Archive for 'we should be in this together'
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 9th, 2012
Oh, man. I hardly know where to start.
I’ve been thinking about this post for about a week now, and still don’t know what exactly I’m going to say. I’m just trying to make sense of some things, basically. So forgive me if this is a tad rambly.
The thing is, I’ve been involved in the online writing/reading community since 2005 now. And in that time things have gotten–in my view, at least–more and more antagonistic and upsetting. I wonder why. This post–this series of posts planned for this week–is my attempt to figure it out, I guess. To express my thoughts and see what yours are, and perhaps to offer a potential solution. And in order to do that I’m going to be very honest, and perhaps harsh in some places, but I’m trying to express my full thought process here. So we’ll see how it goes.
In the past nine days or so the internet–at least the writer/reader part of it–seems to have gone kablooey. Specifically, the writer part of it, in that we’ve had a rash of writers deciding it’s their place to tell readers A) How to review books; B) What is and is not okay to say or think; C) Why their opinion is totally wrong; and D) whatever other ridiculous shit they come up with.
I’m aware of five separate incidents, the latest being a self-published author who, in response to a reasoned but negative review, took it upon himself to leave 40 comments–yes, forty–on the blog quoting the fawning letters he’d received about the book from family and friends. And then many more comments insisting that what he did was totally professional and reasonable and why is the reviewer in question so full of hate, yo? And that’s nothing compared to the others, the writers ranting on their blogs and leaving nasty or argumentative comments on Goodreads and blah blah blah.
Guys…cut it out. Just, seriously, cut it out.
Readers have the right to say whatever the fuck they want about a book. Period. They have that right. If they hate the book because the MC says the word “delicious” and the reader believes it’s the Devil’s word and only evil people use it, they can shout from the rooftops “This book is shit and don’t read it” if they want. If they want to write a review entirely about how much they hate the cover, they can if they want. If they want to make their review all about how their dog Foot Foot especially loved to pee on that particular book, they can.
Because, and I’ve said this before, reviews are for readers. Because they purchased the book (or it was sent to them specifically hoping they would express an opinion) and so can say whatever they want about it. If you buy a shirt that falls apart in the wash, do you keep your mouth shut about it because you don’t want to hurt the manufacturer’s feelings?
Authors, reviews are not for you. They are not for you. Authors, reviews are not for you.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Last night I saw a link–I’m not going to repost it here, the poor girl has been through enough–to the blog of a writer who had just self-published her novel. The link was to a new post, in which the writer announced–with palpable and understandable excitement–that Jodi Reamer of Writers House (that’s a big-name agent at a big-name agency, for those of you unfamiliar) had seen her book, emailed her to offer representation, and gotten her a deal with (if memory serves) HarperTeen. A big deal, a six-figure type deal.
Obviously people were thrilled for her, in the way so many of us are thrilled for another person–happy for them, perhaps tinged with a bit of envy, because we’re all only human and at heart most humans are, frankly, selfish, evil little beings. Socialization and morals and ethics and all of that teaches us how to deal with those selfish, evil little thoughts, but they’re still there.
Anyway. A few people were not as thrilled; they were skeptical. I admit to being in this camp. I’ve seen publishing deals happen at lightspeed–I know a few people whose agents submitted their work in the morning and had offers by the afternoon–and of course agents can offer to represent at lightspeed as well (my agent offered two days after my initial contact with him, and I’ve known people who’ve gotten offers on the same day). It does happen, sure, but to get an agent and a large deal all in a day or so is extremely unusual. To be able to announce that deal so quickly is even more–well, no, it’s not even unusual. It is, frankly, unheard of. Generally deals aren’t announced until contracts are signed, or at least until the contract stage has been reached (meaning, the fine points are agreed to and we’re just waiting for the paperwork). Lots of us wait until our deals are announced in Publisher’s Marketplace; not because we have to, but because it’s fun to be able to post the little blurb they print in there. It makes it feel real. (In fact, my agent rarely reports to PM, and did so for me because I asked him to, batting my eyelashes and all of that while I did. Okay, no, I didn’t bat my eyelashes, but I did ask, because I wanted that announcement; I wanted to see it confirmed somewhere, because so many people read PM and it’s exciting.)
But this isn’t about deals being posted or anything. It’s about the fact that apparently the expressed skepticism of some people alerted the writer that maybe she should just double-check everything. So she called Writers House.
And discovered that an extremely cruel joke had just been played on her. And not just her, either:
From today’s Publisher’s Lunch:
Writers House has learned that a series of fake emails claiming to be from WH agent Jodi Reamer have been circulating to self-published authors this week. “These emails, which contain a number of false statements, have not in fact come from Jodi Reamer and should thus be disregarded.” One easy “tell”: they advise that any e-mail from a non-Writers House address “expressing interest in representation is counterfeit.”
I cannot even begin to express how absolutely horrified I am on this poor girl’s behalf (and on behalf of the others to whom this happened); I can’t even imagine how it must feel to think you’ve accomplished something like that and to discover that no, you were simply a victim, something to be exploited for someone else’s sick enjoyment. That you were treated as if you’re not even human, less than nothing, not a person with feelings but some sort of computer construct to be toyed with. Who the hell would do something like that? What the fuck is wrong with people? Do they like to kick puppies, too, and maybe wander up to random children and tell them they’re useless, stupid little shits who’ll never amount to anything in the world? What kind of person gets their jollies from doing this sort of thing?
When did we forget that those other people, the ones on the other side of the computer, are in fact people, real people with feelings, and not Sims?
A while ago I did a post on bullies. It feels like things have gotten worse since then. No one is content to just let someone else have their own opinion anymore, and I’m sorry, but the fact that they posted that opinion on the internet does not mean it’s okay to gang up on them and call them names. You want to disagree with their opinion, fine. I personally don’t always see the point in making a big deal about disagreeing with it–I tend to just think “Huh. I don’t agree with that” and move on, unless it’s factual misinformation, in which case I still strive to be polite and respectful–but if you feel they need to hear your point, go ahead.
But there’s a difference between “I disagree with your opinion” and “Dude, you’re a fucking idiot.” There’s a difference between “This is incorrect” and “Dude, you’re a fucking idiot.” And why the hell do you care what they think, anyway? Why is it so important to you to lurk on people’s Twitter feeds and make fun of them in your own? Why do you need to send hoax emails to people just because they have dreams and are trying to accomplish something? Is that really fun? Do you even care that a human being is on the other end of that, a human being you’re being purposefully cruel to just because you can?
Yes, sure, people shouldn’t put things out there if they don’t want others to react. Yes, people should expect disagreement and not get all butthurt because someone does disagree. Yes, we’re adults and need to take responsibility for what we put out there.
But other people’s lives are not a fucking game. Just because someone doesn’t think or feel the way you think or feel doesn’t mean it’s okay to call all of your friends to gang up on them and giggle in public. Just because that person exists doesn’t mean you have the right to stomp all over them. Does it make you feel good about yourself to reduce another person to tears, to make them the butt of your jokes? Have you proved that you’re cool, because you can take an offhand remark they made and turn it into a huge debacle, or misinterpret something they said and spread that misinterpretation around, encouraging others to pile on as well, or play a prank on them and make them think their dreams have come true? Is it really that much fun to treat other people like shit? How the fuck do you people sleep at night?
I’m sick of it, is all. I’m sick of this internet culture that makes people think that other people are simply toys for their amusement, and that it’s okay to jump all over them and keep jumping, that it’s fun to do so. I’m sick of the idea that because it’s a group of people doing it, it’s okay to join in. I’m sick of the idea that it’s open season on anyone and everyone, and that if they wanted to have feelings they should have thought of that before they logged on to the internet. I’m sick of the idea that this kind of shit is cool, and I’m sick of the way people are dehumanized, and I’m sick of the internet culture that reminds me so strongly of Christians thrown to the lions.
Next time you go to comment on something, just think for one second. Is it really necessary to share my opinion here? How much does this really matter, in the big picture? Does this person really deserve my scorn? How would I feel, if someone said this to me? Am I sure I’m interpreting their point correctly?
I’m not saying you can’t have opinions or make them public. I’m not saying you should never respond. I’m not saying you can’t gossip with your friends in email or whatever else. I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t speak up when someone is being unjust, or that you shouldn’t alert people to that injustice and/or warn others away from it, or stick up for those who can’t stick up for themselves; I absolutely believe you should.
I’m just saying, don’t forget, that other person is a person, too. Being cruel to them, picking their words apart when they didn’t mean to offend, playing tricks on them, laughing and kicking them when they’re down, publicly encouraging others to go and pick and laugh too? It doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a fucking asshole, and I’m sick of seeing it, and I’m sick of watching people be bullied online and then told they deserved it for daring to put themselves out there.
Just saw a link to this:
Another ETA: I want to make it very clear that my post is NOT referring to any other posts written about this specific situation. Indeed, it’s not about any one blog, blog post, or specific incident; or rather, I’m very angry and upset about this situation and on behalf of this writer but when I speak of internet culture etc. etc. I’m speaking in generalities, and absolutely NOT referring to or accusing anyone of anything over this particular situation (except the actual hoaxers, of course).
Just wanted to mention that, because I know a couple of other posts have been written about this. I read those after I wrote my post, and am not at all reacting or responding to them here.
What Stace had to say on Thursday, March 31st, 2011
(There is a point to my saying this, I swear.)
I’m pretty sure most of you know that already, actually, although I did see a bit of confusion over the summer when the subject of a possible youthful dalliance/crush of his came up in UNHOLY MAGIC (and for the record, for those curious: yes, there was some canoodling, although it was more curiosity/ego-feeding/careless fun for the other party). I thought that was fairly obvious, but didn’t see any reason to press the point or have him running around monologuing about being gay; the man is gay, and Chess obviously knows he’s gay, and nobody cares that he’s gay, so why would he do a speech about his gayness? Especially in that world, where being gay isn’t remotely an issue to anyone and gay marriage is totally legal.
(I can’t resist throwing in another worldbuilding note there: for certain people, like Church employees, simple cohabitation is not permitted [gay or straight]. You’re either married or you live alone, period.)
(Oh, and those of you who read THE BRAVE TALE OF MADDIE CARVER may have noticed a slight reference to his sexuality there, too, when Maddie thinks about how his family abandoned him because of it.)
Anyway. So Elder Griffin is gay. And his part in the next books is a bit bigger, and (minor spoiler) he does have an active love life and that becomes part of the next books as well, and it’s something that makes me happy. Because it’s important to me to add that to my books. It’s important to have some diversity. It’s important because the real world is diverse, and it’s important because who knows might see it and maybe think about it, or maybe feel better about it. Elder Griffin is first and foremost a good man, a smart one and a kind one and a loving one; one who adds great value to Chess’s life. His being gay is part of him but it’s also incidental. He is more than GAY. He is (at least I hope he is) a full, living, breathing, thinking, feeling, human being of worth who happens to be gay.
All of this is my way of explaining why yesterday I emailed Trisha Telep to pull my short story HOME from the MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE anthology.
You can read the background on this here and here.
HOME is a Downside story; I think I’ve mentioned it before? It is, I think, the closest thing to a “happy” Downside story as can exist–at least one from Chess’s POV–and for that reason it was fun to write (again, plus kinky hippies, which was a hoot).
It also involves–revolves around, to no small extent–bisexuality/homosexuality, in an important and positive way.
HOME is not dead. I’m considering some other options at the moment, because I absolutely want to make sure those of you waiting for the next Downside book get to read the story in the interim. And in fact there are a few potential Downside stories in the works for you guys in addition to the one appearing in HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION, which will be released August 2nd. So you’ll get to read it, I’m just not sure how, where, or when (but my plan is sooner rather than later).
Because I feel that to not speak up here, to not pull the story, takes something away from Elder Griffin, and from every other gay character I’ve ever written (Carter in the Demons books, too, as another example). In fact it takes something away from every character I’ve written, because it makes them all less human. It treats them like characters and not people; it treats them as unimportant, as lip service. They’re not that. They matter to me. And hopefully they matter to readers. And maybe they even matter to someone who sees themselves in them–in any of my characters, no matter what traits or differences or faults or personality quirks or whatever else they may have that some people feel it’s okay to judge or condemn–and realizes it’s okay to be exactly who and what they are.
Because it is.
What Stace had to say on Friday, March 4th, 2011
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:
An older but extremely trenchant post from Ilona Andrews
What Stace had to say on Friday, November 19th, 2010
I’m supposed to blog about copyright today, because I promised my wonderful friend Jane from How Publishing Really Works that I would. Of course, I ended up oversleeping (even for me; hey, I was up writing until five this morning) and getting sidetracked by a million different things, so it’s perhaps too late now for my post to do any good, but here it is anyway.
(This reminds me; I don’t suppose any of you out there reading this happen to be car salesmen in South Florida? Anything like that? BFF Cori needs to buy a new car, and I’d love to be able to send her to someone trustworthy, by which I mean one of my readers since of course nobody rocks harder than my readers. So if you’re in a position to help, contact me through the site, and maybe you’ll get special signed books or Seekrit Inside Info or something too.)
So. Copyright. This is one of those topics that’s so big and so important I almost don’t even know where to start. The simple fact is, copyright is what enables me to do what I do. Copyright is the reason I’m sitting here with my laptop–my laptop that copyright bought (used, because it’s a Mac and they’re fricking expensive new, but still). Copyright is the reason there are Downside stories; it’s the reason they exist, the reason those characters and that world exist.
I’ve touched on the subject of piracy before, notably in my post about trusting readers and not treating them like shit. And honestly, I don’t know that I can really say it any differently or any more clearly than I did then; piracy is a financial bite, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Yes, I was lucky, and I got offers for more Downside books. I know quite a few people whose series aren’t continuing because of low sales, but funnily enough, free copies of their books have been downloaded thousands of times. It’s all well and good for huge bestsellers to be blase about piracy; the rest of us need every sale to keep our careers going, and it frankly makes me angry to see them being cavalier like that instead of thinking back to the beginnings of their careers, or thinking how much of a difference their voice could make to those who are struggling.
But this isn’t about piracy, either. I know what all of the excuses are, the “They wouldn’t have bought it anyway,” as if that makes it okay for them to steal, or the “it actually increases sales,” or whatever. I don’t care. Yes, that’s right. I don’t actually care. To me it’s very simple: those stories and characters belong to me. You’re using them without paying (or going through a legal channel like a library or borrowing from a friend or whatever). Therefore you are stealing from me. Period.
See, at its base, that’s what copyright is. Copyright is a way to mark ownership of something intangible. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, no, but a written story can be. A film can be. A drawing can be. Copyright enables artists to live off of their skills.
I can’t draw to save my life, seriously. It’s not a talent I have. I’m lucky if I manage to make my stick figures look human. Most people I know aren’t great artists. I think people who are deserve some sort of recognition for that; they deserve our appreciation, our recognition. Visual artists beautify our world, quite simply. Every time you see a logo, a design, a pattern; every painting or drawing, every piece of public sculpture, you are seeing something made possible by copyright, and you are seeing something that adds something special to our society, something that reflects who and what we are.
Seriously, think for a minute about a world with no visual art. All buildings are just plain flat squares. Billboards are just black words on white backgrounds, all in Times New Roman or something. There are no textiles in this world; there’s very little color. No attempt has been made to make anything look attractive or inviting.
Yeah, I know, I’m stretching the point. But still. Think about how depressing that world would be, and as you do, think about how much artists add to our lives every single day. Not a day goes by that art doesn’t enrich our lives and our world.
And all those people ask in return is credit for the work they do, for the efforts they make. Just like you expect credit for the work you do; and really, with some exceptions, is your work really any less ephemeral? I know lots of people who would kill to have your job; does that mean I can decide you should be willing to do it for free, and withhold payment from you?
But I believe this is a slippery slope. I believe copyright is something fundamental, that it is in large part what makes our society work, what makes our world work. Yes, there are flaws, of course; I would never even try to imply our society and/or world is perfect, or even that it works particularly well. But copyright is part of the good stuff; it’s one of the positive forces, one of the better elements.
Why? For all of the reasons above. Copyright gives artists time to create and hone their skills. I’m sorry, but contrary to popular belief not everyone can draw, not everyone can write, not everyone can sculpt. I might have the brains to be a surgeon if I applied myself and studied hard, but my hands are simply not steady enough and my vision is terrible. That vision keeps me from being a commercial pilot as well. My height keeps me from being a model or a professional basketball player (yeah, I know, it’s not just my height that keeps me from being a model, but let’s focus on the point, shall we?).
I believe that if we continue to allow our copyright laws to be stepped on, if we continue to act as if they don’t matter, and we continue to buy into this bullshit copyright-is-evil line that’s just an excuse to benefit from other peoples’ work without lifting a finger, we will eventually find there’s nothing left worth stealing. There would be no impetus to create it, frankly.
Because a world without copyright, a world which doesn’t enforce copyright, is a world which doesn’t value art, and doesn’t value artists. Far from commoditizing art, copyright protects art from becoming just a commodity. Copyright recognizes that art is special, that it deserves its own set of protections and rules; that because of the way it enriches our society and changes lives it should be and is separate from other things, and gets special treatment. Copyright recognizes that society has a special responsibility to protect its art, and that society in general benefits from it in immeasurable ways.
A world which doesn’t value art, which doesn’t value artists, which believes copyright is ridiculous, is a world where people are seen as soulless, where individuality doesn’t matter. These people claiming to be rogue rebels, bravely thumbing their noses at copyright laws because art should be for everyone, are in fact trying to stamp on art, devalue it; they are in fact refusing to accept that anyone has anything special inside them, something that’s theirs and their alone, and that there’s any value in expressing that. They’re insisting that everyone is exactly the same, basically, and that there’s no difference between a Renoir and my stick figures. It’s not democratization and it’s not sticking it to The Man. It’s claiming that there’s nothing special or unique or worthwhile in the human soul, it’s claiming that people are worth nothing, and only tangible items have real value.
You’re not being a rebel because you devalue ideas and the expression of them. You’re not being a rebel because you deny artists the chance to make a living. You’re certainly not being a rebel because your response to their need to make a living is to tell them to get a real job, which is exactly what you’re doing when you say things like “You should be willing to do it for free.” Wow, maybe next you’ll tell them to turn down that music and get a decent haircut, huh? You crazy maverick.
Do you honestly think it’s rebellious to treat only things you can hold or taste as if they’re worth anything? Do you honestly think you’re somehow smashing the state by refusing to support artistic expression, by acting as though you’re entitled to the sweat of others’ brows and the fruits of their labor without giving anything in exchange? Do you really believe you’re somehow scoring one for the little guy by devaluing humanity to the point where not only are the souls, thoughts, ideas, and expressions of others are worthless, but where there isn’t even any legal protection in place for those souls, thoughts, ideas, and expressions? Yes, wow, how very subversive of you, treating art as worthless and acting as if other people exist solely to entertain you.
If you want to pirate, go ahead. If you want to steal, go ahead. If you want to devalue art, act as if the world owes you whatever you want, treat other people like commodities, you go ahead.
But don’t fucking pretend it has anything to do with freedom or rebellion, because it doesn’t. It has to do with your own selfishness and sense of entitlement, and in that you’re no different from any of those corporate heads you claim to be so disgusted by. You’re not hurting them. You’re hurting people just like you, and you don’t care as long as you get to fiddle while Rome burns. Good for you.
What Stace had to say on Saturday, August 14th, 2010
About twenty minutes ago I found a link on Twitter to a review of the entire Downside series. This review, by Danielle at Alpha Reader.
Only the link didn’t go to Alpha Reader. It went to one of those content-collecting sites, a book focused one. That site has a Twitter account and when they “collect” a review, they tweet it, which is how I found it. Now that I’m thinkig of it I realize I’ve seen them post a duplicate of another review before, but as the review was for a site with many reviewers I thought the reviewer herself owned the “collecting” site (obviously I didn’t realize it was one of those sites) and was simply reposting her own review.
Of course I retweeted the link, thinking it was original. Immediately another reader informed me of the situation, which shocked me and made me feel ill. I deleted my tweet and reposted it with the correct link, giving credit to the actual writer of the post. By name, which the “collecting” site didn’t do; they had “Source: Alpha Reader” in the bottom left corner in a very pale gray font, which wasn’t easy to see.
That pissed me the hell off.
Here’s the thing. I’ve seen it mentioned a couple of times that writers should not acknowledge any reviews at all, be they positive or negative. And I think that’s bullshit. Why in the hell would I not give someone credit for their work? Why would I ignore it, when they’ve said wonderful things about my work, and took the time to write it all down and post it for anyone to see? When they are recommending my books to their friends? Why in the hell would I not at least give them a nod, let them know I did see it and appreciate it?
Not to mention, a lot of these reviews are incredibly well-written. These are reviewers with talent. Thoughtful, intelligent people who really pay attention to what they’re reading, who analyze it. Reviewers who really truly understand the books and what they’re trying to say, who really truly understand the characters. That’s a big deal. That’s a connection with people, a connection you cannot buy. It’s an amazing thing; it’s the best thing about being a writer, it’s the reason why most of us become writers. We want to share something, say something. When you discover that someone heard that and understood it and appreciated it, that something that means so much to you also means so much to them, that’s a big deal.
As far as I’m concerned, someone who reads my books, enjoys them, and takes time out of their day to write a review–especially a thoughtful, detailed one like Danielle’s or like any of the dozens of other fantastic reviews the Downside books have gotten–deserves credit for that. We all like web hits, right? So isn’t it a good thing to do to link to them, to encourage people to check out their blogs? Isn’t it a good thing for those who read my blog to maybe find a new reader blog they’ll enjoy? Maybe they’ll meet someone whose taste is like theirs; maybe they’ll make a new book-friend. Why the hell shouldn’t I do that? Why the hell should I ignore the hard work of someone who has acknowledged mine so kindly?
The “Terrible Fever” Goodreads group has over fifty members now (yes, I realize that hardly makes me a big name or anything, but I think it’s cool). How many of those readers knew each other before they joined up? I haven’t been reading the posts there because I don’t believe that’s my place–reviews are one thing, but discussions on forums among readers are another–but I’m willing to bet that not all of them did. That some of them met each other through that group. Isn’t that cool? Would that have happened if I hadn’t linked to the group here, or retweeted it? It’s very possible, sure, but it’s not definite.
I don’t read the Goodreads group; I don’t think it’s my place to do so. That’s a forum for readers, and they’re having their own discussions, and that’s not my business. I feel like if I popped in and started talking it might stultify the conversation, make them all self-conscious and uncomfortable. That’s the last thing I want to do. And frankly, yeah, I know there are few places that are reader-only anymore, and that it can be frustrating to have writers always popping in to comment. Yes, it’s disappointing and depressing; I am a reader, after all. I’ve been a reader all my life. But it feels sometimes like even if I’m trying to comment as a reader, I’m still not seen as one, and you know, that’s just the way it is, and it’s the price I pay for getting to do this job that I love more than anything.
Here’s the thing. I can’t email reviewers. I can’t contact them and tell them how glad I am that they caught this or understood that, or why the thing that disappointed them happened, or what the implications of the thing they’re curious about will be down the road. I can’t do that. I’ve learned that no matter how diplomatic you try to be, no matter how good your intentions are, no matter how happy you are or how interesting you think such a discussion is–no matter how much you think it would be fucking awesome to have a conversation like that with a writer whose work you read and had thoughts about–some people will always see it as an invasion, as writers butting in and trying to tell them what to do.
But what I can do is link to them. Acknowledge them from a distance. Say in my post that I loved this one or that one, that I found this line or that line particularly well-written and that I appreciated the effort that was put into it. Just as my novels are art to me, so those reviews may well be art to those reviewers, and they’ve put it out there hoping people will see it and understand it and connect with it.
Those reviews, those reviewers, those readers, are what make this whole thing worthwhile. They’re the ones who make all of the blood and sweat and tears, all of the emotional nakedness and pain, every bit of yourself that you put into your work, matter. I think they deserve to be acknowledged for that, and told that they matter. And I’m going to keep doing it.
What Stace had to say on Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Yesterday on Twitter–I guess for the last couple of days–there’s been a discussion going on regarding agents, and how they’re paid, and how that affects their work. And then it morphed or branched off into a discussion about advances and whether or not writers would accept a no-advance model, and the end result seems to be another one of those discussions where everyone sits around like mummers at a Victorian funeral and tells us The Publishing Sky Is Falling, and it’s The End Of Publishing As We Know It, etc. etc. etc.
And you know, I understand that to an extent. It’s scary. The economy is scary. Hell, everything is scary right now; our ocean is filling with oil and all anybody with the power to do something seems interested in doing is pointing fingers and sitting around talking and whatever. There have been earthquakes and tornados and volcanos and shit all over the world. Am I terrified that the world is ending? Honestly? Kinda, yeah. But then, I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to this sort of thing; I’m the only person I know who is terrified of outer space and doesn’t even like seeing pictures of it because it reminds me that the earth is this one small rock floating in nothingness and something could go wrong at any second and we could start plummeting, but there’s nothing to land on so we would just keep plummeting through the darkness forever. That’s not a pleasant thought.
It probably won’t happen, either. But I wonder if I start insisting often enough that it will, and get a bunch of people to also start talking about it and how the earth’s field of gravity is thinning, people will start to believe it.
Because it seems to me that everyone is talking about the demise of publishing, but there’s actually no real evidence that it’s dying. Everyone is claiming that ebooks will be the death of publishing, but I honestly don’t understand that at all; how is providing books in another format for people who like that format killing publishing? (Aside from the issue of piracy, which don’t even get me started on.) Aren’t we hearing about people buying more books now that they’re started reading ebooks?
I know a lot of it is just to get website hits, or because people have a specific axe to grind. And you know, none of us are without bias. I certainly don’t want to see publishing die, because it’s how I make my living. I don’t want to see us all switch to self-publishing, for reasons I’ve stated many times before but will recap quickly:
1. Ease of finding something worth reading (low when trying to go through thousands & thousands of self-published books with no quality control or vetting process)
2. Ease of publishing (sure, right now you can go to Lulu and set up a book for free; it’s what Jim Macdonald did for me with the Strumpet book. But do you really think if publishing fails, and self-publishing becomes the norm, those companies won’t start charging, or charging more?)
To be perfectly honest, my feeling is and has always been that if publishing “dies,” and everyone is self-publishing, you’ll soon have people offering to vet books for other people. You’ll have someone who realizes they can make some money by taking the best books out there and printing them for a cut of the money, and setting up some sort of nationwide distribution, and…lookie there, you’ve just reinvented a publishing house.
When people want a book to read, they want a book to read. They do not want to spend hours hunting around for something readable. (Don’t believe it will take hours, or be difficult? Here’s a site where people can post shirt stories for free, called Bibliofaction. It’s a nice site; it’s a fun idea. And I don’t link to it to pick on or put down any of the stories posted there; I link to it to show you how much there is on just that one site, and what a variety of quality there is too.)
Now I’m veering off into my big self-publishing rant again, and I’ve already covered that, so I don’t want to do it again. What I do want to say is that yes, times are a bit hard right now. Yes, I’m seeing good writers whose series don’t get to go on because sales that would have been good enough three years ago aren’t anymore, or if they do get contracted for more books their advances are lower. It’s awful and it’s sad.
But for every series that doesn’t do so well, there are series that are big hits and make tons of money. I’m tired of seeing that ignored. I’m tired of seeing specious statistics bandied about all the time, like the “95% of published books don’t sell more than 500 copies,” which sounds terrifying until you realize that the people who came up with that statistic were including every single book published, including self-published books, technical manuals, employee guidebooks, specialist textbooks, souvenir books, and whatever else. The idea that most NY published books sell less than 500 copies is simply incorrect.
This study by The Association of American Publishers estimates the publishing industry sold $23.9 BILLION worth of books in 2009. Yes, that’s down almost two percent from 2008 (although apparently in the last seven years overall it’s grown), but when you consider how the economy took a swim in Lake Shitty in early-mid 2008 especially, that’s really not that bad, is it? How much have other industries lost? If we can use this CNN article as any indicator, auto industry sales/profits dropped about 30%. Freddie Mac says home prices fell almost five percent in 2009 (it was a much bigger percentage in ’08).
Yes, it’s a scary time right now. Yes, we’re all watching it and keeping an eye on what’s happening. Yes, advances aren’t as high as they once were–at least so I understand. But we’re still getting deals. We’re still getting advances. Every day.
But that doesn’t mean we all need to start desperately casting around for some other way to earn a living, or start pontificating on how publishing is “broken” and it’s the end for it. It’s not. As long as people want to read books, there will be publishing. Quite frankly, for all the “publishing is dying” talk I hear online, it seems to be pretty limited to online; the average person–the average reader–has no idea this discussion is happening, and they care even less. And why should they? The only thing readers should–or should be expected to–care about is that they get books they want to read when they want to read them and in the format in which they want them, at an affordable price. (Readers are of course welcome to care more about it if they want, but it’s certainly not a requirement, is my point. I don’t want to bore my readers with talk about how my life will end if they don’t buy my books and I’ll end up selling matches on the street and how expensive everything is–like they don’t know that–and how I really need their help or whatever. As I’ve said here before, entertaining readers is my job. Yes, I want and expect to be paid for it, but beyond that they have zero obligation to me, and I certainly don’t expect them to give a shit about my financial situation. Remember how I’d rather not have people buy my books because I nagged them into it? Yeah. I’d rather they not buy them because I guilted them into it, either. I’m fucking lucky I get to write books for a living, and I try not to forget that and act like it’s some kind of burden.)
Whether the agent commission goes up to 20%, as the lovely Victoria Strauss suggests in this post (which also links back to me, making a nifty linky circuit), or whether more agents branch out into different areas of the business, or whatever…I think reports of publishing’s death are greatly exaggerated, and to be perfectly frank I’m tired of hearing about it. I don’t know if that’s me being sensible or being ostrich-like, but I’m tired of constantly feeling like the sword of Damocles dangles over all of our heads. I’m tired of feeling like there are crowds of people rubbing their hands together gleefully and waiting for publishing to fail, for whatever reason; I don’t understand it, as I don’t see why anyone would want to have to wade through slush for hours, but people can certainly do what they like.
I refuse to feel that way anymore. I refuse to listen to alarmists and bone-pickers. Will I keep in mind that things are tough all over? Absolutely. Will I remember how tight money is? Again, absolutely.
And I will use that knowledge to inspire me to write more and better books, to challenge myself more, to not take sales for granted but to remember that I need to push myself to be great, to be outstanding, to put everything I have into my work. I’ll use that knowledge to inspire me to write bigger stories, bigger worlds, bigger characters; to remember that “good enough” isn’t good enough. And so even if I don’t achieve that greatness and never get to be outstanding I at least wasn’t lazy. At least I tried. At least I didn’t forget that what it ultimately comes down to are readers, and what they want, and that my job is to try to give it to them, to impress and entertain them and make them think and feel.
So everyone else can sit around in the doom-and-gloom corner and decide the end is coming and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ll be over here writing more books.
Because that’s what I do.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
(This is a long one, guys, so get comfortable.)
I’m sure you’re probably getting sick of seeing my reviews, but I do have another quick one to share. From WickedlilPixie at Writings of a Wicked Book Addict:
Unholy Ghosts is the first book in Stacia Kane’s Downside Series & it was phenomenal! It is one of the most grittiest, in your face Urban Fantasies I’ve ever read & I loved it…If you read one new Urban Fantasy series, make it Unholy Ghosts.
So something I’ve been thinking about for a while, as you guys know, is what urban fantasy truly is as a genre, and where it’s going, and how my books fit into it. (Remember the The Books Are Out There post?
And of course we’re now exactly one week away from the official release date of UNHOLY GHOSTS. And I’m wondering how people will respond to it, whether they’ll love it or hate it, whether the darkness will be too much for them, whether they’ll accept a drug addict as a heroine, all of those things that I worried and wondered about even as I wrote it.
But here’s the thing. I feel like urban fantasy has, as a genre, been somehow relegated to the “Girl” section. It’s been dismissed as “Girl books.” And many guys really do seem to think this way. I’ve seen a lot of them in various places referring to UF as “just paranormal romance with a little more action,” or “hot girl in leather solves mystery, sleeps with paranormal creatures.”
And honestly? I think to some extent that’s true. No, hear me out. Other worlds and paranormal creatures do tend to be a big part of urban fantasy. The heroines often have sex (mine certainly do) and it’s often with paranormal creatures (Megan sleeps with a demon, for example, but in Chess’s world the only paranormal creatures are ghosts, and they don’t really make good bed partners, what with the trying to kill you and all).
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What Stace had to say on Friday, May 7th, 2010
Some of you may have heard that the Waxman Agency, a legitimate, highly respected literary agency with an excellent reputation, has decided to open an epublishing imprint of its own. No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. It’s an agency deciding to set up a publishing arm.
This has, as you can imagine, sparked a bit of controversy in the literary world.
I’m going to blog about it, because I feel like I should. But I’m not entirely comfortable doing it, to be honest. I don’t like doing it. I am, to put it mildly, in a bit of an moral dilemma here, and I need to decide if my ethical standards are really that strong, and I’ve decided that they are. I’ve taken a stand on this situation in the past and would be a hypocrite not to do the same again; I’ve presented myself–and worked hard to make myself–someone who helps other writers and offers advice, and I would be a hypocrite not to speak out now.
Here’s the thing. Waxman is, as I said above, and excellent agency. I know a few people–one I consider a good friend–who are repped by Holly Root there. Holly is a fantastic agent. Her clients love her, and she does a great job for them. And up until yesterday I had no compunction at all recommending her to any of my friends who were looking for representation.
But I can’t do that anymore, and that makes me sad.
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What Stace had to say on Monday, April 19th, 2010
I’d planned to post about something else today (Amber Publishing, who are publishing the Downside books in Poland, have posted the cover and blurb on their site, in Polish [of course], which is totally cool), but that, along with the online translation of it, will have to wait. Because I’ve had this post in mind for like a month now, and I want to get it out there. Settle in, guys, this is a long one.
You may have heard of Young Adult Authors Against Bullying, a Facebook group made up of–as the name implies–YA authors who disapprove of bullying. I’m not technically a YA author but I’ve joined, as have a lot of others. And a few weeks ago many writers posted their bullying stories on their blogs. I didn’t; not because I don’t have bullying stories or wasn’t bullied as a child/preteen/teen (believe me, I was, horribly) but because I didn’t learn about it until it was already in progress and I already had this post sort of planned, as I said above.
A lot of this is in reaction to the death of Phoebe Prince, a high-school girl driven to suicide by a gang of less-than-human teenage shitweeds who decided she deserved to be mocked, bullied, teased, insulted, and otherwise abused because she *gasp* dated a guy who used to date one of the aforementioned shitweeds (and the guy later joined in, which just makes me lose hope in the future of humanity, but then, this whole story does).
It reminds me a bit of the Megan Meier case, in which a girl was cyber-bullied not just by kids her own age, but by the mother of one of her acquaintances. A grown fucking woman, who thought it was a good idea to harass and play tricks on a young girl online.
And that’s sort of what I want to discuss. Adult bullying, and the society of mean.
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