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.
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.