A Debut-Author Debacle Broke the Internet by Becoming Its Own Goodreads Page-Turning Scandal

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 12 2023, Updated 11:52 a.m. ET

The Gist:

  • Debut author Cait Corrain encountered a Goodreads controversy involving fake 1-star reviews and review bombs on other authors' books.
  • Cait attempted to address the issue on Slack, and claimed that a rabid fan was responsible for the review-bombing.
  • The situation got worse, and some authors left the Slack channel amid allegations of ableism and racism.
  • Cait eventually posted a statement admitting that she had indeed done the review-bombing amid a psychological breakdown.
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Some people think books are boring, but they’re anything but! And now, the authors behind them are proving to be even more dramatic than the books themselves. After many mysterious review bombs and Goodreads lists, the drama came to the forefront of a debut author Slack channel, which made its way onto Twitter.

As the new authors quibbled among themselves, readers watched the drama unfold from afar and tried to understand what was happening. So we’re breaking down the tea on the Goodreads drama with Cait Corrain.

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The Goodreads drama started with review bombs and fake good reviews on Cait Corrain’s books.

Basically, in early to mid-November 2023, someone made a slew of fake Goodreads accounts to “review-bomb” a few 2024 debut books, according to Twitter user Natalie Lief, in a now-deleted thread. The accounts gave a bunch of 1-star reviews to books by new authors Danielle Jensen and Molly Chang, among others.

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In addition, an account called Tasty Spam put other debut novels under lists with titles like, “Fake Reviews Bad Writing.” Once the authors figured out what was going on, they took the drama to Slack to try to figure out who was causing all the chaos. The one book that got several 5-star reviews from the same accounts that were review-bombing other books was Cait Corrain’s anticipated debut, Crown of Starlight.

On Dec. 6, 2023, debut author Xiran Jay Zhao tweeted: “If you as a debut author are going to make a bunch of fake Goodreads accounts one-star-bombing fellow debuts you're threatened by can you at least not make it so obvious by upvoting your own book on a bajillion different lists with those same accounts.”

This tweet got people talking again.

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Cait eventually came forward with screenshots to show that her “friend” Lilly was the one who review-bombed, not her personally. In the screenshots, Cait gets incredibly mad at Lilly, who apologizes for trying to help. Cait shared the screenshots along with Lilly’s Discord name while throwing her under the bus.

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Notably, the screenshots of Cait's alleged conversation with Lilly seemed to have suspicious time stamps and language. Some time stamps on Cait's conversations with Lilly said “today,” while others said “yesterday,” and Lilly’s Discord account had been deleted. All this led many to believe Cait may have fabricated the conversation altogether.

Authors started to come for Cait Corrain.

Among others, author Bethany Baptiste took to Twitter to call out the sketchy behavior. Bethany said, “Debuts have to deal with an albino snake in the hen house,” which one of Cait’s friends and defenders in the debut Slack channel took offense to and called Bethany ableist and racist.

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This caused the Slack moderators to lock the #BIPOC and #disability channels as members worried about their private information being shared. After this, Bethany and several other authors left the Slack channel, and Xiran continued to post support for Bethany, saying that these accusations against Bethany are being used to "deflect from the allegations" against Cait.

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Xiran also noted that there's something insidious about the review bomber "using clearly POC names in the fake accounts to upvote every negative review on POC books."

Cait Corrain was dropped by her publisher and literary agent, and she eventually admitted to the review-bombing.

On Dec. 11, 2023, Cait's publisher Del Rey posted a statement saying it would not be publishing Crown of Starlight. Earlier that day, Cait's agent had tweeted a statement saying that her partnership with Cait was over.

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Then, on Dec. 12, 2023, Cait posted a message to social media in which she came clean about everything. She explained that she'd been struggling with depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse since June 2022, and that after trying a new medication in November 2023, she proceeded to experience a "complete psychological breakdown" in December 2023.

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She said she "created roughly six profiles on Goodreads and, along with two profiles I made during a similar but shorter breakdown in 2022, I boosted the rating of my book, bombed the rating of several fellow debut authors, and left reviews that ranged from kind of mean to downright abusive."

"Two of those authors — Molly X. Chang and Danille Jensen — are fellow Del Rey authors. Kamilah Cole and Bethany Baptiste just happened to be on the wrong Goodreads lists at the wrong time," she wrote. "I felt no ill will towards any of them, it was just my fear about how my book would be received running out of control."

She said her memories of this time are "extremely fuzzy" but that she takes "full ownership" of what she did. She also admitted to making up her friend "Lilly" as well.

Cait said she was going to an "intensive psychiatric care and rehab facility" but planned to reach out personally to those she affected.

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