Kickstarter, Stacey Jay, and sexism…

Warning: this is a long post. I have my rantypants on.

So there was a(nother) scandal in the YA world this week. An author going by the pen name of Stacey Jay — I gather she writes romance too, under another name — set up a Kickstarter project to try and fund the second book in her YA series. She apparently published her first book traditionally, but the sales weren’t enough to make the publisher want to go ahead with the series. However, they were  enough that she could make a viable go of the sequel if she self-published it.

So she set up a Kickstarter, attempting to raise enough money to cover the costs of a cover artist, editing, layout, etc. As part of that, she also included the cost of her time to write the book. She did this because writing is her sole source of income, and because if she was going to take time out from other paying projects to write the sequel, she’d need to be able to feed her kids. You can see the Kickstarter here.

This started a bit of a storm on Twitter. I didn’t see it myself at the time, but I’m told that there was some discussion about the struture of the Kickstarter rewards, some about the idea of wages vs advances vs preorders, some on whether Kickstarter is the program to use at all, and some about the ethics of asking for the cost of living as part of the price of writing a book.

Regardless of the intent behind some of the discussion (I spoke to one person who said it was mostly a discussion about the system), some of it was vitriolic (“who does she think she is?!”), and Stacey Jay took it as an attack. She cancelled the Kickstarter. Her blog post went viral, and a lot of big names latched onto that last point of discussion, about writers being fairly remunerated for their work. Chuck Wendig and Laura Lam blogged about it. Maggie Stiefvater retweeted the blog with a comment saying she agreed 100%.

Then Chuck Wendig tweeted something I’d seen others tweet, although not in the same words:

Chuck Wendig Kickstarter

He was accused of sarcastically subtweeting a group of women, and of being sexist.

This left me scratching my head, because I hadn’t been aware that the bulk of the discussion about the Kickstarter had been by women. I suppose if I’d considered it, I would have realised, because most YA authors are women. But until then, it didn’t seem to have been a factor.

Still, the subject of authors being paid (in money, not “exposure”) isn’t exactly a women’s issue, so the gender makeup of the two sides of the debate shouldn’t be a barrier to others taking part in a discussion arising from it. The fact that the bulk of the discussion was on one issue, rather than the full spectrum of the original discussion … well, that’s just how conversations work. They don’t always go the way we want them to, especially online.

Sidenote: The claim that Chuck Wendig has a big megaphone to broadcast with because he is a man is undermined by the fact that Maggie Stiefvater — who has almost twice as many Twitter followers — said the same thing. I’m not saying that his white male status hasn’t helped him along the way in his career, because there’s no doubt that privilege shortens your odds in the “luck” part of the success equation, but I’d suggest hard work, clever marketing and talent play big role in his success too. And Chuck is the first person to admit he has received “hetronormative white dude” advantages. His self-awareness earns him mad props in my eyes.

Anyway, yesterday, Stacey Jay tweeted the following.

StaceyJay1

StaceyJay2

She’s been doxxed.

(If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when someone hacks or does intensive research on a target and then publishes their personal details online. Wiki has a page defining it.)

I saw her tweets this morning, my time, and wanted to Hulksmash something. I feel sick. Really ill, and so bad for Stacey Jay that it hurts. Because this isn’t about the pros and cons of asking for money to cover your bills anymore, or whether Patreon is better than Kickstarter, or whether a $20 reward including promo material was poor form. This is about someone’s privacy being violated.

Regardless of what you think of authors using Kickstarter to fund writing a book, we can all agree that doxxing someone is a dick move, yes?

To be clear, I don’t think for a second that the person behind the doxxing was one of those involved in the original discussion. No doubt some “hacktivist” shit-stirrer saw the scandal and decided to make a name for themselves in the cyber community by targeting Stacey Jay.

And this is where I think sexism has played a part, moreso than in the original tall poppy syndrome or the commentary around it. Because doxxing someone contains an implicit threat. I know where you live. It’s been used a lot by the less savoury side of the GamerGate scandal, to try and shut up those on the opposite side. Usually, it must be said, it’s used to target women.

I hope Stacey Jay reports the doxxing to the police and they are able to find the perpetrator — although I’m not optimistic about that. I hope she can find some peace after all this. I even hope that she reactivates the Kickstarter to take advantage of the publicity all this has caused, although given the doxxing I doubt she will. If I were her, I wouldn’t.

And the truth is that I’m scared to post this, because I’m a female on social media, and I’m afraid of drawing the wrong sort of attention. Of having people leave vindictive negative reviews on my book, or of being doxxed myself. Because it has happened to others.

But seeing others doxxed and being cowed by that makes you collateral damage from the original attack. It’s completely messed up. This is what #YesAllWomen is about.

And that is my rant.

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12 Comments on “Kickstarter, Stacey Jay, and sexism…”

  1. The internet has become a scary place. Say one thing that might be misinterpreted and your vilified. Disagree with the wrong hothead and your lampooned. Get the wrong kind of publicity and hackers advertise your personal info. These people feel safe behind their screens and powerful because of their technological knowledge. They’re bullies in the same way the stereotypical jock was in high school. We can not sit silent and I applaud you for your post. BTW I thought the exact same thing Chuck said, and as a woman, I didn’t find his comment sexist at all! People need to lighten up and get angry over something useful.

    • I was wondering the same thing, about why people don’t just walk on by. I can see that some people might have found it an interesting topic of discussion – is she asking for wages or an advance, for example – and a lot of people were civil, but scattered in among those comments were ones that said things like “how dare she” and claims she thought she was entitled or special. I saw the phrase “special snowflake” used, and a LOT of people saying “why doesn’t she just get a job”.

      Each of those comments might have been innocent on the surface of it, but in aggregate, it turned into a tsunami of negativity. And that’s only looking at the public comments I saw, not the private emails she was receiving!

  2. quix689 says:

    There’s so much to this that I just don’t understand. I can understand talking about it and disagreeing with what she was asking for (although I think she was perfectly justified asking for whatever the hell she wanted), but I don’t get why it ever got to be anything more than that. And sending out her address to people? That’s just horrible. How can you be so freaking upset about something as small as this? I just…. I don’t get it.

    I also don’t understand how Chuck Wendig’s comment was sexist. He was supporting her, saying that instead of complaining and threatening her, people could just not give her money if they didn’t agree with what she was asking for.

    People confuse me. 😦

    • There have been some people claiming that he’s a man saying that women aren’t allowed to criticise other women. It’s a bit of a straw man argument, because when I was reading the orignal tweets about SJ’s Kickstarter (I did some creative googling after I wrote this post), I noted that about a third of the commenters were men. This was NOT a group of women attacking another woman, and therefore claims that Chuck was interfering in a “women’s issue” are patently false.

  3. rlsharpe says:

    I saw this on twitter yesterday and it infuriated me too. I can’t understand why if someone doesn’t want to fund a kickstarter, they just don’t fund it. Why do they have to be vocal about why they don’t like it? Do they not have better things to do with their time? I feel sorry for Stacey Jay, and all she has had to go through. I am encouraged though by the numerous blog post I have seen in support of her.

  4. nestpitch says:

    I’ve followed this topic with some interest but did not know about the personal information (home address etc.) shared until I read your post. I am gutted for this author & really, really angry that such a thing should EVER happen.
    Here’s the thing. I too did a Kickstarter campaign; not for my writing but for my artwork. I am planning (hoping) to have an exhibition either late 2015 or early 2016 and the cost of production of visual art is extraordinary, as is the cost of gallery hire space, launch nights, promotion, marketing, advertising (etc.)
    My campaign was not a success, (I only got a few pledges, not nearly enough) but neither did I get any backlash. This had me asking the question, is it OK to have a kickstarter (or similar) campaign for visual art and not for the written word? And if so, WHY?
    As Chuck Wendig said on Twitter, if you don’t like it – don’t back it. I find it extraordinary that as an accountant (in a previous life) there was no question of me being reimbursed for my work, for my training, for attending functions and events and additional courses, hell even reimbursement for the clothes I wore, yet as an author, the idea of ACTUALLY including a small portion for, you know, FOOD, was considered by some to be unreasonable.
    I wish people would spend less energy on trying to dismantle others and more in trying to repair them; now that would be a wondrous thing!

    • I’ve seen some argue that it’s more reasonable to fund a movie or other forms of art that have higher entry costs, because with writers basically anyone can pick up a pen and paper, whereas canvas, paints, cameras, studios etc are a lot more expensive. I can see that as far as it goes, but the fact remains that most movie kickstarters are going to include the costs to hire cameramen, directors, etc, which means you’re paying their salaries. My thought is that a reduced start-up cost should be reflected in a reduced goal overall: a movie might aim for $100k, whereas a writer might aim for $10k.

      Chuck Wendig’s new post is an interesting read, as is the Dear Author one he links for the argument on the other side (she doesn’t like Kickstarter in general, so it’s less about Stacey Jay’s approach and more about Kickstarters overall): http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/01/12/kickstarter-kerfuffle-part-two-thoughts-and-clarifications/

  5. It is appalling the amount of vitriol being thrown at this woman for what is being (somewhat arbitrarily) perceived as a faux pas. I hadn’t heard about the doxxing before now. I hope she stays safe.

    • I hope so too.
      I saw one person imply that Stacey Jay stirred up the controversy and made a mountain out of a molehill by overreacting. But I’m not really comfortable with the idea of judging her for that. I know if I’d faced the kind of critical response (even though most of it wasn’t bullying) I’d want to go hide under a rock too!


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