A Lesson In Paranoia…They Really Are Watching

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.  ~Mark Twain


I believe that anyone who is involved in the writing world has heard about the incredible meltdown an author had after a critical review. I don’t want to talk about that. We can all agree that she didn’t handle it well. We can all agree that she damaged her career. Enough said.

What I do want to discuss is that I found a few interesting items sprinkled throughout the 307 comments. (Yes, I slogged through every single one.) The first thing that caught my attention was the side argument rippling through over the idea of indie publishing.

What is indie publishing?

It is a gloriously vague term. Being so, it is open to interpretation. Many of the folks felt there was a distinct difference between being a self pubbed author and being an indie pubbed author. For them, the word indie refered to small, independent presses that accepted submissions and then published. Righteous indignation ran amuck when a different understanding was applied. “There’s self- publishing and commercial publishing, all the rest is smoke and mirrors.” Those in this camp think self published writers are using this word to give credibility to their work when, in fact it isn’t good enough for traditional publishing. Ouch, that’s harsh.

Others weren’t bothered with the interchanging of self-published and indie. Many thought it was a buzz word flung about in an attempt for writers to equate themselves with the hip alternative music scene that brought us great music from artists like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. However, the buzz behind the word was that it was still an attempt to bring more credibility to the arena of self pubbed authors.

There were a few who offered a concrete definition for both. “Indie was one who publishes without the aid of any sort of publisher and self-published was one who publishes with the aid of a pay-to-publish company.” A commenter who has a doctorate in language forensics states that terms in culture shift and that direct publishing is now considered indie. It may have been used differently before, but the meaning is expanding and encompassing all meanings- like it or not.

The best comment: “It doesn’t really matter though, no one cares except other writers. Readers just care if the book is good.” Enough said.

Besides arguing over the meaning of a word, a more serious notion was raised. Did she only harm her career? The answer is no. There were agents, editors and other book reviewers that chimed in on this debacle. Let’s start with the agent. “…as an agent actively looking for clients who has the manuscripts of some of the posters here, I have been turned off from all of you. Furthering this discussion is as unprofessional as beginning it.” Ouch again.

Just because you weren’t the one having the temper tantrum, joining in on the condemnation just got you sucker punched. The lesson here is to not stoop to a level that is obviously not professional.

Book reviewers were out spoken when it came to the topic of self-published authors. “I’ve sworn off reviewing self pubbed because I had two writers that did that. It’s a shame, but burned twice and I had enough.”

Readers also jumped in. “You and others like you have long since turned me off to indies forever.” How about another? “I’m now on an all-indie boycott.”  Still another. “This is the very type of behavior that will continue to tar self- published authors as hobbyists.” Big ouch!

What you put out there on the world wide web will come back to bite you in the tushie because they ARE watching. Agents, editors, our readers, book reviewers, librarians, and book store owners are reading blogs, tweets etc. Be professional. Be courteous. Be intelligent with your comments. Working at your keyboard, you are standing on a world stage. Enough said.

32 Responses to A Lesson In Paranoia…They Really Are Watching

  1. Jody says:

    Well said.
    Now let’s go on to something less controveral, like religion or politics.


  2. Tess says:

    Here, here!


  3. Ruth says:

    It has loooong been said that you should post items on the web very carefully. If you need proof, just google your own name- almost everything you posted will pop up for the world to read. The world is truely watching our every word, and the giant computer in Alexandria is backing up everything that is on the internet.



  4. jbrayweber says:

    Great follow up article, Stacey.
    I’ve said it many times, no matter what public forum you are on, there are those silently lurking. They are taking note and will remember bad behavior. That said, they will also remember classiness. 😉


  5. Hey Jody-
    You are too funny! Maybe I should open the discussion to politics and religion…I wonder how long it will take for THAT to go viral. There’s already mugs and t-shirts for sale over this!!


  6. Ruth, you are so correct when you say that we need to post on the web carefully. I think it goes beyond that- as a whole we need to treat writing as a viable profession. People are watching how we handle the ability to publish our own works. If we aren’t professional, deliver top notch quality material and behave in a proper manner, then why in the world would anyone think we are the talented group that we are????


  7. Thanks Jenn. I believe this has such larger ramifications that what it can do to an individual career. People around the world are scrutinizing us to see how we handle the burgeoning market of self published authors. One commenter said, “The best thing about being self published is that anyone can do it. The worst thing about being self published is that anyone can do it.” All of us as a group need to ALWAYS pt our best foot forward because it’s incidents like these that will ruin this opportunity for the rest of us.


  8. Kristen says:

    I’ve changed my opinion. I think it was all a publicity stunt.

    Well, it could have been if I hadn’t had a couple writers exactly like her in some of my less successful critique groups!


  9. Julie says:

    I have to admit that, at first, all the asides (in the blog comments) about indie-this and self-pub-that worried me. I am an indie pubbed author (Krill Press) and proud that my book is out there getting read and noticed. More importantly is that the attitudes surrounding indie/self-pub authors is something that is most decidedly out of my control. All I (personally) can do is produce the best quality product I can, then see to it that it gets the attention it deserves. The author had a rough day, but it was her doing and her’s alone. HOW she was published is irrelevant. My thoughts are certainly with her. I can’t imagine what she’s feeling right now.


  10. Suzan H. says:

    The fall-out from this worries me as someone looking to release soon. Ironically, I’d planned to send a copy to the original reviewer in the controversy because I thought he was a fair and even-handed reviewer. Now, I’m concerned he and the other reviewers who are willing to read and comment on indie books will be a tad biased after this incident.


  11. Excellent post, Stacey, and wise advice for all of us. We must be careful what we put “out there”.


  12. Loretta says:

    I once heard it said, “If it can’t be seen from a galloping horse, and it won’t be remembered a hundred years from now, one should not overly worry.” I realize that’s a very simplified statement, we do live in the “now” and have to be aware of our actions, but in this day and age, there seems to be a ceaseless amount of over-kill on any topic that grabs a headline for a day or so.
    In all fairness, surely any agent, reader, publisher can’t judge all books by one cover. If they choose to do so, I think that in itself makes a statement which needs no explanation.
    Having entered this brave new world myself, I would just like to point out a few things. Some who are choosing to give the indie world a try, have already had their work published and received their rights back. (I’m one of them) Others, again like myself,
    have pieces which have placed in contests, had their work optioned for a period of time and now the pieces are available once more for the author to do with as they please. (My latest, due out this week, The Pan Man, was on LASR for a couple of years).
    If the author finds their work is well received by readers, and the work is edited well, it would be my hope that all involved in the reading, reviewing and possible agent interest, would judge the work, one book at a time.
    My last thought is this…we must remember all the world’s a stage…how we conduct ourselves on Facebook, blogs, interviews, and our daily conduct with the public speaks volumes. Pay attention to the gracious public figures who have gone before us, and borrow from their conduct:) There are many who have walked through much tougher things and done it with excellent poise, instilling in us a respect for their magnificent conduct. Giving birth to another well worn phrase: Grace under fire.
    All who enter the public arena will in one degree or another be in the limelight, the footlights, dim light, or as Stephen King wrote, the deadlights. It’s up to each of us to decide if we choose to “shine” no matter which light we’re in:)

    Loretta Wheeler/L Reveaux/ZuZu:)


  13. William says:

    Please allow me to read a prepared statement:

    “I am here to support my friend on her Blog. I can neither confirm or deny, nor agree or disagree, with any other statements, positions, rumors, theories, or thoughts on this subject.”

    I will not be able to answer follow-up questions at this time.

    Thank you all very much….:)


  14. If that was a publicity stunt, Kristen, then it backfired spectacularly! I hope we all can learn some lessons after the debacle that poor girl created. We will be whatever we bring to the table.


  15. I absolutely agree with you, Julie! I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. She made a terrible mistake and that’s that.
    I’m more interested in the ripple effect it (and others making similar mistakes)might have on indie pubbed authors. I wish you all the best and hope you have a ton of sales. I’ll be sure to look you up on Amazon!


  16. Hi Suzan! I’m waving at you from my computer. 🙂
    This was a particular worry to me as I read through several book reviewers opinion of indie published authors. I would hope the majority of reviewers out there would remain fair minded and realize this incident is definitely in the minority. It does seem there are quite a number that have experienced something like this and now boycott all indie authors. I’d send Al a copy anyway and tell him how nicely he handled the affair!


  17. Hi Teri and Loretta-
    I wanted to share a link with you all as an example of a very classy response to a review that was less than stellar. The review itself is worth a read because it is so darn funny! The author showed real professionalism and a large streak of humor. As a result, many folks were buying her book because she was such a good sport.


  18. William…..YOU ARE SO WEIRD!!!!!! 🙂


  19. June Faver says:

    This was such a sad series of events. The review wasn’t bad. The reviewer said her story was good but had to comment on her poor use of the English language. That she overreacted in such a public and monumental manner was suicide. If only she had sent her finished manuscript to someone to edit. But the poor woman seems to think her usage is okay, no matter how many people tell her otherwise. This is a lesson for all of us: Polish! Polish! Polish! And get some knowledgeable person(s) to read it.
    Thanks, Stacy for wrapping it all up for us. And for going through all 307 comments. Most of all, for allowing those considering the indie route to see what they’re up against. Not all will enjoy the Hocking/Konrath/Eisler success. But I do think that, no matter the route, a truly great book will be read.


  20. Kristen says:

    Actually Stacey, I was kidding. 🙂


  21. Interesting discussion. While confusing, I find it exciting to be on the cutting edge of a turnaround in the publishing industry. The marketing departments/ business managers who think only in terms of money and don’t have a creative bone in their bodies have ruined all the arts in the name of something that’s the ‘same yet different’.

    I love to see free market in action, the resurgence of creative expression and the obvious appreciation for ‘something new and different’.

    The cream will rise to the top, kids will be able to read books without depleting their college savings accounts, and authors will find satisfaction in finally being allowed to entertain others.


  22. Now why do I have a nasty face on my posting? It certainly was meant w/ a smile!


  23. Morganelle Kitsune says:

    It took a while for me to check out that thread. By the time I did, someone finally shut the comments down. I read all of it and I could only shake my head in wonder and was chilled at some of the harshness spewed.
    I find your article very illuminating because it does illustrate the fact that someone out there can kill anyone else’s reputation. I find it sad that people are tarred simply through unprofessional behavior whether during or after the flame started.
    On the other hand, I have learnt something useful out of this mess. Pen names are great when you don’t want to reveal your real name to everyone in the world. Personally, I’m just going to hunker down and keep writing and editing what I’ve got in progress.
    I’m not going to let that unprofessional brouhaha stop me from completing my projects.
    Again, thank you for taking the time to air your opinion in a very neutral and professional manner.


  24. Stacy,
    Thanks for the great post. I just came back from my student orientation for a Master in Teaching I am doing for this coming year.

    The orientation ended with a very timely advice from professors and school principals: “be careful about what you post online.” i.e. don’t Tweet or Facebook anything.

    I think this is true for any professions, teachers, doctors, etc and yes authors.
    It is so easy now to find everything about every one, and say something offensive without really thinking about it.

    The best advice I heard (and that I follow) was by author Mark Henry. He said something like, “if you care too much about something, don’t Tweet about it.”

    I have since taken many long deep breath before Tweeting something!


  25. Hey Kristin- I thought you were kidding, but then took a moment to consider if an idea like that would ever cross someone’s mind?!? I so hope not!!!


  26. Hi June and Robin- I hope my blog wasn’t too full of doom and gloom because that’s not what I intended. We are in the midst of a mini revolution of sorts, where the artist can keep control of their product and send it out to be enjoyed! We need to celebrate the choices. In the celebrating, we also can never forget this is a business as well as an artistic endeavor. If folks who are going the indie route would keep that in mind, we’ll all be better off for it. Thanks for making such insightful comments.


  27. P.S. Robin, I have no idea how the little faces appear! You should have seen mine before I joined Muse Tracks- it was a snaggle-tooth monster. Maybe foreshadowing of things to come?


  28. Hunkering down and writing is the best medicine for this whole situation. Concentrate on putting out the best product you can. Get an editor, critique partners, enter it into contests etc. Do your best. Thanks for stopping by, Morganelle.


  29. Bonjour Marie-Claude- Taking a deep breath or two or three before you put anything out publicly is always a good idea. It’s a fine line to be out in the virtual world networking and putting too much stuff on the web. Thanks for visiting me!


  30. Morganelle Kitsune says:

    Hi Stacey,
    I also write as B.L. Foxxe, and am published with two electronic presses, and did some pieces through Lulu.com. Therefore I am running the gamut of knowing what comes of not putting my best foot forward. Not doing the proper polishing beforehand can shoot one in one’s own foot!
    So yes, am doing my best to avoid messing up, especially since I have a feeling there are going to be tightening standards coming out of this situation.
    On that note, back to writing! 🙂


  31. Travel Ann says:

    Stacey, It might be good to put your byline at the top of your blog. I find it somewhat difficult to have to scroll down to the end of the blog in order to know to whom I am listening!!
    Great ideas!!
    I like your viewpoint.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: