I. fucking. hate it.
Sometimes, however, there is little choice but to do so.
A quick timeline of my part of this growing quagmire.
On Tuesday March 24th, Jane Litte posted this letter to the Dear Author blog readership. In it, she came out as author Jen Frederick.
I was very, very, very surprised to learn this. I’m probably a proper imbecile, because it just never occurred to me. Did I mention I was surprised by this?
Other people apparently were a lot less shocked.
My first reaction was of glee, and my first comment in that thread reflected that.
Of course, the internet being what it is (i. e., full of people), vitriol towards Jane/Jen started flowing pretty damn quickly. At least some of it is, whatever the people dishing it out may say, sour grapes,¹ so I dismissed it immediately–consider the source and all that.
Of course, being the mouthy rabblerouser that I am, I also wanted to write my piece–posted on Wednesday March 25th–to expand upon that comment at Dear Author and jab at certain people at the same time.
Which meant reading a bit more.
I saw SLWendy’s post and it gave me some pause–an uncomfortable feeling, if you will, that I did not take the time to examine as closely as I should have. I saw Courtney Milan’s delayed reaction on twitter, and felt the same vague discomfort.
Still, I finished writing my post fairly late that night, feeling confident I knew enough to reiterate my original reaction and support of Jane/Jen in the face of the inevitable backlash. At that point I thought that a lot if not most of said backlash was a) still to come, and b) going to be baseless.
Here is where I start eating my words.
Because the more I thought about the implications of both Wendy’s and Courtney Milan’s concerns, the more acute my discomfort.
Perhaps because I’ve never been paid for reviewing anything anywhere, or because I disclosed my short stint as Ann Aguirre’s beta reader and later virtual assistant pretty much on the spot, some of the implications of allowing mentions of Jen Frederick’s books in “best of” lists on Jane Litte’s own blog didn’t immediately occur to me.
(Then again, I tend to skim and then ignore those lists on the rare occasions I actually click on them.)
Upon reflection, those implications are now glaringly obvious: thousands of readers visit Dear Author every day.
Do your math on potential purchases resulting from one of Dear Author’s reviewers praising a Jen Frederick book.
As you do the math, keep in mind that, if readers who sought out and then bought that one Jen Frederick book because Kati D pointed them at it, and then they liked it, it’s quite likely those readers also bought other Jen Frederick books.
This is what readers do; this is the whole point of reader/reviewer recommendation lists: readers want to find the next author to glom.
The situation is stickier if–as it seems–Kati D knew that one of the books she was de facto pimping was Jane’s.
Color me naïve, but I’m still not one hundred percent certain Kati D knew at that point that Jen Frederick is Jane Litte.
Allow me to expand on that: I have beta read for a handful of authors and I have no clue whether or not they are also bloggers under a different name, or my neighbors, or an old lady living in Thailand with seven cats. (Nota bene: at no point have I reviewed any of the stories I’ve beta read.)
So from where I sit? It is possible Kati D just didn’t know then.
For all I know, Kati D is an innocent casualty here, and if so, she’s likely not the only one.
Sadly, now I don’t know that I could believe either Jane or Kati on this issue.
Mentioning her own book–even one co-written with someone else–in a Daily Deal post is worse in my eyes. Not only because of the promotion/potential financial gain, but because Jane could never claim ignorance about Jen Frederick’s real identity.
Bad form–from anyone.
From a blogger who has relentlessly campaigned for transparency, it’s really bad form.
Boggles. the. ever. loving. mind.
Would that this was the worst of it.
It’s not, by a very long chalk.
Later on Wednesday I saw that Willaful has withdrawn herself as a reviewer from Dear Author. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, and it’s none of my business in any case. I believe that she has already shared publicly what she feels comfortable sharing.
And what she has shared tells me that things don’t smell so good in Denmark.
Namely, in the comments on Wendy’s post, this link to The Passive Voice.
Ann Somerville is quick to point out that “The Passive Voice has a massive grudge against” Dear Author. Janet/Robin Reader agrees. This may or may not be true–I don’t know because I don’t read that blog/website with any frequency and I’ve already wasted enough hours of my time reading the comment thread for that one post.
However, I certainly didn’t see anyone at Dear Author complaining about The Passive Voice’s coverage and support for the blog when Ellora’s Cave sued Dear Author and Jane Litte.
Which they did on the DailyDot article, by the by (do-not-link, link)
(By the by: if anyone did see anyone associated with Dear Author complaining about The Passive Voice’s coverage, would you be so kind as to provide linkage, screenshots, source? If it’s there, I’ll grudgingly eat some more of my words. Thanks.)
Back to the Passive Voice post.
Holy what the actual fuck, people.
No, it’s not the pearl clutching–being capable of feeling two or more contradictory impulses at once (amazing, I know), I believe that the person who wrote the post can be angry because of the deception, feeling betrayed by a well-known reviewer’s intrusion in what should have been authors-only spaces, and still wish Jane Litte/Jen Frederick success.²
It’s the fact that Jane Litte-as-Jen Frederick belonged–was invited? asked to be included? who the hell knows at this point!–to authors-only loops. In some of those authors-only spaces, Jane Litte-as-Jen Frederick interacted with authors who have been vocal about their negative opinion of…Jane Litte or of Dear Author or of both Jane Litte and Dear Author.
But even authors who love Jane Litte and Dear Author, and have never been anything but cordial with her, behaved in those loops under a specific expectation: that those were authors-only spaces.
Not, as has been claimed, “safe” spaces. There is a difference.
And lets be clear: what we say, and how we say it, when we have an expectation of privacy is vastly different than what we share publicly. Anyone out there who pretends that there is nothing they say privately that they wouldn’t say openly, that they have never had email discussions that they want to keep private–regardless of why–is lying. To herself and to everyone around her.
So yes, all those authors who had their coffee yesterday morning with a side of “holy shit, what the fuck did I say about (fill in the blank) while one of the best known and most influential reader bloggers in my target market was listening?” has every right to feel betrayed and ambushed and, yes, catfished.
(From the Urban Dictionary, “To be deceived or lead on by someone on any social network, or chat session who’s claiming to be someone or something they’re not,” among others.)
It gets worse still.
Jane Litte is a lawyer. There is no way in hell that she didn’t realize the ethical breach taking place every time she participated in those conversations and didn’t disclose her identity.
If the justification for not disclosing her identity to authors is that she wanted to succeed without using the enormous platform that is Dear Author’s audience, then she should have recused herself from those loops.
It is not as if, as a blogger, Jane Litte hadn’t learned enough about publishing to actually need the insider’s perspective gained from Jen Frederick’s participation in authors-only spaces.
As has been said in several places, if anyone else had done what’s described in the post at The Passive Voice, Jane Litte and Dear Author would have been among the first to cry foul–and everyone who has been around this part of the internet knows that that would have been just the beginning. The dogpile would have been visible from space.
And many of us who are now forced to examine and unpack our first joyful reaction to Jane’s letter yesterday would have been party to it–because we trusted Jane.
Much is being made by some of the fact that the letter was written anonymously and that many of the comments agreeing with the sentiment are also anonymous. As anyone who has read Dear Author at least since the Ellora’s Cave bullshit started can tell you, that right there is irony indeed.
Are you fucking kidding me?
If the letter is suspect because it was posted as “anonymous commentary,” and the allegations untrue, please show me where Jane Litte/Jen Frederick categorically states that she didn’t participate in authors-only loops as Jen Frederick while keeping her Jane Litte identity a secret from the other members of those loops.
Oh wait, no one can, because Jane Little/Jen Frederick admitted as much when she responded to my comment:
In light of the many discussions of non-apologies that have floated about romance reading blogs in the past decade, that last sentence is…
And no, I don’t know how she could apologize that would make it all better, or even a bit less dismal, because the next downward step, and the one that matters the most to me, is how Jane Litte-as-Jen Frederick’s own less-than-transparent and less-than-commendable actions are being used, by two different groups of people who do have axes to grind, to undermine Dear Author’s and Jane Litte’s courageous stance in the face of Ellora’s Cave defamation suit.
First there are the wankers–most of you know who they are, but otherwise, mine Dear Author’s own archives, starting with the thread linked here.
Second is Jaid Black, Ellora’s Cave, and all and sundry supporting them–for names, read this tag here and remember that search engines are your friends.
How dare Jane Litte ask for money for a defense fund when she
a) is a lawyer, and we all know all lawers are filthy rich!
b) is a successful self-published author, and we all know any author who slaps a “best seller” on their cover lives high on the hog!
c) has signed a contract with a traditional publisher, and we know all traditionally published authors make mucho dinero!
d) has a movie deal on the works, and we all know that authors who sell movie rights automatically become millionaires.
(this bit in quotation above was supposed to be in quotation when I posted this the first time–it’s not what *I* think, it’s what is being flung at Jane/Jen)
And lo, with such prime bait, fish are biting fast and furious.
To the first person: Jane Litte probably knew, when she decided to fight the lawsuit, that Jen Frederick’s true identity would come out and that the shit would cover both those pseudonyms from all sides.
And still, knowing full well all the grief that is going to follow her around for a good fucking long time–the internet is an archive, people–she took a stance that defends the right of everyone to speak their mind.
To the second person: what are you, a lemming incapable of making your own decisions? Did anyone hold a knife to your kidney and forced you to hand over your hard earned money? Neither? Then grow up a bit, and accept your own responsibility in how you decide to spend your limited resources.
But who cares about the wankers and the butthurt, right? Let me tell you what I actually care about here: #notchilled is tainted now.
For the record, in case the above wasn’t clear enough:
I still believe that the whole “Jane Litte steered Dear Author and the other reviewers towards Jen Frederick’s genre” and the rest of that conspiracy theory to be pure unadulterated bullshit.
I still believe that Jane Litte/Jen Frederick did not defame Ellora’s Cave or its principals when she wrote and published The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave in Dear Author.
I still believe that the lawsuit was brought in order to silence Ellora’s Cave authors and other subcontractors who were/are not happy with how royalties and other payments have been handled by the company for years.
I still believe that the lawsuit will cost Jane Litte/Jen Frederick much, much more money that the $20K she originally set aside for it combined with the $54K+ raised through GoFundMe and the efforts of Sarah Wendell.³
I want to believe what I believed yesterday morning: that Jane Litte is a decent person who has striven for honesty, yet has stumbled like all human beings do sooner or later.
Sadly, I find that my trust on pretty much everyone involved with Dear Author has been severely shaken. I’m questioning why the people who have spoken in unreserved, unqualified support of Jane Litte/Jen Frederick have done so, and why the people who haven’t, haven’t.
I fucking hate wondering who among them I can and cannot trust, and how far. And I am both angry and extremely sad at the loss of that trust.
Let’s be clear here: I do not claim that I would have done better.
I am positive someone with a strong enough grudge and sufficient time can find plenty of thoughtless comments and/or posts I’ve made, and bring them to light to make me look like raging hypocrite, or a liar, or an idiot, or all three (if not more), or at the very least embarrass me.
That’s beside the point here, though.
I can see perfectly well how one seemingly small, irrelevant decision led to another seemingly small, irrelevant decision, which led to another, and another and another, like the proverbial snowball.
Until we all found ourselves here now, studying the cumulative effects of thirty or so months of small, irrelevant decisions.
But just because I can’t guarantee that I am above making a similar mess, doesn’t mean that there is no mess; or that Jane Litte/Jen Frederick did no wrong; or that I must have an axe to grind and a hidden agenda if I speak on the subject; or that any and all concerns raised about it by anyone should be dismissed a priori, and that we–whomever we happen to be–should accept Jane Litte/Jen Frederick’s words and actions past, present and future without criticism or analysis.
Perception is reality, and as my perception has changed, so has reality.
¹ To wit:
- Some of the sour grapes come from authors whose books got diced in reviews. You know who you are.
- Some of the sour grapes come from once-frequent commenters who wanted to decide how the blog should be run. I have been around long enough to remember those discussions, well before the new commenting policy was an issue.
- Some of the sour grapes come from publishers–hello, Deborah Smith and Jaid Black–who resent that a reader blog has as much influence as Dear Author does.
- Some of the sour grapes come from other bloggers who consider that Dear Author is too self righteous by half.
² Difficult family relationships, anyone?
³ See what Anita Cox has to say on this point. Please note that I vehemently disagree that this is (under any light, sarcasm included) a “little revelation” while agreeing with the overall thrust of the post.