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.
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.