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Thursday Midday Links: Authors & publishers behaving badly

Is something in the water? We start off the new year with a rumble between PC Cast fans and Laurell K Hamilton fans over a slur against Hamilton’s fashion sense the Cast writing team integrated into their NYT #1 bestselling book, Awakened.

Now we have Mills & Boon authors descending on Teach Me Tonight taking issue with the critique of the new M&B line, Riva, posted by Laura Vivianco. In Kelly Hunter’s With This Fling, a Riva launch title, we are treated to a woman who decries feminism and gets “accidentally” pregnant through engaging in unsafe sex with a stranger. Riva is billed as fresh, modern and “sassy”.

As I mentioned earlier, this is only one book and one has to be careful about extrapolating from a small sample, but I’m nonetheless left wondering how often “sassy” in the Riva line will mean “prone to exhibiting ‘Power-based selective feminism’ and ending up accidentally pregnant.”

Trish Morey, Anne Gracie, and a couple others, come in to take the commenters and Vivianco to task. Trish Morey called out AGTigress who rightly pointed out that making a 25 year old an associate professor strained the bounds of credulity:

Yes, I’ll admit it now I’m also a romance author and I know Kelly Hunter both personally and professionally (and yes, AgTigress, you can rest assured Kelly is a professional, unlike your comment), and no, Kelly didn’t put me up to this. She’d no doubt be horrified. I just thought a little balance was called for.

Morey goes on to suggest that readers should see the anti feminist statement as a throwaway line (although never comes out and defends the unprotected sex with a stranger) and that those who argue differently are suggesting readers are not very savvy:

Readers are actually very savvy at working things out and knowing when a character is teasing as opposed to being deadly serious. I do believe it’s a mistake to underestimate romance readers that way.

For the record, I read and enjoyed With This Fling, but I never got the sense that the heroine was teasing about her lack of support for feminism. Apparently I am one of those unsavvy readers.

Anne Gracie doesn’t like the criticism because these books are fun and flirty and are not meant for serious inspection:

But more to the point, these are romances — fun, escapist fantasies, and this RIVA launch book is fresh, original and funny. I mean — for heaven’s sake — the heroine invents a fiance, and then disposes of him with rumours of “long pig” (cannibalism) — how serious do you think this is meant to be? It’s a comedy, not a realistic treatise on the Status of Young Female Academics Today.

Anne Gracie

I think that Mills & Boon authors should appreciate that their books are taken seriously and that we readers view them as authentic literary figures instead of people who are writing throwaway trash. But maybe they prefer to think of themselves as writers of work that are undeserving of critique and that their work is so lacking in substance as to be unable to withstand scrutiny. Can’t have it both ways. And really, Teach Me Tonight is a blog run by academics inspecting the vagaries of the romance genre. Do you really expect them not to flyspec a book?   It’s like going to Five Thirty Eight and complaining about all the talk about statistics.

Update: Decadent Publishing claims the following:

We do not (and did not) share any purchaser information. Outside sources approached me with the claim that one of our authors was being personally targeted and by whom…not vice versa. We have a policy at Decadent that our authors will not review one another.

I asked a follow up as to why the unhappy author was accusing the reviewer of piracy and the other accusations of rifling through the sales data for personal information but no response has been given yet.

Update x 2:   Decadent claims that it never provided the reviewer’s real name to the Enders.   I have asked the Enders to contact me.

Next up in the What the hell category is Decadent Publishing. Apparently an author for Decadent Publishing co blogs with someone else and reviews books. They reviewed a Decadent Publishing book by Graylin Fox and gave it a poor grade. Fox took to Twitter and accused the reviewers of pirating the books because Decadent (according to the bloggers) matched up the purchaser records to the reviewing records and informed the author that the reviewers had a) not been on the official review list and therefore not real reviewers and b) there was no record of any of the reviewers purchasing the book from Decadent.

What. the. hell. That is a serious invasion of privacy. What you purchase from a company should not be shared with a third party, at least not without a subpeona and an opportunity for the purchaser to take legal action to quash that subpeona.

Decadent Publishing posted on another thread that the author who reviewed the Fox book might want to be released from her contract:

Decadent Publishing said…

A question?

Would you like out of your contract with Decadent Publishing since you don’t seem to respect either them or their authors?

I guess buyer beware for those who buy direct from Decadent. This is one reason I try to never buy from small presses and only from the larger corporate retailers. I have some confidence that Amazon isn’t going to be checking my purchasing records on behalf of some angry author out to exert some petty agenda.


Nora Roberts has joined the millionaire club at Kindle., Inc., (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced that Nora Roberts has become the third author to sell over 1 million Kindle books, becoming the third member of the "Kindle Million Club." As of yesterday, Nora Roberts has sold 1,170,539 Kindle books under her name and her pseudonym J.D. Robb. The Kindle Million Club recognizes authors whose books have sold over 1 million paid copies in the Kindle Store ( Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium Trilogy, was the first author to hit the 1 million mark. James Patterson, author of more than 65 books that span the genres of suspense, fantasy, romance, historical fiction and children's, was the second author to join the Kindle Million Club.


The Young Adult Library Services Association released their best of YA fiction list.   Even though the list is called 2011, it contains all books published in 2010.   It’s a nice list for those who are struggling with a) what to read or b) what to buy for a teen.


While not directly related to books, at least one survey shows that the gap between consumer expectations and publisher understanding of those is huge and that publishers will either have to change consumer expectations or meet them:

The good news for publishers is there’s a consensus that digital is the future. Over three-quarters of the publishing industry professionals surveyed believe that technology is driving publishing, and slightly less than three-quarters think that technology can “make or break a publication.

The bad news for publishers is that as important as technology is, you simply can’t ignore the expectations of your customers and hope to succeed — even if you nail the technology.

That leaves publishers with two options: change consumer expectations, or find a way to meet them. Chances are the publishers who do the latter will get to where they need to go a lot sooner.


Finally, I was sent this fascinating blog post by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing.     Hyatt goes through and explains why ebook prices have not dropped dramatically, stating that many of the publishing costs are not eliminated by the move to digital.   In conclusion, though, Hyatt gives away a big position and that is under the 9.99 price model, his company is making the SAME AMOUNT in digital as they are selling hardcovers at retail.

So far in our experience at Thomas Nelson, the elimination of manufacturing and distribution costs are being offset by retail price reductions and the three additional costs I have outlined. The good news is that we are making about the same margins, regardless of whether we sell the book in physical form or digital.

In reality, if the margin is the same at the reduced price of $9.99, the efficiencies gained by going digital are quite meaningful.   Hyatt doesn’t address the zero unit cost of reproduction of the digital file v. the print book or the issue of mass market pricing (wherein publishers must be making out like bandits with the change to 70% revenue without the corresponding retail price reductions).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. jennifer armintrout
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 11:51:27

    Man, even I think it’s tacky to trash someone’s wardrobe in fiction.

  2. jennifer armintrout
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 11:54:39

    And authors, you need to not be trashing feminism in fiction, either. Feminism is the reason we get to call ourselves authors instead of having Don Draper types pat us on the head and tell us that women should be tending to their families instead of wasting their time writing books.

  3. blodeuedd
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 11:55:03

    *shakes head* Decadent decadent wtf

  4. Ros
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:01:46

    I don’t want to open the whole debate again, but I think it’s a bit misleading to describe the heroine in With This Fling as having unsafe sex with a stranger. She’s met the guy on at least three previous occasions, she knows his professional history, and she’s just spent the entire day at a family party with his parents, aunts, uncles and teenage crush. So yes, they should have had used a condom, but I honestly don’t think you can call the guy a stranger at that point. It’s not like they just hooked up in a bar.

  5. Cindy
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:15:24

    I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate where Decadent Publishing is concerned. Yes, I think they were wrong to share the sales information IF they gave out actual names or personal information about people who had purchased their books. However, I don’t think they were wrong to call out the author who wrote the review. Does no one else but me think that it was just a little bit of a conflict of interest for the author to review books released by her own publisher? To me, it takes away some of the credibility of the reviews, because 1. an author might feel pressured to give good reviews for books released by her publisher and 2. a disgruntled author might give bad reviews based on her feelings about the publisher or the author rather than her feelings about the book.

  6. Shiloh
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:29:12

    @Cindy: Cindy, personally… yes, I think it’s a conflict of interest for the author to review books of her own publisher, but I dunno if she did.

    However, DP screwed up, IMO, by addressing it publicly. BIG FRICKING mistake, IMO, there, because now they look like a bully.

    They could have addressed it privately and if they felt it was a conflict of interest or if it was already a breach of contract, released the author from her contract-private, professional and if the author had a hissy fit, she looks like the fool, while DP handled it as professionals.

    This way? They didn’t. They look like they are stomping away from a game that wasn’t going their way, IMO. Again, just my opinion.

    The worst part, though, wasn’t just acting like fools. It’s the release of personal info. If they’ve done that? Oh… man. I can’t even begin to describe how appalled I am over that.

  7. Chicklet
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:29:19

    The story about Decadent Publishing is a little gobsmacking. It would be one thing for Fox to comment on the negative review or to post a blog entry about it, but to mine purchase data is beyond the pale. The accounting office at Decadent behaved very unprofessionally by releasing the info to anyone, IMO.

  8. Julia Broadbooks
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:34:03

    @Ros: Thanks for pointing that out Ros. I wouldn’t say that either.

  9. Mireya
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:43:09

    I am sorry, but as much as I find Decadent Publishing’s behavior a complete and utter embarrassing showing of lack of professionalism, not to mention how juvenile its owners are, truth is that I have to question why couldn’t the reviewer pick for review something published by another company that she does NOT write for. It does not matter how much she has the right to review whatever she wants and to give what is a personal opinion on a story written by someone else. This all comes down to a matter of perception and I would even dare say, common sense. This was crap waiting to hit the fan. I agree that authors should have the right to express their opinions about other author’s work they may have read, but it will always be seen by a lot of people as a review colored by other motivations.

    This is one of those situations in which my first reaction was, “What was she thinking” (as it pertained to the author reviewer) and “What a bunch of unprofessional asshat bullies” as it pertains to the publisher. Will be interesting to see how long they last in the business… unless all of their authors happen to be 1-2 people namely the owners of the operation … which I strongly suspect may be the case with the author of the story that started this… I have dealt with many publishers over the past 8 years, and not a one, not even the biggest asshats in the business, ever pulled something like this, which definitely make me wonder about the sort of influence that author seems to have on the owners…

  10. HelenB
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:47:10

    I believe the clothing comment was about the fictional character Anita Blake, not the author. Free Speech any one?!

  11. Triciab
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 12:58:58

    The Decadent Publishing thing is absurd. Separate from the invasion or privacy, big-brother-esque behavior, their investigation proves nothing. Although these are ebooks, you can loan an e-reader or laptop without distributing or copying a file in a way that is illegal or questionable.

  12. Ridley
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 13:02:59


    Be that as it may be, is it really the publisher’s place, or even in the publisher’s interests, to publicly call the reviewer/blog out? Is that professional behavior?

    As for the kerfluffle over Riva at Teach Me Tonight – just more of that peculiarly feminine inability to handle criticism without taking it personally. Poor form on the authors’ part.

    The authors’ see to me to show the greatest contempt for romance readers’ collective intelligence. Their efforts to shush the critical voices says to me that they don’t trust readers to look to closely at what they’re reading, that they have us under some sort of ignorance spell they don’t want broken.

  13. Nadine
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 13:06:32

    Um, I think that review was a group review. Done by at least four people. Only one of them is a Decadent author.

  14. SAO
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 13:18:54

    So, the margins are the same on digital as physical. However, the extra costs of digital are one time only costs, while 100 paper cost 100 times as much to ship and store as 1 paper book. Hence, Hyatt must be expecting margins to rise as purchases shift to digital.

    The other thing I note is the costs that he listed included:
    * Dealing with graphs, illustrations, footnotes, etc. Most fiction lacks those.
    * Technical details like converting formats, checking page turning, and bookstore upload formats are problems that could be easily solved with the application of a little software.

    In short, he saying e-book fiction at $9.99 is quite profitable for his company.

  15. Bess
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 13:38:11

    It might be polite to avoid reviewing another book from your publisher (and safer, obviously), but disloyal? There should be more freedom of opinion and speech than that.

  16. Sweetzombieducky
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 13:51:26

    The “you’re a pirate!” line is not new for some Decadent authors. In the past at least one of their authors has gone after those who give negative reviews (not necessarily to their Decadent titles) accusing the reviewer, who is actually a reader and bought the book with their own money, of being a pirate and pulled the same “I’m going to check with my publisher’s records to prove it” crap. Apparently the stupidity is catching …

  17. Tasha
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 14:01:59

    I’m not sure how I feel about authors reviewing books from their publishers. Does this become less of an issue based on the size of the publisher? I mean, a place like Decadent can only have so many editors, whereas a publisher like, say, Random House will have a lot more. At what point does the conflict of interest become a non-issue?

    I certainly don’t trust ratings sites, like Amazon or Goodreads, where authors routinely give their own books (and those of other authors at their publishing houses) five stars. Ratings become worthless to me as a consumer when they’re being manipulated by authors and publishers.

  18. The Octopus Gallery
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 14:11:12

    Did Fox delete the tweets with the accusations? I couldn’t find them in her stream.

  19. Mireya
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 14:47:57

    @Sweetzombieducky: Or rather, their publisher is enabling the stupidity, which further makes me think at least some of those authors are the owners writing under different pen names for the company.

  20. Mireya
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 14:50:09

    @Tasha: Which is precisely why I don’t spend a dime on any book that all it receives is glowing reviews. I always look for the negative reviews first, and by negative I mean those that actually express what didn’t work for the reader. I think most savvy readers, know how to take those “glowing” reviews.

  21. Michelle
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:09:40

    Just had to point out that Megan Whalen Turner’s A Conspiracy of Kings made the best of 2010 YA list. It is such a wonderful series.

    Nothing like an author touting their own work as throw away trash, and ganging up on critical reviews. Keep silent and appear foolish, open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  22. Robin
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:23:05

    What I wonder is if the folks who suggest the genre isn’t worth paying close critical attention to are the same ones who complain that the genre (written largely by and for women) gets no respect from mainstream readers and media.

    As for that Hyatt piece:

    In short, he saying e-book fiction at $9.99 is quite profitable for his company.

    Exactly. Which on one level makes me understand why pubs would be anxious to hold on to those REALLY overpriced hardcover sales. But on another level, it makes that push to slow down digital adoption baffling to me. Although I’ve begun to see simultaneous, contradictory logic as central to trad publishing business models anyway.

    As for the Decadent Pub situation, I have always been wary of purchasing directly from small publishers, and this situation certainly hasn’t changed my mind.

    I’m not sure I understand the “conflict of interest” arguments forwarded here, though. Authors are NOT publisher employees.

    Further, if it’s a conflict of interest for an independent author to review independent authors who just happened to be under contract to the same publisher, why is it not a COI for publisher A to contract a book written by an author who is simultaneously under contract with publisher B? That is, it’s okay for authors to be under simultaneous contract with different publishers but not okay for them to review books from other authors under contract with those same pubs? I don’t really get how that squares.

  23. DS
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:24:44

    I don’t understand why it is any worse to make fun of other authors than any other celebrity. I thought about that yesterday when someone thought it was wrong to make a comment about a fellow author. It wasn’t a defamatory statement. Maybe LKH will slam them back in her next book.

  24. joanne
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:25:32

    Nothing says fresh, modern and “sassy” in a romance book more than unprotected sex and an unplanned pregnancy.

    On a personal note: I just took two boxes of Nora Roberts books to my local library. Love, love, love having ebooks that don’t need to be dusted and moved around.

  25. Robin
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:51:11

    I wish I could locate my copy of LaVyrle Spencer’s Spring Fancy, which was the first Harlequin Temptation, published in, IIRC, 1984. There is a spiel on the newly launched Temptation line that, I think, echoes the spiel about the Riva line (something about the “modern woman” and bolder sexuality).

    I can’t speak for the Riva books, but I can say that even after 25+ years, that Spencer book still seems very ballsy to me: infidelity on the part of the heroine, class difference between hero and heroine, heroine has a career and is an athlete rather than one of those pale, bird-like creatures that seem to populate a substantial segment of the genre, and there’s even a suggestion at one point that the heroine’s fiance (they’re planning their wedding when she meets the hero) might be better suited to the heroine’s mother. Man, I love that book.

  26. Isobel Carr
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:56:14

    Does no one else but me think that it was just a little bit of a conflict of interest for the author to review books released by her own publisher?

    It's a case of “damned if we do; damned if we don't”. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've seen romance authors knocked for either not being willing to openly and honestly review their peers' work, or for only reviewing books that they like. But if you review something you don’t like, you’re an unprofessional mean girl.

    @Robin: What Robin says. I was going to comment more, but Robin said it all so perfectly.

  27. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 16:00:39

    Absolutely, couldn’t agree more. I review, but I don’t review books from a publisher or line that I’m with, and I don’t review books written by friends (or I’ll state upfront that we’re friends).

    I do think the publisher has right of reply, and this is from someone who has gone through two bad situations with publishers. I think in this case, it’s because of the nature of the reviewer to the reviewed, and is exactly why I won’t do it.

    I was sent a Decadent story for review, and I quite liked it, but I can’t see me putting a review up in the near future. I just don’t want to get involved in these things, and there’s enough smoke for concern.

  28. Tasha
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 16:16:29

    @Mireya: Agreed. I also don’t like review sites that post only positive reviews. If I don’t know the reviewer’s likes AND dislikes, how can I determine whether the reviewer’s taste is similar or different to mine, and in what ways?

  29. Sofia Harper
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 16:23:53

    Re: Decadent Pub.

    Some of the unspoken rules just give me a headache. Quite frankly I don’t see the issue if the author pointed out what she didn’t like about the book. As in not a bad book just not a book for me. Now if she went ahead and said, “Did anyone even edit this dry, unimaginative tome?” Then yeah, you’re setting yourself up to get flack.

    @ Robin Again it goes back to the nice girl mentally getting mixed up with being professional. I think it will always be the case, which is disheartening because I’d rather have a level headed debate any day.

  30. Tasha
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 16:37:04

    Question re: Decadent Pub.

    Did the Enders go back and update the 30 Dec “best/worst of 2010” entry, or is the comment about Graylin Fox referring to a different incident, one that occurred before the review of Coming Home was posted on 1 January?

    Worst Author behaving badly moment – Graylin Fox during her Twitter fest about an editor. Suck it up, Sunshine and get over it. In the real world, you actually have to do the work. And to all those who jumped on the band wagon – you don’t know both sides of the story.

  31. MaryK
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 17:18:34

    I’ve never considered the privacy aspect of ordering from small companies. I’ve considered the “will they steal my credit card info” question and decided to risk it (because I never use my debit card online). Privacy never occurred to me. Probably because I’m not a reviewer and there’s no reason for anyone to care. But still, yikes!

  32. Kaetrin
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 18:23:21

    Go Nora!!

  33. Jane
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 18:34:44

    @joanne The unplanned pregnancy is a really discordant note. I just don’t know a lot of “modern” women who have unplanned pregnancies (or maybe they do and just don’t keep the baby).

  34. Angela James
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 19:32:22

    wherein publishers must be making out like bandits with the change to 70% revenue

    Where did the 70% revenue figure come from? Most publishers don’t get 70% revenue.

    Re: authors reviewing other authors from their publishers.

    Is it only negative reviews they shouldn’t write, or any reviews? That would mean no authors can speak positively of other authors’ books from the same publisher? So authors are really only allowed to recommend–or not–books from other publishers, in that case?

    That’s…disappointing. As a publisher, I want our authors to read our books. In fact, I hope they’re reading our books, otherwise I have to wonder why they’d want to publish with us. And if they’re reading, I hope they’re telling people about them. Every piece of word of mouth is one more “touch” and another chance a name or title might stick with a reader.

  35. Jane
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 19:40:06

    @Angela James Hyatt refers to it. 70% is the agency pricing cut.

  36. Angela James
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 19:52:31

    Ahh, the agency pubs. FWIW, there’s also another subset of publishers who get that from Amazon, but the majority of pubs don’t get 70% revenue, though I think it’s easy not realize that.

  37. Jane
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 19:56:18

    @Angela James I think the books that are sold via the wholesale market are mostly reasonable. I feel comfortable paying $4.99 for most books. It’s prices above that which always give me pause.

  38. Angela James
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 20:05:22

    I don’t usually stop to think until the price gets over $7 (for a novel-length book). If it’s a new release. Old backlist titles? I get a little ticked at prices over $6.

  39. sarah mayberry
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 20:43:55

    I just want to say a big WOOT! that Nora Roberts is the 3rd author into the Amazon Kindle Millionaires club or whatever it’s called. She’s one of us, and it’s freakin’ awesome that romance got her up there. Go Nora. Looking forward to seeing other romance writers join the club.

  40. Suze
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 21:46:52

    Hyatt says that the costs saved by not printing are only about 12%. Given that the restaurant industry’s average profit margin is 12%, I don’t think that’s anything to sneeze at.

    What I got from the article and comments (besides that he must lurk on this blog) was that in publishing, profitable books subsidize unprofitable ones and therefore prices will never really make sense to anyone, because they need to pad the profits to cover the bombs.

    Antifeminist women are a severe irritant to me. They need to develop some critical thinking skills, and read some history. Including current history. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

  41. Niveau
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 22:38:50

    @Ridley: I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that you were joking when you said that the author responses on TMT were “just more of that peculiarly feminine inability to handle criticism without taking it personally.” Seriously, “peculiarly feminine”?

  42. Ridley
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 23:19:09


    Nope. Women are terrible at it as a rule. You never hear men trotting out the “if you can’t say anything nice…” line.

  43. FunnyGirl
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 23:34:08

    I find it sad that comedy is being sort-of equated with throwaway trash. Comedy can be an amazingly effective weapon to make very important philosophical points on many subjects, feminism being one of them. There are good and bad comedies, just as there are good and bad “serious” books. Good, effective comedy is damn hard to do.

  44. Sami
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 00:37:20

    You never hear men trotting out the “if you can't say anything nice…” line.

    I think the tendency to take criticism personally is a trait peculiar to those with self-esteem issues–people of either sex. If anything I think men are more sensitive to complaints than women. Just saying.

    Nobody will ever take the romance genre seriously unless we look at it critically, as blogs like teach me tonight and this one do. The criticism should be taken with as much grace as the praise, so we don’t get labelled hysterical females. We need to disect the genre to understand what’s good and bad about it.

  45. Sami
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 00:39:40

    Sorry, didn’t meant to shout that last comment.

  46. Ridley
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 00:51:55

    Well, maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “peculiar,” as it happens with men too, but women are especially averse to criticism, both dealing and taking it.

  47. Lynn S.
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 01:11:26

    You peaked my interest with the Teach Me Tonight/Riva dustup. I hope that most people realize that Riva is only a way of merchandising the same product to a younger audience. I would guess that the marketing and research departments are a major part of the Mills & Boon/Harlequin machinery. Give the heroine a Twitter account and mad texting skills and she's modern and sassy, give her a figure straight out of the gaming or Anime worlds and she's modern and sexy. Also, the flirty, “young” voice of Liz Fielding. Really?

    On the subject of accidental pregnancies, they are a fact of modern life. Divorce actions versus paternity actions run about 4 to 1 where I live and many marriages are still of the “shotgun” variety, so just because you know about birth control, safe sex practices, and STDs doesn't mean you always fully protect yourself.

    I'm curious now to read the Hunter book. I wonder, based on the outtakes at Teach Me Tonight, if there might a bit of subversion at play. I've never noticed that in Hunter's work before, but I'm definitely interested in reading the work as a whole. Hunter can write flip and funny (nothing says I Love You quite like a funeral vase) but I find her a better writer when she plays thing a bit more serious. Working within the constraints of the line, she is one of their better writers. As for her character's apparent misunderstanding of feminism, does anyone ever understand any type of ism. Also, I'm not sure that the category lines of Mills & Boon/Harlequin is the place for romance fiction to make its stand for literary acceptance and it seems a rather easy target for Vivanco. Interesting though and anything that gets people thinking can't be all bad. Yikes, it is way past time to get some sleep.

  48. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 03:32:10

    I'm not sure that the category lines of Mills & Boon/Harlequin is the place for romance fiction to make its stand for literary acceptance and it seems a rather easy target for Vivanco.

    I’m currently writing a book about the Harlequin Mills & Boon romance in which I’m arguing that it should be taken seriously as a literary form so I sincerely hope that “the category lines of Mills & Boon/Harlequin” are “the place for romance fiction to make its stand for literary acceptance.”

    I’ve also written an essay (which has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Popular Culture) about feminist issues in the Modern/Presents line and the former Romance line (which has now been split in the UK so that part of it is now “Cherish” and part is “Riva”). While writing that I had email conversations with authors who described themselves as feminists, and some of the heroines I wrote about described themselves as feminists.

    I hope that background provides ample evidence both that I don’t in any way regard Mills & Boon/Harlequin as a “rather easy target” and that I’m aware of the variety that exists within HM&Bs with regard to feminism (as well as with regards to many other matters).

  49. Tweets that mention Thursday Midday Links: Authors & publishers behaving badly | Dear Author --
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 03:53:05

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Has, Sarah Frantz, Erin O'Brien and others. Erin O'Brien said: Wow wow! So much author/publisher bad behavior here. Also: if you're going the indie pub route, do your research. […]

  50. Jessica
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 06:28:24

    Unplanned pregnancy may not be fresh or sassy, but it is very real. 50% of pregnancies in the United States in any given year are unplanned.

    Non white women and undereducated women are far more likely to have unplanned pregnancies. Poor women are 5 times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than affluent women, largely due to lack of sex education (fed sex ed programs having been slashed) and access to birth control.

    It makes perfect sense to me that a woman in the US would have an unplanned pregnancy when, after all, there are 3 million of them a year.

    It makes slightly less sense that a highly educated white woman would have one … but it still happens more often than you might think.

  51. Angela James
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 07:26:15

    *raising hand* I’ll out myself as a white, college-educated woman who had a completely, utterly, could-not-have-been-more-unplanned pregnancy when I was almost thirty. Yeah, it happens to smart people, adultswho know better. (Though I’m sure some of you would like to argue the “smart” part now that you know that!)

    You know, it’s odd, because before this conversation, it never once occurred to me to be either embarrassed or ashamed that it happened. Sheepish for sure. But I’ve never felt it was something that I should hide or keep a secret. This conversation makes me think I should be more shamed (though 7 years since it happened, it’s a little late for that, I think)

  52. Jane
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 07:54:43

    @Angela James The issue of the unplanned pregnancy is in relation to the “fresh, sassy, modern” promise of the RIVA line. Of the four RIVA titles, I think three of them contain unplanned pregnancy storylines. Not one of the women think about abortion, the morning after pill. If abortion is brought up, it is with disgust and dismay, as only the most dirty and horrible people would ever entertain the thought for a moment. The women are on the pill, not because they have an active sex life, but for health reasons only.

    This may probably does represent some segment of the modern, young woman in her 20s but it is a) an overrepresentation if you think of all the stories that contain the unplanned pregnancy line and b) represents no change or differentiation from the existing M&B offerings. These attitudes are pervasive throughout the M&B Modern line.

    I’m sorry if my comments have caused you consternation; however, that was not the intent. The intent was to discuss whether the book read by myself and Laura Vivianco (and the entire RIVA line) was really living up to the promise of something different. Having read three of the four launch titles, the promise of something different hasn’t been fulfilled for me. The heroine archetypes along with the plot lines and emotional conflict are all in existing lines being sold by M&B (and Harlequin) today.

  53. Ros
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 07:58:47

    @Jane: I just don’t think that the RIVA line ever did promise something different. All the explanations I’ve seen of it are clear that it is just a rebranding of some books which used to be in the Romance line and some which used to be Modern Heat (aka Presents). I am enjoying RIVA because it has brought together my favourite authors from two distinct lines, but I’m not expecting their books to be any different from before. In the US and in other countries these books will still be sold in the traditional lines. I’m not sure where you got the idea that this was supposed to offer something new and different?

  54. Jane
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 08:03:14

    @Ros From comments here at DA and elsewhere as well as M&B’s own marketing. I have no problem with the RIVA line. I won’t be buying the books direct from M&B, though, because they are too expensive for me to read unless something is a real standout. What point I was trying to make is that RIVA line is no different than what is already in existence and being offering by M&B and HQE through their category lines and thus it isn’t something that I will be seeking out to read (and pay a premium for which for me, it is a premium being a US buyer).

    As I wrote in the comments over at Teach Me Tonight, I liked Kelly Hunter’s voice. With This Fling has a dreamy quality to the narrative that I enjoy. It had almost a retro quality to it. But measured under the metric of “fresh, sassy, modern”, I thought the book didn’t live up to that billing.

  55. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity from the land of ice and snow
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 08:45:52

    […] news and links from Dear Author, ReadReactReview, and Book Lovers […]

  56. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 09:08:42

    @Angela James: I’ll raise my hand, too. Twice. Both of my pregnancies were unplanned and I’m thankful for it. Having children is such an immense, terrifying undertaking. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a mother before my first pregnancy. I probably would have waited until I was settled in my career, more financially stable, or some immeasurably prefect timing that doesn’t exist.

    I’m not claiming my situation is modern or sassy. But let’s not assume that all young career women make sensible decisions only, especially when it pertains to matters of the heart.

  57. Finrael
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 09:33:58

    The pricing schemes are driving me nuts.

    It aggravates me that the Jim Butcher books are now $9.99 to purchase, even the old ones, and that they offer a bundle but the price reduction on the bundle isn’t even significant. I’m talking about the kindle edition, but then I looked at the hard copy on amazon today and they want $9.99 for those also.

    I wanted to replace my hard copies with ebooks, but now with the price increase that won’t be possible.

    They apparently bundled the series and didn’t even offer an index (for the Kindle version). Not offering an index, in my opinion, is the biggest crime in e-books.

  58. seeley deborn
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 10:00:26

    Riva: So, did these women with their “unplanned” pregnancies end up with their baby daddies? I’m not going to read Riva, but if at least one of those women didn’t end up as a single mother or with some other guy it seems they’re presenting a patter of behaviour that implies getting knocked up will secure you a man.

    Fresh and sassy for sure.

  59. Gennita Low
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 10:20:13

    Just wondering, why should any feminist “be graceful” about taking criticism? If anything, a feminist should feel even more free to say “f&%k you and your literary analysis, this book is about nothing deep” without caring, and not worry about hurting feelings.

    Not that I’m a feminist or anything. Or that the book in question isn’t deep and worthy of being analyzed for feminist theory. But being a feminist doesn’t make one able to control her impulse to respond to criticism.

    What makes me scratch my head sometimes is when the books’ characters are being criticized for their actions, the author has to justify the rightness or wrongness of that act. It mostly happens in romance, because I don’t see fictional murderers’ or fictional spies’ violent choices get the same treatment (“I’m not for murdering!” or “Really, I’m not for rape!”). It’s somewhat disconcerting when authors are compelled to chime in with “I am too a feminist” when it’s the characters that might or might not be so (I realize that sometimes there would be commenters who would throw in a “She writes this crap, she’s probably anti-feminist or have self-esteem issues or is the lowliest form of life, and so will be on my Do Not Buy list forever and ever” which, of course, makes it difficult for the author to sit on her hands while staring at the screen).

  60. Joy
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 10:26:23

    @Jessica: It makes slightly less sense that a highly educated white woman would have one … but it still happens more often than you might think.

    As a highly educated white woman, I might point out, that “unplanned” doesn’t necessarily imply “unwed” or “unwanted.” My unplanned pregnancy happened after 8 years of marriage and a previous child; this pregnancy just happened about a year *sooner* than we’d planned…

  61. Annabel
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 11:03:06

    “What makes me scratch my head sometimes is when the books' characters are being criticized for their actions, the author has to justify the rightness or wrongness of that act.”

    That is a good point Gennita. I do find that romance readers can be very demanding about what kind of characters they expect, and that they can be very judgmental about their actions and choices.

    To be honest, I think it’s starting to result in something I’ve been reading a lot lately, which is the very-soft-and-politically-correct romance novel, where all the heroes & heroines are painstakingly inoffensive and nothing too controversial happens. It is a smart tactic on the part of the author I suppose, giving readers and reviewers less to take umbrage with, but I also think it is limiting to the genre. The contemporaries I’ve been reading lately seem particularly sanitized. There has to be a balance there somewhere.

  62. Jessica
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 11:58:58

    @Joy: @Joy: “As a highly educated white woman, I might point out, that “unplanned” doesn't necessarily imply “unwed” or “unwanted.” My unplanned pregnancy happened after 8 years of marriage and a previous child; this pregnancy just happened about a year *sooner* than we'd planned”

    Right, of course. Reactions to an unplanned pregnancy vary widely, often within the same individual, LOL. And the effects of one on an individual woman’s life vary widely.

    Also, “unplanned” is often defined pretty broadly in social science research, so that anyone who is not actively trying to get pregnant yet does has an “unplanned” pregnancy.

    It seemed to me that a couple of comments suggested that an unplanned pregnancy was not a very contemporary issue, so I just thought it might be helpful to note that it’s very common — indeed, increasingly common, at least through the late ’00s — for women in the US, to have unplanned pregnancies. I wasn’t making a judgment about unplanned pregnancies or the women — including myself, I might add – who have experienced them. If anything, quite the opposite.

    However, as Jane pointed out upthread, the fact that unplanned pregnancy is a very common feature of women’s lives doesn’t have much bearing on how well a particular author explores that narrative in a particular romance novel.

    I mean, look at how common a feature of women’s lives sexual intercourse is, and consider how badly wrong the exploration of that narrative can go…

  63. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 12:04:23

    My sister-in-law had an unplanned pregnancy thanks to the original, only moderately effective Yasmin pill.

  64. Jane
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 12:16:33

    @MaryK I think my inarticulate comment is leading the conversation astray. I believe that unplanned pregnancy is not an uncommon occurrence. What is not common, I believe, and what is represented in romances, not just the RIVA line, but in most romances, is that unplanned pregnancy that comes about as a result of unprotected sex or sex with a relatively unknown person results in a) happiness on the sides of all parties and b) marriage with a wealthy man who generally has participated in the unplanned pregnancy. So the treatment of unplanned pregnancies doesn’t seem to “reflect the life experiences of today's young women, within a chic, glamorous, and usually urban setting” as advertised by the RIVA line. That’s what point I was trying to make, not that unplanned pregnancies are morally wrong in some manner or that they don’t happen.

    Further, I enjoy this trope. I have a subscription to HPs that I pay for monthly and I have reviewed books with this trope several times without problem. My problem is M&B or RIVA standing as an example of the life experiences of today’s young woman and representing that unsafe sex that results in consequences like pregnancy ordinarily result in marriage to a wealthy man who loves them and is the impetus to a happy ever after.

  65. Robin
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 12:18:54

    @Gennita Low:

    Just wondering, why should any feminist “be graceful” about taking criticism? If anything, a feminist should feel even more free to say “f&%k you and your literary analysis, this book is about nothing deep” without caring, and not worry about hurting feelings.

    Okay, I think there are a bunch of things being conflated here, and I have no confidence in my ability to clearly articulate my response, but here goes:

    First, I think it’s really disingenuous to say, on the one hand, “these books are fluff” and not important, etc., and then to show up in a discussion and chastise a reader for not reading a book correctly. Which suggests, at the very least, that the author wants her work to be taken seriously. IMO it can’t be had both ways — either the books are trash, and therefore everyone needs to stop complaining about how Romance gets no respect, or they’re not trash, and they’re worth what every other genre gets, which is the respect of literary analysis, however the author might disagree with the content of individual analyses.

    As for feminists saying “fuck you and your literary analysis,” in what way is this a particularly feminist value? IMO this is about the basic respect we all deserve. Is it also a feminist value to suggest to a very smart, very respectful woman who takes seriously category Romance that she doesn’t know how to read a book properly because she takes issue with how a character’s feminism is portrayed? Because IMO that’s exactly what happened in that TMT thread. And not only did I NOT associate any of that with feminism, but it made me especially frustrated because it drew the author into the mix in a way that began to blur the line between book and author. Which is what what I feel you comment is doing here:

    What makes me scratch my head sometimes is when the books' characters are being criticized for their actions, the author has to justify the rightness or wrongness of that act.

    While there may be some readers who extend their analysis of a book to the author, that’s not what happens in the book reviews on Dear Author, nor is it what happened in that TMT thread. It was the *authors* who showed up and started defending Hunter’s personal feminism. Up until that point the discussion had focused SOLELY on the book and the Riva line. It was the *authors* who blurred that line by coming in to a) defend Hunter’s own personal feminism, and b) slap Laura Vivanco around a bit for being everything from someone who could not read properly to someone lacking in academic rigor and a sense of humor.

    It's somewhat disconcerting when authors are compelled to chime in with “I am too a feminist” when it's the characters that might or might not be so

    While I understand the strong feeling of defensiveness that come from having your work represented in a way that doesn’t reflect your intent, that feeling of compulsion is NOT coming from the reader (unless, of course, someone sends you an email with that question or directs the question to you personally in comments). And when the author does show up to chime in with that kind of statement, it only serves to blur the boundaries between book and author in a way that you say yourself (and I agree with you) is not constructive or valid as a point of textual analysis.

    Personally, I don’t WANT to know what an author’s personal politics are, and I sure as heck wouldn’t take an author’s response on that question as dispositive when analyzing a book.

    Instead, what I see happening every time an author pipes in to defend herself against what she feels is an unfair review or reading of her book is a diminishing of the reader’s ability to see the book as a separate entity from the author.

    In fact, I see book analysis similarly to contract law, that there is an implicit parol evidence rule that necessitates interpreting the book entirely within the four corners of its pages. Every time an author steps into the breach between reader and book, she imperils that process. And the one thing on which I think we both agree here is that books should stand on their own and authors should not be judged as one with their books.

  66. Niveau
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 12:39:10

    @Ridley: Women get criticized all the time for things that are brought up nowhere near as often for men – our weight, our clothes, the tone and pitch of our voices, our makeup, our hair. That’s just the superficial stuff that is commented on every. single. day. We’re criticized for being too emotional or not being emotional enough, for not being assertive enough or being too assertive, for being too angry or being unnaturally calm. We deal with and take criticism on a regular basis. We’re experts at it. We rarely even comment on it, much less freak out over it. And when we do, we’re told that we’re hysterical, that we can’t handle criticism. So to say that women are worse at dealing with it than men are is rather ignorant, and to state it as if it were a fact to be taken for granted, rather than a personal opinion, is really insulting.

    FWIW, I have heard men use “if you can’t say anything nice…” before, though it’s true that I’ve heard it from more women. But I’ve also seen many men either change the topic or end the conversation, which is the goal of that phrase. I don’t see the point in drawing conclusions from only one of the possible responses to criticism when there are so many.

  67. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 12:41:29

    @Jane: I looked askance at the Riva line myself because, if I’m not mistaken, some of them are coming out as HPs in the US which seems inconsistent. Plus, I really don’t need another factor added to the confusion of whether or not I’ve read all a HQN/M&B author’s titles.

    It seems to me the unplanned pregnancy thing, modern or not, is the contemp equivalent of the Dukes who are a dime a dozen in historicals.

  68. Joy
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 13:02:42

    No, the Dukes become CEOs.

    Unplanned pregnancy has different meaning in historicals, there being little by the way of very-reliable birth control–but certainly does happen in them fairly often.

  69. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 13:10:37

    @Joy: I meant equivalent in how unreally prevalent they are. At least as far as the “marriage to a wealthy man who loves them and is the impetus to a happy ever after” aspect of unplanned pregnancy is concerned.

  70. Gennita Low
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 13:16:50


    But it tends to make one defensive, no matter which side, doesn’t it? We can never tell from the tone of that one post, unless it’s specifically rude, what the commenter, author or reader, means. War of words have started on not reading the tone right many a time. I could, for example, say I read a touch of defensiveness in your reply when you brought up Dear Author reviews never having any discussions in which readers ever extended analyses to an authors’ beliefs/lifestyle/etc. But I’ve known you online long enough not to think that.

    Granted, being a feminist doesn’t mean she could be rude to anyone, and I didn’t mean to be disingenuous about literary criticism of the romance genre. I was just saying that all this polite defensiveness is very strange because feminism is often, TO ME, unapologetic about one’s own choices, be it agreeable or not. So “eff you, this is how it is” can be read in another way–admirable, even, because the author stands by whatever it is that her characters are being criticized for. I know this never works in real life since an “eff you” by an author to any review/criticism would mean popcorn time for many of us.

    As for the thread at TMT, I think it’s often the case of authors of a new line trying to explain their publisher’s marketing. I notice most of them are repeating the same marketing line over and over–fun, modern, sassy–and then justifying criticism of their characters to fit that phrase. I don’t think many authors plan to gang up on readers in the sense you mean. I’ve often seen, though, that a group of authors launching a line could get a bit enthusiastic about each other’s books ;-).

    I believe Ms Vivanco herself invited the author to explain more about her book and the author came back, albeit a bit hesitantly because of a reader’s negative response to her initial post, with a severely edited one line, which she then re-edited in another by making sure everyone knows she meant the characters’ world view, not hers. I’m reading that as this author’s wish not to tread on anyone’s toes any more.

    In the end, though, I do agree that it is always wiser for the author and her friends not to comment at any forum about a negative review of a book written by him/her, unless specifically asked by the forum owner. I don’t view it as breaching a contract, but just better business sense.

  71. Jane
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 13:22:18

    @Robin I agree Robin. I don’t want to start conflating author’s morals with their character’s morals. Actually would probably stop reading if that is the way we were supposed to be read books – as representative of the author’s morality and worldview.

  72. Joy
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 13:59:31


    I think the prevalence just has to do with the fact that there are just some plot setups some people like reading about over and over and over. And over. One of them is a Cinderella plot where the powerful man (duke/ceo/etc) transforms the heroine; another is the redeemed mistake or happenstance (unplanned pregnancy stories go here, as do unlikely conditions in wills).

    I personally like unplanned pregnancy stories. I just don’t think they are fresh, modern, and “sassy”–on the contrary, they are extremely traditional. Yet I do like stories about couples making the best of a situation where they are forced to be together in ways they otherwise might not have chosen, despite all probability, yea even unto romance, wealth, and more fecundity. To me, those books are all about beating the odds.

    If I had to pick an author whose works I would think of as fresh, modern, and sassy it would probably be Sarah Mayberry.

    Romance should not be above literary analysis, and authors (both male & female, from what I’ve seen on Amazon) and their friends probably should only read such things if they’re willing, like Odysseus, to be figuratively tied to the mast and not respond, in order to experience that particular siren song.

  73. Diane V
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 14:23:30

    Congrats to Nora on joining the Kindle Million Club, but what I really give her kudos for is the fact that she was second only to Oprah in charitable donation in 2009 — donating $4.45 million to the Nora Roberts Foundation to support literacy in underserved communities.

  74. Robin
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 14:24:59

    @Gennita Low: Just to clarify, what I said about DA is that our reviews do not confuse/conflate book with author. I can’t and am not going to speak on behalf of independent commenters.

    I actually have no problem admitting the thing I feel profoundly defensive about, which is the way IMO Laura Vivanco was treated by several authors in that thread. Lynz Pickles did a great job of summarizing those insults, IMO (, so I won’t track back over all that (except to say I found Hunter’s first crack about “academic rigour” to be totally out of line), but I have to say that of everything said in that thread, those slaps at someone who is utterly polite, respectful, careful, thoughtful, AND a fan of M&B, are what have stuck with me. And now it’s all I can do to forget those authors’ names so that I don’t remember that thread when I come across their books.

  75. Robin
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 14:37:49

    @MaryK: I’m actually wondering if the unplanned pregnancy is an inverse of sorts of the forced seduction scenario, even past the obvious similarity as a mechanism to force the couple together. Something that, among other things, often has extreme consequences in RL but in Romance actually portends the heroine’s romantic HEA. I haven’t even begun to think about this beyond an initial tingling, but I do think it’s an interesting plot device, especially given the often enormous disconnect between the way it plays out in Rom fiction and the way it plays out in RL.

  76. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 14:46:40

    Romance is a guilty pleasure for a lot of readers. We’re used to being criticised for what we read and to having negative assumptions made about us because of what we read. Romance as a genre is considered deeply flawed and not something thinking people should enjoy.

    Aside from reviewers we know are fellow fans, we’re not used to objective criticism or criticism that extends only to the text. Nobody says to us “this book has a lot of flaws, go ahead and enjoy it anyway.” When literary criticism comes along and picks apart a book highlighting flaws and inconsistencies, we’re conditioned to expect or even read in a message of “you shouldn’t be reading this.”

    I’m not sure what’s going to change that, but if anything does I think there will be a lot of scuffles along the way.

  77. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 15:19:35

    @Robin: One of the reasons I like Romance is that Good in the form of an HEA always wins. So all plots are “everything turns out all right” plots to some degree. Even if nothing turns out right except that the couple is together, looking at a group of those plots is going to bring on a sense of unreality. And since some plots are best case scenario plots where good wins at each juncture, those are really going to seem unlikely.

    Either way, IMO, any overall view of Romance is going to show an enormous reality disconnect because Romance is not about reality. Romance selects for a good outcome in contrast to real life where you take what comes and most things don’t turn out all right.

    [Sheesh, I’m all thinky today. Wish I could channel that into work.]

  78. Terry Kate
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 17:35:00

    I don’t want to get into a She said She said – or Who did what wrong if anything in the reviewing/publisher issue raised.

    Here is what concerns me. An author accusing a blog of piracy? I run four book blogs and organize a book blogger online conference. I do not like the possible precedent this sets. I think it is something that is UNACCEPTABLE. It is also something I plan to bring up with other reader bloggers.

    We often talk about reviewing, what makes a good review, how to approach reviewing, setting your review policy, now we need to add protecting yourself from Author retaliation to a bad review?

    Any author who tries that would be blacklisted from all my sites and I would not keep their name to myself.

    Terry Kate

  79. Not Important
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 18:15:07

    Anyone notice that the author’s name is basically Gay Fox. I’m sorry. This is where my brain is at the moment. Ignore me.

  80. Nonny
    Jan 15, 2011 @ 05:11:19

    Jane said: “If abortion is brought up, it is with disgust and dismay, as only the most dirty and horrible people would ever entertain the thought for a moment.”

    This doesn’t surprise me. M&B has always struck me as a fairly conservative publisher. It doesn’t really go along with the whole image of “modern and sassy” to me, though. I am in my 20s and most of the women I know who have dealt with unplanned pregnancies do at least address the question of abortion, even if they decide otherwise.

  81. Mala
    Jan 15, 2011 @ 08:44:15

    With all the umbrage being taken over whether “highly educated white women” can have unplanned pregnancies, I’d like to speak up for the moderately educated brown folk: We’re not all exactly pumping out babies like factory assembly lines.

    And the implication that a M&B romance, or indeed any kind of book, might be more accurate in depicting unplanned pregnancy if the character were not white and upwardly mobile is really problematic. Because by implying that a white collar white woman should be too smart to get herself knocked up (and thereby shaming them)…you’re also implying that a woman of color is just dumb enough to do exactly that.

    It’s precisely because of discussions like this that we need more diversity in romance!

  82. Ammarylis
    Jan 15, 2011 @ 09:17:00


    *Ammarylis applauds* Thank you so much for mentioning that. I thought about bringing that up yesterday but I’m too exhausted from RL woes to open up that can of whoop-ass & “You’re being too sensitive. We didn’t mean it like that!”

    Thank you. The bed is calling my name.

  83. DiversityRocks!
    Jan 15, 2011 @ 20:42:26

    @Mala: Another applause from me! This is the second DA comment attack on brown folk (granted this was more subtle than the last) and you put it so eloquently that unplanned pregnancies aren’t neatly boxed into because of the skin color you’re born into or how much money/status you have.

    More diversity is definitely needed in romance along with more integration of multicultural characters within the mainstream lines rather than pushed aside in their own lines to be forgotten.

  84. Tasha
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 00:48:51

    More on the Decadent front: Graylin Fox speaks. While I take issue with her use of the phrase “illegitimate review site,” I think it’s a pretty good post and I’m inclined to believe her. YMMV.

  85. Why do ebooks cost so much? | Dear Author
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 05:55:40

    […] Michael Hyatt, the publisher and CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing, recently stated on his blog that under Agency Pricing and with a reduced sales price of $9.99, the agency publishers are making […]

  86. Jillian
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 12:37:56

    @Tasha ~ I think in this case, she used “illegitimate” to mean spurious. In which case, she’s correct. Graylin needed to set the record straight. But hey, hats off to the blog…they’ve quadrupled their followers since this promotional stunt hit. They went from 3 to 11. Go Enders, you so rock. And nobody will remember this as soon as the next crisis hits the romance world.

  87. FiaQ
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 12:41:24

    @DiversityRocks!: I don’t feel it is an attack. Jessica isn’t that sort. I believe she just didn’t see or realise the implications of her observation. That said, I agree with you and the others that there is a serious need for diversity in romance. (It does prompts another problem, but that’s for another day.)

    The ironic thing is, though, that while most studies make that kind of claims about “non white” women and unplanned pregnancies, some of these studies also say highly educated white women are more likely to have an abortion.

    According to those studies, the majority of “non white” women have an aversion to abortion for various reasons including cultural, religious and/or other sociological reasons. All these traits are (or were) widely supported in traditional romance lines.

    Meanwhile white women who chose abortion were concerned about their names/reputation, career prospects and/or economic issues. All these traits are (or were) widely abhorred in traditional category romance lines.

    With both in mind, HQN and its readership have been rooting for the wrong ethnicity all these years. (Yes, I say this with tongue firmly in cheek.)

    I’d like to address something else. Sorry if I couldn’t articulate well:

    While most studies can be useful (in spite of my crankiness with some) and regardless how much I respect Jessica, I don’t agree with her decision to introduce it to this discussion. Not because of the “non white” issue, but because she didn’t include notes on where the research/study was done and when. It can be problematic when/if it’s a national study.

    If, in any one year, the US has approximately 150 million female residents, then it stands to reason that 3 million women who had unplanned pregnancies across the country in one year is a tiny percentage.

    This prompts a question: which part of the country has the biggest pocket of 3 million women (including white and non-white; that’s if I interpreted Jessica’s comment right)? And where are these “non white” women from? Jessica’s comment doesn’t say.

    I mean if the largest pocket is found in, say, California it gets interesting because California is one of top-five most multicultural states in the country. What are these non-white female Californians’ ages, economic statuses and educational backgrounds? And what about the backgrounds of white female Californians who also had unplanned pregnancies? What are the general economical state and educational performance of these women’s towns? Jessica’s comment also doesn’t say.

    My point is, I suppose, that while I can see where Jessica is coming from, it’s a bit dodgy to include an observation from a study without notes on the study’s origins. Without it, an observation can become an unfair or inaccurate generalisation for many.

    Crap. After a stay in hospital with pneumonia I planned to take it easy, but still end up being so long-winded and moronic. Apologies.

  88. Margie
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 17:12:21

    While DP certainly took the wrong road with the way they handled this situation, I can’t help but think that this reviewer had some motive behind what they were doing. I think there is a lot more to this. And all we’re getting is snippits here and there.

  89. Jane
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 17:30:58

    @Jillian: I agree that this dustup is one of many that we’ve seen but it doesn’t encourage the purchasing confidence of readers nor does it encourage bloggers to review Decadent books.

    Further, while I appreciate Ms. Fox speaking up her post actually raises even more questions. Is she saying that the reviewer emailed her directly? If not, how did she discover the identity of the reviewer? Did she delete her tweets as it related to the matter because I went back through her tweet stream and it was cleansed. I didn’t even see the one tweet that she lays claim to, referring to the review as “nasty”.

    What we do know is that the people at Decadent and apparently on their email loop, know the real identity of the Ender’s reviewer. (Jamaica Layne admitted to knowing everything about this situation over at Absolute Write because it was shared with the “authors” of Decadent). We also know that Decadent publicly posted these two comments, neither of which give me any confidence that Decadent is a professional publisher. Can you imagine someone from Harlequin or Berkley doing this:

    This blog is not about doing legitimate reviews. This is a platform for ambushing an author for personal reasons. One of the owners of this blog is actually under contract with Decadent Publishing at this very moment. I’ve got to ask “why” would she ever submit to us if she thinks so little of our authors/company and has made public statement of the fact? Is that something a rational human being would do? For real?


    A question?

    Would you like out of your contract with Decadent Publishing since you don’t seem to respect either them or their authors?

    When questioned, Decadent did not tell me who gave them the information about the reviewer nor did they acknowledge that they shared this information with others. What exists is a number of questions, none of which make me comfortable as a reviewer or a purchaser. Personally? I’ll stay away.

  90. Tasha
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 18:29:10

    @Jane and @Margie: I agree with both of you that DP handled all of this badly. They were unprofessional and confrontational and I’m not very impressed with them, to put it mildly.

    However, this story has shown up all over the web as an unprovoked attack by a diva author and an out-of-control publishing house on a group of bloggers, and the more I’m hearing, the less accurate that sounds. It looks like there is definitely some bad blood between one of the bloggers (who is apparently an editor) and an author she had previously worked with whose story she chose to review.

    If it’s true that this reviewer is an editor who has worked with the author in the past and who did not get along with that author, then I think her conduct is outrageous. If that’s not a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.

  91. Robin
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 20:12:29

    At this point I feel like I need a handicap sheet and a special decoder ring to understand any of the “explanations” or defenses around the DP situation.

  92. Graylin Fox
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 20:21:04

    To answer Jane and Tasha:

    Jane: you asked “Is she saying that the reviewer emailed her directly?”

    Yes, I’m saying exactly that. My story released on New Years Day. I received a personal email with a link to the review that afternoon. It is an unpublished email address.

    I tried to explain this fully on my post last night. I apologize if that was unclear. I told Decadent who the people were, not the other way around. I wanted to apologize for this mess.

    And I have no problem saying that the email to authors written by the publishers (posted to the authors group) did NOT include names.


    You wrote: “It looks like there is definitely some bad blood between one of the bloggers (who is apparently an editor) and an author she had previously worked with whose story she chose to review.” – Exactly true. I asked out of a contract with another publisher last year due to abusive language and insults in emails from my editor. That editor (who is an author at Decadent) is one of the people who wrote the review.

    “If it's true that this reviewer is an editor who has worked with the author in the past and who did not get along with that author, then I think her conduct is outrageous.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion, obviously I agree with you here.

    And, as I stated in my blog post, another person with the review site was (and maybe still is) an editor at Decadent.

    That does not dismiss the Decadent replies on the review site. It does explain, at least to me, the anger that drove them.

    I’m leaving the blog post and thread up at my site. If you read through it and have questions, please ask. I posted last night because I wanted to wait until after the initial blow up cooled off. Some may disagree with my timing but I never intended to hide.

    Jane, you now have my email as part of this comment. If you want to ask questions, feel free to send me an email.


  93. WithThisBook
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 20:28:02

    I can’t for the life of me figure out those quote box things so I’ll just do things the old fashioned way!

    Jane said:
    Further, while I appreciate Ms. Fox speaking up her post actually raises even more questions. Is she saying that the reviewer emailed her directly? If not, how did she discover the identity of the reviewer? ”

    I think it’s already been revealed that Gray could tell from the wording of the review was exactly like the wording of the editor at the other publishing house. I think (and I could be wrong) she was even emailed as a heads up/first strike type of thing by the reviewer in question. Plus since the reviewer also writes at Decadent under a pen name (Belladonna), it wasn’t that hard to make the connection.

    Jane said: “Did she delete her tweets as it related to the matter because I went back through her tweet stream and it was cleansed. I didn't even see the one tweet that she lays claim to, referring to the review as “nasty”.”

    That’s because there never was any. Graylin never went off. She just gave a heads up to her followers that a nasty (not “negative” because there is a difference between the delivery of the two) review was coming in that one tweet and that was it. There was no prima donna screaming, attacking or anything like that on her part. That was the lovely reviewer (said dripping with sarcasm) who wanted to make everyone think this was another author behaving badly episode to get the heat off her. When in reality, Belladonna Bordeaux aka TJ Killian aka Lee Morris aka the Enders was the one who is behaving badly. Review sites shouldn’t be used as revenge tactics to “get back” at authors but that is the purpose of why the Enders blog was started in the first place. The interesting thing is all eyes have been on the Graylin Fox/Decadent situation when it should have looked more closely at the Enders. If you see this name and Sandra Sookoo (co-editor/author with Lee Morris) affiliated with any publishing entity, take my advice and run like the plague was right behind you. You -don’t- want to get involved with these people unless you’re ready for a one way trip to crazytown.

    Although this brouhaha will die out like all others in romancelandia, authors will be still be seeking publishing so this information will hopefully be helpful if they happen to run into any of these “editors” at a house. If I was an author seeking epublishing I wouldn’t sign anywhere near this Lee or Sandi person knowing how much of a loose cannon they are and how they attack their alleged colleagues.

    Just saw Tasha’s response. Believe me, this conduct, as outrageous as it seems, is nothing unusual from Lee. Some people need their keyboard priviledges revoked though.

  94. Jillian
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 21:18:33

    Well I’m glad to see someone finally had the balls to speak the rest of the names involved. While Sandi Sookoo and Lee Morris (and her myriad other pseudonyms)hid behind the fake (illegitimate?? Yes, I’d say so now) Enders blog, they had no trouble whatsoever outing everyone around them. What a pack of cowards. And then today, they post a sweet, contrived blog about…wait for it…politics and how great this country is we live in. OMG, it’s enough to make a normal person puke, if it weren’t so laughable.
    Sandra and Lee and the rest of your little library reading group? Get over yourselves. Your 15 minutes is OVER.

  95. Jillian
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 21:47:27

    And for the record, I saw the post on the Decadent author group with the lengthy explanation of the facts. Sandra Sookoo and Lee Morris’ names were never revealed. Decadent, at least, gave them the courtesy they’ve never bothered to return.

  96. Robin
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 21:50:55

    I still don’t understand this any more than I did a couple of days ago.

    Is the charge here that the reviewer who was also a former editor for Fox sent Fox the review in question from a private email herself?

    And then that Fox turned that email over to Decadent owners, who then sent all their authors an email about the review/editor/Decadent author?

    And then that Decadent left those comments at the Enders Blog?

  97. WithThisBook
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:07:00

    Robin said:
    “Is the charge here that the reviewer who was also a former editor for Fox sent Fox the review in question from a private email herself?”


    “And then that Fox turned that email over to Decadent owners, who then sent all their authors an email about the review/editor/Decadent author?”

    Yes the email was shared with owners. The rest is unknown.

    “And then that Decadent left those comments at the Enders Blog?”

    Most likely the Decadent owners wanted to squelch things before they got out of hand, but it didn’t work because Lee put more oil into the fire and fabricated the whole “Decadent shared their customers’ info and called us pirates!” claim. After what’s been revealed in the blogosphere, Decadent may have offered Lee an end to her contract since she’s been acting not unlike a child who wants out of their high chair after kicking and screaming all day.

    Perhaps they should have asked in private but far too many people are tired of Lee, Sandi and their antics behind closed doors that shedding light on the situation would hopefully stop them from attacking more authors in the future. It’s a shame that Decadent and it’s name got dragged into the whole thing.

  98. Jillian
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:08:58

    @Robin: This isn’t about the review. The review was the tool Sandra Sookoo and Lee Morris used to seek revenge. NONE of this would have happened if they hadn’t pulled this mean girl BS. How people responded to it was less than optimal, granted. But ultimately, there should never have had to be responses in the first place if these Mean Girls got up every morning and put on their big girl panties like the rest of us have to. And Decadent NEVER told their authors any details like it’s being stated. But seriously? It wasn’t hard to put two-and-two together. Sandi Sookoo has been fired as editor, Lee/Belladonna/whatever the hell else she’s calling herself has had her book yanked (let’s be fair and use an Enders term, it was sucky) and karma is a bitch.

  99. MaryK
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:23:51

    @Tasha: I read it but I didn’t really understand it. I did notice that in the comments a lot of her supporters expressed shock that a review might mention throwing a book against a wall.

    I haven’t a clue who any of these people are and don’t care. So … to be brutally honest – brutally honest, when I read the post I was reminded that the Ender bloggers said Fox’s plotting was chaotic.

    I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of authors who write and edit. I know there are some mainstream, established authors who do it, but they’re established professionals. When I hear of small epubs who have writer-editors, I cringe. I wonder if that’s just my inaccurate perception and it’s actually an accepted and prevalent practice.

  100. Robin
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:24:30

    @WithThisBook: I’m still stuck on trying to figure out why the author (Fox) would send the email to Decadent’s owners, and why they would, in turn, email the entirety of pub authors. I.e. why did Decadent owners get involved in this at all, let alone make public comments on the Enders’ blog (which IMO did not do them ANY favors, regardless of their motivations).

  101. Molly
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:26:31

    I’ve been watching this for a few days now and this recent bit of information has me shocked. If this is the truth, then there has to be even more to the story on why The Enders targeted the authors that they did. It’s definately not coinicidence and its definately not because they wanted to give truthful reviews. It seems they were out to hurt people and I want to know why! Some of the authors listed on the 2010 worst lists are supposed to be writing partners with one of The Enders. Why would a writer do that to her partners???

    Not only did they do that, but they also marked their own books as the best of 2010. How childish can you be?

    I really think some people have some major explaining to do. why these authors? What did they do to you to make you so hateful that you’d actually throw your own writing partners work under the bus?

  102. Robin
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:27:51

    @MaryK: I know this is kind of off-topic, but that comment about how a review shouldn’t reveal that the reader wanted to throw the book against the wall surprised me. Isn’t “wallbanger” a pretty mainstream description? Now, if a reviewer said they wanted to throw the *author* against the wall . . .

  103. MaryK
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:35:21

    @Robin: I’ve been seeing it for years. But then the review sites I read are the ones that tend to get labeled “mean.”

  104. Tasha
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:35:22

    @MaryK: I know a lot of writers who are editors and vice versa. That doesn’t bother me at all.

    What I don’t like is the idea of setting up an “anonymous” review site that is being used to create grudgewank, which is really what this seems to boil down to: Editor A didn’t get along with Writer B, so they set up Review Site C to trash her work. As others have said, this is far more reminiscent of high school drama than the actions of publishing professionals.

    As far as I’m concerned, nobody has come out of this looking particularly good.

  105. Layla
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:46:05

    I just did a little research. (I.e. I went to the websites and looked. LOL) It seems to me that the Enders put their own books (TJ Killian, Belladonna Bordeaux, Sandra Sookoo) as the best books of 2010. Great. That would be pathetic if it wasn’t so weird. They’ve clearly set up a website to promo themselves anonymously. Fine. It doesn’t even bother me that much. I’m sure they are not the first to do it. People set up publishing houses to do just that.

    But then I kind of asked myself–who are they bashing? I looked up those authors. It looks to me like the authors they are calling the worst of 2010–are all authors who at one time wrote for Lee herself and, for the most part, do not anymore.

    Now this looks like a personal vendetta to me.

    I don’t dispute that Decadent Publishing should not have commented publicly. I don’t dispute that. But since we have no proof that they shared any privacy information–and Graylin says they didn’t up above, I’m thinking we’ve all been led on a bit of a public lashing by the Enders against people they just don’t like.

    Its been an interesting evening for me delving into this. The Enders seem rather fishy to me. I think there has been a bit of a bad scheme going on here.

  106. WithThisBook
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 22:49:38

    Molly, I’m glad you noticed that. Welcome to the real world of epublishing. This is the stuff you don’t see beneath the facade except for once in a while when it hits the blogsophere. Granted, there are some wonderful and hardworking publishers and editors out there. The key is you usually don’t see them with mud on their face around the blogosphere.

    In this particular case, that’s just the way Lee Morris is. She opened the publishing company to “change the face of the epublishing world”, as she told its authors. She was going to show everyone how its done and how to do it right. When it failed, she ditched the company citing health reasons and disappeared, bringing Sandi Sookoo as an editor to Decadent while still writing as Belladonna and, for a time, TJ Killian. This is just the way she “teaches” authors and any author “friends” who don’t eat the crap she dishes out with a smile.

    From Belladonna Bordeaux’s blog:

    “Here’s the advice she’s [Lee Morris] now giving her friends who are editors: “Make them cry. Make them work. Then, put the story to bed.”

    “She [Lee Morris] finds fault with all aspects of the e-publishing industry. Authors who are with one-two-three-four publishing houses think they walk on water and don’t have to work anymore. Publishers who are trying to be their author’s friends rather than suck it up and make these ’employees’ actually work for their money.”

    (Just for anyone popping in, authors, as Jane here at DA has said time and time again that authors are NOT publisher’s employees)

    “Harsh comments were a part of the process.”

    “Her words again — “Watching paint dry is more interesting than this story.” “If this editor knew a thing about actually editing a book, he/she would be dangerous.” “It’s obvious to me the author thinks they should get a pat on the head for being whatever to whomever with a story that stinks.”

    Taken from here:

    Robin, that seems to be something only Decadent and the parties involved can answer.

  107. Robin
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 23:14:16

    Whatever the deal with the Enders is, as a reader and a reviewer, the actions and words of Decadent owners make more of an impact on me. If — as is the impression I am getting here — this boils down to some grudge match between one Decadent author and another (who was previously edited by the first Decadent author), then I don’t understand a) why such a horrible, destructive author/editor is also under contract to Decadent to begin with, and b) why Decadent owners would take this up at all.

    I saw a comment on Graylin Fox’s post (not by Fox, but a commenter) that Lee Morris/Belladonna/whoever has used DA and Karen Scott’s blog as pawns, but it seems to me that if Decadent had never made this a pub-wide issue with an email, never publicly addressed the Enders on their blog, then this thing would never have publicly blown up at all. Without that, would the Enders have had any basis to make the piracy and privacy breach accusations? God knows I’m not the biggest John Sargent fan, but I can’t ever imagine him getting involved in something like this or making public comments like those on the Enders’ blog on behalf of Macmillan.

    And those Facebook postings of music videos with cryptic comments? I have no sense of being closer to the “truth” here. But all of this back and forth seems REALLY personal and ugly on both sides, and therefore not something I’d want to get anywhere near as a reader or reviewer.

  108. Molly
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 23:16:56

    Withthisbook: What you just wrote makes perfect sense with some of the things I’ve seen on twitter.

    I WAS friends with Sandra Sookoo on twitter, but dropped her a couple of weeks ago when I noticed she was tweeting rather nasty messages about a book she was editing. I found out she edited for Decadent and actually marked them off my list of publishers to sub to because of her comments. I’d never seen such unprofessional behavior in my life. She ripped this poor author to shreds, on Twitter. Even commented that the manuscript never should have been offered a contract.

    As a published author, I was horrified at what I was reading. My editor is thorough and so very tough but she has never talked down to me and I believe that she has my book in her best interest. Maybe I’m being naive, but that is what an editor is supposed to be. They are supposed to be tough, point out the parts that don’t work, heck full scenes that don’t work, and make a good story even better. They are not there to talk down to you and make you feel less than a writer or that you lucky they were even willing to give you a contract. I feel really bad for the authors who had to deal with that.

  109. WithThisBook
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 23:31:27

    Molly, Sandi sounds like the second coming of Lee all over again. Editing should never be personal. It may be considered a bit harsh, it may be tough with a lot of story cutting and changes but it should never BE personal on the author. It should be about the work and how to make it better for the reader. Lee, Sandi and all the people out there who emulate them forgot this and thus are making their editing jobs an ego trip for unsuspecting authors. You’re not being naive at all. It sounds like you have an editor with a good head on her shoulders and considering how bad some others are out there, you are a lucky one.

  110. Bila Jaye
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 06:07:43


    In reply to this, Robin, take a look at Graylin’s blog post

    Gray received a private email notifying her of the review, and hence knew who it was from. She does nothing except tweet that a nasty review is about to come in. Full stop.

    2-3 days later, the people at Decadent see the review and ask Gray if she’s seen it. Whereby Decadent checked the site in question and saw they weren’t on the reviewers’ list for the pub. No mention of piracy or anything like that at all.

    In the meantime, Ender Sandra Sookoo worms info out of Graylin, asking how she knew the review site ‘looked a little off’. Graylin doesn’t give a definite answer, just a sort of shrug saying ‘I don’t really know’ – all in ‘confidence’ in private Tweets with Sandi Sookoo. Still calm so far.

    Next day, the Enders post this totally bashing piece about Graylin who cannot ‘suck it up’ and the ‘disaster Decadent is’. Other people see the review and put two and two together, inform Decadent who 2 of the Enders are (namely Lee Morris and Sandra Sookoo. One an author with DP, writing as Belladonna Bordeaux, the other an editor with the pub). DP approach this ‘author’ and asks her if it’s her site, to which she replies ‘yes, and that she has every right to the site and what she’s saying’.

    I’m not privy to what happened next, but imagine a publishing house finding out one of its authors and one of its editors are in collusion to bash not only a fellow author from the same house but also the house itself!

    Decency would suppose these 2 Enders didn’t even go on such rants, but they don’t seem to care apparently. Lee Morris (people who know her know her tone, and the post in question was totally her ‘voice’) doesn’t let up the ‘bone’ even after being outed by DP with whom she’s pubbed, and she continues to bash them. Hence leading to the very public question whether she wanted her contract brought to an end or not. She didn’t seem to respond when contacted privately, just went on with her rant. Push did come to shove in this situation.

    While I’ll admit this kind of blow up should never be made public, like DP did, people who know Lee Morris can totally understand how the situation came to this.

  111. Bila Jaye
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 06:28:56

    And something else about that Enders’ blog and their ‘track record’ of going after former collaborators with whom they have toxic relationships. Graylin Fox is not the first author they’ve targetted in an out and out vendetta.

    Lee Morris used to own Eirelander Publishing, and she and her ‘family’ went on a total steamrolling warpath where their former senior editor Zaynah Monodee is concerned.

    If anyone reads the AW thread for Eirelander Publishing, they will find that Zaynah Monodee = Aasiyah Qamar, the same author who got her book Light My World bashed by the Enders back in October 2010. But people don’t know what led to this bashing.

    I’m an aspiring author and when I saw EP come up on the publishing marketplace, I looked them up. Attended some of their promo chats (where may I mention Lee Morris, the owner and EIC, never made any appearance) and were considering them for my novel. I asked a question about what they were looking for and then Senior Editor for Main Line Zaynah Monodee says she’ll get in touch. I didn’t think she would, but the next day I do receive an email from her asking what my story was about. I pitch to her, and she selflessly gives me some very constructive feedback on what was, at the time, a total train wreck of a book. She asks me to submit to her asap. From this day I start to follow her over the Web. It was back in December 2009.

    Now in March of 2010, Zaynah announces she has left EP on her FB page. She doesn’t dish any dirt, doesn’t blame anyone, just says they’ve parted ways and she wishes them well. Belladonna Bordeaux jumps on this status update and treats Zaynah of all names, accusing her of being a selfish b*tch for not thinking about her mother (Lee Morris). Zaynah remains dignified and doesn’t say anything, though her friends come to the fore. (profile Z Aasiyah/Nolwynn, dated March 26-27, 2010)

    In the wake of her leaving EP, other staff follow, namely Natalie Owens, Senior Editor for Heat Line, apparently appalled at the way Lee Morris is now treating her former employee and right-hand woman.

    September 2010, and while I’m reading Zaynah’s (Zee as she’s mostly known) blog, I see this post. Can anyone say personal vendetta?
    Again, Zee doesn’t dish any mud and her friends come to the fore to point out that she is an honest and straightforward person. Notice an ‘anon’ comment in this post that looks remarkably like the rant Belladonna Bordeaux went off on the FB status.
    Notice too that most of the people who get bad raps at the Enders’ blog are people who have sided with Zee in this relentless harassment she has put up with.

    It is finally in 2011 that we come to know the truth about what transpired between Zee and her former employees at EP – and even then she doesn’t sling mud.

    Now look at the review Light My World got on the Enders’ blog. Dated October 2010, which would be right after the whole ‘threatening libel’ debacle. Even if the Enders come up and say they’re a group and not everyone reviews the same book, to think that Lee Morris, an Ender, is actually the one who shortlisted, bought, and editted said book… allows it to be bashed that way on the blog. Gimme a break! If that’s not ‘getting back at an author’, then I wonder what is!

    Still too, Zee Monodee is not the only one who has taken the bad stuff from Lee Morris. Take a look at the ones getting a bad rap on that blog – all of them have ‘battle scars’ to show of when they were in the trenches with Lee Morris.

    Me – knowing Zaynah Monodee was no longer at EP made me scratch them off my list. My book has now been revised as per her suggestions and is being considered by a handful of agents.

  112. Motivation Monday | Solelyfictional
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 07:37:30

    […] badly moment”. Back over at Dear Author, someone else decides to name names, and outs two of the Enders as Belladonna Bordeaux/TJ Killian/Lee Morris and Sandra Sookoo, a claim which is backed up by Graylin. If you glance back at the Best and Worst of 2010 post on […]

  113. Margie
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 07:44:17

    If this is true in regards to the bloggers and who they are, then shame on you!

    Reviewers can and do leave negative reviews all the time. I have no issue with it, but I do think the ‘blogger’ reviews on that blog were nasty and badly written.

    Was it intentional? Was it meant as revenge? It certainly seems to be with this new information coming to light.

    And no, It still does not excuse Decadent from the way they handled it. But if you poke a dog long enough, it’s going to bite back.

  114. Jane
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 13:39:27

    @Graylin Fox I think there are still a couple of questions that are raised and that you adroitly sidestepped. Did you delete tweets related to this review? You claim to have made one tweet but there is no mention of this tweet in your tweetstream. Second, how was it that you came to know the identity of the reviewer? You stated that the review was sent to you from an “unpublished” email address. I don’t really know what that means.

    These are the emails that Decadent sent to Enders, which I have permission to repost:

    Email 1:

    We have no record of sending you our watermarked review copies and consider your “reviewing” of our stories to be an act of internet piracy.

    The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement (including infringement without monetary gain) is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

    Email 2:

    We have no record of you purchasing our titles. That makes you a “pirate”. We have no desire to hear from you or your group again.
    Lisa Omstead

    There is an additional statement that you tweeted that you had contacted your publisher and they said they could not substantiate the sales with the names used by the Enders. Again, given that it appears that the tweetstream has been cleansed, it is hard to verify this allegation.

    Email 3:

    Your real identity was brought to us, not vice versa. As for privacy? There’s no such thing when it comes to the subversive, mean-spirited tactics that you and your little friend (yes, we know about her too) have resorted to in an effort to extract revenge for whatever wrong you feel Ms. Fox has done you. The most effective way to stop cowardly liars is to “out” them. YOU HAVE BEEN “OUTED”.

    As for your rights back? There has been no breach of contract and they remain with Decadent Publishing.

    Lisa Omstead

  115. MaryK
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 13:44:47

    IMO, if you ignore the personalities, this is all about a “nasty” review. Which, if it had been ignored, nobody would ever have noticed. And none of this would’ve happened.

  116. Jane
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 13:46:35

    @MaryK Totally agree, MaryK, and from a reviewer POV, it certainly gives me pause.

  117. Layla
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:00:14

    If you were targeting a group of people that you didn’t like on this site because you didn’t like them–nothing to do with the quality of the books, etc. Would you expect to be called out on it?

  118. Graylin Fox
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:03:35


    I can only reply to what I know. I was not part of the email exchange between Decadent and Lee Morris and/or Sandra Sookoo. Therefore, I cannot answer those issues.

    As for the email address, I believe I addressed this on my blog. The review was sent TO my private email address, one I rarely give out, from someone I don’t know. Namely, the reviewer – Ana Maria Lopez. That’s when I got curious.

    As for the tweet, I did not go back and delete it. Heck, why bring it up if it’s not there? It was the evening (EST) of Jan 1.

    I did not go to Decadent with the names of the people I *thought* were involved until after they posted their Jan 5th post. And I recognized the writing of Lee Morris.

    I believe I did, or I seriously tried, to explain the time line and what I knew on my blog post.

    Again, as it pertains to the Decadent emails and what was said in private. I simply don’t know.

    To address this: “There is an additional statement that you tweeted that you had contacted your publisher and they said they could not substantiate the sales with the names used by the Enders. Again, given that it appears that the tweetstream has been cleansed, it is hard to verify this allegation.”

    The publishers emailed me and let me know they didn’t think the review site was on the up and up. I tweeted one line about the review. I did not contact them with any accusations. I didn’t even report the review to them. They found out 2-3 days later.

    I didn’t cleanse the time line. I apologize if it’s not there, but I didn’t clean it up. No reason to.

    Sandra Sookoo caught it though, and immediately asked how I knew that (about the accusations in the emails). I’m willing to bet she has the entire exchange to share with you. It was in DM.

    Again, if you have any further questions, I will happily reply.


  119. Robin
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:05:03

    Oh, god, this just gets crazier and crazier. No matter what the deal is with the Enders (and I still can’t make heads or tails of most of the details proffered about any of the players — which is indicative of these insider feuds, IMO), those Decadent emails alone would keep me far, far away from buying, reading, and/or reviewing any of their books.

    Sorry, but there’s no way in hell I would want to get in the middle of anything like what happened here. And my sense is that an innocent bystander could totally get crushed under the rolling weight of this mess.

  120. Tasha
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:06:18

    I agree. I don’t think this is about a simple “nasty” review. This seems to be about a bunch of unprofessional, immature people (on all sides, as far as I can tell) who don’t understand the difference between personal life and professional life, let alone boundaries, and who seem to take pleasure in airing their dirty laundry all over the Internet.

  121. Moonbeam
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:09:57

    @Maryk and @Jane I agree that if it had been left alone it would have been forgotten BUT a review should be objective which these people were not. They had negative personal ties to author. It shouldn’t have been reviewed by them. Not for anyone to take them seriously. It was unprofessional on all parties.

    The good thing that came of this is that authors will know Lee Morris and Sandra Sookoo’s names as editors to steer away from. It’s a hard enough business without this kind of behavior from writers, editors, and publishers.

  122. Jane
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 14:43:53

    I received an email from Sandra Sookoo and she states that she has never written a review. She is not part of the Enders blog and never has been.

  123. Tweets that mention Thursday Midday Links: Authors & publishers behaving badly | Dear Author --
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 15:03:56

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mandi Schreiner, dearauthor. dearauthor said: whether it is a personal vendetta or a dustup over a negative review, the Decadent Publishing response is disturbing […]

  124. Elise
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 15:13:43

    Here is what I don't understand. Why does it matter how the author found out? Playing Devil's Advocate here.

    Maybe Graylin actually did notice that the writing was similar to this editor she worked with as she says or maybe someone told her. One thing I know about the writing community: we talk.

    All it takes is one author finding out, who tells another author, who knows a Decadent author and the cats out of the bag.

    What matters is Lee Morris owned up to writing the review and being part of the website. How the author found out does not negate the fact that Lee Morris was the author's ex-editor and they parted under bad terms and she wrote a review in a deliberate attempt to make the author look bad.

    Another point. Let's say just for arguments sake, that the author did throw a hissy fit on twitter. Does that really matter too? Author's throw fits all the time. We watch the melodrama, talk about it and then move on. I figure we've all been to this review site by now, and I've never seen a comment on the site from the author about the review, which tells me the reviewers were watching her tweets so they could write the scathing blog about her, or some author friend of theirs told them. Either way, it does not negate the fact the blog is bogus and set up to intentionally hurt certain authors.

    As for Decadent, I don't have much to say there. The way the handled wasn't ideal to say the least. It has put a mark on them. For this, I feel horrible for their current authors and hope they are not punished by the publisher's moment of idiocy.

    I know some of you think if Decadent had kept this to themselves, it wouldn't be out there for everyone to see. I actually don't agree with this. These “reviews” would still be out there for someone to stumble across, for a reader to search one of the author's names to find. And considering this was not a review, but a hateful attempt by two people to make these authors look bad, I'm very glad it came out in the open. Who knows what “The Ender” website would have been like in six months. Sure, they only have like eleven members right now, but that doesn't mean the site wouldn't grow and acquire more and more followers. As an author, I would hate for anyone to see such a defaming of me as an author and my work especially, when it is all said and done, this was done out of malice, not truth.

    Bad reviews happen. Sure, but can anyone of you truly read what is written on that blog and think it's a real review? I can't. When this first came out, before all the other stuff was revealed, I felt like it was full of hate and it turned my stomach. I knew this had to be personal.

    One more thing I'd like to say. For the reviewers who are now leery of reviewing Decadent because they worry of the same thing happening to them, unless you're planning to do a review of an author you have a beef about and don't plan to do a real review, but a public slaughtering, then I really think you're okay.

  125. Tasha
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 15:38:07

    @Elise –
    I would certainly think twice about reviewing a book published by Decadent. Regardless of the behind-the-scenes machinations, the simple fact is that a publishing company accused a review site of piracy because that review site published a review they didn’t like, and publicly accused one of the reviewers of being a contracted author and made a public offer to terminate that author’s contract because of the bad review.

    Even if every one of these rumors about the reviewers is true, that does not excuse Decadent’s conduct. Not even close. If they knew this reviewer was a contracted author, and if not reviewing other books published by Decadent is actually part of the contract, then they should have privately informed the author her contract had been terminated.

    The bottom line is, the publisher can’t necessarily be held responsible for the bad conduct of its former or current authors and/or editors. The publisher IS, however, responsible for how it handles its business, and I don’t think Decadent handled this dispute in a professional or appropriate manner. I’ve seen absolutely nothing from Decadent that makes me believe they’ll handle any future disputes any better than they did this one.

  126. Scooby
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 15:46:02

    @Robin: Yes…they have at least one editor that I know of that is also an author.

  127. Michelle
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 16:14:49

    @Jane: I remembered seeing Graylin’s tweet, and found it easily. You probably didn’t go back far enough.

    Before declaring that someone has cleansed her Twitter timeline, you might want to be sure that she has.

  128. Robin
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 16:24:22

    One more thing I'd like to say. For the reviewers who are now leery of reviewing Decadent because they worry of the same thing happening to them, unless you're planning to do a review of an author you have a beef about and don't plan to do a real review, but a public slaughtering, then I really think you're okay.

    But who’s going to make this call? Reviewers get accused of bogus crap all the time. And heck, I wouldn’t even call that Enders review “nasty,” although it was hardly sweetness and light, either. So to think that a publisher might decide I have a grudge based on a word or a phrase or a grade of my review and then accuse me of piracy or ferret out my personal purchasing information is stunningly frightening. I’m still surprised that people think it’s a personal insult to the author to call a book a wallbanger in a review. If that’s the bar, I’m not sure any reviewer besides Harriet Klausner is safe.

    I’m still completely uncertain as to what really happened in this situation (sorry, but at this point I need a flow chart, a color-coded cast of characters, a venn diagram, illustrations, and arrows to keep up), but the one thing that IS clear is that the publisher was involved at a level that IMO crosses several lines. Even if everyone whose name has been raised behaved badly, I expect a professional publisher to meet a higher bar of professional behavior. Judging ONLY by DP’s public comments at the Enders blog that bar seems sky high, IMO. Add those emails into the mix and no way would I want to get near a purchase from them or a review of their books.

  129. Gary
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 17:16:01

    @Michelle: The tweet that is missing is the second one Graylin refers to on her blog.

    “I tweeted that it looked like my nasty review was from a suspected illegitimate site and I got a strange response.”

  130. Author On Vacation
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 17:29:13


    Re. Post #119,

    Elise, you brought up some very valid points.

    I am a published author and a diehard bookworm. I’ve always felt free to review books I’ve purchased and read in their entireity. Once in a while, I really love a particular book and have only good to say about it. Sometimes I’ve lots bad to say on books I consider substandard. Most often, I liked some things and disliked other things, so my review is fairly “mixed.” Not stellar, not horrible.

    I learned pretty early not to offer reviews for any authors with whom I am friends. This is an ethics issue. I do believe friends can offer honest and fair critique, but it can also be a brutal experience if an author requesting review is looking for “good press” rather than honest opinion from a friend.

    I know authors who “plug” another author’s work favorably because they’re friends and then admit privately they didn’t care for the book. I think this is bad for several reasons. Bad for the reviewer and bad for the author/work being reviewed.

    I’ve also had some weird experiences reviewing a particular author. I really like the author’s work and have bought numerous books from her, the quality ranges from terrible to very good. The creative aspects are great but the technical writing could be better. Each time I’ve reviewed the author’s latest book, either the author herself or someone in sympathy with the author posts a review after mine, effectively criticizing my review, commenting as to why I am “wrong” about whatever I’ve said, etc.

    These “rebuttals” NEVER appear when I’ve basically liked a book and awarded it an above average review.

    I’ve no idea what’s going on or why the individual feels the need to defend the books from my reviews. I don’t use my real name or my pseudonym, I am reviewing strictly as a private reader and a paying customer. I feel my reviews demonstrate I invested time and effort into reading the book and forming an opinion about it. What more can an author (or a publisher) reasonably expect?

  131. Author On Vacation
    Jan 17, 2011 @ 17:59:08


    But who's going to make this call? Reviewers get accused of bogus crap all the time. And heck, I wouldn't even call that Enders review “nasty,” although it was hardly sweetness and light, either. So to think that a publisher might decide I have a grudge based on a word or a phrase or a grade of my review and then accuse me of piracy or ferret out my personal purchasing information is stunningly frightening. I'm still surprised that people think it's a personal insult to the author to call a book a wallbanger in a review. If that's the bar, I'm not sure any reviewer besides Harriet Klausner is safe.

    I'm still completely uncertain as to what really happened in this situation (sorry, but at this point I need a flow chart, a color-coded cast of characters, a venn diagram, illustrations, and arrows to keep up), but the one thing that IS clear is that the publisher was involved at a level that IMO crosses several lines. Even if everyone whose name has been raised behaved badly, I expect a professional publisher to meet a higher bar of professional behavior. Judging ONLY by DP's public comments at the Enders blog that bar seems sky high, IMO. Add those emails into the mix and no way would I want to get near a purchase from them or a review of their books.

    Referring to my earlier post (#125) I’m wondering if the publisher where my less favorable reviews are routinely rebutted have “snooped” my payment information and discovered I am an author.

    I think these kinds of issues will remain a persistent problem in the industry until some kind of regulation is established concerning ethics and expectations for everyone involved in the equation. ALL publishers, authors, and reviewers should be willing to adhere to a professional standard if they wish to be respected as professionals.

  132. Terry Kate
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 10:17:35

    @Author on Vacation & @ Robin

    I agree. Anyone could come after a blog that supposedly has a beef with an author. And lets face it, as bloggers and reviewers we all might have beef with an author or two that sent a rude email or etc, BUT I have multiple reviewers. They do not know who I have found annoying to work with and when we receive a review request I do not knock said authors out of the queue my reviewers select from. Could the author then point the finger if they receive a bad review?

    I am not liking the out and out naming of participants. I do not consider using a review name to be shady. I do not consider it anything other then online protection. Terry Kate is not my full name – and if you know my full name and disclosed it I would be PISSED! – In part because there is a whapping 8 people in the country that share my last name of which 6 are related. If someone revealed one of my reviewers names I would be equally mad. They have a right to their privacy.

    I think that authors have the right to use multiple pen names and that revealing them to be the same person is not very polite. I am privy to knowledge of who has multiple pen names that they do not want known or publicly associated with each other. I am sure other bloggers do as well.

    IMHO those things do not allow situations to quiet down and only escalate. Like as Jane states, it seems Sandra Sookoo’s name was brought up and mistakenly associated with the blog.

    It does come down to a bad review. It does make me leery. I would LOVE to have some authors sit down and write out a review on a book that they have read and would score as a 1/5 – Send the reviews to me and I will happily post them. One the reviewer side it is not something most of us enjoy doing and sometimes there is very little redeeming qualities to a book.

    I think as reviewers an interesting question is, If you read a poorly edited book by a new publisher do you go back for more? There are so many publishers out there now. Is that a valid critique? To say I would not buy from this publisher again? Will that get you knocked on another blog run by an author from that house?

    Terry Kate

  133. shiloh walker
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 22:17:40

    @Bila Jaye: eh, IMO, that was her first mistake, then… she commented.

    She does nothing except tweet that a nasty review is about to come in. Full stop.

    What was the point with that?

    In all honesty? There was NO point.

    It was unprofessional, IMO. Authors are going to GET them. We either shrug them off or we let them get to us.

    Why let them get to us? Even if she says they don’t get to her? That very statement says it got to her.

    The second screw up was when whoever in the hell left the comment on the enders blog.

    Now, this isn’t @ Bila Jaye, more in general.

    I don’t know the ends and outs… and honestly, I don’t care.

    But IMO, the mess made both Graylin and Decadent look like fools. I’m not inclined to read anything written/published by them. Why should I? MY opinion. and before anybody wigs out on me, let me point out one plain and simple fact. I’ve been in the epublishing business since 2003.

    Eight years. I’ve seen more presses fold than I can recall. If that doesn’t give me reason to be cautious…well, nothing does. Frankly, I’m entitled to my opinion after having been CAUGHT in one epress debacle back when Triskelion folded.

    So please, spare me the crap about how I don’t know the facts or I’m not being fair. I don’t need to know facts to have an opinion.

    Many of us who comment here have SEEN the epresses fold. Seen, sighed and shaken our heads when it happens over, and over, and over.

    If this is the way a publisher will act over a negative review? Personally, I’d rather give my money to a publisher AND an author who can act with more professionalism in public. That’s just me…just my opinion.

    But I’ve seen too many small epresses implode and very often it started with crap just like this. Not going there. Too many epresses in this publishing ocean.

    Also, just another general comment, but if you’re going to make a public blog post…then stand by it. Don’t delete it. When you do, it makes many things look suspect. Plus, it’s kind of pointless, considering the invention of google caching.

  134. Gary
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 10:53:06

    @Robin: You said “She does nothing except tweet that a nasty review is about to come in. Full stop.”

    According to Graylin’s blog she did tweet more than one time after she made the tweet remark about the nasty review. The subsequent two tweets that she made and the response from “a person who rarely spoke to me” are not in her tweetstream. Personally, I find it hard to believe these were not cleansed.

    I think Graylin has taken enough flak and is learning a hard lesson. The real concern is DP and what they did and didn’t do behind the scenes. That said, if Graylin isn’t being completely candid on her blog post about “setting the record straight”, then her defense of DP could entice other newbie writers to sign on with DP and that truly concerns me.

  135. Author On Vacation
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 12:42:35

    I wish individuals involved with the publishing industry on every level — publisher, editor/artist/other creative assistance, authors — AND reviewers got it through their heads that the type of drama outlined in this thread is exactly the kind of thing that makes it tough for people to perceive the publishing industry and reviewers as credible, professional entities.

  136. Goodreads… What To Do? | The Discriminating Fangirl
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 14:07:13

    […] or harass them.  On the other hand, there has also been a lot of really terrible author behavior toward reviewers on Goodreads and elsewhere on the internet, too, and the new Goodreads policy kind of looks like […]

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