On Tuesday, following a week of allegations, first-time author Cait Corrain admitted that she had created six profiles on the Amazon-owned book review site Goodreads in order to boost the ratings of her forthcoming debut sci-fi novel, “Crown of Starlight,” and downgrade a number of fellow debut authors. Using those fake accounts, Corrain left reviews of her rivals’ books that “ranged from kind of mean to downright abusive,” she wrote in a two-page apology letter Tuesday on X. She added that she would enter “an intensive psychiatric care and rehab facility.”
The scandal erupted on X and TikTok last week as writers accused Corrain of the damaging behavior online — noting that most of her targets were writers of color, including R.M. Virtues, K.M. Enright, Kamilah Cole, Molly X. Chang, Thea Guanzon and Bethany Baptiste. On Monday the furor culminated in Corrain losing both her book deal and her agent.
Del Rey Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, announced its decision on X, writing, “We are aware of the ongoing discussion around author Cait Corrain. CROWN OF STARLIGHT is no longer on our 2024 publishing schedule.” The debut had been set to hit bookshelves on May 14.
A few hours before Del Rey’s announcement, Corrain’s agent, Rebecca Podos, also said she had severed ties with the writer. “Cait and I will not be continuing our partnership moving forward, Podos wrote on X. “I deeply appreciate the patience of those directly impacted by last week’s events as I worked through a difficult situation.”
Podos did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Times, but again took to X on Tuesday to apologize for her initial public silence on the matter, calling it, “shortsighted and privileged” and pointing out that when it came to Corrain’s apology, “mental illness neither explains nor excuses racism.”
“Debut authors, primarily BIPOC authors, deserve every ounce of support available right now in the publishing community,” Podos continued.
Corrain has shut down direct messaging on almost all of her social media accounts, including X and Instagram, and did not respond to a request for comment through Tumblr. In her note on X, she wrote, “I’ll be reaching out to everyone directly impacted, though that may take time, since I’m checking into an intensive psychiatric care and rehab facility, which means I’ll be mostly off social media, as I need to give 100% to the program if I want it to stick.”
“Crown of Starlight” was described in a May 2022 Publishers Marketplace Deal Report as a “queer re-imagining of the myth of Ariadne and Dionysus in a galaxy full of monstrous men, bloodthirsty gods, and love fierce enough to shatter the stars.”
The chaotic situation and its unfortunate repercussions have once again put a spotlight on the pitfalls of Goodreads, which has been used in the past to tank books before they have even been released into the world.
In January, a debut author named Cecilia Rabess received a torrent of one-star reviews for her novel “Everything’s Fine” six months before it was published. A good deal of the anger came from those who hadn’t read it but disliked its central narrative about a young Black woman who falls in love with a conservative white co-worker at a financial firm.
Also this year, bestselling “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert announced she would delay the publication of her upcoming book set in Russia over concerns — many shared on Goodreads — that publishing the book was insensitive during Russia’s war in Ukraine. The book, “The Snow Forest,” had already garnered hundreds of one-star reviews on Goodreads.
This story originally appeared on LATimes