Cash-for-coverage chick lit site threatens critic

Chick Lit Girls, which publishes positive reviews for money, is threatening legal action against a writer who publicized that fact earlier this week.

Describing itself as "basically goodreads[sic] for women", Chick Lit Girls has the stated mission of not publishing negative reviews. To quote, "we're here to help authors, not destroy them!"

When author Michele Gorman offered her latest novel for review, however, they first requested a $95 fee, then accused her of "harrassing[sic]" them when she criticized the practice on Twitter and at her blog.

We have the ability to track IP addresses, so I would think twice before you begin to defame our name…That is illegal, and we will take action. Our attorney has been notified!

After Chick Lit Girls pointed out that they do disclose the fee—albeit in the fine print—Gorman removed remarks that suggested otherwise. Gorman also removed named references to "Chick Lit Girls" from her site, but did not remove her criticism of paid reviews.

At Popehat, Ken White describes the "barely-literate" threats as bumptious and doomed to failure:

People who issue thuggish legal threats to those who criticize them ... can't be trusted, should not receive your business or traffic, and deserve no respect. Ms. Gorman made a mistake — sort of, given ChickLitGirls' rather vague dislosure — which she corrected. But it's clear from the title, text, and follow-up to the ChickLitGirls' threat that what they are really attempting to do is chill and deter criticism of their business model. That's why they describe criticism as "harassment" and "threats." That's contemptible. Moreover, it's legally unsupportable. If they are foolish enough to push it, they will lose, badly.


      1. I suppose, although they don’t captialise it on their site either. I feel like Apple ruined proper names starting with capitals for everyone. :P

          1. So what’re the rules on logos, then? If they don’t use a capital in their logo then doesn’t it seem fair for anyone to drop the capital? I’m not sure how I feel about this anymore!!

          2. If it’s just the logo that’s weirdly capitalized (like Goodreads), I think most people just ignore it, because that’s just a design thing. If the official name of the thing is weirdly capitalized or punctuated, (a la iTunes) it’ll get respected as long as it’s not completely stupid.

            For example, the AP, NYT and WSJ are ok with iTunes, but omit the exclamation mark in Yahoo!’s name

            Just typing that made me feel absolutely filthy and this is just a blog comment.

      1. No offense, but your avatar is small and my eyesight is bad and I imagine every one of your comments being sung in the voice of Mick Hucknall.

  1. The more I think about it, the more I’m in favor of people sending angry messages threatening legal action on shaky grounds. If there weren’t any frivolous legal threats, then we wouldn’t get to read Ken at Popehat take them down, and the world would be a poorer place.

    1. As admirable as the sentiment is I think there will always be enough people both ignorant and aggressive enough to keep Ken at Popehat busy. Intentionally choosing to join their ranks will also serve to make the world a poorer place.

  2. I’m of two minds on this one.

    Based on the actual response of this particular operation I’m inclined to suspect them of being worthless scammers and recommend nuking from orbit.

    However, (while I personally love and cherish a well-written scathing review) there seems nothing intrinsically problematic with publishing only good reviews. It makes your publication a ‘recommendation site’ rather than a ‘review site’; but there isn’t any obvious problem with providing recommendations-only for people who want to find something to read, rather than survey the present state of a genre or wallow in their favorite german emotion in front of a bad review.

    Similarly, if you attract a high volume of aspirants, charging for the reviewer’s time and effort hardly seems intrinsically problematic.

    That said(and as appears may have happened in this case), it isn’t rocket surgery to imagine how ‘only writing about stuff worth reading’ and ‘charging a fee for the service of consideration’ could pretty easily morph into ‘pay for a puff piece on our site!’. That wouldn’t be obviously illegal or anything; but it’d nuke the site’s credibility among people looking for books pretty quickly, hence the desire to shut up the critic, and preserve a public appearance of impartiality(that makes their shill-jobs worth buying), while still selling shill-jobs…

    1. I don’t have a problem with paid-puff-piece sites as long as they present themselves as such.

      These folks need to work on that aspect of their operation.

    2. I’m not that bothered by the reviews thing. It’s the legal threats thing. However, the lack of self-awareness concerning the reviews thing (they go on and on about how ethical it is, you know, the way one does) is kinda icky.

      1. Are you suggesting that purveyors of literary review services should be familiar with the implications of protesting too much?

    3.  But the combination of charging for the reviews plus “we only publish positive reviews” means they’re inherently ethically compromised. Suppose a writer pays them the $95 for a review but the book really is crap — are they going to refund that money? Or are they going to give it a review better than it really deserves, so they don’t have to give the writer a refund?

    4.  If not a band, ‘My Favourite German Emotion’ deserves to at least be an album title…

    5. The problem is, they don’t have a policy of only publishing good reviews. 

      What they have is a policy of demanding money in order to get a review, and that review is guaranteed to be a good review.

      Which means that they aren’t publishing reviews, they’re selling advertising space. 

      Perhaps someone should point out to them that under FTC rules, they are required to post a statement on all such posts to indicate that the post is a paid placement.

  3. “Goodreads for women”

    How insulting can a self-description be??

    I’ve been on Goodreads since 2009 and have never encountered a dearth of intelligent and articulate women posters there.

    1. Worse, it isn’t even accurate. How can it be ‘for women’ if there isn’t more pink in the site design?

  4. It’s all well and good to mock CLG for behaving as the douches they are, to mock how they run their business generally, and to confidently intone that they’d lose in a court of law.  Just don’t lose sight of the fact that all CLG’d have to do is initiate a lawsuit, and then Gorman would be forced to expend real financial resources which, in the case that she does not have them, could cause her some real damage.

    1. Or maybe Gorman could just have the FTC take a look at CLG’s business practices, since according to their own disclosure, they are in blatant violation of the FTC regulations regarding paid/sponsored posts.

  5. Maybe the Chicks should read their own disclosure:

    This blog is a collaborative blog written by a group of individuals. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.This blog does contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content may not always be identified.About Chick Lit Girls ReviewsChick Lit Girls reviews books in a honest and forthcoming manner.  Although we try to give our authors good/favorable reviews, it must be noted that we make no claim to and there is no guarentees of a positive review given by our reviewers.

    1. Although we try to give our authors good/favorable reviews, it must be noted that we make no claim to and there is no guarentees of a positive review given by our reviewers.

      Furthermore, we do not proofread.

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