Blog Suicide?

A few days ago, author Sandra Scoppettone  blogged about her editor, Joe Blades, leaving Ballantine and her anxieties about it.  This prompted an anonymous commenter to warn her that her very candid blog posts could be damaging to her career. Sandra angrily fired back. Soon, the ugly little argument spilled over to  other   blogs. Now Galleycat has picked up on the catfight, so-to-speak, and it will mushroom from there…

Unfortunately, it illustrates that even someone who’s been in the
business as long as Scoppettone has (and whose influence on two
different genres continues to be felt) can sometimes let things go all
too haywire. And it further illustrates the power of blogging in the
publishing world — because you never know who’ll be out there reading,
passing judgment, and jumping to conclusions.

The blog skirmish brings up an interesting issue — how honest should you be on your blog? I have to admit I cringed a bit at some of Sandra’s posts, and at my friend Paul Guyot’s surprising candor about the ups-and-downs of his pilot experience, and at my cousin regularly trashing her employer. Sure, it makes good reading and can be cathartic for the author  — but is it self-destructive? I don’t know. I just know I don’t want to find out for myself.

I’ve been very careful here not to talk about the shows I am working on (except to hype them when they air), or the executives and producers I am working with (or hope to work with), or authors/writers I work and socialize with (unless it is to hype their latest work).  I  rarely name individual producers, writers, editors or executives. I talk in general terms, for the most part, or about personal experiences that are safely in the past. 

I’m clearly not shy about expressing my opinion — but I’m careful about it. I don’t hesitate to criticize fanfiction, self-publishing scams, the RWA, or people searching the Internet for Lindsay Lohan’s nipples  — those are safe. But, for example,  you won’t see me trashing a producer, a studio, a network, or a major publishing company.

I think some bloggers forget that they aren’t writing a private diary — it’s like a column in a newspaper. You have no idea who is reading it or how your words are being passed around. Blogging is fun, but my career is far more important.

27 thoughts on “Blog Suicide?

  1. You are 100% right, Lee. I have seen people write things on blogs that I know have hurt their images and reputations. It’s a fine line to walk between being interesting and open, and writing things that are going to bite you in the ass.
    When you consider that a simple Google search can instantly turn up the dumbest thing you’ve ever written, there for all the world to see forever, it really pays to take a second and third careful look before you hit that Post button.

  2. My blog rules are pretty much similar to yours. I also do not feel comfortable talking about personal matters that don’t involve my pathetic delusions about being a struggling writer – so I place emphasis on reviews and commentary, not snapshots of my life.
    Then again, snapshots of a middle aged doofus watching “Surface” aren’t all that interesting to begin with.
    My rules?
    1. Be polite – I do not say anything about anyone that I would not want said about me.
    2. Avoid politics – Not interested in that barroom brawl of a quagmire.
    3. Avoid detailed posts about my personal life and/or my son. My blog is about my interests, opinion thereof, and my writing. Unless personal experience impacts that, I’m not mentioning it. (I did bend this rule by posting a memorial to my late wife on the anniversary of her death, but I felt it was necessary to do so.)
    4. Don’t talk about work. My co-workers now about my blog, so talking about them behind their backs right in front of their faces is just as verboten as politics.
    I’ve heard/read too many horror stories about blog comments inflicting harm to delude myself that I can post something with no accountability for what I have stated whatsoever.

  3. I never avoid politics. A blogger, like any journalist has to aware of libel law since you are publishing commentary. I think many bloggers don’t have a clue about this which is why they aren’t real journalists. At least not yet.

  4. You know, Lee, I gotta agree. You said some bloggers forget that they aren’t writing a private diary — it’s PERCEIVED as a column, like in a newspaper. True true. I used to make a living writing a column for a daily newspaper and while I subscribed to the idea that you had to be willing to open a vein on occasion, I also knew that there were limits. But blogs are NOT really columns. Columns take the specific experience of the writer and render it universal. A novel in miniature if you will. Most blogs, on the other hand, take the universal and winnow it down to the specific. It is the venting of pure emotion for the most part. And that can get messy real quick.
    PJ Parrish

  5. Chadwick and PJ touch on an issue I’ve pondered concerning my own blog (yes, I have a blog, didn’t you know?)
    See, I also write an explicitly political, and hopefully satirical, column for my local newspaper. I often post the weekly columns on the blog, along with other observations.
    Now, I used to be pretty moderate, but after even moderation was denounced as traitorous by the ninnycon Right, I’ve got increasingly radical. (You should see my e-mail).
    But I also talk on the blog about my fiction writing, which I don’t regard as overtly political, even though, like most crime fiction, it’s touched by societal issues.
    I’ve wondered sometimes if I don’t risk turning some potential readers off by pointing out their beloved Emperor has no clothes.
    In the end, though, I decided screw it. This is part of who I am. If I have to muzzle myself to sell more books, it’s not worth it. I’m an American, damn it. Bitching about the government, loudly and in public, is my god-given right.
    Now, trashing other writers, agents, editors, etc, or revealing my personal conflicts and travails with same…that I won’t do. Not out of any sense of self-preservation, because, unfortunately, I seem to have none. But, as the old song goes, ain’t nobody’s dirty business.

  6. I think you and the commentators have covered the basic rules. Remember, with web archives like wayback.org, nothing ever really goes away on the Web. In addition, I use a version of my name that is different than the one I use professionally, so that opponents and clients won’t do a Google search on me and find me blathering on about my cat.

  7. I know someone who lost their job because of blogging about work. He was a temp, so no job protection at all.
    I KNOW I would suffer if I blogged about work. I work for a government org and we have some vindictive people there.
    It’s not worth it to complain about co-workers. I have my paper journal for that.

  8. I think you can write as honestly as you need to. Just be prepared to accept the consequences that come with it. That’s no different from any other medium.
    Sandra Scoppettone uttered an agist statement and she really should have known better. And I think she fanned the flames by not even suggesting that she’s wrong and by acknowledging the anonymous commenters as cowards, which is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you’ve been caught with your pants down.

  9. Besides, if she really hates anonymous posters — and calls them “cowards” — why allow anonymous commenting?
    Me thinks she’s just upset that someone dared to criticize / disagree with her.

  10. I’ve always worked as a journalist and I’m a bit divided. If I was interviewing Sandra Scoppettone, I’d want her to be as blunt as possible (as well as speak in pithy, hack-friendly sound quotes). And let’s be honest, bitter and disgruntled makes for better copy than bland and scaried.
    On the other hand, unless I had another source of income, there’s no way I’d put what she wrote out on the net. The public’s right not to be snowballed is one thing. Putting food on the table is another…

  11. Dusty brings up another good point: taking controversial stands as an author, whether on your blog or elsewhere, will cost you readers. The more controversial the issues and the more intensive your commentary, the more readers you’ll lose.
    Ultimately, authors have to decide why they’re in this business: do you want to be a commentator or do you want to sell books?

  12. I just do what comes natural and try not to be snarky. I consider it a privilege to be in this business — nobody owes me anything — and blog accordingly.
    Call me a goody two-shoes, but there’s too much negativity in the blogosphere.

  13. I agree with Rob. There is too much negativity on many blogs and like the current political climate attacking others seems to be the favorite vocation for many.

  14. Ed, with all due respect, your response to my post is a bit disingenuous.
    I never said be unquestioning. I, for one, think we should question everything. Be skeptics. But being a skeptic and an asshole are not mutually exclusive.

  15. No, calling someone names because they disagree with you, making unfair generalizations about groups of people and telling others to shut up makes you, shall we say, a poor participant in a discussion. It’s possible to present any opinion, however cynical, and still be civil about it.
    (Reading the above, I realize it sounds like I’m targeting someone for doing those things. I’m not, and that brings up another hazard of internet-based discussions: lack of nuance.)

  16. I’m not saying this is an either/or situation except possibly when it comes to civility. When expressing your opinion, you have a choice to either do it with civility or to be a jerk.
    I myself have been guilty of being that jerk enough times to know the difference. And, having learned from my mistakes, prefer to take the civil route.
    I just see no reason to be negative on these blogs, especially now that I have a career in the publishing industry to think about. Negativity doesn’t do anyone any good — as many bloggers are learning.
    Obviously, I’m simply giving an opinion here. I’m not about to tell anyone else how to express themselves.

  17. “I agree with Rob. There is too much negativity on many blogs and like the current political climate attacking others seems to be the favorite vocation for many.”
    Au contraire, there’s not enough negativity! Admit that you secretly love blog scandals and move on. I do.

  18. Blogland, especially in comments is rough and tumble. I frequently make a normal post with no name calling and other assorted ad hominem attacks but due to my position on the issue those offended come calling with names for me. That’s not my fault. It’s theirs.

  19. Keep in mind that any Internet communciation has 1/10th less the severity that you think it does. I’ve seen some very smart people multiply instead of divide.

  20. Blog suicide: blogging is fun, but my career is far more important

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