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Tuesday Midday Links: Bad Sex Award given to an author...

The Harlequin Historical Authors are doing an online Advent calendar, starting December 1st. Each day, readers can visit a new historical author and have a chance to win signed books, chocolate, and other goodies. All entries will then be gathered together and one grand prize winner on Dec. 23rd will receive a Kindle 3-G loaded up with historical books. It's open to readers from the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand.

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Gordon Murray decided to write a book about financial planning when he found out he had six months left to live. Two years after that fatal diagnosis, Murray’s self published book is being courted by several major publishing houses. Co written with Dan Goldie, the book “The Investment Answer”, was the subject of a recent NYTimes article. Within 10 hours, the book had been sold out at Amazon. Currently there is a little stock left at Walmart.com.

The men have been contacted for interviews by CNN and others. Goldie is also being courted by publishing companies interested in taking over sales of the book that he self-published in September. He says it is not clear to him whether there could be advantages to using this approach. Even before the New York Times article, many of the 15,000 sales of the book had occurred. The book got a boost when the San Jose Mercury News published a similar article.

Murray said he went the self published route because he had the skills to self publish and didn’t want to wait to try to sell to a major publishing house.

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Some people are using Amazon CreateSpace to wrap up public domain books from Project Gutenberg and resell them. There isn’t anything illegal about this although Project Gutenberg suggests the activity is unethical. PG would like Amazon to list all the PG books for free much like the Apple iBookstore does.

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I’d like to know more about this litigation but ghostwriter, Vera Lee, was awarded $10 million for having written a false holocaust memoir.

A court had awarded Ms Defonseca and Ms Lee the money in 2001 after Ms Defonseca sued Ms Daniel for concealing profits, and Ms Lee counter- sued her for not giving her proper attribution for having co-written the book.

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The Bad Sex writing award was given to Rowan Summerville for a single line:

Rowan Somerville won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, the U.K.'s "most dreaded literary prize," for a scene in which a nipple is likened to the upturned "nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night."

Somervillle was on hand to accept his award and did so with grace. Can you imagine this happening in romancelandia? No, me either.

In fact, over at the Romance Divas, author and co owner of the site, Kristen Painter, suggested that one author writing a negative review of a bigger, better known author was akin to professional suicide.

Author B is strictly epubbed and not one of the big names, she’s just got a handful of books out, most with smaller presses, but some recent ones with a bigger epub.

Now, the situation:

Author B gives Author A’s new book a DNF review on a well known review site (amongst a slew of other 4 and 5 star reviews), saying some less than kind things about the book. Author B makes no attempt to hide who she is (another author).

Your take:

Is it just me or does this seem like professional suicide? Not to mention, pointless? Would you ever diss another, bigger author in a public way? What do you think about this whole thing?

I can’t read the thread because RomanceDivas requires an account and my account isn’t being recognized by the site. Is it professional suicide to diss a “bigger author”? Particularly if you are a lowly epublished author?

Is that because bigger name author will go about trying to get lesser name author blackballed ala the infamous Dixieland Mafia episode? A reviewer on Amazon wrote a negative review of a Harlequin Blaze that had been edited by Brenda Chin. Somehow that reviewer was outed as an aspiring author. I was privately told that the reviewer’s name was plucked out of the Memphis RWA membership applications, a violation of RWA policy. There was some suggestion that Brenda Chin was forwarded the review so that she could be aware of what was being said. What’s ironic is that ever since the Dixieland Mafia incident, I have been unable to read a book by the author who was originally criticized.

There was a number of authorial comments on a blog post by Alison Kent that was published in July of 2006. Said blog post and comments no longer exist at Kent’s blog but on Dear Author, Julie Leto claims that editors are professionals and that if an editor like Chin, had a personal problem with an author she would pass the author to an assistant:

KelliJ, let me tell you something about Brenda Chin–and I can say this because I've been working with her for over ten years now. Yes, she is incredibly protective of her authors. She believes in us and our careers and as our advocate within the company, she is protective and supportive. She wasn't named Editor of the Year last year by PASIC for no reason. But she is–first and foremost–a consummate professional. From what I've heard, this woman is NOT submitting to Blaze at all, so Brenda would have no power over her career–but I do know that when Brenda has run across authors who have rubbed her the wrong way, she always passes that authors work on to another editor and recuses herself from the submission process.

Leto also goes on to say that authors have no power over other authors:

I'm going to say it for the last time–authors have NO power over what is bought and what isn't–nor should we. I know of one published author who attempted to derail another published author (a rival) back in the 80s. Called her editor. Spewed all kinds of hate. THAT author no longer has a career. The author she tried to screw with? New York Times, baby. (This published author also messed with me as a lowly unpub. I have no idea why-I'd never said two words to her. But I was young and cute at the time and that must have set off her warning lights. I have no idea if that editor rejected me because of it-I suspect not because in retrospect, that first book really sucked.) And this was all before the Internet.

According to Leto, a negative review by an epublished author on say…goodreads… about a traditionally published midlist author wouldn’t be professional suicide and that any attempts by traditionally published midlist author might actually reflect poorly on said traditionally published author.

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

131 Comments

  1. Mike Cane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 12:13:43

    The public domain ripoff is worse over at Google Books, where the parasites steal the book then hit Google with a DMCA takedown of the original!

    Public Domain Parasites #2

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  2. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 12:26:46

    You know, I was commenting not too long ago about how far we’ve come as a community since the infamous and horrifying Dixieland Mafia incident. *sigh* #eatingmywords

    On a side note, I don’t really get this whole ‘it’s not okay to critique a BOOK publicly, but totally okay to trash/threaten a PERSON in the semi-private (aka not really) setting of a members only list or board.’

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  3. Kerry Allen
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 12:41:59

    Oh, I thought this snippet was MUCH more award-worthy: “Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.” (Source)

    It brought tears to my eyes.

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  4. Ciar Cullen
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 12:48:48

    I’d rather have my book trashed than have folks trash me, as a person. But in fact, both will happen and that’s life. I want to point out that Kristen does not say “lowly” epublished author, those are your words. I’m an epubbed author, and I’ve “known” (in 2 dimensions at least) Kristen Painter for a while. That’s not her style (I’ve always found her to be quite generous) and I don’t take it to be her meaning.
    Sure, you’re probably better off using a different name to write a bad review of another author. On the other hand, I don’t think that any major house is going to turn away your really outstanding manuscript because you said “Pointy Nipples” was a crappy book.

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  5. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 12:56:24

    @Ciar Cullen: I don’t know Kristen Painter, and believe she could be an incredibly nice person, but I’m sorry — that comment seems really petty and problematic to me. “Not one of the big names”? Seriously? That’s the criteria on which she should watch her mouth? And while Painter might be standing up for another author, it makes both seem really insecure (not saying they are; just saying that IMO Painter is not doing herself or the other author any favors).

    I’ve intellectualized the destructive implications of this whole authors shouldn’t review other authors thing OR ELSE to death, so just let me say, in summary, that shit is fucked up.

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  6. Tweets that mention Tuesday Midday Links: Bad Sex Award given to an author maligning the nipple | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 12:57:22

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Barry Eisler, Robin L. and Jessica Tripler, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: Tuesday Midday Links: Bad Sex Award given to an author maligning the nipple http://bit.ly/eaYmkr [...]

  7. Ciar Cullen
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:04:46

    Hmnn, Robin. Well, I actually don’t care too much one way or the other, as I’ve been on both sides of it (reviewed by authors and as a reviewer using my own writing name). It usually gets messy somehow and becomes a big thang and then fades into the nowhereland… So my take on that general “guys, what do you think?” message (that’s how I read it anyway, naively perhaps), is “I don’t know and don’t care too much.” I still think the addition of the word “lowly” is editorializing. Which I guess from your point of view makes it accurate. It’s just not my point of view. But I get your point.

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  8. Alison Kent
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:11:59

    There was a number of authorial comments on a blog post by Alison Kent that was published in July of 2006. Said blog post and comments no longer exist at Kent's blog …

    The post is still there, along with the 59 comments, but was made private at the request of one of the authors involved as she was getting threatening hate mail.

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  9. Jeannie Lin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:14:01

    I don’t wish to see Kristen Painter maligned as she and Romance Divas as a whole are very supportive of e-published authors. The thread has fostered a lot of good discussion on a topic that the diva members, who include aspiring authors, reviewers, and newly published and “not big names”, are participating in. Kristen was trying to describe the situation without naming names and I felt she did so appropriately.

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  10. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:22:29

    @Jeannie Lin Didn’t realize anyone was maligning Painter. She used the term “bigger” twice. That suggests some differing level of appropriate behavior depending upon author hierarchy.

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  11. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:23:06

    @Ciar Cullen: I actually don’t think it fades away. Or maybe it fades in the manner of a really bad bruise that’s always a bit tender in one’s memory. I know a number of us still talk about the Dixieland Mafia incident, and I’d be interested in how many book sales that incident cost some of the people involved. I rarely refuse to buy or read an author’s books after an ABB incident, but that one even put a few names on my DNB list.

    Which is why these things are all the more baffling to me. I suspect the threatening author will suffer more than the threatened author (and the bigger name author she’s defending) in most cases. Because personalities aside, I think there’s a habituated instinct to defend the underdog.

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  12. Fae
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:27:18

    Considering Kristen is, herself, epublished, I didn’t take it as maligning epubbed authors at all. Why would she diss a group which she is a member of (epublished authors)?

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  13. Gwen Hayes
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:32:33

    I think the thread opened up a really interesting conversation.

    While I don’t agree that it is suicidal, I think it’s problematic in that as mentioned earlier, Romancelandia is a small kingdom. I do not believe Kristen was trashing anyone as she is a huge supporter of authors at all stages in their career, so I didn’t take her description of Author B to be downgrading.

    What did happen is a lot of authors, established and aspiring, conversed about the pros and cons of what we consider professionalism, self-promotion, and enthusiasm for great books versus DNF.

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  14. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:33:20

    I think the talk about Painter being maligned is very much a topic derailment.

    I.e., look over here at a totally different issue than avoid the topic at hand which is whether certain achievements give an author to be more publicly honest about her opinions; whether authors can ever say something negative about another author’s work; whether editors pay attention to what one author says about another author’s work; whether authors can get aspiring authors blackballed; whether one author’s sales are affected, one way or another, by other authors.

    But if the subject of Painter being maligned is going to be discussed, I want it to be clear that I didn’t start the discussion nor did I encourage it because it wasn’t my intent to malign but merely attribute. I suppose I could have said “anonymous author A said this and such”.

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  15. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:37:16

    Eh, Kristen’s right, if quite a bit hyperbolic. It’s like the funny uncle who shows up at family gatherings. You know he’s a little tetched (or touchy-feely), but nobody wants to talk about it. They just…stay out of reach.

    I don’t review anymore. Period. I have a list of what I read and an asterisk to indicate what I couldn’t finish, and I’ll note “recommended read” or even a couple of sentences if I’m really wild about the book, but that’s it. That’s a tar pit I’m not willing to wade through and I have bigger hills to die on.

    I might not be blackballed and/or it might not affect my sales, but if I said what I thought about the work of some of the bigger names in Romance no matter how nicely, at the very least I’d be seen as sour grapes.

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  16. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:40:43

    @Jane: Yeah, and if you make it anonymous, then people are like, hey, why no attribution? Why isn’t anyone being accountable for what they say? etc etc etc.

    My jaw is absolutely on the floor that authors are still toeing this line that they shouldn’t make a public, critical comment on another author’s book.

    And I still have my standard questions: How many authors participate in and believe cover snark is just fine? How many authors read Perez Hilton, TMZ, or Go Fug Yourself? Or publicly insist Nicholas Sparks can’t write worth crap?

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  17. Julie Leto
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:48:25

    I’m not sure what the point of this is, Jane? To malign Kristen? She’s a close personal friend and a great advocate for all writers, no matter what format they’ve chosen to distribute their work. She is, herself, epublished, self-published and traditionally published. If anyone knows this industry from all sides, it’s her.

    Also, Romance Divas is a wonderful community and I think this is a great discussion she started on questions that probably need to be asked–especially in that forum, which is peopled by so many new writers.

    I stand by what I said, but I was talking about a different situation. The first, was my defense of Brenda Chin’s professionalism. I have nothing to change about that opinion. I’m still working with her and I still think she is the epitome of the perfect editor.

    My second post was about a published author badmouthing–not in reviews, but in private phone calls & conversations to editors–her published and unpublished colleagues. I don’t see how that is related to giving a bad review of someone else’s book.

    For the record, I don’t think one author writing a scathing review of another author is a good idea. (Something I’m sure I’ve said publicly before.)

    Why? Because I know I’ve been invited to do several special projects simply because other authors or editors wanted to work with me. Professional or not, authors and editors, if given their preference, aren’t going to want to work with authors who have previously been critical of their work. Why would they? That’s just common sense. They’d rather work with people they like or at least, people they believe they will like. People they can trust. People who are on the same page as them. Publishing is hard enough…why add working with people who clearly do not respect your work to the insanity? No, thanks.

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  18. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:48:41

    @Robin:

    My jaw is absolutely on the floor that authors are still toeing this line that they shouldn't make a public, critical comment on another author's book.

    I don’t for one simple reason… a number of the books I’ve disliked are by some pretty popular authors with rather vocal fans-I’ve seen what happens somebody says something as simple as… “this didn’t work for me.”

    They get bellowed at…now this isn’t by the typical reader. It’s by the groupie type and we all know that type-we’ve seen those comments, they happen here, they happen on Amazon, they happen all over the place.

    I’m not going to have people bellowing at me for not liking a book.

    And when you’re an author, somebody almost always drags in that bit “well, YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS.”

    Has nothing to do with jealousy-has to do with a book just not working for me. But I’m not going to listen to the crap that will come for stating that-I’ve just got better things to do.

    That’s why I just don’t discuss the books that don’t work so well for me-I have better ways to waste my time… like twitter. O.o

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  19. Jeannie Lin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 13:54:48

    Oh no, no! I was exactly trying to keep the discussion away from Kristen and on the more critical and interesting issues.

    @Jane – I just became fearful that the direction of the comments might be veering that way when Robin mentioned Kristen’s remarks as perhaps being insecure and unhelpful to authors. I’m happy that it didn’t.

    Regarding status of bigger and smaller authors, I think the implication is more of the potential consequences for a more established author versus a smaller name, rather than acceptable or unacceptable behavior based on career.

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  20. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:12:35

    @Shiloh Walker I understand the dilemma that authors have with this, but I think its a dilemma created primarily by authors themselves. I.e., if the majority opinion was that an author who kept a goodreads account could rank and review the books she reads however she would like without repercussion, wouldn’t the dilemma be removed?

    As a reader, I find I am looking for people on Goodreads and other review sites who match my tastes. Negative ratings help me find out whose positive reviews will work for me in a way that solely positive reviews do not. So authors who just do positive reviews aren’t helping me out much on goodreads and I don’t pay much attention to them because when it is all positive, I tend to think “oh, these are just the friends of the author” when that might not be true at all.

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  21. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:27:01

    @Jeannie Lin: I think a very important distinction needs to be made here between how authors perceive other authors and how readers perceive authors.

    To me, as a reader, Painter’s comment has a HUGE potential to backfire. Why? Because I think there’s an enormous difference (and this is partly in response to @Shiloh Walker‘s comment) between an author coming out and saying, ‘I do not prefer to make a public critical comment about another author’s book’ and saying, ‘making a comment about another author’s book is professional suicide.’ To me (and I’m not the only one but am speaking only for myself here), the second sounds a bit like a warning or a threat, especially when couched in terms like “bigger” and “lesser.”

    I get that authors may not want to write reviews of books in their own genre or make critical comments about other books publicly. I even understand it. But besides my opinion as to the validity of the opinion expressed (i.e. whether it’s professional suicide), as a reader I find it more of a prohibition than a personal preference. For you, it may be an issue of how authors relate to their editors or publishers, but these comments have implications for readers, as well, because they are first cousin to author animosity toward negative reviews we deal with all the time (and I’m NOT saying that all authors have a problem with negative reviews). I know that some authors fear that a negative review will unfairly sway readers away from a book, but I think it’s now more the case that any attempt to clamp down on a negative review has more potential to backfire. I understand that those reactions aren’t intended to insult readers, but they often do — they make it seem like we’re not smart enough to make our own decisions and figure things out and read between the lines. I wonder if editors feel the same way when authors warn each other about making public comments.

    As a reviewer, I think the whole taboo creates a very fearful and destructive vibe in the reading community, of which authors are active members. So I wonder why the ‘DON’T DO IT OR ELSE’ sentiment is perpetuated so actively. It’s one thing to say, ‘this is the way we think it is,’ but quite another to say, ‘this is the way it is and we don’t want you to do anything to change it.’ Again, the comment in question sounds more to me like the latter, even if it wasn’t intended that way. As authors, is that really the environment that makes you feel most comfortable? Why can’t we all civilly, intelligently, and publicly disagree about books without it turning into a forum on whether an author who does so will ruin her career? That just sounds so sad to me.

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  22. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:27:36

    @Jane:

    I understand the dilemma that authors have with this, but I think its a dilemma created primarily by authors themselves.

    Yeah, I do think sometimes it’s an issue created from within.

    But even if the authors changed completely, as a whole, some of the problem will still exist.

    Because there will still be those readers who get irate when a much-loved author is somehow ‘maligned’ even if it’s just that another author didn’t like their work.

    There will be those vocal few who’ll get irate over anything less than glowing and we can’t control that aspect. That’s the aspect that keeps me from discussing books I don’t like.

    I do think authors in general need to just get over the idea that we can’t openly & fairly discuss each others work.

    I do emphasize the ‘fair’ part, because I feel that as authors, it would best serve US if we do it in a professional manner-focusing on the book itself, not the author. Slice & dice reviews that attack the author and don’t focus on the book are ugly and they will reflect badly on the author who wrote the review, IMO-and it will generate sales for the book reviewed, most likely. O.o

    If an author is willing to deal with the flack that might come her way for positive negative reviews, then I don’t see any reason why she shouldn’t.

    And this is just my opinion but that flack shouldn’t be coming from fellow authors-we all read, right? We haven’t all loved every book-as long as we’re fair and not ugly in our reviews, and as long as the author is willing to deal with the flack…I have no problem with it.

    But I’m not dealing with the flack. I’m not too lazy and trust me… some of the books I’ve hated… there would be much, much flack-I’ve already dealt with it on a minor scale in real life. Not messing with it online.

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  23. Lisa Hendrix
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:27:37

    I don’t see a problem with folks repackaging public domain books to sell on Amazon. Penguin has been republishing pubic domain books in their Classics line for years, and several other large publishers have similar lines of public domain books in print. Dover Books’ offerings consist almost entirely of repackaged collections of public domain and out of copyright images and texts.

    However why anyone would be foolish enough to actually *buy* digital texts that they can grab for free on Project Gutenberg is beyond me.

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  24. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:31:17

    @Shiloh Walker: that should be… I’m TOO lazy. not I’m NOT TOO LAZY.

    I’m lazy. period.

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  25. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:33:24

    @Shiloh Walker: I agree with you that readers can be extremely defensive about authors they love, and it seems a longstanding element of the fan culture. But IMO that doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate a reading culture that privileges other values — open, civil, honest discussion of books and issues among intelligent people who can disagree vehemently but respectfully. How can that be a bad thing?

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  26. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:34:16

    @Lisa Hendrix: I suspect that not everyone is knowledgeable enough to know they can get those books on PG.

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  27. Honeywell
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:34:17

    Strictly from a readers perspective (I have no idea how it impacts an authors career or anything like that) I think it’s tacky for another author to write a negative review of an author’s work but I think it’s good fun when bloggers do it. I’m not even sure why I think that way but I do and I can’t help but think less any author who does.

    Example:

    Charlaine Harris, a total class act. She frequently mentions books she enjoys in her blog but won’t even give a hint about the title of books she doesn’t.

    Laurell K. Hamilton, is a complete disgrace. She seems to go out of her way to get in digs against any and all of her peers including the gracious Charlaine Harris!

    If it’s a lesser known author criticizing a someone more well known I just chalk it up to sour grapes.

    Example:

    Tymber Dalton’s negative review of one of Lora Leigh’s books on Amazon. I don’t even think I disagreed with the review or the points she brought up but I still thought it was tacky of her to write it in the first place. It came across like she was jealous of Lora Leigh’s success or didn’t think she deserved it. Even though that’s probably not the case at all and she was just responding as a reader I can’t help but think less of her for it.

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  28. Jessica
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:35:07

    @Robin:

    To me, as a reader, Painter's comment has a HUGE potential to backfire. Why? Because I think there's an enormous difference (and this is partly in response to @Shiloh Walker’s comment) between an author coming out and saying, ‘I do not prefer to make a public critical comment about another author's book' and saying, ‘making a comment about another author's book is professional suicide.'

    Your comment makes me wonder what the difference is between mentoring and bullying. I could see someone making the “professional suicide” comment not as a warning or threat, but as honest advice.

    If someone really thinks it is a bad idea to write bad reviews of other authors (even though she may be totally wrong about that), why is saying so a “threat”?

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  29. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:36:00

    @Shiloh Walker Sure, we have all seen the attack of the fangirl, although, doesn’t seem to have abated in recent years? But if we think of this in “professional” money making terms, the goal of an author is to connect to readers. And the question then to ask is whether readers are more likely to respond to an author giving out negative+positive reviews or just respond to an author giving positive reviews. I don’t know the answer to that. I only know my response.

    The review in question was solely about the book itself. The “lesser” author wasn’t engaged with book which disappointed her because she had liked previous books of the “bigger” author. It was a one star, DNF review, but it didn’t seem to be attacking the author in anyway. Although I suppose everyone’s definition of “attacking the author” is different.

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  30. Jennifer Leeland
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:39:10

    The fact is that there are authors who are “bigger” (sell more, have more buzz, whatever) and those who aren’t.
    Yes, a reader who happens to be an author is entitled to an opinion. The question is whether trashing another author’s book in our small romance community is a wise move.
    You can say what you want, but the truth is that an author starting the climb up the ladder of success has to be circumspect. We have to view our words differently than we did before we were writers.
    Would I give a cold shoulder to someone who gave me a bad review? No. But I probably would to someone I felt gave an unfairly bad review to an author friend.
    Words have power and the delivery counts. An author worth his/her salt will be able to tell the difference between “The book wasn’t for me and here’s why” and “The author can’t write her way out of a paper bag”.
    A review delivered unprofessionally IS professional suicide.
    Wouldn’t you consider a badly written rebuttal to one of your briefs “unprofessional”? Or if said brief was filled with personal remarks about your ability as a lawyer?
    I once trashed a Nora Roberts book, but I figure Nora doesn’t hold it against me. It’s the only one of her books I didn’t like. I buy all the rest. LOL! And I said just that.

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  31. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:42:56

    I can’t see the article because you’re supposed to sign in and it’s not accepting my details.

    Anyway my ears are burning, or rather, a little bit warm. Because I post reviews under my real name at TGTBTU, which is pretty well known. And I have books out with epublishers, although not a handful. 36, actually. And I’m a best seller at at least two of the houses who publish my books. I’ve been with Samhain since shortly after they opened, and EC for 4 years, so probably not me. But, being an author, I’m probably just a bit paranoid (it goes with the territory sometimes). But as an author who also reviews, I feel obliged to discuss the issue.
    I thought she might have meant this: http://goodbadandunread.com/2010/10/25/review-joan-johnston-invincible/
    I don’t do many DNF’s but in this case I got the ARC, and I felt obliged to say something about the book.
    I bet she didn’t mean this:
    http://goodbadandunread.com/2010/11/25/review-in-the-dark-of-dreams-by-marjorie-liu/

    On the one hand, yes, I’m a writer, and I’m making a reasonably good attempt at it. But not everything in my life is subsumed to my career. And I really, really dislike the “writers should always stick together” attitude. While I refuse to review books by personal friends (and I do have some!) or publishers that I’m with, I do reserve the right to give an honest opinion on a book. When I do a review, I’m thinking of the reader, not the writer. How is it professional suicide, or am I being impossibly naive?

    I really don’t think, or rather I hope, that publishers are small-minded enough to think that a bad review of one of their authors’ books puts me beyond the pale. I can think of more than one author I’ve reviewed where one book worked for me and another didn’t (I’ve done reviews on a recent Sharon Kendrick that I enjoyed, but I didn’t like the stablegirl book, for instance).

    And I reviewed two Avon paranormal romances recently. One I adored (the new Marjorie Liu – just read it, it’s awesome) and another didn’t work so well for me.

    In fact, I’m pretty sure that publishers don’t think that. I can’t divulge private conversations, but I know that one editor at one of the biggest houses enjoys my reviews, because they’re fair and honest, and they draw attention to the book. So thanks, Editor, much appreciated.

    It goes to the bigger discussion – should an author just shut up and go away? There are forums I don’t go to because readers prefer you not to, but I’ve seen writers trashed on lists and blogs just for turning up and trying to discuss an issue.

    I’ve never been asked not to do reviews by either an author or a publisher, and I’ve never had an author treat me badly because I do.

    Or maybe it’s the British tradition. There are masses of columnists who review as well as being authors. Maybe it just comes naturally to me because of the others I read and grew up reading. Sometimes an author has a different outlook, a different take on a book because he or she goes through the same writing process.

    Anyway, on my behalf and the sake of the unknown author who wrote the other reviews, all I can say is that if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Sorry.

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  32. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:43:22

    @Jennifer Leeland

    Wouldn't you consider a badly written rebuttal to one of your briefs “unprofessional”? Or if said brief was filled with personal remarks about your ability as a lawyer?

    Actually, no. And this is done more often than you think. To the first question, a friend of mine and I were on the opposite sides of an appeal and she made this crazy argument in her brief. She knew it was a crazy argument, but she had to make up the best one that she could. To me, that was the ultimate in professionalism. We still laugh over said crazy argument today.

    As to the latter, like I said, this happens more often than you think. For one attorney, his m.o. is to attack the opposing counsel. That is his strategy. There is a saying “When you have the facts, you pound on the facts. When you have the law, you pound on the law. When you have neither, you pound on the bench.” I’ve always thought that once the OC starts making the personal attacks, I must have made some huge headway in my arguments and it frankly makes me feel good about my own arguments.

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  33. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:45:43

    @Jessica: Good question.

    I think it’s a case by case basis, and in this case I’ve a) read the review in question, and b) know there is a friendship between the defending author and the defended author. If I did not know those things, I would just look at the “bigger” and “lesser” references, as well as the language of “diss,” etc. And in the context of this specific example, those references to differential levels of power take on additional weight. Also, the rhetorical questions at the end sound much more like judgments to me than real questions with potentially diverse answers.

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  34. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:47:51

    I think part of my desire for a more open dialogue for authors is because there are authors (and others) who are really insightful in discussing books and the fact that they are stifled from publicly commenting is a loss for our community.

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  35. gwen hayes
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:52:51

    If I’m standing at the office water cooler on the accounting floor, it would be bad manners and potentially career damaging for me to broadcast that Brian Bookkeeper’s ledgers are messy and hard to read. Next year, the boss might ask me to work on a project with Brian–awkward. Maybe the boss gives Brian a great project and tells him to pick his team–probably Brian won’t pick me. That’s where I am coming from. It’s maybe not suicidal, but it isn’t good business sense to publicly disparage other people in my field.

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  36. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:54:33

    @gwen hayes Whereas in the academic and legal field, peer review of utmost importance to the professionals.

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  37. gwen hayes
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:56:59

    @Jane: point taken

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  38. Sunita
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 14:58:57

    @Jessica: I assume we both agree that nothing in this situation falls under the category of mentoring? Because I don’t see how posing a question on a message board and imperfectly masking the names of the relevant parties could possibly qualify. If the intention was to raise the question and explore different scenarios, why not raise it in a general way, or make it clear that there are multiple examples, rather than single out one author?

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  39. Honeywell
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:00:22

    @Jane: I think part of my desire for a more open dialogue for authors is because there are authors (and others) who are really insightful in discussing books and the fact that they are stifled from publicly commenting is a loss for our community.

    I think an actual discussion or dialogue among authors (or authors and readers) is something totally different than writing a review or blog post. And would actually love to read that and wouldn’t think less of anyone involved. Just the opposite, I’d welcome their perspective.

    I’m not sure why I think it’s any different than writing a review but I do. Maybe it’s because I see reviews as something that impacts sales and that’s why it seems like bad form to me.

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  40. KMont
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:03:16

    I’m curious about something. Those that keep saying they might “trash” a book – are you saying that this is what you call a negative review? Or are you saying that it’s a review where you might get particularly nasty about the book in question? There’s a difference, for me, between trashing a book and writing a negative review that is thoughtful and filled with reasons to support dislikes. I’m trying to figure out here if the review that started this whole thing with lesser author B saying unkind things (and what sounds unkind just does not to others, good example – the Sureblood review right here at DA)) about Author A’s book is trashing or simply a negative review (I can’t see the forum thread either). I pretty much loath how the two seem to be the same in many convos where less than positive reviews get discussed.

    While I’m at it, comment 20 from Robin was great. Totally agree. Number 30 by
    30 Lynne Connolly as well.

    I don’t personally have a problem, as a reader, with an author who speaks up on not liking another author’s book. Speaking in terms of a good, constructive and thoughtful negative review. Then again, I’ve never hidden how much I appreciate a negative review. Like some have said here, I find them just as helpful as any positive review.

    Jane, I agree with your comment at #33. I wish more open discussion was encouraged period in the reading community as a whole.

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  41. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:04:06

    @Jessica: Someone just pointed out to me that I was mixing up the Dixieland Mafia situation with the Painter comment, so I just wanted to clarify that the first part of my comment was in reference to that incident (i.e. the author defending LaBreque was her friend and the review was posted publicly on Amazon).

    In the case of Painter’s comment, it’s more the language and the tone of the questions at the end that make it sound more ominous to me.

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  42. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:06:21

    @Honeywell But there isn’t any definitive proof that I’ve seen that a negative review drives down sales. In fact, some people argue negative reviews can increase sales. I do see your point, though.

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  43. Maili
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:12:39

    Author B is strictly epubbed and not one of the big names, she's just got a handful of books out, most with smaller presses, but some recent ones with a bigger epub.

    I find that interesting because it makes me wonder what determines ‘bigger’? And how? According to the current best-selling list? Publisher? Format? Name brand?

    When a Samhain author – say, Shiloh Walker (sorry for using your name) – reviews a Laura Kinsale book published by SourceBooks (print and epub), who’s ‘bigger’ in this case? The Samhain author or the SourceBooks author? Walker or Kinsale?

    How is it determined? According to whom?

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  44. Maili
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:14:35

    I submitted my response too soon. Gah. I was supposed to put in a note that Shiloh Walker is also published with Berkley, etc. The question still stands, though. Thanks.

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  45. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:16:02

    @KMont I’m not sure what a trash review is. I.e., I wouldn’t call any of Lynne Connolly’s reviews a trash review.

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  46. KMont
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:19:45

    @Jane: I haven’t read any of Connolly’s reviews, but in general it would take a whole lot of nasty and barely anything constructive written for me to consider a negative review to be trashing.

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  47. Jessica
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:22:51

    I am pretty sure I am on the wrong end of this argument if I am disagreeing with Robin, Jane and Sunita all at once, but here goes …

    @Robin: Ok, thank you for explaining. I understand why you read it the way you do. I’d just like to say that I don’t read it that same way. To me it looks like (maybe terrible, but well-intentioned) advice.

    @Sunita: Maybe mentoring it too strong a word (although I am not sure), but certainly such an online group can be a source of professional advice and support. I know that my participation in clinical ethics discussion groups is vital to my professional development, especially since — like many writers – I work alone and do not have a cohort of colleagues down the hall. I ask for advice all the time, and I offer advice when appropriate.

    I understand that people think Painter is wrong, but to me there is a difference between being wrong and being coercive or threatening.

    @Jane:

    Whereas in the academic and legal field, peer review of utmost importance to the professionals.

    True, but it is not my experience that academia is this ideal world everyone is totally honest in reviewing and never gives a thought to how a review might impact her relationship with the author of a book. Academia is like romance in that it is a series of very small worlds where power operates in sometimes harsh and unjust ways. Junior faculty will seldom write harshly critical reviews of books written by colleagues with whom they collaborate or from whom they hope to secure professional favor. To do so might well be “professional suicide”.

    Of course, I agree with the sentiment that more open, critical, discussion of each other’s work would be great on balance for authors and the reader community, and that that is a culture towards which authors should strive.

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  48. Sunita
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:24:46

    @KMont: I read Lynne C’s reviews regularly, and I find them very helpful. Sometimes I agree, sometimes not, but there’s always enough in the review for me to get a sense of where she’s coming from. And the authorial insights can be very illuminating. I understand why some authors don’t want the grief that accompanies reviewing in this community, but I really appreciate it when some are willing to do it anyway.

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  49. KMont
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:29:52

    @Sunita:

    I can never get the quote thingy right so will use quote marks. ;)

    “I understand why some authors don't want the grief that accompanies reviewing in this community, but I really appreciate it when some are willing to do it anyway.”

    Yes, totally agree. And it sounds like I need to check out Connolly’s reviews!

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  50. Isobel Carr
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:36:16

    @Lynne Connolly:

    Or maybe it's the British tradition. There are masses of columnists who review as well as being authors.

    This is par for the course in literary circles on both sides of the pond, and you sometimes see it in Mystery and Science Fiction/Fantasy. I think that romance writers don't do it because of the “girl code” (if you can't say anything nice . . .). When a man criticizes the work of another man, it's a “discussion” and it's “professional”. When a woman does the same thing she's often dismissed as being a jealous bitch.

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  51. Isobel Carr
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:38:22

    Ack! I’m in moderation!

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  52. Sela Carsen
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:48:20

    Up the thread a bit (I can’t use those quote thingies to save my life) Gwen pointed out that publicly stating a negative opinion of a peer’s work would have a negative rebound in the business world.

    Then Jane said that peer review – including negative opinions – was of the utmost importance in academics and law. I’m going to expand that to art and the importance of literary/artistic criticism.

    Which basically means that authors who wear both hats are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    It makes no business sense for us to publicly disparage or even negatively review the work of our peers; yet if we keep quiet or discuss only our positive opinions, we’re called out as not contributing to the cultural debate.

    Which pile of hot coals should we stand in?

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  53. Angela James
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:49:10

    For those wondering, the RD thread doesn’t quote the review, so the discussion is theoretical, though presumably based on a real situation. So we can’t say that the review, while a DNF review, necessarily “trashed” the book. I would agree that a review saying someone didn’t like a book can’t be conflated with “trashing”.

    Pursuant to the discussion of whether negative publicity can hurt or help a business, there was an interesting article this week about an online eyeglass retailer who actively seeks out negative publicity and fans the flames of it. It’s a disturbing but fascinating read and well worth your time, if only to 1) recognize the dangers of online shopping but also 2) get a new outlook on negative publicity.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/business/28borker.html?_r=3&ref=business&pagewanted=all

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  54. MaryK
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 15:58:00

    @Shiloh Walker: I definitely get the rabid fan problem. But still, some-folks-might-want-a-report-on-the-last-Stardoc-book. :D

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  55. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 16:00:40

    @Jessica But your peer review can impact your own reputation such as a lack of critical peer review can reflect badly on the person doing the peer reviewing.

    In any event, I’m not sure what you are advocating for. A community that actively discourages people from speaking their opinions lest it might someday in the future harm sales? Because like Lynne Connolly, I have had the good fortune to talk to editors about reviews and some have said that the reviews of a book of theirs pained them. I had one editor explain earnestly why she disagreed but she had no problem with me as a reviewer. Others have agreed with the reviews. So this idea that editors aren’t going to buy a book that they think can sell based on some review doesn’t match up with my experience.

    But let’s presuppose that authors can help or prevent authors from making sales to readers. What is the ethical response to someone’s review? To take personal affront and do what you can to crater that person’s career? To ignore it? To encourage others in the community to band against the author? To make a public stance and ensure that other author’s don’t make that same career mistake?

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  56. Jeannie Lin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 16:31:46

    I think the idea of literary discussion by authors needs to be distinguished from a review. I see a review as a statement written to readers with the purpose of recommending the book or not, not a critique written to foster open discussion.

    It’s impossible for an author to never make a critical remark about books. We’re book people. Find me over a latte or a cosmopolitan, or in a book chat, or even on a forum, and I’ll discuss books and what worked or didn’t work for me. But what I put out in a review is different. It hits upon how I’ve chosen to present myself publicly as an author. Even if those forum threads aren’t private, I’m in a different arena there than I am when presenting a review on a site.

    Not to say authors shouldn’t review. I think we’re just very aware that to review is to make a stronger statement.

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  57. Sunita
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 16:40:44

    @Jessica: The reason I don’t see this post as fitting into the mentoring category is that it plays the status card (epub v. “bigger”) and uses pejorative terms (diss, pointless, professional suicide) in discussing a negative review. I think of mentoring as containing more constructive criticism, by contrast.

    Perhaps it was just an off-the-cuff post that was meant well but executed badly. But given the long-standing debates over authors’ responsibilities to each other in this community, I would expect some attentiveness to the language used.

    I agree that book reviews can often be freighted with similar issues in academic disciplines, and their utility definitely varies depending on which field you’re in. And I agree that peer review is often flawed in practice. But people who consistently violate the norms of peer review generally suffer reputational costs.

    What I find depressing in this discussion is the extent to which negative reviews are seen as valueless. A negative review is a diss, or a disparagement. It apparently cannot be constructive or helpful.

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  58. Julie James
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 16:49:09

    This is a question I have mixed feelings about. I love discussing books–what I like, don’t like, what I think works or doesn’t, etc. I believe literary discussion is fun and important. I started a book club that’s been going strong for seven years for this very reason.

    As an author, however, I’ve found that I’ve established a few rules for myself. I will blog or post on Goodreads about books I like. I will also give less than enthusiastic reviews for books not in the romance genre. However, if I don’t like a book within the genre, I typically don’t comment.

    That being said, in discussions that occur in person or with a friend over email, I will talk about books I don’t like and why. It’s the public nature of a negative internet comment or review that makes me pause–rightfully or wrongfully, it feels as though I’ve been talking badly about a co-worker’s performance in the bathroom and didn’t realize she was in one of the stalls.

    If I could make the time to explain my negative reviews, perhaps I would feel differently on this issue. Doing so would make me feel as though I was initiating or furthering a “discussion”. But I’m already one of the slow-pokiest writers out there and I need pretty much every minute of the day just to make my daily word count. So, when time is of the essence for me, it just seems more worthwhile to comment on the books I enjoyed and get the word out about them.

    This is not to suggest that I’m against negative reviews from reviewers or even that I think other authors shouldn’t publicly comment negatively on other authors’ books. It’s just something I tend to stay away from.

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  59. Sunita
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 16:54:05

    @Jeannie Lin:

    I see a review as a statement written to readers with the purpose of recommending the book or not, not a critique written to foster open discussion.

    Why is it an either-or choice? There are plenty of 1000-2000 word reviews here at DA (and at other sites as well) which detail the aspects of the book that worked or did not work for the reviewer. Those seem to me to be both statements of recommendation and critiques. They’re not usually full-blown critiques in the academic sense, but they provide more information than simply “I liked it” or “I hated it.” Lynn Connolly’s DNF review of the Johnston which she linked to in her comment above is very negative, but it’s also pretty thorough. I’ve had my share of both fair and unfair peer reviews, and I try very hard to learn from them, unless they’re completely off the wall (which does happen, but not all that often).

    As I said before, I understand why authors don’t want to do reviews, given the potential blowback. But that’s quite different from saying they shouldn’t be done, which some commenters are also saying (and not just authors but some readers as well).

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  60. MaryK
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 16:56:25

    Oh, wow. I wasn’t going to comment but I just reread the quote after going through the comments and saw bigger implications this time. On first reading,
    -”strictly epubbed”
    -”not one of the big names”
    -”just got a handful of books out, most with smaller presses”
    -”some recent ones with a bigger epub”
    all translated quite well to the “lowly” interpretation.

    After going through the comments and rereading the quote, “amongst a slew of other 4 and 5 star reviews” jumped out at me as odd. The only way I make sense of it is if Painter assumes the 4 and 5 star reviews are “rah, rah” reviews and sees something sinister in an author saying “less than kind things” – “dissing” – one book while at the same time praising others. Which assumption seems natural from someone coming from an “if you can’t say something nice” environment. Which nicely illustrates Jane’s problem with positive only authors on goodreads.

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  61. MaryK
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:16:51

    @Jeannie Lin:

    I see a review as a statement written to readers with the purpose of recommending the book or not, not a critique written to foster open discussion.

    This makes a lot of sense to me. You wouldn’t expect a mechanic shop, say, to go around critiquing other mechanic shops (my car needs work). It’d seem distasteful, like disparaging the competition. But in an informal conversation they might say “so-and-so’s technician is crap.”

    It’s a competition for book dollars to some extent, I guess. Though, as a reader, I’m looking for what clicks with me not who has the best PR.

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  62. Jessica
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:26:20

    @Jane:

    I'm not sure what you are advocating for. A community that actively discourages people from speaking their opinions lest it might someday in the future harm sales?

    No. Here is what I wrote:

    Of course, I agree with the sentiment that more open, critical, discussion of each other's work would be great on balance for authors and the reader community, and that that is a culture towards which authors should strive.

    All I was saying is that I can understand why it might be prudent in some cases, and in the current anti-criticism environment, to pull one’s punches. You know more about the business than I do, though, and if you are sure it would never have any ill professional effects (which might be something other than sales) to be critical in a community which has so far discouraged it, then I believe you.

    As an outsider (whose status is concretized by the fact that I cannot even access the original discussion), I don’t know for sure what is best for that professional community of writers, but it looks to me, as a reader, that it would be better for readers and authors alike if we had more open public critical discourse. I am sure there is a lot of closed circuit critical discourse at local RWAs and among CPs, but just as I can write am open, public blog post critiquing an essay on romance scholarship, I think it would be great if a romance writer would feel the same way critiquing (positively or negatively) a fellow writer’s work.

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  63. MaryK
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:26:51

    Sorry, one more thing.

    I think I may require brain bleach for this – “nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night.” Very vivid. Unfortunately.

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  64. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:46:36

    At least Rowan Somerville didn’t use an anteater in the simile — although I’m still hard-pressed to come up with a nocturnal animal possessed of an attractive nose.

    Maybe the image was part of an acid flashback.

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  65. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:58:51

    @Jessica: Okay, let’s look at it your way for a second, as mentoring. What, exactly, do you think the values are that are being mentored? What kind of professional values, what kind of author community, what kind of genre or reading community?

    Also, regarding peer review, to me it’s not so much a question of whether it works perfectly all the time (constitutional democracy has its problems, too, but I still think it’s a damn fine political philosophy) but one of what values does the community want to foster — what’s the ideal to which we aim. The search for Truth, the exploration of new ideas, the critical engagement of intellectual differences, etc. are all central to the academic ideal, even when imperfectly applied. And like our constitutional democracy, it’s a damn fine philosophy, IMO. ;D YMMV, of course.

    @Jeannie Lin:

    I see a review as a statement written to readers with the purpose of recommending the book or not, not a critique written to foster open discussion.

    I intend my reviews to be an invitation to discussion. I read reviews for that, as well. That doesn’t mean every reviewer has the same view or that every review functions that way. But I think we too often conflate the economic marketplace of bookSELLING with the marketplace of ideas created by books and by reading.

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  66. Deb
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 19:08:32

    With regards to author reviews, I think an author probably would save herself heartache by staying away from unmoderated forums such as Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I have seen enough virtual bloodbaths in both to stay away from reading the reviews altogether.

    A moderated forum such as here, is a different story. While there have been heated discussions from time to time, this forum invites serious discourse, rather than gushing over favored author/books, or attempts to vilify books through snark. I haven’t felt intimidated in joining in a discussion. I enjoy reading the author viewpoint as much as the reader viewpoint.

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  67. Author On Vacation
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 19:17:57

    I’ve written negative reviews for books before, and I stopped because, frankly, I disliked doing it. It just added an extra few hours of having to think about, analyze, and compose an explanation of what didn’t work for me and why. I found the experience very negative and unpleasant. Wasteful. I’d really rather pass on info about great reading experiences than lousy ones. I just find that more productive and meaningful.

    I think the authors and readers criticizing and threatening other authors for negative reviews are no different than reviewers and their readers who believe authors look/sound “bad” if they disagree with or challenge reviews the authors might not view as doing their work justice.

    In both instances, ego gets in the way. The issue become more about differences between personalities than about nurturing artistic expression and sharing impressions and insights with a curious public.

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  68. Author On Vacation
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 19:46:54

    @Sela Carsen:

    Up the thread a bit (I can't use those quote thingies to save my life) Gwen pointed out that publicly stating a negative opinion of a peer's work would have a negative rebound in the business world.

    Then Jane said that peer review – including negative opinions – was of the utmost importance in academics and law. I'm going to expand that to art and the importance of literary/artistic criticism.

    Which basically means that authors who wear both hats are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

    It makes no business sense for us to publicly disparage or even negatively review the work of our peers; yet if we keep quiet or discuss only our positive opinions, we're called out as not contributing to the cultural debate.

    Which pile of hot coals should we stand in?

    Exactly.

    For my part, I choose the pile most conducive to my personal happiness. I love writing, I’m thankful to have been published, it’s not my full-time job and likely never shall be. If I have to wear a muzzle to be considered a “good girl,” I’ll quit publishing before I quit reviewing.

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  69. Janine
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 19:48:53

    I’m buried in work at the moment but I looked up long enough to glance at this post and the discussion thread sucked me in like a Bermuda Triangle vortex. I’ll try to be quick though, because I don’t have much time for posting.

    Speaking as a writer/reviewer, in a way, it really doesn’t matter to me whether a post such as Painter’s is meant as sincere, helpful mentoring or as a threat.

    That’s because whether an author is e-published or “one of the big names,” and whether or not DNF reviews are “professional suicide,” are the last things I need to think about when crafting my reviews. I need to focus on the book itself and not give weight to other factors.

    Because that isn’t always easy, I see posts along those lines as detrimental, whether or not they are intended to be.

    I still remember vividly the day I posted this post in which I made public the fact that I was a writer as well as a reviewer. The discussion ran well over 100 comments and replying to some of them wasn’t easy.

    Like Robin, I see my reviews as an invitation to discussion and conversation about what makes books strong or weak, and what the best books in the genre are. I think that recognizing strengths and weaknesses in writing is ultimately helpful to the community, to readers, to writers, to the genre.

    I’ve been very fortunate that since I started reviewing for DA, I’ve heard from two editors that they enjoy my reviews. Knowing that really helps when it comes to tuning out posts like Painter’s. But I really feel for all the writer/reviewers out there who haven’t had similar feedback, and only hear things like “professional suicide.”

    As a reader, I still mourn the demise of the paperbackreader website, which was devoted to reviews of romances written by authors. I understand authors not having the time or inclination to write reviews, but it’s a loss to the community that some of those who did have time and inclination have withdrawn from reviewing.

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  70. Jeannie Lin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 22:11:34

    @Robin – I liked you phrased this and I think it helps me frame my take on this.

    I intend my reviews to be an invitation to discussion. I read reviews for that, as well. That doesn't mean every reviewer has the same view or that every review functions that way. But I think we too often conflate the economic marketplace of bookSELLING with the marketplace of ideas created by books and by reading.

    You’re right that these two acts, book selling vs. book discussion, are often confused. They are more easily confused when authors are involved by the fact that authors are involved in selling themselves and their books.

    As a person who likes to categorize, this is how I approach this for myself: I see an avenue that’s used for the promotion of books, in this case reviews, should be kept separate and considered a promotional sphere. I understand that reviewers don’t have this stance or this stake — they are analyzing books and inviting discussion. Reviewers are held to a standard of being fair and balanced. But authors and publishers do consider reviews and the quotes from them as publicity and marketing. And authors and publishers inevitably have the goal of promoting their books. Even if it were more accepted among authors, I wouldn’t choose to use reviews to discuss my opinions on books for this reason. I don’t want my opinions on books to confused with my promotional activities. By the same token, my blog and to some of extent, my online activities also fall into that promotional sphere. I think there are better places for this function. I don’t want to do this in the same place I interact with potential readers.

    As to peer review — I think this is also a very good point for why discussion amongst authors/readers is good. But I think the pre-publication phase with critique partners, beta readers, agents, editors, etc. is a better fit for the peer review model. Once the book is published, the author can no longer change it or really respond in any way. It’s now perceived as being up for sale. Reviews should come from the consumers. Of course writers are also readers, but they’re going to be thought of differently–if they’ve been successful with their self-promotion of themselves. Which gets back to the first point. As authors, one of our goals is to become recognized online as authors. This is our focus. I admit that, so I avoid the blending of promotion-networking space/critique space.

    Author-reviewers described ways that they’ve separated these spaces. For instance, not reviewing for friends or reviewing outside the genre. I think the nature of the beast makes it hard to truly separate.

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  71. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 22:28:02

    @Jessica I want to unpack this “professional suicide” phrase for a moment. Professional suicide means to do something to oneself that would kill oneself professionally. How?

    First, there are editors. Will editors not buy a book from an author who has given a negative review to a book the editor has worked on? From Lynne Connolly, Janine, myself, and Julie Leto we can arrive at the conclusion that it is not likely this will happen. Is it possible? Anything is possible, but we don’t have any concrete examples where an editor has refused to buy because of an aspiring author or a lesser established author has written a negative review. Whereas we do have concrete examples of editors actually appreciating even negative reviews or at least reviewers of negative reviews.

    Second, there are the readers. Will readers of one author refuse to buy a book from another author because the lesser known author said something non positive? We have one example of a reader who found it in bad taste and other examples of readers who don’t care.

    Third, there are the authors themselves. Many times I hear the refrain that authors themselves are powerless. They can’t negotiate better deals for themselves. They can’t get publishers to exploit their works. They can’t stop piracy. They can barely move their own careers forward. How is it that they can manage to a) blackball another author or b) adversely affect another author’s sales? Do they want to spend their valuable time and promotional space drawing attention to this lesser author? Do they want to band together to freeze her out such as refuse to attend a signing with her or refuse to do an anthology with her or refuse to give her a cover quote? What does that say about them versus her?

    Is it in bad taste? Wasn’t Mark Twain was notorious for being cutting about his peers’ work?

    Beyond the sales component, how does the allowance of authors to provide negative ratings improve or devalue the community?

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  72. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 22:36:34

    @Jeannie Lin Why is it appropriate to blend the promotion-networking space and the critique space when an author is making a positive comment? Over on the Iron Duke thread, you made a specific recommendation for another steampunk book. You also talked up the Stephanie Draven book. Isn’t that a blend?

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  73. Jane
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 22:43:02

    @Angela James I finally had the time to read that article. I found it fascinating. Scary but fascinating.

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  74. Robin
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 23:14:07

    @Jeannie Lin: I don’t think any author should feel pressed to review or even comment critically on another author’s books. What concerns me is the active pressure on authors by authors to avoid that.

    The points you make about the blending are interesting to me. I understand what you’re saying and why your choices make good sense to you. As I said, I think authors should be able to make choices for themselves about what is and isn’t comfortable to them.

    I see the issue of blending spaces a bit differently, though. For example, I have always found it strange that readers causally refer to Rom authors by their first names, even in reviews. It suggests a level of artificial familiarity that I have never really appreciated or felt comfortable with (unless I am acquainted with the person or am addressing them directly). Or those “Dear Reader” letters in which the author talks about what from her life inspired the book *shudder*. That kind of blending is the blending that I find problematic.

    The kind of blending you’re talking about — which I see reflected every time an author says, ‘we’re readers, too!’ — is what I’d like to see more of, because I think it would create a lot more civil openness in critical discussion. Less of the ‘if you can’t say anything nice’ mandates or the ugly passive aggression you often see among women trying to be nice or trashing someone for not being nice in the name of niceness. And I think it would draw us away from the crass idea that commercial fiction has no value beyond, well, commerce.

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  75. Author On Vacation
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 23:31:53

    @Jane:

    Third, there are the authors themselves. Many times I hear the refrain that authors themselves are powerless. They can't negotiate better deals for themselves. They can't get publishers to exploit their works. They can't stop piracy. They can barely move their own careers forward. How is it that they can manage to a) blackball another author or b) adversely affect another author's sales? Do they want to spend their valuable time and promotional space drawing attention to this lesser author? Do they want to band together to freeze her out such as refuse to attend a signing with her or refuse to do an anthology with her or refuse to give her a cover quote? What does that say about them versus her?

    The answers to these questions depend upon individuals in the industry and their levels of professionalism and ethical consciousness.

    Publishing can be a very political business. Some authors, editors, and publishers are more politically astute than others. Some are more susceptible to flattery and manipulation.

    It’s like any other job. People can be manipulated or misled to believe an author is “bad news” or “trouble” or “too high-maintenance to deal with.”

    However, I don’t think the folks trash-talking in blogs are the people to worry about. It’s people who are nice/pleasant to one’s face but who systematically do what they can to limit or take away an author’s opportunities behind the scenes who are a real threat.

    I’ve been involved in the epublishing industry for a few years now, and I’ve learned to distance myself from people who are all smiles and sunshine to people when they’re face to face but have nothing good to say about them when they’re not around. I always wonder what they’re saying/typing about me when I’m not right in front of folks like that.

    So my answer is yes, there are authors who “network” and have no qualms abusing other authors if they can. And there are epublishers, editors, and reviewers who lack the professional distance required to see through those kinds of games.

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  76. Crista
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 23:37:18

    All this talk of “professional suicide” irritates me. Although some people have tried to downplay it, I’ve heard older authors whisper to newbie authors, “Don’t do X or you’ll get back-balled from romance writing community,” since I’ve been in this business. It’s like a vicious cycle that keeps getting passed down from one generation to the next. And using phrases like “professional suicide” only keeps it spinning. Because I’m an author who “is strictly epubbed and not one of the big names,” with “just got a handful of books out, most with smaller presses, but some recent ones with a bigger epub”, does that mean I’m not allowed to express my opinion? Or if I dare say/write something negative or controversial, have I committed “professional suicide”?

    I’ve spent the greater part of the last two years walking on eggshells because of this threat of being shunned. It gets old after a while.

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  77. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 00:20:46

    @Crista:

    All this talk of “professional suicide” irritates me. Although some people have tried to downplay it, I've heard older authors whisper to newbie authors, “Don't do X or you'll get back-balled from romance writing community,” since I've been in this business. It's like a vicious cycle that keeps getting passed down from one generation to the next. And using phrases like “professional suicide” only keeps it spinning. Because I'm an author who “is strictly epubbed and not one of the big names,” with “just got a handful of books out, most with smaller presses, but some recent ones with a bigger epub”, does that mean I'm not allowed to express my opinion? Or if I dare say/write something negative or controversial, have I committed “professional suicide”?

    I've spent the greater part of the last two years walking on eggshells because of this threat of being shunned. It gets old after a while.

    Have you ever heard of Robert Sutton’s “The No A–hole Rule?” Although it’s written to mainly reflect upon companies and organizational cultures, it’s pretty applicable to almost any professional environment.

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  78. ka
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 02:28:22

    @Robin:

    You wrote, “The kind of blending you're talking about -’ which I see reflected every time an author says, ‘we're readers, too!' -’ is what I'd like to see more of, because I think it would create a lot more civil openness in critical discussion. Less of the ‘if you can't say anything nice' mandates or the ugly passive aggression you often see among women trying to be nice or trashing someone for not being nice in the name of niceness. And I think it would draw us away from the crass idea that commercial fiction has no value beyond, well, commerce.”

    Yes to open discussion from everyone. But there are some commenters who immediately reply “this is for readers” to any author’s comments.

    If you can somehow promote civility, you’d have a real winner.

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  79. Nonny
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 06:08:10

    Personally, I think authors worry too much about potential “career suicide.” Laurell K. Hamilton regularly loses her shit on her blog to the point that there are communities specifically for following and poking fun at her posts. Last I checked, she’s still a NYT bestseller.

    I believe I saw something about Cassie Edwards continuing to be reprinted despite the plagiarism, but I could be mistaken. I do know that Janet Daily continued to publish for several years after she plagiarized Nora.

    If major things like plagiarism aren’t enough to end an author’s career, then I highly doubt an author negatively reviewing a fellow author is going to end someone’s publishing career. It might lose some sales, it might burn some bridges, but it takes a lot to completely “suicide” your career. Frankly, most readers don’t care about author politics. They want a good book to read, and if the author is providing that, right on.

    There have been some comments about the “be nice” and “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all” attitude of the romance genre. It’s definitely a genre issue. I’ve spent a good deal of time in the SF/F community as well, and the attitude is very different. It would be considered absurd and laughed at, from my experience with many SF/F authors. They don’t tend to play nicey-nice.

    And somehow, they’re still selling.

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  80. Jeannie Lin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 07:03:09

    @Jane:

    I think an author takes risks in making a positive comment as well whenever they blurb, quote, or recommendation. Of course, I think the risks and repercussions are much lighter. I think I have to accept that anyone who sees me making such a public, positive recommendation may take that as me promoting these other authors. Because I don’t leave negative reviews, this may just be dismissed as me talking up my friends. I realize that my credibility as a fair and balanced reviewer is nil. So in these cases, I’m very much accepting that this is promotion. It’s of books that really blew me away – but I know people will most likely take it as an author promoting an another author. I’m okay with that.

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  81. Jeannie LIn
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 07:14:19

    @Robin: That is alarming. I agree with you. I like the discussion of books and I think negative reviews and positive reviews both help the author.

    But if a new author came to me to ask advice on this issue, I’d say be careful and you may do more harm to yourself than good. Which is definitely dissuading authors from being negative. I’m advising them from a place of professional conservatism and reflects my approach in academia as well as corporate environments. They can go forward from that point and decide how they want to represent themselves, but that does make me one of the cautionary voices on this matter and part of the trend you’re describing.

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  82. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 07:18:54

    That. Just that. That’s what I worry about, too. I know it happens, but because I won’t get involved in that kind of behaviour, I don’t know too much about it. But undoubtedly, it happens. The whispering behind the back, which is cowardly and deeply hurtful. I don’t know how damaging it is, to be honest, but I’m not spending too much time worrying about it.
    All I can say is that I’m good friends with some extremely influential people in the romance industry, not friendships I care to exploit, so I’m mentioning no names, and they don’t engage in activity like that. Which is probably one reason I love them.
    There are some truly wonderful people in high positions in the romance business, so not to worry. There are some good guys around.

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  83. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 07:21:18

    Well that didn’t work. I tried the blockquote thing. I was replying to this:
    “However, I don't think the folks trash-talking in blogs are the people to worry about. It's people who are nice/pleasant to one's face but who systematically do what they can to limit or take away an author's opportunities behind the scenes who are a real threat.

    I've been involved in the epublishing industry for a few years now, and I've learned to distance myself from people who are all smiles and sunshine to people when they're face to face but have nothing good to say about them when they're not around. I always wonder what they're saying/typing about me when I'm not right in front of folks like that. “

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  84. Maili
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 07:57:31

    I have to say that for years, I was very much against authors – especially reviewers-turned-authors – reviewing books because they tended to review every book positively, often at their own expense (such as reviewer credibility).

    It was easy to detect the, putting it politely, “diplomatic” tone in their reviews of problematic books, which irritated me because it bordered on dishonesty. Not a good trait in a reviewer. It got to the point where I saw author-reviewers as nothing but unpaid book promoters or career-minded aspiring authors who were looking to swoon editors via gushfest reviews. Some author-reviewers actually believed the fact a book was published at all was a job well done on author’s part. The feck?

    THIS was part of my idea of the so-called ‘professional suicide’ from reader’s POV. This kind of author-reviewers lost trust and respect from me, mostly because I felt they were more concerned about promoting books than the contents of books so I refused to buy their books on this alone. I appreciated All About Romance’s (old?) policy: a AAR reviewer retires from reviewing (at AAR) when she becomes a published author. While I mourned the losses, I felt this was the right approach.

    When I returned the Rom comm last year after a few years’ worth of absence, I still held that stance until I read the current crop of authors’ (aspiring, published and reviewer-turned-author) reviews. Such as those by Jill Sorenson, Ann Somerville, Lynne Connolly, DA Janine, AnimeJune and a few more. I was honestly surprised that they weren’t the cheerleader sort. Their reviews have persuaded me to believe it’s truly possible for an author to wear the reviewer hat and do it well.

    Book reviewing has always been a tough job for me (writing a review is similar to stabbing a rusty fork in my eyes), so I come to appreciate their reviews, considering their obviously tough position.

    As soon as I learnt that some of them were (and still are, it seems) under pressure to give up reviewing or switch to positive reviews only, my stance on author-reviewers finally switched from against to for. FWIW.

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  85. Ciar Cullen
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 08:36:53

    Hey, I’m that “other” steampunk book and I was happy that a reader I respect seemed to like it a lot. I don’t know Jeannie, she doesn’t know me, and trust me, she’s not “getting anything” out of mentioning a book by an author (me) who doesn’t have nearly her credentials. (I am epubbed, etc.) So now that doesn’t count? It’s just networking? But it would count if it were negative, or from a reader (who presumably doesn’t have any agenda)? It would count if Jeannie ONLY made negative comments about books? I think people are holding writers to impossible standards. A reader/reviewer who isn’t a writer does not need to get that next contract, wonder if she’ll end up working with an editor who is now at her new company, etc. THIS kind of thing is why authors don’t review much. Someone above said you’re damned if you do and if you don’t. I agree. In that spirit, I’m going to go recommend some books I like.

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  86. Jane
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 09:05:17

    @Ciar Cullen You aren’t damned if you do/damned if you don’t. (and I don’t even see an argument for the damned if you do/damned if you don’t. Perhaps you could provide me with examples). It sounds like a victim statement.

    What we have said consistently in this thread is that there is a far cry from providing negative responses to cultivating an atmosphere of fear and terror of being free to say what one thinks when one is an aspiring or “lesser” author. By saying giving a non positive statement (which to some authors is anything less than 5 stars all the time) is professional suicide and by providing advice to not give non positive statements, aren’t authors cultivating that community of fear? I mean, if that is the kind of community that authors want to operate under, I guess that is your choice.

    As for my specific response to Jeannie, it had to do with her apparent agnst at blending the professional/networking space with a critique space. Clearly she is comfortable doing the blending when it is a positive statement but not when it is a negative one. I was asking why.

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  87. A small correction
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 09:19:23

    Rowan Somerville is male.

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  88. Maili
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 09:24:23

    @Ciar Cullen:

    But it would count if it were negative, or from a reader (who presumably doesn't have any agenda)? It would count if Jeannie ONLY made negative comments about books? I think people are holding writers to impossible standards.

    I believe it’s mostly authors who make it an issue, actually. I know you’re not addressing me, but for what it’s worth, I don’t look for ‘negative reviews only’ from authors (or anyone else, actually). What I’m looking for is well-written reviews, positive or not.

    I truly appreciate it when an author explains why a book works for her or when it doesn’t (or both), instead of the tired old “This is a fantastic book! I’m really in awe of this author’s talent! Hero is such a sexy Alpha and heroine is so strong and caring! This brilliant book is released today! Buy a copy!” spin.

    I’m rarely interested when an author – if I don’t know her usual taste in books – recommends a book without explanation. It’s no different from a reader or reviewer doing the same.

    FWIW, I bought Jill Sorenson’s own books after reading her reviews and responses to various topics here at DA, even though I didn’t agree with some of her reviews and responses.

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  89. Jane
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 09:34:17

    @Maili I’ve had a number of people email me in the past couple of months about how they are so irritated with authors on twitter because on release day, they all retweet their BFFs release and the entire twitter feed becomes this useless circle jerk of self promotion. Readers are very savvy and we can clue in pretty fast to who is promoing their friends’ releases. And the all positive, all the time, stuff becomes just white noise and may actually have the opposite effect than is intended. Kind of how you viewed author reviews back in the day (me too, btw).

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  90. Jeannie Lin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 10:09:41

    @Jane:

    I do just want to clarify that I don’t consider it blending promo and critique when I talk up a book like Stephanie Draven’s or Ciar Cullen’s. The reason why is because it is very definitely promo here. Perhaps not promotion of my own books, but it’s promotion. And I’ve admitted that review/blog space is promotion space for me.

    In terms of my dilemma on this, one time I blogged about the whitewashing of Cindy Pon’s cover. I muddled the spaces then. A lot of people visited my blog to comment on this issue. More than I’ve ever had visit. Some of those people bought my book which wasn’t yet released. I was so torn. Because my blog is admittedly there to promote my books and myself as an author. When I say how much I love Cindy Pon’s books – I’m very definitely promoting her genre and thus myself. I know this is unavoidable whether I intend it or not and I’m comfortable with it. I wasn’t comfortable with my opinion on the whitewashing of the cover turning into a promotion — but that’s what it became. Unavoidable. Inside, internally, I didn’t feel right. And now I’m saying too much. :)

    If I give a negative review — I would want to qualify that this is not me promoting. That’s why I find the difficulty. How do I shut off the promotion engine and say, for this instance, think of me as not an author promoting? I don’t want to muddle that role.

    I wouldn’t dissuade authors who do review like Janine and Lynne from doing it. Obviously they’ve created an identity in these spaces where they can do both. They’ve established themselves as reviewers. I think an author who has not spent some time establishing this is going to have more issues when they are critical. Even the ones who do establish themselves have difficulties, as discussed here. Not saying it’s fair.

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  91. DS
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 10:10:10

    One thing I like about the romance community now as opposed to seven or more years ago– at least the part I am involved in– readers in general appear more assured and less concerned about distressing authors by stating negative opinions.

    (I don’t mean a lack of civility, years ago that there was an unwarranted deference to and fear of offending authors by romance readers that is not so obvious any more.)

    @Robin:

    I see the issue of blending spaces a bit differently, though. For example, I have always found it strange that readers causally refer to Rom authors by their first names, even in reviews. It suggests a level of artificial familiarity that I have never really appreciated or felt comfortable with (unless I am acquainted with the person or am addressing them directly). Or those “Dear Reader” letters in which the author talks about what from her life inspired the book *shudder*. That kind of blending is the blending that I find problematic.

    I so agree with you here. I used to really avoid the books where the author insisted that her husband was the pattern for all of her heroes. That one became extremely problematical for me after one author was gunned down by her “hero” when she tried to leave him.

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  92. Jane
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 10:30:18

    @Jeannie Lin What I am reading (and this could be wrong) is that your recommendation of another author’s book is part of your promotion and networking space.

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  93. Ciar Cullen
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 10:41:44

    I don’t feel like a victim, Jane, even though I came off as whiny (before coffee–that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). My point, although a little rambling, was that readers and reviewers (it seems from a short sampling of these sorts of discussions) dismiss all positive reviews by authors of other authors as promotion of their friends. If that is the case (I know it’s a sweeping statement), then it’s really not very satisfying as a writer to do reviews. Also, negative reviews are often seen as attacks on fellow writers. Thus–damned if you do, etc. That was the point I was trying to make.

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  94. dick
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 10:59:41

    You know, it seems to me that romance fiction is unique in that the final arbiter of whether a book is good or not is personal taste. An author might, of course, have insights into the construction of the final product that a reader who merely reads; that doesn’t mean that, in the end, the author doesn’t assess a romance on the same basis as everybody else–I like it or I didn’t like it. We all know personal taste, whether an author’s or a reader’s isn’t disputable.

    But, simple good manners require that often we ought not, especially in insular communities, express our likes and dislikes, even when we have sound personal reasons. Thus I more or less understand why authors would prefer not to review other authors’ books. To do so strikes me as asking your neighbor if she got her dress at the consignment store–akin to damning with faint praise or assenting with civil leer, regardless of the intent.

    I don’t think it makes much difference, in the long run, whether authors review other authors’ books. In my reading, their likes and dislikes influence not a whit, because for me it’s all a matter of taste–mine.

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  95. Maili
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:17:03

    @Jeannie Lin:

    How do I shut off the promotion engine and say, for this instance, think of me as not an author promoting? I don't want to muddle that role.

    See, I view all reviews – positive, negative or bland – as part of the promotion machine*. What differs a review from a promo piece is a well-stated opinion. THAT is what I’m interested in.

    *I should note that DA Janet/Robin and I have frequently fought over this (she don’t view reviews as a promotional tool while I do). :D

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  96. Jeannie Lin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:20:30

    @Jane:

    It is–it has to be. I have to say that everything that I do online as Jeannie Lin is promoting my author self. I have to admit that. Even this series of very long and very opinionated posts — which is causing quite a bit of cognitive dissonance for me right now.

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  97. Jane
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:33:08

    @Jeannie Lin I ask this seriously and it is meant without offense but if everything you do is promoting your author self what do you have to offer the community of readers.

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  98. Jane
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:34:46

    @A small correction Thanks. I will make the correction.

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  99. Beverly
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 12:01:16

    @Jeannie Lin There is a difference between the view that everything you do under your name will reflect on you as an author, therefore you must be careful about what you choose to say and do and approaching discussion with the intention that everyone see your name everytime and your comments are meant only to induce us to buy your books.

    The first situation make you a commenter who is careful about the value of their author name, whereas the second would be a promotional machine who sees readers as simply a walking wallet.

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  100. Jeannie Lin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 12:21:25

    @Jane:

    That is a good question and I don’t take offense. This answer is just going to be taking away the glamor of it all, but I’m not saying anything earth shattering:

    When I was very, very new to writing, I took a workshop by Julia Quinn. Someone asked her off the cuff about “the whole blogging thing”. She said she didn’t do it because there’s just too much risk for her. I understood, but in my head, I thought to myself that Julia is established. I’m not and I’m going to be starting out in an environment very different from when Julia started out. So I have to take that risk in hopes of the reward.

    Fast forward to now. The author persona I promote and project does discuss books. She does talk about craft and the ups and downs of writing. She tries to encourage and cheer people on. I’ve chosen to project this — honestly I feel it’s close to who I am personally so it’s easy to project. A teacher, a history geek, a reader, a writer. But I know when I do this, I’m still presenting a face and promoting. It would be too exhausting if that face was very different from my own. I hope all this does offer something to readers and fellow writers who are interested. That’s the nature of promotion in the social media world, right? I’m trying to be a participant in this space, but it’s a participant that’s been coached.

    I do agree with Maili that all reviews – negative and positive — fall under promotion space.

    I’m okay if people call out all those things I do as, in the end, promotion. I want people to like me. I want martial arts geeks and history buffs and authors to like me. Hopefully they like me because I add to that conversation. The incident with Cindy’s cover — I’m not happy with my opinion being called out as me capitalizing on that issue. But I’d have to accept it, if someone called me out on it. This is along the lines of the criticism of publishers using the breast cancer platform to promote. Whatever the intentions, it is what it is.

    If someone were to call me out on a negative review of another author as me promoting myself, I’d have to accept that. I’m not saying all authors have to accept the same premises. These are my lines. I’ve mentioned there are authors who’ve established themselves as critical readers and commentators as well as authors. For them, in my opinion, the reviewer angle and not the negative review itself is part of their promotion, if they’re navigating these choppy waters successfully.

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  101. Jennifer Leeland
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 12:31:26

    I’m just going to say that there’s a HUGE difference between keeping my mouth shut out of fear and keeping my mouth shut out of wisdom.

    The argument has been made, whether you agree or not, that what is said online has consequences. If you’re willing to pay them, fine. I, personally, don’t.

    I don’t believe that encouraging authors to watch their words is “fear mongering”.

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  102. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 12:56:47

    @Jeannie LIn: First let me say how much I appreciate your honesty here. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is for you to be open about your counsel and to be willing to engage in this discussion. This, by the way, is exactly what I think characterizes a healthy genre culture.

    I have a bunch of thoughts about this, which I’m just going to run through quickly, but am happy to discuss any in more length:

    First, I think it’s extremely important that people do or don’t do what’s personally comfortable for them. The last thing we need is people feeling forced to speak out when that is not their preference or personality type. As we’ve seen in the past, once you speak, people will call you on it, and if you’re not comfortable with that (general you, here, now you, Jeannie), it can lead to massive online blowback.

    That said, as a reader, I will not ever check out a book based merely on the name of the person recommending it. If an author only recs books they like, I have no idea whether my taste will mesh there, because I have no idea what the author — as a reader — likes and dislikes. What IMO makes reviews or recommendations valuable is knowing the reviewer or recommender’s range of taste and tolerance.

    Because the Romance community is full of aspiring Romance novelists, I wonder that we have any dedicated readers at all. I am always reminded of how many readers are also aspiring or pubbed authors once November rolls around and so many participating in NaNo drop off Twitter like proverbial flies. I understand how this intense crossover can make commenting or reviewing critically seem like even more of a risk, but IMO it makes it even more of a healthy necessity, because I’d hate to think people feel muzzled before they are even published. And once that invisible line is crossed, do the rules change instantly? Sometimes I wonder how many of us readers would be left if all the aspiring authors stop commenting and reviewing!

    I keep hearing these analogies that make authors sound like publisher employees or co-workers. That is baffling to me, especially when I also hear authors talk about how you’re independent artists and craftspeople. You know that the employee/co-worker model isn’t accurate vis a vis the legal structure here, but can you tell me why so many authors feel that way? It’s not like you’re all collaborating on books, and while writing books may be your job, books circulate in a public space for the purpose of being read and discussed.

    I know that some authors review anonymously and secretly. I have not yet decided what I feel the ethics of this are, because while I don’t think authors should feel prohibited from reviewing, the secrecy is always disconcerting to me, making me feel like I can’t trust anyone at even the most superficial level. Again, that seems kind of sad to me.

    Also, can you tell me in more detail what you perceive to be the real professional risks here? Is it being bullied by fellow authors or editors not buying your books? Because if it’s the second, I feel that presents such a petty and unprofessional view of editors! At the very least it reflects very poorly on the group of folks who are ostensibly bringing quality books to market. To think that editors care more about an author saying something critical about another author’s books than about a book that will sell is, well, kind of awful.

    If this kind of peer to peer discouragement were standard across all genres of fiction, I might be more sanguine about it. And that doesn’t mean I don’t get that it’s been a cultural characteristic in Romance. And I understand how many won’t want to be the ones agitating for change. Understand and respect that. But I hear refrains of “we don’t want to be told what to do” here and elsewhere, and I have to laugh a bit, because it’s the “being told what to do” that generated this discussion to begin with. On that, I think (hope?) we’re all on the same page. But I don’t understand why it’s not okay to feel like you’re (general you) being told what to do by people who want more openness but okay to feel like you’re being told what to do by people encouraging your silence.

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  103. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 13:02:11

    @Nonny: And how about Deborah Anne MacGillivray and Victoria Laurie?! If taking out after readers isn’t enough to end your publishing career, then how could a less than stellar review do it?

    This strikes me as much more about authors feeling something among themselves more than about editors, publishers, and readers. And those things may be completely legitimate. But what a cultural ethos to tolerate!

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  104. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 13:07:00

    @DS: And wasn’t there a publisher (EC?) that recently featured an author (authors?) on the cover of her own book? I am so not comfortable with that.

    Of course I also don’t really like those true story Romances that are currently being produced. I think in a genre where women are already criticized for not being able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy that it’s important to separate rather than blend those spheres. But that’s probably a reflection of my general discomfort with many the more fannish elements of the Rom culture. I don’t really like it when they dress up authors like their characters for book jacket photos, either. ;D

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  105. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 13:29:28

    @dick:

    But, simple good manners require that often we ought not, especially in insular communities, express our likes and dislikes, even when we have sound personal reasons. Thus I more or less understand why authors would prefer not to review other authors' books. To do so strikes me as asking your neighbor if she got her dress at the consignment store-akin to damning with faint praise or assenting with civil leer, regardless of the intent.

    Publishing is a business, a professional community. It isn’t a garden club, a reading circle, or any other hobby/leisure activity.

    Lack of professionalism and a tendency to view the romance publishing industry as a garden party is part of the reason drama ensues.

    If I dislike an author’s book, it’s not a personal attack on the author, nor is it an effort on my part to affect the author’s popularity or sales.

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  106. Patricia Briggs
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 13:40:56

    I feel pretty free about reviewing books I like. However, I do not review books I don’t like. Mostly because I’m worried that someone will give my words more weight than they should have (I’m just another reader– what I like, and what someone else likes may be completely different things.) and that it might be harder on the author than it should be. I don’t criticize other author’s works in public — and I didn’t when I was a mid-list author. It just didn’t seem professional.

    That being said — as long as a review is done fairly, I don’t see why one author cannot critique another. It isn’t professional suicide — as long as you don’t give an emotional and obviously prejudicial hate review. At that point, I think, you are likely to lose readers.

    As an example: a certain author (not romance), I shall call that author B, who I used to read a lot, published a nasty diatribe against the copy editor of B’s current book in the first hard bound edition of this book. It made B sound petty and vindictive and I have not read B’s book since.

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  107. Lisa
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 13:48:03

    I don’t know Kristan Painter but I took her statement as a warning to newer authors, rather than less published authors, who might not realize how realize how small the publishing world is. That was just my take, and first impression.

    For me, after years in corporate management and marketing, I decided to use my skills to do author promotion when I first started writing. I was along for the ride when many authors experience success at all levels. Some of them got a little success and it went right to their heads. Suddenly, I was their doormat. Do I think a few of those people would be bad enemies to make? You betcha and I walked on eggshells. And it made me want OUT of the promo biz. On the other hand, I worked with some authors that were highly published either before, or after, we started working together,who were SO incredibly nice and humble. The bottom line for me though is that even if my many years in the corporate world hadn’t proven to me how power impacts some peoples actions, and sometimes in a not so nice way, that promo experience would have. I do want to stress that I met some wonderful wonderful friends while doing author PR and even ended up in anthologies with some of those people. So I do hope I don’t sound jaded, because I don’t think I am. I am so very fortunate to have met some authors who became long term, amazing friends, and would do it all over again just to know them. Most industries are smaller than people realize. That writer you rub wrong might turn into an editor, or move to your RWA chapter, or be placed in an anthology or book tour, with you. You just never know. So I choose to review only books I love. Heck, I love books, so I love sharing the ones I am excited about.

    There is good and bad in every industry, in every group of people. How you deal with that has to be a personal choice, but an informed choice, is always a smart one.

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  108. DS
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 14:06:27

    @Robin:

    And wasn't there a publisher (EC?) that recently featured an author (authors?) on the cover of her own book? I am so not comfortable with that.

    Truly, I missed that.

    I did wonder if the true romance trend has anything to do with the popularity of RPS in various fandoms? I could see publishers/packagers rummaging through the fan sites for the Next Big Thing after slash.

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  109. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 14:11:39

    @Patricia Briggs:

    That being said -’ as long as a review is done fairly, I don't see why one author cannot critique another.

    You may not have meant this the way I’m reading it, but I’m reading it as an author critiquing another AUTHOR not another author’s BOOK. I see it as a critique of a book, but I understand that for authors it may feel more personally directed. And I totally understand that.

    Which is why I think what we’re talking about here is really a cultural shift, one that allows for critical engagement with books without regard to whether one is merely a reader or an author and reader.

    Anyone have any ideas why these changes have not taken root in Romance, as opposed to other genre communities, where this taboo does not exist?

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  110. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 14:32:55

    @Lisa:

    I decided to use my skills to do author promotion when I first started writing. I was along for the ride when many authors experience success at all levels. Some of them got a little success and it went right to their heads. Suddenly, I was their doormat. Do I think a few of those people would be bad enemies to make? You betcha and I walked on eggshells.

    *shudders* Been there, done that, know just what you’re talking about.

    I and several other writers once had our own informal critique and support group. An author, formerly a long-time friend of mine, literally morphed into “Authorzilla” the moment she achieved some success in the epublishing industry. Our friendship could not survive the transformation because I never liked her books and her ego was clearly too caught up in her books not to take it personally.

    Through mutual friends and acquaintances, I’ve discovered the author has painted me as “jealous” of her success. My “jealousy” is supposedly the reason I was so critical of her writing in our younger days. I suspect this is what she wants to believe, because accepting that I just don’t like her style is too heavy a blow.

    It’s sort of come full circle, though, because as she’s become more widely read, I’ve noted some Amazon reviews criticizing her work and some of their comments considering her deficiencies echo mine. I suppose they’re all “jealous,” too.

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  111. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 14:46:07

    @Robin:

    You may not have meant this the way I'm reading it, but I'm reading it as an author critiquing another AUTHOR not another author's BOOK. I see it as a critique of a book, but I understand that for authors it may feel more personally directed. And I totally understand that.

    Which is why I think what we're talking about here is really a cultural shift, one that allows for critical engagement with books without regard to whether one is merely a reader or an author and reader.

    Anyone have any ideas why these changes have not taken root in Romance, as opposed to other genre communities, where this taboo does not exist?

    Robin, there are clearly people on every level of the publishing reading industry who feel authors should somehow be held to a different standard and not enjoy the same rights as a non-published writer/reader or a non-author reader.

    Very recent comments by readers and/or reviewers indicate their belief authors have no right to “backtalk” reviewers, for instance.

    More than one poster at DA has challenged my integrity because I choose to post at DA anonymously. Heckling worthy of public elementary schoolchildren ensues on the issue.

    I’m not here to promote myself or my own work. I’m here strictly as a private citizen and as a reader. I choose the alias “Author On Vacation” because I prefer not to lie or misrepresent myself. If I pretended NOT to be a published author, would that make my comments more acceptable?

    It’s happening at all levels. Authors are being warned to “shut up and write.”

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  112. Janine
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 15:16:26

    @Jane:

    Will editors not buy a book from an author who has given a negative review to a book the editor has worked on? From Lynne Connolly, Janine, myself, and Julie Leto we can arrive at the conclusion that it is not likely this will happen. Is it possible? Anything is possible, but we don't have any concrete examples where an editor has refused to buy because of an aspiring author or a lesser established author has written a negative review. Whereas we do have concrete examples of editors actually appreciating even negative reviews or at least reviewers of negative reviews.

    More than that, AAR Rachel once stated (in comment #133 on this old post of mine) that

    for a least one AAR reviewer writing reviews and PPP entries helped her get published; it didn't hurt her efforts at all

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  113. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 15:24:01

    @Author On Vacation: So you’re equating an author “backtalking” on a review of her own book with authors reviewing books in their own genre?

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  114. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 15:32:41

    @Robin:

    @Author On Vacation: So you're equating an author “backtalking” on a review of her own book with authors reviewing books in their own genre?

    I’m equating prejudice with prejudice.

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  115. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 15:47:27

    @DS: Oh, I don’t know re the RPS fan fic thing inspiring the true romance stuff. Interesting observation, though.

    @Author On Vacation: ?????

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  116. Maili
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 15:55:20

    After reading my comments here, my sister – hi, Jinty! – sent me this link to an editorial piece at the Guardian: How writers review their critics. Responses are interesting as well.

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  117. Ridley
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 17:17:19

    @Robin:

    Anyone have any ideas why these changes have not taken root in Romance, as opposed to other genre communities, where this taboo does not exist?

    That’s easy. It’s because romance fandom is 99% women.

    Since I came to the online romance community from the video game culture, I’ve been all but set on fire by the “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all” patrols for comments that would never have raised an eyebrow elsewhere.

    Even in video game land the gender divide is telling. Criticize Final Fantasy and you run the risk of getting your house bombed. And who plays FF most enthusiastically? Girls and women.

    It’s the intellectual equivalent of slut shaming. Just one more way women police other women.

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  118. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 17:33:35

    @Ridley:

    It's the intellectual equivalent of slut shaming. Just one more way women police other women.

    I’d call it anti-intellectual activity.

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  119. Chrissy
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 17:37:52

    You know… the fact that Kristin was OPENING A DIALOGUE rather than actually making a blanket statement seems to have been lost. I guess you have to be a special kind of narrow minded to interpret her the way some have.

    Asking if it may be stupid to build your career carefully gets her quoted, off-site, by non-members, without so much as a professional courtesy-email? She wasn’t dissing the right– she was opening a discussion.

    If one is attempting to climb UPWARD, one is entitled to think the people on upper rungs are full of shit. But shoving something up their ass from below seems a tad stupid. Shit IS subject to gravity.

    You like shit? Poke away. But getting angry at the people who point and say “duck” is ridiculous.

    And using private postings without– at least– a heads-up is rude and unprofessional.

    Umm… duck?

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  120. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 17:55:30

    @Chrissy:

    You know… the fact that Kristin was OPENING A DIALOGUE rather than actually making a blanket statement seems to have been lost. I guess you have to be a special kind of narrow minded to interpret her the way some have.

    Asking if it may be stupid to build your career carefully gets her quoted, off-site, by non-members, without so much as a professional courtesy-email? She wasn't dissing the right- she was opening a discussion.

    If one is attempting to climb UPWARD, one is entitled to think the people on upper rungs are full of shit. But shoving something up their ass from below seems a tad stupid. Shit IS subject to gravity.

    You like shit? Poke away. But getting angry at the people who point and say “duck” is ridiculous.

    And using private postings without- at least- a heads-up is rude and unprofessional.

    Umm… duck?

    I reserve the right to think and say ANYONE is full of it, whether they’re “above” me, “beneath” me, or “beside” me.

    An author or other person “on the upper rungs” who attempts to disrupt with an “underling’s” career and reputation demonstrates one thing to me: FEAR. The only people I’ve ever known to censor others or punnish others for positions with which they disagreed acted out of fear.

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  121. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 20:47:28

    @Ridley: I’m starting to think some of it relates to how different individuals manage conflict. Which, of course, is partly related to gender socialization issues.

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  122. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 20:48:58

    @MaryK:

    @Shiloh Walker: I definitely get the rabid fan problem. But still, some-folks-might-want-a-report-on-the-last-Stardoc-book. :D

    LMAO. Hmmmm… I’ll post something @ my blog. I don’t think I’ve got anything preloaded to go for Sunday. O.o

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  123. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 21:05:22

    @Jessica:

    re: mentoring/bullying… I honestly don’t think Kristin’s comments were intended to be bullying. I’ve met her. She’s not the bullying type-she’s just not.

    And yes, I realize that might sound like the ‘oh, she’s my friend-leave her alone’ but… I said I’ve MET her. That isn’t the same as ‘she’s my bestest, bestest pal and don’t pick on her.’

    Seriously-I don’t think Kristin’s comments were intended to ‘silence’ anybody.

    Could they be construed that way? Yes.

    I’ve said it before, but when it comes to online things, it’s all about the delivery…how you say, what words are used… maybe Kristin just didn’t use the best words for this situation.

    But no… I do not, honestly, believe this was intended to be bullying.

    (Not directed at Jessica, just in general)

    However, I do think the romance community in general needs to accept that fact that if romance writers want to review other romance writers…? Well. Let them. If they are willing to deal with any consequences? So be it.

    (And I’m not repeating myself on the possible consequences…did that early up and I’m tired…plus…um… I’m also lazy…sorry!)

    @@Jane: I don’t know if I’ve trust that it’s abated enough to even mess with it, in my case, honestly. But money making… eh, I’m not going worry about reviewing to connect with readers. I yap & tweet enough to do that. I do see where you’re coming from, but this could easily be a double-edged sword for authors. Not in the professional suicide way-because I don’t see that.

    But considering how I’ve had people ‘take me to task’ just for not keeping up with certain authors’ book? As in all but shoving them into my hands to buy? I’m still not interesting in messing with it-this is just me, though.

    I do think that if an author WANTS to? She should be able, without having fellow authors lynch her. As long as she’s being fair, focusing on the book…and yes, i do think she should refrain from being ugly in the review even if she hated it, because that doesn’t serve the author REVIEWING the book well. It’s too easily going to come back and bite her on the ass, and there is always a way to say things without being ugly.

    But if she can do that? have at it.
    I’ve got no problem with it.

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  124. Joely
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 21:55:01

    When I first started out years ago, I once tried to dissect a published book that was very similar to my wip, because I was targeting that line and that editor. I did not trash the book at all, but I did draw comparisons, trying to figure out what I had done right and wrong. What I liked in that published book, and what I didn’t like.

    The author found my post and wrote a kind letter to me, but I was embarrassed that she’d found me. (This is before I knew about google alerts — how had she found my nobody blog?!)

    Later, I found out that the editor had also read my post and I don’t think she took too kindly to it. I felt ill, even though she never contacted me directly.

    I was afraid to open my mouth for a long time after that. I hadn’t done anything maliciously–merely tried as a naive newbie to draw some comparisons. Needless to say, I’ve never done that kind of post again and I never submitted to that editor for fear she’d remember me.

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  125. Author On Vacation
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 23:03:02

    @Shiloh Walker:

    re: mentoring/bullying… I honestly don't think Kristin's comments were intended to be bullying. I've met her. She's not the bullying type-she's just not.

    And yes, I realize that might sound like the ‘oh, she's my friend-leave her alone' but… I said I've MET her. That isn't the same as ‘she's my bestest, bestest pal and don't pick on her.'

    Seriously-I don't think Kristin's comments were intended to ‘silence' anybody.

    I’m not going to backtrack through the entire thread, so I might be mistaken, but I’m not sure anyone labelled Kristin a bully. I didn’t take the snippet of her comment posted in the originating post as any type of threat or bullying. I took it as her throwing out an idea and asking her audience what they thought.

    NOW, I have to admit, I wonder WHY she’d ask the question. If she equates a “lesser author” (whatever that is) unfavorably reviewing a “bigger author” (whatever that is) as “professional suicide,” is her opinion based on experience? Has she “killed” a “lesser author” for unfavorably reviewing her work or some other “bigger author’s” work? Has she herself experienced “career death” or career setback related to her unfavorably reviewing a “bigger author” than herself? Or is it just an idle question?

    Either way, the snippet I read didn’t leave me thinking Kristin was a “bad” person. Kristen may very well think “dissing” a “bigger author” in public is wrong. I think “dissing” any people in public or in private is wrong.

    However, “dissing” (disrespecting) someone and reviewing a person’s artwork are not the same thing.

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  126. Jeannie Lin
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 06:43:59

    Whoa, this conversation is still going strong! This response is a bit long.

    @Beverly:
    Sorry for not responding earlier. I consider what I’m doing is the first example.

    @Maili:

    I didn’t read the comments, but I thought the article expressed some of the intricacies we’re talking about here very well.

    @Robin:
    I think the risk — I prefer risk to threat as ‘threat' has taken a particular connotation in this thread — is the same one that Gwen Hayes, Shiloh Walker, and other authors have expressed. I want to emphasize the point that this advice doesn't come from a place so dark as fear and paranoia.

    1) Unexpected backlash – From a purely business perspective, an unpredictable risk is something authors should weigh and mitigate.

    2) Less opportunity to network.

    I’m online to promote and network with authors. I also go to conferences and give workshops. I don’t want things to get weird. I’m not even worried about wounding a scathing, vindictive author or crazy militant readers. I think these are pretty few and far between, they just get more publicity. I don’t think you have to be a paranoid, insecure author to not want to network with someone whose given a negative critique of your work. Even if you think that review made some reasonable points. We’re interacting with people here. It just gets weird.

    It’s not that I don’t value speaking my opinion or that I don’t value my status as a reader. But I’m going to say that in terms of my online conduct, for me, I value making connections, networking, and perhaps collaborating higher than I value my need to criticize authors' works. That's not to say critique is not valuable to the publishing industry – it absolutely is.

    Now, can I network with an author who’s given a negative review of my book? Even a hostile, scathing review? Yes. (If I could put a highlighter to these next lines, I would) But I don’t think that the authors who would rather not do so are unreasonable authors. They are sane, practical, smart people. Why engage someone who’s been negative about their books to readers when there are so many other ppl to know?

    And I’m not talking about bashing or snark — I’m talking about a negative review, well-written. I’m going to take it down to that non-extreme level. It just gets weird. I’m imagining sitting next to this author whose book I’ve criticized or has criticized me and trying to figure out whether I should talk to them. I’m feeling that heat that creeps up the back of your neck and you think everyone in the room can see you how you’re getting flushed and nervous. THAT uncomfortableness is enough for me to not put myself in that situation. LOL. This is not the destruction of my career, but I do consider it a potential negative consequence and lost opportunity. I really want to talk to that author right now and I’m hoping we can just down a couple drinks and laugh about it. This is how I felt when I met a reviewer recently. And her review of my book wasn’t awful and I think we actually had a nice meeting. I’m trying to communicate that this advice doesn’t have to come from a place as awful as paranoia and fear to be palpable and have consequences.

    I think the analogy of co-workers is trying to express this desire to network with authors and participate on that level. I value that. It’s not trying to extend the analogy to say we are employed by publishers and we all work in one company. It’s saying, these are people you’re keeping the door open for collaborating with. And, because writing is our profession–”co-working” with. As Jane mentioned, these are author-to-author standards. I don’t think readers, readers who are not also authors, are so aware.

    @All:
    I do consider romance authors my peers.
    I think this culture is a valid culture. I think it’s okay and expected that emotions are part of the equation. They cannot be separated–if your goal is interpersonal connection. It's not a “woman thing”. Please don't dismiss it as that. Please don't. Especially when there are positives to it. My day job is in a field that's male dominated. This same work ethic can get you far in any field.

    I think Robin and others have made very valid points that the black side of this is quashing honest opinions. That's why conversations like this and the one that Kristen opened up on Romance Divas should happen. I don't think they could happen so freely without this culture. I've visited non-romance boards where people get snarked and shouted down for no reason I can see. I don't want to see what would happen if the gatekeepers of “play nice” did get shouted down and decided to back out of the conversation.

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  127. Jane
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 09:40:57

    @Chrissy Thanks for commenting Chrissy. I don’t view RD as a private forum. There are over 2000 members on the message board. I’m not sure how you can have an expectation of privacy in a group with over 2000 members. Further, I have posted items from RD with nary a complaint from anyone including information regarding Dorchester situation and the like. And if shit rains down on me, like you suggest, I will just take a shower.

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  128. Author On Vacation
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 12:08:05

    @Jeannie Lin:

    Jeannie Lin, you brought up some excellent points to support your opinion.

    I guess it depends upon individual authors, editors, readers, etc.. What value the individual places upon honest, constructive discourse versus “being nice” to “keep options open.”

    I happen to value honesty. I’d rather an author friend tell me my manuscript “isn’t working” and offer me productive feedback on WHY it doesn’t work and what might work than offer me insincere compliments or polite silence because the author fears losing my goodwill or collaborative opportunities.

    How could anyone collaborate productively with a “yes-man?”

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  129. Robin
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 13:06:16

    @Jeannie Lin: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I had a very similar conversation last night on Twitter with another author, so I understand what you are saying about social awkwardness. In a community where that has been a cultural norm, it can be extremely uncomfortable and unappealing to entertain a change. God knows we all have those places in our lives where we’re reluctant to rock the boat!

    All I can say in response is that I’m trying to reconcile your concerns with the fact that it’s in the nature and purpose of books to be read, discussed, reviewed, critiqued, etc. This author reviewing taboo is not universal across fiction genres, so it must be that there is something in the culture of the Romance community that has kept it in place. Maybe it’s partly the fan elements, maybe it’s partly the way women are socialized to personalize criticism, maybe it’s partly lack of critical attention that has been paid to the genre, internally and externally. But whatever it is, it’s not the universal professional standard among fiction genre communities. And I think you said above that you come from an academic community, so surely you know how readily we disagree with each other, take each other’s work to task in our own, and still can be good friends and productive colleagues. Our awkwardness is conditioned by the professional standard, and vice versa. If the professional standard shifted, wouldn’t expectations of “good” or even “nice” behavior change, as well?

    Obviously my hope is that this culture shifts, because while I understand that some authors will feel more or less comfortable engaging critically with books in their own genre (same with readers), it strikes me that there is an intentional push to keep the taboo in place. And that makes me sad, even when it’s intended in the most benevolent ways (as considered professional advice).

    The power structures articulated in the original comment really bothered me, too, and I think many of the defenses of that comment have blown past those and not really engaged the implications of that bigger/lesser divide. And let’s examine the lovingly, respectfully, professionally articulated comment #118 to shed light on something I’ve witnessed over and over: namely, that it’s not the “gatekeepers of ‘play nice’” who need protection. In fact, I’m always, always stunned by how NOT NICE so many of those voices seem to be. Which, I have to say, makes me doubt the good intentions of the “play nice” philosophy and leads me to wonder what else is at stake there. NOT that I’m doubting the decisions of every author to play that way — just that if someone is advocating politeness and professional respect, isn’t that a modeled behavior?

    Romance has persistently gotten the least respect as a genre, both inside and out. Isn’t it possible, at least, that some of that has to do with the resistance inside the genre community to widespread critical engagement with its books? As a reader I get the pressure, and I see authors maintaining it, as well. And I know that traditionally speaking, critical engagement is a mark of how much particular books and genres are valued. Not valued in the sense of ‘books are babies and any criticism is a personal insult creating social awkwardness forever and ever’ but in the sense of being worthy of close reading and discussion.

    Obviously you and others are going to do what you are comfortable with, both for yourselves and in terms of giving advice to other authors. I just hope that as carefully as authors think about what is professionally beneficial for them, that there is also a willingness to consider the possibility that a cultural shift away from this taboo might actually strengthen the professional bonds of authors by fostering a healthy distance from identifying personally with critique of one’s writing and generating more respect for Romance as a substantive genre.

    ReplyReply

  130. dick
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 15:55:57

    @Author on Vacation:

    That romance fiction is a business, few could doubt, but, at the same time, it’s a highly personalized one, as the many blogs, authors’ websites, and the cozy chats between authors and readers demonstrate. In that regard, it might very well be looked upon as a “garden party,” as the At the Back Fence feature of AAR suggests.

    And if authoring romance fiction is a profession, then any half-way competent student should be able to be trained to become a member of the profession. I must admit that I’ve read some romances that did seem to be the product of a professional, a person who knows all the ins and outs of the formula and has been trained to fulfill the requirements. In most cases, I didn’t finish them, though.

    ReplyReply

  131. Thirteen Reasons Not To “Pee In Your Own Pool” | Redneck Romance Writer
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 16:16:56

    [...] have been many discussions about this topic. Like this one. (This argument was about an author giving a review, but still…). Recently, bad business karma [...]

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