Professionalism and Self-Preservation

So here is a six dollar question:

On one hand, you have me musing that poor and unprofessional behavior on the part of some authors could in fact drag down the entire genre, and such behavior ought to be discussed because if I have one WTF question about the community of romance, it’s “Why on earth do so many people act as if writing romance is akin to joining a social club? It’s a business, for fuck’s sake.”

And on the other hand, or the other side of my arse, depending on your point of view, there’s Karen, and Jane, and me, all asking at varying times, “Wait, why can’t authors criticize their publisher? If the ground is supposedly saturated with the crazy sauce, and a publisher or publishers are acting in a manner that can only be described as unprofessional, why can’t an author speak up and say so?”

The question is this: where is the middle ground? Is there one? Where does professionalism end and self-preservation as a small business owner begin? Or vice versa?

Take us for example. We’re an LLC, so we’re a small business. One particular small press has asked to buy two advertisement spaces from us, and asked that we design those ads. I’ve done so, both times, and received neither confirmation that the proof was accepted, nor response as to when they would like the ad to run. My requests for payment were left unanswered, and my email requesting a response, any response, hello…Bueller? Bueller? have gained me nothing except time wasted and fees lost.

Since it was small potatoes in more than one sense, my elected option was and is to not do business with them from this point forward. But should I announce to all and sundry (sundry, for the record, is such a tart) that this press seems to have screwed me over? Maybe it’s a miscommunication, or maybe the URL in my email landed me in the SPAM filter, or maybe they took the ad that I designed and used it elsewhere. How the crap do I know? I don’t. So I sit and wonder.

So where does professional behavior begin and end? Is it professional of me to gripe about this press by name and say “authors beware!” since I think my experience speaks volumes as to the professional behavior of this press? Many writers will probably comment and say, “YES WE NEED TO KNOW! Our livelihoods depend on accurate information in a rumor-laden industry!”

And others will say, “That’s your business and it reflects poorly on you to make it public in this manner.”

Every time certain presses are discussed online, and it happens often with a few of them, authors email me and confirm the rumors being reported, revealing their own problems while begging that I not reveal their names, as they fear retribution from those publishers that would damage their careers. And then, on the flip side, there’s author behavior that is so breathtakingly bizarre, and not in a good way, that one wonders if anyone in the publishing end of things notices, if it has any career-based effect in the long term, or if it even should. Somewhere in the middle there are authors who speak out on their blogs about how upset they are regarding some publishing decisions. Sometimes that plays out to their benefit; sometimes it makes them look like they regularly aim firearms at their own toes.

How does one criticize one’s publisher and do so in a professional manner? Is that even possible? And on the flip side, is it ever ok to say, “Holy shit, your behavior as an author makes us look bad, and I so wish you’d shut the hell up?” Where is that line?

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Random Musings

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  1. 1

    Crazy author behavior is not within our control. I can only control my own behavior, and just barely some days. So while I may make a note to myself and share a snark with a friend, I don’t have a vested interest in her/his insanity. Unless, of course, it’s directed at me. :)

    Re the bad behavior of publishers, methinks the best way for authors to vote is with their feet.

  2. 2
    Emmy says:

    That would depend on what it is you do. Lately, there have been rumors of authors who criticized pubs on their blogs and got booted from their publisher’s author’s loop. Your blog is your space to voice your OPINION. I don’t believe that an opinion is right or wrong. People are free to read it or not, as they prefer.

    Now, getting the home addy of the person who stiffed you and banging on their door at midnight demanding payment would be a little odd. So would sending out an email to all other people the company does business with letting them know how much said company sucks. Hopefully I’m not giving some crazy person ideas here.

    Oh, and the people who are free to not log onto your blog and read your opinion should also consider themselves free to not post malicious comments, should they read something they didn’t have to look at in the first place. Go bitch on your own blog, please and thank you.

    RUN24? omgsh, I skerred now.

  3. 3
    Lorelie says:

    Your blog is your space to voice your OPINION. I don’t believe that an opinion is right or wrong. People are free to read it or not, as they prefer.

    Um.  Yeah.  But. . . .

    A blog is public, and can have an effect on public opinion.  Your blog is also presumably tied to the publisher’s website by a couple degrees of separation as well.  (Author page to author’s home page to blog.) 

    I’m constantly amazed by people who seem to think they can say/do anything on a blog and it won’t come back to bite them.  While they may think of that blog as their home, it’s not.  It’s more like standing on the front porch and letting all the neighbors watch what goes on.

    That’s not to say I’m in the “keep your mouth shut and toe the party line” camp.  I just believe it matters *how* you say things that makes it professional vs. not.

    Good:  “I’ve noticed some slightly disturbing trends in XYZ Publisher that perhaps should be investigated further.”
    Bad:  “OMG, ABC Publishing is so freaking slimy, they’re scum and awful and run by mean people who kick puppies!”

    I take La Nora as an example, when I can.  (And personally wonder if she ever gets tired of being held up as our shining example.  Might be a little exhausting.)  I’m not perfect and a lot of the times let the wanna-be funny run away with my mouth but Nora’s got the whole sticking up for the right thing while still being professional shtick down pat.

  4. 4
    DS says:

    I was wondering—doesn’t anyone have a telephone?  If my emails seem to get lost I just call.  And Smart Bitches, I hope you have a contract—right?  That requires an actual signature.

    Spamblocker word:  seen69.  Why, yes, I have.

  5. 5

    I’m constantly amazed by people who seem to think they can say/do anything on a blog and it won’t come back to bite them.  While they may think of that blog as their home, it’s not.  It’s more like standing on the front porch and letting all the neighbors watch what goes on.

    Yeah. That would be why I call my blog For All the World To See.

  6. 6
    Barb Ferrer says:

    All the author can control is themselves.  That’s what a lot of this comes down to.  The only thing I can control, business-wise, is what I write and how I present/conduct myself in a professional environment.

    I try to employ discretion in what I discuss publicly, however, doesn’t mean I’m not going to criticize my publisher if they merit it.  For those who’ve known me for a few years, it’s no secret that I was less than happy about having to use my middle name as the name under which I was published for the YAs, not so much because it was a pen name, but because of the reasoning and the source.  (Marketing wanted something more obviously “Latina” sounding.)  It’s also been no secret that I hated, with the heat of a thousand suns, the original title for Adiós to My Old Life.  (Again, marketing department in their less-than-infinite wisdom.)  Some battles are worth fighting, others, NSM.  I fought the title battle, I let the name thing go.  (The title really sucked that bad and I didn’t want it following me around for time immemorial, my name is actually my name, never mind that people have trouble pronouncing it.  Besides, it made my mother happy.)

    If people ask, I’m open with what happens during the editing process (some copy editors need to get a grip), with promotions, with anything that people ask that I can answer to the best of my ability even though I’m far from having all the answers.  I’m not going to go out of my way to publicly rap my publisher unless they’ve done something truly heinous, especially if it affects me directly.  On the other hand, when they do something great (i.e. Signet/Penguin severing ties with Cassie Edwards) it makes me really happy to be one of their authors.  And honestly, just call me Pollyanna, but I’m more likely to talk about the good (like my current, incredibly fantastic editor) than the bad.

  7. 7

    I think in publishing, much like other creative industries a certain level of craziness is both expected and tolerated. I worked at a huge craft publishing company many years ago, and the level of fucknuttery exceeds even the most scandalous stuff I’ve read about here. My husband is a graphic designer and his experience is more or less the same as mine.

    I also think we should take into consideration that every writer out there doesn’t see writing as a ‘career,’ or something that’s worth being ‘professional’ about. To them, ‘professional’ is something that they do at their starched down 9 to 5. Since they can write at home in their pajamas they may well look at this as more of a hobby, or even a social activity. This mindset is probably encouraged what with the somewhat cliquish author loops and even the conventions where ‘girls gone wild’ behavior is not always frowned upon.

    Those of us who are trying to make or maintain a career will probably just have to come to an understanding that some people aren’t in this for the same reasons that we are. Unfortunately, romance writers all get tarred with the same brush. That’s unfortunate, but I guess it doesn’t really faze me all that much because as a member of a minority group, I’m more or less accustomed to people seeing me as part of a group. No matter how exemplary my behavior there is always the assumption that I’m less than because I’m in that group.

  8. 8
    Emmy says:

    A blog is public, and can have an effect on public opinion

    Uh, yeah. Kinda the point of having a blog, no? Not that some people don’t obviously enjoy shouting into infinite empty space with no one who cares listening.

    Your blog is also presumably tied to the publisher’s website by a couple degrees of separation as well

    Well, there are ways of voicing your opinion, as you so accurately pointed out. I will always state my opinion of something, cuz I’m a loud mouthed wench who just does stuffs like that. I’d be slightly less acrimonious in my presentation of said opinion if the person/company I’m putting on blast has direct control over how much money I’ll be making in the near future.

  9. 9
    Jane says:

    The more that I think about this, the more that I am of the opinion that an author should feel free to say anything on her blog, but to be aware that any provocative statement is likely to draw both praise and criticism. 

    If the author is not prepared for that, or her psyche is such that even the smallest bit of conflict will throw her for a loop, then making provocative statements in a public forum is quite dangerous.

  10. 10
    Annmarie says:

    I work in an industry that is no way public.  And by public I mean the public could give a crap about who is running it.  If we HAD blogs, no one would bother to read them.  A real snooze fest I assure you. 

    If, however, I were to make a criticism about my company and it made its way back to the powers that be, I’d be booted before I had a chance to say, “But, but you don’t understand!” 

    Its human nature to not want to be criticized and if the person being criticized has the power to retaliate…

  11. 11

    There’s a very simple test for these situations when you (or I, specifically) are trying to decide how to behave in public: Reverse it.

    What if my publisher started blogging about me, as their author, and whatever small or large displeasures they took in me and how I handled my business affairs? How would I feel?

    I can tell you right now that I wouldn’t like it one bit. These discussions should be private. End of.

    That’s my two shekels on the situation.

  12. 12
    Trish says:

    I’m plagiarizing from Morgan Hawke, since I can’t think of a way to say this better:

    My Blog- MY OPINION!
    These entries are not an open invitation to argue with me. If you don’t like what I have to say, so what? Go bitch on your own blog. You’re entitled to your opinion, but that doesn’t mean that I have to listen to it. Just as YOU don’t have to read my blog if you don’t like what it says.

    *sighs* I think I’m in love.

  13. 13
    Chrissy says:

    The problem is when a bad publisher locks up and leaves town everyone who gets screwed is left to read seven hundred threads tsking about why nobody saw “the red flags.”

    What red flags?  The red flags neatly folded and locked in a led box in a secure, undisclosed sock drawer?  The red flags that included Whackjob Publishing being unprofessional but it would be equally unprofessional to tell everyone they were unprofessional?

    I was victim of both sides of the argument.  I was running a review site and we asked that every publisher or author query us first, since the epubs were going MENTAL.  We were doing a few ebooks a month and nobody else seemed to be.  So when I got three and four books a day in our small little inbox, unsolicited, I started sending letters asking it to stop.

    I sent dozens.  They were ignored.  So I figured the “review coordinator” was a bot.  I sent letters to the two heads of the company.

    ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.  And then the “red flag” brigade saw it on my blog and one other and started sending me “top secret” emails about how the two heads were frothy-dog-crazy.

    But it all stayed quiet except for our review site.  The people who were emailing me privately never did go public.  Three of them never renewed with that publisher and STILL talk about them behind their backs.

    I asked anyone who was too scared *cough*chickenshit*cough* to come out publicly to STOP emailing me with their complaints.  Because honest to god/dess I don’t care.  Plus one of the heads is Deb MacGillivray’s long lost twin.  Seriously, they need to have coffee and catch up.

    When they fold, sometime in the next year or so, there will be seven hundred threads about red flags, though. 

    *shrug*

    youre29—that would be nice, but I’m 43 this month.  If Doug Adams was right I wonder if I get a really cool epiphany?

  14. 14
    Poison Ivy says:

    A lot of young people post very stupid things on their blogs that do come back to bite them when they try to get employed, it is said. There’s no reason to suppose that similar style folly by authors couldn’t do the same. Publishing is a very personal business.

    I post here under a pseudonym because I already have people coming out of the woodwork contacting me from a previous life, and I am trying to keep things separate. But I still limit myself on all message boards, blogs, etc. to saying things that I would not be ashamed to have attributed to my real name. And that means never getting so detailed or personal that I would end up embarrassing myself. At least, no more than usual.

  15. 15
    Poison Ivy says:

    And one more thing. Yes, if people have something negative to say about a publisher, I’m happy to hear it. Early warning systems benefit us all.

    For instance, I just heard something about Samhain dropping fantasy and sf, and expecting those authors to buy their rights back. True? False? More important than armpit photos?

  16. 16
    Nora Roberts says:

    Would you say it, and say it the way you comment or write on your blog, in public? That would be a benchmark for me. Because this IS public.

    I think it’s good and right to state your opinion, and it’s all about how you state it. Then you have to be prepared to take the heat.

    I think the bitching about publishers is another line. Wah! My publisher doesn’t love me enough, pay me enough, promote me enough is just whining, imo—and should probably be done privately, in the company of pals and over alcoholic beverages.

    My publisher threatens me and other authors, doesn’t cough up royalties on time, is not living up to contractural terms isn’t whining.

  17. 17

    I’m a professional author.  It’s my career. I have a professional blog and a personal blog.  The professional blog is generally about writing, history, Florida and a few side issues.  The personal blog is where I expound more on my family, whine about plumbing woes, and talk about the dog.  The public is welcome to read both, but I try very hard not to write anything in either one that’s going to look unprofessional.

    As far as writing about Publishers Gone Wild, I agree with the statement that there’s a world of difference between trash talk and posting verifiable information that may help other authors avoid problems with PGW.  I haven’t been in a situation of being screwed over by a publisher—even the ones I was under contract to that folded acted in a professional manner, honoring our contracts.  I do know that before I’d go public over my problems with PGW not behaving properly, I’d consult my attorney on my legal options.

  18. 18
    Laptoper says:

    Being professional is not so simple!

  19. 19
    Ann Aguirre says:

    If I had a gripe about my publisher, I would take it up with my agent, not blog about it.

    But I do think authors need to watch what they say and how they say it, or it might balloon into something stupid and ugly. I wouldn’t tell them never to speak their minds, however. Sometimes there’s an issue you just can’t help ranting over. Just be prepared for possible fallout afterward.

    As for publishers, I expect professional behavior, not a girls club, where certain people are “in” or “out” or decisions are made in an arbitrary, inconsistent fashion. If those things occur, I think authors should talk about it. Because if they don’t, then the publisher skates by without being accountable, and other authors should have all the facts before they sign a contract. If people aren’t talking because it’s not nice to say Publisher X is petty, mercurial with its favors and somewhat dictatorial, how else will writers find out? This is an especial concern with small press companies, where the lines blur time and again.

  20. 20

    If I had a gripe about my publisher, I would take it up with my agent, not blog about it.

    But I do think authors need to watch what they say and how they say it, or it might balloon into something stupid and ugly. I wouldn’t tell them never to speak their minds, however. Sometimes there’s an issue you just can’t help ranting over. Just be prepared for possible fallout afterward.

    This is true.  I can speak from personal experience that calling bullshit in your blog about bullshit behavior can and does cause drama, professionally.  Shoot, I even have a publisher still butthurt about something I said that had nothing to do with her, or her publishing company—but she felt it ‘hurt’ the company I was working for.  :/  I had no choice but to get a manager to handle any and all future dealings with publishers, because quite frankly, I don’t want to be on a person-to-person basis with any small press publisher again. 

    Many small pubs wear too many hats in their business and I think this is what causes much of the drama when it comes to things like this.  You can’t be ‘the publisher’, marketer, and sole submissions reader, and maintain an editors relationship with a creator.  I understand that the side-effect of dealing with small publishers that have just one or two people on staff is that the author is responsible for a lionshare of the promo and marketing—but authors also need some form of validation.  An email on how a convention went, or how a promo campaign played out, and yes—send the damn royalty statements on time, even if your author didn’t sell any books!  ^_^  Authors are high maintenance, they don’t like to be left in the dark about how their titles are doing or how the publisher is doing—and if they blog about it or journal about [which MANY authors do about everything in their life] they’re suddenly in the wrong for expressing disappointment.  It’s now a personal issue, and not a professional one.  :(

  21. 21
    Angela James says:

    Sarah—take your example of what your experience as a business, wondering if you should tell about a publisher who flaked and now let’s flip it again.

    Let’s say you’re the publisher, and you have knowledge of authors’ failure to fulfill their contractual obligations, poor business behavior and just general OMG craziness. What do you do with that information?

    It’s interesting to me, because people believe that authors should speak out about publishers (and I agree that they should—mostly), and businesses not getting their bills paid by publishers should speak out, but there’s a reverse trend about publishers speaking out about authors who do the same. The publisher is expected to be silent and professional and take their lumps without defense, it seems.

    There’s often two sides to every story, and not always one clear person/business “in the right” but it’s rare to have that acknowledged. Is it that people only want to hear the authors’ side because publishers have become The Big Bad and that’s more entertaining? or is it that there’s no graceful way for a publisher to point out that some authors, as Rosyln so artfully stated, don’t treat their business as professionally as they should?

    For instance, I just heard something about Samhain dropping fantasy and sf, and expecting those authors to buy their rights back. True? False? More important than armpit photos?

    The answer is false. We restructured the company 5 months ago (very publicly, it was not a secret and was posted about on message boards, blogs, and our own loops) to refocus on romance, as well as science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy with romantic elements. I’m dying to get more books in those genres on my schedule because they’re my personal favorite. However, any authors with books not in those genres were offered, at that time, to be released from contract, free and clear, if they wished,  given the new direction of the company and that they might feel their book no longer fit in our catalog.  Some chose to do so. Others did not (quite a few) and chose to continue with the thorough editing and copy editing process, receive cover art and get their books released. 

    Tangentially related; At RT this past month, I did a panel for the beginning writer’s workshop and got a question that was fascinating to me. A new, un-published author asked “If we sign a contract with you, and a few years later hit it big in NY, will you release us from contract so we can sell our books to NY.” 

    Is there any other business in which someone expects they should be released from a legally binding contract to benefit them, with no thought to the other party and their investment in the contract? 

    I am often baffled by the things I see and hear in this business on a daily business. Guess it’s a good think I enjoy what I do!

  22. 22
    Keishon says:

    Would you say it, and say it the way you comment or write on your blog, in public? That would be a benchmark for me. Because this IS public.

    Ditto.

    Posting anything in a public forum is there for public consumption and it is forever memorialized on the ‘net. You have to ask yourself if it is worth it. A lot of the time, it isn’t.

  23. 23

    I’m on my way out to pick up the monster from kindergarten so I’m just skimming here, but here’s my perspective on professionalism, self-preservation, etc.

    I try to go by the same rules I followed when I worked in a doctor’s office, business manners.

    Whatever I’m getting ready to say on whatever blog/loop/email/whatever at any given moment, if it’s business related, whether with an editor, a reader, a colleague (not friends, that’s different), I read thru whatever it is.  Then I think, Okay, could I say this at the office and be okay?

    If the answer is no, I’d get my ass fired then I hit the delete button.

    If the answer is eh, maybe then I look through, figure out what I do need to say, what should be said, and I find the most diplomatic way to say it.  Gripes, complaints, concerns, claims of unfair treatment, they can and should be discussed.

    Granted, I think there’s an arena for it.  If I’m having an argument with one of my editors and I’m ready to scream, I’ll go scream at a friend, then take a deep breath and move on.  But I won’t do it on a blog/reader loop/author loop.  A one-on-one vent with a trusted friend, or not at all.

    If I suspect something unethical might be happening, I think I’d do what I can to address it. Although I get the feeling ethics often do fall in the gray area between doing what is right and doing what you can to keep out of the mess yourself.

    Bottom line, if the author has something to say, if it is something that can’t be/shouldn’t be said in a business office, then it shouldn’t be said.  My two cents on the fly.

  24. 24
    Jaci Burton says:

    I treat my publishers professionally. I expect the same behavior in turn. I don’t take up my issues, should I have them, publicly. I expect the same behavior in turn.

    I think there are things you can feel free to say in public and things you shouldn’t.

    Like Nora said, some stuff is just whining and dude…it just doesn’t look good when you do it publicly. If you get a cover you hate, if you don’t think you’re paid enough, if someone got a better deal than you. Who’s going to look good whining about stuff like that? Keep it to yourself or bitch privately to your friends. Some things should never be aired publicly.

    But if you’re threatened, your checks start bouncing or anything along those lines, then yeah…it’s fair game.

  25. 25
    SB Sarah says:

    …there’s no graceful way for a publisher to point out that some authors, as Rosyln so artfully stated, don’t treat their business as professionally as they should?

    You have a very sharp point there, Angela. I’ve heard from that flip side of the argument following a negative review that I’ve written that the book in question was as good as it could have been because that book was late late later than late. And there was nothing the publisher could do about that lateness.

    Which circles back to the “Act professionally when conducting business” edict, which is so difficult to define collaboratively.

  26. 26
    Wryhag says:

    The whole author-publisher interaction issue comes down to one thing: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, of the “mutual” variety. 

    Following is the kind of contract I like, because I’m an old-fashioned bitch. 

    I, the writer, will create the best work I can.  You, the company, will edit and publish and remit royalties for that work in a professional and timely manner.  We will both keep the lines of communication open, and we will keep them free of bullshit.  (An occasional flushing out with humor is recommended.)  Questions and concerns will never be met by “the hand”, either placed in front of one’s face or connecting with it.

    I do right by you; you do right by me; we do right by our readers.  There will be no skulduggery.  Ceding reason and fairness to the baser aspects of human nature will not be allowed (well, okay, taking into account bad days and rough times, we will afford each other some slack, but the user of said slack should always provide a truthful explanation and sincere apology for her lapse in good behavior). 

    [Now we shake hands or hug or smile or say, “Fuck you if you don’t get it” or whatever.]

  27. 27
    Awasky says:

    For authors, blogs are often the tools they use to connect to their fans; they’re the face they present to the public. So they’re not quite so much about free expression as they are a marketing tool, and in that case, I’d say it can be incredibly detrimental to complain about your publisher. Though it may make your fans side with you and think you’ve been unjustly wronged, it may also make them leery of the book that’s being put out, if so much incompetence is going into it. In other words, if the author has made it clear they’re unhappy with the product, why should a fan go out and buy it?

    In the case of a publisher being so egregiously bad to the author that that author is going to walk anyway, then yes, other authors should know about it. But airing the differences that come up in the process of making any book—differences that will probably get resolved in a few days when things have cooled off—is, I think, a bad idea. It’s not just a rift with the publisher an author should be worried about when they complain on their blog, but a rift with their readers as well. Everyone complains, sure, but a constant barrage of whining can leave a bad taste with even the most loyal fans.

  28. 28
    Robin says:

    It’s interesting to me, because people believe that authors should speak out about publishers (and I agree that they should—mostly), and businesses not getting their bills paid by publishers should speak out, but there’s a reverse trend about publishers speaking out about authors who do the same. The publisher is expected to be silent and professional and take their lumps without defense, it seems.

    Because, IMO, there’s a crucial difference between the publisher and the author: the publisher is a *business* and the author is not.  The author might think of him or herself as a *business person* but that’s still different, IMO, and of a different character (which is why I think that Ann Wesley Hardin’s reversal test isn’t workable here).  Anyway, IMO a publisher has different responsibilities and considerations than the individual author—it is, after all, steward of an entire industry and representative of a whole way of business and overseer of many different interests and authorial voices.  An author is an independent entity; she speaks for herself (or should, IMO).

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t overlaps, and in some of the small and ebook industries, there seem to be a number of authors who also hold jobs at the publishers (i.e. Deborah Smith, JC Wilder, etc.).  And that, I think, makes it confusing in some instances, although I would simply say that it comes down to what hat one is wearing at the time, author or publisher.  And certainly there are responsibilities and roles that overlap between authors and publishers, as was very clear during the Cassie Edwards debacle. 

    But overall, I think that much of what is called “unprofessional” in authors has little or nothing to do with reasonable professional standards, and that much of what seems to be so well-tolerated in publishers IS unprofessional for a publishing business.  Now I understand that it’s so well tolerated because authors are so often afraid to talk about anything, and so even if they think it’s unprofessional they won’t say anything.  But still, I think that the standards of professional behavior for a publisher are both different and, perhaps, higher than those for an author. 

    That said, I think that the standards of professional behavior in both cases should be things that affect the work or the integrity of the business or standards of professional ethics, etc.  And I don’t know how many bright lines there are.  I don’t even know where all my personal lines are.  I do know, for example, that I don’t think it was unprofessional at all for JC Wilder to comment on the groping at RT, but I think it was really unprofessional for EC to ban her from the loops.  I don’t think Anne Stuart was unprofessional when she complained about how her books were marketed.  But if her publisher had complained publicly about her work ethic, I would have thought it unprofessional. 

    It may be a double standard, but I think the author should be free to say things that would seem tacky or unprofessional if spoken by the publisher.  Because the publisher is a business—they are operating for a general profit off of the work of individual authors and consumers.  The author is earning for herself off her own work. I think that is an enormous and enormously crucial difference.  Does that mean that the publisher sometimes has to sit around listening to things that they think are untrue and can’t rebut without sounding whiny? Yup.  But I firmly believe that *in the end* the more a publisher merely stands by its work, the less those things will matter.  Unless, of course, there really is a problem, and that will come out over time, as well, and the author’s complaint may be a blessing for other authors and readers alike.  That doesn’t mean, IMO, that authors should publicly complain about everything; it just means that IMO they aren’t automatically unprofessional if they do say certain things publicly (and I agree with those who said that many issues should go first to an agent, and editor, or another industry professional for resolution).  But authors aren’t employees.  Now, if an author who happens to be an employee of a publisher publicly trashes its employer, again, IMO that’s something different.  I tend to see these things as circumstantially defined, I guess.

    Bottom line, though, is that I believe that authors can say and do more without it being unprofessional than publishers can.

  29. 29
    Robin says:

    I’ve heard from that flip side of the argument following a negative review that I’ve written that the book in question was as good as it could have been because that book was late late later than late. And there was nothing the publisher could do about that lateness.

    But the upshot to you the reader and reviewer is the same:  the book was not up to your standards of excellence.  Does it really matter why?  SHOULD it matter?  I mean, what if the “real story” was that the publisher ignored the author and didn’t leave enough time to edit her book properly?  The publisher sure as hell isn’t going to want to publicize that, so why should they feel the need to publicize that an author was very, very late with a book? 

    I know my views on this are shaped by working in a public arena where you get very used to people criticizing your industry however they want, while you have to be very careful about responding.  So I know first hand the dilemma here.  But that makes me even more emphatic about what I see as the more stringent responsibilities of the publisher.

  30. 30
    Bernita says:

    Robin, I agree. The power dynamics are different.
    Thank you.

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