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The personal boycott and how it’s not censorship

I rarely talk overtly about politics on Dear Author but I think it is fairly obvious that we support gay marriage. I have a few very close friends who are gay. I once mentioned off handedly that my daughter had gone to Chick-Fil-A for a school project on restaurant reviews and my friend looked at me aghast and said he was surprised I would financially support that company. After an awkward silence as I tried to tell him that I didn’t, my friend apologized and said that he didn’t care if I did or didn’t go to Chick-Fil-A.

For those who are unaware, Chick-Fil-A is a fast food chain in the United States that has come out publicly against gay marriage. That evening I went home and talked to my daughter about why we didn’t go and eat at Chick-Fil-A because if we did we were essentially supporting people who were trying to prevent our friends from obtaining rights that she and I took for granted. When my daughter wrote her review for the restaurant she included that while she enjoyed the food she disapproved of their policies.

Just last week,  Guido Barilla chairman of a pasta manufacturing company Barilla announced that Barilla would never feature a gay family.  His explanation is even worse.

 I would never make a spot with a homosexualfamily. Not out of a lack of respect but because I do not see it like they do. (My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role.

He also reportedly said he opposed adoption by gay parents and that if gay consumers “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

I like Barilla pasta. They make a whole wheat, multigrain pasta that we’ve bought for a few years now.  But I can’t imagine having a box of that in my house and inviting my friends over for a meal. There is a restaurant in town whose owner has made terrible comments about Asians and my friends don’t go there with me and if they go at all, they never mention it to me.  We all make buying decisions based on personal feelings and books are not exempt.  When it comes to entertainment from deciding not to support Orson Scott Card or avoiding an author who has a street team that is designed to harass reviewers until they remove their one star reviews, some of us decide that we’d rather try one of the other thousand authors out there than support the author whose actions or activities are anathema to a reader.

The business of books has become increasingly personalized. Look at the existence of street teams. Street teams are comprised of readers who go forth and leave reviews and promote books of a particular author to another reader.  Sometimes they do more such as descend en masse on a blog or an Amazon review to inform the reader who wrong she was in her response to the book.  Sometimes they work in tandem to downvote negative reviews and upvote positive ones.  These street team members take on this role willingly because they love both the work and the author herself.

Many new authors believe that the role of reviewers and bloggers is to support an author and those that do not are hateful, spiteful individuals who have no happiness in their lives.  Here is the key.  Support of the author.   Blog tour requests are sent to bloggers and require you to agree to be part of the tour without having read the book. In fact, some tours do not give the blogger an ARC unless they agree to the tour first.

Authors are told by their publishing houses and their author friends to go forth and make friends with people in the community.  Give of yourself and in return these readers will feel invested in your success. Your success is their success and your failure is their failure.  Thus the strong, rabid response.  The cult of personality creates both love and the converse – hate or at least dislike.  By making the promotion about the author as opposed to the object, the attending rise of objection to books based on author personalities is natural.  Because if you are to support the authors that you love; you also don’t want to support the authors you don’t love.

Reading is deeply personal and online readers who are prone to leave reviews, either negative or positive, are readers full of passion. When they love something, you’ll hear about it and when they don’t love something, their opinions are just as strong.  Is it any wonder in this increasingly intimate online environment between readers and authors that there are conflicts based on personal behavior?

But a personal boycott is not censorship because the reader isn’t saying author A with the bad attitude shouldn’t be published (or maybe she secretly does but she doesn’t have any control over that).  Censorship is about the suppression of speech. Deciding not to read a particular author or buy a particular author does not suppress the author’s right to publish (particularly in this day and age).  Concerted boycotts can have that effect but only if the numbers are large enough which is highly rare in the case of a reader and an author.

A personal boycott can happen for any number of reasons and it happens to all kinds of artists from the Dixie Chicks to Dane Cook.  Whether you agree with the personal boycott depends largely on where you fall on the side of the issue. For instance, if you believe that comics should have free reign to make jokes about anything they want then a personal boycott over Dane Cook who enjoys making rape jokes might seem small to you.  If you believe that singers should be able to make a political stand then the Dixie Chicks punishment for criticizing George Bush might seem small to you.   If you believe that book should be judged solely on their content and not their creator then personal boycotts are the anathema, not authorial behavior.

All of those opinions are right because they are personal and non violative of another’s individual rights whether it is the First Amendment to free speech (and the right not to be censored by the government) or whether it is the right of the individual to support who and what she pleases.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

48 Comments

  1. Laura H
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 04:18:14

    Great article, with some very strong and relevant examples. I’ve seen a lot of people lately – authors AND bloggers – flaunting the arrogant assumption that their view is the only correct view. Thanks for pointing out that this isn’t the case.

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  2. Laila Blake
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 04:55:13

    Another beautiful, thoughtful article. I really love your blog.
    In the end I think, this is just what comes with indie-culture and we’ve seen it in the music industry for years – that the personal connection and the personal narrative of the artist really plays into the appreciation of their music/stories/art etc.
    I am utterly into this singer-songwriter and everything with him is about the freedom of the road, of love that never really works, of tattoos and drinking and friends and random acts of anarchy and he is about the same things as a person – that’s what makes him special, almost more than the music. And he has crazy loyal fans who love him for it, more for being the person than he is than for the music that he makes. It’s a bit insane when we analyse it but we all do it in one way or another.
    John Green is a great author example of this – I really like his books, but I loved him as a person way before I ever picked up a copy of Looking for Alaska and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it in the same way if it wasn’t his.

    It’s just really really sad when authors either encourage or not discourage their fans or street teams from harassing reviewers or denigrating the competition. They have influence over these people and they should be using it for good.

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  3. KT Grant
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 05:32:34

    I feel the same goes for actors and musicians. I boycott Chris Brown’s music because he beat a woman, just like I refuse to support Orson Scott Card because of his homophobic views. If I don’t support an author because of their views on say politics, religion or even if they prefer cats over dogs, that’s my opinion. People boycott things all the time for their own reasons. It’s just the way of the world.

    If an author is very vocal about how readers are wrong and they shouldn’t give bad reviews, someone is going to end up boycotting that author’s works, while some won’t. If someone believes in free speech and feels they can saw what they want in public, then they should also understand that what they say may have consequences, which means people may take offense to what that author or whoever says and won’t support that person or company by buying their product.

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  4. Marika
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 06:46:38

    I received a HORRIBLE review for my book, a big fat 1 star from who I think was someone who had a personal problem with me, it said my book was written for LONELY SOULS, I got another that said “No, Just no.” A crap review is part of the process, and a reviewer that had issues with your book and outlines them in his/her review can be your best friend. It’s how you grow as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my positive reviews, and it is a wonderful feeling when a reader “gets” you, but it’s the bad ones you grow from. Not every book is for every reader – and you have to be okay with that.

    I get the boycott, in regards to writers, well we have a right to speak our mind , and a potential reader has the right not to buy our books based on their feelings about our opinions.

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  5. Donna Antonio
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 07:37:20

    I am with you. I am on a couple of street teams but have never engaged in that behavior and wouldn’t condone it if I was aware of it. The street teams I am on are for up and coming mostly indy authors whose work I would like to see reach a wider audience. I am a big believer in voting with my dollars I have and will continue to do so. The folks at Chick-Fil-A and Barilla have the right to their opinions. They vote with their dollars and I choose to not give them any of mine. I refuse to fund hate and ignorance when and where I can. My gay daughter eats at Chick-Fil-A because she likes their sandwiches. Her philosophy is haters gonna hate I’m eating a good sandwich. It takes all kinds.

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  6. DB Cooper
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 07:40:55

    Well said, and well expressed. As a site-follower, it is nice to see you opinion said explicitly now and then, especially when it is so politely offered to us like this.

    As for my personal opinion? Bully for you and your daughter. I only discovered Chick-Fil-A a few years ago when I moved south, and after later finding out about their politics, I found it more difficult than I imagined trying to give them up.

    …and then one day it was just easier than I expected, because I realized I hadn’t had Chick-Fil-A for months. Breaking habits and all. And I’m also glad your daughter went there for her school report, even if it ran counter to personal boycotts and others’ expectations. I think in the service of knowledge gathering, it’s important to understand what one is giving up instead of doing so blindly, and I think it provided opportunity for you to share your reasoning with her–and subsequently, for her to legitimately give the full scope of “I went here, and here’s what I think and why” in her review.

    Alas, sad news for me on Barilla. In some ways, I can see where he is coming from, and very much like it was with Chick-Fil-A, if that’s part of what makes Guido Barilla’s leadership and vision what it is, good for him–I can respect that on some level. It will also never sit right with me on another level, and I just…no…just no.

    They say getting over something requires a bit of a mourning period. I have a few boxes of Barilla left in the pantry. I think I will quietly, sadly and privately enjoy their comfort as I say my goodbyes for the foreseeable future.

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  7. DB Cooper
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 07:46:45

    @Donna Antonio:

    Bully for your daughter, too! :) I’m glad she is who she is, and that she has (what appears to me) to be a strong sense of self.

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  8. Praxidike
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 07:50:13

    I just don’t see how a personal boycott could ever be viewed as censorship. Censorship is the act of suppressing someone else’s speech. Boycotting is the act of withdrawing from commercial purchasing in protest of a company’s beliefs or actions. Are you trying to effect change with a boycott? Maybe. But you’re not suppressing speech with your actions. People who refer to boycotts as censorship don’t know the meaning of the term.

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  9. DS
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 08:10:01

    I think it ironic that even before Chick-fil-a caused their own problems I almost never ate there. Chicken in my up bringing was an after church on Sunday meal. So the only time I think of fried chicken for a meal is on Sunday when they are closed.

    I have authors that I support financially by buying their books, giving them as gifts, and even buying multiple versions if available. I also like to bring their names up in appropriate conversations. There are more authors who have annoyed me or their fans have annoyed me and I don’t support them, etc. How hard is it to not be an asshole on the internet?

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  10. Patricia Eimer
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 08:30:19

    When I taught Intro to Economics for Nonmajors I used to make a point of telling my students that the most effective way for them to institute change was by voting with their money. From who they made political donations to, what charities they supported, what companies they wanted to be identified with money was the great equalizer. You don’t like what they stand for– buy from their competitor. Disagree with the party politics? Give your money and your volunteer hours to their opposition.That’s not censorship– it’s using capitalism to make your voice heard.

    And as far as bully street teams? Why? You like an author, fine, I don’t like that author, fine. How boring would the world be if there was only one right opinion about books and music and art? Most of us would have nothing to talk about if we couldn’t engage in debate.

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  11. DB Cooper
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 09:11:50

    @Patricia Eimer: Speaking of giving money to competitors, my darling wife mentioned something about “Pasta Wars” I missed all the hubub, but apparently Bertolli took a swipe at Barilla by making some LGBT friendly ads in facebook.

    Nice to know there’s an alternative putting themselves out there. I figure that’s more than worth giving Bertolli try… :D

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  12. Lynnd
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 09:36:16

    Great article Jane. The way I look at it is that everyone is entitled to their view and opinion and I am entitled to disagree with that opinion (and others are entitled to disagree with mine). As a colleague said recently, “opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one.” If you are a business (whether an author, musician, pasta maker, restaurant, major multinational corporation, country, lawyer etc.) and you express you opinion in a public forum or you have a policy that I do not agree with, I, as a consumer, am entitled to decide that I do not agree with you and that I will not give you any of my hard-earned money because that is how I am going to express my equally legitimate and valid opinion. In some cases, when I feel strongly about a matter, I will even do as your daughter did (good for her !) and express my opposition to the business directly and that is also my absolute right.

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  13. Lori Toland
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 09:46:35

    Here’s my view:

    I eat at Chick-Fil-A. Each branch is independently owned and operated since they are franchises. While I don’t eat there daily or even weekly, I enjoy their lemonade and their Icedream cones.

    My friends through work, who are devout Christians, introduced me to their nephew who has been with his partner for over 20 years. They were nervous about me meeting him because I had never brought up the subject with them. I don’t express my personal beliefs at my job. Politics and religion don’t belong there. I don’t share the views of people I work with sometimes and if they bring up any views I don’t feel comfortable with, I stop them and tell them I don’t feel comfortable about discussing these matters at work as I believe it isn’t the place for it.

    Their nephew has been the manager of my local Chick-fil-a for over 10 years. He still works there today. He is open about his partner with his boss (the local owner) and the other workers there.

    So I patron local businesses that support my community and especially those that go against the grain to employ hard-working individuals. This is a personal decision.

    The only way we can make change is constantly challenging what currently exists.

    But I wouldn’t buy a Chick-fil-a franchise.

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  14. Janine
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 10:00:30

    Great article. I loved the story about your daughter and Chick-Fil-A and I am so disheartened to hear that about Barilla, but glad you mentioned it because I hadn’t heard about it. I’ll cross their products off my shopping list.

    I had a conversation on Twitter that touched on this topic the other day with AnimeJune of Gossamer Obsessions. I vented about my frustration with Ben Aaronovitch, who has made an ad hominem attack on a reader in the past couple of weeks. I love Aarnovitch’s Peter Grant series. The books are wonderful, and have a POC main character and a diverse cast of characters too. But. I’m not sure if I can get past Aaronovitch calling that reader an idiot enough to review him here. I don’t know if I’ll be able to enjoy his books again.

    AnimeJune told me that she has had issues with the behavior of one of her favorite authors, Joanne Harris, and said she still reviews Harris, and does her best to separate the artist from the art.

    There are good arguments for both positions but I think that for me separating the artist from the art would be a whole lot easier if authors weren’t hanging out at reader blogs, reader forums, and social media sites.

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  15. Jen
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 10:37:44

    Janine, I’m in the same place with Ben Aaronovitch. It’s been really disheartening to see some of the things he’s said. I think being an author has made me less tolerant of this kind of behavior, and I think I’m done with the Peter Grant books. There are so many books to read and only so many dollars to spend and I’m choosing to spend them elsewhere from now on.

    Thanks for writing this, Jane. I so often see people claiming a boycott is censorship.

    We all have to decide what matters to us and what doesn’t and try to respect that.

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  16. Mzcue
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 10:43:12

    I appreciate the sensitivity and clarity of this essay, but it saddens me that it had to be written.
    To conceal the weakness of their positions, zealots mischaracterize boycott as censorship, regulation as abolition, diplomacy as capitulation. I’ve long believed that our educational system falls short in teaching critical thinking skills. I’m grateful that while mass media has traded objectivity for ratings, the Internet provides a vigorous venue for thoughtful perspective. Thanks, Jane, for this.

    As the tale of Rumpelstiltskin teaches, there is tremendous power in naming. Recognizing and identifying bigotry exposes it to the light. The fog of misdirection falls away, enabling us as individuals to act with our purses, our feet and our votes.

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  17. Kelly
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 10:56:25

    I’m struggling over purchasing Carla Kelly’s newest. Estranged husband/wife fleeing the Mexican revolution? She wrote that JUST FOR ME. Because I am a FANGIRL. Holy crap, I love her books.

    But it’s from Cedar Fort, an LDS (Mormon) publisher who recently caused themselves an ugly mess and whined about it instead of apologizing. The Kindle version of Safe Passage is only $3.99, so would my pathetic little boycott hurt their bottom line? No. But I just cannot get my finger to hit that “buy now” button :-(

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  18. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:06:44

    “Authors are told by their publishing houses and their author friends to go forth and make friends with people in the community.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever been told to do this. My impression is that authors are encouraged to make themselves accessible to readers, but it’s not required.

    “Give of yourself and in return these readers will feel invested in your success. Your success is their success and your failure is their failure. Thus the strong, rabid response. The cult of personality creates both love and the converse – hate or at least dislike.”

    I do try to give something of myself to readers, even if it’s just joking around on twitter, sharing bits of my life or Rting interesting links. Some authors offer free reads or do whatever it is people do on Facebook. But even authors who maintain distance and don’t interact with readers can build a rabid fan base. It’s not about the author’s personality, it’s about her work. Fans don’t flock to author personalities. Look at EL James. She has very passionate fans and no street team that I know of.

    “By making the promotion about the author as opposed to the object, the attending rise of objection to books based on author personalities is natural.”

    Do you mean reviews, not books? I’m not sure about the rise of books based on author personalities. If that’s true, and Madeline Sheehan (for example) is in a motorcycle club, I can see how lines between author and character could get blurry. But I think fans blur those lines also. They can mistake the actress for the character, or the author for the heroine.

    About boycotting, I definitely support this type of protest. There is no Chick fil A where I live, but I’ll buy another brand of pasta. I’m not likely to buy books written by authors who say offensive things. I was interested in a dystopian YA (or adult, can’t remember) a few months ago and happened upon a review in which the author heckled the reviewer. I quietly took it off my TBR.

    Interesting piece, thanks.

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  19. Mara
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:20:06

    @Kelly:

    Kelly, you might do what I do in these situations. I almost never eat at Chik-fil-A anymore, but if I’m out of town or stuck somewhere with no better option, I’ll take the cost of my Chik-fil-A meal, triple it, and donate that amount to a local gay support group. That way, I feel I’m at least reducing their impact in a practical sense.

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  20. Lindsay
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:58:37

    When it comes to boycotts, I generally not only vote with my wallet, but write a letter to the company explaining why I did not and will not in the future purchase their product(s). I don’t yell at them, but I very clearly explain why.

    Companies notice a dip in sales but may not attribute them to a boycott, or may attribute them to the wrong things completely. When a bookstore nearby stopped selling Romance books in favor of selling giftware their sales dropped, but they thought it was in response to their recent marketing and that people did not want giftware. Actually, the giftware sold fine! But because they didn’t work with a decent database software they had no idea that it was, in fact, customers seeing their genre removed as being told their business wasn’t welcome there, meant their regular customers went elsewhere.

    You’d think big companies who DO spend a lot of money on metrics and mine personal information would be smarter about how to USE it, but honestly, they can be completely tone-deaf and just as clueless as the next person.

    Bringing it down to author-level, though, I don’t know if I would be comfortable directly telling an author why I won’t be buying more of their books. I’ve left 1-star reviews, but those are for other readers (and involve really flagrant hate speech). I’ve emailed authors, but those tend to be really positive appreciation emails. I wouldn’t want to engage someone on why the thing they did made me decide not to read anything else of theirs, and I’m not sure why that is. Does that mean I hold authors to a lower standard than larger companies because I feel their reach is lesser? What about OSC? Or does it mean I’m more gunshy about backlash from an individual than I am a full company that presumably has someone vetting emails in and out to make sure the CEO isn’t sending death threats to someone who wrote them an email?

    If that sounds like an extreme jump, I work in the gaming industry, where the only two settings of response levels appear to be “polite acknowledgement” and “immediate sexualized death threats”.

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  21. Jenna
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 13:23:54

    Thanks for the article! I’ve become so exhausted by the constant back and forth between authors and reviewers. I hope that some of it can be cleared up because it’s burning me out.

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  22. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 13:32:40

    Just realized I read that sentence wrong. The objections are based on author behavior/personalities, not the books themselves. I was confused by the wording, but it makes sense now.

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  23. Liz Mc2
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 13:35:57

    Thanks for saying this so clearly (I can’t believe it needs to be said). I think you’re absolutely right about the way authors & readers using social media/social media marketing strategies, and the (perceived, at least) personal relationship that’s part of that, has increased tensions around these questions a lot.

    What I see a lot of people objecting to is readers sharing information about their decision to boycott (badly-behaved-author shelves, blog posts, etc.) and perhaps trying to persuade others to join the boycott (though I actually see little active persuasion of the “you should not read X” variety, just providing information about why this reader won’t read X). But that’s not censorship either, nor is it bullying. We can disagree about whether various persuasive strategies, styles and tones are likely to be effective, or whether they should happen in spaces labeled “book review,” but moral suasion is a valid use of free speech. In fact, I think it’s a desirable use. People can always disagree, as is obvious in the Chick-Fil-A comments in this thread.

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  24. pooks
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 15:32:13

    What have I missed about Ben Aaronovitch? Damn, I love his books.

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  25. Fiona McGier
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 15:33:29

    How do I get me one of those “author street teams”? I’m getting exhausted working my 2 other jobs, then coming home to blog/interact my heart out, then trying to stay awake long enough to do some writing! I guess I have to get noticed by the right group of readers.

    As for boycotts, I’ll never shop in a Wallmart, even if there’s no other option. I’ll starve first. Years ago we were camping in Albert Lea, in Minnesota. We asked the park ranger where a grocery store was…he said there was a Wallmart in town. Without going into my long spiel about outsourcing, and forcing manufacturers to off-shore for the lowest prices, which means US employees were fired because they asked for a living wage, I told him I’d rather shop somewhere else. We drove around the town looking, and found 3 boarded-up, closed grocery stores. On the outskirts of town, in a shopping center so new the stoplight interchanges led to open fields across the street, was a HUGE Wallmart…now the only employer in town. Predatory pricing is their MO–they sweep into town and price their products BELOW cost, because they can afford to lose money in one store for as long as it takes. When customers swarm in for the low prices, the competitors are forced out of business and they fire all of the employees who used to make a living wage. Now everyone has to apply at Wallmart, not known for treating their employees fairly, because there isn’t anywhere else to work…and they have to shop there, because there’s no where else to shop.
    So that’s my personal boycott. My daughter goes to college in downstate IL and has “confessed” to me that she sometimes shops at the local WM because it’s cheaper. I ask her how much her soul is worth to her, and she chuckles uneasily.

    BTW, I also boycott Chik-fil-A and any other company that discriminates. My son read all of the Orson Scott Card Enders Game books, but I’ll wait until the movie comes out on video…and maybe even then I’ll ignore it. Discrimination might feel good to the sanctimonious few who think they have the right to judge others and find them lacking. To the rest of us it just looks like prejudice and bigotry.

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  26. Kim in Baltimore
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 15:43:28

    Aloha, Jane. I applaud much of what you write about personal beliefs in social issues. But I disagree with (or at least have a different experience) with your statement:

    Blog tour requests are sent to bloggers and require you to agree to be part of the tour without having read the book. In fact, some tours do not give the blogger an ARC unless they agree to the tour first.

    I consider myself a book blogger rather than a book reviewer (an issue discussed by the blogger panel at the Baltimore Book Festival this past weekend). I review books as I have time (and I am a slow reader). I write shorter reviews than the ones posted hereat Dear Author. I also spotlight books, interview authors, and other non-review activities on my own whim and/or part of blog tours. I do this because I enjoy learning more about new releases, authors’ inspiration, etc. I am not part of any street team. I am not paid for promotions nor do I accept advertising on my blog. I don’t have time for the dramas on Goodreads. If any author behaves badly, I take that into consideration if I want to read their books. If any “reader” behaves badly, I just ignore it. I believe the average reader can tell the difference between the inflated five star reviews and the destructive one star reviews.

    Your blog left me with the impression that I am one of the “bad guys” for being a book blogger rather than a book reviewer. I don’t think I am. My blog attracts other readers who also enjoy the promo material … just like Dear Author attracts readers looking for open discussions. I think there is room in Romanceland for all of us.

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  27. cleo
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 15:44:57

    @pooks: I think this gives an overview, plus some comments by Ben Aaronovitch
    http://thebooksmugglers.com/2013/09/smugglers-stash-and-news-99.html

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  28. Jane
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 15:54:15

    @Kim in Baltimore: I’m sorry you feel that way because I’ve said before that there is definitely room for promotional bloggers and the services they provide. (http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/the-resurrection-of-the-fan-culture-is-there-room-for-both-of-us/)

    Fan culture helps to grow a community. It helps the creators within that community feel energized and empowered. There is absolutely nothing wrong with fan culture. I’m going to repeat this. There is nothing wrong with fan culture. Fan culture is important. It plays a vital role in the survival of a community.
    ….In many circumstances blogs have become an extension of an authorial promotional team. And that’s okay. One particular popular blog states outright they are a promotional place only. Others have notices in the sidebar that negative comments toward authors are not permitted. They are signaling their intentions to their audience fairly and openly.

    I visit my share of promotional blogs to find out what new books are being released, and I think the distinction between a book blogger and a book reviewer is a good one.

    My focus was more on the tour hosts that predicate an ARC on participation in a blog tour. I don’t like what I see as the weaponization of ARCs – promote this book or else – and would prefer just to read the books I buy in that case.

    So it’s just different strokes. Everyone has a different place in the blog world and one isn’t wrong or right which is ultimately the thrust of my piece. Each individual reader has their own set of guidelines in determining what book to read and purchase. Sometimes those personal guidelines involve weighing activities of an author. And in an environment that encourages personal interaction between readers/authors/bloggers, these personal issues can become more problematic.

    In summary, I apologize. I didn’t mean to slight you with my words or suggest that you are doing anything wrong in being a promotional blog. I’ll be more careful with more wording next time!

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  29. pooks
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 16:12:00

    @cleo:

    Thanks. I followed back to the original reviews and Ben’s comments. Did he ever say or do anything beyond his comments on her blog? I assume so, since I don’t see his comments here as an ad hominem attack?

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  30. pooks
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 16:28:10

    @pooks:

    Never mind, found it. Wasn’t able to follow all the twitter stuff but I did find his comments on Strange Horizons. In the realm of Authors Behaving Badly, this is pretty tame stuff, to me. Not enough to turn me off of one of the few urban fantasy series I love–one that shows a multi-ethnic London-and-environs and a love of history and music and… yeah.

    Nisi Shawl’s response was interesting. It’s interesting watching authors deal with discovering they are non grata in discussions of their work.

    But as Jane so deftly pointed out, we each get to to decide for ourselves.

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  31. Darlynne
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 17:21:00

    I avoid skin and hair care products that are tested on animals. I buy humanely, sustainably raised (yes, and slaughtered, no hiding from the truth here) meat. That’s what keeps me out of fast food restaurants primarily; the crazy sauce of some of those businesses being anti-gay, anti-healthcare, anti-anything-to-benefit-their-employees takes care of the rest.

    OT: Seriously, Peyton Manning? You’re represented by a players’ union, an army of attorneys and agents, you receive a very large paycheck and yet you get into bed, as it were, with Papa John? My disappointment is deep and overflowing. /rant

    Financial boycotts are all that’s available to us, or, more accurately, the sharpest weapon in our arsenal. I believe companies are free to behave as they see fit and we are free to spend our money in a way that matters to us. That’s not censorship, not by any definition.

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  32. Christine
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 17:37:46

    @Kelly:
    I would say slap down your money and support Carla. It seems she had a rough summer- her husband had a stroke and then she was uninvited from a booksigning at her alma mater BYU because they realized she writes for Harlequin.

    I always feel a bit bad for her because she gets it from all sides. There is always someone writing reviews on Amazon or other places saying her books are awful now that she writes LDS books and she’s too “racy” for the religious readers. I think she is a fantastic author, and if her writing is any indication, a compassionate person who writes about heroines of all different faiths in her many books.

    Regarding everyone’s personal boycotts: I appreciate the sentiments and have chosen not to make purchases at different places over the years but the truth is we can never know the feelings and motivations of the people who run or profit from every company. Look at all the horrible stories about Apple and the way people are exploited by them in places like China, ditto with Walmart yet how many of us can say they never buy products from either of these businesses? (myself included)

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  33. Kim in Baltimore
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 17:45:54

    @Jane: Aloha, Jane. Thanks for the clarification (and the link to your other post about promo). Glad to have this open conversation at Dear Author (I think you would have appreciate the panel discussion at Baltimore Book Festival). Are you coordinating anything for bloggers/reviewers at RT in New Orleans?

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  34. Janine
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 18:20:21

    @pooks and @cleo: Actually, there’s much worse behavior by Aaronovitch here at Strange Horizons. Click on “View comments” and note this comment, directed at a perfectly nice commenter:

    Posted by Ben Aaronovitch on September 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    @ Jonathan M: I’ve given this a great of thought and I think I’m right in saying that you in fact an idiot.

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  35. pooks
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 18:36:31

    Thanks, Janine. I saw that. I disapprove heartily, to be sure.

    I just don’t equate it with some of the truly horrendous author behaviour I’ve seen. It’s on the mild end of the spectrum. Would it stop me from reading him if I didn’t already? Maybe. But I really do love these books and the many female characters and PoC in them and the London setting. I’m just happy he’s not on the OSC end of the spectrum because then I would definitely stop reading him.

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  36. Michelle
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 19:02:10

    I wouldn’t really call Jonathan a perfectly nice commenter, he called Aaronovitch an insensitive jerk. I can’t stand people who can dish it out but whine when they are answered in kind.

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  37. Janine
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 19:52:22

    @pooks: It’s a personal attack on a reader who IMO was trying to help Aaronovitch understand why others were mad at him.

    @Michelle: No, what Jonathan said was:

    I’d certainly consider the comments of a piece about how authors shouldn’t pull rank on interpretations of their own work to be a place where authors should tread lightly lest they be seen as insensitive jerks *cough*

    Telling someone he is being seen as an insensitive jerk, or even that he’s behaving like a jerk, isn’t the same as saying he is a jerk. I actually saw Jonathan M. as someone who was trying to kindly point out to Aarnovitch that he wasn’t coming across well as a way of helping him.

    Before that, at The Book Smugglers discussion and later at Strange Horizons, Ben Aaronovitch came across as someone who was clueless and lacking sensitivity to reader boundaries. He commented on Ana’s review of his own works, and again when the comments he made at The Book Smugglers were invoked in the Strange Horizons op-ed, and it took him a long time to understand that he was invading a reader space in a way that the communities would not welcome at both of these sites.

    Jonathan was IMO trying to explain him that he needed to be more aware of how his presence during a reader discussion of his works or his invasion of reader spaces was in fact intrusive. I thought Jonathan was actually very patient with him, all things considered, and did not deserve to be called an idiot for his troubles.

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  38. JessP
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 19:56:43

    @Christine:

    Ditto on Carla Kelly. I love her writing, and I’ve always wished she had a wider following, and better publishing support. Plus, she was personally very gracious to me years ago, and I’ve never forgotten how very nice she was. I hope her husband makes a full recovery.

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  39. pooks
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 20:01:14

    @Janine:

    I agree with your assessment, Janine. I don’t defend what he said. I think he was largely clueless and then out of frustration crossed the line into outright boorishness. I do not approve. But I also don’t rank it up there with racist or homophobic or other behaviours that I would consider deal-breakers.

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  40. Janine
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 21:52:36

    @pooks: Yes, there are definitely worse boors and outright bigots. Still, I’m not sure I’ll be able to enjoy his work in the same way, even if I try.

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  41. Wahoo Suze
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 23:16:22

    So I patron local businesses that support my community

    OT pedantry: “patron” is a noun. The verb is “patronize”. I’ve seen patron used as a verb in a few places lately, and it’s hitting my grammar nazi buttons.

    Also, “hate” is a verb. The noun is “hatred.” I realize that’s changing due to common usage, and I hate that.

    /pedantry

    Back on topic, my union has a rule that, if we buy swag (keychains, pens, t-shirts, what have you), we have to buy them from union shops. Which only makes sense, really. But it’s often hard to bypass the super-cheap, non-union, sweatshop-produced sources for more expensive but more ethical ones, and it makes us seriously think about how badly we want or need that swag.

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  42. Daniela
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 03:55:27

    @Wahoo Suze:

    Hm, it always strikes me as very strange or odd that someone who claims to be rather pendantic about language/grammar then goes and refers to themselves as a “nazi”. I would expect someone who’s pendantic about langauge to have a certain awareness of the term “nazi”, where it comes from, and what it, even today, stands for. But maybe that’s just me.

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  43. Angela
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 07:23:04

    I really love that we can all come here and discuss, and disagree. This is one reason this is a favorite blog of mine. There are plenty of businesses I won’t support because I don’t agree with their views – it’s, like you said, not that I don’t think they have a right to their view, but I don’t want my hard-earned money going to support something that’s so anathema to me.

    Totally off-topic now…Darlynne said: I avoid skin and hair care products that are tested on animals.

    This is really only peripherally directed at this comment – I see this statement a lot, and just had to comment. I understand what you’re saying, and I said it for years. Practiced it even. Then I learned something – just because a product says it’s not tested on animals doesn’t mean anything. 99% of products (honestly, I believe 100% is more accurate, but I’ll leave room for that slight possibility that there is something out there I’m not aware of) that say this can get away with saying it because THEY don’t test on animals. The reason they don’t have to? Because other companies have already tested these ingredients together on animals. They’re already approved/tested/verified. It’s all been tested before, somewhere, by someone, on animals. The company that says they don’t test on animals – well they can say that because someone before them did.

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  44. pooks
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 07:25:23

    @janine, understood, and an appropriate example of the subject of the post.

    @wahoo suze, my husband and I haven’t shopped at Walmart in fifteen years or longer, and do buy American made when possible. As you say, it sometimes means buying less [but how much do we really need?] or not buying at all.

    As for Ben Aaronovich, I see both sides. I understand why people fall on either side of the debate, and don’t judge people who fall on the side of avoiding his work. I certainly avoid the work of writers whose transgressions offend me. I also find in the case of some actors, musicians and athletes, I am able to put aside my personal feelings and still find great pleasure in their performances. It does depend on the transgression.

    After reading a lot of different things last night, my personal reflection is one of sorrow for Aaronovich. I understand those who don’t agree. I’ve made my own missteps on the internet, have accidentally or cluelessly offended, or even on occasion felt justified in being a bit of an ass. Fortunately these things happened behind the scenes, for the most part. Last night I read his post on his blog where he’s withdrawing from fandom, though he’d enjoyed being part of fandom. He’d enjoyed being a ‘fan’ and getting to be part of the discussions and debates and joys. Maybe it should be more obvious to authors that the only way to truly participate as a fan is to take off the author hat and be a pure fan. And you can’t take off the author hat when it’s your own work being discussed.

    I’ve always seen the advice to never respond to reviews because it’s a minefield, even if you think you’re being benign. But until this, I had never truly understood the feeling that readers have about authors ‘directing’ or ‘encroaching’ and it has been educational for me. Since I agree with Janine that Aaronovich was clueless and seemed to be attempting to define exactly what he was doing wrong [with a chip on his shoulder, to be sure], I regret that he didn’t pick up the clue a beat sooner, and perhaps find a way to salvage the situation as a learning experience that allowed him to keep being a fanboy where appropriate. Oh well, we all have our own learning curves.

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  45. Janine
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 10:18:08

    @pooks:

    Maybe it should be more obvious to authors that the only way to truly participate as a fan is to take off the author hat and be a pure fan. And you can’t take off the author hat when it’s your own work being discussed.

    Yeah, that’s the problem. It’s better in many cases IMO for authors to not even read reviews and conversations about their own books, if they can’t not take it personally. But I think if authors do read them, they need to refrain from responding in any way.

    I’ve always seen the advice to never respond to reviews because it’s a minefield, even if you think you’re being benign. But until this, I had never truly understood the feeling that readers have about authors ‘directing’ or ‘encroaching’ and it has been educational for me.

    I think I’ve understood it for a long time, because before I was writing romance, I participated at romance forums as a reader. Once, on the AAR boards, I made a comment on something I found confusing in a certain author’s book. That author and her fangirls showed up and while she was probably trying to have a discussion, she came across as defensive, and the fangirls came across as even more so, like how dare I say what I had said. I don’t know if it was intentional on their part, but it felt like intimidation to me. I stood my ground and explained what I meant, but it wasn’t easy for me.

    I had been on the other side of the equation before that, defending an author’s writing choices when that author showed up in the middle of a discussion of her book on a board I participated in regularly, but after the incident I described above, I never did it again. Readers should have the freedom to discuss all aspects of a book, including its weaknesses, without having to worry about the author’s feelings.

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  46. pooks
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 10:26:22

    @Janine:
    Alas, I am ancient enough to have begun writing and reading romance long before there were forums to participate in, and that’s all I’m saying about that! ;-)

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  47. Darlynne
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 12:06:16

    @Angela: I mentioned animal testing solely as an example of a boycott that is not censorship but a personal choice for philosophical reasons.

    In answer to your comment: I base my buying choices on information provided by the National Anti-Vivisection Society. It’s a constant struggle, but they are clear on what companies and products are really cruelty-free.

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  48. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity doesn’t think it’s necessary to catch up on all of our missed rain in one night
    Oct 04, 2013 @ 02:08:55

    […] Dear Author on how personal boycotts are different from censorship. Some options if you’re looking for a replacement for Goodreads. […]

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