A letter to the DA Readership
Dear DA Readers:
As you know, I’ve been running Dear Author for almost ten years. When I started the blog with Jayne, it was from a very naïve reader point of view. No one is more surprised at the evolution of Dear Author than I am because it had been intended for Jayne and I and a few friends. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal about the book industry and market. Dear Author has evolved with the times, but throughout, I have strived to keep the blog as reader-centered as possible.
Then a funny thing happened in November of 2012. After being told countless times that if I was going to review books negatively, I should try to write one of my own, I went ahead and tried it during NaNoWriMo 2012. I didn’t finish writing it during that month, but with the encouragement of an author friend, I pushed through and decided to self-publish it the following year. After years of studying the book market and trying to understand how and why books do and don’t sell, I had the means to try out a publishing experiment. And I was determined to do it like any other new author would: without a recognizable name and platform to draw on.
So I went ahead and created a penname, Jen Frederick, and published Undeclared with no expectations about what would happen. And, much to my surprise, it sold well. So I wrote another one. And another. And began to learn about the publishing industry from an entirely different perspective.
It was important that DA remain its own inviolate entity. I partitioned off the fiction writing from the blogging, keeping my writing identity private. I wanted as little connection as possible between the blog and the book, to protect the integrity of both. I didn’t want anyone at the blog to feel like they had to change what they were doing because I was now an author (as you know, I edited one anthology for Berkeley). And I wanted any success I had with the fiction to be built on the merits of the work, not on the blogging platform. I had a couple of awkward moments where I had to keep one of my books from being reviewed on Dear Author, but somehow I managed to keep them completely separate.
Then I co-authored a series with Jessica Clare (who had encouraged me to finish that very first book), and a lot of different things happened very quickly: Berkley made an offer for the series and it was optioned for film by Tony Krantz (Judith Krantz’s son); Montlake approached me with an offer; and Ellora’s Cave sued Dear Author.
The suit has had many effects on my life, not the least of which is that I have lost every bit of anonymity, including the anonymity of my Jen Frederick penname. And, to be honest, part of me is relieved to make this announcement. From the beginning I struggled with the secret. I have always defended authors reviewing books (and I know other authors pseudonymously review, so this is nothing new), and maintaining the privacy of unconnected pennames. I openly defended readers who gave negative reviews of my books, and I continued to recommend other authors’ books I thought readers would enjoy. And I figured that since Dear Author was still being called anti-author and anti-self-publishing meant that the blog was not compromising its reader-first mission. But I’m still much more comfortable keeping other people’s secrets than I am keeping one like this, and I knew it would need to come out at some point. I was going to announce after the movie option and the Berkley deal were completed, I’d come out with the news but the lawsuit happened and I tabled it because I was dealing with a lot of other issues at that time (and it’s still going on, obviously).
But in order to allow the lawsuit to proceed fully, it’s important for me to be as open as possible.
I know there are people who will feel that I should have told you this from the start. This was a judgment call. I feel I made the right decision, but undoubtedly some will disagree. I completely understand and it is your right to do so. I can only invite you to review the blog’s contents over the past couple of years and make up your own mind about the integrity of the content.
If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them in the comments.
P.S. I read a few comments (not here) that I used my insider connections to publish and to the extent I have them (which I don’t know that I do), I did not use any connections beyond my friendship with Jess Clare and a couple of other people (for beta reading, editing, cover art). The movie deal came about when Tony Krantz’ firm contacted Jess via Facebook (she thought it was a joke). After the option deal was being finalized, Jess took the series to her existing Berkley editor and asked if they were interested and they were.
Montlake emailed me (Jen Frederick) out of the blue and asked if I was interested in selling the rights to two books and then I had to pitch a third one.
When I started out, I made up a marketing plan. I targeted those people who liked New Adult books who I thought might (might being the operative word) like mine. I wrote personalized pitches and emailed about 200 bloggers. I guess my insider connections would be that I took what I knew about blogging and marketing (having been on the pitch end of things for years) and used that knowledge to help me craft a good marketing plan.