Friday, February 19, 2010

Truly, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

They say no good deed goes unpunished and today it was proven.

For years now, I have voluntarily visited and posted to the Absolute Write forums, answering questions and attempting to educate and inform writers so that they can better navigate the rough waters of the publishing seas. And today I was banned from those forums for trying to do just that.

Absolute Write was founded by an author and she was lovely and I remember working with her when I offered to recreate the "Ask the Agent" topic I used to answer questions for on GEnie, the old BBS. I answered questions for a while and then opted out. Other agents came in for a week here and there to answer questions. Now, though, ownership has changed hands and apparently all respect for agents who contribute their time there has been tossed out the window.

But I still frequented the boards, often to address questions directly about my firm that showed up as Google alerts and, while there, I would answer any interesting questions I saw.

As readers of my blog know, I currently have an offer available that allows writers to send me UNSOLITED sample chapters in exchange for a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and I promise to provide written feedback if I pass, so the writer doesn't get a form reject and gets to try their material out on me without dealing with the query process. The donation goes to a good cause and is tax deductible. Seems like a no-brainer, right? A win/win for authors, right?

So one author takes me up on this and is unhappy with my feedback. She disparages my response by posting on Absolute Write, highlighting in particular that I spelled the name of the main character wrong in my letter. In actuality, all I did was add an "er" to the end, as in "Tracker" rather than "Track," and I said as much in several polite and professional posts in response to posts by this woman.

Keep in mind, I did not disclose plot details. I merely responded to her complaints. Her response, in turn, was to complain to the moderator, who edited my posts without my permission, which offended me. After all, there is nothing unique about a character named Track or Tracker. There are many books and movies using this word in the title.

I attempted to make it a "teachable moment" and explain to the users of the site that names of characters are not protected by copyright or trademark unless they are very unique, like "Yoda" in STAR WARS. I also raised for discussion the question of editing a post by a user without his permission at the request of another user. This, to me, was censorship. There is, after all, no legal argument or even ethical argument against the use of the name.

Apparently MacAllister, the owner of Absolute Write (or at least the man in charge) disagrees, as he has banned me from the site, apparenlty forever, for being "discourteous."

Alas, I will no longer be able to answer questions there, nor would I want to, but if you have a question to ask, I am happy to do so here. Simply use the email address in the "About" section.

Z

4 comments:

M. Dunham said...

I'm sorry to hear that. You help many writers with your advice as well as your blogging, and it's a shame to see something useful come to such an end.

It'll be their loss; the owner's, and the writers'.

veela-valoom said...

I had been planning on using that forum at some point but now I am reconsidering. I enjoy agent blogs & respect their opinions. I also very much value free speech and the right to defend yourself. To me the board sounds a bit bitter...at least that's the only explanation I can find.

(Also if anyone should understand typos it's writers, Jeeze)

Mary McDonald said...

Wow! Sorry to hear that. I'm on Absolute Write, and for the most part, it's a great site for writers, but I'm only an occasional poster/lurker, not a regular.

Btw, I don't think your donation request is out of line or unethical, like you said, it sounds like a win/win situation.

Lili said...

A character name is not a "personal detail."

Editing another person's post without permission is bad form, especially for a writing forum.

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