Saturday, January 14, 2012

When agents go bad...

I'm following up yesterday's report of plagiarism with something just as bad: authors and agents trying to manipulate the system in their favor.

Recently a Goodreads reviewer and blogger named Wendy Darling (who puts out some of the best reviews ever, I might add) reviewed the book The Selection by author Kiera Cass. As sometimes happens, she didn't like it and wrote a negative review. She'd had reservations about the book to begin with, but how many of us have picked up a book in a similar situation and ended up adoring it? It makes sense that despite the earlier misgivings, you'd still give the book a try. She didn't finish the review, but finished enough of it to where she knew what her opinion would be in general and reviewed it. Wendy was completely honest about not finishing the book and this was one of the first things she mentioned in her review. (click here for her Goodreads review)

After a while (about 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday) Wendy started receiving anonymous negative comments at her blog entry for The Selection (you can see her blog post here) . They started with the typical "how dare you review a book you didn't finish that I loved?!?!" type of comment and then just spun off into general rudeness. Now any reviewer that's ever posted a critique about a book is aware that eventually you'll get someone who violently disagrees with your review. The response to negative Twilight reviews alone is enough to prove this fact. You generally try to just deal with them and move on. Now I have no way of knowing who posted these comments and I'm not trying to insinuate that it was either Cass or her agent.

However, once in a while you'll find that there's something else going on behind the random comments. In this case it had to do with some comments on Twitter. Yesterday (around 11 am) the following conversation happened between author Kiera Cass and her agent Elena Roth: (click on it to see the bigger picture)

Here you can see Kass and her agent publicly discussing ways to hide Wendy Darling's review. I do have to say that Kass is the nicer of the two and initially, she seemed to just shrug off her agent's anger towards the negative review. The better thing would have been to just not respond to her agent and to respond to her in private, but she did talk to her and it wasn't that bad. If this was all that happened, it'd pretty much be a non-issue.

However, eventually Roth dropped this "cute" little comment: (click here to go to the author's twitter page)

"That bitch at the top is really pissing me off. She complains before reading, then barely reads, then complains. What's her deal?"

This is wildly unprofessional and it's incredibly unwise for her to tweet this in a way that is trackable by the general public. (It was in response to another one of Kass's tweets and as of this blog posting, they're still up on both persons' twitter accounts.) Roth's tweets are currently protected, so I have no way of knowing if her tweets were ever completely unprotected. It's possible that she thought her tweets were completely private, but if watching the recent literary fiascos over the years have taught me anything, it's that nothing is ever completely private when it comes to social platforms. Pseudonyms created to comment on reviews can be discovered, comments sent around to specific people can be sent to the very people you're talking about, and comments you thought nobody would see will be found and read. (To see what I'm talking about, click here to see the CuddleBuggery blog that covers these events.) The fallout from these can often hurt your career and your credibility.

I do want to state that voting positive reviews up by itself is not exactly a negative action, but I think that voting them up just so you can hide a negative review is an attempt to game and manipulate the system. It might not be illegal, but it is (in my opinion) unethical. Discussing this in public is not only foolish, but dangerous for several reasons. The first is that quite obviously, people can find it and report on it, which can hurt the reputation of everyone involved in said discussion. The second is that it can cause readers to lash out in various ways, which could range from posting hostile comments on said reviewer's blog to posting fake reviews. (Not saying that anyone has in this instance, but it's a common thing for fans/friends/family to post fake positive reviews in the hopes of cancelling out any negative reviews.) This might not have been anyone's intent, but people have been harassed in response to authors who publicly complain about specific reviews and I've seen people remove reviews because they just get tired of it.

I'm not posting this because I want anyone to bully the author or the agent. I'm posting this because quite frankly, I don't want people to think that they can pull this sort of thing and not have it mentioned. Cass is a new author and this is the sort of thing that can really hurt her professionally, but she's a newbie. It's possible that she just isn't used to the reality that once you put things out for sale or review, you will get negatively reviewed. Her actions are mostly forgivable, to be honest. No, what made me angry is the reactions by her agent. Roth is someone who is supposed to be a professional and should know better than to post things like this to her author's twitter page. (Seriously, EMAIL. There's still a chance you could email it to the wrong person by mistake, but that chance is very slim.) She's the one who behaved incredibly badly in this instance, from calling Wendy names to reaching out to her various other clients to ask them to vote up positive reviews. They rely on her to get them jobs, so they might be afraid that if they deny her, she'll keep from getting them a good job. (Not saying she would, but if the person who helped promote my work asked me to do something, this would be the thought that went through my head regardless of how they asked.)

In any case, here's your daily dose of what not to do if you're an author or an agent. Just to be clear, here's what you shouldn't do: (Cass and Roth didn't do all of these, but they're just rules in general to follow)

1) Don't respond to negative reviews. Just ignore them. If you think that they're done in bad spirit, responding to them in any format is not the way to go. If they really were done in an attempt to be mean or to troll (Wendy's review was absolutely not written for these reasons), they'll want you to respond because that's what they want. The best way to respond to trolls or "meanies" is to ignore them and not respond.

2) If you do need to vent, don't do it publicly and don't publicly discuss ways to lower the review in your rankings or even ways to get it removed. If you plan on harassing the reviewer ala Deborah Anne MacGilveray, don't announce it publicly. (Although it should be said that you shouldn't harass anyone at all!)

3) Get used to the fact that you'll get negative responses to your work. Even the books considered to be the world's greatest classics have people that don't like them, so you will absolutely have people who don't like your work. Some of them will state their opinions in ways you don't like. Get used to it.

4) Don't hold campaigns to get the reviews negatively responded to via downreps on Amazon, post responses to the review to encourage them to remove or change it, or do anything to get the review removed. People can pick up on organized campaigns and nowadays people always suspect that stuff like this originated on the author's own forums. Even if it didn't, the bad actions of the fans can give the author a bad image. There are people who refuse to read Twilight because of the bad attitude they've seen from some of the Twihards, and that's an aspect of the fandom that Meyers does not endorse.

Just remember- the stuff you do today could end up as the blog topic for various blogs in the future, so if you're an author you need to tread carefully. Us reviewers aren't getting paid for our work, but you are and your actions can be seen as shooting yourself in your foot.


Kierra Cass has apologized to Wendy Darling for attempting to vote reviews up to hide hers and I'm going to hope that she's also apologized for her agent's appalling behavior.

Kierra hon, if you read this then let me give you a tip: get a new agent. Her job is to sell you to people, part of which involves public relations. This is not good public relations and she should have known that publicly complaining to you, a new author, is not a wise decision to make. You might not have known better, but she should have known and that she didn't stop to think about any potential fallout should make you stop and worry about what other mistakes she might make or could make. This is the woman who is supposed to promote you to publishers and she's making moves like this, that can and will hurt your public image? What if she did something like this about your publisher and they caught wind of it?

Get a new agent. She might have been the one who started all of it and made the nastiest remarks, but you're the one who gets mud on their face. Roth gets to duck out of the spotlight and you have to sit there and be the focus of all of this. A person with these types of habits will only be a hazard to your writing career because you don't know when she'll stick her foot in her mouth or do something foolish and you'll end up suffering for it.


I just got sent to Roth's twitter page (which isn't locked, as I thought- click here to go there) and this tweet just proves my point about Cass needing to get a new agent:

"Oh, I said something mean about someone else saying something mean, and now the world of unpublished writers is mad at me."

That's the type of thing I'm talking about. This is the type of unprofessional behavior that will hurt the authors they're supposed to be representing. Contrary to Roth's perception of things, not everyone is an unpublished writer wanting to take swings at the people who "made it". No, some of us are just average readers who take time out of our daily life to review the things we read. Review for free, I might add. Very few of us get paid money for what we do and even the more popular book bloggers out there have to keep a day job to pay for the daily necessities like rent and food. We generally don't like it when agents get angry at someone for not liking their author and we like it even less when they call them names and fail to see why it's such a big deal.

It's a big deal because THIS HURTS YOUR AUTHOR'S REPUTATION WORSE THAN ONE SINGLE NEGATIVE REVIEW WOULD. Sorry for shouting, but I just want to get this across in the vain hope that Cass or Roth would read this. At the very least I hope that this is something that future mainstream authors will read and remember. A bad reputation lasts longer than you'd like and with the hundreds upon thousands of talented people ready to take your place when you fall, well... let's just say that today (especially if you're a new author) it's easy to get replaced by a newer author.

If this is her trying to help her client out, then Cass needs to watch out. All of her literary deals and contracts are done through Roth and this level of unprofessional behavior could keep her from getting a better deal. Publishers don't like bad publicity and they might use this as a way to pay an author less or worse, not pick up a second series from them because they don't want the liability that your agent might do something like this again and alienate readers, thus lowering your sales.

I'm going to close this with a great quote from Wendy Darling:

Bad reviews don't always stop people from buying books. Bad behavior often does.


  1. I am so glad you did this and brought to light something that could have easily been swept under the rug. The way these authors are acting lately just sucks the fun out of reading, blogging, and reviewing. They want respect, but respect should be given both ways, just as honesty and having an opinion should. If they're allowed to speak their mind, then so are we. I can't believe the lengths they would go to undermine someone else's thoughts. They're manipulators, hypocrites, and I was dying to read her book, and now I won't even consider it. I even did a blog post about 2012 books I was dying to read and The Selection was on it! Now I feel lied to and cheated because the author was too childish to take criticism.

    You rock! Keep calling them out on and then maybe they'll learn their lesson! If not then my "do not read" list will continue to grow.


  2. >Actually, I don't. Did you catch me picking a wedgie in public or something? *shrugs*< Keira Cass on Twitter in reply to a poster announcing that they won't be buying The Selection for obvious reasons.

  3. I'm just angry that they tried to vote up positive reviews not because they were happy that they got them, but in an attempt to hide a review they didn't agree with.

  4. Great post. I think it's very childish and unprofessional to behave that way. I can't believe some of the posts and things happening with authors and agents lately. It's sad really.

  5. I just blogged about this myself. There must be something in the water because I'm seeing more and more of this sort of behaviour - only last week YA author Leigh Fallon was caught out on similar behaviour - also directed at a Goodreads reviewer.

  6. Wow -- I totally just heard about this after it all (more or less) blew over. What an awesome and honest description of the whole ordeal. I totally agree with you, Wendy Darling writes some of the best reviews on GoodReads. And we don't always like all of the books we read; that's why GoodReads is such an amazing forum with readers who provide their honest opinions on the books that they read.

  7. I'm a published author and I'm pretty mad at her as well...

  8. I was actually looking forward to reading The Selection, even after reading Wendy Darling's review, but now after finding out what the author has been saying, not just about Wendy Darling, but also the blogger's (unpublished writers) I don't think I could bring myself to buy the book.

    Thank you for posting this, and bringing it to the attention of us reader's.

  9. Wow, it makes me sad to see this kind of drama going on. I personally loved The Selection but I agree that authors need to realize no book is going to be unanimously loved by readers and they just need to take the good and the bad. I'm glad Cass apologized but I don't think she should apologize for her agent because that agent needs to take responsibility for her own comments. Cass should get a new one though because I think a lot of people who pour their heart and soul into writing a book can easily take criticism personally. I think it's the job of the agent to point out to debut authors that it's not an attack against her and often it's just a matter of different tastes. As an agent she shouldn't be encouraging Cass to lash out on a public forum no less.

  10. I only just heard about this and it is extremely disappointing. :( This is incredibly unprofessional and I'm really appalled. But what disappoints me is that because this happened, people are not buying The Selection out of principal. That's fine and I respect their decision to do that, but what sucks it that I really enjoyed the book and I'm sure many of those people would too. It's just too bad that Kiera's agent was so unprofessional that it's turning people away from the book. She really screwed up!

  11. I think that's the worst part about it: the agent really didn't see how she was screwing her client over and I don't know if the author realizes that she has the right to go look for a more professional agent. And probably should. Stuff like this gets remembered far after the initial hub bub dies down and even the readers only remember it faintly. It gets remembered by the people in the more professional agencies and the publishing houses. It might not be enough to keep them away, but it'll make them more leery of signing someone on. Or worse- it'll make them think that they can give a little less to the author because they'll assume her agent is incompetent and/or that the agent has burned bridges to where they can't get a better deal.