Things Not To Send An Author

snobgooseI need a new tag for the “I get mail…” stories. Here, have this little gem:

Date: April 6, 2015 at 6:18:59 PM PDT
Subject: Rose and Thunder can be a Bestseller.
From: *redacted*
To: contact@lilithsaintcrow.com

Hi Lilith,

I must say that’s an outstanding book you got out there. It has readers appeal, but you need to push it a bit.

You can check out *redacted*, they will direct up to 50 of their avid readers to purchase your book on Amazon and these reviewers will then post good reviews on your Amazon book page.

I once posted reviews for them in exchange for gift cards before i started my M.Ed program. Imagine having 50 readers post great reviews on your book page, that’ll definitely land you on the bestsellers list. I believe the many positive reviews from *redacted* will greatly help your book.

Thanks for putting out such an enjoyable book, but please promote it.

Regards,

*redacted*

Let’s just count the things wrong with this. First, you sent it on release day, so what are the chances that you’ve actually read the book? Close to zero, I fancy. Second, it’s a huge insult to think I’d purchase reviews, positive, negative, or otherwise. Third, for someone who claims to be in a Master’s of Education program, you should have at least enough common sense to know how insulting the mere suggestion is, and how ethically repugnant it would be for me to even consider. Fourth, your closing needs a little work–“Thanks…but please promote it,” is incredibly insulting as well. Deigning to tell me about a pay-for-reviews scheme and implying that I’m less than intelligent for not “promoting” my book to your exacting specifications is even worse. (It’s like a skeezy PUA attempting to neg me, for God’s sake. GROW UP.) Personally, I much prefer to do my promotion in less ignoble ways, thank you very much.

So, readers, here’s a way to be amazingly rude to an author, and if you’re a new author, taking this sort of email up on its offer is sketchy at best, a waste of money and a nasty skeleton to have in your career closet at worst.

There. A teachable moment, courtesy of someone who should have known better. I think it’s time for some tea now.

ROSE & THUNDER release!

R&T_draft4 I am sunk in the gutting and rewriting of Blood Call, so much so that I almost missed the most auspicious (and terrifying) of things for a writer: release day! Rose & Thunder is now live in all formats!

Beauty…

Isabella Harpe, last in a long line of witches, drifts with the wind. Her tarot cards always ready to bring in enough to live on, and her instincts keep her mostly out of trouble. Unfortunately, bad boyfriends and even worse luck strand her near the most dangerous place for a witch to land-beside a cursed town, and an even more cursed man.

The roses…

Jeremy Tremont’s family built their house over an ancient place of power, turning it into an uneasy, rose-choked sanctuary for the weird and the dangerous alike. Scarred, quiet, and difficult, he’s not Isabella’s idea of a prospective employer, no matter how badly she needs the money. He’s paying well, and there’s only one catch: she has to be home by dusk. Because in Tremont City, bad things happen after nightfall.

And the curse.

Secrets hide in every corner, an ancient curse cloaks itself in silence, and Isabella’s arrival has begun a deadly countdown. Despite that, she may have found a home-all she has to do is figure out how to break the curse.

Oh, and survive in the dark…

My faithful and beloved assistant Skyla swears that her real boyfriend in this book is the Tremont house, which owes a great deal to Robin McKinley’s Beauty, holding pride of place on my favorites shelf for a reason.

I love both Jeremy and Isabella; this book is set in the Watchers/Valentine universe and was just a ton of fun to write. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale; I will probably revisit it again at some point. I hope my dear Readers enjoy it as well.

Now available direct or at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and All Romance Ebooks.

Weekend Persistence

Wild dog licking his chops A nice sunny weekend, and now I need a day to recover from everything I did on my days “off.” I did manage my One New Recipe Of The Week, Thug Kitchen‘s spiced chickpea wraps with tahini dressing. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with tahini, despite loving hummus with a fiery and abiding love, and they were more flatbread-plus than actual wraps. The Princess found them acceptable and would ask for them again; the Prince prefers mac-and-cheese, of course. The box kind, not homemade. *eyeroll*

Also this weekend: the Princess, at seventeen, got her ears pierced. She finally wanted to do it, and we discussed getting it done by an actual licensed piercer rather than at the mall. I checked out the local tattoo/piercing shop–it’s been open for three years, so I felt comfortable enough that it wasn’t a fly-by-night operation, and the piercer (clean, friendly, and calm) answered all my questions cheerfully and thoroughly when I dropped in unannounced. When I came back with the Princess she greeted us both warmly and went over aftercare and the procedure with the Princess, making sure she was comfortable. All in all, a good experience. I recommend body piercers over the mall stores anyway; it’s just better.

This weekend also featured the Inktera Twitter feed–Inktera is one of the companies involved in the recent Clean Reader app kerfuffle. So the Inktera “bookstore” was pulled from the Clean Reader app, but PageFoundry (which seems to be the same company as Inktera?) is still offering Clean Reader. There’s also the confusion over what PageFoundry and Inktera actually do, what their connection is. I have some questions–and so does Andrea Phillips. I’ve Storified our interaction with whoever was running their Twitter feed this weekend. It’s a little…bizarre. I think at one point they were trying to sell me their services or insult me, but I’m not sure which.

Here’s the first set of questions I have for them:

1. The Twitter person seems to imply Inktera and PageFoundry are the same company, or will soon become the same company. Is this the case?
2. Did Inktera code the CleanReader app, or just provide the database of books to be “cleaned”?
3. Is CleanReader still for sale in the Apple app store, Google Play, or any other platform? If so, is it a new version not covered by the former announcement that the app has been discontinued?
4. How did Inktera not understand writers would protest such a treatment of their work?
5. What policies or procedures, if any, have been put in place to make sure similar apps aren’t introduced by Inktera/PageFoundry/whoever in the future?
6. Who at Inktera or PageFoundry is equipped to answer these questions, if you are not?

I know it seems like I’m beating this horse to death. Unfortunately, I’m genuinely curious–who at this company thought this app was a good idea, who still does, what precisely does Inktera DO, is Inktera the future version of PageFoundry? Is the app still around, despite the kerfuffle and the assurances that it’s been taken down? If it is still available, has it essentially changed so it isn’t Bowdlerizing people’s work without their consent? I checked the Apple store through my iTunes this morning, and found Clean Reader still available, with the developer listed as PageFoundry Inc and “in-app purchases” listed as “ebooks.” It’s still available through Google Play, too. It seems to be that one can import books through it, and the only change has been the PageFoundry database isn’t offering in-app purchases of people’s work for Bowdlerizing? Is that indeed the case?

See? So many questions. When I get curious, I get extremely persistent. Furthermore, when I can’t tell if I’m being insulted or sold to, I get irritated, which makes me even more persistent. It’s like an endless cycle of “how to make Lili very, very curious indeed.”

Now I’d like to fully understand what happened, who coded this, who at this company (or companies?) thought it was a good idea, what they’re going to do with similar apps in the future, and why they’re still offering the app. Of course they could refuse to answer, or cite internal privacy or something-whatever. Frankly, I’m expecting to be blown off again, and am considering taking my Smashwords books out of PageFoundry even though the Smashwords CEO made the decision that none of its books would go through the app in particular. (See the March 25 update.)

ETA: I have received what I can only call a partial answer from Inktera. Let’s take it from the top…

On Mar 29, 2015, at 3:32 PM, Inktera wrote:

Hello!
This was passed to us via Twitter.
How can we help you today?

Lilith Saintcrow wrote:
Lilith Saintcrow ‏@lilithsaintcrow
@Inktera Someone with the ability to answer these questions can email me at contact AT lilithsaintcrow DOT com. @andrhia

So my initial feeling, that whoever was manning the Twitter stream just wanted to unload me onto Support, seems somewhat justified. Here were my initial questions:

On Mon, 30 Mar at 8:18 AM , Lilith Saintcrow wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am one of the authors who vigorously protested the CleanReader app. I have further questions, and whoever is handling the Twitter account does not seem empowered or disposed to answer them. My questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The Twitter person seems to imply Inktera and PageFoundry are the same company, or will soon become the same company. Is this the case?
2. Did Inktera code the CleanReader app, or just provide the database of books to be “cleaned”?
3. Is CleanReader still for sale in the Apple app store, Google Play, or any other platform? If so, is it a new version not covered by the former announcement that the app has been discontinued?
4. How did Inktera not understand writers would protest such a treatment of their work?
5. What policies or procedures, if any, have been put in place to make sure similar apps aren’t introduced by Inktera/PageFoundry/whoever in the future?
6. Who at Inktera or PageFoundry is equipped to answer these questions, if you are not?

Whatever answer I receive will be posted publicly. I am quite curious about this, and whoever is running your social media feeds seems unable or unwilling to answer what I think are quite reasonable questions about the provenance and the future of CleanReader-type apps. I have other questions, but this list will do for a start.

Thank you for your time, and I do hope to hear from you soon.

Best,

Lilith Saintcrow

Here is the reply I’ve received so far, sent at 8:55am, March 30, 2015:

Lilith:

Thank you for taking the time to send us your questions and concerns.

You have contacted the support queue that manages questions and help-requests from customers, and also general routing of other inquiries that might come in for any number of reasons.

The most common question we get is “How do i delete a book, after I’m finished reading it?”, if this gives you some context for what we typically handle. On principal, care so much about serving you that we would treat you the same if you were asking for a good chicken soup recipe! :) (you might be surprised if you knew how diverse our customers are!)

For some of the questions you have sent through, I can answer them directly, because we have the training and knowledge to do so.
For some, I can get back to you shortly, as the answer may require some research on my side to make sure I get everything right.
And then for others, the scope of the question is outside the parameters of what a customer-service queue can handle. In these cases, I can route your concerns to other individuals or departments.

I also want to make sure I’m responding to you as quickly as possible, as we have internal SLA’s we like to hit when first responding to requests for help.
In the time that it has taken me to type thus far, I see 11 other support requests which have not yet been serviced, too!

So I hope you will accept our fastest-possible “first cut” of those questions that have ready-made answers.
It might take a full day for me to respond to the rest. OK??

Q: Are Inktera and Page Foundry the same company?
A: The company “Page Foundry” created the brand “Inktera” to represent the bookstore product that customers would buy. For example, Amazon and Kindle have a similar relationship, though many people use the terms interchangeably. Page Foundry and Inktera will soon become “Inktera” alone, which will be simpler.

Q: Is the Clean Reader app still available for download?
A: I just checked, and it is available both in the Apple and Google app stores.

More to come very soon, my friend!
We are here to serve you, whether you are an author, publisher, reader or all of the above!

Okay. So PageFoundry and Inktera ARE the same company. PageFoundry is still offering the app through Google and Apple. The change is that they have removed Inktera’s “buy now” capability and database; now the reader must import the books in, as far as I understand, PDF form. The major objection to the app was that they were selling the books to be Bowdlerized, now the app is free and one must import one’s own books. Which makes it somewhat distasteful, but still just on the edge of legality as far as my understanding goes.

I shall update here when/if I receive more.

ALSO ETA: It seems whoever’s in charge of Clean Reader’s Facebook app got into a snit and disclosed private financial information about one of their critics. They have since apologized. I have to say, between this and the numerous grammatical and spelling errors in the app’s feed, that I am not at all sanguine about them arrogating the privilege of word choice…

photo by:

Nasty Letters

I get mail. Some of it is…breathtaking.

First Name: *redacted*
Last Name: *redacted*

Your Email
*redacted*

Re-enter email
*redacted*

Subject:
steelflower

Message:
Loved this book. I just read that epiracy killed the series. How does it not kill your other series? You would write of a woman who does not shirk her responsibilities to those she comes across, who does not back down from trouble; yet after giving her life, you would back down from finishing her story? I will not read your books after this, you let Steelflower down.

So, because some of the other series I’ve written have been pirated but not killed completely, I am to blame, and I am to be roundly punished.

I see.

I was not initially going to reply, but I thought about it. I decided this might become my form reply to similar letters.

Dear *redacted*,

I am very sorry you feel that way. I hope you never have to make the type of decision I did when I found I could not continue Kaia’s story because of the theft of my work by e-pirates. I further hope you never receive the sort of hatemail I have for making that decision. It is quite distressing to be stolen from, then blamed for being stolen from and furthermore receive nasty letters about it.

I hope you find other stories you like,

Lili Saintcrow

The more I get letters like this, the less inclined I am to work my ass off to try to find a solution to thieves killing a series I agonized over, with characters I love.

*sigh*

On Clean Reader

Manuscript So there’s this–an an app called “Clean Reader” that purports to “scrub” books of offensive terms. Joanne Harris has protested; she makes the excellent point, among others, of the insulting substitution of “witch” for “bitch.” Chuck Wendig also weighed in.

I therefore wrote to Clean Reader requesting that they do not touch my books in any way, shape, or form.

On Wed, 25 Mar at 12:36 PM , Lilith Saintcrow (contact @lilithsaintcrow.com) wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to object, in the strongest possible terms, to my books’ inclusion in the Clean Reader app. I find the whole idea of Bowdlerisation of authors’ works to be distasteful and déclassé in the extreme, not to mention the proposed “cleaning” to be extremely gauche and heavy-handed in its “American evangelical crackpot” focus. If I wanted to write Tipper Gore-approved tripe, I would, and there are plenty of writers who do. I do not wish to, and I object strongly to your “app” insulting my work by presuming to substitute “cleaner” words. I chose, and continue to choose, every word in every book I write for a reason, and you are not licensed, allowed, approved, or empowered to change one jot or tittle.

Frankly, I am surprised you didn’t think to offer authors the chance to opt in or out of this mutilation of their work. In any case, I am emphatically opting out. Please make absolutely certain your “app” does not touch a single one of my books. You may find my works listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites; I write fiction under my name, Lilith Saintcrow, and YA fiction under Lili St. Crow.

Please reply with confirmation that my books are not and will not be touched by this “app.” I am uninterested in whatever justification you might offer for this censorship and mutilation of literature, no matter how well-meaning.

Sincerely,

Lilith Saintcrow

I received this reply.

On Mar 25, 2015, at 1:58 PM, Clean Reader (cleanreader @inktera.com) wrote:

Lilith:

First of all, thank you for taking the time to send us your message. Your request is being implemented right now, and should be completed within the next few hours (there is a QA process to validate de-listing titles).
In fact, it is our policy to de-list any titles as requested by the author without need for explanation.

Please understand, however, that there are a fair number of mis-representations and misinformation surrounding what the Clean Reader app does and does not do. For instance:
– The app does not remove any words from a book
– The app does not change any words in a book, or replace them with alternatives
– The app does not censor any works, or limit the user’s ability to read the book in the exact form provided by the author/publisher
– The app does not change (or understand) the meaning of any phrases or text
– The app does not substitute an edited or adjusted edition of the title
– The app does not discriminate against any person on any basis
– The app does not impose any feature upon a user, with the exception of DRM-related restrictions as presented by the author/publisher

Of course, we cannot know what you’ve been told about what Clean Reader is/does. But we can tell you that all of the above-mentioned statements are true.

I think the thing that irritated me most about it was the insult to my intelligence. The disingenuousness was perhaps merely a bonus. Offering “alternative” words to “obscenities” or “curse words” is a substitution of phrases or text. (See example in this Guardian article detailing Harris’s objections.) My reply, I’m afraid, is somewhat rude and has one regrettable typo, but in my defense, I was a little vexed.

On Wed, 25 Mar at 3:30 PM , Lilith Saintcrow (contact @lilithsaintcrow.com) wrote:
Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your reply.

I told you I was uninterested in whatever justification you might offer, but you persisted in sending one. I shall, therefore, reply.

Your app substitutes one word for another books according to some “cleanliness standard.” I find it disingenuous in the extreme for you to claim otherwise, when I have gone to your website and seen how the app works in your very own words. It also does change the meaning of phrases and text, by substituting other phrases and text. This is shown on your very own website. That it is the user choosing a “cleanliness level” is beside the point, especially since your “cleanliness” levels have a specific and prevailing “Christian,” “evangelical,” and, I should add, very 1950s McCarthy rubric.

If I wanted to use different words in my works, I would. I chose and choose the words in each book carefully, and they are not to be abridged or altered without my explicit consent. Your app might conceivably fall under the rubric of a “translator” program, but if my works are translated into a foreign language I work with the translator where possible, and am (this is very important) paid for the foreign-language rights. By not contacting the authors in your database (since your “list” of titles is indeed a database) and not giving them a chance to opt out of this bowdlerization (I presume you have Google, please look that up) you have committed an extremely grave error, compounded by your incredibly tone-deaf responses in social media and even in this email thread.

If readers are so offended by my dialogue/characters/plotlines, they are welcome to find other works. There are entire genres catering to such tastes. You shall not force my own books into those genres without my consent, and you shall not facilitate the dismemberment and mutilation of my work in this fashion, period, point blank.

No doubt there is money to be made catering to the fears and petty prejudices of those who wish fiction or language deboned, dethroned, denatured, or spayed, but you shall not make one red cent off doing so to my books. I would urge you to reconsider this entire debacle, but I suspect I would be wasting breath.

Please confine further replies to confirmation of my books removed from your database. I have no further time to waste today; I have books to write.

Sincerely,

Lilith Saintcrow

The reply I received, sent at 2:33PM PDT:

Lilith:

We have confirmed that your books (now and future) are unavailable for sale or discovery within the Clean Reader App.

I am a little irked at the entire thing, especially since they did not contact authors of books at risk of being Bowdlerised before listing them “for sale or discovery.” I won’t quite label that particular decision “shady as fuck” but it’s certainly an omission of what I’d think would be a necessary act of good faith or even just good business hygiene. I’m not quite sure how this got approved at the app stores (Apple and Google Play) in question, either.

For other authors wishing to object, I wrote to jared@cleanreaderapp.com and CC’d support@pagefoundry.com; the replies all came from support@inktera.com.

Time to go back to revision.

photo by: Muffet

Supportive Like Wonderbra

Carriger_Prudence-HC I’m over at the Orbit blog today, interviewing Gail Carrier for her new release, Prudence. It’s my first interview ever–asking the questions, not answering them–and Ms Carriger was very gracious. I hope you like it!

I’m happy to report that the Certain Situation with That Certain Publisher has been…resolved…now. Thank you all for the messages of support. It was an extremely unpleasant set of circumstances, but it’s behind me now.

Also in the “good news” category: I got a surprise visit yesterday from my girl C, who is DONE WITH CHEMO and CANCER-FREE. *throws confetti* It was amazing to see her on the mend, hair reappearing, and her old wicked sense of humor still intact. (I may have misted up a little.) Best of all, the kids both have sniffles but she didn’t have to avoid us, because her blood counts are recovering. When you have kids and pets, immune-compromised friends can have a rough time just dropping by.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to her medical costs, and thank you for all the supportive messages for C, too. You guys are wonderful, as uplifting as sports brassieres but not nearly as pinch or rash-inducing. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Not least on the gratitude list is the fact that I’m going to finish Cal & Trinity, if not today then tomorrow. I can feel the book boiling under my skin, and the lunge for the end has begun. It will be nice to get the zero for that shoved into a mental drawer so I can revise Blood Call with a clear conscience.

Thank you, dear Readers. You’re a wonderful bunch.

Off I go to stumble for a finish line somewhere, anywhere…