I honestly didn’t realize how long I’d been in the world of self-publishing until recently. I hadn’t realized exactly how much craziness I’ve witnessed, or what I thought I’d missed during my absence the last few years. But, here we are again. The fight against sock puppets, book stuffing, and scams has come flooding back. It’s the same old game, just with better graphics.
When I first joined the community towards the end of 2012, all of this craziness seemed so new and intense. I worked with authors and bloggers, and posted about everything from piracy, to bullying, and everything else that felt so immediate at the time.
In February of 2013, I have my first exposure to an author that took bad reviews as bullying and I blogged about it here. That author went on to create 2 sock puppet accounts using the exact same email username just on different platforms (Gmail and Yahoo) and proceeded to accuse me of making fun of the author in question. You can read the whole thing in the comments section of that post. Long story short, she ended up emailing me on my personal, private email rather than my author email and it was a whole thing.
At the end of March of that same year, I talked about people signing up to beta read an author’s book, only to come back to the author and tell them that the book was unreadable. However, if the author was willing to pay the beta reader to edit the book, the beta reader would leave a 5 star review on Amazon. That post is here. Because I spoke out, the beta reader in question (who read my book but hadn’t yet propositioned me) gave me a 1 star review and the author friend that was approached a 3 star review, but the text of said review made no sense. I can show you those reviews if you ask, but it’s 5 year old news at this point. Of course, I did make a follow up post in 2014 about how to handle scammers in those situation.
I’ve seen authors get upset about the success of people like J.K. Rowling, authors stalking actual bully reviewers, authors telling readers the “correct” way to review books (and the backlash that typically ensues in that situation), the book stuffing scam that caused the KU changes that are the center of the current problem, and the list goes on and on.
The reason I’m posting my “credits” is because the sad fact of the matter is that I’ve seen it all. People get riled up over a situation only to let it die away when it’s no longer interesting, or progressing. Accusations of sock puppetry fly around (and I’m not innocent from pointing at people that are very obviously operating those accounts), but ultimately they die.
Enter into the ring Suzan Tisdale. She is the self-publishing author who writes Scottish historical romance novels, along with a pen name that publishes romance novels of the more erotic variety. Through her charismatic coverage of #cockygate, Suzan has garnered a following of fellow authors and readers who are tired of the system gaming, review scamming, and reader trickery. And just like in many situations before, because Suzan has garnered such an audience, there are people that are trying to “prove” that she is scamming, herself.
While I don’t necessarily agree with absolutely everything Suzan says, and I think that there are some times that she doesn’t gather all of the information she needs before she makes a post or does a live video, she has a charm that continues to bring focus to the problems that we as self-published authors face and will readily correct herself if she does share information that isn’t correct in the moment. I think one thing that we haven’t had before in these situations is someone like Suzan that can hold an audience’s attention, approach things from a stern yet understanding place, and knows how to capitalize on her platform.
Suzan first gained attention due to her coverage of #cockygate. Her audience appreciated the even handed way she spoke directly to Faleena. Of course, Faleena spiraled, #cockygate blew up, but Suzan has not stopped leading the charge against the wrongs that have plagued the self-publishing community.
Because there are people standing up for what’s right, the people that are being called out decided to strike back. Since the theme of this post is history repeating itself, wouldn’t you know that Suzan and other authors standing up for these scammers are being “called out” as it were. Twitter sock accounts are springing up all over the place, attempting to call these authors “scammers” themselves, and accusing them of starting witch hunts.
Can I just point out that I absolutely despise use of the phrase “witch hunt” in situations like this. It’s not a witch hunt. No one is going to die. The people getting called out for scamming are losing their scam accounts. As far as I’m aware there has been no doxing of anyone’s information, no one has been crushed to death, hung, drowned, burned or any other form of torture that the victims of the actual witch hunts had to go through.
Anyway, I do hope that there is change for the better, and history does not repeat itself. I hope that we see the changes that are so desperately needed in the self-publishing world, and I hope that we continue to see the voices of those people fighting for us getting louder.
Keep on fighting!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of #cockygate. Even people outside the writing community are hearing about it thanks to coverage from the New York Daily News (even though it was biased, rude, and full on inaccuracies), Slate, Vox, and so many other outlets.
In case you did actually miss it, here is the basic summary: Self-published author, Faleena Hopkins, under her production company Hop Hop Productions filed 3 separate trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. 2 of those trademarked the word “cocky”, and the third trademarking “Cocker Brothers.” Many have theorized that this is in anticipation of an upcoming film that Ms. Hopkins is directing. What started as a slow build of tension and anger due to Ms. Hopkins deciding to contact other self-published authors using the word “cocky” in their book title saying they no longer had right to use the word. She even went as far as to contact Amazon, which resulted in tons of books and reviews using the word “cocky” in their title or review. The shit hit the fan after a 90 minute Facebook Live session Ms. Hopkins decided was a good idea chastising everyone that voiced their opposition to her actions. She claims that she had been drinking whiskey prior to the stream, which many people theorized was the case based on her circular speech and lack of reasoning.
For a more in depth review of the whole situation, I recommend checking out those articles and watching some of the Youtube responses from fellow authors, even a few that knew her and considered her a colleague before this whole situation. I don’t want to take up too much time rehashing all of it.
Thanks to amazing coverage from Euna Park on Twitter, there are now screen caps and updates to the situation, although I’m only going to share the one that I feel is the most prevalent to the situation:
While Ms. Hopkins has deleted her author Facebook page, as well as her Instagram, and stated that she is getting off of social media to work on her latest book (which will hastily be released in a month), it’s fairly obvious that she is waiting and hoping for the whole situation to blow over. Of course, that’s pure speculation, but given the current situation and her propensity to pass the blame on to others and view herself as the innocent victim of the situation, it’s most likely not too far off from the truth.
I have to say that while this situation has been the most ridiculous and troubling that the self-publishing world has seen in quite some time, I am happy to see that this has not fallen to the wayside. Like so many horrible situations before, this is getting the focus it deserves.
What do you think? Do you have anything to add to the situation? Leave a comment below!
I recently read a blog post by Tahlia Newland entitled “Opinion: The Core Problem with Self-Publishing is Quality Assurance.” The post was well thought out, actually, and there was a lot that I agreed with her about. However, my one big issue was her solution: having self-published authors submit their work to big publishing houses for their opinions before publishing to determine whether the book is “good enough.”
Ms. Newland suggests that every self-publishing author submit their book to publishers and await feed back before deciding whether to publish or not. Her reasoning is that 10% of books submitted to publishers were well written, but not good enough for the publisher to sell, so if you’re lucky enough to have your book fall under that category, then you “deserve” to self-publish. I have a problem with that.
When did self-publishing become about who deserves to be out on the market and who doesn’t? I mean, let’s take a look at E.L. James. Her books are laughably terrible, poorly constructed, and worse than a majority of what is on the self-publishing market. However, E.L. James has become an international best seller and she was deemed good enough to fall in to the 5% of authors worthy of being picked up by a publisher. Just looking at her, do we really want to allow the traditional publishing houses to dictate the self-publishing market? Are their opinions really gospel? Hell no.
There are tons and tons of self-publishing authors who probably shouldn’t be releasing their material. First drafts and hack jobs that certainly need to be revised are more than common. But who are we to tell these people to stop doing what they love? Is crap work saturating the market? Sure! But it is not my place, it is not anyone’s place, to tell these people to stop. There are a few exceptions to this rule (hate books being towards the top of that list), but there is not a self-publishing police, nor should there be.
My friend Tricia always says that regardless of how crappy a book is, we should respect the fact that that author had the courage to share a part of their inner being with the world. Being mentally prepared to take people’s negative opinions and get over the fear of being a failure takes a lot of moxie that many people don’t have. They fear rejection. We all do. But when you are self-publishing, you’re saying to the world that you don’t accept that fear. That’s really something.
I have found several rotten books in the self-publish bunch, and that sucks, but if we continue to further the “all self-published books are terrible” ideal, we are not doing ourselves any favors. By relying on the opinions of traditional publishing houses, we are telling all of those people that think self-publishing is a joke that they’re right. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to validate an opinion like that.