Just as a forewarning, this post is about the recent controversy involving Stacey Jay. For the record, I like Stacey Jay as a writer and I respect her work. This post will feature a bit of tough love and then some, but I think it better to be honest than not say anything at all. Truth be told, it hurts to write it, but I gave myself more than a few days to think about what I would say about it.
To make this easier, I'm going to break this down into subsections. I'm going to try to make this post as short and sweet as possible, but at the same time have some talking points as food for thought.
On Stacey Jay's Kickstarter:
I knew it would go bad the moment I saw it - it wasn't even a question, it was a forgone conclusion. I said in a former post that I was talking about it with my sister around the time it first went up and said it was "a bad call". I said that the community would not take it well and that she would open herself up to a lot of criticism for the funding and rationale behind it.
Turns out I was right and then some. I just didn't realize how people would react to it. And part of the problem, was Jay's own attitude and approach in reacting to the backlash. I'll get to that in a little while.
The problem with wasn't just the fact that she set up funding for her novel on KS. Let me make that clear. The problem was the nature of what she was asking for in terms of funding and how she asked for it. Personal expenses are a really sketchy thing to ask for when you're a for-profit professional in any industry, let alone a writing venture. It's not unrealistic to do an individual cost analysis as a business person to see what personal expenses YOU may have to contend with, but to ask your audience to foot that bill? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
You're asking for people to say "WTF are you doing?!!!" (Emphasis on the exclamation points.)
Stacey Jay's asking for donations to complete her project in terms of objectively funding her cover costs, editing, and other things concerning the actual project would be one thing. I wholeheartedly would've contributed my own money to that cause - I understand that can be expensive and if you're scrapped in a moment's notice for cash, okay - fine. Tangible expenses like that are okay because they're distinctly measurable and towards a PROJECT. But even still, that's why many writers have day jobs.
I mean if Brandon Sanderson could work in a hotel while writing his first (IIRC, it was his first - it's been a while since I heard that episode of "Writing Excuses") novel, I'm sure Stacey Jay can find a full time job and MAKE time to write a novel. There's no such thing about not having enough time - you make time for the things you want to do, and make sacrifices as you weigh the balance of what things will cost; otherwise, you're just making excuses about your business and that's not going to cut it. And if writing isn't supporting your family (for the vast majority of people - it doesn't), then your priorities need not be on writing, but finding means to support them and then trying to work towards your writing goals. This is basic Authorship 101.
I realize Jay has been a working writer for a while and will have to change her lifestyle critically because of her termination, but realistically speaking, she's going to have to find other realistic ways of dealing with her financial situations than relying on others to fund her living expenses. When you're asking people to pay your personal bills, it's not the same as when you offer a fully finished product and reap the rewards of that product being out in the world for people to buy (and continue buying). You've done the work in the latter case, you can use the money from that any way you want. Donations are a different story - they are NOT a guaranteed source of income and not something that people will be likely to keep giving you over time, especially when your project doesn't have a clear progression or quantification of quality. You have to work to earn people's trust, show the quality of that product/project, and make an effort that people can actually measure as a businessperson.. When you use a service like Kickstarter, you have to know your business plan from the get go and inside out. People will ask you questions, especially tough, specific ones, about where that money is going, to assess VALUE. You have to be prepared to answer those questions. If your business goals are SRT - specific, realistic, tangible - with respect to a project, there's not a whole lot of questions that will be personal asked because you're focusing on the project itself.
When you start asking people to fund things outside the PROJECT you're working on, and it's more personal (rent, food, living expenses), then you get into trouble, because then the focus becomes on you and not the project.
Don't even get me started on the whole backhanded excuse saying that if she didn't get enough donations she would quit writing YA. I have ABSOLUTELY NO respect for an assertion like that. Don't get me wrong, I respect Jay's talent and have all the respect in the world for the work she's put out (even if I have varied reactions to that work as a reader), but that's a TERRIBLE excuse, and I'm not buying that. If you really love something, more than anything in the world, you WILL FIND a way to keep doing it. I don't care what it is. AND IF YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE THAT MUCH, YOU WILL DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO KEEP DOING WHAT YOU LOVE.
I wish I could copy that last statement a million times to drill it into people's heads. It shouldn't even need to be said, it should be known. Common freaking sense.
What Stacey Jay did was not what a smart businesswoman would do. It gave me secondhand embarrassment to see how she handled that situation as well.
The (Deflective) Apology
I think this was probably the source of my anger most about this case, because Stacey Jay not only didn't really give an apt apology on the matter, she pretty much footed the blame on people who didn't deserve it: HER OWN COMMUNITY.
Ye Gods, it went from bad to worse when I saw that. Because honestly, I can take Jay saying she made a mistake. I'm a forgiving person, if someone says "I made a mistake, I'm sorry. I didn't know this." Fine. No other discussion needed.
Stacey Jay's post started off like that, but quickly devolved from there. I understand that Jay felt cornered in the situation, I understand she was writing from emotional distress (and that was clear to me from the tone of the post.)
But when you offer an apology, there are no "ands, ifs, or buts". You take responsibility and leave it at that.
You certainly don't offer an apology and then explain the "vitrol" of the community you're apologizing to. *facepalms*
The YA community - including bloggers, readers, critical reviewers, etc. - gets ragged on enough, and you want pile that on? You want to further pervert the definition of bullying when people were critical of the way you worded your reasoning for funding, which was admittedly in ill presentation? I'm sorry, but I don't understand how this conversation went from mismarketing to blaming "readers/reviewers/bloggers" and community members who were only asking tough questions about your MARKETING strategy as an AUTHOR, of which is just because you are a BUSINESSPERSON. Which YOU proceeded to make personal. Geez.
My head and heart hurts over all this misconception.
And authors (even prominent respected ones) who saw Jay's post ran with that agenda, thinking that people were arguing that authors should "work for free" or some other B.S.
THAT NEVER HAPPENED. And there was never really any precursory discussions (that I saw, if someone did, please tell me, I'd like to read that) about book pirating and relating it to Stacey Jay's case, except for the moment when Jay BROUGHT IT UP ON HER OWN ACCORD. Which had nothing to do with what she did or the controversy surrounding it.
So yeah, here we are. I'm done, I've said my piece. I'm furious that this is taken so out of context that so many people made it as a platform for their own agendas or issues when really, this was more of a matter of business ethics from a marketing standpoint, rather than anything to do with the YA community or reading.
So let me be clear on a summary of details just so that I can give advice on what we need to do from here on out:
1. We need to be able to discuss the ethics of business practices in the writing community openly, honestly and consistently, because writers/authors (of all walks) need to know this. They need to hear from their audience (readers, bloggers, contributors) how this fits in the greater piece of the puzzle, because the latter's a part of having a say in this as well, because they're a part of the paying audience. And the consumer is a key part of the success of ANY business, self-managed or beyond.
2. We need to stop perverting the definition of bullying. This is inexcusable. STOP IT. This was not an incident of bullying, this was people asking tough questions about a business model that failed before it even got off the ground. Jay's personal affronts to the argument didn't help matters much - because it's hard to respect someone who would use a bargaining guilt trip (i.e. "I will stop writing YA (or insert any other ultimatum) if I don't get what I want.") in any argument. I sincerely hope that Jay wasn't called names or belittled by her person at any point in time, but I hardly ever saw anyone (publicly) do that to her. (Privately, I can't say, and I'd feel for her if she was getting that.)
3. I hope that Jay comes back to the community. She's a good writer, but I think she needs to gain more confidence in what she's doing. She's got it, she's just got to find other ways to make this work for her. But expecting that to come from other people automatically is not the way to do it. Not at all. That's only limited. If you put your success at the behest of others, that will only get you so far. Your success is determined by WHAT YOU DO and HOW YOU WORK FOR IT. Asking for help may be necessary in some measures, but it shouldn't be the "go-to" source.
I hope she finds happiness and a better path in her future pursuits.
Edit: Holy crap. So more about this matter has come to light and I think it's just better to link to Jay's latest post on this.
I didn't know people were doing this to her. This is messed up. Granted, I had contentions with the KS and I expressed concern at what seemed to be a really blunt reaction to questionings, but it does seem like Jay was getting threatening emails and things that tried to silence her in all this.
I don't know how things reached this point. It makes me want to curl into a ball and cry.