On Wednesday, Holly Black posted about the supposed "YA Mafia," assuring everyone it doesn't exist. Justine Larbalestier expanded on Holly's post, blaming the online disinhibition effect for the issue (and quoting our friend Phoebe North at length). Then a #YAMafia hashtag appeared, which some people found amusing, and others perceived as yet another threat.
The debate over negative reviews isn't unique to the YA community (see here, here and here). But when you're a small, tightly-knit group with a lot of crossover between writers, readers, book bloggers, colleagues, crit partners, and friends, the debate takes on a more personal tone-- and comes up over and over.
"It's about being professional, whether your reviews are honest or not. No one wants a psycho who laments how all [insert genre here] sucks and why can't something good be published."
(quoted with permission)
I can only speak from my own experience. People naturally make friends and form groups in every industry. Some will be nice and some will be jerks and it's pretty easy to tell who's who. Sometimes you just need to be less shy. Sometimes groups have to restrict the number of members, simply to function.
If someone maliciously excludes you? They're no one you want to hang with anyway. In the immortal words of Garth Algar: "Get over it. Go out with somebody else."
Blurbs and favors:
But if you suspect a blurb is dishonest? Ignore it. It's no skin off your nose.
Once you're published, should you respond to bad reviews?
In addition to the links above, Ilona Andrews points out that as an author, everything is your fault. You can't argue criticism without looking like a whiner, and you can't agree without shooting yourself in the foot. Your only other choice is to be quiet. Phoebe is debating a similar question with Diana Peterfreund in Holly's comments.
Cleolinda Jones says reviews are not for authors, and reviewers have to make choices. Foz Meadows similarly points out that if you're going to post negative reviews, you need to consider where and when. (In the time it's taken me to write this, she's also written a longer post about this entire issue.)
You have to find a way to review without alienating your future colleagues. Negativity is a calculated risk and the consequences may or may not be worth it to you. That's the important part: TO YOU. There's no one-size-fits-all answer and there are a lot of variables. But if you're set on writing books and reviews, take heart: John Green has made it work. (And after I wrote all that, I saw that Dia Reeves said basically the same thing, and Jani Lee Simner says she doesn't mind if you hate her books. See? Variables!)
Secret cabals are overrated anyway, says Gwenda Bond. It's also possible that the YA Mafia and the YA Clique both really do exist, and they'll destroy each other in a secret rumble, leaving the rest of us free to seize power. But of course, we all know who really controls YA.......
- The things you say on the internet don't always come across the way you intend. Especially sarcasm. This also applies to book reviews.
- People are always looking for some "control group" to blame. If it's not Mormons or YA authors, it's evil agents or the Absolute Write overlords.
"Sometimes the thought that someone could 'make or break' my career, or that a good book would guarantee success, sounds like an alluring one as compared to the terrifying reality that everything is kind of a crapshoot."
"the best way to go about it is to stew in bitterness. ... As for book bloggers and reviewers, a writer cannot prevent you from getting published yourself. Your work has to speak for itself. A review is a review. A manuscript is a manuscript. They are not the same thing."
Sarah Rees Brennan sums it up the best:
"Possibly the only conclusion that can be reached is that authors and reviewers are people, and dealing with people will always be complicated. Some authors are going to behave badly and some reviewers are going to behave badly - but them's the breaks, and at least nobody's career can be destroyed.
- Phoebe North (yes again, okay?) responds to all the hoopla and suggests we be excellent to one another.
- Holly Black's round up with a link to Karen Healey's experience reviewing comic.
- Jordyn, the retired blogger mentioned in several posts, gives her side of the story.
- Lauren McLaughlin, aka "Joey Knuckles," in defense of bad reviews.
- Celidih of the Sparkle Project responds.
- Caroline Tung Richmond suggests if the mafia's not real, it's high time we make one.
- Dolorosa reiterates the bloggers' position.
- Zoe Marriott on insecurity.
- Sean Wills has the deciding, capstone post of the whole, uh, controversy. The upshot is: Don't be a jerk.
- John Scalzi does not have time to crush you.
- Ally Carter points out that guacamole and Roswell will not bring down publishing.
- Stacia Kane says she started it and she'd like to finish it.
- Amy Lukavics hopes you don't let this mess spoil your ride.
- Sarah Rees Brennan continues to be smart.
- Heidi Kling says it's up to us to be the good guys.
- Beth Revis says, "Don't be a jerk."
- The hashtag gets a mention on Oh No They Didn't.
And with that, this topic has jumped the shark. Remember the golden rule, folks, and feel free to link further posts in the comments.