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As a Reader Are You Bothered by Authors Speaking Out About...

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A few years back, Anne Stuart publicly voiced her concern that she wasn’t getting sufficient publishing support from Harlequin. She took an enormous amount of flack for this.   Recently, Susan Andersen stated in her newsletter to readers that her trilogy would not be finished due to decisions made by the publisher.

There isn’t going to be a third book. After Poppy’s story the powers that be at HQN felt the series had run its course and didn’t believe it required the third book. Less than diplomatically my reaction was and is, "Are you bleeping  nuts? You can’t just drop the third story in a trilogy-’readers are going to feel betrayed!" But they were adamant about discontinuing it, so I gave them a proposal for  Burning Up, a stand alone book.

Cheryl Holt, on her website and in an email to a reader, gave her side of the story as to why her books have been delayed.

Edited: I have received a request to edit this content and since it was not made public by the author to begin with, I have decided to honor that request to help prevent any unintended legal consequences for the parties involved.

As a reader, I don’t think it bothers me to have an author speak out against her publisher; however, from a business standpoint, I can see where it may cause problems.   From that same business perspective, though, the fact is that the author gets both the blame and the glory.   In other words, the editor,   marketing team, art director, and other publishing folks are all faceless, nameless identities to the general reader.   If an author delivers a product she believes is good and the editor won’t print it or makes major changes that the reader doesn’t like, what is an author to do? That’s damaging to her business as well.   It’s a tough situation and I don’t envy authors having to weigh those issues.   Thoughts?

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

55 Comments

  1. kathie
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:03:36

    I absolutely want to hear what’s going on – I would have been looking for that third book in Susan Andersen’s trilogy for months, driving myself crazy.

  2. Kat
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:04:43

    If the author is happy to take the professional consequences (and by that I mean between author and publisher/agent/editor, not author and reader) then it doesn’t really affect me one way or another as a reader. Especially when an author feels like they’re letting down their readers because of decisions by the publisher, which are out of the author’s control, I think I actually appreciate the author speaking out. That said, I’d expect a certain level of tact. I don’t think Holt’s email/website update is that bad.

  3. Mary Winter
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:05:55

    Thanks for this blog post. I’ll admit, I’ve been very vocal regarding payment issues and a few others with regards to a certain publisher. And I do have concerns that it might hurt me professionally. However, I also think that anyone wanting to submit to a publisher should have as much information as possible, and I would hate to have someone get into a situation were a publisher plays fast and lose with contracts or has slow/late/no pays. Thus, I feel the greater good to the community outweighs any “damage” that it may cause to my writing persona. (True, you can’t protect everyone, but if the info is out there to begin with, no one is going to know. Skeletons in the closet don’t do anyone any good and can do quite a bit of damage.)

    To me, it’s no more different than if you want to buy (for example) a special, fancy mattress after listening to their infomerical (And trust me, they play those infomercials a lot on the Weather Channel at 3am, LOL!). You’ll go to the store, try one out, might google reviews, only once you have as much information as possible, will you make a decision what to do. The mattress might work for some, and not for others. The only way you’re going to know before you shell out thousands of dollars is by reading reviews and consumer reports.

    I’d like to think of authors speaking out as a type of “consumer report” for the publishing industry. An author isn’t going to know what to expect (or has a chance of expecting), if s/he doesn’t hear from others that hey, this happened to me, although your mileage may vary.

  4. Elise Logan
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:06:17

    I don’t mind when an author discusses their publisher in a professional, reasonable way. I do, however, mind when an author descends to vitriol. I suppose that has less to do with the topic and more to do with the professionalism, so perhaps that gives you the answer. lol

    E

  5. Meljean
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:09:59

    It doesn’t bother me. I do think that some ways of doing it are more appropriate than others, but an author could paint her publisher’s name on her ass, go on YouTube and drop her pants, and I wouldn’t be bothered. Would I consider it unprofessional? Sure. But it’s not on the same level — to me — as, say, insulting a reader.

  6. medumb
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:16:35

    I don’t think CH’s email was that bad, as a reader I want to know why I won’t be getting a book from an author for a while, etc.
    And while I am only new to the world of romance blogs, it seems that the industry could use a few more authors speaking out and a bit more transparency in some areas.

    That said, it should really be done in as professional a manner as possible, and in such a way as not to burn bridges (new and old).

  7. Teresa
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:26:41

    The authors in this article seem to have been severely screwed by their publishers, which makes it one-sided. Perhaps to show the other side of this issue, this article could have looked at something like the Dara Joy debacle.

  8. Likari
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:28:37

    It doesn’t bother me. Why shouldn’t readers know why the book they’ve been waiting for isn’t going to happen?

    On the other hand, it’s a brand new day. I think the author who gets left hanging with a dropped series should send her publisher roses.

    And then publish it electronically and put the link on her website.

  9. azteclady
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:34:27

    As I said at Karen’s, I think authors are definitely between a rock and a very hard place–if they speak out, they may be labeled as “difficult to work with”, and if they don’t speak out, they may be lumped with those who maintain that culture of silence which has cost many a newbie the loss of revenue, self-confidence, time, money and some manuscripts.

    I don’t think there’s an easy solution or formula as to what authors can do when they find themselves in such a position as Ms Holt or Ms Andersen did.

  10. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:40:31

    It depends on how it’s done. If the author uses an objective, non-inflammatory tone to discuss her concerns, I’m much more likely to listen (and care) than somebody who jumps on the insult & flame train.

    Plus, if the author develops…well, a reputation for bashing anybody that makes her/him unhappy, I’m not going to pay her a lick of attention.

    If there are ethical/moral/legal issues at stake, yes, I would like to know-staying informed is key to making wise decisions in this business. But again, how that information is delivered is going to play into whether or not I pay attention to the concerns addressed. If somebody has a rep for acting unprofessionally over all things, more than likely I’ve already stopped listening to her and I’m not very likely to pay attention when/if she discusses important things.

    For me, it’s all about the delivery.

  11. Anonymousie
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:54:40

    It generally doesn’t bother me unless the author is refusing to see the publisher as a business, which does happen. I don’t know any romance writers personally, but I do know several mystery writers. Cozy mystery series are often dropped unexpectedly because sales don’t meet what the publishers originally forecast, and the publisher simply doesn’t want to pay out an advance on another book they’re pretty sure they won’t get back. That’s just business.

    If the author goes online and says, “well, that series didn’t do so well and my publisher dropped it, so I am afraid you don’t get any further adventures with Felix and Feline, but I have high hopes that you’ll soon be seeing new adventures with The Canny Canine,” that doesn’t bother me at all. But if they don’t recognize the business aspect and go online and bitterly complain about how the publisher didn’t give them a chance to wrap up all the storylines and to give their readers some closure, then I completely lose respect for them.

  12. Likari
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:04:47

    Anonymous — that’s my point too.

    What’s to stop the author from submitting the sequel to Samhain or Quartet or publishing it on her own?

    Then she could tell her fans the previous publisher made a business decision not to bring out the next book, but you can get it here. If there really is a fan base wanting the next book, the author might even make more money this way with the better royalty the epubs give.

  13. Anonymousie
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:12:45

    Likari -

    I agree with that 100%.

  14. azteclady
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:18:36

    Likari, perhaps there are contractual issues there that prohibit an author from selling sequels to a different publisher. Or option clauses of some sort?

    I don’t think that is always as easy as offering them to another publisher–at least not immediately.

  15. Ann Bruce
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:32:30

    @azteclady: Sounds like the publishers mentioned decided not to exercise the option clause, so the authors are free to submit their manuscripts elsewhere. However, I do believe most print publishers would be wary of publishing the final book in a trilogy another publisher deemed not profitable enough to finish.

    In Ms. Andersen’s case, an e-publisher might be the way to go since the e business model allows for greater risk.

  16. Caroline
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:48:48

    Likari, perhaps there are contractual issues there that prohibit an author from selling sequels to a different publisher. Or option clauses of some sort?

    Usually the option clause is satisfied if the author submits a proposal within the guidelines specified (a paranormal romance, for example); once the publisher says ‘no thanks’ the author should be free to take it somewhere else. The trouble is, another publisher might not want to take on a series if it’s the end of the line and the previous books haven’t done terribly well. In most cases I would think the author should be able to epublish the book or even just post it BUT that could seriously compromise her ability to publish it in the future, if her career should take off and publishers rediscover the genius of her earlier work and realize, hey wait a minute, that unfinished trilogy could be huge! Good sales numbers can and will work wonders on a publisher’s attitude.

  17. Chrissy
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 20:51:45

    This scares the hell out of me.

    I’d be crushed.

  18. joanne
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:00:40

    The authors in this article seem to have been severely screwed by their publishers, which makes it one-sided. Perhaps to show the other side of this issue, this article could have looked at something like the Dara Joy debacle.

    I think Dara Joy was a whole different kettle of fish. Really stinky fish. Written about and discussed ad nauseum. And the other problem is that Publishers seldom, if ever, ‘speak out’. They drop an author or a series and the reader is left to wonder ‘wha? what happened?’ So if the author doesn’t want ranting or angry fans then it’s left to him or her to explain why the next book won’t be arriving any time soon.

    Am I the only one surprised at Harlequin? They publish a gazillion books a month so would it really hurt them financially to finish the Andersen series? I have no horse in that race but from a company like Harlequin I just think hmmmmmmmmmm?

  19. DeeCee
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:01:18

    I like getting updates. I think what both of the authors said was informative, and I’d rather have an author be up front about why the third book in a trilogy isn’t going to be published than to just post on his/her website “I felt it was time to move on.”

    It’s like a few years ago when Dorchester and Dara Joy were battling it out. No updates…for years. But judging by the author’s behavior in that instance (and since), I think its incredibly professional of Dorchester to keep everything quiet. Who wants all that crazy out, anyways?

    But I agree with Joanne re: Harlequin. They publish several genres worth of books, and they cancel this? I’ve read incredible drivel they’ve published, but this just makes me scratch my head.

  20. KristieJ
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:06:19

    It doesn’t bother me. Writers are just like everyone else and sometimes the ‘bosses’ do things that just seem wrong. I think they have to be especially careful in how they do it and not “trash” the publishers. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with venting a bit as long as one uses diplomacy and tact.
    The thing that bothered me most about the Cheryl Holt situation is I felt it was a betrayal on behalf of the ‘fan’ who posted it publicly. It wasn’t up to her to do it.

  21. Vivienne Westlake
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:14:42

    As a writer, I appreciate it when authors are able to speak freely about real issues that affect all of us in the publishing field. I do think there are times when it is inappropriate to talk about issues with a publisher, but in general, I’m okay with it. I do think an author (and the publisher, for that matter) needs to conduct themselves in a professional and respectable manner.

    THAT is what disturbs me. And, I’ve seen publishers as well as authors speak unprofessionally in public (in fact, I’ve seen it here). Just because you post online and you cannot see your audience does not mean that other people–sometimes people who can make or break your career–are not watching.

    I think if you are upset and want to say something, think about what you would do if you took yourself out of the heat of the moment. Would you say the same thing a year or two from now? If so, then it may be very appropriate to say it. If not, think about a nicer, more effective way to say it, or don’t say it at all.

  22. Heidi
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:17:51

    I like Susan Andersen’s books and I would have been looking for that book and thinking I was crazy, so thank goodness for this post. I hope she epubs it so that I can read it.

    I don’t care if she trashes Harlequin. My goodness, if they can publish The Shiek’s hairdresser’s virgin daugher love slave or other titles like that, then why can’t they give my my third book? Hello??

  23. Venus Vaughn
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:24:50

    I said NO, but the real answer is Sometimes.

    The truth is, there is a need for more transparency in the business. A LOT more transparency. And sometimes the only way to stop bad practices is to expose them to the light of public scrutiny. Authors shouldn’t have to be afraid for the rest of their career if they speak out against the ones who done them wrong. They should be free to garner public support when placed in an unfair position.

    Think about it, the author often stands alone (sometimes with an agent) against an entire company, editors and interns, marketing team, the publishing house accountants. It’s a tough position to be in. Professionalism is important. Treating your author professionally is also incredibly important.

    OTOH… sometimes what you hear from the author is sour grapes. Sometimes it’s just mouthing off and acting like a child because you know that if you stir up shit, some rabid fans will jump on the bandwagon with you.

    It seems to me most of the public can usually tell the difference between a legitimate gripe and a kid whining in their sandbox.

    I don’t mind an author airing her dirty laundry. But don’t waste my time unless you have something real to say.

  24. SonomaLass
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 21:50:16

    It doesn’t bother me at all, because authors are people and publishers (mostly) are not — they are corporations, and speaking out against their business practices is okay in my book. More transparency, for sure!

  25. E
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 22:38:10

    I like it when authors tell on their publishers/editors. I never imagined how hard it was to write a book until I did it. It really took a lot out of me and also was very rewarding. I just got my first rejection letter the other day. It really didn’t depress me at all. I was excited. My first rejection letter!! Personally, I don’t think it’s my story that has a problem; I think the editor is a retard. LOL

  26. Karen Templeton
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 22:45:04

    Since readers are quite adamant about knowing why a favorite author isn’t writing, or not continuing a series, IMO it behooves an author to at least give readers a head’s up, even if not in great detail.

    And Harlequin drops books all the time. Several of us who wrote for RDI were left with orphans, as were many Bombshell and Next authors. If the line/imprint isn’t doing well, or needs course correction, they’re free to cancel a contract. Yes, it sucks, and nobody’s ever happy about it, but it’s one of the many risks an author signs up for when she gets into this business. At least Harlequin authors usually get to keep the advances, and the rights are reverted to them.

    But it’s not simply a matter of selling it to someone else (trust me, I know whereof I speak). If the book isn’t right for another house — print or e-pub — it’s not right. Or, if it’s not written yet, the author may not feel it’s worth the time and effort to write a full book on spec (no advance) when she can give her own publisher a new proposal they DO want. Nor is it a simple matter to offer the book yourself — print self-publishing is expensive, and, again, energy consuming; and while Kindle offers what seems to be a good opportunity to get a book “out there” for little capital outlay, that’s only one format. To offer the book in other e-formats is way beyond the expertise (or desire) of most of us. Then there’s the handling of sales, etc….

    I mean, there’s a reason why authors write and publishers sell. ;-)

    So sometimes, a book or series simply dies, through no fault of the author. When and if she decides to reveal the whys and wherefores of the circumstances, however, it probably behooves her to temper honesty with tact — and common sense.

  27. Kaetrin
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 23:33:30

    I said “sometimes” but what I really meant is “as long as it’s done professionally”. I like to know what’s going on but I want it without the emotion. that’s not to say this sort of thing isn’t emotional for the author – of course it is. But, to get me to understand the message, take the emotion out and give me the facts – I am much more sympathetic to a situation if I feel I am being given information and not “manipulated”. And I’m aware that there’s always another side to the story. If something is presented factually and not all hyped up like a tabloid tv show, I’m much more likely to care. (hope that makes sense!)

    I know Gennita Low had a problem with her publisher last year – one of the Harlequin imprints I think. I was waiting for Virtually Hers to come out after really enjoying Virtually His (which, in truth was only the first half of the story rather than the 1st book, if you know what I mean – with no criticism intended to Ms. Low). The back of the 1st book had a release date and a blurb but when I checked with Ms. Low she advised that the publisher had decided not to print it. She respectfully suggested (and requested) that if I wanted to read the book, that I write to Harlequin and ask them when/if they would be publishing the book. She hoped if enough readers were interested, the publisher may change its mind.

    I actually got a letter back from Mira saying that they had plans to publish the book but no release date yet and thanks for my enquiry.

    I think after that Ms. Low got her rights back (? not entirely sure of that point) and it may be that we’ll see the book from another publisher at a later date (we can only hope).

    I didn’t mind writing to Harlequin/Mira – I wanted to read the book and I didn’t feel manipulated into it. And, as much as I was disappointed that the book wasn’t going to be published, I was glad to know rather than wonder.

  28. LG
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 00:19:22

    If by “speaking out” you mean that the author has a calm and reasonable tone, then I don’t have a problem with it. It may be embarrassing for the publisher, but you’re right that the author gets both the glory and the blame – when a series is suddenly dropped or when a book is put out that isn’t what the author normally delivers, if this is due to the publisher’s actions or desires, it can be considered in the author’s best interests to let his or her readers know. Otherwise, it could be the author who gets the blame and the author who loses betrayed-feeling readers.

    I’ve had two or three series I loved just go up in smoke – I know legal battles between the author and her publisher killed one, but I don’t know what happened to the other two. The one killed by legal battles is starting to make a comeback, something I know because the author has made it known to interested fans. As for the other two, the one series just up and stopped over two decades ago, so I doubt it’ll ever restart, and I really couldn’t say about the other. If an author doesn’t sound unreasonable and whiny, I don’t see any problem, as a reader, with them speaking out about their publishers. Then at least we (the readers) know what the holdup is, and how long it will take before it’s resolved (if it can even be resolved).

  29. Mora
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 00:50:30

    I chose “sometimes” because really, it just depends.

    OTOH… sometimes what you hear from the author is sour grapes. Sometimes it's just mouthing off and acting like a child because you know that if you stir up shit, some rabid fans will jump on the bandwagon with you.

    Yes, exactly. How do we, the readers, know if an editor was truly bad…or if an author was a prima donna who came down with Anne Rice syndrome and didn’t want to do revisions? There are two sides to every story, and I feel put off when I only get one biased side of it. It always makes me wonder a little bit if, like in Cheryl Holt’s case, she really ran into a nightmare editor, or if she wasn’t used to so much editing from her old publisher and just didn’t want to make the changes.

    As a reader, I don’t WANT those thoughts in my mind. Isn’t it enough to say, “My contract with publisher X was dropped”?

    On the other hand, if a publisher is being funny about paying their authors or things like that, by all means, an author should speak up. There’s a big difference between an author letting loose when a publisher does something unethical, and an author letting loose when a publisher does something that the author doesn’t like but that’s part of the business. IMHO.

  30. Stacey
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 02:00:54

    Sometimes is the answer to the original question.

    As for the Cheyrl Holt thing, I think her (non) publisher was maybe onto something because I’ve tried to read a few of her books and she doesn’t know how to write a book or draft a hero/character. They were horrible and unappealing books.

  31. Maili
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 02:52:25

    No, I’m not bothered because it’s quite common. Some worded it carefully that you have to read between the lines, some were coy with details, and some weren’t.

    It seems to me that almost all authors did it to deflect some readers’ wrath/impatience, cut down a number of repetitive enquiries, or avoid getting the blame or bad rep for not delivering titles on time.

  32. Sparky
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 03:59:03

    Most certainbly not. If readers accept or create the atmosphere that an author criticising their publisher is inappropriate than we discourage authors from speaking out at all – and encourage, protect and shelter those publishers who wouldn’t know ethics if it was tattooed on their backside and can’t even spell professional

    I look at some of the (highly amusing but often tragic) horror stories that have emerged about various publishing houses – would we know about them at all if the authors all kept their mouths shut? And how many people sign up to a publisher that is absolutely awful because the authors currently suffering under it’s aegis are keeping quiet?

    In some ways I’d say authors have a responsibility (maybe too strong a word) to other authors to let it be known whena publisher only visits reality for brief visits and spends the rest of the time merrily dancing down the rabbit hole.

    That being said – if an author is whining and complaining over very very very little, then yeah, that’s bad and shouldn’t happen. But that’s the same with everything – no-one likes a whiner, no-one likes a nitpicker and no-one likes a chronic complainer. But if they’ve got a REASON to be irritated by all means give voice

  33. Gennita Low
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 06:11:16

    @Kaetrin Virtually Hers will be coming out through Samhain this coming October. ;-)

  34. Sandy
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 06:25:06

    A few other people have mentioned this, but I think this is a great opportunity for e-publishers. Some (all?) of the authors who have been dropped have decent sells and great writing. If I were an editor at an epub, I’d contact these authors to see if they’d be willing to finish up their trilogy or series or whatever with them.

    If authors had been dropped like this a decade ago, then yes, I’d see this as a huge tragedy. But with epubs out there? No, not tragedy. Opportunity. Let’s take advantage of it.

  35. reader
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 08:08:46

    I totally agree with you, Sandy! What a huge opportunity for these authors…and some of them quite well-known…to try epublishing and see what happens. Especially for those writers who may have already worked hard on sequels that will never see the light of day—either through the outlining/plotting or maybe even some/most of the writing. Why toss that under your bed?

    I’m sure Samhain & Quartet would be glad to have ‘em!

  36. Kathryn Smith
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 08:17:18

    I have no problem with this. As an author I want to know what kind troubles other authors are having with their houses. Always good to be in the know.

  37. Angela James
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 08:17:41

    I said sometimes as well. Of course, I’m a reader, but I’m also a publisher, so my view is going to be different. As some of you well know, I’ve been on the receiving end of an author “trashing” me and my publisher very vocally and publicly. It’s not a fun place to be in as an editor because there’s no real defensible position there. It doesn’t seem very professional to get into a public battle of words as an editor. Not to mention that if I did that, people would be all “oh see how crazy epublishers are?”

    But on the other hand, I think there are times when authors do need to share what’s going on (and for what it’s worth, I don’t think an author talking about a publisher dropping a series/contract falls anywhere in the realm of inappropriate unless it’s side by side with trashing the publisher. I think that’s simply the author’s business and something they need to share with their consumers.)

    I think the next poll should be the same, only insert publisher/editor in place of author :P

  38. kimber an
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 08:42:31

    Although I cringe when authors criticize each other publicly, I voted no on this one. Publishers are impersonal group entities to me, as a reader. However, as an aspiring author, I secretly go, “What are you, nuts?”

  39. Linda
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 08:47:34

    I must have missed the Dara Joy thing. Can someone point me to those posts, or give a quick synopsis on what happened?

    Thanks!

  40. Erin
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 08:48:27

    I think it’s okay and appropriate for an author to share what’s going on. I mean, I’m a reader. I want to know when the next book is coming out. I’m going to ask the author what’s up, and she’s completely within her rights to tell me that her publisher decided not to publish, ask me to write on her behalf, tell me what she plans to do next.

    I have trouble when I hear a lot of drama. I love books intensely and I can only imagine how I would feel about a book I put my heart and soul into. At the same time, this is a business. There are just some things you don’t do, and one is trash another professional in your industry. You just don’t, whether you’re and author, a banker, or a candlestick maker. (Hee–I crack me up.) Anyway, does it mean I won’t buy future books? The honest answer is that it depends how cracktastic the author is. If I dream about her next book, I’ll probably buy it no matter what. If I’m indifferent, then I probably won’t.

  41. Susan/DC
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 10:59:33

    As many others have said, the answer is “sometimes” and “it all depends”. If an author is professional about it and sticks to the facts, then yes, I probably do want to know why a series died before its time or why an author’s voice seems to have changed so dramatically.

    I’ve not read Ms. Holt, but if an editor rewrote a book so extensively, then praise/criticism of that book doesn’t really accrue to Ms. Holt but to the editor. Readers who form an opinion about Ms. Holt’s writing based on the book would be wrong. Not quite a deceptive practice under the law, but definitely misleading. OTOH, if she stayed with that publisher, her course of action is more limited. In that case it would not do an author any good to burn bridges and admit that her latest book was in reality a Frankenstein creature made of body parts from different sources. I expect an editor to suggest changes, but I don’t expect an editor to actually write major portions of the book.

  42. Popin
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 11:17:51

    I don’t mind it too much.

    Justine Larbalestier made a post on her blog where she questioned her publisher’s choice of cover and showed her disappointment in it and in that case I didn’t mind it, as I felt it was a valid problem that readers were wondering about. It’s nice to hear what an author things about their covers, or the process of getting published.

    The only time I think it would bother me, is if the author attacks the publishers over small things and starts to names names, and do other stupid things. But from a reader’s standpoint, I don’t mind too much.

  43. MarnieColette
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 11:49:35

    I choose sometimes why? It depends on the matter of delivery. I don’t really like to read unprofessional rants about anyone. An author can have a beef but do it with professionalism.

    As a reader it is nice to know how the author might feel about covers (especially when I feel iffy about them myself) or even having to change the name of a character because the powers that be don’t like it. I would definitely want to know if the publisher thought the story had ran its course even though more were planned.

  44. Liz
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 12:38:39

    I tend to be proactive when it comes to the suckage of things, so when an author goes on a tear about how her book didn’t do well because her publisher didn’t support her, or because everyone who bought her book bought it used, or because she got too many negative reviews on Amazon, or because her editor changed houses and she doesn’t want to fulfill her contract now, or because her copyeditor is a nitwit, or because some blogger said something mean, or because the cover was pink… whatever. If an author has a blog for the sole purpose of promoting her books, it’s not a personal blog anymore. Email your friend, phone your therapist, talk it over with a bottle of Jack, whatever. Readers (aka potential buyers) shouldn’t be subjected to that kind of unprofessionalism. Ever.

    It’s so easy to take the reasons a venture fell below expectations and turn them into excuses. What it all boils down to is simple: It’s not MY fault – it’s THEIRS. You shouldn’t punish ME – you should punish THEM.

    That kind of fairweather attitude – it was my idea if it’s good, their idea if it’s bad – is offputting for me, because it comes across as though the author has no intention whatsoever of taking responsibility for her brand, her book, her career. And holy hell, if she’s not going to, why should anyone else?

    Every time I see one of these “No one else is working hard enough, which is why I failed” rants, I can’t help but wonder: what did this author do, besides complain, to try and avoid what may or may not have been inevitable? And in most situations, the answer is clear – absolutely nothing.

    It’s really hard to be sympathetic to that.

  45. TerryS
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 13:07:20

    I was actually one of those readers who wrote Susan Anderson to ask when the third story in the trilogy was expected. Hello, Harlequin, a trilogy is three, not two. If this reflects badly on anyone it’s Harlequin, not Susan Anderson. Harlequin let it’s readers down, too, not just it’s author. They mislead us as readers. I hope she does write that third story and sell it through an e publisher. I will be first in line to buy it. On the other hand, I will be wary about future purported “trilogies” published by Harlequin.

  46. Kaetrin
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 20:46:48

    @ Gennita Low – Great news! I will be looking out for it. I’m glad Samhain picked it up – I want to know how the story ends!!

  47. Robin
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 21:30:21

    @Popin: Yeah, but in Larbalestier’s case she also made an earlier post in which she was pretty much pimping the book via the cover, which for me presents a variation on the problem wherein the author first publicly supports the publisher and then criticizes. In what sense is the affirmative support not collaboration with the very thing she later criticizes? Larbalestier’s case is troubling for me, because she doesn’t address her earlier support in her later post. And I really wanted her to cop to the about-face. Because while I totally understand the need for authors to sell their books, why push the cover if you really feel it’s unrepresentative and even possibly deceptive?

    As for authors speaking out generally, I think there’s been a real culture of silence at NY pubs about the sleazy stuff that goes on (because sleazy stuff goes on EVERYWHERE). Which has led to an unrealistic image of them as paragons of business virtue (you see this in the difference with which authors speaking out are treated depending on whether they come from epubs or NY print pubs). I also think that despite the contractual relationship between authors and pubs that’s supposed to be that of an independent contractor, many authors seem to perceive publishers as almost superhuman in their power, and I don’t really think that’s good in terms of authors advocating for and protecting their own rights. So I think it’s good when authors become whistleblowers, essentially, because otherwise how will other authors know what can and does happen at different houses?

    On the other hand, authors have to be careful, because even in a contractual partnership, one assumes that each partner will have some business sense and professional ethics. So I do think authors need to be cautious about appearing like cry babies or unprofessional tattletales. And it’s a fine line, IMO, one that may get crossed more readily than some others.

    I answered the poll question with “sometimes,” not because I ever think it’s not okay for an author to speak out, but just because I react to each case individually and sometimes I do wince and wish someone had edited the author’s public remarks, lol.

  48. Jessica
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 05:24:52

    With the others, I answer “it depends”. I am kind of interested in the question of whom authors are speaking out TO, and why.

    I guess there’s the issue of fixing one’s own problems with one’s publisher, and then the issue of maintaining a good relationship with readers. I think these should be handled with different sets of considerations.

    So for example, as a teacher, if I have a dispute with my chair, I don’t take that to my students. I don’t go outside the usual channels (chair, dean, president, etc.) until those channels have been exhausted. After that point, I have to decide where I can take my complaint that will apply the right sort of pressure (all of this is assuming I am in the right, of course!). The faculty senate? The union? the board of trustees? The press? A lawyer?

    If the dispute causes me to be absent from the classroom, or otherwise not meet expectations students reasonably have of me, then I do owe my students some kind of explanation. But the point of the explanation to students is not to fix the dispute, but rather to repair my relationship with my students. I would tend to be very circumspect here. My issues with my university are not my students’ issues.

    I guess if you replace “dean” with “publisher” and “students” with “readers”, you can see my point!

  49. Jane O
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 06:32:56

    Am I weird? As a reader, I don’t really want to know anything about the authors of the books I read. All too often, what I have learned about them is unpleasant. Since it is harder to enjoy a book when I dislike the author, and liking the author has never helped me to like the book, I would just as soon know nothing.

    If I were a fellow author, of course, I would definitely want to hear all about potential publisher problems. But that’s an entirely different situation.

  50. Donna Lea Simpson
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 07:47:12

    Karen Templeton said: “So sometimes, a book or series simply dies, through no fault of the author. When and if she decides to reveal the whys and wherefores of the circumstances, however, it probably behooves her to temper honesty with tact -’ and common sense.”

    This is exactly true. In our line of work you never know who you will be working with next. Even if you’ve left a publishing house, editors move around frequently. And that publishing house you left may want to work with you in the future. Not wise to poop in your own yard. As tempting as it is if you’re hurt and angry, it is wisest to simply state what happened in a calm manner.

  51. Mora
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 08:09:52

    Re: the Justine Larbelestier thing. I said this on another blog, but Larbelestier (am I spelling that correctly??) NEVER said that she liked the cover in her earlier post. She very carefully worded that post to mention that her publisher and buyers were enthused with it. She never gave her personal opinion on the cover. In fact, if you’ll read that entry again, you’ll see that she specifically mentioned a different cover being her favorite.

    *Shrugs* In that case, it just seemed to me like an author trying to put on a brave face and very politely do the bare minimum publicity required.

  52. Rose Lerner
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 09:31:08

    I agree with everyone who’s said “As long as it’s done professionally.” An author has to be aware that doing that can potentially antagonize people, including their publisher, and burn bridges. (And I think in most circumstances an author wouldn’t choose to bad-mouth their publisher unless they felt the issue was VERY important, because the possible negative consequences are so large and so obvious. If an author DOES just randomly go off on their publisher…well, they aren’t going to last long in this business.) If an author knows the risks and decides it is worth it to them to say their piece, and they go about it in a grown-up, calm way, then more power to them. In the case of “Liar,” I think Larbalestier did it right (or as well as anyone could do in an incredibly awkward situation): she didn’t bring it up first because there was enthusiasm in-house and from buyers and it would have been unprofessional, but once it became apparent that it was an issue for readers too, she made it clear how she felt about the cover while still being positive about her editor and her house.

  53. XandraG
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 15:48:56

    I have no problems with an author speaking out about their publisher. To limit that smacks, to me, a little too much of, “sit down, STFU, and keep working, slave.” Sunlight is the best disinfectant to skeevy business practices, and signs of smoke where there may soon be fire. Now, I have a somewhat unreasonable expectation that authors, for their part, act like grown-ups, and realize their case will be much better made if they present it in a calm and factual manner, and if they verify they’ve exhausted their options before going public, if it’s a matter of contract, payment, or something legal like that (ie, rights)

    Now in the examples cited above, there seems to be more ambiguity, inspiring a lot of people to answer, “maybe.” But even the “maybe’s” echo the majority of us as readers–if we’ve invested in two books and suffered through a cliffhanger, then dammit, we want that third book! And in the absence of news, even knowing full well that the author may not be to blame, will still make me a little sulky towards an author (rather irrationally, I know, but I’m honest about it). If your publisher dropped your series because of something in the industry (low numbers, line folding up, redirection, orphaned via editorial shift, etc), then as a reader, I want to know. I tend to like hearing the gory details, but I’ll settle for a website update that says, “Hey, my series got dropped by my publisher, please be patient while it finds a new home.” I see that, and at least I know.

    As for series being dropped themselves…it’s not that unusual in SF and Fantasy for series to move house mid-stream from one publisher to another, why not Romance. And quite frankly, I’d rather have a series shift publishers than shift formats up to hardcover (I know, I know, better for the author, but still…)

  54. Robin
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 23:28:03

    @Mora: I have read Larbalestier’s blog entry carefully, as well as Courtney Milan’s argument that echoes yours. But still I don’t buy completely, and here’s why:

    1. What average reader would be analyzing Larbalestier’s words that closely? IMO not many. After all, what would be the motivation NOT to take what she’s saying as an endorsement of the cover, especially when she’s TALKING ABOUT THE COVER.

    2. She’s talking about the cover as part of her book promo. She’s devoted an entire blog entry to the cover. She’s repeating all the accolades others have given the cover. Why draw specific, positive attention to that cover if she’s really that horrified by it? The consensus seems to be that she wasn’t intentionally trying to get people to start protesting it. So . . .

    3. By the time of her later post on the cover, it’s not merely a matter of not liking it; what’s clear is that readers are feeling deceived and NOW all of a sudden it become proper to talk about the racial issues openly, contextualized by the horrifying and racially suspect idea that “marketing” believes that black books don’t sell. When you start unpacking this assumption and the way it a) shapes Larbalestier’s cover specifically and b) the general conversation about how books sell and how authors and publishers market those books, IMO it starts to get disturbing.

    Am I glad Larbalestier finally spoke up? Hell, yes. But for me she’s not off the hook for the pimpage she offered for that cover originally, because she delivered it, even if she used the words of others in doing so. I also think there needs to be a frank (and frankly discomfiting) conversation about why we seem so content to accept this racial segregation and whitewashing and the like. I mean, if you segregate something and marginalize it and mark it as different, how, then, are people supposed to see it as *the same* as everything else? In other words, even if it is true that books w/ non-white faces don’t sell (something I’m suspicious of as a working thesis), then let’s look at how that perception is continually reinforced by the persistent marginalization/segregation/erasure of non-white images, characters, etc. Like is it really true that certain books don’t sell or has marketing convinced consumers that they should not buy certain things?

  55. I should have done this before now… « Donna Lea Simpson
    Aug 07, 2009 @ 10:26:24

    [...] This seems to be happening fairly often recently, and on Dear Author they did a post recently on whether readers are bothered by writers online bashing their publisher. Click here to see the post! [...]

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