Author Cait Corrain loses book deal after accusations of review bombing on Goodreads

A first-time author has been dropped by her U.S. publisher and her agent after readers and fellow authors accused her of posting fake negative reviews to a popular book recommendation website.

Many within the book community last week appeared to publicly turn against Cait Corrain, the author of the coming sci-fi fantasy novel “Crown of Starlight,” after allegations surfaced that she made fake accounts on the Amazon-owned book review platform Goodreads to post negative user reviews online about fellow authors — a practice known as review-bombing.

Del Rey Books, owned by Penguin Random House, said Monday on X that it was “aware of the ongoing discussion” around Corrain, who goes by she/they pronouns, and that her book, originally scheduled for publication on May 14, is no longer on its 2024 publishing schedule.

Corrain’s book agent, Rebecca Podos, also said she has cut ties with Corrain.

“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.”

"Crown of Starlight" by Cait Corrain.
“Crown of Starlight” by Cait Corrain.Del Rey

The controversy, which has been discussed by book lovers across platforms, has put a fresh spotlight on the book industry’s ongoing challenges with Goodreads, which has taken on outsize importance in the publishing world for its ability to make or break new authors. Its importance has been complicated by the prevalence of review-bombing, a problem the website has struggled to contain, even going as far as to ask its users in October to report the “authenticity of ratings and reviews” on the platform.

Late Monday night, Corrain posted a statement to X confirming the allegations and apologizing for her actions. She said she suffered a “complete psychological breakdown” after starting new medication in November to treat her ongoing depression, alcoholism and substance abuse.

“Let me be extremely clear: while I might not have been sober or of sound mind during this time, I accept responsibility for the pain and suffering I caused,” she wrote, “and my delay in posting this is due to spending the last few days offline while going through withdrawal as I sobered up enough to be brutally honest with you and myself.”

Suspicion around Corrain’s alleged anonymous review-bombing first emerged when writers noticed several of the same accounts leaving scathing one-star reviews on unreleased books from other authors. Many of them were also debut titles to be released in the first half of next year. Internet users also noted that the vast majority of targeted books were written by people of color.

Those accounts, which appeared to “like” one another’s reviews, seemed to be further connected when people discovered they all rated “Crown of Starlight” five stars and upvoted it across dozens of Goodreads book lists.

In her apology statement, Corrain admitted to creating a total of about eight profiles on Goodreads that “boosted the rating of my book, bombed the ratings of several fellow debut authors, and left reviews that ranged from kind of mean to downright abusive.”

Before she temporarily made her X account private, Corrain had written a post addressing the rumors. She claimed a friend had been behind the review-bombing and shared screenshots of Discord conversations between her and the alleged culprit, “Lilly.” But observers were not convinced — many pointed out disparities in the timestamps that make the screenshot conversations appear edited.

Corrain wrote in her statement that she “panicked” and attempted to cover her tracks when she feared her behavior would come to light.

“I made up the world’s sloppiest chat with a non-existent friend who was supposedly to blame, and sent fake apologies for the actions of said ‘friend’, which only made things worse,” she wrote. “I betrayed the confidence of my agent, my pub team, my readers, and my friends, and betrayed my own deeply held values.”

NBC News was unable to reach Corrain directly for comment on Monday through message requests on Tumblr and Instagram, which her website lists as among the platforms to reach her.

Podos did not immediately respond to requests for comment by email. A spokesperson for Penguin Random House also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Goodreads, which has not issued a public statement on the matter, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment by email.

The platform, which launched in January 2007 as a website for readers to post their book recommendations, said in a blog post that it “welcomes a wide variety of reviews—whether positive or negative—but prohibits reviews that are not relevant to the book, harass readers or authors, or attempt to artificially deflate or inflate the overall rating of the book.”

Though the activity stretches back months, the allegations did not go viral until last week, when Canadian author and internet personality Xiran Jay Zhao blasted the situation on X, later sharing a 31-page Google Doc of screenshots capturing the alleged fake reviews and a now-deleted X post from Corrain.

Bethany Baptiste was among the authors who appeared to be targets of the review-bombing. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a lengthy post on X about Podos’ dropping Corrain, she said that “it’s good to see Cait face the consequences of her own actions.”

However, she added: “There was plenty of time for a private apology to be issued before a public announcement. I’ve spent days defending my name & reputation while Cait had the privilege to hide. Dropping her doesn’t absolve you.”

Corrain faced other professional repercussions in the days since the accusations surfaced.

Illumicrate, a subscription box for books, announced Monday that “Crown of Starlight” will no longer be included in its May box. Its specialty small press arm, Daphne Press, has also said it is investigating how best to proceed in light of the allegations.

Corrain’s Goodreads author page is still public, and some people have already started review-bombing her title. “Crown of Starlight” currently has a 3.95 rating. A Goodreads user updated an existing review, writing: “Yeah, no. I definitely can’t support an author who review-bombs their fellow (mostly BIPOC) 2024 debuts. This is just embarrassing.”