Monday Stepback: Big News! Links! And way too many Opinions!

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

Links of Interest

Macmillan’s new Romance site is up. It’s called Heroes and Heartbreakers, and yours truly will be blogging there on occasion, along with a bunch of other folks:

Heroes and Heartbreakers is a community website featuring daily content for serious fans of the romance genre in all of its forms.  Not everyone can understand the desire to argue for thirty minutes about Dain vs. Derek, to challenge the casting for the latest Jane Austen movie, or to debate whether the True Blood love triangle worked better on paper or on TV.

Heroes and Heartbreakers understands the woot! and the squee! of all of that.  Add in the original short stories and excerpts from upcoming romance novels, and it’s like a romance enthusiast’s paradise (the kind with extremely attractive men bringing you umbrella drinks).

Like our science fiction/fantasy sister site, Tor.com, we are publisher-neutral in our selection of books, authors and materials for coverage and discussion. We don’t play favorites because we think a real romance community site should be all-inclusive.  You don’t want to miss a thing, and neither do we.

Advertising Age has a story on Heroes and Heartbreakers, and similar sites such as eHarlequin. It’s 100% snark free! Apparently romance is “future proofed” (via @jafurtado):

It helps that romance was well prepared, in many ways without trying, for the challenges that would come. Its fans like to talk to one another, to the eventual advantage of the romance sites and social-media plays that have now emerged. And its books were typically priced pretty low. There’s more free content every day, but romance publishers are proving that cheap can be pretty persuasive, too.

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The program has been posted at Teach Me Tonight for the International Association of Popular Romance Studies conference this summer in NYC, and registration is now open. I’m so excited for this!

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Borders True Romance blog (Please don’t close your Bangor store. Please don’t close your Bangor store. Please please please.)  is giving away tickets for RomCon in Denver in August. I went last year and had an amazing time. Highly recommended.

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SFF author Carolyn Crane is offering tips to stay on track at her blog.

4. Social media like twitter has to be a decision, not a default mode. I can’t just go on twitter or whatever because I’m between things.

I think that one could be a life changer for me.

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At Things Mean a Lot, Ana/Nymeth has a Sunday Salon post, Not All Readings Are Created Equal, where she tries to balance respect for literary training and expertise with an acknowledgment that no degree or credential is required to say something important about a book:

The reason why I believe in democratising critical discourse is not because I think every single person in the world will make incredibly insightful, relevant and well-argued points about literature at all times (however you define those). It’s rather because I believe that we should recognise who does and does not make sense based on what they’re saying, not who they are or who they associate with. I’m not arguing against anyone’s right to take some viewpoints, readings or interpretations of a book more seriously than others; merely against following a pre-packaged formula to decide who you take seriously or not. It saddens me to see intelligence and insight be defined solely by the right sort of allegiance. This inevitably results in the dismissal of a lot of excellence points, and also in a lot of badly disguised idiocy being treated with subservience.

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At the Book Bench, Reviewers on Reviewing

I was at an event last week featuring an interview with Zadie Smith, co-sponsored by N.Y.U. and Harper’s, where Smith has just become the reviewer for the New Books column, at which she said many interesting things about book-reviewing. She insisted on being called a reviewer, in fact, and not a critic, a distinction I understood as being between an all-powerful and hoity-toity judge-type (the critic) and a sort of fellow-traveller (the reviewer), one who approaches a book in a spirit of camaraderie and aims to represent that book in a piece of writing as carefully crafted as the book itself (which is not to say “softly”). Smith cited Virginia Woolf, who reviewed whatever caught her fancy—trashy romances, if she wanted—and whose reviews were as much about her own perceptions of the world as they were about the book.

Do you know, did Woolf ever review a “trashy romance” (note the suggestion there is no other kind)? I would like to read that.

But a comment on that blog post caught my eye. It’s a call for authors to fight back:

My recent experience as an author of a book with a malignant review on Amazon was very instructive, and suggests that these reviews shouldn’t be taken lightly or ignored. Amazon is the largest single source of consumer information by review on the Internet. Like it or not, we authors of other than bestsellers have to understand an Amazon review as a sign of warning or encouragement right at the most important point of sale of our intellectual product. …  In the case of my bad review I responded to the review in a signed comment that diplomatically suggested another way of looking at the reviewer’s complaints. In return, the reviewer rewrote the review to make it worse, reduced it to one star and made it appear to be the original version of his review instead of a rewrite. I returned the serve by adding a sentence to my comment noting and dating the evidently angry rewrite to which he responded by revising it again and taking it, as I expected he would, off the deep end and far beyond an image of just an old man railing at clouds. After a long struggle, Amazon finally agreed that it had to be taken down. I can see great advantages to Amazon for authors and I’m trying to get better at using them. But I think that those of us who write books have got to start taking back the night, so to speak, from the wild west that Amazon book reviews have become. [emphasis added]

Is this author just a bit nutty, or is there an author backlash against negative reader reviews? I’m thinking both. Witness the kerfuffle of last week, when an author took to her blog to rail against “unprofessional”, i.e. “negative” review sites (too many people wrote their own blog posts on this dustup last week to even begin to list them. Just Google the author’s name and you’ve got a solid 6 hours of opinions to read. Or maybe 5 minutes, since all the opinions except one are pretty much the same.).

Then you have Carla Kelly taking to the AAR boards to complain about an Amazon review she had removed (I’m not questioning whether the Amazon review should have been removed, only the need to vent in a reader forum with a post entitled “If you don’t like a book…”). And an author, Victoria Howard, correcting a reviewer at the site The Romance Reviews (a site which is GIVEAWAY! after CONTEST! after GIVEAWAY! and therefore not of much interest to me in general. YMMV.).

I wonder if, in the push to get authors to get out there among the digital fandom and promote their own books, to be savvy and skillful — but authentic! and real! –  social networkers, it was not inevitable that authors would turn around and use the same tools — blog, forums, twitter —  to, in their view, protect their reputations against “deranged”, “unprofessional”,  or “angry” readers. If it is important to use social media to enhance one’s reputation, does it follow that one should use social media to protect it?

Luckily authors who aren’t sure what do in these challenging times can just read Meljean Brook’s Internet Survival Guide for Authors. Most of her points are great for anyone on the internets, really.

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Looking for a short list of great SFF for the romance reader? Janicu put one together over at starmetal oak book blog.

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In case you missed the news, Charlaine Harris has announced the end of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries series … after 2 more books. I think this is a good thing, and I’m a huge fan of the series.

Apparently, working on a video game has been taking up a lot of her time. I’m not a gamer, so I haven’t played the games based on works by Nora Roberts, for example, or the Harlequin games. TV is one thing — at least it’s still long form narrative — but if video games are taking an author’s time away from writing books, I’m not sure I approve.

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After following the threads on men, porn, and sexual dysfunction, I don’t EVER want to hear another word about the dangers of the high expectations for men set by heroes in romance novels:

When you watch porn, “you’re bonding with it,” Kuszewski says. “And those chemicals make you want to keep coming back to have that feeling.” Which allows men not only to get off on porn but to potentially develop a neurological attachment to it. They can, in essence, date porn.

Two women discuss this issue at the Hairpin:

The thing that makes me GROAN SO HARD about this piece is that Rothbart and his group of pouty-faced masturbators feel put upon by porn! A kingdom of women putting all sorts of things in all kinds of holes, and they’re the ones with the sour puss.

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More press for the new book Academically Adrift at NPR:

According to the study, one possible reason for a decline in academic rigor and, consequentially, in writing and reasoning skills, is that the principal evaluation of faculty performance comes from student evaluations at the end of the semester. Those evaluations, Arum says, tend to coincide with the expected grade that the student thinks he or she will receive from the instructor.

“There’s a huge incentive set up in the system [for] asking students very little, grading them easily, entertaining them, and your course evaluations will be high,” Arum says.

I find it very hard to believe that “the principal evaluation of faculty performance” is based on an assessment of teaching, let alone student evaluations of such. It certainly is not true at my university.

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Neil Gaiman has changed his tune on piracy (video). Quoted from Comics Alliance:

“You’re not losing sales by getting stuff out there. When I do a big talk now on these kinds of subjects and people ask “What about the sales you are losing by having stuff floating out there?” I started asking the audience to raise their hands for one question — Do you have a favorite author? And they say yes and I say good. What I want is for everybody who discovered their favorite author by being lent a book put up your hand. Then anybody who discovered their favorite author by walking into a book story and buying a book. And it’s probably about 5-10%, if that, of the people who discovered their favorite author who is the person they buy everything of and they buy the hardbacks. And they treasure the fact they’ve got this author. Very few of them bought the book. They were lent it. They were given it. They did not pay for it. That’s how they found their favorite author. And that’s really all this is; it’s people lending books.”

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Lots and lots of press for romance novels due to the Valentine’s holiday. This one about a new documentary on romance readers at The Telegraph had the usual good/bad (30/70%) mix, but I was interested to learn about Mr. Sanderson:

I’ve always found the characters unrealistic in their stereotypical attractiveness and conduct. However, lots of women – 1.3 million a month – never tire of the tanned hunks and usually sappy females (however “sassy-mouthed’’ they might be). And this is why Roger Sanderson, who has written almost 50 M&B novels under the pen-name Gill Sanderson, says he would never try to introduce a less than perfect Alpha male as the hero. “He’s got to have a good body, and there’s no way he can be fat or badly dressed,” he says in a new documentary, Guilty Pleasures, which explores the enduring phenomenon of M&B. “And I never have – and never will have – a red-headed hero.”

(via @lizfielding)

USA Today has done a bunch of articles on romance. I tend not to be such a fan of press on romance novels when it suggests that writing — or reading — romance novels makes authors (or readers) experts in relationships, because I’d rather see the books being taken seriously as fiction, not as how to guides. But maybe the line is finer than I like to admit: while I don’t think Margaret Atwood is going to be interviewed for a serious science article on genetic engineering, I could see her being asked to say something about the topic in a “lifestyle” or “health” piece, I guess. Anyway, I found this comment interesting in terms of its contrast to the quote above (although it’s about heroines, not heroes):

And the depiction of heroines as impossibly perfect beauties is an outdated image that “was always unbelievable and has changed and changed quickly,” [author Sarah] Wendell says. “The standard has become much more sophisticated and diverse.”

I’m not sure I would go as far as Wendell on this issue, but this was my favorite article of the bunch, with good stuff also from Nalini Singh and Beverley Jenkins.

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I really liked this post at When Falls the Coliseum on sentimentality versus emotion in art, with a discussion of the copout at the end of Inception:

So, here’s the thing, modern artists: it isn’t emotion that’s the sin in your work; it is the phony conjuring of emotion that is not supported by logic and “circumstances.”

Sentimentality thrives in pop songs when the forlorn lover says he wants to die when she’s away. (What if she’s just in the bathroom?) It haunts movies when poorly-rendered outcasts weep about their exclusion from the world. It surfs on every brush stroke of a painting of a pink dog with eyes the size of pizzas. The problem is not the emotion, it is emotion without intellectual or circumstantial justification.

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Did you know feminists aren’t allowed to flirt? Ayup.

Male or female, if somebody subscribes to the tenets of feminism, they’re shit out of luck when it comes to flirting. Because flirting is inherently objectifying, right? And yet even feminists get lucky sometimes. How does this even happen? Well, I have some guesses…

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Laura Miller comes to Jane Eyre’s defense in Salon (from back in January, via @Infogenium):

For a great novel, “Jane Eyre” has endured more than its fair share of misguided, condescending misinterpretations, but none quite so extravagant as an essay published in the British newspaper the Telegraph last week by novelist Sebastian Faulks. “Jane Eyre is a heroine,” he announces in the opening sentence, while “Becky Sharp, the main character of Thackeray’s ‘Vanity Fair’ (1847-48), is a hero.” Furthermore, “No one seems to question the distinction: it’s obvious.”

For Jane, the “fixed point and priority” of her life is not “her feelings for a man,” but the self-determination expressed in her ability to choose her own truth over those feelings and even, if necessary, over life itself. Her abandonment of Rochester is her coming of age. It’s hard to see how such a personality, and the drama of that personality reaching this apex of despair, clarity and fortitude, could be seen as un-heroic, especially compared to the adventures of a sociopath like Becky Sharp.

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Via Books on the Knob, now’s your chance to grab a free Kindle copy of Pride and Prejudice: Wild and Wanton Edition:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife . . . in bed. Unfortunately, you’ve never been able to see Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam indulging their every desire between the sheets–until now. In this deliciously naughty update of the beloved classic, you can peek behind the closed doors of Pemberley’s master bedroom–and revel in the sexual delights of your favorite couple.

Because really talented writers know that sex scenes have nothing to do with the text and everything to do with readers’ preferences. I’m looking forward to the time when, instead of different “lines” with different heat levels, we just have one book we can order however we want. ;)

Personal

We’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a drive to Ellsworth and dinner with friends at a Mediterranean bistro we really like.

I am in grading purgatory this week.

I’ll have a review of Jo Beverley’s Forbidden Affections, a novella published … a long time ago (can’t find date. 1996?) … and just reissued by Zebra in the anthology An Invitation to Sin, which features a 16 year old heroine and a 30 year old hero. And a SECRET PASSAGE. (No, not that kind.)

HAPPY WEEK!

28 responses

  1. Dude. It must be sad- and a whole host of other feelings I can’t label right now… Thanks for the tip on the macmillan blog going live. Considering I’m one of the bloggers too I should know that… :X

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  2. Always love your stepback posts.

    My take on reviews, any reviews by anyone, is it’s the digital manifestation of book chatter. When I read a book, I immediately want to kibitz to my friends about the good and the bad. Some of it is structured and formal, but a lot of it is not. But I’d never want to stop the conversation even if it’s sometimes painful to “overhear” an unflattering conversation about yourself. The fact that these conversations can be put online and perhaps spark more conversation…my gut says this is not a bad thing.

    Also, am I being overly optimistic to believe that one of the reason why heros and heroines are so attractive in romance books is that when you’re in love, in like, in lust with someone, they always seem more attractive? And the majority of faces are not unattractive anyway. They’re quite beautiful. I must be in a romantic mood since it’s Valentine’s day. :)

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  3. TV is one thing — at least it’s still long form narrative — but if video games are taking an author’s time away from writing books, I’m not sure I approve.

    Wow. Video games – particularly adventure games – contain long form narrative, too. When a reader reads a novel, the reader has to turn a page to keep the story progressing. It’s the same with a gamer when playing a game.

    It has a range of genres: romance, mystery, SF, horror, thriller (mostly psychological), etc. Honestly, there’s no significant difference between scripting for TV and scripting for a game. It’s still an authoring job, either way.

    In any case, I do have a copy of Dying For Daylight, featuring Dahlia from Charlaine Harris’s True Blood universe. It seems the HOG (hidden object game) type, probably the easiest form of gaming.

    And I like Becky Sharp, damn it. She’s not a hero. She’s a heroine. Well, anti-heroine but still a heroine.

    (from Roger Sanderson aka Gill Sanderson) “And I never have – and never will have – a red-headed hero.”

    Is he British? I sometimes think Britain is the only country that openly nurses prejudice against redheads.

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  4. I saw the IASPR announcement — am excited! Booked the hotel, need to register :)

    Re: Carla Kelly, I haven’t visited the AAR boards, so I’m not sure what has been said there. I do subscribe to her blog via Google Reader, and she mentioned there some frustration about the Amazon reviews, which were based entirely on the change of genre rather than actual content. I’m a little surprised that she would say anything on the reader boards, since she’s normally a very courteous author, chiming in only when asked a direct question. FWIW, I’ve read the new book, and while it contains more religion than her Regencies, it doesn’t feel instrusive or overdone. (I say that as an atheist who is very hesitant to read any inspirational books.) The heroine’s journey is about finding her own belief in the church she was raised in, rather than accepting unquestioningly.

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  5. @FiaQ: Yes, Roger/Gill Sanderson is British. At least I assume he is; he writes for the M&B Medical line and the books are set there.

    The redheaded prejudice is odd. I didn’t even know about it until I began reading historical romances and it cropped up as a given. Is it a leftover anti-Celtic thing?

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  6. Pingback: Reviewing v. criticism | VacuousMinx

  7. I registered for the IASPR conference this morning, and me and my roomie have a room! So I guess I’m really going, as audience. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take some notes for those who can’t attend.

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  8. Hi! I just discovered your blog, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m fairly new to the romance community, so I’m finding the Monday morning links very informative.

    I’m also enjoying your shout-outs to Maine. We moved to Nova Scotia from East Millionocket ten years ago. Now that the ferries are gone, we don’t get to Maine very often.

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  9. Zipping by, I dunno where Roger/Gill Sanderson is coming from personally (one of my favourite heroes ever is a flaming redhead – Susan Napier’s True Enchanter) but it is true that there is a certain amount of ginger prejudice in the UK. Shades of old timey Scots / English antipathy, perhaps?

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  10. What always continues to confuse me about these “negative” review dust-ups is that authors don’t make the connection that if they ignore it….it will go away. No really, it will. There’s so much freakin’ noise online that the only time a “negative” review registers with me long enough to stay lodged in my memory? Yeah, when there’s a dust-up via the author and the reader/reviewer. I know it’s easy for me to say “let it go” – but honestly……Let It Go. Trust me, that “negative” review will only have power if the author LETS it have power.

    And while I’m at it – I write less-than-positive reviews on occasion and I’ve yet to discover that I’ve somehow “ruined” anyone’s career. I’m not that important. Hell, I’m not important at all. Plenty of people out in cyberspace and in the online romance community have no flippin’ clue who the hell I am. So really, what’s my opinion worth? Really? Yeah, not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like we’re talking world peace or a cure for cancer…..

    Sigh, and the Borders news is really distressing for me. I live in a large urban area….but Borders is by far the most convenient bookstore in my general vicinity. I live, literally, right around the corner from one. Sure I could drive to a B&N, but that means spending even more time on the So. Cal. freeway system. And….blergh.

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  11. I am going to be devastated when I hear of a beloved author making an ass of herself over a negative review. Every time one of these dustups happens, I’m always left with a very negative impression of the author, so much so that I don’t even look up her books to see if her writing might interest me. Fortunately, so far it’s only been authors whose work I already dislike or whom I’ve never read, so I haven’t had to make any hard decisions ;) .

    Seriously, authors–and I say this with love–STFU when it comes to reviews of your books. Sure, I’ve seen some very gracious responses by authors to negative reviews, so it’s certainly possible, but those are few and far between. It’s safe to assume that you’ll just make yourself look petty, immature, and unintelligent by responding. I have no doubt that it sucks for people to be critical of your work, but save the complaining for your friends and fellow authors.

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  12. I steered clear of the dust-up last week – felt it was just another in a long line of author behaving badly kerfuffles, but you sucked me in this morning. Darn you Jessica!

    The thing that struck me most about the author’s comments was that she kept saying she wanted objective, not subjective reviews.

    My definitions of those terms:

    objective: undistorted by emotion or personal bias

    subjective: belonging to, proceeding from, or relating to the mind of the thinking subject and not the nature of the object being considered

    So someone please explain to me how a review can be anything but subjective, since reading is in and of itself a subjective occupation. What we perceive in any book is dependent upon our own life experiences. The reviewer seemed to object most especially to the age of the heroine, given that she is 40 and not 20, giving the impression that the premise – the “other woman” searching for a boyfriend for her boyfriend’s girlfriend, so that she can have the cheating boyfriend to herself – would have been less troubling with a younger heroine. To me, her age seems to be the least of the issues here, but that is a discussion for another time.

    The point – which I promise I am getting too! – is that the reviewer reacted to the book based on her own personal objection to a woman with some age behaving in an immature fashion, and she stated that clearly and concisely without bashing the author. It was her subjective view of the book, based on her own preferences. If I had just read the review, I would have taken it in the spirit in which it was written – the personal take from the reviewer – and moved on. With the author responding the way she did and accusing the reviewer of trashing her and her work, which isn’t the case here, it became one of “those things”.

    What I would really like to ask the author though is this – how exactly do you write an objective review? A book has to move you in some way – good, bad or otherwise – to induce you to write a review about it; therefore a review by its very nature will always be subjective.

    Authors, please, please, please take some advice from our friendly Super Librarian and just LET IT GO.

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  13. Roger (Sanderson) is a friend of mine. Very savvy, very patient and he works very hard for the RNA (the UK RWA). He was one of the first people I got to know in the RNA, and belongs to my chapter. Lovely man. He’s been writing romance for years and years, and I think he’s the only one currently doing category.
    Another male writer, Bill (Jen) Morgan writes humorous romance, and while he’s not as famous as Roger, he’s very good, and I’m delighted to call him friend.
    Roger is used to being wheeled out when the media wants a spokesman, but it is a bit sad that they don’t want us, because we’re, well, women. Wow, he’s a man! And he writes romance!

    All this talk about writers and reviewers? As a writer who reviews, I can say I’ve never had a writer ignore me or treat me badly because of it. Well, not to my knowledge, anyway. And my publishers? Don’t give a hoot (I know because I asked them).

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  14. So Sylvia Massara (along with hundreds of other tanty-chucking entitletwats before her) insist that their oeuvre can only be properly assessed by other authors.

    I could have sworn that in the last four weeks, Very Serious Bloggers and Well Known Authors opined that authors should never review fellow authors’ books.

    This is despite the fact that some of the best known literary critics and reviewers are not authors, and those who are, are not punished for this fact. And it is also despite the fact that in academia, reviews by fellow authors/researchers are actually mandatory.

    Every single one of these rants by authors – whether they are whining about the experience, ton, qualifications or methodology of the reviewers – can be summarised thus:

    “WAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! Mum, make them stop being meeeeeannnnnn!”

    And should be treated like the toddler behaviour they are. Ignored by every adult bar their own parents.

    I thought feminists could flirt but they were class traitors if they put out. I was assured by Twitter this morning that women who wear cupcake bras a la Katy Perry, aren’t real feminists either. Nice to know the list is so…specific.

    “And that’s really all this is; it’s people lending books.”

    Neil Gaiman shows yet again why sensible people consider him a bloody idiot. I’ve given up complaining about piracy but this is the least helpful spin on it you can possibly imagine. Fool.

    “we just have one book we can order however we want”

    We are approaching that in the m/m genre. I’ll let you know how it goes. [/sarcasm]

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  15. @Ann Somerville: NO ONE may review. Not authors, not readers, not bloggers (we can’t decide whether they’re writers, or readers, or what). But we’re all still welcome to 5-star what we read on amazon and Goodreads. Just don’t write about it.

    I never realized before that “nice ass!” was considered a “flirty comment” (if not a recommended one). Fortunately, no one says that to me anymore, so I don’t have to worry that my feminist sensibilities are getting in the way of successful flirtation.

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  16. @SarahT:

    Two words re: Sylvia Massara: publicity stunt.

    Maybe, but not one any competent publicist would ever suggest. As it stands, her reputation has been severely injured, and probably will never recover.

    I actually think this was a tantrum, dressed up as advice. All the other instances have been – why do you think this is any different?

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  17. @Ann Somerville: You’re probably right. I’m just getting cynical in my old age. This is the third or fourth instance over the past few months when a little known author has thrown a wobbly online and suddenly received lots of attention. It’s reached the point where I roll my eyes rather than get irate over whatever nonsense they’re spouting.

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  18. Two stray thoughts neither of which are to do with reviewing…

    Thought the first
    In the original article about Jane Eyre and Becky Sharp and who is the ‘hero’? I wonder if the distinction is being made on external action versus internal action and external action is still gendered as male. It seems to me that Jane makes an internal choice about her Selfhood and how she relates with the world. After that the story flows from her choice and Jane consciously accepts the consequences that follow. Whoever said Becky is a sociopath is spot on. I wonder if she is a hero because she takes action (even if it is completely reprehensible such as murder) and because she takes no responsibility for her choices and actions and it is that failure of responsibility that makes her the so-called ‘hero’ figure… which then says something interesting about heroes. Is it also about heroes in the Campbell sense being individual and solitary and heroines being about connection and community?

    Thought the second.
    What is Macmillan hoping to achieve with this blog? Macmillan is just not recognised for romance… well at least not here in Australia. No doubt the US arm has a lot more romance imprints coming under their banner. Do they want to be the portal that you come to – becoming if you like our trusted advisors so that their brand lives in our minds positive. Except that I don’t know anyone who buys books by brand? Author’s are the brands I think. I know we can talk about Harlequin and M&B and how each of the lines represent particular romance tropes and that is what people buy and how in M&Bs case there is over 100years of brand identity and loyalty as well so I think they are a cat of a different colour.

    In the US if Borders goes down which it looks like, that seems to mean less places to buy books e.g. Walmart and grocery stores as the primary option for most Americans outside the big cities. Is a blog like this how a publisher deals with this reality and a monolith like Amazon, eg. I go to Amazon to read reviews and then may buy there or elsewhere? I think it shows how nobody knows for certain what to do with one of the emerging realisations of this internet age that publishers don’t have a direct relationship with consumers. I suppose romance is one of the few killer book categories that exists and as the other article said romance readers have a history of seeking relationship and connection so that is starting from a strong point.

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  19. I agree with Wendy that any negative publicity from negative reviews will go away. Likewise, ranting author will go away if bloggers ignore them. Estimating high, maybe one of ten authors claims some moral ground regarding reviews. Simply dismiss them as you do with tele-Evangelists. Because the other 9 authors are probably more interesting. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel.

    But the authors are not alone atop the moral high ground. Again estimating high, maybe one of ten bloggers engages in similar rants. I generally ignore them…. but then other bloggers jump on board and we have a hot topic on the internet. Enter hypocrisy. I’ve noticed a trend where some bloggers expect authors to engage in professional behavior but do not expect it from the blogging community.

    Recently a snarky blogger called a commenter “profoundly stupid”. No other blogger called her out for this unprofessional behavior. And she continues to make snarky comments that plant the seeds of intolerance. Intolerance that grows into hatred. Hatred that blooms into injustice.

    I admire bloggers for embracing issues that address injustice – banned books, “it gets better”, and more recently an effort to help Pastor Marrion P’Udongo – a man who saved others from injustice. To promote this effort, several bloggers have quoted Bryan Mealer from the Huffington Post,

    “In your lifetime, there are few moments when you’re given the opportunity to directly save another person’s life.”

    I believe we have the opportunity every day to address social injustice. I believe we can and must act responsibly to ensure our free speech does not flame the fire of hatred.

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  20. Re the kerfluffle over who should be allowed to like or dislike a literary work and then say something out loud about it: I sometimes attend the weekly poetry slams at Chicago’s Green Mill. Poets perform their work and allow themselves to be scored by impromptu reviewers who are introduced with much pomp and circumstance as “Sarah, a financial analyst” and “Mike, he works at a tanning salon.” The attitude at the Green Mill is that poetry is for the people and so the people decide what’s good.

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  21. @ka:

    No other blogger called her out for this unprofessional behavior. And she continues to make snarky comments that plant the seeds of intolerance. Intolerance that grows into hatred. Hatred that blooms into injustice.

    Oh puhlease. Can we keep the hyperbole down to believable levels?

    Bloggers are criticised all the time. I bet Jessica gets a few snotty emails. The frequent eruptions on the big discussion blogs aren’t because people are in lockstep with bloggers. Every other post on the Smart Bitches brings someone offended by something Sarah or Candy says, and ready to lay it out in detail what they did wrong.

    The difference is that bloggers aren’t selling anything (except maybe eyeball space to advertisers – and that’s usually nothing more than Google ads). Authors are. I’m an author and a reviewer, so I can see both sides of this. When I buy a book, I’m a consumer – and damned if any tedious little author is going to tell me I’m too unprofessional to review her book. I wouldn’t hesitate to review a toaster I bought from Amazon – why should I not review a book? Authors don’t send review copies because they’re just so generous they want to spread as many free copies around as they can – they’re in the business of selling a product. The reviewer is not. The author has a lot more to lose by being a heinous bitch to the reviewer, than the other way around. Yet bloggers are frequently criticised by fans of a book or author if they don’t adore the latest utterance, and do get it in the neck if they descend to personal attack.

    Some prominent bloggers carry out personal attacks all the time – as do some authors. You’ll find that they are more famous than popular, and are widely decried for their controversial style. They are also in the minority. The myth of ‘mean girl bloggers’ is really and truly overblown, like your extravagant claims of ‘hate’ and ‘injustice’.

    You sound butthurt. Are you an author too?

    Like

  22. @katiebabs: Good question. No idea, but I believe Borders is promoting RomCon in good faith, and we’ll know as soon as they do if it is not going to happen.

    @Jeannie Lin: Agree 100%. And on the USA today piece, Naline Singh had the best quote, and her view is very similaer to yours. She said:

    People often forget that in romance novels, you’re seeing the heroine through the eyes of the hero 90% of the time. Beauty becomes a very individual thing.

    I still think romance novels overwhelmingly portray good looking, able bodied, white protagonists, tho. I am a fan of the genre, but I am a fan of being realistic about its limitations as well.

    @FiaQ:

    Wow. Video games – particularly adventure games – contain long form narrative, too. When a reader reads a novel, the reader has to turn a page to keep the story progressing. It’s the same with a gamer when playing a game.

    You make an excellent point. My gut — and my watching of family members play WoW, Runescape, and various role playing games for Wii and XBox — is telling me, though, that the narratives presented by novels are more complex and sustained. But I can’t defend that point and have to acknowledge it may well be wrong.

    So I’ll just put my point in an emphatically subjective way: I am a fan of novels, and not a fan of video games. Therefore, I would personally prefer my favorite novelists spend their time working on novels and not games.

    @jmc: Can’t wait to meet you at IASPR! As for CK, I know she is often a model of online author decorum, and I wouldn’t for a minute defend any reviewer who makes threatening or abusive comments about an author. What interested me is where she went to talk about it. I’m not even saying it’s “wrong”, just that I noticed it as part of a trend of authors feeling more empowered to speak back openly — not as sock puppets — about reviews.

    @Sunita: I don’t know where the redheaded prejudice came in. I bet the Celtic guess is close to the truth, tho.

    @Victoria Janssen: Can’t wait to meet you!

    @Mary Carroll: I am so sad about the ferries! We love PEI and rent a house there every other summer. Thank you for reading along!

    @Wendy:

    authors don’t make the connection that if they ignore it….it will go away. No really, it will.

    So true. @Wendy:

    So really, what’s my opinion worth? Really? Yeah, not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

    Whenever I have a hesitation about posting a negative review due to possible impact (which is rare anyway), I remind myself of this. One online review on a tiny blog by a person who has no standing whatsoever in the romance publishing world doesn’t matter. In fact, reviews at Amazon probably have more of an effect, but even that is probably tiny since the vast majority of people who buy books just grab them based on cover, proximity, blurb, etc.

    @Daisy: Did not mean to suck you in. I think I may disagree with you, in that I think there are more subjective components to a review (“I hate blond heroes”. “I love older heroines.” “I hate babies and epilogues.”) and objective ones (“the heroine’s fear was unmotivated”, “the author contradicted her own worldbuilding”, “the prose was purple”) defended by examples from the text.

    I felt the reviewers under criticism did a good job being as objective as one can expect in the romance review genre, and felt the author’s criticism was unfair. But I do think it’s ok to wish that reviewers give reasons and examples to back up their conclusions.

    @Lynne Connolly: Thank you for the background on Sanderson. Also, on authors writing reviews, thanks for being so open about your own experience. I think it is up to each author to decide what she wants to do in terms of reviewing, and I think the decision should be based on, among other things, an accurate assessment of possible consequences, good and bad. So the more information we have from people like you who actually engage in reviewing, the better.

    @Ann Somerville: The thing about ignoring the tantrums … I agree with it, although I didn’t follow my own advice in this post. A big part of me felt, over this latest kerfuffle, “Ignore her.”

    @Liz:

    But we’re all still welcome to 5-star what we read on amazon and Goodreads. Just don’t write about it.

    Well, this is the thing. Nobody ever complains about the lack of objectivity in gushing squeeful reviews, huh?

    @SarahT: I’m with Ann on the tantrum explanation. But who the hell knows.

    @Merrian: Great points about Jane and Becky. I think you are absolutely on to something, but having never read one of the books, I can’t add anything.

    What is Macmillan hoping to achieve with this blog? Macmillan is just not recognised for romance… well at least not here in Australia. No doubt the US arm has a lot more romance imprints coming under their banner. Do they want to be the portal that you come to – becoming if you like our trusted advisors so that their brand lives in our minds positive. Except that I don’t know anyone who buys books by brand? Author’s are the brands I think. I know we can talk about Harlequin and M&B and how each of the lines represent particular romance tropes and that is what people buy and how in M&Bs case there is over 100years of brand identity and loyalty as well so I think they are a cat of a different colour.

    I don’t know, and I don’t think I could name even 1 Macmillan romance title, but whatever they want they must think they are getting it with Tor.com because they are launching new romance and mystery sites this month. I think it is very hard for a corporate blog to work as well as other kind of group blogs. They are just so impersonal to me. Who knows if it will in this case.

    @ka:

    I’ve noticed a trend where some bloggers expect authors to engage in professional behavior but do not expect it from the blogging community.

    This is very complicated. On one level, we should all treat each other as we want to be treated. On another, authors and bloggers are not similarly situated online with respect to professionalism, because bloggers are for the most part hobbyists and published authors are not.

    @avoriana: That sounds like fun!

    Like

  23. I clicked on the Carla Kelly link. I didn’t read her post as a rant. She was talking about having to remove a review on Amazon in which the reviewer made a threat against her life. I didn’t read the review, but yeah, if a review threatened my life, I might be a little disturbed and worried too.

    Like

  24. @Gennita Low:

    I didn’t read her post as a rant.

    I agree it was not a rant, and I agree, as I said in the post, that I would have had that review removed also. I hope I did not give a different impression!

    Like

  25. @katiebabs:Hi Katie! RomCon 2011 will go on as planned no matter what happens with Borders. We wish them the best, and continue our relationship with them, but we are not dependent upon them for financial support to host the convention. I hope we see you there. It’s going to be even more fun than last year!

    Like

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