to light on Twitter without naming Corrain, the online book community deduced her identity. Zhao later shared a Google Doc with evidence of Corrain’s alleged review bombing, including screenshots of low ratings and positive reviews of her own book.

This issue of review bombing has previously led to significant repercussions in the publishing industry. For instance, Elizabeth Gilbert canceled the release of a new book due to heavy review bombing, sparked by objections to its 1930s Russia setting amidst the Ukraine war.

In October, Goodreads announced efforts to maintain the authenticity of ratings and reviews, as the platform has faced criticism for limited content moderation and allowing reviews without verifying book readership.

The allegations against Corrain caused a stir among writers and readers online, leading to demands for her agent and publisher to act. Initially, the affected debut authors sought a private resolution. However, Corrain further exacerbated the situation by fabricating evidence and issuing false apologies, as revealed in a Slack conversation between her and Baptiste.

Following her public apology, Del Rey Books and U.K. publisher Daphne Press both announced they would no longer publish Corrain’s works. The reaction to her apology was mixed, with many expressing anger, particularly towards the impact on BIPOC authors.

Becca Podos, Corrain’s former agent, reflected on the situation on Twitter, emphasizing that mental illness does not excuse racism. Bethany Baptiste, one of the affected authors, commented on the inexcusability of racism regardless of medication effects. Similarly, R.M. Virtues expressed dissatisfaction with the apology.

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