The short of this: you have no idea what your potential agents, publishers, and readers like (or who they represent). That means that when you insult other writers, you may also be alienating the people who would have made your career.
The long of this: back in May, Glamour magazine published an article on romance queenpin Danielle Steel.
The article gives an answer to the question posed in the headline. I get that this is a weird thing to clarify — especially since the answer is right there in the image — but this will become important later in the saga.
This was posted in one of my FB writers’ groups along with a comment about how it’s a bit of a cautionary tale. Success is great, but is it worth 20 hour work days? An interesting article, a nice conversation-starting prompt. How much are you willing to sacrifice for success?
One of the replies was this:
Fun fact: the romance genre is shit on incessantly. I could make a whole feminist rant out of this, but now’s not the time. You know it’s true. We’re used to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. Also, this ‘trash’, as Meghan H so eloquently describes it, is a goddamn THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR EMPIRE ESTABLISHED OVER 50 YEARS. This isn’t some viral one hit wonder. Danielle Steel busted her ass to get to this point.
Meghan H got a lot of flack for this comment. Everyone was reasonable, simply pointing out that her criticism was unwarranted and how inappropriate it is to call someone’s life work ‘trash’. I tried to find a truly rude comment to cite as a reason why Meghan H escalated the whole thing, but there wasn’t one. I probably had the most negative response, simply because I’m blunt by nature. It wasn’t rude, per se, just a teaching point.
Also, to the surprise of no one, my teaching point failed. Here’s a snippet of how things played out.
I’m the cat icon (that’s Abbazaba, my chonky boi). I bowed out of the discussion at this response from Meghan. Remember when I pointed out that even though the headline is a question, it’s answered in both the article AND in the OP’s comment? “OP asked a question, and I expressed an answer.” Meghan is either a fucking idiot who doesn’t understand how links on FB or magazine articles in general work, or she thinks the rest of us are fucking idiots who…just magically came up with the ’20 hours’ reference without having seen anything beyond the question? I genuinely have no idea how she thought this defense would pan out in her favor. If you do, please let me know in comments. Seriously.
An admin dressed her down politely for her attitude. Other people dressed her down — mostly politely, although one person did ask for a sample of her writing to compare to Steel’s. She ultimately responded with a swan song I WILL NOT give her the time of day to post here, but she said we’re all mean and romance is garbage, and at one point she compared lit fic to defecation.
You thought she was a lit fic writer, didn’t you? Nope. Fantasy. LOL. A fantasy writer calling romance ‘trash’ is like a sausage calling a hot dog ‘trash’.
I know this seems like I’m stretching out some ridiculous internet beef, but this is going somewhere.
DON’T TRASH OTHER WRITERS. ESPECIALLY THE FAMOUS ONES.
It’s been years since I pursued traditional publishing, but one snippet of advice has always stuck with me. I wish I could remember which agent it was who said it so I could acknowledge them, but only their advice remains. Basically, your social media presence is everything these days. Everything you tweet, everything you blog, everything you insta, even FB isn’t snoop-proof. If you’re thinking most agents and publishers won’t snoop into your personal accounts, you’re wrong. They already have to in case you’re lying about your previous publication history. We’re also having major issues with cultural sensitivity that are causing major deals to be pulled. Agents NEED your social media to make sure you’re not posting racist shit.
Or shit like this. When I read this advice about keeping your social media squeaky clean, it was in the height of 50 Shades of Grey fervor. The first book alone sold well over 100 million copies, put erotic romance into mainstream, and all anyone could do online was trash it. This is the perfect setting for this advice, because while all these authors were thinking they were cool for acting like they were better than 50SOG, they were alienating a gigantic new demographic of readers, which made them less desirable to agents — especially if those agents were connected to Vintage Books, who published 50SOG. Why would Vintage Books want to pick up someone trying to deter readers from buying their cash cow?
Oh, and if you’ve never heard of Vintage Books, that’s because they’re an imprint of Random House. Who is also Penguin. Who also publishes Danielle Steel.
Look, I’m not saying that one shitty comment about romance in a private writers’ group on Facebook is going to get you perma-banned from Penguin Random House. But it’s a start. Just last month we saw an author’s book deal get pulled at the last second because she bitched on Twitter about a transit employee eating their breakfast on a train. It was an admittedly shitty thing to do — you know, like trashing the romance genre — but her career has been completely wrecked for it.
Also, I get this isn’t critical, but even if this comment doesn’t go anywhere, it went to those of us who saw it. This is a writers’ help group. That means there are now some writers who aren’t going to help her. And believe it or not, even trash peddlers can be helpful. I’m an amazing beta reader. And, hey! I beta fantasy.
Not Meghan H’s, though. Fuck that bitch. She just lost a connection.