The grandmother of all plot twists!

25 Mar

Second update: I’m eating some of my words.

Update: I’m closing comments and mulling a few things before I post something else–probably tomorrow morning. To find out why, read this as the Passive Voice.

*

If you read Dear Author regularly, this is not news for you.

If you don’t…well, prepare to go down the rabbit hole. (This is freaking long, even for me.)

Jane Litte, reader, reviewer and ‘mean girl’ extraordinaire, also happens to be a self published and traditionally published author of a number of books (all written in about two and a half years, apparently, some with another fairly well known author, Jessica Clare), who has enough success to put the whole “(something or other) best seller” under her author name–Jen Frederick.

Here’s my comment on that post (minus the editing error (i.e., “to all those people” *headdesk*)

Like others have said, my heart almost stopped when I saw there was a letter to DA readers–I was so scared you were going to announce the closing of the site, or something awful related to the lawsuit, or some such, I hesitated to read on.

And then…holy crap, what a wonderful twist!

No, I have not read your books–I hadn’t heard of your author pen name, actually–but I don’t care. I just keep thinking about all the sour grapes who bitch everywhere about Jane the mean girl, Jane the anti-author, Jane the anti-publisher.

To all those delicate special snowflakes who have cried, “you can’t review books unless you write them”–here you go, precious flowers.

To all those self published authors who cry that any criticism of their books is unacceptable (or that their books are their babies)–see this and weep.

To everyone who has ever (and will, because that’s people for you) accused you of lack of professionalism–take a step back and see what actual professionalism looks like.

Oh and RWA not renewing your membership whenever it was because you weren’t a writer? *hysterical giggles*

I’m going to be randomly laughing all day–hell, all week long.

Thank you, Jane, and best of luck with everything.

If you can’t tell, I’m tickled pink on several levels.

Also, I adore the fact that Jane didn’t talk about receiving “bad” reviews–she mentioned negative reviews. Yay!!!

(yes, it’s a pet peeve, so what?)

~ * ~

However, there is always at least one more point of view and there are obvious question arising from the revelation. First and foremost, was Jane the author kept completely separate from Jane the reader/blogger, and from Dear Author itself? Second, was the integrity of the blog compromised by any reviews/posts/promotions there that benefit Jane the author directly?

The answers are: no, and somewhat.

Super Librarian Wendy has put together a few things that can make a reader stop and take a second look. Wendy names three instances, though I’ve seen the number five mentioned a couple of times, in which Jane’s author name was brought up in ways that directly benefit her/promote her.

Still, those three/five instances are enough to make me a tad squirmy, and I do wish, how I do wish!, a different decision had been made. I wish that Jane had made it a rule simply for Dear Author that no books by Jen Frederick would be mentioned in any fashion.

(Whether or not that might have forced her to reveal to the other reviewers at Dear Author that she was writing under that pseudonym, or whether she should/could have just let them all think that she, Jane, had a beef with author Jen Frederick, is I think tangential to this discussion.)

For her part, Courtney Milan discussed on twitter how Jane reviewing a Berkley book after she was in talks/signed with them is a big no-no.

Courtney Milan on conflict of interest JL-JF-DA reviews

Agreed.

~ * ~

With that said.

Do I honestly think Jane deliberately used Dear Author to get ahead as an author?

Dude.

You have to ask?

If Jane had wanted to use Dear Author to promote her writing career, she wouldn’t have even needed to use yet another pseudonym. Dear Author’s platform in 2012 was much larger and stronger than that of SBSarah and Candy Tan in 2009, yet they managed to get their book into a pretty large number of hands.

Or, if she was set on writing under a pseudonym other than Jane Litte, she could have been letting Dear Author reviewers review her Jen Frederick books.

She didn’t, so I lean towards thinking that those three/five instances of murkiness can be simple oversight; or in the case of guest posts, it may be feeling uncomfortable telling that person, “oh but you can’t include books by Jen Frederick in your post”–particularly if Jane didn’t want or intend to share her author identity with them for whatever reason.

Perhaps I’m too naïve, and yet I think it’s possible–because even the most sensible, careful, level-headed person has moments of ‘teh stupid.’ And while I like Jane, I don’t think she’s anywhere near perfect.

~ * ~

On the other hand, I saw some twitter conversations that disturb the shit out of me.

  • Accusations that Jane has lied “about something or other since the beginning” (meaning what? since she started writing, since she started blogging, since she first wrote a review, since she was sued?) (and, lied about what, exactly?).
  • Accusations that Jane set up the defense fund  herself or manipulated/instructed SBSarah to do it for her (holy what the fuck, people? are we now saying that SBSarah is nothing but a puppet or some such shit?) (oh and what, are we thinking that Jane is profiting from the defense fund? anyone want to compare how much the lawsuit can cost her v how much was raised, and then come back with that particular brand of paranoia?)
  • Accusations that Jane manipulated the reviews/reviewers at Dear Author to ‘seed’ the market for what she writes as Jen Frederick (you are forgiven if you think I made that one up–but I didn’t)

And the like.

Why do I find those disturbing?

Probably because, unlike SLWendy’s post, where she provided links and explained why she is saying what she’s saying, or Ms Milan’s reaction, where she articulated exactly where and how disclosure should have happened, in these other cases I don’t see anything supporting the statements.

Mind you, none of the people involved in those conversations owe me (or anyone, I would hazard) a point by point presentation explaining how they came up to believe what they believe.

However, as a bystander looking in, I can only process the information I have, and what I see? Doesn’t point me anywhere near “Jane is a liar who will do anything to get ahead.”

I understand that there are readers and authors feeling a bit betrayed because they didn’t know. They feel tricked–“what, you speak as a reader yet you are also an author! unfair! trickery!”–and while I’m a bit tired of the “we can be one thing and one thing only–ever” schtick, I cannot fault them for feeling somewhat betrayed. Hell, it’s a rather big secret and she’s managed to keep it for what? thirty plus months?

Those outright accusations of lying and Machiavellian manipulation and such, however? Well, that reaction goes far, far beyond SLWendy’s distaste–if that’s the word? uneasiness? discomfort?–over the failure to disclose a hundred percent; it also seems well beyond Ms Milan’s conflict of interest reaction; and falls heavily into fixation. Too much “I’ve never liked her, now you see how much of a bitch she is!” glee for me.

~ * ~

I find it interesting, if not surprising, that the people I’ve seen having these conversations believe wholeheartedly that they are the few brave, the unflinching few, who dare “speak truth to power,” while they contemptuously regard anyone who doesn’t vocally express outright disgust for Jane as, basically, sheep.

(No, I don’t think Wendy’s or Ms Milan’s clear-eyed and detached discomfort is enough for this particular group.)

Yes, by the way, I’m aware there are at least a few people participating in that conversation who think I exist solely to kiss Jane’s ass. Or perhaps I’ll be accused of being an alter ego or a sock puppet.

There’s a much simpler answer though.

Could be that I’m predisposed to believe that Jane is basically a decent person who occasionally will take a misstep, and that I would need ample proof that Jane would strategize for years to position herself where she is as both blogger and writer so that she could…what? use Ellora’s Cave defamation lawsuit to come clean or some such? before changing my mind.

(Seriously, doesn’t that sound more than a little Evil Overlord to you?)

I have not always agreed with Jane’s take on things, though I do more often than not.

The balance for me is that, in the almost ten years I’ve read Dear Author regularly, I believe she’s striven for decency and honesty.

Your mileage may vary, obviously.

~ * ~

What’s your take, oh readers?

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18 Responses to “The grandmother of all plot twists!”

  1. nurcat 25/03/2015 at 7:34 AM #

    Well, I think I fall into the “You can’t please all of the people, all of the time ” camp. I admire Jane’s wish to maintain her anonymity. And although it can be argued that there may be a conflict of interest, I find Jane’s overall integrity outweighs that argument.
    Let’s be honest; if the whole DA/EC debacle wasn’t in play, I have no doubt that we, as readers, would still be unaware that Jane had published novels…. and .. without trogging through enough posts to defeat even the most pedantic of pedants (& yes, I know that there will be those, who are already trolling through the DA archives , ready & all to willing to yell “Ah Ha ! Told you so !!” ) … I couldn’t spot any overt -or covert, for that matter- promotion of the Jen Fredericks ident. But the knives will be out in certain dark quarters of the romance community anyway .
    So, I’ll leave you with this. Terry Pratchett once told SFX’s editor, when he was guest editing, that he was very, very wary about using the word awesome because “What will we say when the aliens land ?” …. I’m going to say that I think Jane is “awesome” … & that the aliens have finally landed & are blogging at DA !

    • azteclady 25/03/2015 at 7:43 AM #

      As far as I can tell, a number of people–and some of them without any axes to grind–already checked DA from mid-2012 to now, and found between three and five instances where things get murky. Wendy links to three, and someone else mentioned at least one other, and I honestly won’t go digging to see if there’s a fifth.

      Like you, I think that no matter what Jane did or didn’t do, there would be accusations.

      I do hope, though, that either DA implements a policy of not promoting, mentioning, etc. Jen Frederick’s books, or that it’s made clear everywhere in the blog that Jen F = Jane Litte. Because not everyone is everywhere online, and future new readers should know from the get.

      • nurcat 25/03/2015 at 8:00 AM #

        I think that now the JF/JL news is out, there will be no question that that information will be front & centre on the DA blog. One of the reasons I read DA is because of its integrity & its inherent honesty … & because it’s never been afraid to get up the noses of some very entitled people.

      • azteclady 25/03/2015 at 8:10 AM #

        There you go.

  2. Montreux 25/03/2015 at 8:31 AM #

    Hello, azteclady!

    First, I would never think you are a sock puppet- i follow your blog and I saw your Rita Heyworth on many places taking a stand on various issues- enough to conclude yours are individual thoughts and not c/p of DA’s. 🙂

    My 2c – I am happy Jane has so much success as an author. I also think that if she published book under real name- it would not in anyway hurt her sales – In fact, I think it would boost them, Yesterday I checked her books because it’s her and I don’t even read NA and I am sure I am not the only one. But publishing under real name would also make a target out of her and I predict this will happen after this announcement – some people will jump on opportunity to say how much her books suck.
    I read DA daily, but I never engage. Some times I agree with their posts, some times no, but I can’t deny DA has to exist. It has to, because it champions healthy and safe reading environment for readers.
    There has to be blog big enough and blogger influential enough to call authors on their wrong behavior like plagiarism, attacking negative reviews, stalking reviewers. And that’s Jane. So, I don’t want Jane the Blogger to disappear.
    I am not an author, I am not even a blogger…just a reader who makes her purchasing choices based on what popular blogs are recommending. So, since Jane posted this news, I was debating with myself: do I feel I was manipulated in any way as a reader ? Were my rights as reader not represented or defended in any way on DA? when it comes to second, that’s a definite NO-they were always pro-reader. But I have to say that I am not sure about first… Courtney Milan said it better than I ever would about one aspect of it. But, also… I bought Hitman based on an excellent review on another blog and I did wonder yesterday was this a shock to bloggers as well for readers or did some of them know. So, yes, it made me wonder about that excellent review. Am I wrong? Quite possibly. But am I wrong for wondering? I don’t think so…

    p.s. – I read some comments and saw that some people expressed their concern about Jane keeping her pen name a secret because they think DA used double standards considering some of their previous blog posts on topic. I can only think of one similar situation- that yellow box announcement before AJH’s reviews:
    http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/review-slave-to-sensation/

    Thank you, great post!

    • azteclady 25/03/2015 at 8:48 AM #

      I was thinking–very late last night, when I should have been sleeping–about the AJH thing. It’s one of the things I don’t think was well handled.

      It’s not the only one, though it’s the one I’ve also seen mentioned elsewhere.

      Personally, I don’t think that we should now look at all reviews of Jen Frederick’s books in other blogs as suspect, but that’s easy for me to say as I read a very limited number of blogs and have for long enough to trust the people writing for them.

  3. Rowena 25/03/2015 at 11:50 AM #

    For someone that read Jen Frederick’s books before I knew they were Jane’s books, my initial reaction upon hearing the news was, “Great for Jane!” Holly and I fought over one of her heroes last year because we both LOVED the book. I started reading Wendy’s post and wondered if I was supposed to be mad (not that I think Wendy was mad) or feel betrayed but I didn’t feel any of those things.

    I can understand why Jane didn’t want to out herself as Jen Frederick. I’m not at all mad at Jane. As my kid would say, “Mad props to Jane for all she’s accomplished as Jen Frederick.”

    • azteclady 25/03/2015 at 12:02 PM #

      I am not mad and I don’t feel betrayed or butthurt, but then I am not as invested in Dear Author as some people (several of which do not even comment there anymore, go figure!) seem to be.

      As commented later on, on that thread, I agree with these two comments:

      I can see why you would have wanted to write anonymously. If you hadn’t, people would have been complaining that you were just trying to promote yourself via the blog. It was kind of a no win, and I can see how once you started down that path it would have been hard to get off it.

      and

      It’s such a catch 22. I’ve heard all the bullshit connected with reviewing. “Reviewers should be readers. Writers shouldn’t review.” and then “Reviewers don’t understand what writers experience, so how can they give bad reviews?”
      I review under my author name mainly because I’m NOT very good at having a pseudonym and so I just went ahead and said “Yep. I’m a writer. So…grain of salt.”
      My personal belief is that I’m a reader first and a writer as well.

      If you check Kat’s latest Bookmarked at BookThingo, you’ll see that there are plenty of people who are still all, “no, authors can’t/shouldn’t review!”

      I think–still mulling this, actually–that I would prefer that authors review under their author name rather than a reader pseudonym, if only so that there can be no later accusations of bias (for or against).

  4. SuperWendy 25/03/2015 at 5:18 PM #

    My issues have everything do with hypocrisy and practicing what you preach. Dear Author has been VERY vocal about transparency, being a “reader space,” and has given the side-eye to the author/reader fandom in social media circles and how it silences critical discourse.

    Let me be clear: I have absolutely NO issue with Jane using a pen name, publishing/writing books, or for that matter – keeping her pen name under wraps for a while. I “get” why she did all of that. Was Jane in a “damned if she does damned if she don’t” situation? Yes. But who ever said ethical decisions were supposed to be easy? Withholding facts by omission is still lying. Again – NO issue with the pen name, the writing, the publishing, none of that…..

    My problem has EVERYTHING to do with that moment when JF bled into the blog. And yeah, sure – JF books were only mentioned a few times. But once is enough. Period. End stop. You can promote an author or book in other ways than just a review and anyone who says otherwise I’m calling BS on. Because your readers (and it sounds like in some cases your own frackin’ blog staff) aren’t operating with the same set of knowledge that you are. They see JF mentioned on the blog, in a Daily Deals post, Kati talking about how much she loved a certain book – and they don’t know that the blog owner and author are one and the same.

    As a reader? I would feel manipulated. Others won’t feel that way and more power to them.

    At the end of the day they only thing I can hang my hat on as a blogger/reviewer is my integrity. I’m not of the Bloggers Must Be Lily White Pure camp. I’m fine with bloggers writing books. I’m fine with bloggers getting paid (hell, I get paid for H&H posts). I’m fine with bloggers making decisions on what authors they want to review and what publishers they want to do business with in terms of ARCs, blog tours etc. Just disclose it. Period. End of story. Make the playing field completely even. Let everyone see the entire deck of cards – don’t go removing the aces to slap down on the table at a later date.

    • Kat 25/03/2015 at 6:13 PM #

      Wendy, I just saw the link that willaful posted in her comment on your blog. While I tend to be similar to AZ, in that I believe in Jane’s basic decency — plus to a large extent I think she’s capable of segregating the two personas — I think her encroachment into author spaces is a lot more problematic than the handful of mentions of her book on her blog. I can see why authors might have a huge problem with not knowing that a prominent reader-blogger is listening to their conversations, particularly authors who might prefer not to interact with her at all.

      • azteclady 25/03/2015 at 6:21 PM #

        This. I’m finding this revelation, that Jen Frederick interacted with authors, particularly authors who had/have issues with Jane Little, for however long it was she belonged to those loops or was facebook friends or whatever. I find that very disturbing.

    • azteclady 25/03/2015 at 6:19 PM #

      Like Kat above, I followed the link to The Passive Voice’s post, and I’m…well, I’ll have to eat my words.

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