It’s been a while since I’ve done a discussion post. It’s also been a while since I’ve used my Twitter account for anything other than sharing my blog posts and retweeting other, funnier, more eloquent people than me. I rarely get involved in any book drama, mostly because I tend to steer clear of most conflicts, both in real life and online. I’ve certainly never called anyone out before. But something happened this week that I just couldn’t stay silent about. That something was best-selling author Mackenzi Lee accusing a fan of harassment for simply stating an opinion.
Let’s back up for a minute, all the way to October 2, 2018. That’s the publication day of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, one of my most anticipated books of 2018. It was pretty widely advertised that anyone who pre-ordered that book would receive a PDF of The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky, a short, 50-page novella featuring Monty and Percy, the two main characters from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Mackenzi Lee repeatedly stated that the only way to obtain this novella was to pre-order The Lady’s Guide. I’m not normally the kind of person who does this, but this whole situation is so ridiculous that I did some digging.
Here I have five instances of Mackenzi Lee directly stating that the novella would only be available to those who pre-ordered:
This is totally fine. As I said, I pre-ordered The Lady’s Guide specifically so I could get the novella. Had the novella not been offered, I would have still purchased the book, but I probably wouldn’t have pre-ordered it. That exclusive novella was the push I needed to pull out my credit card and click that pre-order button.
Then, at the end of last week, Mackenzi Lee announced out of nowhere that… drumroll please… The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky will be published in hardcover and available for purchase this fall.
Well, okay, this was a change from her standard response for the last six months. I can’t say that I was really upset about it. More like annoyed. I just don’t see the point in calling something exclusive if it’s only exclusive for a set period, and then available to whoever wants to buy it. I mean, this is great news for anybody who, for whatever reason, was unable to pre-order The Lady’s Guide. I’m happy that the several people who asked me to email them a PDF of the novella will finally be able to read it. (Because, of course, I said no.)
My favorite person, Daniel, wrote a very reasonable and polite response to this tweet and it turned into what I can only describe as A Huge Thing. You can (and should) read his blog post about it here. While his post focuses on the original tweet and the responses he got, I want to talk about something a little different, and that’s the appropriate use of social media.
Here’s Daniel’s tweet:
In my opinion, this tweet is entirely respectful. Note how he starts with “I know you probably had nothing to do with this decision.” There’s no attack here. Nothing rude. He’s just addressing the fact that something was marketed as “exclusive” to increase pre-orders and then released to the general public later.
Of course, there were some replies, as is to be expected on the internet.
Again, respectful. It is ridiculous that the publisher decided to charge for a novella that was not only originally offered for free, but was originally only available to a select group of people. Please note that, again, he clearly states that it was the publisher who made this decision, not the author. The author was never once called out.
Everything was fine and dandy until Monday, when Mackenzi Lee decided it was appropriate to call him out in what I can only describe as a tantrum to her 21,000 Twitter followers. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also took to Instagram to rant to her 15,000 followers there.
The thing I want to make very clear is that Mackenzi Lee, a grown woman and best-selling author, took to her social media to accuse a fan of harassment for those two tweets. Tweets that placed no blame on her and only brought up the fact that maybe the novella shouldn’t have been marketed as exclusive if it wasn’t.
My first reaction her her tweets was something along the lines of “Where the heck did this come from?!” because it just seemed like such a disproportionate response to the comments in question. But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I’ve mentioned before that I have a degree in Linguistics. One of my favorite aspects of Linguistics is the way you can use very specific words and phrases to totally change the way your point comes across. And, I have to say, Lee knew what she was doing when she wrote this response. The language that she uses is very specifically designed to get people on her side. And that makes sense. After all, when you post a Twitter rant, your goal is to have people side with you, not to say, “Oh, Mackenzi, you’re so crazy.”
So let’s take a look at some of the biased phrases she uses in her responses:
- “we get harassed by readers”
- “if you keep coming at authors over the unfairness of their preorder campaigns, we’re going to stop doing them”
- “before you accuse authors of only being in it for the money”
- “not everything is about you”
- “remember there are actual real people making the best decisions they can”
- “don’t harass us”
I want to make it clear, yet again, that there was no “harassment.” Nobody “came at her.” Nobody accused her of “only being in it for the money.” At what point did anyone insinuate that anything was “all about them”? But the point that really, really got to me was “remember there are actual real people making the best decisions they can.”
I couldn’t stay quiet. I had to respond to that.
Of course, I’m not expecting a response from Lee. I did get a response from a really great fan of Lee’s, though, who decided that my reply construed harassment. I’d love to share it with you, but it seems that my calm responses to her angry, uninformed tweets made her so upset that she felt the need to block me.
But that brings me to my next point — when Lee decided to publicly call out a fan, she had to know that it wouldn’t just be her calling him out. More than one fan blindly jumped on that bandwagon, defending Lee from this so-called “harassment,” most likely without ever reading the original exchange.
I’m not worried about myself here. Quite honestly, as the billing manager in a medical office, not many days go by where I don’t get yelled at by at least one person. Teenagers on the internet who think they’re cool don’t really phase me. And although I don’t think it’s right that Lee called Daniel out, he’s an adult and he can handle it. But, that said, did Lee ever think about what would happen if he wasn’t?
What if that tweet had been sent by a young teen? What if their favorite author publicly called them out, resulting in angry tweets from other fans? What if the person she called out was so upset by it that they hurt themselves? But, then again, is it really ever okay to act like this? Does it really matter if the person can take it? This use of social media is, in my opinion, completely irresponsible.
So… what exactly am I getting at here? I don’t expect authors to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. Everybody has bad days and everyone’s entitled to a rant sometimes. But this kind of behavior is becoming increasingly common on social media, and I think it’s time that we take a step back and think about what exactly is happening. We have these public figures with large followings who tweet without thinking it through and then disappear. When it comes to something like this, rant to your friends. Rant to your family. Call your mom and complain about that guy on Twitter who made you feel bad. But don’t make it into a bigger thing than it needs to be.
I don’t think there was anything in Daniel’s tweets that constituted harassment. There was certainly nothing that should have resulted in this level of response. Lee’s tweets, though, teeter on the edge of harassment. She’s taking out all of her frustration at an entire situation on one person, and, by including Daniel’s tweet in her rant, encouraging her followers to gang up on him.
Honestly, my mind is still spinning over this. Every time I think I’m done thinking about it, another thought pops into my head, like… what does Lee’s publisher think about all of this? Are they okay with her calling out a fan like this? And if they are, what does that say about them?
Quite honestly, I could probably keep going on this topic for another few thousand words, but I’m going to stop myself here. I’d be really curious to hear any and all opinions on this.
Have you ever engaged in a Twitter debate? What’s your opinion on authors calling out their readers like this? Let’s talk in the comments!