Home » Books in General, Social Media » Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real…

Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real…

30 December 2014

From Dear Author:

Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real world. Now parts of the online reading community are eroding that safe place.  2014 was not a very good  year for the reader. Readers were stalked and the stalking was celebrated in a major newspaper. There were dozens of smaller skirmishes  and many vocal rallying cries for uncritical support of books and authors. There was a drumbeat, particularly from self-published authors, that readers exist to support the author.

It was also a year in which women were under attack. From being referred to as “binders full of women” to the horrific display of misogyny toward female gamers and gaming developers, the online community seemed especially vile. And it spilled over into the book community with regular ad hominem attacks being lobbed at readers for their reading choices, which had little to do with the books themselves for many times the critics hadn’t even read the books in question. Instead the ad hominem attacks had more to do with the fact that the online discussion wasn’t about the books they felt were stronger, better, worthier than these lesser ones being elevated and praised. Or it was authors who felt that readers didn’t appreciate or understand their work OR worse, assumed that the reader who didn’t like their work had a secret, evil agenda to bring that author down.

. . . .

Dear Author is coming up on nine years of existence. It was established in April 2006 by Jayne and I, because we wanted to talk about books, and specifically we wanted to talk about books with other readers. That it has grown into what it is now pretty much astounds the both of us. Over the years I’ve made mistakes, mostly because I felt like I was still talking to my five friends about books.

And as Dear Author has grown, so have the headaches (and I’m not even talking about the lawsuit), to the extent that I’ve privately told individuals that I’m ready to throw in the towel and walk away from the blog. I’m not going to but I have those feelings. I’m sure many of you have those feelings, because you’ve shared with me your frustration and discontent with the online community, with social media, with the constant negativity in countless emails.

Internally, DA has had discussions about making a safe place for readers where we can talk without fear of reprisal. After weeks of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be afraid to speak about books. It’s books. How did discussions about books become so fraught and dangerous that we have to hide away? I mean, that’s a bit ridiculous and a lot tragic, right?

Ultimately I understand that we want to talk about the books we love and those we don’t without judgment of us as people. From what I hear from others, we want to be able to share our feelings–both love and hate–without pissing people off. And I guess the question is whether that’s a reasonable expectation.

. . . .

There are authors who write books that I do not like. I really need to work hard separating the book from the author and understand that even if the author should choose to write something that I find personally offensive, it does not mean the author is personally offensive. Similarly, because the reader doesn’t like the book doesn’t mean that she is dumb or offensive or doesn’t get it.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

Books in General, Social Media

68 Comments to “Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real…”

  1. I’m not fisking this, but the misguided is strong in this one.

    • Seconded.

    • Yep.

    • Wow that’s bad. I don’t know if there is a single true sentence in the first ten lines.

      • There is some truth in there. Most of it mis-construed and taken out of context. There was that author from a while back who stalked a ‘bad’ reviewer and showed up at her doorstep. But then there is the binders full of women comment which 1) didn’t take place in 2014 as stated and 2) wasn’t against women (since it was made in order to say, “Hey, look. I did consider hiring more women.”)

        Interesting how she takes big memes and issues and then twists them around to try to support an argument of woe is me/us.

        I would have had a lot more respect for her if her post had beenwritten as: Wow 2014 was scary for us reviewers and bloggers. One of us has been sued by a publisher, others of us have been stalked or badmouthed all over the web, even in a major newspaper. Despite all this, I/we’ve decided to continue to blog about the books we love and hate. Come join us…. Here’s to 2015.

        • Yes, your rewrite would have been honest and more worth reading. But her distortions are no credit to her, and my main reaction is to file her away as someone to ignore.

          • Anytime someone says that women are under attack, I move on.

            • Must be nice to have that option. Hard to blame you, though. Fighting injustice is dirty work.

              • There’s a lot of injustice on both sides of the gender divide, Liz. Ever glanced at divorce court rulings? Studied family law? Talked to off-duty cops about false rape accusations? Read about the man-cession of 2008 (when a vastly disproportionate number of males lost their jobs)?

                These are things that don’t get mentioned much.

  2. That would be “by Jayne and me” I think.

    Public sites are probably not good places in which to post judgmental material about other people’s books.

  3. Credibility dropped off at this point: “There was a drumbeat, particularly from self-published authors, that readers exist to support the author.”

    And I think for the average reader they had a good year because there were all of these wonderful ebooks out there at affordable prices that they could read and took no notice of the silliness of the publishing world.

    There are readers out there in the world beyond her site. Not to diminish the personal stress she may be feeling. Maybe she does need a break. We all do at some point.

    • I agree, that bit stopped me cold. I immediately went an unfollowed Dear Author on Twitter. Yeah, I know, kind of silly of me, as if I’m somehow getting back at her, but I didn’t like the whole anti-self-publishing vibe I got from the post. I figured if she doesn’t like me, I don’t need to follow her/them either.

  4. I guess she has a different perspective since she runs a blog, but I don’t see how a lot of people think readers exist to support authors. But I fully expect that she runs into that mentality far more than the rest of us. She probably does have a lot of emails with the more desperate authors who jumped into self-publishing thinking it would fix all their problems for them. Those people definitely exist.

    • I was just thinking about this, maybe she gets emails from authors/publishers who feel entitled. For example, You MUST write a review of my book, you owe it to me. You’re a book blogger.

      Hence her takeaway of: Us readers don’t owe you squat.

      • I’ve started to comment three times now, we’ll see if I actually hit post this time. 🙂

        Melissa and a few other are, I think, getting the point I thought she was making, but was unclear. As Liz points out, her perspective is not going to be that of the average reader, nor is her experience going to be. She says reader here when maybe it would be more accurate to have said blogger or reviewer. From that perspective, much of what she says is accurate, to a degree. That she used the example of the author-gone-crazy with the article printed by the Guardian leads me to believe I might be right.

        From that perspective, we’ve had the article she talked about, the article by Ann Lander’s daughter complaining about being attacked in reviews by Vine Reviewers, and a rumor of an author stalking and physically attacking a reviewer in the UK, all in the last six months and what I can think of off the top of my head.

        Then we have this quote:

        “And it spilled over into the book community with regular ad hominem attacks being lobbed at readers for their reading choices, which had little to do with the books themselves for many times the critics hadn’t even read the books in question. Instead the ad hominem attacks had more to do with the fact that the online discussion wasn’t about the books they felt were stronger, better, worthier than these lesser ones being elevated and praised.”

        Without specifics, I don’t know what she’s talking about specifically. She says reader community, but as a reviewer she’s probably reading more than just discussion among readers. Imagine she regularly reads comments at TPV, for example. How many times has “50 Shades of Gray” or Snooki been mentioned, for example. Among the people who have commented already on this thread is one who constantly makes comments that would fit in what she’s saying above.

        If she meant reviewer rather than reader, and is possibly mixing what she’s read in reader communities into what she’s read in author communities (or maybe comments from authors in reader communities), then much of what she says has some validity, IMO.

        There is an argument that taken that way, it might true, but is also not as big of a problem as she’s trying to make it seem. By being a reviewer, she’s putting herself out there to be subject to a certain degree of criticism herself as Chris points out in a comment. I guarantee there are less than a trivial number of authors who feel that reviewers exist to serve them. If she’s not distinguishing readers and reviewers, her comment makes a lot more sense. She’s also talking about a lot of things that are exceptions rather than the norm. Still, some is legitimate reason for concern.

        • Good one, Big Al.

        • Re: “attacks being lobbed at readers for their reading choices . . .”

          When I read this part several articles slamming romance readers came to mind, as well as at least one stating adults should be embarrassed to read YA books.

          I’m not sure if she was referring to those or something else.

          • Good point! I hadn’t thought about that, but the snobbish behavior toward genre readers is definitely an issue. A good book is a good book. To each his own. (As for myself, I fall in the escapist reader category and love Romance, YA, SciFi, & Fantasy.)

            Also Big Al, good points. 🙂

        • Nice response, Al. Mostly agree.

          I’ve been online for what feels like ages now. I remember the old AOL discs and dial-up sounds. I was on the Well in 2000, where I talked to people like Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll and David Crosby and bunches of others. I say that for the context that I remember when book bloggers became a thing, and as I remember it started with readers. Readers who on a lark started up on Blogger or WordPress and posted and found communities because they found other like-minded folks, namely each other. I remember it gaining steam as MySpace declined.

          And so many started that way, and so many grew. There’ve been book blogger conventions. Book bloggers have a unique power in publishing now. They’re (often) more open to submissions than periodicals. They’re (often) just one person, who has lots of social media and blog followers and who gets ARCs from publishers. Or signs up for NetGalley.

          It’s like there are fewer people one is beholden to (no corporation or editor-in-chief or whatever) but more people one is beholden to (followers).

          As for Snooki and 50 Shades, I readily admit I cite both often, but solely within the context of the gatekeeper argument. I see a lot of sites continue to propagate the meme that most indie books are crap, and while that may not be false, exactly, what it belies is that most books in general are crap, and the books that aren’t crap — the books we like — most often vary person to person (save some [mostly] agreed-upon canon). Dear Author, I caveat, has in general been supportive of indie. They’re even open to reviewing “self-published” books so long as they’ve been “professionally edited” (whatever that means), but hey that’s better than a lot of the other sites that summarily dismiss everything that doesn’t have a corporation behind it.

          And hey, that’s fine. It’s a choice. In some cases it’s the choice that keeps everything from becoming overwhelming.

          At the same time, though, blogging is a public activity.

          Just like being an indie author.

          And that’s what I think I come back to. While I agree with you and can see some of the sentiment behind the OP, it’s kind of like being an author — the second you hit “publish,” it’s public. You’re open to criticism. You’ll sell a few books and get a few one-star reviews. You’ll get that one awesome review that reminds you why you keep doing it, and you’ll go months at a shot without a single sale (or read. Or comment. Or whatever). And you take the criticism, because you took the art you created — and no mistake, criticism/commentary of art is an art of its own sort — and you shared it.

          And after that it’s out of your hands.

          So either you don’t share the art or you accept the consequences of doing so.

          • Thanks, Will. And I mostly agree with your take, too. 🙂

            I should also point out that I’m better able to put myself in her position and read between the lines because I’m coming at it from the same viewpoint as she is, as a book blogger and not an author. One thing you said struck a chord with me in many different ways. There is more on the subject, but this is the gist of it.

            “And you take the criticism, because you took the art you created — and no mistake, criticism/commentary of art is an art of its own sort — and you shared it.”

            I deny being a writer all the time, but I know I’m stretching the truth when I make that claim. There isn’t as big of a distance between the reviewer and the author as either one often likes to think. I first became aware of this in my first stint reviewing, not books, but music. It was for a website that specialized in a musical genre where the lyrics were critical to how a song would be perceived. As I’d evaluate the songs and try to articulate what I thought of them, I realized that I was trying to do what the best songwriters can accomplish, saying a lot in a minimum number of words.The distance between me, as a critic, and the creator of what I was talking about wasn’t that far apart. (Actually it was, but only due to relative skill, not in what we were aiming for.)

            • Thanks for the follow-up, Al. Two thoughts, neither of which is fully formed.

              I think the claim you allude to is definitely stretching, and I think that’s fascinating. It’s almost like commentary — whether reviews or scholarship or criticism — is a sort of form of fan non-fiction. We’ve all seen the fan fiction derived from popular fiction (and non), and really, isn’t the best commentary a sort of version of that? It’s derivative, by definition, but at the same time it can expand meanings and the world of the original work.

              Book blogging, by nature that it’s not tied to the same strictures as mainstream reviewing and publishing, has an opportunity to really push the genre. Break barriers and experiment. For example, so much mainstream reviewing focuses only on fiction by corporate publishers, and sure that’s a matter of time and effort and space, but it also creates an area of opportunity.

              Which is, now that I think of it, the other place where the Snooki/50 Shades thing comes in. I don’t think I resent anyone their tastes — rather, maybe I’m disappointed, because here’s an opportunity for bloggers and reviewers to highlight books they enjoy that aren’t being talked about by anyone else, and sometimes I feel like that opportunity is squandered. I know live-blogging Dan Brown’s latest can get page views and such, and I’m sure we all need another listicle of the 273 different things you missed in Harry Potter, but we need more than that, too.

              And finally, I’ve heard criticism of Jon Stewart, that he wants to play both sides of a game, that he wants to be the media while simultaneously skewering it, or that when people criticize him he falls back on a somewhat lazy “We’re just a parody show” position. Are many book bloggers in a similar position? I don’t know, to be honest, and here I admit I haven’t read many book blogs in a while (I used to hope for discovery. Now my discovery occurs through Amazon), but it’s a little like your truth stretching. You can’t write all the time while denying you’re a writer, you know?

              And I for sure agree with you about distance. I think Hemingway had the famous quote that critics don’t get their hands dirty and bloody, but yet great commentary and criticism does contribute original thought and can expand upon the original art, and again, isn’t there art in that? Isn’t criticism and commentary why we basically rediscovered the power of Shakespeare years after the Bard’s death? And how much of Poe’s contribution to culture came not from poetry or fiction but rather from his reviews and thoughts on the art form?

          • …that’s better than a lot of the other sites that summarily dismiss everything that doesn’t have a corporation behind it.

            OT, but I loved that phrase. It seems to sum up one of the beautiful things about being indie. No corporation behind me.

  5. I can understand that a few authors got carried away with going after their critics. But isn’t the author of the above blog then also going after their critics basically in the same paragraph?

    So it’s bad to respond to writers that write about books, but it’s ok to write a negative response to writers that write about the bad responses written about their books.

    Crystal clear!

  6. You can’t stop the entire internet from discussing whatever it wants to, however it wants to. If you disagree with parts of it, the only thing you can do is to speak out. Packing up your kit and walking away accomplishes nothing. Her “I didn’t like issue/news/development X, so I’m going to stop blogging completely” is a meme that flows from internet commentators whose sense of self-importance has inflated a bit too much. Get over yourself lady.

  7. There’s a half decent point buried somewhere deep in there. But she kind of sounds like a whiny douche-bag. Or hey, maybe that all makes sense in the circles she moves in. But as an outsider, it’s more than a little repellent.

  8. Unfortunately for her, debate is the foundation of a democratic society. It helps in the correction of errors, exposure of propaganda and manipulation and in the discovery of answers to pertinent questions.

    Except when those in power don’t like the answers. Then the knives come out (or in her case, the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit; that’s enough to make anyone grumpy about their year).

  9. Um, let me say this– I’ve been around this crazy world of publishing a long time, since college at the University of Iowa.
    This is what I know in regards to DA. Well, maybe I know two things, trite though they may be:
    1. You sow the wind you reap the whirlwind.
    2. Chickens come home to roost. (And I’m from Iowa so I know chickens.)
    Snark, as a form of entertainment, is self-replicating. DA has been a source of such snark for years.

    • I think a bigger problem is the snark dished out on social media (esp Twitter). When her and her buddies ganged up on a gay male POC not reviewing gay romances on Good Reads according to their standards and they piled on him for ‘manipulating the system’ and they did that for two weeks, some of those chickens came home to roost indeed. Strange how that crew expects everybody to give them respect and all that but they have none for anybody else. Cue pathetic whine.

  10. Snark feels good when you’re frustrated. It’s venting, pure and simple. Unfortunately, it’s also usually short-sighted, one-sided, and more emotional rather than logical. Any illumination shed on the issue is lost in the ensuing snarkfest that inevitably turns into a sharkfest. People caught up in the snarkfest / sharkfest cycle should step back and ask themselves whether they are too invested in whatever they are snarking about, then ask themselves if they are drama queens who live for the limelight, however inane that limelight is. Then, they should turn off the laptop and get a life.

  11. There was a drumbeat, particularly from self-published authors, that readers exist to support the author.

    I had a hard time reading after that because I’ve never seen this sentiment expressed or implied by anyone in the indie community.

    • “…I’ve never seen this sentiment expressed or implied by anyone in the indie community.”

      Or anyone at all, in my case.

      There are two ways of looking at this, and both view have their merits:

      Either I am/we are missing things that she gets because she’s so much closer to and well informed about the general community.

      Or she needs to get up, take a walk and stay out of the echo chamber for a while.

    • I had a hard time reading after that because I’ve never seen this sentiment expressed or implied by anyone in the indie community.

      Well, not that way. It reeks of entitlement. OTOH, if what she intended to say was that authors create bonds with readers and readers do care about authors, but not really about publishers or editors or agents, then I think it rings true for what I’ve read here and elsewhere. Basically the idea that authors should try to connect directly with readers rather than indirectly through a publisher and retailer seems very much a drumbeat throughout the indie community…

      That was the first thing I thought when I read it, but maybe I was just inclined to put a positive spin on it today…

    • Sad to say, I have seen a writer or three say that a reader owes them, including here in the TPV comments. Readers do not owe us a living or reviews or worship or anything else.

      The majority of writers know who really butters their bread, and I, for one, am thankful every day for the readers willing to take a chance on my stories.

  12. I kind of get where she’s coming from. I have seen indies complain about things such as giving away dozens to thousands of free copies, and not receiving any reviews.

    I’ve also seen indies complain bitterly about bad reviews. There are some who think readers shouldn’t be allowed to be anything but supportive or nice, because it’s mean to be critical and affect their career.

    “Mean” and “bad” being anything less than a 4 or 5 star review.

    • My tablet ran out of juice, so I can’t edit the above now that I’ve moved to my computer. 🙂

      The mentality of some indies is that they are owed a review, or sales of their other books, because they gave readers something for free.

      Not just a review, but a good review.

      I’ve also seen some complain about bad reviews when they’re charging 99c. Very much a “Readers shouldn’t expect much for 99c, and so should grade it on a curve”.

      Personally, I don’t get that kind of thinking.

      • Exactly, Bill. Beyond the 99 cent thing, I’ve also seen the “this is just a hobby for me” to justify delivering a less than quality product. My response is, once you put your book for sell at a retailer, it isn’t “just a hobby” and the biggest investment a reader makes in your book isn’t the purchase price, it is the time to read it.

      • If one subscribes to the notion that low prices devalue books, then a 99 cent price indicates a book with little value, and from which little can be expected.

        Likewise, $9.99 would indicate a high value book from which much can be expected.

        I don’t subscribe to that idea, but it seems a logical application of the devaluation theory.

    • Basically, the kind of stuff that readers would never hear before the Internet.

      Back in the ’90s, when I was going to Bouchercon and other writer conventions, this sort of moaning and kvetching was a regular theme, only then was about how the Midlist Was Disappearing and Nobody Was Reading and Those Idiot Reviewers.

      Harmless, really, unless you began to believe it.

      • I live by the “I’m not entitled to readers or their support, I have to earn it” rule, and my mantra is “Not everyone’s going to love my books”. 🙂

    • I’ve seen a little of that behavior (the most recent example I can think of from a trad pub author though). It’s very unprofessional.

  13. “My hope for 2015 is this–that we can return to the topic of books and the issues surrounding books while operating under the belief that the other party with whom we are engaged in spirited debate has the best intentions.”

    Jane is a hypocrite, pure and simple. I have seen her go after authors on the Internet for simple statements they’ve made on social media, absolutely assuming they have only bad intentions. She’s constantly posting inflammatory click bait on her blog and yet holds up her hands and plays the victim when people call her on her BS. In the romance community, she’s known for pulling antics to get attention and sympathy and all too quick to play the victim when she has to face the consequences of her actions. MANY times, her attacks on authors were in no way related to their books.

    I find it hilarious that she constantly claims that reviews are for readers, yet runs a blog called “Dear Author” in which the review is written as A LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE AUTHOR. Cognitive dissonance there.

    My hope for 2015 is that Jane takes some of that ad revenue she generates and goes out to buy a clue as to why people dislike her so much.

    • There are more than one Anon Authors on this board apparently. I’m the other one and I don’t get involved in calling out individuals directly for their behaviour online.

      The intertubes make possible the whole spectrum of ugly and beautiful. My goal is to try to find the one and ignore the other.

    • This comment, by the above anon author (the first comment) is spot on. Very accurate. I cannot find any fault in her stars.

    • This: “I have seen her go after authors on the Internet for simple statements they’ve made on social media, absolutely assuming they have only bad intentions.”

      Kinda goes against the laws of karma – what comes around, goes around.

      “The snark is strong in this one.”

  14. I’m not sure what all the indignation is about here. I don’t read DA so can only comment on what I’ve read on TPV, but I’m only seeing here that she’s encountered a lot of negativity while talking about books. And this certainly can be true.

    Is it not okay to feel discouraged about that? Sure, it can be a fact of life on the ‘net, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it, or even accept it. She realizes it as a fact of life, which I presume is why she considered shutting down the blog. If the negativity is taking too much out of her, she’s right to consider getting away from it if she can.

    If what she’s saying is complete BS, why do so many book bloggers refuse to review indie books, even going so far as to cite the reasons she mentions? Not to say that anyone here would stalk and attack critics, but obviously it does happen. Why pretend that all indies are above such behavior?

    ETA: In the OP, she says this:

    My hope for 2015 is this–that we can return to the topic of books and the issues surrounding books while operating under the belief that the other party with whom we are engaged in spirited debate has the best intentions.

    I like that.

  15. I really don’t get the strong reaction against this article either. I think some people are being way too defensive.

  16. I don’t get the strong reaction against this either, did everybody miss the 20+ “authors behaving badly” stories this year? Between the STGRB cyber stalkers, the author stalking someone in real life, the author who assaulted a reviewer to the ones complaining about & yelling at their fans on Facebook, it’s been a banner year. There were so many weird stories this year, I can’t even remember which author did what. Added to that Gamergate by itself was enough to make any woman want to quit the Internet.

    Although the binders full of women was from a couple years ago, and she maybe should have used blogger/reviewer in a few places instead of reader, I completely understand where she is coming from.

    • I guess some of the anons here are people who have a personal beef with the Dear Author crew. And while I don’t necessarily agree with them on everything, I did find this post spot on.

  17. I’ve followed DA sporadically since its inception. I may not agree with everything Jane (or Jayne) says, but I have never doubted her (their) good will. She has never hesitated to tackle the tough questions, including the name of her blog. She wrote a post ages ago where she explained that. She talked about e-readers (the Sony one) and encouraging her readers to explore software and hardware technologies that make protecting personal digital libraries easier. I learned about Dropbox and how to break some DRM from the DA blog.

    When many romance blogs were simply fan sites the discussions there were lively and critical and she talked about the importance of judging the writing in a romance against higher standards.

    The amount of glee that some people show when she has a problem or appears to show some weakness puzzles me.

    • Arachne, I’m with you.

      Readers, even non-romance readers, should be reading her blog for the technology posts alone.

      Authors should be reading her blog to learn about readers. Reader me thinks the post on author websites in particular should be required reading for all authors.

      I don’t agree with everything that is posted there but I learn something new almost every time I visit or at least find something to take under consideration. I think her site makes me a better author/business person and a more informed reader which are the same reasons why I visit this site.

    • I agree, Arachne. I think she’s one of the best and most useful (in terms of real news about the industry) bloggers out there. It would be a real shame to see her driven out of blogging by authors.

  18. Except for the “binders full of women” comment, which — I don’t know — maybe somebody reprised that in 2014? — there’s not much I DISagree with here. I think readers did take a beating in 2014, and I can understand why major book-bloggers are feeling frustrated and discouraged.

    I may hold this opinion because I spend a lot of time at Goodreads, where there is ample bad behavior of authors, especially self-published (but not exclusively self-published) on display all the time. 2014 did seem to me to be overstuffed with ridiculous over-reactions and frankly insane activity directed at readers/reviewers.

  19. 2014 was not a very good year for the reader?”

    Do millions of book consumers know this?

    Seems in 2014 more books were available to more people at lower prices than at any time in history.

  20. I went over to DA for the first time and I’ve decided that authors must have the thickest skin imaginable. I read a couple of her reviews….no thanks. It’s one thing to write a paragraph or so on what was wrong with a book but to have it dissected in public by a woman who has a large following…it pains me to even think about it. Having a page marked D and another F seems cruel.

    I know, I know, you put it out there you take the heat but man that’s gotta hurt. I don’t know that I could do it.

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