Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why I No Longer Feel Safe in the Blogging Community

It has only been a few days into the new year, and already, the blogging community was (and continues to be) shaken by another blogging scandal.

I really didn't want to be able to say this again. I really wish it didn't happen. But scandals in the blogging community happen way too much. Even one scandal, plagiarized post, is one too many.

I'm sad to report on what is happening now.

From my understanding, there was an author named Corinne Rosanna Catlin who wrote her own novel. She pretended to be a Penguin Random House employee, and emailed several bloggers under this name or a pseudonym. She asked them if they would like to review some ARCs from Penguin Random House.

Some bloggers (including teen bloggers) were contacted by her and even gave their address in order to receive ARCs that they believed were from Penguin Random House itself.

Jon was actually one of the bloggers who received one of the packages from her, and he described their being the Penguin Random House logo on the side of a box. Inside of the box were several books - which he says were a mix of a Penguin Adult Title (with a Thrift Books Sticker), and the author's book, along with an ARC that he wanted.

I'm pretty sure the ARC was bought off of the Internet if she doesn't work for Penguin Random House. Which, is yet again, illegal.

You can read about the incident more on Publisher's Weekly or from Jon's blog!

(I'm sorry if some of this information isn't correct - I'm still trying to figure out what happened myself. But if something is wrong/something is missing, let me know in the comments, and I will update it!)

I'm very, very scared for the bloggers that gave her their addresses, personal or not, PO box or not, and I am very scared for what this woman can do with them. I'm not quite sure what will happen, but I am happy to say that I have not been emailed yet, and in the case that I am emailed, I will definitely not be responding to it.

But, this shakes me up.

I am a teen book blogger. I'm still relatively new to blogging. I don't really have any publicity contacts from any publishing houses. If I was approached by a publicity representative from a publishing house, I wouldn't have anything to check it against, and I probably would have responded to the email as well.

I don't feel safe. I doubt I will feel safe for a long time.

I was able to get past the (hopefully) isolated incident between Kathleen Hale and Blythe Harris. I have never read any of Hale's books (and I don't plan on doing this in the future) and I figured that this was just ONE bad egg in an entire batch of great ones. It did take me some time though, to trust that my personal information wouldn't be leaked by other people. I still ask for emails to be deleted, I don't participate in Books for Trade as much as I used to. I'm horrified to even think about giving my address out to anyone I don't know personally or trust.

I'm shaken by this, especially when it involves a giant publishing company.

For those of you that don't know, blogging involves a lot of different things. Most of the time, it starts out with a single post on a brand new website. Then reviews of old books you have on your shelves start to show up on the website, reading challenges begin to appear. You begin to write book haul posts and take part in blog tours, and you occasionally can get a book sent to you for review, which is all very exciting!

But when you build up your blog with all of your original content (there is another post talking about this), publishers can take notice, and it is possible for you to work with publishers and authors directly to promote their books/ideas, sometimes even before the book comes out!

Some of this, involves giving publishers your personal information. Your address. Your PO box. Your name. 

To see someone take advantage of this trust that we give to publishers - the trust that they won't do anything "bad" with our addresses, that it will remain private, and it will only be used when there is something book related coming in the mail - is absolutely crazy. I'm not blaming Penguin for any of this (as they are looking into it), but the fact that someone can abuse it like that, abuse Penguin's trust of them as well, just hurts my heart.

It hurts to see that so many bloggers I know, love and trust, are victims of this. I can't even imagine how you all feel right now and I am so sorry that this happened. If there is anything I can do, just let me know. Just know that every single one of you are shining lights in my life and I love everything that you do.

But,what is harder to understand stems from what went through this author's mind that made her think it was okay to lie to bloggers, to trick them into reading her own book. I have seen so many bloggers that said her book looked good, but because of this whole scandal, they won't be reading it at all, even if she sent them the book.

Some individuals on Twitter are beginning to have the conversation of why book bloggers are so "attached" to ARCs and why they were willing to give out information when it is just for an ARC, and not really for blogging itself. Let me say first that I completely understand where they are coming from. When you are not in the blogging community, it's hard to understand that this isn't just about advanced readers copies. Plus, advanced readers copies are not "free books". Bloggers and reviewers have to put a ton of work into reading and reviewing the book in order to boost publicity. ARCs are publicity materials.

But even then, it doesn't matter. ARCs can be a part of book blogging if you want them to be, and you can't victim-blame or shame anyone who was tricked by this. It's NOT their fault, they are completely innocent. If you blame people for not knowing that this person was a "fake", the emails did come from a real Penguin email address in some situations and many bloggers have a great relationship with publishers.

I mean this very politely, but YOU CAN'T BLAME US.

Sorry, that part of the rant is now over. It just hurts to see that some people are accusing us of doing something wrong, when in actuality, it wasn't us at all.

In terms of myself personally, I have never requested anything from a publisher. I've been weary about entering giveaways from anyone, and in case I won something, I always ask that my address be deleted after something is sent. These are only some of the changes I have made since the Hale/Harris scandal. I have only ever sent in two ARC requests, which was one, before I really knew how to properly send one, and two, before all of these scandals were happening. Even though I want to send out more ARC requests, I am scared to, horrified, even. I don't want this happening to me.

I am a teen. I don't have the knowledge or safety that some of the older book bloggers have. I don't have a publicity contact from publishers or know when it is okay to send out information or not. I don't have the experience they have. Luckily, I have some great blogging friends to help me out. I also ask my parents every time I apply to a blog tour or otherwise if I can give out an address to send something to, and I only give this information to people that I trust. But it still scares me. This is my address. My information. 

The trust I have in anything has already been cut slim, and I don't know if that trust will ever be fully restored. I'm not really saying trust in publishing companies or close-blogger friends, but I'm worried that my information will no longer stay private, or that someone will use it for the wrong intentions. Thankfully, I have great blogging friends and authors and otherwise who delete my information after they send anything, so I don't have to worry as much about them. I wouldn't doubt their intentions or use in a million years. But trust is such a hard thing to build up, and it's even harder to do when you are a massive company and one, small blogger.

I honestly don't know what to think of this situation, and I am so very sorry if my writing reads like a bunch of separate conversations and just overall rambling. I'm still feeling very raw from this entire ordeal and I'm honestly not sure what to do about it.

I'm sorry to take over the blog with such a negative post after one of the best blog posts I have ever made (my Star Darlings Tour post, thanks Hannah!) but I felt these things needed to be said.

This post is short, by the way. There are so many other things that I want to talk about, but that I left out of this post because of the sheer length of them, but I will continue to have these conversations.

I can't let them convince me of anything. I can't let them take me away from something that I love. I will fight like heck to make sure that doesn't happen.

All my love,

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