A fantasy debut author who had a two-book deal with Penguin Random House on Tuesday admitted to creating fake accounts on the website Goodreads to sabotage other novelists by leaving negative reviews.

The novelist, Cait Corrain, posted an admission and an apology on the social media platform X, citing a struggle with depression and substance abuse. In the note, Corrain said that this month, she had suffered a “psychological breakdown” and created around half a dozen fake accounts that left positive ratings on her upcoming novel and “bombed the ratings of several fellow debut authors.”

Before publicly confessing to creating the accounts, Corrain, who had been accused by other debut novelists of review bombing, had denied the accusations and blamed the accounts on a made-up friend, she acknowledged in the apology.

On Monday, Corrain’s agent, Rebecca Podos, wrote on X that she was no longer representing the author. On Tuesday, Corrain’s publisher, Del Rey Books, a sci-fi and fantasy imprint at Penguin Random House, confirmed it would no longer publish Corrain’s debut novel, “Crown of Starlight,” which she sold in a two-book deal, or “any other works on that contract.”

The scandal was cited by authors and publishing professionals as the latest example of how Goodreads, a popular site for reader-generated book reviews, can be easily weaponized and abused. Because anyone with an account can leave a review of a book, including titles that have not been published yet, the site can become a minefield for authors. Organized “review bombing” campaigns can lead to a pileup of negative ratings, which can harm an author’s reputation and damage sales.

On Amazon, which owns Goodreads, book reviews indicate whether or not someone has purchased a title, and the site generally does not allow reviews to be posted for books that haven’t been released, with some exceptions. But Goodreads has resisted calls from authors to change its policy of allowing users to review unpublished titles. Publishers and authors are also dependent on the site as a way to build buzz and attract readers ahead of a book’s publication, and publishers often distribute advance copies to readers in exchange for online reviews.

The dust-up over Corrain’s extensive fake review campaign has drawn renewed scrutiny to how Goodreads can be manipulated. Goodreads has taken steps to curb the abuse of its platform. Earlier this year, the platform announced that it had made changes to limit or suspend ratings and reviews “during times of unusual activity” in order to prevent review bombing. The company also said that it has enhanced its account verification to block spammers, added to its customer service team and increased the ways that users can report problems and suspicious content.

In a statement on Tuesday, a Goodreads representative said the company has clearly established community guidelines and removes reviews and accounts that violate those rules. The reviews generated by Corrain have been removed, the company confirmed.

Still, while a blizzard of bad reviews of a single title would likely arouse suspicion immediately, a campaign like the one Corrain undertook — creating several fake accounts to leave single bad reviews on multiple titles — might be harder to detect.

Bethany Baptiste, whose forthcoming debut novel, “The Poisons We Drink,” was one of the books that Corrain disparaged, said she first learned of the plot on Goodreads on Dec. 5, when the author Xiran Jay Zhao wrote on X about the suspicious one-star reviews, without naming Corrain. In her apology, Corrain confirmed she had targeted Baptiste, along with Kamilah Cole, Molly X. Chang and Danielle L. Jensen. Corrain also said that in addition to the roughly six fake accounts she created recently, she also used two fake accounts she established in 2022.

Baptiste said she was unsettled to find that the other debut novels that Corrain left negative reviews for included books written by L.G.B.T.Q. authors and writers of color.

She and other authors were also upset by the revelations because Corrain was part of a Slack channel for 2024 debut authors, where writers shared advice and support. After learning of her activities, some members of the channel disabled their accounts.

“It’s very sad that it came to this and that this one person caused this very supportive community to implode, because we weren’t sure who we could trust any more,” Baptiste said. “The sense of community has been shattered by this.”

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