27 August 2009

Bring the professionalism back into romance!

For years, romance writers have been given a bad name as nothing more than a bunch of backbiting ninnies. I'd thought we'd grown past this, despite the one-upmanship games we see in RWA and other communities. You know the ones: erotic writers are shunned by non-erotic, indie-published are put down by some (thankfully not a majority of) NY authors, and so forth. But even that doesn't hold a candle to the newest travesty in romance publishing.

With the rise of the internet, came the internet tabloids, more or less. They go beyond lampooning or roasting authors into vicious, unwarranted, and very subjective personal attacks. And some people flock to it, as mob mentalities always will.

What is distressing... What causes the romance industry yet one more huge black eye is the number of romance authors taking part in the whole thing.

I have nothing against honest review. I have nothing against constructive criticism. I do reviews and give such criticism, tempered with a fair evaluation of what strengths an author has. I've never found (no matter how badly constructed a book was) a book without any redeeming qualities.

And no matter how much I dislike or disagree with an author personally, I would never condone the sort of attacks these blogs and lists engage in on one I owned. Which brings me to the point of this post....

If you agree... If you feel that this sort of behavior should be heartily discouraged, not just for the personal stress and damage it does, but also because it's completely unprofessional and perpetuates the rumors of the completely backbiting biddies of romance publishing, consider blogging about it and/or placing the following logo on your site or blog!


Keta Diablo said...

Very nicely said, Brenna. I'm sure, like me, you don't personally "dislike" people because they attend the verbal excoriation of authors on a public forum, but wish to state your disapproval of the concept in whole.

Authors should stick by and support one another, not disparage and malign them simply to get their "kicks."

Romfail and RR Theatre have gone way beyond acceptable limits of reviewing or critiqing an author's works.

Thank you for showing your support against a venue that delivers a greivous and offensive blow to the publishing industry in its entirety.

Enough is enough,

Keta Diablo

you find my emblem indicating my disgust over romfail and DA at The Stuff of Myth and Men, http://thestuffofmythandmen.blogspot.com

BrennaLyons said...

Of course, I don't hate people who go to these places...readers or authors. I do think authors engaging in this is a fast track to giving the industry a very bad name...or perpetuating an old one.

Moreover, I'm sure most authors wouldn't appreciate being personally maligned in a public forum, so doing it to others is in extremely poor form. Readers don't have a vested interest in it, because there is no turnabout in the mix.

Look at it like you do most rules of the game. If someone DOES care, you've just cut your throat with them. If someone doesn't, it doesn't matter. Choose what you do carefully.


Chloe Waits said...

Well put Brenna

I am more interested in writers supporting each other than tearing each other down. Writing is a tough gig many times, and can be a lonely profession as we sit in front of our computers trying to churn out work.

Hopefully that same quality of anonymity does not give people license to abuse others for sport or shock value.

I am not actually familiar with any of the sites skewering writers, but I am dismayed to hear about them...

Imp said...

#romfail always struck me as an extreme example of shooting oneself in the foot. In the quest to improve the quality of the genre, one makes a public spectacle of the genre's failures. Is it any wonder romance gets little respect from the broader community of readers? What makes news isn't the quality stuff. No, instead a spotlight is shone on embarrassing examples. Brilliant.

I won't participate in such negativity. Want change? Lead by example. Take the high road. Celebrate excellence, and set the bar HIGH.

BrennaLyons said...

Thanks for chiming in, ladies. And Alessia...BRILLIANT way to describe it.


Kate said...

I know I don't enjoy it when someone rips one of my books apart in public. A bad review makes me reach for the chocolate.

But even though I wouldn't want to watch the dismemberment, if a popular site ripped into one of my books, I'd ultimately fine (once I'd munched the chocolate and written some despairing emails to my friends) No, I'd be better than fine. I know it would bring more attention, so great! yay! Go for it. Please! Thank you and here's a copy of my backlist for your snarky pleasure.

I don't think the genre suffers because of these attacks. In fact I think it ultimately helps.

There's really only one thing that kills off a particular type of book -- Lack of attention which leads to a loss of sales. Look at traditional regency. Or, rather,never mind. Good luck finding a trad regency in the local bookshop.

Does that subgenre suffer because people mock it? Nope--one reason only: people stopped buying it.

Maybe if SBTB or DA or twitterites went after trad regency, people would pick up those books again out of curiousity. And some of us would stay on for the pleasure of it.

As for the argument that it's unprofessional to pay attention to the snark. We've all read books we consider crappy, derivative, full of cliches and editing errors and it doesn't help the genre to pretend they don't exist.

Maybe we don't have to join the attack, but if those books exist someone else will notice -- and attack. The pile-on is inevitable in any genre, scifi, mystery. Anywhere.

As long as the pile-on subject is a book and not the writer, I don't think it's unprofessional. A book is a product and when it's out in the public world, it's fair game for any consumer--even other writers.

Commenters who mix up the two things, a writer and her book, and that's purely ugly. That's unprofessional. It's also far worse than bad writing.

Still I don't think that kind of garbage harms the genre. It's too personal. The only thing poison truly hurts the person writing it.

BrennaLyons said...


I appreciate you writing, but I disagree.

Some of these sites and groups do bash the authors personally...and the publishers, sometimes a publisher skewered on the basis of a single book with them that was substandard, which happens in both indie and NY, so no one should be throwing stones. They harass the authors. They hound them, even after death. They attack the authors on a personal level. You're right...that's unprofessional, and both authors and readers do it.

Readers...well, it's not so much unprofessional, in their cases. After all, they aren't industry professionals, are they?

And, while it may not hurt sales of books, it DOES hurt how romance authors and publishers are treated in the industry. Try watching the snarl and snark a romance or erom author or publisher gets from someone in the straight genres, then tell me it's not destructive.

I'm not saying to pretend bad books don't exist. I'm saying a couple of things, however.

1. Bad books are a subjective matter. What I think is a decent book with a few weak points, someone else will think is the worst thing since the great flood.
2. You can give a constructive review that handles both good and bad in a book without getting snarky and personal about it.

We'd all look a heck of a lot more professional if people did that.


Jianne Carlo said...

I'm with you on this one, Brenna.

When established authors join in this kind of back-biting, adolescent-baiting, behavior they tarnish their own reputation.

I go by the saying, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all."

Sigh, I sure wish sublety and good manners would make a rebound. We sorely need both.


Jianne Carlo

Anonymous said...

Many of the blogs that cater to such behavior have authors who go there on a daily basis. I had readers tell me about one blog that tears authors and publishers apart with glee. The few times I surfed over there, I was disheartened by the malice and pure spite some of the authors used to put down their fellow authors. It made me wonder if they had such low self-esteem that they needed to tear someone down to build themselves up. The problem with that is what goes around, comes around. For every negative word you say about someone else, ten negative words are said about you.

Regina Carlysle said...

Great post and I couldn't have said it better, that's for sure. Authors should stick together, not go on the attack just because the 'mob' is stirred up and it looks like a fun thing to do. Over the years I've read plenty of books that I wouldn't recommend but never have I gone out of my way to publicly trash the author. And getting into PERSONALITIES??? Please, this isn't middle school.

I've visited a number of blogs over the past year or so that seem to delight in trashing others. Not only their books but personal stuff. I don't go back. Life is too damn short for this sort of sniping.

Jess said...

The issue for me is not criticism--or snark for that matter. I have noticed--since I and a few others spoke out about this--that people are hiding behind justified criticism or snark. I would have no issue with romfail if that was all it is. But what is occurring is not criticism or even snark.

I like snark. I also believe that it is important to not take ourselves seriously.

There is a malicious mob mentality that goes along with romfail. There is no snark or humour involved.

This is my view as someone who is well versed in how to give reviews (academia) and person criticism (opera student). I am not a fiction writer and am not in this industry. I am, however, a voracious reader.

This practice is so far over the line.

I would have absolutely no complaints if the writers who participate hand over their work to be torn to shreds. Some have claimed they would but I somehow very much doubt the veracity of their claims.

I am all for authors being reviewers. I do not advocate censorship. I think everyone has a right to their opinion. But what you might like, I may not. Some of us have been charged by the romfail participants as being "haters" or wanting to censor people and, in reality, nothing is further from the truth.

I just ask that people be polite. Tearing apart someone's work in a public forum is akin to screaming at a chef in a restaurant because your meal was not seasoned enough.

I find it tacky that it is done in such a public forum. If you really must partake of such a juvenile, highschool venture--get a private chat or bbs.

Back to my corner I go. ;)

BrennaLyons said...

You know, talking about this on a list, I realized there is an alternative. If the authors just used a pseudonym for their activities, why would I care? I wouldn't and shouldn't.

I may not LIKE the whole idea of mocking authors (which one romfail poster specifically said she was there to do), but it's not unprofessional for a reader to do so. It's when authors present themselves AS authors that they cause this problem, IMO.

So, how's this for center ground? Just use a pseudo when you do these things. Then you're not being unprofessional and adversely affecting the whole industry, in the process.


Gerri Bowen said...

Negative reviews, those sincerely written, are one thing we all can live with. When the negativity goes personal, no one wins. It's just negative and serves no purpose.

Zetta Brown said...

I'm slow and I live under a rock. I have no idea what #romfail is and, from what I'm seeing, I don't want to know. It doesn't sound like the type of behavior or crowd I'd like to hang with.

Have your opinions, voice your opinions, agree or disagree, but I've never liked to witness public humiliation.

That's why I don't watch "reality" TV or any show that has so-called judges or evictions ;)

Kate said...

back again to say, yeah, you're right. It's probably not a good idea for an author to get her name caught up in heavy-duty snarking of other authors.

But that good idea thing only applies to that author and her career--I still don't think the whole industry suffers.

I also think that avoiding those sites and activities is the best response (for the blood pressure and the career) if you hate snark.

Any anti-snark campaign is bound to fail because you'll be going up against people who are usually pretty funny and sarcastic. Ever see Thank You for Smoking? The scenes with the plodding, sincere bureacrat going up against the professional lobbiest? Kind of like that.

Rowena Cherry said...


Thank you for raising this discussion. You are one of the most thoughtful, well informed, responsible people I am honored to know, and I love your blog.

However, I don't want to give romfail any sort of publicity, even in a very small way, so I shall resist the temptation to Tweet this page of your blog.

All the best,