The chilling case of Ellora’s Cave.
The biggest news in romance this week — and probably in the coming weeks — is publisher Ellora’s Cave’s defamation suit against Jane Litte from Dear Author, which Jane plans to fight. Last month, Jane published a piece on Dear Author that looks into allegations that Ellora’s Cave is facing financial problems (The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave).
In a stunning coincidence, the biggest news in Australian journalism this week is the passing of national security laws that bring severe penalties for journalists and whistleblower who disclose information relating to intelligence operations.
What do these two events have in common? you’re probably asking. Well, they’re both about curtailing the ability to expose potentially questionable practices to public scrutiny.
You know that saying about bad things happening when good people do nothing? That happens when there’s no mechanism to protect people against retribution when they stand up and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. When the risk of speaking out and exposing wrongdoing (actual or potential) is stacked against the whistleblower, it creates a situation where undesirable behaviour can flourish.
We’ve been hearing rumours about Ellora’s Cave for a while now. I generally don’t post these kinds of rumours because I just don’t have the same sources as the bigger bloggers, including Jane, nor the contacts to independently verify what I hear. But I’ve heard them from people online and offline. I’ve heard them from people I trust as having a pretty good sense of the industry. So when I read Jane’s piece on Dear Author, I wasn’t surprised by the content so much as the sense that authors were afraid to speak out.
Authors who have a beef with Jane or Dear Author might well be feeling some glee right about now. Even putting aside the pettiness of such an attitude, this is the wrong fight for authors to pick against bloggers.
Intimidation can be a very subtle thing. Generally speaking, most authors aren’t in a strong bargaining position pretty much anywhere in the book supply chain. It’s ironic and sad that the people who create the stories we love have so little power in the publishing world, but nothing I’ve heard has convinced me it works otherwise. The most successful authors who can dictate their terms are few and far between, and their experiences can’t be translated by other authors to recreate the same success.
So back to intimidation. I’m not an author, but even as a reader I can imagine the many forms this can take for an author. What Jane did was to provide a voice for Ellora’s Cave authors who didn’t feel safe voicing their concerns publicly. Whatever else you might think of Dear Author’s work or Jane personally, there is no delight to be had in a publishing company suing a blogger who is acting on behalf of whistleblowers (presumably authors and editors) to try and uncover facts that are not forthcoming from the company.
I’ve seen authors seemingly supporting Ellora’s Cave — I’m assuming because of the disruption the lawsuit will cause Jane. This horrifies me, because even if you don’t like Jane or Dear Author, the fact that a publisher is suing a blogger for investigating author claims of dodgy business practices has such huge implications for authors that I can’t understand how any author could see this as a good thing.
I’ve seen Ellora’s Cave authors whingeing about the effect this will have on their book sales. To which I say: Grow up. This is not about you. This is about Ellora’s Cave authors (perhaps not you personally, but your colleagues) who feel unable to seek redress for fear of retribution. This is about a company that some readers no longer trust to do the right thing for authors (perhaps not you personally, but your colleagues). This is about bloggers pushing back against intimidation to show solidarity with someone who doesn’t deserve the financial and emotional stress of having to defend her work of trying to give a voice to authors who had none.
Jane might have offended your sensibilities by not loving your precious book. Jane might have posted an opinion bitterly opposed to yours. Jane might have banned you from her blog, or replied abruptly to your comment, or blocked you on Twitter, or called your fictional hero abusive, or highlighted the weaknesses in your prose, or made fun of your euphemisms.
But we’re all adults here. When someone does the right thing to protect people who feel helpless, the right thing to do is to throw our support behind those asking for our assistance.
And if you can’t do that, then for god’s sake step out of the way so others can get on with doing the right thing, and stop making it all about you.
Background, reactions and implications for authors, bloggers and the general state of wtfery on the internet
Twitter hashtag: #notchilled (in response to Courtney Milan’s post, On limited purpose public figures #notchilled)
Ellora’s Cave author exodus support thread by DS Moen
Chilling effects by Sunita, VacuousMinx
Ellora’s Cave Sues Dear Author: Hello Streisand Effect by Sarah Wendell, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Update on Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author defamation suit by Nate, The Digital Reader
Alert: Trouble at Ellora’s Cave by Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware
Ellora’s Cave, Dear Author, the Streisand Effect and freedom of speech by AztecLady, Her Hands, My Hands
Little Miss Crabby Pants is (almost) speechless by Wendy, The misadventures of super librarian
The WTFckery report: Ellora’s Cave suing Dear Author blog for defamation. Why book bloggers should be worried by KT Grant, Babbling about books, and more!
Our reply to Ellora’s Cave’s recent actions by The Book Pushers
Echoing the Streisand effect by Kaetrin, Kaetrin’s Musings
And there are links within these links, and those are worth clicking on, too.
(For the record, in case it’s not clear in my post, I admire Jane’s contribution to the romance community and support her decision to fight the lawsuit. She’s basically taking one for the team on this, and I hope she wins hard.)