Monday, 15 February 2010

Persistence Or Desperation?

In the relatively short life of this blog (I began blogging in June 2008), I've told just three people that they are not welcome here.

One was a writer who argued with me about YouWriteOn's vanity-publishing scheme. I didn't object to his arguing: we are all entitled to express our own opinions. But I did object to his sneering and insults, and to his somewhat abstract leaps of logic, and they led to me telling him to leave.

Another was a writer who repeatedly used to this blog as a forum in which to insult and libel others. I deleted his comments and warned him that I would delete anything else that he contributed. He has now mostly shut up, although he does still try his luck from time to time (without any success, I’m glad to say).

The third was a writer who asked me for help in finding an agent or a publisher. A quick look at her work confirmed that she was nowhere near ready for publication; and the publishers who had asked to see more of her work were both of the pay-to-play variety. When I advised her to revise more, and avoid those publishers, she sent me several angry emails and wrote a couple of long blog posts about how rude and discouraging I had been; and when I tried to reply to her blog-posts, she deleted my comments.

She made potentially libellous comments about me on a few other blogs; she visited the blogs of bannee number two and tried to poke him into action again; and she emailed friends of mine, warning them against me.

A couple of months later she emailed me, asking for advice on a couple more (you've guessed it) vanity presses; and ended with a postscript which explained how she had forgiven me for my rudeness towards her.

I ignored her email and a few days later she emailed me again only her tone was a little less friendly. I continued to ignore her; she continued to email me every few days, becoming ruder each time.

When her e-mails finally became threatening I replied. I told her I wouldn't respond to any more of them, and that I didn't want to hear from her ever again, and that was pretty much it. Until yesterday. Guess who I had an e-mail from?

Hello, Jane, remember me? It's your old friend [name withheld] here, wondering why I haven't heard from you. The good news is that I got a publisher interested in publishing my book. The printing is going to cost me £2,750 but I think my writing is worth investing in. What do you think?
She's not going to like my reply.

58 comments:

Marshall Buckley said...

Argh! Why do some people never learn?

With all the information out there (including this blog, obviously) it's so easy to find a simple mantra when it comes to publishing/being published:
If anyone asks you to pay *anything*, they're not a real publisher.

At least, I'm pretty sure I've got that right.

It's not rocket-science, is it?

lexcade said...

last i checked it wasn't rocket science. some people are overzealous, some are know-it-alls. she happens to be both.

i'm sorry you have to deal with people like that, jane. i hope this next round sets her straight and keeps her from harassing you...

Keren David said...

This would be almost funny if it wasn't so obnoxious.

DanielB said...

Some people will just never get it no matter how hard you try to help them.

DOT said...

At £2,750, they obviously don't value her writing. I would advise her to pay ten times that sum to get published and then she will know her work is of the highest quality.

Megan said...

Oh God Jane!

Some people never learn.

If the writing was truly worth it, they'd be paying *you* the $2000, or however much it was!

TOM J VOWLER said...

Wish my blog was so popular that I could ban folk ;)

I think there's a medical term for such 'persistence' in the absence of ability.

Hopefully you'll be left alone now.

maine character said...

Man, you're just nothing but trouble, aren't you?

But really, I saw a similar debate-turned-bashing over Publish America, with one woman telling everyone who was posting warnings about it on a writing forum how they didn't know anything, and then, two months later, came back and apologized and even posted a warning on her own web page about how she'd been snookered.

Those are the good stories, and I hope you're getting your share of those, too.

And DOT - that's perfect.

Nicola Morgan said...

Oh god. The other comments say it all, but I am bewildered as to how someone could be so stupid, after all the clarity which you and others give about this very issue.

You. Do. Not. Hand. Money. Over. To. Be. Published. Ever. Not even a little bit.

By the way, guess what? I got Tesco interested in selling me some fruit. All I've got to do is hand over £1.45 for some apples but I think my health is worth investing in. What do you think?

Jesse Owen said...

I can't believe that some people don't seem to learn what seems to me to be this basic lesson.

Mmm apples - definatley worth it Nicola ;)

Kate said...

Amazing! Sounds to be like she made up her mind to vsnity publish a long time ago and nothing anyone says would ever make any difference :-) IMO of course.

Catherine Hughes said...

You mean you help people find an agent or a publisher? Blimey, I thought that was something I really had to do for myself! (In the sense of actually researching agents, submitting work etc - I have a lot of help with my writing and my submissions.)

I understand only too well the sheer desperation that means vanity presses can succeed and it's such a shame that they do. But I have often wondered - because it has happened to me when I've been employed for my expertise and then ignored - why people ask for advice if they are simply not prepared to accept it.

Marisa Birns said...

Well, nothing to be done but to say, "Sure, yes, go ahead, congratulations." Then ignore her forever.

It's her money after all (as well as her desperate nonsense) and you know she will neither heed any cautionary advice from you nor stop bothering you with furious emails if you try.

I feel sorry for her.

Maggie Dana said...

Am a bit speechless over this Jane. I mean, how can she seriously approach you for help after slamming you, repeatedly. That's what I don't get.

And the others are right. No matter what you say or how you say it, she'll go ahead with her plans to publish with a vanity press and end up with a garage full of books that she won't be able to sell.

At that point, she'll contact you again for advice on how to unload them.

A nice bonfire would be my suggestion.

Imogen said...

Gordon Bennett.

Actually, I do wonder, judging from their wild swoops of attitude and apparent mood, if if this person may have mental health problems...

Shelley Sly said...

Oh gosh. This is sad.

And it gets me sadder when I think about how several people I know (via the internet) have been sucked in by vanity publishers such as PublishAmerica and are still convinced that it's nothing shady. One of them even used the line, "Well I'm a published author, so I'm a good writer and I don't need you!" in response to a critique. What is up with these people?

Fawn Neun said...

If she's THAT desperate, she can self publish POD through CreateSpace for about $250. Lulu.com is free.

Quite honestly, I'd be tempted to just let her shoot herself in the foot. You've done everything you can, and quite frankly, if she's this disordered, she'll probably never be able to tackle the kind of mental stability necessary to extensive revisions without homi/suicide.

Vanity publishing sounds like the least of her problems.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I will make no comments about the people who waste your time!

However, I heard this week from a man who had a manuscript accepted by a London publishing house. He was thrilled, as he had tried for a while to get this ms accepted - a memoir dealing with some interesting political juicy bits.

He had actually crossed all the 'i's and dotted the 't's, ensuring that 'his' publishers were not a vanity publisher/self publisher or any of those 'orrid outfits.

'I've been reading some good advice on the net,' he said. (Sounds like he means your blog!-) 'I asked them. They say don't charge, and arent anything to do with vanity presses.'

Same man this week: The nice honourable good London publisher having got him hooked to the point where a date was being talked about, apparently - sent him an invoice for £2,900.

He is devastated. This man is in his 70s - and it would be so easy to say sod it and just pay up, wouldnt it.

Is there a place that lists these 'publishers'???

Ellen B said...

I bet I will.

I do feel bad for this writer, though. She seems very likely to be exploited.

That said, publishing blogs give lots of great advice and her previous behaviour discourages bloggers. So not that bad, either.

Jane Smith said...

I know. To all of you, I know. I wouldn't have blogged about this particular episode were it not for the fact that even I, involved in it as I am, am completely perplexed by it.

Here's a nice little detail I realise I didn't include in my main piece: I did suggest that she try Lulu or CreatSpace, or similar, if she was so keen to be published: she told me that she wasn't stupid, and that there was no way she was going to throw her work away by self-publishing.

So, yes. Colour me confused. I'm glad it's not just me!

Part of her insistence that the publisher is a good one comes from the fact that she found it in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. I did try to explain why that's no guarantee but apparently I was just being bitter then, as they probably wouldn't publish .

They'd publish my dog if he had a fat enough wallet. But there's no telling some folk. I have answered her email very briefly, wished her well, and now I've blocked her email address. There. Nice and tidy.

Jane Smith said...

Vanessa, I can't imagine what you're referring to when you mention time-wasters. Ha!

You could send your friend to the forums at AbsoluteWrite.com, and tell him to look in the "Bewares and Background Checks" section for mention of his publisher. If he can't find anything there, he can start a new thread and ask for advice. It's a fabulous resource.

(I was threatened with a legal suit from a London-based vanity publisher last year: how I laughed! It might just be the same one. Small, and sometimes disturbing, world and all that.)

M. Gray said...

Wow! Gives me the chills! So sorry.

--Deb said...

Funny, really, yet so, so sad an illustration of how some people just really don't understand ... well ... anything. You'd think she'd get the hint by now!

Sally Zigmond said...

I think I have some idea who this person may be and the more I've come across her, the more I feel she is very needy and also requires medical help.

It really grieves me when people are so easily taken in by vanity outfits when it isn't that difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff. But, there seems to be some tangled wiring in their brains that makes them lash out at those people who offer genuine help and encouragement and cling to the ignorant, the slippery and the criminal.

I've seen it too often for it to be a one-off.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I'm afraid that after she loses her shirt, she's going to blame you for not warning her.

(That was said in jest! Please don't email her. She sounds a little bit dangerous.)

Jane Smith said...

Sally, I know: people realise they shouldn't go with a vanity press but when it's the only offer they have, they think that they will somehow be different. It's a terribly sad thing to watch happen.

Karen Schwabach said...

Vanessa--

In the U.S. there's

http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/peba.htm

and http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/

To what extent they include British companies I don't know. But googling the publisher's name in quotes, followed by the word "scam" outside the quotes, will often turn up a goldmine of info, much of it on AbsoluteWrite.

Problem is, these companies do change their names a lot.

Jane Smith said...

Anon, she's already blamed me for all sorts so I wouldn't be at all surprised if she blames me when her book "fails", despite her "investment" in it. She said long ago that I wanted her to fail, and that's why I warned her against her vanity press.

I have emailed her now, to tell her not to contact me again. I bet she ignores that. Foolish woman.

behlerblog said...

Jane, you little conniver, you sent her to me, didn't you? I've been plagued by someone very similar begging me to review her work. She went on to say that if I found her work unsuitable for me, would I kindly shoot her work off to agents and other editors.

Gah. This sort of thing makes me believe that people can survive with only a third of their brain intact.

KFran said...

Are you sure she's not a troll? Seems like someone with nothing better to do than vent her anger. If she only coul channel that into her writng.

Quillers said...

Never has the old saying been so true, Jane. You can take a horse to water etc etc. All we can ever do is warn people. However, I know from my work at the CAB that even if you tell people what they should be doing to solve their problem and they ignore the advice, they'll still blame others when they mess up. I suppose it's easier for them to blame others than it is to accept they've behaved stupidly.

Jane Smith said...

KFran, I'm sure she's not a troll: she's been like this ever since I first met her years ago, on an online writers' site. No wonder it closed!

Lynn, I didn't send her over to you but I do have someone else who might benefit from your very special brand of wisdom. I'm sure you'll be delighted with him: I'll send him over immediately!

And Quillers: yes. Sadly, you're right. Some people just don't seem able to be helped. I don't know why: it seems so very self-defeating, doesn't it? Such a shame.

Donna Gambale said...

Yikes! Well, despite how disturbing the whole sequence of events has been, thank you for continuing to post and help the 98% of writers who truly appreciate it -- and follow your advice.

Jane Smith said...

Donna, that's kind of you. The thing is, most people are very kind and helpful, which is why blogs like mine (and Nicola Morgan's, and Lynn Price's, and all the others out there) work so well: we all help each other.

When someone goes into meltdown like this it affects them more than it affects me, and I find it sad. If they go really over the top, I'll admit to finding it funny even though I know I shouldn't. It's very uncharitable of me, but sometimes I just can't help it. I try to be deeply ashamed of myself but I just can't manage to. I was never very good at that sort of thing.

Rebecca Knight said...

Jane, you crack me up :). If it's uncharitable, at least it's understandable!

Here's hoping that folks like her remember that people like you tried to help when they hit rock bottom, and remember the good advice when they need it most. And if they don't, at least you tried. What else can you do?

Thank you for posting this whole account! I hope it helps those who may be teetering on the brink of a bad decision.

Derek said...

I love the post. I think we as writers have to accept that publication not only isn't a right but often isn't realistic, for a hole range of reasons. That fact that we continue to write, despite all that, is what makes us writers.

GalaktioNova said...

The medical term Tom J Vowler refers to is graphomania. Says it all :-)

But what amazes me is that people can be so ungrateful and, how do I put it, lack intelligence to appreciate wholehearted advice. Oh well, it's her life :-)

Donna Hosie said...

The internet can be a scary place.

DanielB said...

On a more general level, I think Tom might have been thinking of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it".

We see it in the succession of X-Factor contestants who patently cannot sing but somehow believe themselves to be the next Whitney Houston.

Brain expert Nicola Morgan will be along in a while to explain it all properly, I'm sure...

Ciara said...

Oh my gosh, that person seems completely off her rockers. Slightly disturbing that she just won't learn.

Fingers crossed she gets the hint...or suddenly, miraculously loses the ability to type.

Alex said...

It sounds like she's getting exactly what she deserves. :D

catdownunder said...

Mmmm...I think I would rather pay £1.45 for the apples -and then munch slowly and consider my options. Something would be telling me I needed to start again, write something different, write something better - or just eat another apple. It would be a lot cheaper.

womagwriter said...

Oh dear, there are some weird ones out there, aren't there? I was wondering why she didn't just go to Lulu, if all she wanted was to be published. I sent someone there once, who was on the verge of being suckered by PublishAmerica. He was so grateful for the rescue he then gave me a copy of his Lulu'ed book. Which I read a third of before throwing it across the room. Then bumped into him at a social function, where he asked me eagerly what I'd thought of it. Life's never easy, is it?

Melinda Szymanik said...

I thought Tom's word might be 'deluded', and as deluded as people might be about the quality of their own work and what 'sel-publishing' or 'vanity-publishing' actually mean, I can see how trying to get published might push some people over the edge...

wealhtheow said...

Amazing. Some people really just can't learn from experience, it appears. And no good deed goes unpunished!

Of course, I've had (not once but several times) ex-employees who did mediocre work, were obnoxious to work with, and/or badmouthed me and/or our employer in exit interviews (and, in one case, to a newspaper reporter who published his/her borderline-libellous comments) send me cheerful e-mails asking if I'd be willing to give them a job reference and/or if I've got any freelance work to send them. So this phenomenon is obviously not limited to desperate newbie writers ...

Whirlochre said...

It's a shame obnoxiousness and foolishness frequently make such perfect bedfellows.

Jane Smith said...

I just checked my junk email folder (as I blocked her email address) and she's sent me two responses. I haven't read them.

This whole thing has made me wonder: why do so many writers refuse to "get" it, when it comes to rejection and/or vanity presses? Why are they so determined to believe that a form rejection is really a coded message with a hidden meaning, or that a vanity press isn't really a vanity press once it agrees to publish them? There's a desperation to be published: I understand that. And a belief in one's own work which sometimes makes rejectiom impossible to accept. It's a self-defense mechanism of sorts, I suppose.

womagwriter said...

It's like those people in X Factor auditions, whose grannies come on and batter Simon Cowell with their handbags. They're just completely self-deluded, and tone-deaf. Not sure what the literary equivalent of tone-deaf is, but those writers are it.

Jane Smith said...

I think Dan Blythe hit the nail on the head when he suggested the Dunning-Kruger Effect (which I have blogged about, of course!). I've been watching someone commit publishing-suicide-by-internet-meltdown recently and it's terribly sad: the writer concerned began in a bad place and has proceeded to shoot himself in both feet, and has made it pretty certain that no publisher with any sense will ever consider publishing him: he's too much of a loose canon. A shame, as he isn't entirely without talent.

Of course, it's not been exactly dull watching it happen: I've found it fascinating and funny by turns, in a horrible, train-wreck way.

I don't think people realise how permanent the internet can be, or how hard it is to escape one's earliest internet presence. It's all very well to delete blog posts and so on: but while they might have disappeared from your blog they are likely to survive elsewhere, ready to pull the rug out from under your feet when you least expect them to.

Jean said...

It's sad that some people just don't get it about vanity publishers. I can understand their desire to be published, but coughing up money to get published surely takes away the achievement and pleasure in it anyway. I do feel sorry though for people such as the man of 70 Vanessa mentions. I don't know how these so-called 'publishers' who purposely try to deceive vulnerable people can live with themselves.

Victoria Strauss said...

Welcome to the Shoot-the-Messenger club, Jane.

Glynis said...

Mmm not one to talk about levels of intelligence...*grin*

I would tell her to go ahead spend her money if she thinks she is that special,but of course you are finer more polite than that.
Why do people think they can come into your space, insult you and expect kisses in return?
Hope you do not have many more of these crazy emails from her.

Glynis said...

...of course you are far more polite than me...I hate typo's!!

Jane Smith said...

Victoria, I only have an associate membership to that club, whereas you have the world-championship gold medal. But thank you!

(Apologies for the comment-spam, by the way: I've deleted "X"'s comment and advise you all to ignore the blog which he or she linked to. There's nothing for you there.)

Old Kitty said...

Hi

I've been following your blog (and really enjoying the posts too btw) but only now am I compelled to comment!

Your experience of harassment is really scary. And I'm horrified to learn from reading the posts here that bloggers do get harassed. I must be so naive! So far my blogging experience has been fun and frivolous and just really nice so this is just wrong.

I hope she finds peace of mind elsewhere or that help is offered to her to find her peace of mind. Most of all I hope she leaves you alone now.

Take care
x

JFBookman said...

What an incredible story. You seem to have handled it in perfect fashion, but there's no derailing some people. Good God.

Theresa Milstein said...

What horror stories! You can control comments on your blog, but not what others posts about you. It's a shame because you've tried to help others.

I've found the blog community supportive. If anyone offered any advice related to my writing, I'd be appreciative. I guess it's karma that she's being asked to pay money and is considering it.

DanielB said...

Jane has incredible patience even bothering to give these people the time of day. If someone was so intent on disregarding the voices of experience they'd only get one chance from me!

We know why people pay. Agents and publishers will tell you that 95% of what they are sent is unusable. Not just "not quite there" or "needs some work", but really, really dreadful.

Now think of The X-Factor. Imagine someone who may not be to your taste but actually can sing, like Leona Lewis or Joe McElderry. They are your published novels.

Now think of the people at the auditions - the ones who are surrounded by their deluded families, begging Simon Cowell to give them "one last chance" because singing is "what they have always wanted to do", and ignorant of the fact that they sound like a walrus in a twenty-foot well having a red-hot poker shoved up its jacksie. And they eventually have to be dragged away kicking and screaming by Big Tony the bouncer.

That's what most unpublished novels are like. The ones that end up being vanity-printed...