What Stace had to say on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Don’t ever take sides against the family

Wow.

Last night I got a couple of pingbacks in my email, letting me know some of my posts had been linked to. I think you can guess which ones; the little series I did several weeks back about watching what you say online.

Turns out that little tempest-in-a-teapot has not in fact died, but has grown and changed and turned into something huge and sinister. Turns out there are people out there now–otherwise reasonable people, I assume–who are equating my words with threats that someone will never be published or will never find an agent, that authors can and will “blackball” someone for a negative review, or whatever. Turns out I have somehow inadvertently created a cabal (NOTE: This doesn’t mean I think it’s all down to me or anything, just that my post is being linked to by people who say it was/is a “key exchange” in starting the whole thing. Trust me, there may be things in this world I’d like credit for. Threatening to ruin people’s careers from behind the scenes like some sort of self-important literary Blofeld is not one of them). The YA Mafia. I’m not sure how that happened, given that I’m not published in YA, but my posts are being linked to as the ones that started it all. And hey, my agent has a YA proposal from me as I write this, which I’m extremely excited about because it has all sorts of dark bloody creepiness in it. Including Springheel Jacks (yes, Jacks, as in more than one. Whee!). I digress.

I’m extremely tempted to ignore all of this and just move on. The only reason I’m not doing it is because it apparently started with me, so I feel partly responsible for the discussions, and because people are spreading some pretty wild stories about what I said (no offense to that commenter, who seems a very nice, rational person. Hers was simply the first comment I saw to illustrate my point. It is far from the only comment of that sort out there, and most people don’t apologize when it’s pointed out that they’ve misinterpreted something like that. She did. I appreciate that. This isn’t about her at all. It is about the fact that this is all getting blown way out of proportion, and I don’t appreciate being lied about).

There is no “mafia.” No writer in the world can keep you from getting published if your work is good. Period.

So you might not get a blurb from someone. As I said repeatedly when this all started, so fucking what? That’s not going to ruin your career, or end it before it’s even begun. So when you do a panel with someone they might not invite you for a drink afterward. Again, oh well.

The statement was NEVER made, by me or anyone else I’m aware of, that writing a negative review of a book could mean you never get published or repped.

The statement was NEVER made by me or anyone else I’m aware of that I would ask my agent not to rep someone who gave me a bad review. I said I might be a little hurt. Sorry, I am a human being, with feelings, just like everyone else. My agent and I have a very close relationship. I might be a little hurt. I probably wouldn’t even mention this to him (and for the record, he told me that if the review was really nasty he’d assume the writer isn’t very professional and thus not be interested in them, but a calm “This is why it didn’t work for me” wouldn’t be a big deal if the work was wonderful). I certainly wouldn’t email or call him and say “So-and-so only gave me two stars. I never want to see you go near her/him ever.”

Nor would I do that with my editor, which is another claim being made. Would I care if she signed a writer who didn’t like my work? Not one damn bit, no. An editor-author relationship is different from an agent-author relationship, for one thing. And for another…

Geez, guys, it’s just a review. Who cares about it, really?

Yeah, I might not want to blurb you if you took the time to write a big old post about not liking my book. So what. As I said in my original post, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help you with other things if you needed it. That certainly doesn’t mean I’d start calling people to put your name on the Secret Mafia Blackball List. It certainly doesn’t mean I’d go out of my way to damage your career.

The simple truth is–and I mean this in the nicest possible way–I don’t care about you. I don’t know you. You don’t mean anything to me, beyond being another human being with whom I share this planet. If you’re one of my readers you mean a little more to me, sure. I try to do whatever I can for my readers; I love them. I will and have gone out of my way for them, whether they blog or not. But if you’re not one of them, you’re probably not on my radar at all. If I see your negative review I’ll probably shrug. Again as I said in those posts, if I have to choose between blurbing you and blurbing a book by one of my readers, my reader gets the blurb (unless her books sucks, which of course it won’t, because my readers are so awesome it hurts). That’s assuming I even remember your name; I don’t write this shit down, and I have a horrible memory. I might google you, if I’m bored. I might not; I probably won’t.

Somehow it seems book bloggers in general got tied up in all of this, which I find extremely upsetting, and frankly confusing. I’m not really sure how much more outspoken I can be on the subject of book bloggers/readers having the right to say anything they damn well please about a book, short of buying a bullhorn and picketing genre conventions. I have never once failed to back the reader/reader-blogger when it comes to an author vs. situation, and yeah, it is personally upsetting to me to see that completely disregarded, to see no one even bothering to read the posts I linked to on that subject before declaring what my intentions and words were.

That’s too bad for me, though. Because–and here is where we go full circle–anything you say on the internet is public, and people are people and don’t always take things the way you want them to. Because, which was honestly the whole point of the first post in the series, once you become a writer and have work published you are no longer free to speak your mind as clearly and openly as you once were; or rather, you certainly are free to do so, but there are and will be consequences. I can point not only to this little kerfuffle, but to numerous others to illustrate this. The line “She put it out there on the internet, it’s public, she can say whatever she wants but she has to accept that people might not like it and will talk about it” has been repeated so many times by so many people it’s almost funny at this point.

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s frustrating and difficult sometimes. Tough. It’s part of the job.

What this all boils down to is that somehow, my attempt to pass on a bit of advice–the internet can be scary, it really can, and you never know what might set someone off so it’s best to just be very careful and not burn any bridges–has turned into ALL YOUR PUBLISHING CHANCES ARE BELONG TO ME.

There is no “Mafia.” No one has that much power. Quite frankly, nothing that happens on the internet is that damn important. All of those “Authors Behaving Badly” posts out there? Don’t really matter. Those authors are still publishing, and the vast majority of readers have no idea of the scandal du jour. Although it seems big, the number of readers who actually hang out in the online readerworld is minute.

And something else I learned is that for every person who sees what you say and thinks “Man, fuck that bitch”–whether it’s because of what you said or what they think you said or whatever–there’s someone else who thinks, “Man, that chick is awesome for speaking her mind.”

The lesson there? People are people, and we’re all different. Some of us may feel one way, some another.

But we’re still people. Yes, people can be incredibly scary sometimes. But most of us aren’t. We’re a pretty decent bunch, I think, we writers. We might get annoyed by something or upset when attacked or whatever; we have bad days just like everyone or anyone else. We have to be careful when we have those bad days, more careful than non-writers. We have to be careful especially if we’re women.

But I’m also careful when I go out alone at night. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid to do it at all. I’m just careful.

My post was intended as a bit of advice, and something interesting to discuss. I say down on the Sunday night and thought, “Oh, that’ll be a cool topic to discuss. I can do a little series on it, that’ll be fun. I like doing series.” It was not intended as some sort of rule. It was most certainly not a threat; it never occurred to me that anyone would think of it that way, because to assume someone is threatening you is to assume they have some power over you, and I have none. I’ve never claimed to have any.

But sheesh, guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Yes, the internet is forever, but you know what? Nothing is forever. Things are forgotten. People move on. People stop caring, if they ever did. No one is threatening you. No one is calling the Boss of Publishing–Don Paperback, or whatever–to tell him you sleep with the fishes. I’m not sure how exactly that belief came about, but it’s not true, and as Zoe Winters says here, “No one EVER Said That.” (Interestingly enough, that belief, the misunderstanding, was really the main point behind my saying “You can’t be both”–not that writers would ostracize you but that readers would misunderstand you/mistrust you. Sadly, it does happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.)

What you say online may lose you a few readers. It might gain you a few. It might make Author A not inclined to blurb you. It might make Author B more inclined to do so. I don’t enjoy controversy so I avoid it. I think making enemies is pointless so I avoid it. (Frankly, I think writing negative reviews is generally a waste of my time, because I have no special attachment to reviewing and never have. You may feel differently, and that’s fine. But for me, I’d usually rather spend my time talking about books I loved.) What you say online might very well make you some enemies or thrust you into unwanted controversy. It may cross a few names of your list. Like I said, I don’t understand why someone would feel so strongly about being able to review, or why they would be upset at being told they have to be careful with what they say, since A) When you’re published you have to be even more careful, and B) Isn’t that sort of standard in the world? Don’t we always need to be careful what we say? Just like we don’t walk up to someone on the street and say “Wow! Your dress is really ugly!” so we are careful what we put out there publicly online, too.

But what your statements online won’t do is keep you from getting published if your work is good. (Hell, even if it isn’t; I know one specific example of this, who although the houses aren’t particularly well-regarded or established, they’re still putting out books with that writer’s name on them, and there are so many marks against that person it makes my head spin.) Unless you are a complete ranting harpie, if your work is good you will find people who want to work with you.

The writing is everything. The work is everything. Focus on that, and quit worrying about whether or not it’s okay to say you didn’t like a book. There is no “Mafia.” There is no “blacklist.” There are only people, and we’re all different. And most of all there are books, and those are what matter more than anything else.

Seriously. Don’t worry about this. Just write the best book you can.

Other posts on this topic:

Holly Black

Ally Carter

Justine Larbalestier

Amperstory

Janni Simner

Cleolinda Jones

Foz Meadows

Dia Reeves

An older but extremely trenchant post from Ilona Andrews

19 comments to “Don’t ever take sides against the family”

  1. Lunamoth
    Comment
    1
    · March 4th, 2011 at 1:53 pm · Link

    Here’s another one, fresh-pressed today:
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/03/04/dear-new-writer-im-sorry-i-dont-have-time-to-crush-you/

    :lol:



  2. Tiffany
    Comment
    2
    · March 4th, 2011 at 2:02 pm · Link

    :shock: I adored Holly Black’s post.

    In regards that in the publishing world there is a “mafia”… it just brings me back to the lack of accountability in the U.S. and possibility the world. I’ve always kind of known it, but I’m taking an American Mosiac class (it’s usually more political but my teacher is an anthropologist. So he’s taking a more cultural focus on the U.S.). And my teacher has brought that up on a few occasions.

    A lot of times, people look for outs. Somewhere to cast blame (in this instance it is the mysterious “YA Mafia”).

    When Holly Black posted on this issue a few days ago I thought it was about her Curse Workers series.

    But I read what you blogged then and don’t see how some people came to the Mafic conclusion. And I whole-heartedly agree with appearances in the online world. I know that Jeaniene Frost had that problem a month or so ago. (She’d publish a review of a book and if she said she didn’t like it something to that effect people would blast her that she was jealous and so forth.) I sometimes think that authors are actually people sometimes and they have their own opinions.

    But go you! You rock! ;-)



  3. Zoe Winters
    Comment
    3
    · March 4th, 2011 at 2:04 pm · Link

    Oh my god. People are so ridiculous. I really don’t like them at all. I’d be happy in a world populated only by cats. Seriously. This opposable thumb issue causes us all so much drama.

    And I’m sure I didn’t get as much crap as you got, but I got some crap on blogging about this issue as well. It seems to me there is this huge subculture of people who are writers but who DESPERATELY want to be book bloggers also. I don’t get it. I really don’t get why so many people are so freaking desperate to shit where they sleep. Dude, if you MUST do it, just make up another name for your reviewing and keep that stuff separate. What is so hard about that?

    But people flip out and think you’re “judging them” and telling them what to do and blah blah blah.

    And really, it’s just ridiculous. Because almost no book bloggers make ANY money doing this, and WHY is your little opinion on the internet about some random book the hill you want to die on? I have no freaking clue.

    All I know is, I make a living writing fiction and I can’t be bothered to review. That’s not my job. Others’ mileage obviously varies, and if it does, hey whatever. I guess they’re going to do what they’re going to do.



    • Stace
      Comment
      3.1
      · March 5th, 2011 at 12:00 am · Link

      Yeah, I don’t get the obsession with being a book blogger, either. Honestly, I don’t read a lot of fiction while I’m actively writing. Fiction is how I reward myself when my book is done. I spend enough time thinking about plot and structure and writing etc. etc.

      And I have plenty of other things to talk about. That’s another thing that kind of gets me about it, is this panic that without being able to post reviews they’ll have nothing to post. There’s a whole big world out there with stuff happening in it. Post about that. Like I said before, why is it so necessary to you to be able to publicly state you think Author A’s dialogue sucks? Why is it something you’re getting so upset over being told you might want to reconsider doing? Nobody stole your baby, we just said “Hey, things you say online can come back to bite you on the ass.” Is that really worth the hysteria? Seriously?

      And the biggest thing? Frankly, the more confident I become as a writer the less books I find that I think are truly good enough to recommend to others. I’m so much more aware of the writing itself now, and bad writing or trite dialogue/situations or cliches can really spoil a book for me now. Do something different, you know? It’s not hard. So were I to be so insistent that I be allowed to review, most of them would be “meh,” and what’s the point of that? I could be writing my own books instead of doing that. I could be spending time with my family instead of doing that. I could be outside having a smoke or inside watching a dumb Lifetime movie or whatever, instead of doing that. Just blog about something else, dude, it’s not the end of the world. Or don’t, and just accept that some people might see you/think of you differently, and that people’s reactions to you will change.

      Sigh.



      • Zoe Winters
        Comment
        3.1.1
        · March 5th, 2011 at 2:44 pm · Link

        People want to have their cake and eat it too. They want someone successful to tell them what they are doing is “okay” and validate it. But that’s BS. You told people the truth and it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. So instead of being mature adults about it, making their choices, and taking their lumps, they thought it would be fun to exaggerate your point beyond all believability so they would have a strawman to knock down. My question is… do these people not have other stuff they can be doing? Does their entire life exist online that they have to keep stirring all these pots constantly?

        Ugh.

        And I’m with you on “hard to find good books”. I skim a lot of what I read, just hoping the author will get to the freaking point. When I find an author who actually gets to the point and stays on the point, it’s a miracle.



  4. T.M. Thomas
    Comment
    4
    · March 4th, 2011 at 2:17 pm · Link

    Sure, but doesn’t #yaomerta make you deny #yamafia?

    What do you mean, “not helping?”



  5. David Bridger
    Comment
    5
    · March 4th, 2011 at 3:04 pm · Link

    Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

    (((Hugs)))



  6. Zerlina
    Comment
    6
    · March 4th, 2011 at 3:11 pm · Link

    hmm makes me wonder if there is actually a book blogging author mafia that is causing all this to draw attention away from them.
    Honestly it feels to me there are a few people who decided to take offense, twisted things to fit their argument and then the sheep just jumped on the band wagon and started grabbing torches.
    On the off chance that there really is a YA mafia and you are the Don could you please send Terrible to my house to “teach me a lesson”



  7. Emily
    Comment
    7
    · March 4th, 2011 at 3:17 pm · Link

    I’m not sure you’re to blame for the start of this. It’s YAmafia and that’s not really your forte. Some your blog posts might have added to the fodder, but it doesn’t seem like those bloggers were terribly concerned about you.



    • Stace
      Comment
      7.1
      · March 4th, 2011 at 11:49 pm · Link

      I didn’t think it had anything at all to do with me when I first heard of it, but when they started linking back to me and saying my posts were “key” in the discussion/the start of the discussion, and I started coming up in the comments as the person who said she’d call her editor and tell that editor not to work with someone who gave not just her book a bad review, but a friend of hers’ book… I started feeling uneasy.



  8. BernardL
    Comment
    8
    · March 4th, 2011 at 3:58 pm · Link

    Everything is blown out of proportion out here in never, never land. People quoting you will many times not even comment on what you state literally. They scribble down a thesis of what they ‘think’ was going on in your head when you wrote what they’re in the process of trolling. They seldom come close. :)



  9. Phoebe
    Comment
    9
    · March 4th, 2011 at 4:21 pm · Link

    Hey Stacia, I just wanted to take the time to formally apologize here in your blog for spreading misinformation and not double checking before I commented on Holly’s blog. For what it’s worth (and, probably, ironically), I think writers have a right to feel bad (or, however! they’re your feelings and you have a right to them!) in response to negative reviews, and I actually think the not-blurbing thing makes sense and is better for all involved. I got my own panties in a bundle about the idea of someone taking proactive action against a reviewer–going to their agent or editor about a review–when you hadn’t said that at all. Epic fail.

    Anyway, I do hope that you didn’t lose any writing days to this–all of yesterday went down the internet vortex for me! Bummer.



    • Stace
      Comment
      9.1
      · March 4th, 2011 at 9:24 pm · Link

      Hi Phoebe,

      Sorry I didn’t reply to your other comment on Holly’s(?) blog. I’ve actually been out most of the day; it wasn’t a deliberate snub.

      Please don’t worry about it. Like I said in my post it’s not a big deal. I’d actually found a different example to use, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d seen it and had already spent like half an hour hunting, so just grabbed the one I knew where it was.

      *shrug* We all make mistakes sometimes, get our sources confused, misread something or misremember it, misspeak, whatever. We’re all people and people fuck up sometimes. The world hasn’t ended from it yet, you know? :)

      So seriously, don’t give it another thought. I did try in my post to make clear that it wasn’t about you or your comments and that I didn’t blame you/hold you responsible in any way; I do hope that came through, and that you haven’t felt any personal grief from it, because that was truly not at all my intention. I’m just wary of commenting anything these days without having a link to back it up, and yours was readily available.

      (I guess what I find the most difficult/confusing/hurtful/whatever about all of this is that everything I do online and all of my books are based on the idea that everyone is human, everyone has value, everyone deserves respect, everyone deserves whatever happiness they can manage to find, there’s hardly ever reason to get truly nasty with someone and there’s *never* any reason to deliberately hurt someone else’s feelings. And I try so, so hard to bring that sensibility into everything I do. So to have people in general thinking I said something about seeking revenge and sitting around like some sort of publishing Blofeld stroking my cat and ruining careers is kind of…wow, you know?)

      But like everything else online, it’s a tempest in a teapot. It’s just one that unfortunately leaves scars on almost everyone it touches.

      I too am heartily sick of it. :-) And again, I sincerely apologize if you were hurt by my using you as an example, or if you were upset or concerned because I hadn’t replied to your comment at Molly’s blog. Time just got away from me.

      I hope to see you again, under more cheerful circumstances.

      Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s ever anything I can do for you.



      • Phoebe
        Comment
        9.1.1
        · March 4th, 2011 at 9:35 pm · Link

        Oh no, no worries! I x-posted here I didn’t want an apology buried under a comment string in that monster of a post. This whole thing has put me in your position, too: I inadvertently offended Cleolinda Jones (of whom I’m a big fan!). Apologized at her journal, clarified, but some of her fans didn’t see it, and they thought I was implying I hated reviewers.

        Doh!

        I think what you did was admirable: you tried to help and shed light on your position. I was trying to do good, too–to speak for people I knew felt powerless. And that kind of thing is always hard. Speaking up at all, I guess. I still think it’s worth it, though. But maybe that’s the eternal optimist in me. Anyway, I’m rambling. Very tired!

        I hope we meet someday under better circumstances, too. :)



  10. Tyhitia
    Comment
    10
    · March 4th, 2011 at 7:33 pm · Link

    OMG. Stacia, where have I been? Ya Mafia? Bwwaahahhhaha. LOL. You were only offering advice. And LOL@ Zoe.

    Okay, check your inbox tonight. I can’t say anything on the blog or someone may take it the wrong way. :roll:



  11. Allie
    Comment
    11
    · March 4th, 2011 at 7:49 pm · Link

    Aw, Stacia – I feel so bad for you and I am sorry all of this is still going on. I just don’t get it.

    I read your posts at the time and they came across as genuine, common sense advice for someone trying to get a break from someone who has been there. Advice that anyone in any chosen career would do well to bear in mind – not just aspiring writers.

    Sigh.



  12. Betsy Dornbusch
    Comment
    12
    · March 6th, 2011 at 1:44 pm · Link

    I think unfortunately there’s a segment of unpublished writers (I confess to sharing some of their feelings) who feel like publishing itself is a cabal, a club they can’t get the secret handshake to. So a leap to a “writer’s cabal” is not a very big one.

    I’ve gotten great reviews and some bad ones. But seriously, I couldn’t tell you the names of who said what. I guess if someone asks me for a quote, I’d better google ‘em to find out what they said! Ha! Ya, no. I don’t have that kind of time.



  13. Savannah J. Foley
    Comment
    13
    · March 6th, 2011 at 6:29 pm · Link

    I think it’s really funny how a bunch of writers posted stuff warning new writers to be careful what they say (which, really, is good advice for ANYONE in any industry), and then that advice was twisted, and now you’re having to explain and justify what was meant to be a friendly effort towards good advice in the first place.

    I read all the ‘warning’ posts and took them the way they were supposed to be taken. I’d learned the hard way how reviews can hurt your chances at friendship with an individual writer, but never once thought there was a ‘mafia’ out to get me, and never thought all those blog posts were implying that, either.



  14. S.M.
    Comment
    14
    · March 8th, 2011 at 6:45 am · Link

    Great post.

    I hate it when some book bloggers try to create drama and the whole “bloggers v. authors” stuff (which is BS in my opinion) just to get more hits.
    And the sad thing is that many commenters on these blogs don’t even read the advice posts by the authors. They just skim over them, or read only the parts provided by the book blogger and take out one sentence to twist it.
    What’s going on in the comment section of Becca Fitzpatrick’s post on Goodreads is especially crazy.

    I’m also part of the book blogging community however I like to use my own brain and don’t need to agree with everything some bloggers state as fact. I also don’t like twisting other people’s words or taking them out of context.

    Once again this situation has made it clear to me that some people just enjoy being nasty and don’t have a lot of common sense.

    If you want your book to be published, then work on it and don’t blame others when you don’t have any success.



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