It’s Not Okay to Bully, and, Yes, Those in Publishing Do Have to Censor Themselves

It’s Not Okay to Bully, and, Yes, Those in Publishing Do Have to Censor Themselves

There has been a rash of bullying authors lately, a few instances from Facebook and a few from Tumblr, that have forced some of these people to shut down their pages and blogs because of the non-stop slew of bullying. That is not okay. I remember one writer who killed the idea of publishing her book because readers were threatening her with bodily harm, for whatever reason, and she hadn’t even published the book yet! Even worse, some of the comments in response to her decision were comments basically calling her a baby, telling her that she couldn’t handle criticism, and trolls are going to be trolls. (This rings a bell: boys will be boys!) But if there are going to be trolls who make light of rape, who have no idea whether or not the author might have been through this situation, calling her someone who can’t handle criticism is the same thing as victim blaming. Internet bullying is being brushed off as a bunch of trolls who have nothing better to do.

She removed her book because she couldn’t handle the bullying, not because she couldn’t handle the criticism. And why should she put up with bullying? Why should any of us put up with bullying? Publishing that book could have, in fact, given more fuel for those trolls. It’s sad that she did this, but it’s her choice and hers alone, and no one has any right to judge her for it.

But the thing is, those trolls are making light of their threats. Whether they mean them or not, threats are threats are threats. If you tell an author her book is so bad that she deserves to be raped, you’re saying something that could be potentially triggering to an author who may well have been raped.

Here is the truth about authors: We are people. We are told to develop a thick skin, but this thick skin is for helpful or unhelpful criticism on our work, be it from agents, editors, or reviewers themselves, not for instances of bullying. Even then, our skin isn’t always thick. We may cry about those reviews or the criticism. So, in short, it’s a myth that we writers must be impervious to everything writing-relate. Our only job is to keep writing, no matter what. That is where the thick skin comes in.

In any case, I screen captured this from Jodi Meadows’s blog. Both participants are completely anonymous, unless you know who ran the now-debunked LifeinPublishing blog on Tumblr, which is a shame, as it was a blog loved by many.

Capture bullyingThis is absolutely wrong. Even if the Anon believes he or she is speaking the truth, threatening someone’s job is absolutely unacceptable. And, yes, the person of the blog actually felt their job was in jeopardy because of this Anon. It wasn’t something LiP could just brush off as an irate author, like you would think he/she would be able to do. This couldn’t because of the blog’s popularity, and while I have no idea what the circumstances were leading up to this Anon message, I can say that whatever it was might have indeed threatened LiP’s job due to this message.

Authors, editors, whoever works in publishing, are probably going to write that one post he or she regrets. I know one post I wrote on Tumblr has me regretting it because of the rash of trolls that came after me, calling me a racist simply because I said blacks aren’t the only minority who experience racism, in response to a post who painted blacks as the sole victims of racism. Now I avoid making controversial comments like that–I didn’t even realize it could be controversial! And it sucks. I like to challenge people’s beliefs. But now I realize I can do that through my books alone.

As an author, the way you use the internet has to change. Unless you create an anonymous blog–which I will write a post on later–or whatever to post controversial comments, you often have to shy away from controversy, unless it aligns with popular opinion about a particular issue. When you create an anonymous blog, you cannot align yourself with anything, not your name, your book, your company, and so on and so forth. If you create an anonymous blog as an editor just wanting to vent, you cannot connect yourself to the company you’re working for, reveal your name, post pictures of yourself, and so on and so forth. For example, this post aligns with popular opinion that bullying is not okay, no matter what form it takes. Perhaps Big Fish, like Janet Reid and the like, can get away with it, but as someone new, don’t even try.

Here is another screen capture I did that is slightly bullying in nature, but whose context I will also explain:

more bullyingLife-in-Publishing made the mistake of aligning him/herself with the company he/she worked for when ranting about the popularity of dystopian fiction stealing the success from other authors who have written “better books,” or stealing this person’s success or whatever (this person may even be published by this company. I’m not entirely certain). The person specifically pointed out Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ and called it derivative work. The thing is, LiP works with young adults novels, and some of those books in this company are dystopian. So because LiP revealed the company he/she worked for (I assume the company was revealed because the Anon apparently knew the company), this person crossed dangerous waters by insulting a genre that company publishes.

Authors, you are not allowed to insult the work of other authors–this is the case with anyone working in publishing. Once you become an author, that right to do so dies. Insulting a book my publisher published could get me in an enormous amount of trouble by my publisher. Even if I don’t read every book AEC publishes, I still have an obligation as an author to support those authors’ works in some way, ESPECIALLY because it is a small company. It’s the same with any company you are published by. Insulting those works would not only be deadly for me, but downright hurtful to those writers. There is a difference between constructive criticism and malicious criticism. No author should have to put up with malicious criticism.

In any case, the response to LiP was to remind this person where he/she stood in the industry. This person also reminded LiP that sales from bestsellers are the reason why publishers take chances with new authors and can produce books in the first place. Publishers assume they won’t make back their money from most of their authors; however, their bestsellers do that just fine. So those bestsellers allow them to have a job–and allow new authors to have a voice.

Now the third reply crossed the line, essentially falling into the shoes of a bully. When you’re in publishing, you really can’t criticize the work of another author, unless you are a reviewer as well. Even so, this review needs to be constructive in nature, not malicious. By doing this, you are setting up a dangerous precedent that could put your job in jeopardy, especially if someone who works in your company happened to edit the book you are criticizing. As an Anon, this is fine. But LiP revealed more information that no longer made LiP an Anon.

I cannot insult Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, not only because her books are in a genre The Stars Trilogy is in, but because if I wanted to be represented by Jodie Reamer one day and the agent found my insult, do you really think Jodi Reamer would want to represent me? Probably not. Not only this, but Stephenie Meyer is the reason why my genre is still popular. My books aren’t selling in the boatloads, not at all, but it doesn’t mean my book can’t be discovered by those who love the paranormal genre.

Ultimately, it would be nice if we didn’t insult anyone, and it would be nice if we were more tactful in our criticism of a book. Notice I said book and not author. Just because I wrote a book with heavy religious themes that seem anti-religion doesn’t mean that I am anti-religion.