I think the whole social media thing has finally beaten me. After three years of pumping up my blog, League of British Artists, beyond a point where I ever thought it would go, tweeting and tumbling - I think I'm through. It's been a long, dry, boring process, begun solely to sell my books. Most of the people I've encountered have been very kind and gracious, but there are some women who are downright cruel. Those are the ones, the few and far between, that are getting to me.
It all began with a Jane Austen site called...A***** A****** (not their real name)
When I first got the book deal for "Darcy and Fitzwilliam" I was completely unprepared for it. I am not a writer, never claimed to be. How the book contract came to me so easily is a mystery. It's not like I struggled through writing classes, submitting articles to magazines, facing year after year of rejections. I never have had a burning desire to write, but I do have stories that float into my mind, fantasies like everyone else. When Sourcebooks said they would publish my book I was stunned. I had no knowledge of the publishing world or what would happen next. I guess not many people do, since I was constantly asked about when I would be having the 'book launch' and when I would have a 'book signing' and just how much money would I see from the 'movie rights'. Certainly, I was going to be rich.
I was lucky that Sourcebooks gave me $1,000 advance, and believe me, they took every penny of that back through the dozens of deductions they made to my laughably meager royalties - but, that's their business I suppose. I had no agent, no legal representation. I trust them, I guess.
There was very little provided by them for promotion of the book - they just sent it to stores and I had a publicist there who sent the book to some reviewers and arranged for blog interviews (I was by no means important enough for actual print interviews to be put together.) She suggested I get into a writing group on the internet called A***** A******, so I did. I wrote with those girls for a while, a monthly article under my name on their blog with links to my book. I started to look around the web to find other sites where I could reach people, publicize the book (Sourcebooks certainly wasn't - it was all up to me).
What a nightmare that opened up. A woman at A***** A****** had begun another of the sites I joined and had left them after nasty disagreements. She told me they have a habit of going onto Amazon and Goodreads (never did get involved with Goodreads, which was a big mistake on my part) and these women would post one star reviews on all the other Austen writers publishing with Sourcebooks (the group was setting up it's own self-publishing section and wanted to destroy my publisher). They would set out to deliberately tank a book, and they did so with great success. There is a stigma to writing a sequel to an Austen novel. Among other obstacles, Austen purists absolutely hate you and will do whatever they can to ruin you.
I didn't need too much help though, at being ruined. I had Sourcebooks.
So, a few months before my book is to come out I show the girls at A***** A****** my new book cover, proud as a peacock. The book jacket description of Darcy and Fitzwilliam, unfortunately, did not mention any women in it. It read like it was about the two men alone, so one of the ladies in AA suggested it would be regarded as a 'slash' book - those are famous works turned into gay porn. Panicky, I called my editor and told her. She assured me she would rewrite the book jacket - which she did. Unfortunately, the book she described on the jacket is NOTHING like the book I wrote. Nothing. That screw up by my publisher has caused me a lot of trouble over the years, people thinking they're getting a bodice ripper when it's not. There was no mention of the 'wicked funny', as my editor called it, story that was within. She just wrote a generic jacket, hinting at wild romance between Darcy and Lizzy. I should sue her.
Well, so now I'm involved with a writing group (not AA, the other one) who deliberately tanks Austen books that are published by Sourcebooks. Great. I got out of there and went into the fire - D******* (not the group's real name)
Here is a group that began with the idolization of Matthew Macfadyen (Darcy from 2005 Pride and Prejudice). These days they follow any great looking Brit with a pulse, but I digress. On D******* I met a lot of nice women - except for their leaders, two odd women whose names I can't remember. Anyway, I became friendly with Bev (not her real name). She seemed friendly (what did I know) and it was fun to pretend for a while that I was a kid again, swooning over an actor. (Turns out a lot of those women are nearly my age, all pretending to be kids again. Who knew. The leader of the group is a doctor for heaven's sake. She's also a fruitcake, in my humble opinion).
Well, the end came swiftly. Macfadyen was in Germany making a film - the awful Three Musketeers - and all the girls on D****** were waiting for pictures, any pictures, of the production. (I, on the other hand, was slipping in links to the sale of my book any chance I got) When Bev finally expressed her annoyance in the chatroom that we weren't seeing any shots of Matthew she was severely reprimanded by our leader, Eva Braun. I was becoming a bit tired, by this time, of the endless "squeeing" they call it, over the man, so I wrote in the post, after Il Duce's reprimand of Bev, "Bev means no harm. She's just excited."
Cue Shitstorm. I got slammed into the wall for that bit of insurrection. I learned from this that you do not disagree with moderators on social media. In a private message to me I was informed that I didn't know the great harm I had done. In a public message to our leaders I told them to "go to hell". I was kicked out shortly afterward. In her gratitude, Bev remained with D*******.
So, now I'm still with A***** A******, but things there are getting strained there as well. A good deal was my fault, I am jealous by nature. I don't like attention taken from me at all, and yes, I know, I never should join any group. But, I was also desperate for publicity. I had learned that Soucebooks was dropping all of us Austen sequelists, or reimaginists, or whatever stupid term they're using these days. We were all on our own.
The plot thickens. Our AA leader decided to promote a writing marathon, we were all to pick the character we wanted to be. Immediately, I chose to Lady Catherine deBourgh, because I enjoyed writing her so much in Darcy and Fitzwilliam, and because she's pretty much a total bitch, which was how I was feeling at the time. I informed AA though that if someone else wanted her, I would like to be Colonel Fitzwilliam, a character I found infinitely more interesting than the perfect Darcy. Now, remember I was the first to respond about the new writing marathon. I even exchanged e-mails that all could see with another writer and we were having a nice time talking about the new venture.
By the end of the day an e-mail came out assigning Lady Catherine to one of the lead women in the group, Colonel Fitzwilliam to the only male in the group....and on and on. I think I was to be the butcher who sells Mrs. Bennet the pork shank. I went nuts. I was also kicked out of A***** A****** by noon.
Well, I was out in the cold now. No A***** A*******, no D*********** (this is beginning to look like Morse code). So Bev and I began League of British Artists. Well, actually, I set it up, I created the format, I posted nearly all the stories...and Bev wrote the introduction. You see where this was going don't you? Bev and I eventually fell out of favor with each other. She wanted to change the look of the blog every week, and I wanted some help with it. I told her that I spent nearly eight hours a day on the blog and she said 'who asked you to.' Yada, yada, yada.
Thus ended my friendship with Bev. Interesting aside, I only actually spoke with her once, on the phone, and it was very awkward. There is a completely different feel to meeting (or, in this case, speaking) with a human being, than communicating with them through the anonymous print of social media. After a year of e-mails back and forth with Bev, on the phone, it was like speaking with a stranger.
That would happen to me again, years later, when I met Meg (not her real name) - the kindly woman from Twitter.
To be continued...