It’s Not Mean if It’s True

There’s been a bit of a Interweb kerfuffle regarding Anne Stuart’s recent comments about her publishers in an interview on All About Romance. Miss Snark picked up on and gave ole Anne what-for for her lack of discretion and for being an ungrateful tart; Dear Author then picked it up and expanded the topic by lobbing around some more links and opinions.

Franky, much as I enjoy Miss Snark’s writing and respect the hell out of her, because bitch has claws and she’s not afraid to use ‘em, I disagree with her. Anne Stuart’s awesomeness as a person has ratcheted up several notches in my estimation. Why? Because she said something something a lot of people have thought for a long time but were too chickenshit to say out loud.

Harlequin, the same publisher largely responsible for trends like amnesiac virgin brides, secret babies and boardroom mistresses, is accused of caring more about slots and numbers than the quality of the end product. Quel choc! That Anne Stuart, man, she is one wacky-ass bitch who has no idea what she’s talking about. Or if she does know what she was talking about, she shouldn’t say anything, because speaking up would be bad business, and God knows that’s paramount.

Look, if people didn’t speak up when the system is broken, how the hell is change supposed to happen? And speaking as a reader, I do think things aren’t going as well as they could be. An author has finally spoken and and is saying that publishers have fucked up, and are continuing to be, shall we say, less than satisfactory in their treatment of authors—and she’s not doing this in a bugfuck-crazy, going-down-in-flames, trainwrecky way like, ohhh, say, Dara Joy, but in a reasonable and honest (if snarky) tone. I say she deserves props, and I’m damn glad that she seems even more awesome as a person than she is an author.

Anne, you probably have loads of things better to do with your time than to fill up your particular Internet tube (that is not at all like a dump truck) with Smart Bitches, but on the off-chance you are reading this, I say to you: Good job, and I pretty much agreed with everything you said about your publishers, including your wistfulness about not staying with Avon, because goddamn you produced some fine, fine reading material while you were with them.

Here’s a tangent for you: Avon in the late 80s to mid-90s was unstoppable. During that time, they published the best work of many of my favorite authors, including Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas, Anne Stuart, Karen Ranney and Jo Beverley. In fact, I noticed a precipitous drop in quality when Stuart and Beverley1 moved from Avon to Zebra and an equally steep rise in quality when Ranney switched from Zebra to Avon. Coincidence? I really, really don’t think so. Similarly, Loretta Chase, while I’m happy enough to dance on tabletops that she’s writing again, hasn’t quite written anything for Berkley that can compare with the brilliance that was her output for Avon—well, with the sole exception of The Last Hellion, but the less said about that book, the better.

The big exception would be Kinsale, who has remained consistently excellent, but then she’s LAURA FREAKING KINSALE.

However much the editors for the Avon Romantic Treasures and Avon lead titles between 1988 and 1997 were being paid, it probably wasn’t enough.

Notes:
1OK, so Beverley was writing for Kensington/Zebra already with her incredibly convoluted Company of Rogues series, but she started the Malloren series with Avon (My Lady Notorious, by far the best book by her that I’ve read), then moved on to Zebra (Tempting Fortune, which was mediocre at best), and then finished the series with Signet (which books were fun installments to the saga, but not nearly as good as My Lady Notorious). Those of you who disagree with my assessments, please know that I have impeccable taste. It’s so impeccable, it’s Platonic. Just so you know.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Nora Roberts says:

    First, everyone fucks up. Publishers, editors, authors, agents, reviewers, readers, bloggers. My puppy fucked up chewing the corner of a stair tread before I caught him. The degree, the situation and circumstances vary. And the viewpoint.

    Whether or not Mira mishandled Anne and her book(s)might be something for the subjective category. I imagine the publisher has another viewpoint.

    I wouldn’t slap Anne around for saying what she did. It’s her right. I wouldn’t make the same choice, because my career business is between me and my publisher, my editor and my agent. I wouldn’t make comments that would make it fodder for the Internet. At least, I wouldn’t on purpose. That’s my right, my choice.

    Have I ever had complaints? Oh, you betcha. And what would stating them in a public forum have accomplished? Pretty much nothing. My agent gets my complaints, if and when. That’s what I pay her for, among many other things. The reader gets my books—and at sites like this my opinion. But not, and never, any specific business dealings.

    I like Anne, quite a lot. But I don’t think her answer in the interview makes her a hero, any more than it makes her a demon. It just means, to me, that she had certain very strong feelings about this particular subject, and made the choice to share them.

  2. 2
    Suisan says:

    I’m finding it ever so ironic that most of these discussions about what one should or should not have said come down to an underlying critique of how professional the original commentor (commentator?) was behaving. There’s a lot of verbiage about how we should all act and what lessons can be learned from watching someone else act rashly.

    Ummm. But all the comments regarding professional etiquette are showing up on blogs. As a writer of a blog, I’m having some trouble digesting that.

    First, at some point every person has acted less professionally than they should. There’s always a more tactful or, conversely, a more open way of presenting an issue. There’s always one more opportunity to resist the pull of gossip. The effectiveness of pulling out these examples is getting diluted. Because, really, how many times do we all need another reminder that perhaps we could be “nicer”? Even La Nora commented that the internet is a tool which requires some finesse; I believe she mentioned some scars she still bears, although she was kind enough not to show us the scars in question.

    Second, why are the critiques of professional behavior given any weight whatsoever when they appear on a blog? Unless that blog is dedicated to professional ethics, managerial techniques, or business management tools, then no blogger has the ability to point fingers about another’s professionalism. And I say that as a blogger.

    Because really, blogs are a newer form of gossip around the water cooler. In some cases, such as on this site, the discourse is intelligent, varied, and respectful. But really the whole blog “movement” is an exercise in *personal* opinions, reactions, stories, and ideas. Sometimes friends show up in a time of crisis and offer suport and conversation. Sometimes strangers gather on streetcorners to bitch about politics. Sometimes watercoolers attract office gossip.

    But not a simgle bit of that is professional behavior. None of it. And I enjoy it greatly.

    In my professional life, I modulate my tone very carefully. I appear on TV with a certain look, a certain affect. When I walk into a colleague’s office, I’ll often announce, “I’m here as a Board member” or “I’m here as a parent” just so that the other person can tell what level of dialogue we’re going to engage in. I consider it professional courtesy to do so. But on my blog, it’s personal.

    At AAR, I expect something in the middle—it was a pretty open-ended question after all. And I don’t consider AAR to be a professional publishing or industry website. If it were, there wouldn’t even be an “At the Back Fence” column with a linked discussion board for public comment. What professional organization would go out of its way to stir up topics of discussion and invite the public to weigh in on an unmoderated message board? Hello. Unprofessional. Therefore casual, and therefore I’m not understanding the complaint that Ms. Stuart was being unprofessional to begin with.

    All in all, I’m left shaking my head over a reaction to an internet posting on a blog, where the blogger decries that the original poster was acting unprofessionally. By the very virtue that you are blogging about it, are you not also acting unprofessionally?

    I think we all need to get over ourselves. People do and say odd things occasionally, and they all have differing opinions. Singling them out to answer for their actions on blogs is a touch immature.

    And after that huge reaction, I’ll close by saying that I thought Ms. Stuart’s comment was just as appropriate to the interview as the rest of her answers. “Favorite type of man”—I’d never answer that question if a newspaper asked me, but I’d hop right to it if AAR had occasion to.

  3. 3
    eggs says:

    Sarah said: 
    “Franky, much as I enjoy Miss Snark’s writing and respect the hell out of her, because bitch has claws and she’s not afraid to use ‘em, I disagree with her.”

    HQ editor Isabel Swift has responded with a nice little ‘HQ Editors Love Anne’ post on her blog, which I interpreted as her way of telling Miss Snark to sit down and mind her own business.  The point that Miss Snark seemed to miss was that Stuart might actually be right – HQ might care about their bottom line in exclusion to all other issues.  In that case they could care less if Stuart called them goat sacrificing zombie worshippers – as long as her books keep selling, they’ll stay happy with her. 

    That being said, I read the AAR interview when it came out and I didn’t think it was particularly HQ bashing, especially as it discussed her experiences with several publishers, not just HQ.  It is possible to openly discuss your experiences without it being an “attack”, and I thought Anne trod the line nicely.

    The bottom line for me (and HQ) is that I have a brand new copy of Cold As Ice sitting on my desk waiting to be read, and if there’s another book in the series, I’ll buy that too, no matter who the publisher is.  With a name the size of of Anne Stuart, customers don’t care who the publisher is, they’ll buy her anyway.  If HQ got into a bitch fight with Stuart over this, I’d put my money on Stuart coming out on top.  She’s already proven herself willing to change publishers if they don’t meet her needs, and HQ would be well aware of this.

    eggs.

  4. 4
    Candy says:

    *coughs gently*

    eggs: I know I’ve kind of sort of disappeared off the face of Smart Bitches lately because just about every aspect of my life decided to explode simultaneously in the past few months, but I’d just like to point out that I’m the one who wrote this, and not Sarah.

    Not that Sarah hasn’t been OMG AWESOME with the posting regularly, and I know I’ve been beyond slack with the writing.

    Nora: Good point about Anne not deserving to be valorized or demonized for having an opinion, and your comment about the repercussions vs. intended effect of making a public statement is worth thinking about. That said, I still admire Stuart for having the cojones to speak up.

    Suisan: Heh, good point about pot calling the kettle black and all that, and also the importance of context and venue.

  5. 5
    Rosie says:

    I’ve already stated my opinion a couple of places.  I think people’s reaction to her comments is more interesting and inflammatory than anything she said.  I also hardly think her opinion is big news to her publisher.

    Ms. Roberts’ hit it on the head, whether or not any one of us think it is right or wrong to state a public opinion about her publisher, it’s Ms. Stuart’s choice. 

    I just received her newsletter where Ms. Stuart said she made the NYT list at #33 which should make all parties, readers, author, and publisher, happy.

  6. 6
    Monica says:

    It’s Stuart’s choice because she’s the only one who could be hurt by her remarks if her pub takes exception—and apparently they didn’t.

    Personally, I would never as pointedly diss my pubs (light cover snark hardly counts), or my readers because they’re what my career is built on.

  7. 7
    eggs says:

    CANDY said:
    “*coughs gently*

    eggs: I know I’ve kind of sort of disappeared off the face of Smart Bitches lately because just about every aspect of my life decided to explode simultaneously in the past few months, but I’d just like to point out that I’m the one who wrote this, and not Sarah.”

    Sorry, Candy!  I just got into Sydney, Australia from Montreal, Canada and I have jet lag up the ying yang.  Thanks for only coughing gently and not hacking up a big one right in my face.  I shall go and caffinate myself fully before trying to post again!

    eggs.

  8. 8
    SandyO says:

    My whole problem with interviews like Ms. Stuart gave (and as I stated in Miss Snark’s comments) is just because you have the right to free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to be free of the repercussions.

    And also as I stated in Miss Snark’s comments, I suppose if Anne is feeling any repercussions, she’d just blame them on the evil President Bush.

  9. 9
    Robin says:

    just because you have the right to free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to be free of the repercussions.

    But doesn’t this imply that she’s *trying* to avoid the repercussions?  Which I haven’t actually seen (not even in the form of modifying, backpedalling, clarifying, or otherwise trying to soften or even indicate remorse for her comments).  If by repercussions you mean people jumping all over her, then I don’t see her running from all that, either, OR (which I very much appreciate) running from blog to blog and trying to defend herself or insult readers.  Sure we all have opinions, and by stating her case where she did, IMO she’s invited the lot of us to comment on her words and on their implications.  And I don’t see her as trying to rescind that invitation.  Has she been?

    Stuart’s books don’t always work for me; frankly, I enjoyed Black Ice much more than I did Cold As Ice, which felt somewhat *compromised* to me relative to BI.  Some of Stuart’s books have actually pissed me off.  And in her interview, she struck me as a pretty complicated, somewhat eccentric, intelligent, and strongly opinionated person.  And it’s difficult for me to believe that all of those truly involved in the business she’s talking about haven’t heard her opinions previously. 

    I agree with Candy that she basically broke a taboo (it’s that crab/lobster pot analogy), and people react to that differently.  To me what’s most interestinfg is what isn’t being discussed—namely, is Stuart’s assessment is widely accurate, is there an imbalance in the business/book equation of Romance publishing, do authors even have the right to want more from their publishers, and do readers have a stake in this horserace, too.  One thing I was really wondering after reading some of the comments at Dear Author is whether it’s fairer to authors to have it be all business (no favors, no personalities) or to have all those things that come with personal passion involved in the publishing process (i.e. personal commitment can lead to personality clashes). 

    Oh, and welcome back, Candy!

  10. 10
    SandyO says:

    Personally, I was more offended by Ms. Stuart’s comment that she hated President Bush the most of anyone.  Also the fact that she prefaced it was something like “I said I wasn’t going to do this” (sorry to lazy to look it up). Usually, if you feel you shouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t.  Ms. Stuart likes to shock, this was evident years ago when she appeared at a conference (think it was RWA National) as Sister Krissy complete with s nun’s habit.  So could this not be one of the reasons she has problems with publishing companies?

    Lord knows that I’m not a shrinking violet myself but I have learned over the years to pick my fights.  But to me the whole interview was a bit of arrogance on Ms. Stuart’s part.  It was almost a dare to like her and read her books.

  11. 11
    Monica says:

    I just read the part where she dissed her publishers and missed the part where she’s intelligent enough to hate greed, avarice and evil too. 

    Wow.  I’m definitely in her corner.

  12. 12
    Candy says:

    Sandy: Y’know, Anne Stuart’s opinion of Dubya is hardly unique or shocking—but that’s probably because of all my dirty commie pinko lefty friends, not to mention the fact that I’m a dirty commie pinko lefty myself. Bush has a remarkably polarizing effect, and God knows I know several conservatives who felt towards Clinton what many liberals feel towards Bush, i.e., that he’s Satan incarnate.

    And regarding Stuart’s projected propensity to blame Bush if she experiences any repercussions for her political opinions: I didn’t pick up a tendency to blame outside agencies on her part, at least, not in reading the interview. I’d also like to point out it’s possible to thoroughly dislike somebody without blaming them for every ill.

    I get the feeling that many people aren’t interpreting this interview with the same tongue-in-cheek attitude I am.

    All this talk of politics reminds me: American bitches in the audience, REMEMBER TO VOTE.

    But back to one of Robin’s questions: One thing I’m wondering in all this talk about the publishing business and how it’s becoming more and more of a traditional business, is whether there was ever a time (once mass production was possible) when publishers did it solely, or even mostly, because of their love of the art and of literature, and not because they reckoned there was a market demand and they might as well make money off it. My feeling is that books are being treated more and more like fungible commodities, but I’m unsure how much of that is me being a cranky old cuss, yearning for a golden age that never was, the way some people talk about the version of American life that existed only on TV shows like Leave it to Beaver as if it were real.

  13. 13
    Nora Roberts says:

    I guess I’m also a dirty commie pinko, but that’s beside the point.

    Many congratulations to Krissie for her first debut on the NYT Extended.

    To put things in (my) perspective, if the publisher can be seen to carry at least some of the blame for mismanaging an author or a book, are they then to carry at least some of the glory for a success?

    Seems only fair.

    Candy, any Golden Age was before my time, but I’m all for a return. As long as I don’t have to wear heels and vacuum—simultainously.

  14. 14
    Nora Roberts says:

    I can’t spell simultaniously/simultainiously. Whatever. I can’t without digging out my dictionary.

    Anyway, I’m going out of town tomorrow, but sent in my absentee ballot.

    The rest of you bitches, get your butts out there tomorrow and vote.

  15. 15
    LinM says:

    I’m an Anne Stuart fan – completely biased. I have no idea what her agreements are with any of her publishers but I question the notion the “I love Anne Stuart” post by Isabel Swift was nice.

    Suppose that you are an author who: is intelligent, quirky, different; varies from outside-the-box to extremely-outside-the-box; has a backlist recognized by every UBS I’ve every been in. This author is courted by
    a publisher that makes certain commitments: contractual, verbal, written … (who knows; definitely not me)

    On the release of your second novel for this publisher, they fail to meet their
    commitments (contractual or otherwise; size of print-run, release-date, placement, …). As an outspoken individual, you mention that you are not feeling any warm fuzzies. Your publisher’s response is a “I love Anne Stuart” blog item.

    WTF!!!

    I have no mindset where Isabel Swift’s response was appropriate or gracious. But I am obviously out-of-sync with most of the respondents. Too bad, so sad; I still love Anne Stuart and I think that Isabel Swift missed the boat.

  16. 16
    SandyO says:

    I don’t give a rat’s ass who Anne Stuart votes for, or Nora or Laura Kinsale (who had a political campaign “yard sign” on her website 2 years ago).  It’s how it is done.  LK was complete class.

    My attitude is Anne Stuart is an idiot. I don’t like idiots (and my definition of an idiot would include someone who answered the question with “Bill Clinton” as well).

    My point is it was unneccessary. But she said it anyway because she could, she’s ANNE “SISTER KRISSY” STUART.  It was rude.  She insulted me by that comment.  I take it personally.  And I certainly won’t be buying her books.

    There’s a difference between being able to say it and actually going out of their way to alienate people.

  17. 17
    ammie says:

    This notion that we have that we should all be so grateful to have a job or a writing contract that we should all just shut up about the inadequecy and incompentency of our employers does nothing but ensure that all employers will always remain inadequate and incompotent.

    No matter what you are told, your employer does NOT own your opinion or your soul. They own your time, nine to five, and everything on your computer. Anything beyond that is freakin’ facisim.

    Don’t buy into it.

  18. 18
    ammie says:

    Anne Stuart is not an idiot becuase she doesn’t like George Bush. At least half the population doesn’t like George Bush. Do you actually think half the population are stupid? Or are insulting you when they express their CONSTITFUCKINGTIONAL RIGHT TO EXPRESS AN OPINION OF the predident of the United States?

  19. 19
    Candy says:

    Sandy: To be totally honest, I’m really not sure how somebody replying “George Bush” to that question would’ve insulted you personally, because it’d be like me being personally insulted if, say, answered “Mahatma Gandhi” or “Nelson Mandela” to a similar question. It’d tell me certain things about the person answering the question, and I’d be pretty damn certain that we’d have ideological differences, but I’m not sure about the personal insult component.

  20. 20
    SandyO says:

    ammie, read what I said. It was an idiotic thing to say, inappropriate and stupid. 

    It was uncalled for, yes half the county may dislike the President but that means she insulted the other half.

    And I have said over and over, just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you have to.  Nor does it mean that I can’t respond.

  21. 21
    ammie says:

    I have opinions on a million things. None of them are personally insulting to you. Guarenteed. And it is not inappropriate to express an opinion your elected officials. Or other people’s elected officials. Rick Santorum is not my Senator, but he’s a dickhead all the same, and I am not insulting anyone but him. I’ll say it again. Rick Santorum is a DICKHEAD. Pennsylvanians… you’re all a-okay. Even if you vote for a big ol’ dickhead.
    But don’t. Just sayin’. Don’t. Let the dickhead go.

  22. 22
    Arethusa says:

    Santorum: That’s latin for asshole

    (Sorry, I don’t really have anything to say about this! Stuart said she didn’t think all of her publishers treated well and perhaps if she had peppered her remarks with swear words or something, I could get more excited.)

  23. 23
    ammie says:

    Arethusa:

    If you aren’t too squemish, look up Santorum on urbandictionary.com. That definition was brought into the lexicon by Dan Savage, who writes an advice column syndicated in The Stranger.
    Ah, the power of the Internets. It’a a beautiful thing.

  24. 24
    SandyO says:

    ammie,
    Grow up.

  25. 25
    ammie says:

    Oh for god’s sake. You really do take everything personally, don’t you?

  26. 26
    SandyO says:

    ammie honey, that was just some good advice for you.  Have a wonderful day.

  27. 27
    Arethusa says:

    ammie: If you aren’t too squemish, look up Santorum on urbandictionary.com. That definition was brought into the lexicon by Dan Savage, who writes an advice column syndicated in The Stranger.
    Ah, the power of the Internets. It’a a beautiful thing.

    Are you kidding me? I’ve got two shirts with Santorum sayings because of Dan Savage. ;) Here’s the other:

    Santorum: The frothy mixture that says I love you.

    But to get back on topic in a very non-productive way…

    I’m gonna put a hole in my tv set
    I don’t wanna grow up.
    Open up the medicine chest
    And I don’t wanna grow up.
    I don’t wanna have to shout it out
    I don’t want my hair to fall out
    I don’t wanna be filled with doubt
    I don’t wanna be a good boy scout
    I don’t wanna have to learn to count
    I don’t wanna have the biggest amount
    I don’t wanna grow up.

  28. 28

    I have to agree about Avon; I bought so many titles in that time period, and any new author introduced was sure to be a book worth my time and money.

  29. 29

    Oh great… now I have the Toys R Us theme song in my head:

    I don’t wanna grow up,
    I’m just a Toys R Us kid,
    there’s a million toys at Toys R Us that I can play with!
    From bikes and trains to video games, its the biggest toy store there is!
    I dont wanna grow up because if I did,
    I wouldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.

    *humming*…

  30. 30
    eggs says:

    Nora said:

    “Candy, any Golden Age was before my time, but I’m all for a return. As long as I don’t have to wear heels and vacuum—simultainously.”

    It’s important to remember that when women had to vacuum in heels, they also had guilt-free access to limitless amounts of over-the-counter uppers, vodka martinis and cigarettes.  I think being hammered all day made housework a little more palatable than it would be today!  I remember my grandmother having a pill-box that would make Courtney Love sob with joy.  She had nooooooo problem tottering about the place in a pair of heels all day long, carpet sweeper in one hand, cocktail glass in the other. 

    eggs.

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