What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Publishing: It’s a Business! And it’s hard sometimes.

It seems, much to my surprise, that there’s something controversial about saying “Don’t make enemies of people who may be in a position to help you later on in the career you hope to have.” I had no idea that this was something people would disagree with.

(While I’m on the subject, a link in comments led me to this post by Jeanine Frost, a NYT bestseller and very nice person I had the pleasure of meeting once a couple of years ago. I hadn’t seen this post before I posted; I wish I had. Maybe if you don’t want to believe me, you’ll believe her.)

Several people brought up Roger Ebert, I’m not sure why. Roger Ebert is a professional reviewer. He is a good and successful reviewer. I just must have missed the part where Ebert started actively pursuing an acting career. Nobody said you can’t be a reviewer. Just that you should think before you decide to try to be both. When is the last time you saw, say, Sandra Bullock, reviewing a film?

I’ve been referred to as being “scared.” I wanted to clarify this. I am not fucking scared. Ask anyone who knows me; I believe they’ll tell you there’s very little I’m afraid of (and if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see more clarification). I carry two switchblades. Hell, I have “I am not afraid” tattooed on my arm.

Some people are shocked–yes, shocked!–that writers would actually not take time to help out someone who criticized their work in the past. You know what? Writers are people. Just like any other people. When is the last time you took time you couldn’t afford to help a stranger who’d been publicly critical of you in the past? Why does everyone think this is a matter of anger? It’s not. I’m not sure what’s unclear about the fact that my time is extremely limited. If I have two bound mss in front of me, I likely only have time to read one, and that’s with me barely scraping that time from my schedule. Let’s see. I can pick the mss of the person who in the past said they disliked this or that about me or my work, or I can pick up the mss of the person who never said a word about me, or complimented me. You tell me what person you know–who isn’t in the running for sainthood–who’s going to deliberately pick the one of the critical person. It’s not about revenge. It’s not about anger. It’s about practicality.

This isn’t about being nice, either, to be honest. or rather, it is, but only in so much as it’s about not actively being unpleasant to or critical of people who could have an influence on your career. I’m not saying you can’t ever speak out against injustice or rudeness. I think we should do so. I think if you’ve read my blog before you know that; hell, remember what happened in May? I saw another writer–one “above” me, in fact, with whom I was friendly, who I liked as a person, and who was friends with many of my friends–behaving in a manner I found shockingly bad, disgusting, even; aggressive, rude, and unpleasant to readers. I blogged about it. Did that writer see it? I know she did. Do I think she’ll ever help me out with anything? I don’t think she’d piss on me if I were on fire, frankly. Do I think it’s possible she showed my post to her editor, and her editor now thinks I’m a bitch? I know it’s a distinct possibility, yes.

But the fact is it was worth it to me, because it was something I felt very strongly about and believe very strongly in. Do I think writing a review of her book is so important that I’d be willing to alienate her? Fuck, no. It might be worth it to you. Make the choice.

This isn’t about being scared, and it honestly shocks me that someone would think that. Fear isn’t anything to do with it. What it is about is my writing friends, and the community of writers in genre fiction, and the fact that I find it a deep pleasure to be part of that community and have little to no desire to alienate someone in that community. More to the point, I have little to no desire to–either accidentally or on purpose–hurt another member of that community. In fact, I have no desire to hurt anyone, anywhere.

Nor do I desire to look unprofessional, unpleasant, not fun to work with, etc. That’s what the post is about.

People seem to have taken the part about reviews way more strongly than I intended, and seem to be not focusing on the part that was, for me, most important: after you’re published reactions to you change, and you need to be more careful what you say because of that.

Sure, if you believe the job of a writer is to cause controversy, go ahead. If you don’t care about having friends in the industry, go ahead. If you’re confident that your work is so excellent that no one would ever turn it or you down, go ahead. (And as I said yesterday, I write from the perspective of a genre writer. I have no doubt that if you write controversial non-fic, or experimental litfic, some of the parameters change.)

I’d just like someone to show me one other industry–aside from politics, as several people mentioned on Twitter–where nobody minds/cares/notices, even, if you publicly criticize someone on a higher level of recognition and respect than yourself. It’s funny, because I seem to remember hearing stories about people, say, not getting a job they want because the owner’s assistant is the guy you said was as dumb as he was ugly when he worked with a friend of theirs, or being passed over for a promotion because they said some rude things about one of the members of the committee once.

Here’s a question. Why the fuck would you want to possibly alienate someone who could help your career? Just so you can tell the world what you think of their book? Do you really feel that strongly about being able to inform the world at large that you found Author A’s dialogue unrealistic? It’s really that important to you?

You’re not being asked or advised to cow under here and act like an little mouse with not an opinion in your sweet little head. I never said anything remotely like that. What I’m saying is, be fucking careful what you say, because just like in any other industry, it can come back to bite you on the ass. Period. You are expected to behave professionally, just like in any other industry. Publishing has its own rules of etiquette, just like any other industry, just like life, ffs. If you don’t like it? Fine. Feel free to ignore it. As I said yesterday, I don’t give a shit. I’m telling you what my experience and opinion is. Some people may feel differently. Good for them. I know what I think and what my friends think, that’s all.

I’m trying to remember the name of that actor, the one who said working with a particular director was a nightmare after they made that movie together. Know why I can’t remember his name? Because he didn’t get more work after that.

I used to work at a credit card bank. I hated that place with a deep and abiding hatred. I still do, in fact; they treated their employees like total shit. But when I worked there, do you think I wandered around telling everyone that I thought both the manager and the assistant manager were a couple of the most unprofessional miserable cunts I’d ever been forced to share air with? No. Funnily enough, I didn’t, because I didn’t want to lose my job. In fact, I didn’t even tell anyone I disliked them, or that I thought they’d made the wrong decision about this or that. I needed my job.

Guys, publishing is a business. It is a business, it is a business, it is a fucking business. I do this for a living. It is my job. It’s how I support my family. Most of the writers I know? Same thing. Or if it isn’t their sole means of support, it’s much-needed extra income. It doesn’t matter. I do this because I love it, yes. I love it more than anything, I love it with an intensity that scares me. I pour everything I can and everything I have into it. I work until my fingers are killing me and my chest feels hollow because I’ve put everything onto the page, and my eyes sting and itch from squinting and not blinking, and occasionally crying, while I do it.

That doesn’t mean that when I’m done writing I don’t wipe my eyes, get some sleep, and treat this like the business it is. That doesn’t mean I don’t need and appreciate the help of my friends, either, or that I’m not totally grateful for them. But it is first and foremost a business, and I need to treat it as such, and that means not stomping around in my fuck-you-all boots, not caring whose feelings or work I tread upon. That means not deliberately making enemies because I think it’ll be fun. That means not assuming that who I am as a person doesn’t matter one bit, and I’m under no obligation to be pleasant to work with. That means not telling readers to go fuck themselves or not caring about them, their feelings, or what matters to them.

It means not acting like my behavior, my words, my thoughts, etc., don’t matter to anyone and I’m an island, and repercussions are nonexistent, and I don’t need the goodwill of my peers, and I don’t need readers, either, because fuck those losers. You want to act that way? Go ahead. If you want to take that chance, be my guest, and please come back in a year or two to tell me about your great success.

As I’ve said several times now, sure it’s very possible nobody will care what you said. They may not know. Or it may become a huge thing. Or they might know what you said about them and decide not to help you one little bit. They might tell all the writers they know that you’re a fucking bitch and should be avoided. They might tell their agent and/or editor about you. (Again, I can’t speak for the agent and/or the editor. I just know what the agents on Twitter said.) There is no way of knowing, because the internet is public.

You have no idea how lonely writing is until you’ve done it. Especially not after you’re published. Especially not after you’re NY published, and most especially after people seem to think you’re actually successful, when everything you say is scrutinized and people don’t know how to respond to you or simply don’t understand where you’re coming from. Suddenly enemies pop out of the woodwork; people you’ve somehow upset or offended without knowing how, people who think you’re a crazed egotist. Guess what? I’m not a person who thrives on controversy. Nor do I enjoy being disliked. That’s not fear. I don’t need everyone to like me, either, and I’m not afraid of being disliked. Hell, if I was, I wouldn’t have said half the things I’ve said here on the blog or on Twitter or on AW or wherever. Being unafraid isn’t the same as getting off on it, though, and I think if you personally enjoy seeing people talk shit about you, you’re in the minority. Have fun with that, Erich von Stroheim, but don’t act like I’m somehow weird for choosing to go in a different direction.

Suddenly you don’t know what people’s motives are. Are they being nice to you because they like you, or because they’re hoping you’ll let them post on your blog one day? Or they want you to blurb them? Are they saying they liked your book because they did, or because they think it will help them somehow/get them somewhere? That person wouldn’t give you the time of day two months ago, why are they suddenly complimenting you now? That person who wants a blurb from you, they haven’t even read your book, really? They don’t even know anything about it, really?

Are they being nasty to you because you genuinely upset them, or are they jealous for some reason? Why are they talking so pointedly about your book? Why are they telling you it’s fine for you to talk, it was obviously easy for you, and you’re obviously so special, when they’re wrong and they know it and they’re being sarcastic and rude for no reason?

Someone reads your blog and interprets your post exactly the opposite way you meant it (this isn’t about Monday’s post, btw, it’s just an example). They then tell everyone to interpret it that way. They start a Twitter conversation about your personal stupidity and lack of writing ability. Does that sound fun? Would that have happened to you if you weren’t published? Would anyone have given a shit what you said if you weren’t?

You offer someone advice and they snap and get defensive. Someone else says the exact same thing and they’re thanked.

You ask an innocent question and it’s taken as berating. You answer someone’s question, thinking maybe you can help, and suddenly everyone thinks you’re totally full of yourself and are swanning around like you know everything. They resent you for it. They go out of their way to slam you for it.

You mention something on Twitter. A lot of people ask you about it. You answer each one of them, because you don’t want to ignore your readers. You’re accused of wanting to push the subject and not let it drop, of trying to milk it for all it’s worth, of trying to get attention. You’re accused of a reaction far, far more extreme than your actual words/thoughts, one that makes you sound like a childish fool. Many people believe this.

You talk to your husband or your best friend or whatever, and they help. But you know who actually understands? The only people who actually fully understand, the people who can confirm for you that you actually haven’t changed and aren’t being an egotistical shithead? That it’s not you, it happens to everyone? Other writers. What a surprise! Those same other writers you’re supposed to not give a fuck about and stir up controversy about.

All of this sucks, and it’s something I didn’t expect, and I think it’s something nobody expects. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!) But it’s real. And it hurts, quite frankly. And it’s lonely. Being published–NY published, especially/at least–is a trial by fire. Your online life, your professional life, is not and will not be the same (neither will your personal life to some degree). Sorry, but it’s true, and not liking it doesn’t change it. Nothing changes it. It just is. People–people you don’t know, people you’re not even aware exist–will note what you say, pay attention to it, base opinions on your reactions, misinterpret your words, bring their own biases into discussions, take an instant disliking to you, talk about you, gossip about you, criticize or compliment you, or whatever else (of course there are positives, too).

Just like in any other business, because that’s what it is. You decide how you want to handle your place in it.

56 comments to “Publishing: It’s a Business! And it’s hard sometimes.”

  1. Saffina Desforges
    · January 26th, 2011 at 1:39 pm · Link

    Wow! What a great blog and what a fab (if not slightly scary!) post.

    Your honesty is refreshing and I am now even more scared of entering into this business! Thanks! But at least I will be going in with eyes wide shut! 😉

    Brilliant. You have a new, loyal follower.


    • Stace
      · January 29th, 2011 at 12:06 am · Link

      Nothing to be scared, of, dear, really. It’s just something I wish people had told me, is all. It would have been nice to have been prepared.

  2. Liz Czukas
    · January 26th, 2011 at 1:46 pm · Link

    Wow. Intense. And perfectly stated.

    I have been edumakated right here, and I thank you for it.

    – Liz

  3. Rachel Levine
    · January 26th, 2011 at 1:54 pm · Link

    Stacia, I was pointed in your direction by Colleen on Twitter. I could not agree with you more. I don’t make my living writing, I have a day job I can tolerate. But I always dream of one day being able to do so. Why are we writers expected to be saints? And, why do writers looking to get published refuse to accept that publishers buy books they think they can SELL! I won’t try to get a publisher to pick up my literary short fiction collection that no one will read! The days when publishing was a “gentleman’s profession” are long gone. Profit is a must.
    Anyway, congrats to you for achieving your career and stating very eloquently the truth about the biz.
    All the best,

    • Stace
      · January 29th, 2011 at 12:07 am · Link

      Thanks Rachel! Ha, I don’t know about “achieving,” but I’m managing to keep swimming, which is what matters, I think. :)

      Good luck with yours!

  4. Mark Henry
    · January 26th, 2011 at 1:54 pm · Link

    My mother always says (well not always, but enough for me to remember): Don’t shit where you eat. This doesn’t have anything to do with publishing. It has to do with being people. People are vindictive. It’s a fact. It’s a fact in publishing, nursing, construction work, amongst mechanics, day care workers, your children’s teachers. The idea that someone expects help from someone they’ve complained about, at work–and guess what, critics are a part of this big workplace known as publishing–is ludicrous. In fact, it’d be miraculous.

    • TJ Michaels
      · January 26th, 2011 at 2:06 pm · Link

      Amen, Mark. Or, rather, amen to your mom 😛

    • Kira
      · January 27th, 2011 at 10:28 am · Link

      Awesome! And so true.

  5. TJ Michaels
    · January 26th, 2011 at 2:05 pm · Link

    There’s a big difference between common sense and fear. Sounds like you have some sense, woman. Excellent post, Stace.

  6. Kalayna Price
    · January 26th, 2011 at 2:11 pm · Link

    >>Suddenly you don’t know what people’s motives are.<<

    Oh, my motives are totally selfish. I think you're Downside books are brilliant so I'm hoping to rub shoulders so some of that brilliance rubs off on me. (LOL–jk. Well, about the stealing your brilliance bit. The books really are fabulous.)


  7. Harry Connolly
    · January 26th, 2011 at 2:15 pm · Link

    Dammit. Now I have to go back through my old LJ reviews and take out that thing.

  8. Zanthera
    · January 26th, 2011 at 2:59 pm · Link

    Kick ass writing in book and out of book. Moments like this I am appreciative to have found and chosen to follow your words as a guide and glimpse into the world of writing.

    Gah enough being sappy. I think it’s becoming human nature to shoot down others to look better instead of giving more effort to make their own achievements. You said it well being defensive without a condescending tone or attention seeking “drama queen” demeanour people want to think it is.

    Thumbs up here.

  9. Mario Acevedo
    · January 26th, 2011 at 3:14 pm · Link

    Your post cuts deeper than your switchblades (I’m guessing so please don’t test your knives on me) and was well said.

    • Stace
      · January 26th, 2011 at 3:18 pm · Link

      Oh, Mario, you totally want me to test my knives on you, don’t lie. Everyone knows you’re a sick pervert.

  10. Michele Lee
    · January 26th, 2011 at 4:09 pm · Link

    “Suddenly you don’t know what people’s motives are. Are they being nice to you because they like you, or because they’re hoping you’ll let them post on your blog one day? Or they want you to blurb them? Are they saying they liked your book because they did, or because they think it will help them somehow/get them somewhere? That person wouldn’t give you the time of day two months ago, why are they suddenly complimenting you now? That person who wants a blurb from you, they haven’t even read your book, really? They don’t even know anything about it, really??

    OMG this this a million times this. This started happening to be BEFORE I even got published, OVER REVIEWING. Because people were threatened by my “authority” as a reviewer. What authority I say, it’s my opinion only. But it’s not because as soon as anyone thinks you have any small measure of authority they treat you differently.

    I now desperately cling to the people I’ve “grown up” with as a writer. I know I’m oversensitive about possibly offending them, but that’s because of this exact thing.

    • Stace
      · January 26th, 2011 at 4:17 pm · Link

      I now desperately cling to the people I’ve “grown up” with as a writer.

      Totally. I’ve made some great new friends too, absolutely, but I do cling to those people I trust.

      A couple of months ago, actually, I got myself all upset because of how much things have changed, and was really missing the old days on my Blogger blog when I could kind of say anything because I had that little group of pals. I emailed JTC/V95 (remember him? He can’t check blogs from work anymore) because I just needed a virtual hug, and I needed it from someone who knew *me* and liked *me,* you know? Someone who remembered those days and would know what I was talking about.

      • Michele Lee
        · January 27th, 2011 at 8:57 pm · Link

        It also makes it harder to reach new friends who are writers. It’s really hard to convince them you aren’t out to use them. They have every right to be guarded. “Peers” is such a strange, complicated thing in the publishing world.

  11. Layla Messner
    · January 26th, 2011 at 10:31 pm · Link

    You know what your blog needs? A “like” button.
    Of course, now I’m thinking I shouldn’t comment, because then you’ll think I’m being nice because I want something, but (as you can see) I’m doing my best to ignore that paranoia – because I understand–not as a NY published writer, obviously, but in other contexts.

    This reminds me of something Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) says, that rich people have money problems too. You have to choose which type of problems you want, he says–not enough money, or too much.

    Well, when it comes to write-related problems, I’d like to have these someday (not because I think they’re a light burden!). It’s the price/burden of any type of “fame” (and increases the more known one is). I think that everyone who aspires to a career such as being an author needs to decide if the price is really worth it to them, should they be lucky enough to get it.

    • Stace
      · January 29th, 2011 at 12:13 am · Link

      I think it’s especially difficult because as a writer you don’t expect to be treated that way. I’m not in People magazine or something, you know? I’m not a celebrity. Why does anyone care what I say and/or think, and why is it being spread all over? You know?

      It’s confusing, and very difficult. But it comes with the territory.

      • Layla Messner
        · January 29th, 2011 at 1:14 am · Link

        I want to see you in People, talking about Downside! How awesome would that be?
        (And, yes, that all totally makes sense.)

  12. LBomb
    · January 27th, 2011 at 1:45 am · Link

    1. You dropped the best monty python reference ever AND MARIO ‘EFFIN ACEVEDO posted to you and has your back… I mean honestly, how brutal does that make you?

    2. I agree with Mark Henry. My mamaw (thats southern for grandmother) taught me not to shit where I eat. That meant don’t argue with your 10th grade american History teacher about the origin of scalping because he’ll mark the question wrong, you’ll fail your final and have to go to summer school, DUH!!

    3.This is universal and not a complicated concept for christs sake!
    3a.You’re right
    3b. Your family and friends know you’re right
    3c. Your peers know you’re right
    3d. The D.A. knows you’re right
    3e. may I remind you about Mr. Acevedo?

    Go tell those keyboard warriors where to go and how to get there! Arguing on the computer is like the special olympics, it doesn’t matter who “wins,” the participants are still mentally challenged. (no offense to anyone who is mentally challenged or loves someone who is, i swear!)
    Don’t waste anymore of your precious time on these idiots!
    They don’t deserve it!


    • Stace
      · January 29th, 2011 at 12:16 am · Link

      Thanks Laura! I appreciate that.

  13. Jill Sorenson
    · January 27th, 2011 at 7:56 am · Link

    I review f/f and f/f/m romance at Dear Author and sometimes post short reviews/comments on Goodreads. I see it as an act of support for the genre (especially f/f and lesbian romance, which is largely ignored), an invitation to discuss, and a way to contribute to the romance community. If I post a negative review I do it thoughtfully, with the author in mind, and I hope my comments are helpful. No hurt or disrespect is intended. Ever.

    I’m not saying I disagree with most of what you’ve said. Being cautious and self-aware is good advice to aspiring authors. But I think we have a different way of looking at reviews.

    Here’s an example. RRR Jessica, a blogger, posted a not-so-positive review of my Bantam debut, Crash Into Me. She didn’t love it. I wasn’t overjoyed about her “meh” review, but I got over it. I kept going back to her blog to comment because she has interesting opinions. We’re still friends. If she needed help with anything, I wouldn’t hesitate.

    Now, if she’d posted a review that hurled personal insults at me, I would turn my back. Otherwise, it’s cool. I’m okay with negative comments, snarky reviews, etc, as long as they’re about the book. Bring it on.

    Just my 2cents. Love your blog.

  14. BernardL
    · January 27th, 2011 at 11:40 am · Link

    Here’s a link to a publisher putting a clause in that mirrors your warning about limitations to what an author can or can’t say or do, Stace.


  15. Betsy Dornbusch
    · January 27th, 2011 at 4:33 pm · Link

    I have dozens of industry friends and acquaintances, writers, mostly, with a sprinkling of publishing professionals. I’ve met hundreds of others at cons and conferences. Most of them are wonderful nice people, and why would you want to alienate anyone? Much less the few nasties who are probably going to try to get revenge. What you say here is so reasonable, I can’t imagine anyone arguing with it.

  16. Kathryn Smith
    · January 27th, 2011 at 6:19 pm · Link

    The result is still the same — don’t shit where you eat. Not exactly eloquent but true. If you’re a reviewer and also trying to be a writer, chances are there will come a day when you end up with a particularly nasty taste in your mouth.

  17. Tori
    · January 27th, 2011 at 6:32 pm · Link

    Hi Stacia, you’ve written another wonderful post about a topic I’ve driven myself crazy over in the past.

    I actually have a question (and I’m sorry if you’ve already mentioned it and I’ve forgotten/missed it). I know you wouldn’t blurb a reviewer/author who bashed your book, which is totally understandable. But what if they gave one of your books a low rating and it was polite/respectful and the reviewer gave a lot of constructive criticism filled with feedback you might use for future books?

    I know a lot of readers who prefer scanning the lower ratings and will buy books because of them. I think it’s mainly because there tend to be a few 5-star reviews with the person being like “ZOMG DIS BOOK RAWKS!” Would you still refrain from helping that author/reviewer out with a blurb?

    • Stace
      · January 27th, 2011 at 6:39 pm · Link

      Hi Tori, thanks for the comment!

      But what if they gave one of your books a low rating and it was polite/respectful and the reviewer gave a lot of constructive criticism filled with feedback you might use for future books?

      1. No, probably not.

      2. I don’t get constructive criticism from reviews, and I’m going to blog about that on Monday.

      This isn’t a concrete rule, okay? If I didn’t see the review, I probably won’t go hunting for it. If it seemed like a reasonable review, AND I’d had further interaction with them where they were nice and respectful, AND I happened to be between projects, AND I thought their book looked really cool? Then I might.

      But remember, the assumption is that I have very little time, and I’m going to give that time to someone who’s been a fan, and I’m not going to give it to someone who’s said something negative about me/my work OVER someone who hasn’t.

      • Tori
        · January 27th, 2011 at 6:46 pm · Link

        Oh, I understand it’s not a concrete rule, and I know it’s different for each and every author–I was just curious about you and how you feel about those types of reviews.

        It’s been an interesting discussion thus far, and I’m so grateful you’ve been talking about this in such detail. Looking forward Monday’s post.

      • Kalayna Price
        · January 28th, 2011 at 9:24 am · Link

        I don’t get constructive criticism from reviews

        I have to second that statement.

        When my first book was released, I analyzed each review and tried to evaluate the merit of the reviewer’s criticism, but I quickly learned that reviews boil down to opinions. One reviewer will praise the characters and complain about the worldbuilding while the next loved the worldbuilding but slams the characters. No negative review agrees. It’s maddening to try to please everyone. As long as most people like the book and most reviews are good, I try to believe it was well received.

        Does that mean I’ve never had anything in a review resonate with me? No, of course not, and if I think they are right, I’m likely to keep it in mind. But, reviews are not where I look for critical feedback, and as the book has to come out of my head, I don’t need the fact someone hated the last book bouncing around my mind while I try to work on the next. For that reason, I don’t hunt down reviews. Friends send me the good ones, and I don’t need the creative gut punch from the bad.
        For critical feedback I rely on my critique partners, agent, and editor who all want what’s best for the book and whose opinions I trust.

      • Kalayna Price
        · January 28th, 2011 at 9:37 am · Link

        As an aside to my above statement, just to be clear, I’d like to add that I like review sites. Of course I like them better if they love my books and tell everyone to read them, but I am a reader as well as a writer, and have been a reader much longer than a published writer. Review sites are an excellent way to hear about new books and if a reviewer tends to have similar opinions to you on books, you do learn to trust their recommendations. I follow several on a regular basis.

        I don’t think Stacia is trying to scare reviewers off with this series of posts, she is just warning those reviewers who also have ambitions of being a writer of possible implications that could arise.

  18. C.I.Bond
    · January 27th, 2011 at 7:18 pm · Link

    I have been mulling this over a great deal lately because I do review (just on Amazon) – I am tough and I’m also an indie (means absolutely nothing – anyone can crank out an e-book). My reviews are always constructive and I focus on things like voice, POV, pace, story arc, etc and then… eventually I get into whether or not I actually “like” the story. In fact “liking” the story often makes it harder to focus on the mechanical aspects. I like “dark” and both Stacia and Lilith Saintcrow do dark so I give them top scores but then I have to wonder if it is because of a personal issue or because they are actually that good. LOL…

    Well you get the idea, nothing personal about my reviews in the least and yet some people are extremely childish and you can’t ever tell who is going to be childish and who isn’t. Other authors, readers, publishers – who is going to take your comment and twist it… run away with it… make it into something it was never intended to be. I think you can still review and be an author… especially a little pee-on like me who doesn’t really want to be traditionally published but there is an energy cost in dealing with the blowback from rendering your opinion and the blowback and buzz increases with the level of your fame. Nothing calls the trolls like buzz. If you are a struggling midlist author you need to answer your accusers, John Grisham can probably ignore them. So from my perspective it would be energy cost that would be the issue not as much worrying about whether someone would help me later – fighting the trolls because they like nothing better than to fight over nothing. I have in fact done this and it doesn’t do any damage to the troll (as we all know they regenerate unless you use fire)… I on the other hand suffer the time/reputation hit as a result of the conflict. Sadly, it would probably get to be too much if I were in Stacie’s shoes and I would do the same thing, just because it reduces the amount of conflict that I have to deal with on a daily basis.

  19. Katie
    · January 27th, 2011 at 8:03 pm · Link

    “Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.”
    “Shooting one’s self in one’s own foot.”
    “Don’t poo where you eat.”
    “Honey draws more flys than vinagar.”
    “Fish or cut bait.”
    and most especially:
    “Don’t count your alligators before they hatch and bite you in the ass.”

    Dear friends all these apply to the before mentioned advice. Choose wisely though, because as Stacia has offered you clear and helpful advice it’s up to you how you use it.
    Dear lovely Stacia who I’ve truly become fond of, I’m afraid if you have to dumb this shit down any further for some it’s going to send you into fits. Those of us who understand might just have a bucket-kicking fit right along with you. Thanks for trying though. Hang in there and love ya :)
    p.s. one day I’ll have to explain the story behind a bucket-kicking fit :)

    • Allie
      · January 27th, 2011 at 8:47 pm · Link

      Don’t forget; “Don’t burn your bridges!” 😉

      • Katie
        · January 27th, 2011 at 9:31 pm · Link

        oh dang I knew I was missing a good one hahaha!

  20. Andrew Jack
    · January 27th, 2011 at 8:13 pm · Link

    I had to think a bit about this because I post reviews on my site, but I also agree with Stacia.

    I think there is a real difference between posting reviews on your site of books that you’ve loved in order to help promote authors that you like, and being a true reviewer.

    For example I have posted reviews of Stacia’s work on my site, because I love the Downside books and I wanted to help get the word out.

    I’ve been told that’s not a true review, but just because I give a glowing review doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

    I don’t post negative reviews on my site for two reasons (now three after seeing everything that’s been said on the topic). I almost never finish books I don’t like and I won’t review something I haven’t finished.

    Secondly likes/dislikes of books are simply a matter of taste. Twilight wasn’t my deal, but there are MILLIONS of people who disagree with me on that. Why would I hurt someone who has worked hard at their dream on something so subjective?

    If all I wanted to be was a reviewer, that would be different, but I don’t. I want to write, an I want to share the books I love with my audience.

    Imagine if I walked up to you in a crowd and told you your book was shithouse. Would you give me a blurb then? What if I was aggressive about it? Shouted it so everyone in the room could hear?

    No you wouldn’t. The internet is just a really big crowd.

    Sorry this was so long, but it’s a topic I’m very invested in.

  21. Allie
    · January 27th, 2011 at 8:46 pm · Link

    Given that it’s not particularly a publishing/writing rule, but a life rule, I am surprised by the amount of people who find this surprising.

  22. Katie Alender
    · January 28th, 2011 at 12:12 pm · Link

    Wow, this is something I’ve never really thought about before. But as an author, I have to agree. In terms of the original point, that an agent will opt not to sign an author who’s been overly critical of an existing client’s book, my thought is–the agent/author relationship has to be based on deep trust. For an agent to go out of his or her way to work with an author who has been negative about my books would remove a degree of that trust from our relationship. An agent’s first loyalty is to his or her existing clients.

    Also, I think that once you’re published, you realize how much negative criticism can sting and how arbitrary it can feel–and in the interest of just not hurting people’s feelings in general, you tend to avoid making public statements about other people’s work.

    Being honest, thoughtful, and thorough are excellent qualities in a reviewer. But there is a very distinct dividing line between those who review and those who put material into the world to be reviewed.

    Thanks for your interesting take on all this! It really got me thinking. (Of course, what I should be doing is working, but you know…)

    • Stace
      · January 29th, 2011 at 12:25 am · Link

      Thanks Katie! And yeah, exactly. I’ve never thought negative reviews were intended to hurt. And they generally don’t hurt me. But I know people they *have* hurt. Quite a few people, in fact. I think it’s basically human nature to be hurt by criticism, even if only occasionally.

      And writers are still human. :)

      • Stace
        · January 29th, 2011 at 12:28 am · Link

        And yes, there is a very distinct line. The funny thing is, I’ve always gotten the impression that the line is more strictly enforced by readers & reviewers, and that it’s there more because they want it to be than because writers want it to be. I could be wrong about that, of course, it’s just the feeling I’ve gotten.

  23. Kate Pearce
    · January 28th, 2011 at 4:40 pm · Link

    I get this. I have to agree with the whole NY published can change the game thing, and I’d even qualify that further with a mass market NY book can change the game.

    I’ve been published for 5 years digitally, small press, short story and erotic romance trade paperbacks for Kensington and yet nothing quite prepared me for the firestorm of my first mass market release.

    There were times when I just wanted to crawl under my desk and hide from all the exposure. I get told off far less for my erotic books than for my hot romances and for the strangest things.

    It is a game changer and you do start to doubt the people around you. I keep a core group of writing friends who have known me for years and still (hopefully) like me for myself rather than for any perceived ‘success’. I try and keep my bitching within that small circle and try and play nice with everyone else.

    Stacia is actually one of the most nurturing and supportive writers I’ve come across. She’ll put herself out to write long posts to new writers whereas I’ll now keep it succinct and short LOL

    • Stace
      · January 29th, 2011 at 12:29 am · Link

      Thanks, Kate. {{{hug}}}

      And yes, that’s exactly what it’s like, and it’s impossible to imagine until it actually happens. I was completely blindsided by it. & completely grateful for my writer friends who’d been there.

  24. tori aka ggs_closet
    · January 28th, 2011 at 4:51 pm · Link

    WOW great post. Amazing that you have to explain a basic business/life concept to people.

    My Nana used to always tell me this and I wish to God I would have taken it to heart sooner then I did:
    The hand you step on today might be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.

  25. Stace
    · January 28th, 2011 at 6:29 pm · Link

    Thanks for the comment Jill! That’s a really interesting way to look at reviewing and why you review.

    I really wish I could understand why this is being taken as any sort of comment on reviewers in general. It’s nothing to do with that. I’m friends/friendly with lots of reviewers. This is just general advice for those who wish to be novelists (I’m not saying you mistook my post, just that many people have).

    And as I’ve said quite a few times, nobody has to take my advice. Not everyone will agree with it, and that’s fine, too. :)

  26. Um
    · January 29th, 2011 at 3:36 am · Link

    >deleted for sockpuppetry<

  27. LBomb
    · January 29th, 2011 at 5:25 pm · Link

    IVE GOT IT!!

    here’s the pitch- DownSide 5 or maybe 6
    — An “evil” chemical reviewer gives Bump a bad review on his latest batch of cepts–
    Terrible springs into action… takes off his shirt- chops some wood, does a few push-ups, takes me, i mean Chess, to a nice seafood dinner- and after many hi-jinks, restores his employers “high quality street grade” honor.

    eviscerate “them” in fiction, my dear-
    It will be a definite trump to the fleeting bathroom wall ambush.

    Or maybe not-

    It was just a funny thought! I have lots of those- along with my cocktails-


  28. Jeaniene Frost
    · January 30th, 2011 at 12:11 pm · Link

    Saw this post after getting a link notification on my website and then went back and read the other two (not that I haven’t visited Stacia’s blog before – she has many great posts, especially the one on “bullying” – but deadlines have kept me offline lately). Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with “You have no idea how lonely writing is until you’ve done it. Especially not after you’re published. Especially not after you’re NY published, and most especially after people seem to think you’re actually successful, when everything you say is scrutinized and people don’t know how to respond to you or simply don’t understand where you’re coming from. Suddenly enemies pop out of the woodwork; people you’ve somehow upset or offended without knowing how, people who think you’re a crazed egotist.”

    I could scream “YES!” to this so many times, it would sound like that infamous scene from When Harry Met Sally. The micro-scrutinizing that happens after publication is mind blowing. The post I did on reviews that Stacia linked? Took me hours to write, not because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, but because I went back through every line with the thought of “Can this be taken out of context and burn me later?” The person who originally linked me in the comments said something to the effect that she thought I’d reached a level where I didn’t have to watch what I say. I know it was meant as a compliment, but it’s actually incorrect. I watch what I say online all the time, and the “don’t shit where you eat” rule is one I try to abide by. Things might be good now, but that can change on a dime (we’ve all seen it happen before). When the going gets tough – and anyone expecting perpetual champagne and roses in this business will be in for a rough awakening – having a reputation of being someone other people don’t mind working with could maybe tip the scales in my favor, as I’m well aware of. I don’t think that’s professional cowardice. I think that’s professional common sense, and while writing a book is a creative endeavor, most things that happen afterward in publication are business endeavors.

    There are many unpleasant truths in publishing. In a perfect world, none of these unpleasant truths would exist, but this isn’t a perfect world. I usually only talk about these things with my writer friends, because as Stacia mentioned, they’re the ones who really, really understand. I’ve seen many times that when these things are discussed in public, some people question the motivations of the person talking about them. Or outright slander them (the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” comes to mind).

    So while there are many heated opinions on this topic, and many good points on both sides, for my part I can say that I’ve personally seen agents and authors choose to give a helping hand up first to people who’ve never bashed their books or their client’s books in public. The definition of “bashed” will change from person to person, and sometimes, it’s applied unfairly as hell, I’ll agree. But how is it beneficial to pretend that because something is occasionally unfair, it doesn’t exist? It does exist, and people seeking to join the publishing world should be aware of it. Then, at least, they can make informed decisions on what they choose to do later.

    That’s my two cents, anyway, and apologies for the very long comment.

    • Stace
      · January 30th, 2011 at 5:02 pm · Link

      No need to apologize at all, thanks for the “very long” comment, Jeanine! :)

  29. Geekamicus
    · January 30th, 2011 at 4:42 pm · Link

    I find this discussion fascinating, but it is not limited solely to the publishing industry. I’m new to the publishing biz, but I’m not new to business and watching what you say is simply common sense pretty much anywhere you work. There is a great Sigourney Weaver line from the movie Working Girl: “Today’s little prick may be tomorrow’s senior partner.”

    Let’s face it, nobody is saying that you can’t have an opinion, or even that you can’t say your opinion out loud for the world to hear. The truth of the matter is simply that actions have consequences and I think Stacia is just trying to remind us to be mindful of what those might be. I can’t spend all my time in the breakroom/boardroom badmouthing a colleague and expect that same colleague to put their neck on the line to support me when I need a favor. It’s that simple. It’s not even a matter of you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours, it’s more just keeping your knife out of my back that will make it easier for me to go out of my way to do you a good turn when you might really need it.

    There are people that I have worked with that I wouldn’t waste spit to put them out if they were on fire, but because I chose to keep that list my little secret they’re not actively seeking the lighter fluid to put me in my own bonfire.

    • Stace
      · January 30th, 2011 at 4:57 pm · Link

      Thanks! Yeah, that’s exactly the point I was trying to make with my story about working in the bank. Every business has restrictions on what you can/should say; that’s the way of the world. Sure, you could go through life expressing every opinion you have every moment you have them, and stomping on other people’s feelings regularly. You just probably will find most people don’t like you. Publishing is no different.

  30. Jill Sorenson
    · January 30th, 2011 at 5:08 pm · Link

    I was just speaking up as a NY author who reviews. I usually don’t comment on author-reviewing because I feel it puts people in the awkward position of either supporting or denouncing me. I think it’s rude to do that as a guest at someone’s blog, so I’m sorry if I offended.

    Of course I understand the risks associated with reviewing as an author and I have mixed feelings about continuing. Your post has given me pause.

    Thanks for the response.

  31. Stace
    · January 30th, 2011 at 5:23 pm · Link

    Oh, dear, I’m sorry if you took that paragraph of my response as being aimed at you/your comment; it was a general observation, more than something directed toward you. Or if you took any part of my response as getting testy with you. When I said “some people won’t take it and that’s fine too,” I meant it just that way; it doesn’t matter to me, you know? And people will always disagree, and I think that’s what makes people so interesting.

    I thought your comment was really interesting–especially the point about viewing it as backing up the genre–and was/am genuinely glad you posted it, so please don’t think I was trying to snap at you or put you down. You didn’t offend me in the slightest, and I appreciate/d your comment.

  32. Leah
    · January 30th, 2011 at 7:26 pm · Link

    This whole blog here has made my eyes bug out from all the posts going. There were many things that I just got all giddy about with this whole discussion/debate/whatever that’s been going on between a few peoples. And I think I might be in love with this blog simply for the fact that two of my favorite authors showed up on the same blog for a minute? Dunno..

    Buuut..here’s what it boils down to for me…I freaking love your books.
    Rock on..

  33. Jill Sorenson
    · January 30th, 2011 at 9:31 pm · Link

    Not at all! You weren’t testy in your response. I was just having one of those “maybe I should have kept my mouth shut” moments. I have those a lot. :)

    I also didn’t assume you were suggesting that all negative reviews/reviewers are mean or hurtful. But it does worry me to think that some (many?) authors might consider what I’m doing as badmouthing my peers. I meant what I said about supporting the genre and I think that honest criticism elevates it. And there are actually very few reviewers of f/f and lesbian romance so I do feel as though I’m making a meaningful contribution. I mean, I’m trying to.

    Anyway, this has been very interesting and enlightening.

  34. Stace
    · February 1st, 2011 at 12:01 am · Link

    Sorry, “Um,” I don’t allow sockpuppets on my blog.

  35. katiebabs
    · March 5th, 2011 at 2:17 pm · Link

    Does this mean I have to put away the horse’s head now?


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