Thursday, June 13, 2013

Writer SHAMING (And why I believe that sometimes, you just have to SPEAK UP.)

Today, I'm veering off my familiar path. Skipping the usual writing journey post, straying from the cover reveal or book birthday shout-out.

Today, I'm going to speak up about something that is weighing heavily on my heart.

I want to call out my beautiful writing community, and though I may offend some, I hope to shed light on something I see a bit too often in our self-proclaimed supportive little world.

Writer shaming. 

Yes, its like slut shaming, but for writers. You know what I'm talking about. Shaming other writers online for their actions--if they differ from your own. Publicly shaming them for responding to reviews, or entering a contest you don't think they should have entered, or *allegedly* playing favorites with their friends in said contests, or self-publishing something too sexy for their usual YA crowd, as a way to make money instead taking that long, long road to Big 6 deal. The examples are endless, but you get the gist.

Recently, a now self-published writer friend of mine was publicly shamed for a blog post documenting her journey to self-publication, and the money she spent to get there. She was called out for acting as though she was better than everyone else, when all she was trying to do was inform her fellow writers.

Writer SHAMING. 

It has to stop, you guys. IT HAS TO. Because you know what? We're ALL in this together, and we're ALL in this for one reason: to get our books in front of readers.

Maybe you don't need to make money doing this. Maybe you do. Maybe you don't seek fame. Maybe you crave it. Whatever your side reason is for writing, the MAIN reason we all write--and its a reason we ALL share--is to send our stories out into the world. PERIOD.

Last night, while checking Twitter one last time before bed, I came across this tweet:

Editor [redacted]* is an author and promoted her author alter ego under her editor name. Ethical or no?

You know what caught my eye? One word: ETHICAL. 'Tis a very heavy word when used correctly, don't you think? And the point of this powerful word in this context was heard loud and clear.


So, seeing as I know [redacted]* a bit, and the word 'ethical' practically jumped off the page and into bed with me (not in a good way, obvs), I clicked the link.

I found a blog post where another writer had taken the time to "speak up" about how unethical she thought [redacted]* was. See, [redacted]* is an editor at a well-known publishing house. She is also an agented writer. She is still chasing her Big 6 dream, as many of us are.

In the meantime, she wrote and self-published a book under a pen name. No biggie, right? Writers do it ALL the time. So what's the problem?

Well, as her editor self, she promoted her pen name/book, without telling everyone that she was the pen named author

Are your eyes popping out of your head, yet?

Yeah, mine weren't either.


Wait, that's a lie. I was absolutely floored by this blog post, but not because of the author in question's actions. I was floored by the post itself, the comments therein, and the fact that writers still find it necessary to shame each other.

Here's my take on it. 

I am an editor for a small publishing house (many of you don't know this, but there you go). I am also a published author. I am also now an agented author, waiting for my Big 6 deal--a dream that may or may not come true, as you all know.

Recently, I made the decision that I want to self-publish something this year. My husband and I decided this would be the best thing for us, as I have yet to make any income off of my small press-published book, and the Big 6 deal is still just a dream until proven otherwise. Because I want to write outside my usual comfort area of YA Paranormal Romance, I decided I want to use a pen name. This is so that I can keep the two things separate: Jessa Russo, Author, will always be a romance-driven paranormal author, writing for teens (and the occasional teen at heart). I like books with supernatural boys and lots of kissing. My pen name, [redacted], will write steamy, sexy books for adults, and the two entities will never cross.

I am going to self-publish to make money. I'm not going to put un-edited work out into the world, or go at this half-ass. I'm not going to write something I wouldn't read or don't believe in. BUT, I am going to do it as a means to making income while I continue to follow my dreams. Because in case no one told you (no one told me) writing is not a full-time paying career--at least not at first. As a stay-at-home mom living on one income, we need the extra money. I want to make that money doing what I love, so I'm going to figure out a way to make that happen. Because, frankly, my family is more important than anything else in the world, negative opinions and naysayers included.

Now, for the 'ethical' part. The part that has me shaking as I type. 

Am I going to promote that self-published book? ABSOLUTELY.

Did you read that?


Because I'd be an idiot not to. Will I rate it on Goodreads? Possibly. But possibly not. I haven't gotten there yet. But, I don't rate my own books anyway, so that's redundant.

EITHER WAY, do you know what I want from my writing community? SUPPORT. Plain and simple. We have enough negativity from this chosen path: friends and family who don't 'get it' or take us seriously (I had one friend apologize to me after my book was published because he'd never thought I was serious) to multitudes of FORM rejections from agents (man, those hurt), to nasty, devastating reviews from complete strangers that can often feel like a personal attack (I relate this to someone attacking your child. Yes, it hurts that badly. Or close to it, at least).

WHY then, can we not support each other? Why then, can we not be the arms to help each other rise when we fall? Why are we always attacking one another within the industry?

This author raved about her own book. Some people found that deceitful. Some people think she used her status as "industry professional" to her advantage.


Get over it! You do you and I'll do me! RIGHT!?

Instead of shaming [redacted]* I'm going to go ahead and SPEAK UP about what this was.


GOOD FOR YOU, [redacted]*!!

You have at least ONE person in your corner. 

*I have *obviously* chosen to remove the name of the author in question. Judge that however you will, but bottom line is, I'm not here to publicly shame anyone or direct you to the public shaming incident. You'll see I also removed the name of the original tweeter AND the blog poster. Because, calling them out is not my point. I'm calling the ACTIONS out as a whole, and hoping to make a difference. Be the change you wish to see, right? 


  1. Also, I know the self pubbed writer you're mentioning, and I love her, and she is a perfect example of what to do right when self publishing. It disgusts and saddens me that people were so rude to her when she was being open, and trying to help people with the benefit of her experience.

    1. 1st part of this comment: I agree with everything - except the part about the editor. That's what's called, a conflict of interest. In any other industry they'd likely get fired for that. I'm not saying said editor should be fired. I'm just saying I don't think it was fine, and i DID bat an eye. It's one thing to act like she was promoting another author, and using her platform to do that. It's another to be upfront about it, in the interest of full disclosure.

  2. I could see why some people would be upset. If the editor was promoting it, I don't see an issue. If they were spamming saying it was the best book they ever read, I might think that was over the top. Regardless, there is no reason to be nasty or rude. Haters. No one can do anything right these days.

  3. Who cares if they are self pubbed or big six? Either way they put in hard work, sweat, and a TON of passion. No one should be shamed for hard work. And of course people are going to promote their own books (buy Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh) who else will advocate for them if the author, the person who threw their heart and soul into it, won't? It's why I won't leave negative reviews. If I don't like the book, I'll move on and forget about it.
    Great post, Jessa. I completely feel ya!

  4. It's sad that people will still do the whole shaming thing. Seriously. It doesn't sound like that author did anything wrong. It's not like they took someone else's work, changed the names, added sex, and then pubbed topic...anyway, if you disagree with someone that's allowed, but you don't have to shame them to get the point across.

    Thank you, Jessa. Well said. :D

  5. Let readers judge the writers. Writers should support one another. Good post.

  6. Well said. The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach and sad.

  7. The writing community overwhelmingly tips the scales to the supportive side. In less than two years of taking this seriously, I've come across many more positive and unselfish individuals than I'd imagined. This post reminds me that we are all given to our faults now and then. Thanks, Jessa.

  8. Good for you, Jessa! [retracted] now has another person in their corner, and when you venture into self-publishing, you'll have me, and I'm sure many others, in your corner too.

    Do you think that people like The Rock care that the WWE are cross promoting his movies? Heck no! He uses that to his advantage.

    As long as people with multiple pennames etc. are being honest, i.e not writing a glowing review under their penname and pretending it's someone else, then I see no problem with it.

    As you said, it's brilliant marketing, and honestly I see it as no different from authors giving each other shout outs/ promoting each other.

    I agree, the writer shaming needs to stop. We're all in this together guys, and usually the writing community is extremely supportive of each other. Let's not ruin it now.

  9. I've run into some fellow writers trying to shame me for having written deliberately saga-length books, but I've found more writers supportive of all the hard work that goes into writing something that's 300,000+ words. I don't see why someone should be shamed for choosing self-publication over traditional publishing, since that's a really difficult decision and not made lightly.

  10. I think this is a tricky subject. I don't have a problem with her promoting the book under both names. If we respect her because of her position in the industry, then we'd be interested in the book whether she said, 'he go read that girl's great book' or 'hey, go read my great book!' Wouldn't we? Giving yourself good reviews under a different name gets a bit iffy for me, though.
    As far as calling her out, I'm very torn. If someone feels strongly on the issue, shouldn't they be allowed to discuss it? On the other hand, using their name and putting them down publicly doesn't sit right with me, either.