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:
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.
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.