In publishing, just as in any entertainment based industry, I believe in these two things: One, there’s enough of success and money to be had for anyone who is willing to work hard and grind for it. Two, your work will speak for itself, regardless of whatever the competition does.
With that said, it seems to me that some literary feuds go beyond general competition into something very childish and viscous. You see the posts: an Author blast his or her gripes with a publisher over money. Authors taking shots at each other out of pure jealousy and envy. You also see the comments of avid readers saying how petty the latest round of beef is and later, you see these same readers post how they stopped buying books from authors and publishers because of how bad some of them act online.
Just in the past three months, I have observed an author lashing out at a book club that gave his book a poor review, another author airing out issues with a publisher , and some authors trying to dictate how a reader spends his or her money.
So let me get this straight: A reader doesn’t have the right to read another author’s work and buy another author’s work because you think it’s a betrayal of your product? To me,this kind of thinking is rooted in insecurity. Nothing more and nothing less. If you as an author know the kind of hard work that you put into your product and into building your audience, there’s no need for shaming and intimidation tactics. If you write amazing stories, they will come. If you write amazing stories on a consistent basis,they will stay. Yes, they will read other people’s work from time to time, but I promise that you will still be in their library.
As far as author/publisher feuds are concerned, it’s very easy to forget that books are a business and with businesses, Rule #4080 (shout out to A Tribe Called Quest) sometimes applies. Whether it applies or not, fulfilling a contract should be a simple, painless process.
There shouldn’t be a beef with someone playing out their contract and moving on. It’s a problem when the publisher takes business personal and begin berating said author for moving on and doing everything in their power to blackball and intimidate him or her for moving on. To me, author/ publisher feuds that are being played out in public has to be the most shameful and tacky feud of them all. They are the tackiest because the burden of perception is on the publisher. Authors, would you like to sign with a janky publisher, who blast their business matters on Facebook? Readers, would you want to buy books from a publishing company that is always in the middle of the mess that they start? If I were a betting woman, those answers are a resounding “NO”.
When I think about the feuds and shadiness of the industry, I think about the root of the problem. Here’s my theory: In the world of African-American publishing, we are operating off of a sense of lack. We believe that it isn’t enough of room for everyone in the game. It really seems that way when readers throw crumbs of their money to us when they buy our titles for $.99 to $2.99. We think there’s just crumbs for us and we are all doing whatever it takes to get our lion’s share of the crumbs.
Another theory is most of these authors aren’t used to much and when they get something, they hold on to it with everything in them. They cling to it like static to clothes in a dryer without softener. For some, it’s their first taste of legal money or their first taste of some kind of acclaim. So they do whatever they can to keep it, even if it means applying some of the same tactics learned on the streets to solidify their position in the game. Regardless of the theories and causes, the beefs and the shady dealings are unnecessary and beneath us. I believe that there is enough of talent in the industry to create great work, and create it consistently. There is no lack in opportunity. It’s there for you to seize it and embrace it. It’s impossible to do that if you attend every argument you’re invited to.
Authors: What do you think is the source of the feuds and what could be done to get the focus back on the books?
Readers: How has the feuds displayed on Facebook and twitter influenced who and what you read?
About the author
Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards” “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist. Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for pre-order now at www.dcbookdiva.com