Biggest Scandals I’ve Seen in the Online Bookish Community

Or at least my circles of the online book world which is pretty much exclusively in the world of Young Adult books.

I’ve been involved in the online book world for years now (I started blogging in 2011). The community is largely a fun place to be. Unfortunately, it can also be drama filled and sometimes terrifying place to be.

Here’s a round up of some of the biggest scandals/issues in the community that I watched unfold in real time.

The Story Siren & Plagiarism (2012)

Kristi @ The Story Siren was one of the biggest book bloggers in the Young Adult world. She had access to ARCs & publishers when that was still a new and awe-inspiring thing. She hosted weekly link up/meme things where other book bloggers could share links & discover new bloggers. She shared blogging advice. All in all, she was super helpful to me as a newer blogger & was a blogging inspiration to many book bloggers.

The bombshell: Kristi was caught & called out for plagiarizing another blogger’s content.

Links to read:

Stop the Goodreads Bullies (2012)

Relations between authors and reviewers has never been great. In this age of easy access to technology, reviewers can easily put their thoughts on a book online for others to read. Goodreads has long been a favorite site to share reviews.

Some authors felt ‘wronged’ by Goodreads & the reviewers there. There’s no way to ‘regulate’ reviews, have proof if someone actually read a book, & authors felt some reviewers had too much power (if a popular reviewer gave a book a bad review, it was difficult for an author to turn things around).

The bombshell: It got to a point where some authors banned together to form a website called ‘Stop the Goodreads Bullies’ and doxxed information about reviewers in an effort to stop…the bullying?

Links to read:

Kathleen Hale Stalking a Reviewer (2014)

The reviewer & author drama didn’t stop in 2012. YA author, Kathleen Hale, stalked a reviewer, figured out the reviewer’s name & address, rented a car & SHOWED UP AT THE REVIWER’S HOUSE.

As if that wasn’t creepy & terrifying enough, Hale willing admitted in The Guardian what she did. She attempts to paint the situation in a different light but it’s quite easy to see through.

Links to read:

#Soapgate (2018)

Soapgate really is a misnomer. This is just the name that everyone knows the situation is known by.

A book merchandise company, Bookish and Stuff, sold a ‘Book Boyfriend Box’ based on the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas. The box contained a phallic shaped soap (hence the name #soapgate) which is in very poor taste since wasn’t marketed/sold a 18+ box (information was added to posts after the fact in an attempt to cover themselves).

The bombshell: The box included printed & bound fan fiction for the series.

Book merchandise & book boxes are a gray area. Merchandise (candles, pins, etc) are inspired by books but publishers and authors will look the other way since they promote a book/series & aren’t a direct competition with the book. Fan fiction sold for profit is a direct competition and is obviously stepping on an author’s work.

The result of the actions of Bookish and Stuff is a much tighter watch on Book Boxes and book merchandise by authors & publishers. Starting in 2018, Maas’ books are no longer featured as featured book in book boxes. Maas & Holly Black (or rather their teams) cracked down on unauthorized merchandise for their series.

Links to read:

Mackenzi Lee Signing Other Author’s Books (2020)

Mackenzi Lee works as bookseller as a day job. She offered to sign books bought from the store she works. Nice idea, right?

The bombshell: Mazkenzi Lee wrote, doodled, & signed on the TITLE page of various books (including many books written by authors of color).

Signing something that you didn’t write? Really not great. Signing over the title page in a way that the author would not be able to sign it in the future? Really, really not great.

Links to read:


I know there have been more kerfuffles in the book world. These are just the ones I could remember off the top of my head.

I think it’s a ‘fun’ way to date how long you’ve been in this community.

What are some of the scandals you’ve seen in this/your online book community?

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15 thoughts on “Biggest Scandals I’ve Seen in the Online Bookish Community

  1. Wow, I also remember all of these. I think the most interesting thing about the Story Siren is that she actually seemed to suffer consequences of plagiarizing. That doesn’t always happen. I also continuously bring up Kathleen Hale because I can’t believe she did that and people really thought she was right– and then she got to write about it for another book deal. :/

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    • Kathleen Hale’s situation still makes me angry. The fact that publishers still work with her AND her newest book is called ‘Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker’? It’s like no one learned anything from the situation.

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      • I just looked it up on Goodreads, and it has only 600 ratings, most which seem to be from people who didn’t read the book. Seems like the publisher might have lost money on this one– though Hale would still have whatever they advanced her.

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  2. Remember when Kimmersbooks tried to sell a bookstagram influencer certification?! That was nuts. Then he put xenatine on blast in a live video and was awful. I think that was 2018 or maybe early 2019… can’t remember for sure.

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    • Yes! I remember that wildness. I think it was about 2 years ago in late 2018. I had some of the my snarky updates pop up on the ‘two years ago’ feature in IG stories. I wonder if people are still following him for his wonderful ‘advice’. 🤣🤣

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  3. Oh wow I’d forgotten about The Story Siren and Kathleen Hale! Haha I do remember #soapgate, though–that was so bizarre. I also saw the Mackenzi Lee thing unfolding on Twitter and it was so embarrassing to watch unfold. Especially because I think it was Rin Chupeco who called her out and said she was uncomfortable with it, and then I think Mackenzi Lee said the two of them hadn’t really spoken before but Chupeco apparently sent Lee an email quite some time before with advice around getting an agent or something?? The whole thing was a mess, and I don’t think it helps that Mackenzi Lee’s not particularly good at apologising. She also got called out when one of her books featured a trans protagonist who was deadnamed in the blurb, and her apology was more along the lines of ‘I’m sorry you were offended’ than ‘I’m sorry this happened’.

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