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Wicked Pretty Update #5: Wick Harder
msauvage purple
I know people were getting lost trying to catch up on the previous five entries (Livejournal) (Dreamwidth mirror)--I would suggest you read those in order to get the clearest version of the story. But here's the nutshell version:

Jessica Verday dropped out of the Running Press/Constable Robinson YA anthology Wicked Pretty Things after the editor, acting on her own, asked her to change a "G-rated" m/m romance to m/f. Jessica refused and withdrew her story. The editor, Trisha Telep, made a strange and flippant non-apology on Jessica's blog, which Jessica posted, along with RP's and CR's conciliatory statements on the matter. Running Press in particular stated that they did want the story, yet a representative said that they "[stood] behind" Trisha and wanted to continue working with her.

(I'll admit here that I'm having trouble figuring out whether it's more appropriate to refer to people by their first names or more formally by their last names, as you would when reporting. I have a hard time referring to people formally after I've spoken to them, but if I only call Trisha by her last name, it sounds like I'm setting her apart. So I'm going to try to reach some kind of consistency on that account, even though either option makes me feel kind of weird.)

Constable Robinson claimed that Running Press had no direct association with Trisha. Several writers withdrew their stories from the WPT anthology or other Trisha Telep-edited anthologies, since the writers get flat fees and Trisha would be getting the royalties, in solidarity and due to their own beliefs. Trisha issued a formal apology. Some of the writers accepted this; some did not. Mostly, writers wanted Trisha replaced as editor on the anthology, and/or did not want to work with her again.

Then, Monday, as the whole thing was dying down, Publisher's Weekly gave Running Press's Christopher Navratil editorial space to obliquely compare the controversy to "a falsehood and incomplete story," "intolerance and bullying," "cyberbullying," and the Rutgers suicide. This was printed without additional reporting or the authors' side of the story, and it blamed Jessica for accusations she did not actually make, given that she specifically took Trisha to task as a separate entity from Running Press, to the point where many of the commenters here said Running Press wasn't being held accountable enough. The article also blamed the other authors for "believing her account" rather than make informed decisions (this did not go over well). It also blamed her for not contacting either of the publishers on the subject. A copy of the anthology contract revealed that Telep was the only contact and clearly a representative of the publishers. (An unrelated commenter on the PW article also said that the teen anthologies "were Running's idea and they approached Telep due to her contacts in the industry." As opposed to "no direct association.") Other authors confirmed that they were given no way to get in touch with either publisher to complain if they were asked to "degay a character"--which we then found out Telep had asked at least one other anonymous writer to do. This was baffling, given that Running Press had published anthologies with LGBTQ content, and a different editor had put out a specific call for it, and Christopher Navratil stated in his piece that he is an openly gay man.

The contract also showed that there were no thematic content requirements, and yet Jessica said that Trisha told her "the publishers commissioned me for a collection of het YA romances." (I am not sure if this is Trisha acting on her own again or the publishers actually asking for this, in contrast to their earlier denial.) Saundra Mitchell also revealed that her words were being used out of context in a letter sent to the WPT authors asking them to come back to the anthology. Running Press, [correction:] Constable Robinson, to their credit, then apologized and agreed to send the authors the full statement Saundra had made (in which she said that she did not want to work with Trisha again). However, none of the writers, to my knowledge, agreed to go back. My theory is that Trisha's anthologies do, in fact, make a lot of money, and there's now a clash between "We won't work with her again" and "But this book cannot be canceled."

Picking up ETAs from yesterday that people may not have seen:

1) @francescablock: "f it no more pretty wicked things for me. i'm withdrawing." I don't know why Francesca Lia Block (who initially accepted Trisha Telep's formal apology and decided to stay in) has dropped out. I hope it's because she saw the Publisher's Weekly "article" and not, say, because people harassed her on Twitter and Facebook to withdraw. That's one of the reasons I've never listed the authors who were supposed to be in the anthology, so as not to unintentionally send people after them. (I know at least one more author has dropped out, but is not making a formal statement as such.) There's protesting a company's decision, and there's protesting a personal decision; there's protesting someone's decision in your own space, and there's protesting someone's decision in their space. You have to consider the latter more carefully. 

2)  With thanks to gwyd: Seanan McGuire's explanation on 3/28 as to why she pulled her story. I don't think I'd seen this before.

3) And, new: Jessica Verday's final statement (barring, as she says, major developments).

For those of you who have been worried about the editor's future, or the publisher's future, I ask you to please stop for a moment and think about the futures of all those other writers who chose to stand beside me in solidarity. (Last I heard, it was a count of ten.)

That's out of thirteen writers/stories--fourteen, if you count a writer who agreed to replace Jessica. I never mentioned her name because I wasn't sure if she knew what was going on and, again, didn't want to start a dogpile.

It has been said that I'm taking income away from other authors, and other books, by doing this. This is an unfortunate side effect that doesn't make anyone here happy. No one. Which is why you NEVER saw ME call for a boycott of Running Press and/or Constable & Robinson.

Which is in direct contradiction to what Christopher Navratil said in his Publisher's Weekly soapbox.

Speaking of which, here's an interesting--maybe "sobering" is a more apt word--comment conversation from the last entry:

Arachne: "In fact, I think that article in Publishers Weekly was mostly meant to blackball Jessica Verday from professional publishing, and to let other writers supporting her know that they might too be blackballed. But I can be cynical these days."

Me: "In the main entry [that this conversation was on], I did not want to officially state that as a theory, but that was at the back of my mind. And that was one of the reasons I did that huge long close-reading of the PW piece to show how verifiably inaccurate it was, because I did not like the implications of people having only Navratil's side of the story. There doesn't even have to be any kind of organized blackballing; no one reading that would want [to] work with the kind of troublemaker he described."

There doesn't even have to be any kind of organized blackballing; no one reading that would want work with the kind of troublemaker he described.

Yup. And that's why I disagree strongly with the commenter who said that this fiasco would end Telep's career.

I think instead it will end Verday's.

The ones who have the power in this situation have traditionally been the publishers. This is why writers band together into organizations like SFWA, or in solidarity like what happened here; one writer speaking out is going to get mauled, and readers will rarely realize or care what happened.

And even so, this article has made it such that even SFWA or the writers who closed ranks can't save her. Both are endangered, in fact, if they speak up too much about it, because more careers could be ruined by this—and unofficially so.

Your post is important, and I'm so afraid that people won't see it. But everybody in professional publishing will see Navratil's.

That's a pretty grim diagnosis of what's happening, but I don't know that it's inaccurate, either.

I do occasionally wonder if continuing to post about this is going to affect my future publishing career. Not that I would stop stating the facts as I discover them--no matter who those facts turn out to favor; that's fair. But you do wonder if you are actively deciding the course of your future every time you hit "post," and what future that will be. I feel like the publishing landscape is in flux right now (which I think also terrifies people). In the past, all of this would have come out much more slowly, and a Publisher's Weekly article in print would not have twenty comments at the bottom saying, "That is a demonstrable falsehood, anyone can see this for themselves at her blog, and you know it." Publishers have had more power than writers, and still do, but writers have more power than they used to. Writers can state their support of each other much more quickly and publicly than they could have twenty years ago, and anyone can put all the links on a single page and say, "Here are ten writers who are standing up for their beliefs, beliefs that may be your beliefs, many of their readers now know it, and no one can hide this fact." If no traditional publisher will touch their work, they can self-publish. It's not an ideal solution, but it's not silence, either. Writers have options they didn't have before, and ways to make readers aware of those options, and aware of why they are choosing them. So I'm not going to worry about it too much, because a publisher can't stop me from helping others speak, and a publisher can't blackball me from Lulu.com, if nothing else. And honestly, this new landscape should make a publisher think twice, too.

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It's very sobering to see what can go on behind the scenes before books appear in the bookstore.

As a side note, I'm really glad that you posted a copy of the contract that the authors signed for this particular anthology. I've been reading a lot of authors' blogs recently and at some point an author will post a variation of the "Even if I'm a bestselling author, I seriously don't make a lot of money writing. Seriously. I'm super serious." post and until I saw this contract, I didn't really grasp the reality of those statements. $250 for a single story? I make twice that in a single 40-hour week and there are some weeks where I do very, very little work (not because I'm lazy, sometimes my research lab gets held up by paperwork and I have no work to do until it gets sorted out).

It seems almost criminal to get paid so little for the many, many hours I know they spend perfecting their stories. And it's a kick in the teeth for a controversy like this to happen, where someone tells them to make a change that does nothing to enhance the story, but unravels all of their hard work.

Edited at 2011-04-06 07:28 pm (UTC)

Yeah. I made $10,000 for the non-North American publication (long story) of a nonfiction pop-culture book, and that was before my agent took 15% (standard). So that left me with--$8200, $8400? I forget the precise number. And this was for a project I spent months working on. I spent it on replacing my dead computer and grad school. This is why they tell you to write because you love it, not because you're counting on winning the Harry Potter lottery.

I hate this. I hate the way publishers and editors can control what gets seen by the public- like you said, they don't have as much power as they used to, but they still have Publishers Weekly backing them while Verday only has her blog, and her story still isn't going to be published. The power imbalances in this sytem drive me crazy. It shouldn't be like this. Most days I feel good about the direction publishing is going in- with Lulu and the OTW and fanfiction, authors are gaining more ground in what they can and can't do with their work, and that's a good thing- and then something like this happens, and I feel like we're backsliding into the old power structures.

Well, my glass-half-full attempt is, at least we're seeing the old power structures exposed. But then, I'm a Sagittarius.

And that's why I disagree strongly with the commenter who said that this fiasco would end Telep's career.

I think instead it will end Verday's.

Brb, adding Verday's books to my to-read pile. Because this is the only way I can think of remotely being helpful if Arachne's views are accurate. I'm hoping it won't actually end her career, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's what was being attempted here, esp. considering that article.

And as for your own possibly situation Cleo, at least you also have loyal readers. I've been here for years, and I'll be here for years to come, so I'll be here every time you've got a book out and I know I'm not the only one that can say this. Not that this makes everything okay, but at least there's that?

Aw, thanks. I think it'll be okay, if only because I have more options now than I would have ten years ago, and that in itself takes the teeth out of a threat. But I feel like the possibility of a threat to Jessica and the other writers (and, to a lesser, theoretical extent, me) needs to be raised so that people can recognize attempts to damage them.

I do occasionally wonder if continuing to post about this is going to affect my future publishing career...

Well I already fucked that up for myself so I'm good to go on this! To be honest, I have no problem posting on this. Running Press are screwing a lot of people over.

I hope this doesn't hurt Verday and the other writers. A lot of people have been criticising her for doing this, saying she was only able to do so because of her extreme clout as a massive bestselling author. But she's not. She's got 2 books out with another one on the way. She's not pulling Stephen King money here. She took a serious risk in blogging about this and in doing so she really showed a lot of the dark parts of publishing (seriously, $250 for a story? Phoebe North told me on GoodReads that, to the maximum word count, that works out at about 1 cent a word, while most magazines and such pay about 5 cents a word on average. Daylight robbery.) I wish Verday and the other writers nothing but the best and will support them all the way.

Well I already fucked that up for myself so I'm good to go on this!


Yeah, I was like, I don't know what "massive clout" you think any of these writers have with the publishers themselves, but not really, no. And I say that not to diminish their accomplishments, but to say, this is a really brave and risky thing they're doing.

I guess I'm replying more to support you. I've played in the corporate world playground and I'm all to familiar with the rules of the monkey bars and the who goes down the slide first. To sum it up, this situation is FUBAR.. Fuck Up Beyond All Recognition. I think it's been mentioned before but I'll mention it again and go a step beyond; the Anthology should be killed and all parties involved should put a new one together to mend the professional relationships.

But like I said, I'm replying to support you. You have always portrayed yourself as someone fair and neutral. You don't come to conclusions quickly and you back your conclusions up with fact. It is a tightrope to walk and you walk it very gracefully and adamantly. I have nothing to do with the publishing world but if it plays like other worlds do, which I suspect it does, the only effect you're making on your career is a good one.

:) Keep the faith Cleolinda.

Aw, thank you. And I hope so.

I'd echo people who are saying how good it is that your coverage has demonstrated not just the behaviour of the publisher, but the amounts of money at stake for authors. Despite everything, there's still a perception that being a published author means mega-bucks and therefore mega-influence; for most it's simply not true.

A couple of years ago, I read a statistic about how only 4% of authors here (UK) could afford to support themselves on their writing alone. And in most cases that's not 'support themselves and a Faberge egg habit'; it's 'pay the bills and keep the cat in Whiskas'. Writers like Verday are making genuinely risky choices based on important principles and that's to be applauded.

And honestly, this new landscape should make a publisher think twice, too.

This, a thousand times. Reputations are ruined online far, far faster than they are built.

I've learned a lot about the world or writing and publishing by reading Seanan McGuire's blog. She has a book on the NYT Best-Seller list, and that's one of three books she has coming out this year plus numerous short-story sales. And she still works a fulltime day job because she needs the health insurance.

Honestly? The strongest emotion I'm getting from all of this, apart from anger at editors and publishers, is a very strong desire to read Jessica Verday's story. I would love to read about two boys in love, and would go out of my way to purchase an anthology that did include her story.

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I think there's a bit of a "settling the Wild West" vibe in the publishing industry right now--a lot of things are possible, there are a lot of shootouts and dust-ups (see the very impassioned arguments about ebooks and rights and DRM), and a lot of new things are possible but not fully constructed yet. It's kind of scary at times, but I tend to see a lot of opportunity in it. More now, actually, than there might be once things have settled down, say, twenty years from now.

I bought Verday's books because of this. I had no idea who she was until this thing happened, and then when you originally linked to her entry, I poked around to see what else she'd written. At first glance, the Hollow stuff didn't seem like my kind of thing, so I moved on. But now with this? Fuck it. I will support those books. Maybe they won't be my cup of tea, but I'm happy to find out, and happy to pass them on to the library of the school I work at, or to my nieces, or to my friends whose cup of tea they are, or whatever. She will be read by at least one or two more people because of me. And though it's such a tiny thing, it's all I've got that I can actually do.

Edited at 2011-04-06 08:24 pm (UTC)

That's my thought as well - next payday I'm picking me up some books. They may go on to PaperbackSwap soon after, but I'll include a note about this fiasco and why her work should be supported.

And honestly, this new landscape should make a publisher think twice, too.

I genuinely believe that for every potential publisher who is all YOU TALKED ABOUT FIGHT CLUB, there will be another who decides you, Ms Verday, and the rest are exactly the sort of people they want to work with.

Yeah, I'd like to think so. And I think it really helps that she's remained professional through the whole thing, UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE I COULD NAME, because that way it's a moral stance rather than a hissyfit.

If anything good has come from this, it's that those of us who hadn't heard of these authors previously now have new books to check out. I just reserved both of Jessica Verdey's books from my library so... erm, yay silver lining?

I'm pleasantly panicked, because I already had a huge To Read pile, and now I've got even more writers I want to read.

The Fail is strong with this one.

(ETA: Er, sorry; that could be read different ways. "This one" means Christopher Navratil.)

Edited at 2011-04-06 09:29 pm (UTC)

I hope that your reporting these facts doesn't cause any problems for you. I can tell you that as a queer woman and a Birmingham native and an amateur writer and a human being in general, I appreciate every post you make, whether it's something as serious as this or something absolutely ridiculous. You always brighten my day. So thanks for all the fun things you have to say, and thanks for drawing others' attention to major things like this that deserve all our attention.

Aw, thank you. You do wonder a little, though.

Everything, everybody

Ms. Verday - I don't know if I have read anything of yours before, but I have located one of your two published books at my local library to check out tomorrow, and already have my name on the waiting list for the other. I will be doing similar actions in regards to the other writers who have pulled out of this anthology - those we have the names of.

I do not tend to be very vocal about some of my beliefs....

I ALWAYS act on my beliefs. I do not have tons of money, but there are products and writers I do not buy, I do not check out of the library, I do not see their movies, I do not support - as an action on these beliefs.

Reading what you, Cleo, have written here, as well as the comments above, I feel a huge wave of emotional support - for the bloggers and for the writers supporting the issues involved here: intolerance of intolerance, free speech, calling shenanigans when appropriate, the courage of writers to write under poverty conditions, the courage of writers to write stories which reflect the truth of the world as they see it (why else write?) or as they wish to see it, and....did I mention free speech?

I understand making bad decisions, like many made by this publisher, by publishing house, by this editor. We are all human.

I do not tolerate the "pull the wool over peoples' eyes" routine, however.

Where is that icon with Madaline Kahn in Clue when I need it?

I've been debating on whether or not to comment on this again publicly. But I will say that while yes, the idea of some sort of backlash is scary, my agent and my editor at Del Rey--along with *everyone* else at Del Rey, who have always been incredibly supportive of me--are also being very, very supportive of me in this. They are amazing people, and I'm lucky to work with and know them.

My Downside series may well die; few of us in this business have guarantees of anything and quite frankly my numbers in the US aren't that impressive. We are at this moment coming up with some new ideas to promote the series, because as it stands...yeah. Lots of great reviews, but not so much with the sales. That's the way it goes. I'm not giving up on it. And if I can be either a successful hypocrite or a stand-up woman, I will stand up, because otherwise that success only means I managed to crush and use and exploit a lot of people on the way. That's not the person I am or want to be. My Downside books mean something, as I said in my blog post, something about each and every person having value and worth and deserving a chance or whatever happiness they can find in this world, and not being judged for who they are or because they've made bad choices or whatever else. That's an important message to me, and one I've taken a lot of crap for, to be honest. If I hide from this I'm negating it.

I really, really appreciate Jessica Verday's concerns and the concerns of everyone else, speaking as someone who put the "small" in "small potatoes." And I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that there was an attempt made to silence her or that the PW article was a deliberate attempt to do so. But I believe most people in publishing in general are great people, and that this won't become a "somebody's a troublemaker" sort of situation.

I have to believe that, honestly, because otherwise I'm sunk. :-)

Your comment made me look up your books, they totally seem like they're up my alley, and they have now been added to my To Be Bought pile.

The one good thing about this controversy is that I've discovered a lot more awesome writers through it.