Alliteration! 🙃 Okay, but seriously, I strongly feel that this needs to be addressed.
The publishing community—also known as the lit community—is like a small town. There are two major neighborhoods: the trad suburbs and the indie village. Everyone knows everyone, and you’re often as strong as your acquaintances. So I can understand why some townspeople might feel as if they’re better off not standing up to the bullying selectmen and mayors. But when those prominent figures start vandalizing buildings on Main Street, there are only so many times you can scrub the bricks clean.
I think we’ve seen enough episodes of Authors Behaving Badly. As public figures—yes, even those of us who are prawny and barely make coffee money off our writing—we ought to hold ourselves to certain standards. Siccing our Twitter followers on someone who had a differing opinion or belittling another author’s reading comprehension on a public message board falls miles short of that. As writers, you’d think we would understand the weight of our words and actions.
Yet it happens over and over.
Occasionally, it spawns a series of Twitter threads and blog posts calling out the bad behavior and attempting to correct it. Too often, though, it goes completely ignored—especially if there isn’t a group to support us and back us up. We continue our friendships and business arrangements with authors who repeatedly let their tongues go hurtling out of the yard.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to be associated with someone who purposely walks all over other people.
Everyone is entitled to a bad day. Sometimes our words get jumbled and what we thought sounded right and correctly conveyed our feelings was simply hurtful. We apologize and we move on. We are forgiven and we learn from our mistakes. But I’m not talking about those people.
I’m dismayed and nauseated when I see respectful authors buddying up with authors who have a history of attacking readers and bloggers. My reputation—my business’s brand—is much more valuable to me than thousands of dollars in royalties. I’d rather stay prawny than know I got to the NYT bestseller list because I turned the other cheek while friends were steamrolled. I’ve put my foot down and walked away from seemingly amazing opportunities because I couldn’t stomach the Napoleon-esque, demeaning behavior.
I want more of us to do these things.
What one of us does and says reflects on all of us. Even though it sometimes may seem like everyone out there is an author, we’re actually a very small community. While I’m not arrogant enough to think that we should have a blacklist along the lines of Writer Beware, I do believe more of us should have a little more pride and integrity in our little town.
This shouldn’t be a witch hunt; we’re no better if we start publicly outing people and burning them at the Twitter stake. But maybe if, while we’re strolling down Main Street, we see someone pull out that graffiti can, we can say,
“I see you, I disapprove of your actions, and I will not work with you.”