When do a Book Reviewer’s Statements Become Libelous?

This isn’t about a bad review. Big Deal. I’ve had those. I know not everyone is going to like or love my books. But this? This is something totally different.

So I want to know, when do a reviewer’s statements become libelous? Is this woman, who wrote the comments in the review that I’ve inserted below, being libelous? Actually, it’s not really a review. It’s accusations. She’s accusing me of ripping- off another author. JK Rowling to be exact. I definitely have not done this. I actually used my very own imagination. Apparently, a novel concept to this person.

And since what she wrote is completely not true, isn’t that libel? Defamation? Slander? Isn’t it ruining my good name as an honest and hard-working author?

She says my magical house is Hogwarts. How can that be? It’s not a school or a castle. It’s a house. Nearly every room and many hallways in the house are magical and have different magical powers in them. Hogwarts doesn’t have that. Of course there are staircases in the house. It’s like ten stories tall. It needs staircases to get anywhere. I have ONE staircase that slithers back and forth like a snake. The others are all stationary. Also, no ghosts wander the house. And apparently no other fantasy story can ever have magical doors or secret doorways? Give me a break, lady.

As for the idea of the house: When I was a real estate agent, I did a lot of open houses. One Sunday I held one at a huge, fancy, beautiful house. Someplace I would’ve loved to live, if I could afford it. That night, I dreamed I lived in a huge, fancy, beautiful house, but for some reason, every room had a different magical power in it. (I dunno why. Maybe it was destiny.) The next day, the Tinker House, or House of Magic, was born. Disclaimer: Hogwarts had no part in the creation of the Tinker House.

I have ONE portrait that Andy falls into and meets the two Tinkers sitting in it. Harry Potter has no portraits like that. And oval windows can never be used in books ever again? Say what?! I didn’t even know Hogwarts had an oval window.

Grandfather has short gray hair, glasses, and a mustache. He also loves to wear bowties. No beards or robes there. And yes, I tried to make him intelligent and wise, like Gandalf and Dumbledore and Vikus (from Gregor the Overlander). Was I supposed to make him stupid? He does keep things from the kids so as not to worry them. So what? When I was a kid, my parents did that to me and my siblings all the time. I’m sure the grand majority of parents out there did the same thing. Nothing new there!

And yes, the kids get in trouble and do a few things behind Grandfather’s back. If anyone can say that they NEVER got in trouble or did things they weren’t supposed to do behind their parents’ backs, then either they’re big ol’ fibbers, or those sweet little angels deserve a million golden stars. (So something else from my childhood, not HP.)

NONE of my characters are based off of or are anything like JKR’s. They’re actually inspired by myself, my family members, and people I’ve known through the years. (Ahem, main bad guy? My horrid ex-husband who always wore his long, dirty-blonde hair back in an ugly ponytail.) The evil Marlowes, also known as the Dark Enemy, are nothing like the Malfoys. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. They have yellowish blonde hair, not white, and cold, piercing blue eyes. Their magic comes from a dark magic object. And anyone who reads the whole series will see that there are a whole bunch of those wicked beings causing trouble in my make-believe world.

Yes, Chase has dark-brown hair, just like Harry Potter (Oh no!), but there are only so many hair colors (and eye colors, Chase has dark-brown eyes, BTW) in the world. Was I supposed to make Chase’s hair blue to really distinguish him from Harry? I already had the bad guys with blonde hair and Persephone with auburn. Sheesh! Plus, there are no “Chosen Ones” in my books. Every character has a totally different purpose and personality than the ones in the Harry Potter books.

And Mrs. Periwinkle is just Mrs. Periwinkle. She’s the housekeeper and Persephone’s mom. James, Chase and Andy’s cousin and Janie’s brother, is not Draco. Even though he’s a bully, who acts nice when it suits him, his character is influenced by a girl who bullied me in school. She attacked me one night and tried to pound my head into the sidewalk, then acted really nice to me the next time she saw me. Bullies aren’t a Harry Potter thing. They’re all over MG/YA literature.

Persephone, friend to the other kids, is inspired by my beautiful, wonderful mom. She died before she could read my books. :( Yes, Janie, Chase and Andy’s cousin, can be a know-it-all. So can my brother, along with a lot of other people. I guess you can say I stole that trait from many individuals. (gasp)

And then there’s Andy, Chase’s little brother, he’s one of my favorite characters. I have to admit that I put a little bit of Dash from the Incredibles in his personality. Plus, he wears glasses, loves pizza, and has a tendency to say whatever he happens to be thinking. Not always a good thing. He’s also never jealous of his brother Chase. And even though the two brothers bicker all the time, they’re very close and care deeply for each other. Oh, and they’re not orphans or mistreated and abused by anyone. There are also no pet rats who morph into humans or anything else in my books. Just a cute little ferret named Maxwell. He really is just a ferret.

The story is about two magical families, one good, one bad, fighting over a magical house and the incredibly powerful, magical entity that controls it. I hate to break it to this woman, but JK Rowling hasn’t cornered the market on fantasy, magic, magical places, magical objects, or magical people. It’s all been around for ages. Long before JKR was even born.

Based on her fabrications and delusions, this woman is telling people not to buy or read ANY of the books in my Chase Tinker Series. She only read the first book, for gosh sakes! Who the heck does that with absolutely no knowledge of something? And with all of these lies and accusations, I’m worried it’s going to affect my book sales, especially since Amazon was so kind as to put it at the very top of my reviews. What makes this even crazier, is that a lot of other people have read my books and yet no one, except this woman, has said anything like this in their reviews.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “When do a Book Reviewer’s Statements Become Libelous?

  1. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Malia Ann needs YOUR opinion and advice…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not an expert but it certainly doesn’t sound like you’re ripping off Rowling. I wouldn’t bother trying to charge this woman with libel as it would be a waste of your valuable time and could be expensive. Just ignore her. You might not be the only writer she insults. :( — Suzanne

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your input, Patricia. You’re right. It is best to ignore her. I can’t afford a lawyer, anyway. Ha! It’s just difficult when someone accuses you of something that isn’t true. :( It says she’s a top contributor for coloring books. So it looks like because of that, Amazon sticks her reviews at the top of whatever she reviews. Totally ridiculous.

      Like

  3. Looking at her profile, she is certainly a prolific reader and reviewer, Malia Ann.
    I wonder if she thinks the ‘Jurassic Park’ series is a rip off of ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
    I have read and enjoyed all your Chase Tinker books, I have also read and enjoyed the Harry Potter books.
    I did not get confused between them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is there a link to the review, please? I am blind and use screen reading software which converts text into speech and braille. It can only interpret text (not images), so if the review is reproduced as an image I’m not seeing it/my software isn’t picking it up. Kind regards, Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Kevin, the link is:

      The text of the comment is below for your convenience:
      Patricia – Top Contributor: Coloring
      2.0 out of 5 starsHarry Potter wannabe
      January 6, 2019
      Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
      I received this book free from one of the book sites. I do not remember which one! This is my honest and voluntary review.
      Fans of Harry Potter will recognize who most of the characters are. Chase = Harry; Grandfather = Dumbledore; Janie = Hermione; I believe that Andy = Ron; Persephone =Ginny. Then you have The Marlowe Family = The Malfoy Family with 2 brothers and a sister instead; James = Draco. I’m not sure who Miranda Periwinkle represents.
      The kids get in trouble, there is a rudeness to them I don’t like. The Tinker House = Hogwarts with staircases, potraits one can jump into, & magical doors. There is even a large oval window, like behind the big clock. The kids get in trouble & grandfather is hiding things to protect the kids. It is such a rip off of the Harry Potter books that I am disgusted.
      Read to your kids the REAL Harry Potter books. They are better written. Don’t bother letting your kids read this set.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know the law, but from a PR standpoint I can’t think of any response you could make to the review that wouldn’t make things worse. Even if you were able to sue for damages and win, you’d look like the bad guy. As annoying as it is, I’d ignore the review, don’t respond to it, don’t contact the reviewer, just let the other 28 reviews for the book stand to show that it’s just one person’s opinion.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That was my take as well. Honestly, I would follow the usual advice: ignore it.

      There are plenty of other reviews to override it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments, Misha! I appreciate all input. Yeah, it sucks that if authors respond to any reviews that clearly are filled with lies or might be slanderous, THEY look like the bad guys. I’m trying my best to ignore it. I just wish it blended in and wasn’t stuck right at the top of the review list. No one has to search for that puppy.

      Like

  6. She is giving her opinion. It is not slander as it is not damaging to your reputation. It is not libel because it is not a written statement damaging to your reputation. It is an opinion.

    Like

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this, Chris, but what she’s saying is not true, that I ripped-off things from another author. Even something that is supposed to be an opinion can be slanderous. And I think it CAN be damaging to my reputation. People could start thinking that everything I write now is suspect. And I really don’t want that.

      Like

  7. Jaq

    Sounds like someone who hasn’t read widely enough. Magical buildings with staircases pre-date HP. The best thing to do with snark reviews is let them get buried under other reviews. There are actually people out there who will write stuff like this to get a rise out of you so they can call you a Badly Behaved Author and get all their friends to one-star your books.

    False accusations of plagiarism are worth using the report button on Amazon though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My daughter said nearly the same things. This woman apparently hasn’t read a lot of fantasy lit or kid lit or she’d realize that many magical things are recycled. Even JKR did a lot of it. And yep, you’re right. I’ve seen where authors have gotten a bunch of one stars because people think they’ve been behaving badly. Even when the reviewers hadn’t read the book. And even when the author was only sticking up for themselves. Also, thanks to everyone’s lovely comments, I did decide to report it to Amazon. Hopefully they’ll decide that it’s against their policies and they’ll do something about it.

      Like

      • Jaq

        I strongly suggest deleting your acknowledgement of her review from your book description. It can only work against you. She doesn’t matter. Her sheltered opinion is nothing. Don’t give her that power.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Funny you should say that. For the past two days, I’ve put it on there, taken if off, edited it, put it back on, then edited it again, and then again. Ahhh! I don’t want anyone to think I’m the type of author who would rip-off from anyone, but I don’t want to look like a whiner, either. So frustrating. Thanks so much for your advice. And you’re right, acknowledging her review gives her power I don’t want her to have. A couple readers wrote comments on her review in my favor, so that’s good.
        Thanks, Jaq! :)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Click on “Report Abuse” at the bottom of the review. I think it is an abusive review. Amazon might well delete it if a few people do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comment and your awesome support. And thanks to yours and everyone else’s comments, I have decided to report it to Amazon. Hopefully they’ll decide that it is against their review policies and they’ll delete it. Fingers crossed! :)

      Like

  9. I had a one-star review where the reviewer said she should apologize to the parents of the children she’d read my book to :) They say negative reviews give credibility–I certainly felt credible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! That’s harsh. And hurtful, and totally not constructive at all. It’s so crazy what some reviewers will say, but it’s nice to see you have a sense of humor about it. We definitely have to have some thick skin, don’t we? :)

      Like

  10. I agree with the others who say ignore it. You might have a look at other reviews she’s done to see if that’s her theme. (in which case flag it to report abuse on all of them) And besides, many of us have already put Chase Tinker on our reading lists because we like the genre! It’s hard to put any MG magical realism adventure together without these standard characters.
    I’m sure there are people who complain quest epics are rip-offs of Lord of the Rings, for much the same reason. Take Golden Compass, for example, but I seem to be the only one who notices!
    It is hurtful to have such a review, but unless you want to factually correct something, leave it. She’s not worth your effort.
    And actually – it’s pushed CT up my TBR to be read this year!
    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the awesome comments, Jemima! Coming from a wonderful writer such as yourself means a lot to me. I’m happy to see you’ve moved Chase higher on your TBR list. That wasn’t my intention, but yay! :) And you’re so right. It is difficult to write a fantasy/magic book without using many character traits and concepts that other fantasy writers have used. Like you, the books I’ve read have done it, too. Besides that, I’ve read tons of romance where the main guy is just about the same in every book. Handsome and exciting, etc. After all, who wants to read about a normal dude who goes to his accounting job every day, then goes home and watches hours of Netflix. Boring! :)
      Hugs!

      Like

  11. The best response to reviews like that is to write another successful book! :D

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I feel I’m not really qualified to comment as I’ve not read any of your books. (Sorry about that. I’ll make amends) However, the people who say to ignore the reviewer are right.
    From what you say, your books are not rip-offs from JK Rowling. Come to think of it, all of us fantasy writers could be accused of ripping off something from someone else’s books. AS you say, can no one have oval windows again? Or young heroes with brown hair. Can adults no longer hide things from their charges for their own good, or be clever and wise? For that matter, we could accuse JK Rowling of ripping off Gandalf!
    This person reviews colouring books, for goodness sake. Ignore her. She’s just one person. You have other reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your wonderful comments. And no worries. Loads of people haven’t read my books. Yet. Ha! And you’re so right. I’m sure nearly every author out there can be accused of ripping-off something, whether it’s character traits or ideas. Especially these days when every good concept has been done at some point. So I’ll carry on and try my best to ignore her. :)

      Like

  13. Lindsey Russell

    Is every romance a regurgitation of Romeo and Juliet? Is every Western a rip off of Zane Grey? Are all thrillers a rehashed version of James Bond? And every crime novel a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes? There is no copyright on ideas (we’d all be stuffed if there were) only of the way the words are presented in the telling. No writer wants to see a poor review of their book but it goes with the territory.
    And don’t ‘try’ and ignore her – actually do it. It is causing a distraction which could cause more damage (wondering where your next idea came from and whether someone else has already used it) than the poor review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your awesome comments, Lindsey! And you’re so right. Books out there are filled with rehashed characters and concepts. It’s the authors’ ways and views of telling their stories that makes them different. So I guess in a way we’re all a bunch of rip-offs. Ha! And why is it so difficult to ignore one crappy review, but let the good ones just slide by? Because that woman’s review has definitely become a huge distraction. So I’ve decided to take your excellent advice and Yoda’s, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
      Thanks, Lindsey! :)

      Like

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