As a Rampant ‘Review Bombing’ Scandal Goes Viral, It Seems the Rose-Colored Lenses on BookTok Are Wearing Off

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I think it’s safe to say that 2022 was a high for BookTok and Book Twitter fandoms. We were all desperate to learn more about Evelyn Hugo’s love life, or rooting for Lily Bloom to get her happily ever after. But this year, something has changed.

Maybe it was capitalism’s sheer relentlessness to prey on BookTok buzz — from the Red, White & Royal Blue movie, to the Lessons in Chemistry mini-series, to the ‘As seen on BookTok‘ banners lining every Barnes & Noble shelf. Perhaps people were getting tired of the relentless sexualization problem inhabiting various Book fandoms. Or possibly, as some critics claimed, it’s because BookTok has become the ‘fast fashion’ of reading.

Either way, the warmth and joy that often accompanied talks about Book fandoms have been few and far between this year, with BookTokers and tweeters instead becoming embroiled in several ‘dramas’ — most notably when author @CaitCorrain was caught this month making a number of fake Goodreads account to ‘review bomb’ other competing authors.

Specifically, these review bombs seemingly targeted POC indie authors, so many across the internet were outraged by the situation. A group of creators on BookTok and Book Twitter compiled information on the review bombing and circulated it online. (Specifically, the author was a former writer in the “Reylo” Star Wars fandom, and Reylo stans did not come to play when it came to denouncing her.)

While this author ended up apologizing today, and ended up losing her book deal, it’s hard to ignore the increasing bitter taste of BookTok in everyone’s mouths.

First, you have platforms’ responsibility to address the artificial inflation or deflation of book reviews through content moderation. Good Reads, a platform owned by Amazon, has a policy against this behavior and said they removed all of the author’s tainted reviews. But review-bombing and harassment campaigns have been a long-standing issue on the platform, and book lovers say there’s little they can do to address the harassment they face. One would hope platforms would be a little more proactive in addressing these issues and invest in additional resources for targetted creators.

It also feels like the pinnacle after a year of increasing disillusionment around the book communities online, specifically on the mega-viral BookTok. It further demonstrates to creators the risk of building a brand related to a TikTok trend. Trends come and go, but you want your own presence and brand to be forever (or, you know, a good few years at least).

Finally, it serves as an important lesson for creators when it comes to promoting their own work, building an audience, and even just networking with other creators.

At the core of all three of those things is the importance of integrity; making sure you are being honest about your products and not misleading audiences, and generally, recognizing fellow creators as your allies rather than competitors. It is always a lot more rewarding to be nice, and that kindness is the thing that’ll serve you best in the future.

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