I own over 150 books on the writing craft, both in print and in digital format. I love supporting my fellow authors with coin just as much as I enjoy reading their wise insights on craft and their encouragement to keep on keepin’ on with the creative life.
Last summer, I noticed my highlights in a particular book. Wow, this is good stuff, I thought. It’s always fun to revisit inspirational or instructional passages. I pulled another writing book off my shelf, and another. A trip down Highlighting Memory Lane, I guess.
I marveled at how far I had come as an author since buying my very first writing book over a decade ago (Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg): two traditionally published non-fiction books, another under contract for this year, over a dozen eBooks, a companion book to an oracle/creativity deck I created with my artist husband, over 1,200 reviews on Amazon.com that netted me the coveted title of Hall of Fame Reviewer (there are only 125 of us), various magazine articles and more.
Never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be where I am today, especially as the daughter of blue-collar parents in the heart of coal mining rural Pennsylvania (where I still live)—and as a parent, myself, to a special needs son (whom I homeschool).
Struck by how much I’ve benefited from writing books—and writing magazines, too—I had the idea to curate the best quotes from these books to help encourage my fellow writers…especially ones that felt alone, discouraged, dejected and overwhelmed.
Amidst other projects, including publishing our Snowland Deck and overseeing all that went with it, I’ve been working on 111 Quotes for Writers for half a year. Two weeks ago, I decided to buckle down and get the eBook finished, so I spent about eight hours a day or more—every day—poring over dozens of writing books and magazines to cull the best brief quotes to share. (Yeah, in addition to buying lots of writing books, I also subscribe—or had subscriptions to—Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, Publisher’s Weekly, Bookmarks, Tin House, Lapham’s Quarterly, Poetry and The New York Review of Books).
At last, I finished the eBook earlier this week! I was so excited about this eBook, because I know the value of a timely quote of encouragement, inspiration or motivation to bridge the gaping maw between despair and hope, fear and courage—especially with the often solitary, angst-producing writing life.
Imagine my dismay that, within seconds, one of the writers (who I’m not going to name) tweeted back to me:
Wait, I'm sorry, are you selling our quotes?
The implication is obvious.
I went to his twitter timeline and, not surprisingly, he tweeted to his followers about “some lady” trying to make a buck off his work.
Mortified, hurt and embarrassed, I tweeted back something about “fair use” but, noting his tone, I said something like “You know what? I’ll remove the quote. I don’t want to point people to you or your work after all.”
Doing what many self-important people do on Twitter—the ultimate act of passive-aggressiveness, in my opinion—he retweeted MY tweet to his followers to involve them. Now, they knew who this “lady” was. It’s a favorite tactic of bigheaded authors: draw blood, and allow the sharkophants to finish off the individual.
Suddenly, I get an onslaught of tweets from perfect strangers, calling me a thief and plagiarist, as well as other nasty invectives.
I ended up blocking about two dozen people in an hour’s time, including the author.
Understand that when I call this author “bigheaded”, I’m not exaggerating. He used to be a pretty cool guy before he became known. But then he got some book deals, began blogging on the writing craft and—viola!—the fame gods and fairwind crowds blew favor his way. He began unfollowing people right and left. He said he could only be bothered with following the “important” people in the industry (not the readers that got him where he was, of course).
And although I stopped following him because his cockiness nauseated me, I still quoted him in my eBook because I felt a brief passage from one of his (self-published) eBooks was valuable.
Two Writer’s Digest authors that I happened to be Facebook friends with, Joseph Bates (The Nightime Novelist) and Christina Katz (The Writer's Workout, Get Know Before the Book Deal, Writer Mama , thanked me for including them in my 111 Quotes for Writers. I appreciated that, but still felt awful. Why do I even bother? I asked myself.
The next day, Lisa Cron, author of the fantastic Wired for Story, thanked me heaps on Twitter (not sure how she found out she was in my eBook—must have been the brouhaha). Also, one of my favorite Writer’s Digest contributors, Elizabeth Sims, sent me an enthusiastic email wishing me success with the eBook and thanking me for including her in such good company (I had never communicated with her before, so it was so cool to get a note from her. Yes, I’m a fangirl! And spreading the love for writers I admired was one of the motivating factors in penning this eBook, especially since I don’t have the time to write many reviews these days.) By the way, Elizabeth's coming out with a brand new writing craft book next month called You've Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams. Woohoo!
See, these professional authors don’t have a scarcity mindset. They understand that having ME quote THEIR books means dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of new readers discovering their stellar work—which was part of my intent. After all, that’s why I started reviewing over a decade go: to push great books on a hungry reading public. And in this glutted age of information overload, discoverability matters.
I gazed at all the writing craft books in my library. I pulled book after book off the shelves. Here’s just some of what I found: the books listed below all feature quotes from writers—at the beginning of chapters, sidebars, etc. Please understand that the numbers beside each book do NOT reflect passages excerpted for the express purpose of instruction, but are merely “ornamental” quotes.
Author Julia Cameron quoted several (living) authors six or more times in sidebars—with no mention of where she got the quote. Indeed, none of the books below states where the quotes are from—just who said it. However, in my 111 Quotes for Writers, I credited the book or magazine article where I found the quote (when applicable, which was most cases). Only one author was a repeat quote in my eBook, by the way (I sourced110 different authors).
The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron – 391 quotes
The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz – 366 quotes
A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie – 365 quotes
The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters – 260 quotes
For Writer’s Only by Sophy Burnham – 220 quotes
A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves – 216 quotes
Write-a-Thon by Rochelle Melander – 91 quotes
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by Editors of Writer’s Digest - 86
Do you seriously think that any of these amazing authors/editors were accused of plagiarism? Called a “thief” or worse on Twitter? Got permission from every single author to use those quotes?
I don’t, either.
So…why was I?
Is it because my eBook was self-published? Or was it simply yet another case of hyena mob rule on social media—cyberbullying at its finest?
Did you know that “Quotations” is a sub-genre of Reference? Sure is. So, according to some of those reactionary tweeters, anyone who’s ever penned a book of quotations is a “plagiarist” and “thief”, out to “make a buck” on the beleaguered backs of those they quoted.
One of my Facebook friends asked me how I would feel if I were quoted in a book.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “I’d be thrilled! More exposure for me and my work. Why in the world would I mind being quoted? It’s an honor!”
If any of the authors I quoted do NOT feel it’s an honor or good exposure, by all means email me. I’ll gladly remove your quote and name from my eBook, as well as all vendor descriptions.
P.S. In the Kindle version of 111 Quotes for Writers, I had planned on hyperlinking to every single book that I quoted from so that readers could click and discover more about the title on Amazon.com—and, hopefully, purchase it. The only reason I didn’t is that I couldn’t figure out how to copy-and-paste URLs in Word’s hyperlink box (it only allows me to type in URLs). When I realized how much time it would take me to manually type in those Amazon URLs with its convoluted strings of numbers and letters, I abandoned the idea.
Note: I had intended to write 111 Quotes for Tarot Lovers, and although I paid a professional to design my cover (as I did with 111 Quotes for Writers)—and am a dozen quotes into it—I’ve decided not to dedicate my time to an endeavor that may provoke a similar reaction among some hostile individuals. In fact, I don’t plan to pursue my Call 111! series at all after this experience.
[Update: Shortly after this post, I removed the eBook from Amazon. Who needs to be ganged up on via Twitter for a $1.99 reference book? No good deed goes unpunished... Btw, less than two weeks later, I posted all the quotes here on my blog. For free]