An Apology to Self-Publishers

About a week ago an author named Kathleen Hale wrote an article in the Guardian about how she reacted to a bad review by an anonymous book reviewer by trying to track down the reviewer in real life. It was stalking, plain and simple: there’s no other way to describe it, and there’s no reason it should be described any other way.

In her article, she sort-of sheepishly admits to “going too far” but she also doesn’t really accept any responsibility for what she did. She writes it off as simply getting too obsessed, rather than realizing that what she did was actually stalk another human being because she didn’t like the book review she got.

What’s worse is that there are authors out there who defended the article and the author for writing it.

This is the point where the phrase but this is really a discussion about the ethics of journalism should starts looping through your head, but that’s worthy of an article of its own.

Today I learned about the #HaleNo tag and the #bloggerblackout tag. #HaleNo is pretty self-explanatory: basically people are using the tag to show that they do not approve of Ms. Hale’s actions. #bloggerblackout is a protest organized by book bloggers – at it’s most basic, those sites participating will not review any books through the 27th in protest of Hale’s actions. Some have extended that into November.

I find it hard to disagree with the ideas behind either tag, and as I was reading this I was reminded of an article I wrote in 2012 that dealt with a successful author stalking a book reviewer because he didn’t like his reviews. I was fond of the article, and I thought it suitably displayed my outrage over the practice, so I linked to it:

And then I wandered off, content that I had put in my two cents without having to write anything new. Recycle and save. Efficiency in action.

Here’s the problem: my article focuses specifically on self-publishers and how these actions affect other self-publishers. If one were to read my article in the context of #HaleNo, one might reasonably conclude that Ms. Hale was also a self-publisher.

She isn’t. She’s a traditionally-published author through HarperCollins.

The broad strokes of my 2012 article still hold true—stalking people online, and harassing people for expressing views you dislike, all of that is wrong, wrong, wrong. And too many authors seem all to eager to prove to the world that we are all bug-fuck crazy, especially when they are put under any kind of pressure at all. But the specifics of my old article focused on self-publishing, and that’s simply not fair to self-publishers in this context. This isn’t an example of Yet Another Self-Published Author Not Being Able To Act Like A Professional. This is, instead, a pretty decent argument that self-published authors don’t have a monopoly on Doing Terrible Things In Public.

So I’d to apologize to my brethren in the self-publishing world for airing out old scorn and throwing it into the ring one more time. This isn’t a self-publishing problem. This is an all-publishing problem.

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