To be an authoritative reference on publishing requires allowing all voices to be heard

There once was a time when Absolute Write stood as a beacon to protect authors from unscrupulous business people and practices. But they have become so entrenched with how publishing has operated in the past, that they are disallowing individuals from sharing their experiences with new models and opportunities. I’m referring to a recent incident where I and author Kevin O. McLaughlin were banned from that site. A post in the Self-Publishing and POD section posed the following question: Can I try and traditionally publish after making a kindle/e-pubbing? Several people pointed out that since the first publication rights had been used many agents and publishers would reject the submission out of hand and this is just one of the reasons not to self-publish.

I’ve been a regular contributor to Absolute Write since the end of April (443 posts) and I’ve noticed a fair amount of bias expressed against self-publishing during my time there. Let me first state for the record that I believe that all three options: self-publishing, independent presses, and big-six publication offer advantages and disadvantages. In order to determine which path best aligns with an author’s goals requires them to be educated on the current state of the industry and why many people come to Absolute Write’s forums.

Getting back to the particular post in question, Mr. McLaughlin had expressed that he felt times had changed and that burning the first-publication rights were no longer such a concern as they had previously been. A debate ensued and in post #15 Mr. McLaughlin made the following observation:

“The double standard is beginning to be obnoxious. I recognize that there are folks posting on this forum who are here solely because they are anti-self-publishing. It’s very blatant. But it’s a little ridiculous to ask for sources for one side of the argument, yet expect to be able to produce personal opinion for your own side without being challenged.”

Later he went on to mention that he noticed other contributors had received similar treatment and mentioned myself in post #18:

 “Yes, but most of them are folks like Robin and dgaughran, who have actual experience in the self publishing field, and regularly get attacked for trying to pass on their personal experiences. Industry experience in trade publishing does NOT necessarily equate to valid advice for self publishing.”

I came into the thread and added my support of Mr. McLaughlin’s assertions. I concur with both his perception of changes in the industry and his observation about the mistreatment of those who espouse self-publishing as a viable publishing option. I also mentioned that others had shared similar opinions with me privately.

For the next few hours I worked my way through the thread responding to statements and offering supporting details about how the industry had evolved. While I admit to expressing a dissenting opinion, I did so politely and offered supporting facts from both my personal experience and online sources such as Publisher’s Lunchbox and Forbes magazine.

I would not characterize the discussion as heated. Yes, there was discord but from my perspective everyone was being polite and respectful in their rebuttals. So I was shocked that when I hit submit on a rather long reply that I was thrown out of the site and presented with message that said.

You have been banned for the following reason:
Just get the hell off my site. You’re relentlessly snotty, rude, and you’re a [expletive] bald-faced liar. I’m done with you.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never

The only alteration I’ve made to the above message was removing the expletive. At this point I could no longer see posts or log in. (Later I was told how to clear cookies so that I could continue to read the site, but logging in displayed the same message from above.

There are two things I found interesting about my banning. The first is the irony of the moderator’s actions. In response to an allegation of a double standard they decided that the best solution was to silence those that offered an alternative viewpoint. The second thing stems from a post made just 2-days earlier on a thread devoted to my small press, Ridan Publishing:

I just spent the last two days reading from my last post, which was back on #85 or something, right through to here. WOW. I would love to give Robin a highfive. This thread should be mandatory reading for all new publishers on how to deal with criticism on Absolutewrite. So many other threads have devolved into something out of a horror flick by unprofessional publishers or their authors. Robin, you’ve done a remarkable job keeping your cool under more than a few detractors and critics, critics who posed questions I, asa writer, appreciated by the way. Professionalism and diplomacy is clearly not something you’re lacking.

This does not support the allegation of me being snotty or rude. As to the allegations of lying I have no clue what the Moderator is referring to. 

Since my banning, many people have offered words of support and expressed an appreciation for my blog posts and contributions to online forums related to publishing. While these condolences provide me with a degree of solace, I’m sad on the behalf of writers going to Absolute Write to determine if self-publishing is right for them.  We live in difficult times of great change and the open exchange of ideas and experience is crucial—now more than ever.  I’m hoping that the administrators of Absolute Write will realize that to be a beacon requires an open exchange of experience and ideas. I’m not suggesting they need to agree, but I think they have a responsibility to at least let them be expressed. To this end I hope they consider this before banning other members from the site.

  • jenny sanders

    To be fair, you were a complete bitch the whole time you were on AW. Spouting misinformation and lies. I’m sure they are glad to see the back of you and the fantasy land you live in.

    • Jenny, I’m actually quite interested – can you please point out to me a single incident where I “lied” or provided “misinformation”. All I did the whole time I was on AW was report data that I either had first-hand experience with or from sources such as Publisher’s Weekly or the Association of American Publsihers.

      My guess is you feel that my husband, or the Ridan authors couldn’t possibly be selling at the levels I reported. A simple look at Amazon Rankings will support the data.

  • Robin, I listened to your interview with Mur Lafferty on ISBW just yesterday, and I was shocked to realize that this post was about you. As for you behaving like a complete bitch, I haven’t read the thread in question, but from what I’ve seen of your online persona so far, I find that hard to imagine. I’ve seen firsthand how hostile those who have their hearts set on finding an agent and getting published the old fashioned way can be toward the very idea of self-publishing. Their blinders are firmly fixed, I’m afraid.

    • Jean,
      Glad you enjoyed the inteview on ISBW. I think a big part of the issue at AW is when I reported sales such as 10,000 a month or 17,000 a month they thought it was completely impossible for a self-published author, or in the case of Nathan Lowell and Marshall Thomas who are indie published through my company Ridan, to make have that level of sales. To see multiple success stories flies in the face of what they “think” is reality so therefore it must be a lie.

  • I just read that whole thread, and, wow. As a completely unbiased and non-emotionally invested third-party observer who doesn’t know you or Kevin or have any axe to grind with Absolute Write, I have to say, I saw no evidence that you or Kevin were rude or snotty, and you both comported yourselves very well in the face of some fairly snotty remarks directed at the both of you.

    And the whole “There’s a double standard in my forums just because I don’t delete or censure commenters that offer dissenting opinions?!” indignation followed by… banning two commenters who offer dissenting opinions from the majority. Just… wow.

    I think you’re probably better off for having been banned. Their loss.

    • Yes it is rather ironic to say you don’t oppose dissenting opinions and then the next step is to ban the people. Makes perfect sense to me.

  • Robin, this is an interesting story. They banned you with language like that? Wow. I believe in free speech and tend to pass over dismissive comments like Jenny’s (above) with a shrug of my shoulders, but I can’t see what they add to the conversation. Please keep us polite folks at SPR informed.

    • Well Ron, I doubt there will be anything to “update”. But since I can’t speak on Absoulte Write, if you are intersted in hearing about my take on the changes in publishing, or just get some tips and pointers for all three ways to publish then visit my blog at http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com.