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?