Cait Corrain, racism and reviews: a look into the scandal

by Maria Francesca Ficarra

Last year, debut author Cait Corrain secured a two-book deal with the publishing house Del Rey Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House. The deal included film rights, and later, the writer obtained a partnership with the subscription box service Illumicrate for her novel A Crown of Starlight. This sci-fi/fantasy (SFF) novel is “a queer reimagining of the myth of Ariadne and Dionysus in a galaxy full of monstrous men, bloodthirsty gods, and love fierce enough to shatter the stars”.

Everything was going well, and no one could have foreseen what was about to happen.


To better understand the events, it’s crucial to talk about the online platform Goodreads and how influential it is.

The site launched in 2007, Amazon bought it in 2013, and now it claims to be the world’s biggest site for readers and book recommendations. The platform allows readers to review books, including unpublished titles. Because of that, publishers often send advance copies to readers in exchange for online reviews in hopes that it will help boost the launches.

However, as the freelance editor and writer Sally Romero said, “the lack of moderation opens up a door to the review bombing. Any review can go up, which in the grand scheme of things is great because you have all sorts of opinions, you see all these different viewpoints. But like with everything, the lack of this moderation allows it to be abused in a way that impacts Bipoc (this umbrella term stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) authors especially and also queer authors.”


Over the months of 2023, many fake Goodreads accounts began to surface as they systematically targeted and negatively reviewed upcoming authors and sci-fi/fantasy books.

Chantal B., Oh Se-Young, ThimbleMouse, CC, and others were all fake accounts that 1-star reviewed in mass SFF debuts, sometimes leaving scathing comments such as “I can’t believe Del Rey spent half a million dollars on this when they could have spent half a million dollars on anything else”. These feedbacks had a great negative impact on the targeted writers, to the point that some of them had to delete their accounts. According to the writers, the negative reviews set them back in a corner of an industry that was already slow and not the most welcoming to fantasy stories about people of color, especially Black people. A common thread that linked the affected authors was that almost all of them are people of colour, something that couldn’t be just a coincidence given the platform’s structure. Best-selling author, Xiran Jay Zhao, tweeted about the case, focusing on the names of the burner accounts: “There’s something extra despicable about using clearly POC [people of colour] names in the fake accounts to upvote every negative review on POC books so the top ones are all 1 star and 2 star.”

When writers began to catch onto what was happening, many started investigating the reviewers’ true identities (and the accounts vanished). 

Cait claimed to be among those negatively impacted, but this was far from the truth: all the fake accounts gave Cait 5 stars, exchanging likes and inserting her book in numerous lists. Xiran Jay Zhao highlighted this dynamic and gave the writer a chance to make amends in private. After being sent fake receipts, Zhao released a 31-page Google document disclosing how the fake accounts operated and their links to Cait.


Following the release of the document, Cait came forward and explained that one of her former friends, Lilly- whom she met in the ReyLo fandom (a Star Wars fandom focused on the pairing of the characters Rey and Kylo Ren)- was responsible for review-bombing her peers. The author then profusely apologized to the affected authors while claiming her innocence, and she shared some of her chats with Lilly.

In the screens, Cait told Lilly she was having problems with Goodreads because her positive reviews had been inflated, and lamented how other writers were accusing her of sabotaging their debuts. Lilly confessed that it was her fault and profusely apologized, saying that she wanted to help. Corrain then told her that she was hurt and sickened by this behavior, and this caused her former friend’s demeanor to shift.

The villain twist

SOURCE: Review Bomb Receipts

Lilly denied being sorry since she was just trying to help and began berating Cait saying that she was pathetic and that her book was terrible. She then pointed out that since many of her victims were POC authors, her former friend would be considered racist.

This chat was sent both to Zhao and a group of debut authors, but in the image sent to the latter the last part was cropped out.

Meanwhile, people noticed inconsistencies in the chat logs, and some members of the ReyLo fandom came forward, saying that no one knew of the existence of Lilly. 

Such evident discrepancies caused more suspicions.


In the wake of the scandal, Corrain’s publishers, Daphne Press (UK publisher) and Del Rey (US publisher) removed Crown of Starlight from their 2024 publishing schedule. Later, Del Rey confirmed that they wouldn’t work with Cait Corrain anymore. Her agent, Rebecca Podos, also parted ways with her.

After some days of silence, Cait admitted to creating fake profiles on Goodreads in a lengthy apology. The profiles were used to boost her ratings, lower those of several debut authors, and leave reviews that “ranged from kind of mean to downright abusive”.

The author said that she feared how her book would be perceived and cited struggles with mental health and substance abuse as contributing factors to her actions.

Cait accepted responsibility for the pain she has caused and apologized for betraying the confidence of her agent, her team, her readers, her friends, and her values. 

Months after the events, an interview was released and Cait further clarified her position, though her declaration raised perplexity as she denies the intentionality of her actions: Corrain affirmed that she created the burner account during two different psychotic breakdowns, but after realizing what she had done, she refused to delete them.

In both the apology and the interview, she denied the allegations of racism, saying that the authors she damaged just happened to be on the wrong list at the wrong time and that the fact that most of them weren’t white was just a “sheer, awful coincidence”. She declared: “This was not a story about me going on a racist rampage. This was a story about a really insane attempt to make it look like none of my competitors were nearly as popular as I was.” 


What happened brought up once again the topic of discrimination faced by BIPOC workers in the publishing industry. This issue has been discussed for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that a survey showing the extent of it was released.

In 2019, the publisher Lee & Low Books established concrete statistics about the diversity of the publishing workforce.

SOURCE: Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0 by Lee & Low Books

When looking at the overall data, the survey concludes that:

  • 76% of publishing staff, review journal staff, and literary agents are white. The rest are people who self-report as Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (7%); Hispanic/Latino/Mexican (6%); Black/African American (5%); and biracial/multiracial (3%). Native Americans and Middle Easterners each comprise less than 1 percent of publishing staff. This result shows that there aren’t significant changes compared to 2015.
  • The percentage of people in Editorial who self-identified as white in 2019 increased from 82% (in 2015) to 85%. So, even though more diverse books are being published, a large majority of them are still being acquired and edited by white people.
  • Of the interns surveyed in 2019, 49% identified as BIPOC; 49% were on the LGBTQIA spectrum; and 22% identified as having a disability. These numbers signal a new, more representative generation of entry-level publishing staff. However, we don’t know if they’ll be retained and promoted or if they’ll stay long enough for their presence to change the industry.

The disparity impacts the authors’ pay. In 2020, the young adult author L.L.McKinney started #PublishingPaidMe on Twitter: through this hashtag, authors began to share their advances (amount of money received for the books before royalties). The inequalities were evident, and while not surprised, McKinney was hurt by “how deep it went”.

This is especially important when we reflect on how the composition of the publishing industry may affect us, readers, including our reading choices and the variety of perspectives we can get in touch with. Recently, books feature more diverse characters, but they are often used as tokens rather than fully developed characters, perpetuating harmful stereotypes in real life. A more representative composition of the sector could help ease these problems and bring new points of view, and I don’t mean it as just showing something new or unseen aspects of different cultures (which is great when done respectfully), but as a way to stop exoticizing people and remind everyone that we are all human, all deserving of a voice.


This scandal also highlights an issue with book reviews within online spaces, especially on Goodreads.Reviews have become extremely important to the publishers, and often negative comments on Goodreads have determined the choice to postpone the publication of books. This policy puts a lot of pressure on the writers, and it doesn’t consider that some books appeal to specific niches or the results on other platforms.

When interviewed by the Guardian, Courtney Maum, author of Before and After the Book Deal, said: “I’ve published five books traditionally and when I started there was, if not pressure, definitely a lot of energy from my publisher around getting solid reviews on Goodreads and making sure people were interacting on Goodreads giving away tons and tons of ARCs [advance review copies] and galleys on Goodreads.”

“The agents and publishers up until maybe this year have put tremendous stock in it but authors for a very long time have been trying to get the word out that hey, this is not a safe place for us. We have no protection. It’s totally unhinged.”

The situation is becoming unsustainable as the behaviors of both the authors and the reviewers are growing unhinged and, unfortunately, in some cases abusive. The pressure to perform well has blurred the confines between legitimate constructive criticism and hate. Some authors say that they should receive at least three stars for the effort or go out of their way to shame and harass negative reviewers on their platforms. At the same time, there are many instances of writers being review-bombed by haters, exes, and people who hold a grudge against them.

It is quite scary to see how a comment, a review, or a star can impact someone else’s life. While I agree that Goodreads and other online platforms should work hard to grant their users a safe environment, I believe that the issue runs deeper and that it’s necessary to reflect on the boundaries between authors and readers and look at the act of writing and the publishing process with a more critical eye.


  • “So Let Them Burn” by Kamilah Cole
  • “Voyage of the Damned” by Frances White
  • “The Poisons We Drink” by Bethany Baptiste
  • “To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods” by Molly X. Chang
  • “The Empire Wars” by Akure Phénix
  • “Mistress of Lies” by K. M. Enright
  • “Drag Me Up” by R. M. Virtues
  • “A Fate Inked in Blood” by Danielle L. Jensen
  • “The Hurricane Wars” by Thea Guanzon
  • “Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love” by Katrina Kwan

SOURCE: all covers are taken from Goodreads

Author Cait Corrain, Who Review-Bombed Writers of Color: ‘I’m Not Racist’ (
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