Can Bloggers Silence Authors? (or, aka, power and influence)

Posted on 01/06/2015 in Discussion / 34 Comments

BookShelfery

I was having a conversation recently with an indie author I’d consider an e-friend.  This was actually during the entire #HaleNo debacle, and I mentioned that she (not Hale) brought up an interesting question:  do bloggers have enough power to silence authors?  And when is it okay to use it? #HaleNo taught us (or reinforced for some) that the internet is a tool that can be wielded viciously.  Angry because an author had inappropriate encounters with an underage reader?  Smear their reputations so badly that we remember it for years to come.   Don’t like what a reviewer said about your book?  Do background checks of them online so you can go to their house for a personal, face-to-face confrontation.  Hale (perhaps and hopefully only temporarily) smeared the reputation of authors (and her publisher), and it’s hard to regain that trust when such a thing happens.  The internet makes people think they have this thing called power.  The power to voice opinions, the power to find information and the power to shut others down if we don’t like what they have to say. I was going to write about this sooner, but time slipped away from me (as it often does), and I simply forgot.   That is, until I heard about Stacey Jay’s Kickstarter campaign shutting down due to blogger and reader backlash. Look, I didn’t necessarily agree with the Kickstarter campaign.  Yes, traditionally publishing authors get advances, but as an indie, you have to make choices with your time and your hard work is rewarded at the end, not the beginning.  Nor do I think that asking readers and authors for investment of a project they may not even like at the end is a good idea, because you’re asking them to trust you with your idea and their money.  This isn’t to say I’m against crowdfunding books because that’s not my point and not really what this is about.  We, as bloggers, silenced her because we didn’t like the reason she was doing it.  We used social media to stamp out her idea and tell her how angry it made us.  Guys, that’s power. And maybe not the good kind.  Maybe we shouldn’t be proud of that. My author friend – we shall call her “V” – said to me a couple of months ago amidst the BBA/Hale discussions:

but I’m scared into silence.

The details behind the why V was scared into silence are irrelevant.  She was “scared into silence.”  Let that germinate for a bit.  She is afraid to come out about an entirely legitimate issue with a service she paid for, but felt she wasn’t receiving adequately, because she is afraid of blogger backlash and being labeled a BBA, potentially ruining her writing career.  That fear is a real feeling among writers who don’t have the support of a big publishing house to protect them. I wanted to help her.  I wanted to tell her, “Go and say something.  Speak up, because you have the right to feel good about your business transactions.”  But I couldn’t, because if she did, she’s right:  it would have started a shit storm.  And even if I spoke up in her defense, my voice is a tiny one among so many.  Nobody would hear me, or her, and it would like signing an indie career deathwish.

But I’m sure I’m not the only author who feels like s/he can’t speak up when there is a true wrong, not just hurt feelings…and that sucks. […] But on the other side of the spectrum are those of us who are afraid to say anything to a blogger for fear of inciting a witch hunt.

Scared.  Afraid.  Scared.  Afraid.  Scared.  Afraid.  That’s not how authors should feel about us.  They should not be scared of their readers. So my question to you, dear friends, bloggers and readers is: how do we promote harmony, community and the chance for anyone to speak up without getting out the pitchforks?  How can we look at the intent behind the words and actions, rather than the impact?  When do authors get a voice without fearing repercussions that we might tar and feather them? I feel like a turncoat asking these questions, but I’m not here trying to point fingers.  I simply want to know where the middle is and how we can get there.  If anyone has the answers, let me know.  I’ll be the one waiting with my foot in my mouth over in the corner.

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Jennifer is both a book nerd and professional photographer. That means she lives in the fantasy world all the time, whether of her making, or someone else's. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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34 responses to “Can Bloggers Silence Authors? (or, aka, power and influence)

  1. Anon

    There is a certain click of authors that stir the pot til it froths, usually against bloggers or indie pubs like month9. They talk in private list servs then come on twitter using inflammatory language like “bully” and women writers who need money are “hoes.” They put words in bloggers’s mouths. People think bloggers have actually said these things. These are major authors and industry people-srb, jm, pvh, br, jp, etc. They are in every drama, inflaming it behind the scenes and on twitter. They are the true drama queens.

    • Do I believe that there are authors out there who stir the pot? Absolutely. But there are also bloggers out there who do the same thing, and I’ve seen it happen a few times over the years. Neither one is right. It’s hard to take this comment seriously when it’s anonymous and you are using initials in place of names. Support a movement of camaraderie rather than pointing fingers. No matter which side you’re on, the issue doesn’t get solved until we admit we have one.
      Jennifer @ BookShelfery’s latest thoughts >> Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  2. I love you, Jenn. And I love this post. Another blogger said something when the KH drama broke that has stuck with me on an endless loop: The YA community has the tendency to cannibalize itself like no other online community. We say how welcoming and helpful we are, but I call bullshit. As welcoming and helpful as we are, we’re just as destructive and vindictive. Not everyone, mind you, but a few repeat offenders. I’m sick to death of the politics of blogging – the sniping and the competition and the judgement. Do I agree with the KS? No. I know too many other authors who write while going to school or working full time. So my choice was not to fund it. But never, ever would it have been appropriate to lash out against the author for doing that. Let alone ending her career. I’m just so over all of this.

    • Not the first time I’ve heard this statement and I am sure it won’t be the last. But probably the romance community could give YA a run for its money. I didn’t agree with the KS either, and when I first heard about it, I was mortified. We know way too many authors – traditionally pubbed as well as Indie! – who manage their time and resources to write books while keeping a day job. But that’s not to say that KS campaigns aren’t something to consider. It’s just that we have hardly seen something like this, and e-publishing is still trying out its wings. I think discussions need to be had around how an indie writer can fund a book without taking a huge hit in their pockets – or offending their readers. Yes, there were two choices here: fund it or don’t. The people who really wanted to read it would gladly have parted with their money. The rest of us could have gone on our merry ways. I heard her first book was pretty good – it’s a shame she may not write a sequel now (totally surmising on that though – I don’t even pretend to know her plans).
      Jennifer @ BookShelfery’s latest thoughts >> Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  3. Well, ideally, we blast the entire concept of hiding behind online anonymity out of the water. The reason anyone has the power of a mob is their ability to hide behind conviction instead of individually voicing their entire argument. When we get fired up, we’re focused on being agreed with, not heard. But this is a deeper social issue, online and offline, and thus not likely to get solved anytime soon (or ever, but I’m a cynic). Perhaps if we stopped glorifying being “right” and instead glorified civilized discourse?
    Beth W’s latest thoughts >> Eye of the Week: In the Immortal Words of Socrates…

    • Yeah, it’s a catch-22. Allow online anonymity and have keyboard warriors circling like sharks, or require real names and pictures. People generally act better when they could be held accountable for it (the reason many authors and bloggers who don’t use pen names stay out of drama). But you always have the outliers. I agree it’s a social issue and won’t be easily or ever remedied. People love to be right – even me, lol. The internet is a great example why the United States votes with an electoral college. It’s to diminish mob voting and pack mentality. I didn’t get that until I began posting dissenting opinions on forums in the 90s and 2000s. Some people get really riled when they think someone else is wrong. I love reading articles more for the comments now than anything else. Because people be cray, yo.
      Jennifer @ BookShelfery’s latest thoughts >> Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  4. I am SO glad people are finally talking about of what’s been happening in this light. About how the YA community is often not a kind or inclusive community anymore. That people – with valid and completely legitimate – opinions feel they need to censor themselves because they’re afraid of being blacklisted and attacked via social media. It’s so disheartening. When I started blogging in 2009, the entire community had a different vibe. It was positive and supportive – it was for people to talk about what they LOVE. Now, the focus seemed to be on the things people don’t like or are unhappy about. Not exclusively, of course, but much to often anyway. I feel nervous to speak out in support or to say that I’m bothered by what’s happening because I’m not just a blogger anymore – what I say and do on the internet affects my job as a bookseller. People I know in real life see what I say and do on the internet. I’m not sure how to fix all of this – especially when people are able to hide behind their computer screens and never face the consequences of their behavior.
    Sara @ The Hiding Spot’s latest thoughts >> Cover Reveals (That Made Me Swoon) Part XI – Middle Grade Edition!

  5. I can’t say that I saw the entire twitter convo about the kickstarter that was, but I saw no vitriol. None. Nada. Maybe I missed it. But before we are going to accept that someone “lashed out,” shouldn’t there be some actual reason to believe that someone did? It feels like this entire debate has boiled down, once again, to bloggers are bad and want free stuff and authors should starve. No one has said that, at least not that I’ve seen. Yes, authors deserve to get paid for their books by readers, at the price that they set for purchase, once they have written them. Piracy is bad and people who pirate should be ashamed of themselves. But where does that question intersect with the question of whether a kickstarter to fund living expenses for an author while they write a book is a viable and appropriate business plan? How does “hey, I think that a kickstarter to pay your mortgage while you write a book is a questionable business plan and unfairly exploits your fans” turn into “and once you finish the book, you must give it to me for free and I hope you and your children starve in the street like dogs?” Are we simply supposed to keep our opinions to ourselves because we have a disagreement in principle on the off-chance that our disagreement might hurt someone’s feelings? Because I don’t think so. I didn’t see anyone cannibalizing Stacey Jay. If I missed it, perhaps someone can point me in the right direction.
    Christine’s latest thoughts >> The Best of 2014

    • I did not see vitriol. I saw comments criticizing, but no vitriol. I also didn’t look for it, though, and I can only attest that Stacey Jay cancelled it and has issued an apology. Clearly she felt like her hand was at least slapped. The reason I bring up the Stacey Jay issue is because it’s happening right now, and reminded me of the author who did tell me she’s afraid to speak out about certain things. If they are scared to speak up about an issue, or support some unpopular opinion, how is that not a problem? They have just as much a voice in the industry as we do; perhaps more so. I don’t get the feeling that most authors think we just want free shit all the time. But the Stacey Jay issue does make me ask two questions: Do we scare authors with our (sometimes very loud) voices so they don’t want to say anything; and should we consider how indies fund their projects (aka books)? It’s a fairly new concept, and it makes people uncomfortable. But I don’t think it’s wrong to question it, or why people don’t agree with it. Fans vote with their wallets. If enough people wanted to fund her, who says they can’t? And how wrong is she for marketing herself and her book like that? I think these are all valid questions.
      Jennifer @ BookShelfery’s latest thoughts >> Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  6. “So my question to you, dear friends, bloggers and readers is: how do we promote harmony, community and the chance for anyone to speak up without getting out the pitchforks? How can we look at the intent behind the words and actions, rather than the impact? When do authors get a voice without fearing repercussions that we might tar and feather them?” Great question. I wish I had answers. I think that we need to keep reminding ourselves that we aren’t here to vilify authors and their books, and that we are reviewing BOOKS, not authors. There are individuals that I adore on-line, but I’m not a great fan of their books. It doesn’t mean that I think they are any more or less talented than other authors, or that they are less of a person because of it – rather, what they create isn’t my cup of tea. I think we forget sometimes that we have a different kind of power in our writing: we can choose NOT to comment, and to walk away. I don’t necessarily agree with KS campaigns such as the one posted recently; my response was to not contribute. I had an interesting discussion with an author friend about it, and we basically agreed that we had the same view, but different perspectives. Authors deserve to be paid; how that happens may be up for discussion. I agree that civilized discourse is the way to go; unfortunately, not everyone believes in the “high road”. We just have to keep trying.
    Jenn Hubbs’s latest thoughts >> When Author/Illustrators Use their Powers for Good…

  7. Jen, I love this post so much! I’ve been thinking this for a long, long time. And honestly it’s not just authors that feel silenced, bloggers do too. They are scared to say how they really feel about issues because they know other bloggers will most likely start a riot and they will be ostracized. All for having a differing opinion than the…well, not even the masses…just the loudest. The YA community has the potential to be an amazing place, I’ve seen that with YADC, but it also has a pretty bad reputation for being a bunch of people just sitting around waiting for someone to screw up (or have a differing opinion) so we can live in 10 seconds of fame while we condemn them. It’s sad, and ridiculous, and exhausting. I really hope people can grow up, and get over themselves.
    Andye’s latest thoughts >> SAVE ME by Jenny Elliott

  8. I am SO glad you posted this! I feel like nothing should be off limits to talk about. Ever. Especially on the internet. We should not feel afraid to talk about things, especially the scary things. In fact, we should talk about the scary things more, just because they are scary! So thank you for starting this discussion. I hope it goes strong!

  9. This is a great post, thanks for sharing! It made me realise that I actually had similar feelings of fear. Well, I don’t know that I was SCARED to post/tweet my thoughts, but I felt like even stating my thoughts would create a ton of replies and backlash that I didn’t want to deal with.. And I’m just the kind of person who hates drama and arguments so I try to avoid them. But I held back because I’m a blogger but I actually had no problem with the Kickstarter. I even backed it. Maybe it’s because I’m self employed so I can sympathise more with indie authors. But my point is, I’m a blogger, but I was sharing views with the AUTHOR crowd, rather than the blogger crowd. I thought bloggers would see me as a traitor, haha.
    Ashley’s latest thoughts >> Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

    • I hear you. I read a comment on Jenny Trout’s blog post that said

      I am wondering: what makes writing different from music, or film, or other types of art? Why is it ok for, say, musicians to crowdfund their albums before they start making them, but not for writers to crowdfund their books before writing them?

      And when someone puts it that way… sorta makes sense. Both are works of art. Both are projects. So what’s the difference?
      Jennifer @ BookShelfery’s latest thoughts >> Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

      • Exactly! There was even a big campaign done recently for a WordPress development project. There were pretty much ZERO costs associated with the project, but the developer wouldn’t have had time to work on the project without money. So he started the project so he could get money to pay his living expenses while he worked on it full time. This wasn’t even a ‘scandal’ in the community because people wanted him to do the work. Another really interesting way to look at it is like this: If an author put up a kickstarter to fund book-related expenses ONLY, then everyone would be fine with it (except people against the very idea of crowdfunding, which is different). In a scenario like that, the author raises money to pay: * The editor * The cover designer * The book formatter and whoever else is needed… All those people are getting paid for their time, EXCEPT the author. So why is it so bad for the author to get paid too? You can argue that the author still gets money from book sales, but that’s ONLY for sales outside the kickstarter (if they didn’t ask for living expenses), which are up in the air. The money earned from the kickstarter would go to all the OTHER contributors. So the author would still have to sell thousands of copies after that to see any return. Anyway, I just thought that was an interesting way to look at it, how every single contributor gets paid except it’s suddenly “bad” for the project creator to get paid for their time.
        Ashley’s latest thoughts >> Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

        • I suppose the issue people take is, a writer doesn’t get – deserve to be? – paid unless it sells. I mean, I can see both sides of it. But it’s art. Art comes at a price, whatever that is, which is whatever people decide to contribute to it. If Joe Schmoe wants to give an author $60k to write a book, whether or not he sells it well, who am I to stop him? Sometimes I think there is a misconception on what it takes to write a book. It’s definitely more than a laptop and late nights after work… People look at it as extremely black and white. “Give art your blood, sweat and tears, but don’t give it any money unless it turns out to be awesome.” Not sure I can get behind that thinking. In a sense, Stacey Jay was “fired” before she even began (in terms of this particular project, of course). And honestly, if anyone thinks that publishers don’t pass on the cost of author advances within the price of their published books, they are delusional.
          Jennifer @ BookShelfery’s latest thoughts >> Audiobook Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

  10. Handy

    I’m a traditionally published author. I self-censor all the time on Twitter because if you say anything even slightly out of line, a brigade of butthurt bloggers are ready to jump down your throat. It has never happened to me personally, but I’ve seen it happen enough to fear it. I have a close friend who is also a writer and we commiserate over this. There are definite shit stirrers completely ready to play the victim over the slightest infraction. They’re like the SJWs of the YA world.

  11. I have been wanting to write something like for quite some time. I even have a few drafts but it always comes out a bit to negative and not quite as eloquent as your put it. I do really agree with SJ KS campaign but you know what IT WAS OPTIONAL She wasn’t at your front door asking for money so if you want to make a comment make it and move on. The fact that she felt pushed out of the community by a churning gossip mill is sicking to me. N one should feel shunned like that. We are all adults and we can make mistakes and move on. Her being treated like a pariah isnt fair. I cant even put my opinions out there for fear of blogger backlash that i cant afford with my up and coming blog. It is a sad day when you can’t speak freely. i dont like the pack mentality that some have and i wonder if they just support the popular opinion so they don’t deal with backlash as well. If that isn’t bullying then i don’t know what is. Now that i got this out i feel a lot better so thank you for provding a safe haven for me to vent. I dont want to involve myself in tiwtter drama but i do want it to stop cuz its really a damper and it seems to be a few who keep poking and proding at the subject. Move along already Geez Louise! *end rant* ~Britt @ please feed the bookworm ps love the confirm you are a meat popsicle
    Brittany T’s latest thoughts >> Review: The Golden Son by Pierce Brown

  12. Great post. I tend to stay out of online drama because I’ve learned (the hard way) that going online and giving a knee-jerk reaction to something can be a mistake. Especially if I don’t know the whole story. I was completely confused by the recent KS drama. I often get asked to contribute to kickstarters and gofundmes etc. When this happens, I make up my mind whether to donate and move on with my life. In this case, people suddenly started throwing around words like “greedy” and “bully” and it just seemed like everyone was completely misunderstanding one another. People may disagree with me but I think that there are times to give my opinion and other times to keep my opinions to myself. Or share them with close friends and keep them off the internet 🙂 But thanks so much for writing this — it’s a topic that needs to be discussed!
    Jen @ YA Romantics’s latest thoughts >> Just Finished Reading: Blythewood and Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman

  13. I usually try to stay away from drama as well. Of course, I did hear about both of these “cases”, but I believe that your question is if we, as bloggers, have the power to silence authors. I believe that we have the right to write about our opinions, they are just that, opinions. After the situation in France this week, we question how cautious we should be in sharing our thoughts and believes, but at the end, they are just that. Opinions. I think that some things are blown out of proportion. Can we argue that if we give a one star review to a book, that we will be targeted by the author or readers that loved said book? Can this happen the opposite way? I would hate for both bloggers and authors to feel that they cannot express their opinions. I would hope that our industry is more tolerant and understanding that that.
    Liza @ Reading with ABC’s latest thoughts >> Review: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

  14. […] Why don’t you guys go give her facebook page a like? Tell her Bee sent ya! ~ Jennifer asks: Can bloggers silence authors? ~ Ashley shares a few reasons to unfollow you on twitter ~ Cherie explains how to read your Kindle […]

  15. This is a really great discussion. I’ve wondered the same thing and while there are others posts like this that you noted, yours is the first I’ve seen and read so thanks for sharing. I think it’s a really difficult and sensitive issue to resolved but I also feel it goes both ways. Some bloggers do have wayy to much power but I think some authors have too much as well. The right author can squash a blogger as well as an indie author like a bug if they want to. I do think a lot of bloggers have power but only those with huge followings get away with using it. I for example have around 2k and that is nothing compared to those with 30k. My comments don’t go that far but someone like Dear Author, her voice is absolutely heard (not that I’m saying she abuses it at all or anything like that!) but then the same goes for authors. An indie author starting out doesn’t have much power but a traditional pub author like JK Rowling sure does (again not saying she abuses it) but if she wanted to, she totally could. All it takes is one comment said in anger or blown outta per portion and whoever they’re talking about is ruined. I would hope that we as adults could just learn to think before we type. To consider the ramifications of our actions and consider that our anger or frustration about somethig that we ourselves will forget in a week or so can effect someone’s entire life and career. We need to go back to the whole “golden rule” and remember, is our anger worth costing someone else their livelihood.
    Danielle’s latest thoughts >> Blog Tour Sign Ups for Cursed by Fire

  16. One of the best posts ever written about the author/reviewer backlash that has gotten continuously worse over the last couple of years. Honestly, one of the best! Thank you!
    Jaime Lester’s latest thoughts >> Shadow Study

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