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did you say that outloud?

cringe worthy


In which I rant about Fair Use.


Click on the image to see it full size.

Edited to add: the scanned letter I’m showing you cuts off the last two sentences, which read: “Okay, enough of the serious stuff. If you have any questions, my contact information is below. Thanks again, and thanks for your support!”

Natasha from Maw Books pointed out on Twitter this morning an article posted at Flavorwire entitled How to Alienate Bloggers and Boost Book Sales. Apparently, some copies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith came with the letter pictured above. While I didn’t receive either this book or this letter, there are a few things I’d like to point out.

First, just out of curiosity, why would you not want reviewers to post a review of the book until April 1, 2009?

But here’s what really got me going this morning: “Excerpts: The book you’re receiving is copyrighted material. In no way, shape, or form do I want to see any text or images from the book up online.”

I immediately start screaming when I see people ask other people not  to do something that is COMPLETELY LEGAL. Quoting text from a book is what is called Fair Use and doesn’t need permission from the author or the publisher.

I know that Quirk Books is one of a kajillion publishers. All the publishers I’ve had the honor of working with have been gracious, giving, and pleasant to deal with. But that doesn’t change the fact that this particular publicist is a royal jerk who is trying to bully book bloggers into not using excerpts by saying, “If you don’t abide by the above terms, we will never work together again.” I’d guess that most book bloggers will be turned off by this letter, though many (if not most) will follow the request to not use any text or images in their review.

I’m here to say it’s wrong for Quirk Books to request this of book bloggers.

Perhaps what has my blood boiling over this whole letter is that bullies like this exist for the mere fact that nice people would NEVER send a letter like this. And most nice people won’t say anything, choosing instead to let it slide. So here’s my response to the person who wrote this letter:

It’s WRONG (and in my opinion immoral) of you to insist that bloggers not use excerpts from a book they’re reviewing, threatening that you’ll never work with them again if they do so. You should be ashamed of yourself. If I had received this book, you can bet I’d post a review with an excerpt to ensure we “never work together again” because you are not the kind of person that I want to have anything to do with.

In closing, I’d like to thank all the wonderful authors and publicists I’ve had the pleasure to work with thus far. I haven’t appreciated you as much as I do after reading the above letter.

(Second) Edited to add: Other people have added their opinion of this letter, and they really round out my limited rant:

| Tags: , 70 comments »

70 Responses to “In which I rant about Fair Use.”

  1. Janssen

    Wow, that is absurd. It’s made even worse by the awful tone of the letter. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Ti

    The April 1st thing made me think if April Fool’s Day.
    Didn’t care for the tone of that letter. Hard to believe this is an actual request.


  3. Megan

    That definitely is insane! Since it’s like, um, my blog, I reckon I post whatever the hell I feel like posting (within copyright reason, of course). Once the review copy is in my hands, it’s up to me to decide what to post and when. Am I right? I realize I can’t sit here and type up the whole manuscript (nor would I want to… I would probably lose my vision) and post it on the interwebs, but as far as the “dates” on which I “must” publish things? Those are requests. We all have our book blogging etiquette, sure, but I don’t have to do anything.

    And not using images or exrcepts? Are they crazy? Do they realize that vision-centric people like me will probably gloss over a whole review if I don’t see a cover image? I’m obsessed with cover art. I have to see the cover! No cover = me so completely disinterested.

    Thanks for the rant, Trish… so agree with you. Oy!


  4. Natasha @ Maw Books

    I’m really curious to see the posts that a couple of other people including other publicists are going to put up about this. My main irk was the entire execution of the letter and talking down to the blogger. “Don’t push me” Yeah. Those are words that should never be said to anybody. Sounds like this person doesn’t have an ounce of restraint in his/her body. Or a supervisor to stop them from getting mailed out.


    trish Reply:

    I look forward to seeing what publicists have to say about the letter, too. I don’t like the tone either, but that’s not what got me worked up. 🙂


    Monica Reply:

    I’m working on a reply right now. While I’m not a publicist per say, I have some experience on the “other side of the fence”.


  5. Becky

    I did receive a copy of this one. But I didn’t receive the blogger-letter full of threats. The paperwork with my review copy was just a typical press release with the embargo date highlighted near the top. I did post several quotes with my review of the book. As I think including quotes not only to be fair but useful. How else would people get a sense of what the book was like? (And the cover I posted as well!) Part of me wonders if the images Quirk is referring to in this instance is the inside illustrations of the book). That I can understand a bit better. But the cover? Seriously?


  6. ammolilred

    I agree with Trish 100% – I for one hate bullies, did as a child growning up (and stood up to them then) and still do! I rally around Ti’s reply about the tone of the letter. I applaude you Trish “You GO Girl!” I wish ALL Book Bloggers would stand up to Quirk Books and show them that they can not bully readers/bloggers ……
    BULLY – (noun) blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
    Sorry , just had to make sure the Quirk Books knew what the word Bully meant.


  7. Natasha @ Maw Books

    Another thought. If they had kindly asked me to post the review after a certain date, etc. I probably would comply. I definitely have no problem working with publicists on stuff like that. But screaming at me in all caps and ending it with a “I’m serious!” ???? I have no words.


    Chris@bookarama Reply:

    “I’m serious!” It sounds like something I’d say to my 6 year old.


  8. Anastasia

    I have NO PROBLEM complying with embargo dates, even if they’re a bit weird and force me to post my review days after the book came out (how does THAT make sense?). But the other things– threatening not to work with a blogger just because they exercised their right of Fair Use? Telling me where to link to the book and to ONLY use that link? C’mon, people. That’s just stupid, and really off-putting. >:( Boo on them, seriously.


  9. Lisamm

    Holy crap, can you say “control freak”?? Wow, Quirk would never work with me again?????? boo hoo hoo- WHO CARES! Do they not know how many other (bigger, nicer, friendlier, more generous) publishers are out there begging us to take their books, pleading with us to post our thoughts on them, and are absolutely thrilled when we do? Seriously, are they on drugs?? Do they think they’re doing a blogger some enormous favor by sending them a review copy (to add to the massive stack they already have)? This seems like a case of missing the forest for the trees.

    They could have made a request instead of a rudely worded demand, and I’d bet that 99% of bloggers would have been happy to follow it. But that tooooooone, ugh! Starting off with “Greetings, Blogger Friends” and ending with “Don’t push me”.. huh?? I think I’d have thrown the book directly into the trash.


  10. J.S. Peyton

    Wow, I’m almost surprised at how offensive this letter is! It almost makes one not read the book, doesn’t it? This publicist apparently didn’t get the memo that the blogger/publicist relationship is one of give and take. You give me a copy for free and I read and review your book on my blog, thereby helping you reach a larger audience through word-of-mouth FOR FREE. There’s no room or need to be a jerk.


  11. Word Lily

    All of this letter: so annoying. So wrong. I’m with you on your point, too, Trish.


  12. Jen - Devourer of Books

    Like Natasha said, I’m more than happy to withhold posts when publicists request it, whether I agree with their marketing strategy or not I assume they do have a strategy and a reason for asking me to wait. However, I’m not sure what I would have done had I received this rude letter, probably something to ensure I’d never be corresponding with her again.


  13. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    I think I’ve only ever done one ARC review, mostly because the whole idea of doing them rubs me the wrong way (for a whole host of unrelated reasons). Seeing something like this letter, which is entirely condescending and threatening and totally over the top… it makes me glad I don’t deal with this stuff.

    If publicists are going to turn to book bloggers to promote books (as newspaper book review sections disappear), they have to be prepared to treat bloggers with the same amount of respect. In turn, bloggers have to maintain a code of professionalism (personally, and amongst themselves).

    I’m curious to see how all of this shakes out and what sorts of responses get posted online. I’m not as in touch with book publicists sites, so I hope people on Twitter and in posts will keep linking to responses.


  14. natalie @ book, line, and sinker

    dear quirk pr:
    this letter looks like a primo example of ‘how to lose friends and alienate book bloggers’. why be so snappy to a community of people who do a whole lot of free publicity for your book(s)? thanks for the crash course in how NOT to get book bloggers to promote new books–i’m serious!

    natalie @ book, line, and sinker


  15. Lori L

    Wow! My first reaction was that there are enough good books out there who have publicists who would be thrilled for some pre-publication promotion that I’d consider tossing the book out. As it stands, this may not only be a book I will never read, I’m also completely able to avoid any book that Quirk Books publishes. When I read reviews I like to see quotes from the book and the cover of the book.


  16. Valerie

    Wow. Is this for real? I can understand asking not to post until after a certain date (such as the Harry Potter books so not to create spoilers, but this is obviously no HP). But the way the request and the rest of the letter was worded seems just plain rude. It’s possible whoever wrote that thought they were being funny, but if so, it certainly fell flat, at least with me!


  17. Natasha @ Maw Books

    Bethanne over at The Book Maven has the first post of two up about this issue:

    She’s even been on the phone with the publicist in question. I’m really curious as to where this is going.


  18. Jeanne

    Hmm, not only is this person rude, but also ungrateful for publicity already given (which he must know about because he has, like a GOOGLE ALERT on the book title). Otherwise, he’d have sent me a copy. But wait, maybe he’s trying to control the publicity for this book so tightly it’s ludicrous because… just a guess–it’s not that good!


  19. Pam

    I think besides the obvious things people are pointing our there that totally suck, is the fact the guy pretty much called all book bloggers idiots. The line about not sure how much you are familiar with the term Embargo.

    If you send the freaking book before April 1st, then don’t expect me to wait to review it. I don’t use excerpts really just because I am lazy, but in the words of the famous Christian Bale, I will not work with Quirk. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    Btw did the book title turn anyone besides me off?


  20. I Heart Monster

    I say “Preach On, Trish, Preach On!” I don’t know how this person made it like this in business, period. You just don’t talk (or type for that matter) like that to anyone! Wonder if this person still has a job?


  21. JLS Hall

    Someone who’s riding on the literary coattails of another author (in this case, Jane Austen) really has a lot of nerve invoking intellectual copyright issues, wouldn’t you say? I wouldn’t have been likely to read anything juxtaposing Austen and zombies in the first place, but after this I’m pretty sure I’d steer clear of that publisher and all their other authors. If they want to put the book blogging community off their product, this is a great way to go about it.


  22. Natasha @ Maw Books

    Ha, ha! And I’m back Trish with part two:


  23. Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog

    This is ridiculous, insulting, and just plain stupid. But what’s really interesting to me about it is the whole “embargo date” thing.

    In the bookselling world, there are books with Strict on Sale (SOS) release dates, which means that bookstores absolutely cannot sell the book before the listed date and will be penalized/fined/shunned by the publisher if they do so (this usually applies to bestselling authors and high-buzz titles), and then there’s everything else. All books come with a release date, but if a book arrives a few days before its official date and is not SOS, we are permitted to display and sell it.

    If Quirk Publishing was really so invested in keeping the book a secret until April 1st, they should have designated it as SOS, and then they should have stuck to it. Instead, they knew it was getting huge buzz and decided to send it out early. Surely, the publicist knew this was going to happen, so it’s not like book bloggers were going to be spoiling secrets that any reader who wanted to pick up the book before the 1st couldn’t discover on his or her own.

    I’m also very suspicious of why a publisher would not want reviewers to quote from a book. Throughout school, we are taught to use quotes from the text to support our points about whatever we’re writing on. Most authors appreciate it when bloggers do so. And you know what, it’s my prerogative!

    If I had received a letter like this, I would have had steam shooting out of my ears. When bloggers write book reviews, we are doing authors and publicists a favor. I’ll be happy to consider your preferences, but you need to address me with courtesy and decency. I expect that, and I will respond in kind. I do not, however, respond well to being bullied, spoken down to, and treated like an imbecile.

    PR people are supposed to be in the business of making their clients look good. This is just embarrassing. Thank goodness we’re talking about it in a public forum, where (I hope) this person’s boss can see exactly what she did and will respond appropriately with a little lesson about communication and etiquette.

    I’m going to stop now before my head explodes. Thanks for pointing this out, Trish. And hell yeah, Fair Use is Fair Use.


  24. cbjames

    This makes me wonder about the future of book publishing. I think book reviews are moving to the blogs at this point. I haven’t read a print one in over a year and I used to read them almost daily. If publishers and publicist treat bloggers like this, what do they think will happen. We don’t have to read their ARCs. The library is full of wonderful free books. I’ve found ARCs to be a very mixed bag, so much so that I’m very selective about them now.

    Had I received this letter, I would have politely declined to review the book. But then why would I want to read a book out zombies invading a Jane Austen novel in the first place?


  25. Kiki

    First off, I agree with JLS Hall on this one:
    “Someone who’s riding on the literary coattails of another author (in this case, Jane Austen) really has a lot of nerve invoking intellectual copyright issues, wouldn’t you say?”–my first thoughts exactly–who would want to read this dumb book anyway! My friend emailed my about this book -I had already heard about it on Shelfari–and had jokingly suggested we read it for our book group–ha ha. Nothing could interest me less!

    But I would never want to work with someone who wanted to act like they were doing me the favor, when the truth is, your time is precious and limited, so when it comes to reviewing books, you have to choose what you want to read anyway! I would have no problem severing this little so-called “relationship”!

    How insulting and offensive!


  26. Author Marketing Experts, Inc. » Working with bloggers & good PR practices

    […] […]

  27. Paula Krapf/Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

    I can’t add anything to what you’ve said so well, but I did a post on working with bloggers and good PR practices:


  28. Wendy

    Well, if that is Quirk’s policy I won’t be reading or reviewing any of their books. How insulting. I don’t have a problem with holding a review, but not using quotes from a book??? That is stupid. I use quotes all the time to support my thoughts and review, and I have had positive feedback from authors who appreciated this. Plus the tone of that letter was just so demeaning – treating bloggers like children. Someone needs to educate Quirk that using quotes in a review does not fall under violation of copyright. I’m with you Trish – send me the book and I’d love to fill my review with quotes *laughs* Thanks for blogging about this…


  29. Maree

    Embargo dates for review books are pretty common. We get them in at work all the time _ asking nicely that no reviews appear before the publication date. As for the rest … why would you shoot yourself in the foot like that? That’s just rude. And daft.


  30. Jen Forbus

    Wow! I’m with you Trish. If I received a letter like that I’d definitely not want to work with the publisher again. I received a review copy of a book I’m reviewing next week and I wanted to use some excerpts from the book. I contacted the author just to make sure they weren’t being changed for the final published version; she e-mailed me back and was so thrilled that I checked and that I was going to site the book.

    I don’t know what’s going on with their thinking, but they definitely shot themselves in the foot on that one!


  31. Melissa

    Wow, that is CRAZY. I can’t believe that a publisher would send a letter like that with a review copy of a book. Thank you for sharing this, I hadn’t seen the discussion on Twitter.


  32. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    OH man. Hey guess what everyone? BBAW 09 is coming in September and suddenly I’m on fire to work on it. 🙂

    Thanks for the fuel, aptly named Quirk!


  33. Stephanie

    OK, except for the kind of creepy “I’ll find you” when referring to not posting an image from the book, I have to say that I didn’t take offense at the letter and in fact felt that the writer was trying to write in kind of a “tounge-in-cheek” way to add some humor to the request. Obviously it wasn’t at all interpreted in this way, but maybe we need think about the intention of the author. If you visit the Quirk books website even their Who’s Who section isn’t the typical biography you would expect but instead a little “quirky” glimpse of each employee with a touch of humor. I’m thinking that Quirk isn’t your typical publisher and maybe this is their way of making a light joke. Tastless, I’ll agree, but I think it wasn’t intentional to piss off 90% of the book blogging population. Just saying…


    trish Reply:

    Interesting, Stephanie. I’m not sure I agree with you, but you’ve given me something to think about.


  34. bybee

    Quirk, you jerk: Bad on you for being so hateful. Shouldn’t bloggers and publishers all be on the same side?


  35. Jeane

    Ditto on what everyone said. I don’t accept review copies anymore (unless I’m dying to read the book already-which hasn’t happened) but when I did get a few, they often asked me not to publish the review until after a certain date. Happy to comply. But if I got a letter like this, I would not want to receive books from that publisher anymore.


  36. Anna

    Wow! And to think I was planning on reading this book at some point. The intrigue I felt about Darcy fighting zombies has pretty much dissipated. You’d think the publisher would be happy for any review, especially given that people have less money these days to spend on books and other such things. I’ve had great experiences working with publishers and publicists, but you can bet if I received a rude letter like that, I wouldn’t want to work with that person anymore.


  37. Rational Moderate

    Take a breath. I know the people at Quirk Books. The letter was an attempt at being funny and over the top. The joke was in making fun of the fact that they used fair use material for the content of the book… wink wink.
    So, the joke didn’t work so well. (Actually I thought it was pretty funny, but again I know them.)
    So web, take a step back and try to support your small independent publishers.


    trish Reply:

    Thanks for the dissenting opinion, Rational Moderate!

    Unfortunately, though, I can’t really see how what you’re saying is true. I actually didn’t disect the tone of the letter; my frustration with the letter was Quirk Books demanding that no excerpt be used in a review, citing copyright laws, when in fact it’s completely legal to cite text from copyrighted material! With that in mind, I’m hard pressed to believe that the letter was intented to be funny and over the top, though you may very well be correct.

    Also, I believe it was Book Maven (the link is at the end of this post) who actually called the PR lady at Quirk Books, and while Book Maven may have not transcribed everything the PR lady said, it was not my understanding the Quirk Books was in any way apologetic for the misunderstanding, nor did they try to explain how the letter was meant in jest.

    And please be assured that this letter from Quirk Books in no way impacts how I feel about small independent publishers. In fact, I may very well buy a book that Quirk Books publishes. But will I EVER offer or agree to review a book for them, which is something I do for free in my spare time? Absolutely not.


    Rational Moderate Reply:

    I understand the way the letter reads, but think about it from a slightly different perspective. The letter is asking you to not print from a book the majority of which, the Pride and Prejudice bit, is freely available online in the public domain. That is a large part of the meta point of the book. To take something in the public domain, that is free and out there, and add to it to make something new. So they know parts can, will, and should show up online in reviews and such.
    At the same time they are going to do what most everyone does when they make something, try to release it on their own terms. So, in an overly hyperbolic way, in light of the nature of the product itself, they wrote what they did in the letter.

    Now I agree it didn’t work, but I can see the intention and take that as the ethical position rather than the consequences.


  38. jennygirl

    I completely agree with you Trish. WTF?
    However, this may be just a way to create even more buzz about a book that already had tongues wagging. I don’t agree this is a good way to do it, and think it shows a total lack of respect for bloggers, but it’s making people talk. And they really didn’t even have to with this book. IDIOTS!


  39. Luanne

    Most excellent rant! And I think Quirk Books have introduced themselves to the blogging world. Too bad it wasn’t positive…Unbelievable!


  40. Quirk PR

    I just wanted to say that I’m sorry to have offended so many of you with my letter. I realize now that it came off as condescending, but it was actually meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Clearly, that tone was lost. There are good explanations for the other complaints, such as why we had the embargo, and I also understand your concerns with fair use. The way I discussed the embargo and excerpt practices in the letter came off all wrong. I sincerely respect and value what bloggers have done for the book publishing world in general and in particular–with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Without independent blogs and bloggers, our book would not have been such a success. I hope you can all accept my apology. It won’t happen again. And please, know that in no way was Seth involved in any of this. Quirk PR


    Pam Reply:

    So by going around all the blogs and adding a comment saying you meant it to be humor that you aren’t even typing each time but just copy pasting is supposed to make it okay?

    Whether it is a joke or not is not relevant. The fact that you spoke to blogger’s in a way that shows the true colors and beliefs of Quirk is the issue. You assume because we blog we are not intelligent. That point is proven in the way you talk down to blogger’s in the letter assuming we as a people couldn’t possibly know what the word embargo means.

    If Quirk ever wanted to reach out to my readers, that now is an impossibility. Especially with the type of book you are pushing here. You assume we are not intelligent, but ripping off Jane Austen and turning it into a zombie book is okay? I think its not literary genius.


    Rational Moderate Reply:

    What a bunch of self-righteous nonsense. “Oh you disrespect us so with your original letter. Oh you have enough guts to offer a real and genuine apology, well I’m going to take that as disrespectful to. Imagine treating me, a blogger, as a real individual who can be offended (intentional or not) and then actually offer a sincere apology as if I were a real person which is what I was complaining about to begin with.”

    And what’s worse is that it does matter very much whether it was meant in humor or not since for the humor to work you must actually have an understanding of the issue to see it as funny. Now, I’m not going to mind-read and say you clearly don’t have the intelligence to get it because that would be exactly the mistake you are making here. Again, you are making assumptions about her intentions of belittling you while performing the exact same action against her. In basic moral terms – if you were morally right about her actions, then you are now morally wrong with your reaction.

    And let me cut off your counter that if it was sincere it shouldn’t be a form letter. Are you sure it was, or are you insinuating something about the intention of the person you are writing about?

    And then there is the ad hominen attack. As if at any point there was a claim that this was literary genius. While there was something wrong with the original letter, there is definitely something wrong with your portrayal and reaction to it.


    Pam Reply:

    My point was, saying you are sorry for not treating someone as an equal or even making jokes they they are not intelligent enough to understand a simple term is not going to make any situation okay.

    If I insulted you in a belittling manner and then said I am sorry that does not make it okay that I insulted you in the first place. It only means that I realized my mistake and am forced to or want to publicly acknowledge that.

    An I’m sorry is not always the end all of everything and it rarely makes everything okay again. I would think someone in PR would not make mistakes that alienate people. PR is about making people want to buy a product, or for you to do a task for them that makes people want to buy a product.

    A mistake is a mistake, and I am not saying I am so highly intelligent that I know everything on the planet, just that I can understand simple terms such as embargo. Believe me spell check is my B.F.F. at times.

    So for me a simple apology of I did this wrong and this is what I was trying to do doesn’t make up for the fact that people were insulted. I am sure no one will make a similar mistake for a while.


    Rational Moderate Reply:

    But with what you are describing in this particular case argues against the exact point you are trying to make.
    People can be insulted for any number of ridiculous reasons (and in people I am including you and myself) that at a certain point the insult can no longer be blamed on the person whose action brought about that reaction. Since this was specifically a case about an offense about understanding (the insulting intelligence bit) that was not intended, you have fallen into that category. And since you refuse to accept the intention at one point (based on the original letter) because of the consequences, and the consequences in the second point (based on the apology) because of your perceived intention of the author, then there is something wrong with your thought process here.

    And yes, if you insulted me in a way that makes me feel like you do not respect who I am, but then apologize to me recognizing that I am someone who should be respected in a certain way that the original insult dismissed, that should make up for the original insult. This is especially true in a case where there was no intended insult to begin with.

    Pam Reply:

    Going to reply one last time because in the end it is personal opinion here. I do not have to adhere to yours anymore than you have to adhere to mine and continually shoving them down each others throats gets no one anywhere.

    For me personally the form letter response was a cold and almost as much of an insult as the original letter. Because of the fact so many people were effected by this bad taste in humor. People took their time and thoughts to make rational and opinionated responses here, and in turn for that they received a form letter.

    Let’s call the form letter a press release of some sorts with an open apology and that in itself is a good thing. I agree it is nice to hear the other side of things and get an understanding. Would it however have killed them to take the time also to read through what has been said here and make some personal comments and opinions known also? I think not.

    You also were right earlier the book in question doesn’t matter but it is my opinion that Jane Austen is rolling over in her grave at the moment wishing she was a zombie for five minutes, or maybe she likes it anyhoo I don’t care for these books, but that in no way makes my comment ad hominen, that is a word that is misused in internet conversations a lot.

    Thank you for responding with such vigor and letting me know you think I am essentially wrong. However changing my opinion is not an option, I am way too stubborn. 🙂

    Rational Moderate Reply:

    oops posted wrong
    please see my reply at comment #42

    Rational Moderate Reply:

    …so now I’m also wrong for not explaining what an ad hominem is even though you bashed quirk for explaining embargo? For the record it is when you attack the messenger/arguer rather than the message/argument. Which is exactly what you did when you attacked the book and those who published it directly rather than dealing with the argument surrounding the topic.

  41. Quirk PR

    Please also know that the people at Quirk–the publisher, editors, designers, production–had nothing to do with this. This is my fault. I take full responsibility. I’m sorry. I made a mistake.


  42. Rational Moderate

    Um, it’s not really an opinion issue, or a value claim, or a matter of taste here. If you believe the first part of your criticism about the intent of the original letter, then you cannot believe the second criticism about the apology and be consistent and coherent. If you were right in the first place, then you are wrong in the second. If you are right in the second, then you are wrong in the first.

    On the other hand, if you already had a bias against them for doing this book, then that is something you also need to take a hard look at in light of your reaction to this and maybe your lashing out at the wrong person for the wrong reason. But that is a mind-reading issue that I’ll leave for you to decide, and not relevant to your actual argument.


    Rational Moderate Reply:

    Sorry this last post was supposed to be a reply to Pam…


  43. Marco

    This is a reply to this comment by Rational Moderate. Not posting it as a reply because the threading of comments here makes comments unreadable.

    It’s funny how people always throw in ‘Ad Hominem’ when it’s not appropriate. This is particularly funny in your case because you’re trying to lecture someone in your reply. Ad Hominem is attacking the person rather than what the person is saying. Pam’s remark about the book is neither one of those things. She made a remark about the quality of the book being promoted which is simply… irrelevant to the discussion like she admitted herself in a later reply. It has absolutely nothing to do with Ad Hominem. If you want to lecture discussion techniques please make sure you get your own facts right.

    Now about this letter: Whether it’s intended to be ‘funny’ or not, it’s a PR mistake. And the whole ‘you can’t quote anything from this book’ thing is, as others indicated, ridiculous, no matter whether it’s packaged as a joke or not.

    Finally: whether to accept an apology for a bad ‘joke’ is up to those who receive the apology and not to third party observers who are trying to help doing damage control for the party that made the bad joke. If person A insults person B and then apologizes it’s not up to person C to judge whether those apologies suffice and person B is obliged to accept them.


    Rational Moderate Reply:

    Nonsense. It is certainly acceptable to point out flaws in arguments whether the person is directly involved or not, especially if that person is being unjustly attacked. (Unjustly in the sense of being overly harsh, not in the sense of being completely off base – again, I think it didn’t work, I just don’t think it warranted the kind of attacks that Pam posted)

    Second, of course we can judge such things as whether or not an apology should be accepted by another party. So if you are in the store and you pick up a box of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal and someone next to you is offended that you don’t respect those with peanut allergies, and after you apologize and they don’t accept it, we as third parties should side with them? I doubt that is an actual consistent position you could hold.

    Third, it certainly was an ad hominem in that she was using the disparaging comment about the “genius” behind the work to support her claims about the letter. That is attacking the person and not the argument, though in this case I grant it is attacking the company that the person belongs to and not the argument.


    Marco Reply:

    If you re-read my comment you’ll see I wasn’t making any judgements on whether attacks, or refusal to accept apologies was warranted. It’s not up to me to decide that. All I did was point out that you were wrong by bringing up the Ad Hominem argument. But I believe you see that yourself judging from your third paragraph.

    Your peanut butter analogy doesn’t hold much water. You can throw that in anyone’s face who doesn’t accept any given apology. It’s not a fair comparison. It’s a different thing and the two things compared are not equal in any way.


    Rational Moderate Reply:

    Actually, that was exactly what your comment states, you even contradict the idea that it doesn’t with the latter half of this post.

    And it, again, is certainly an ad hominen attack when she blames where the argument’s origins are from rather than the argument itself, whether or not it is from the person, group, corporation, state, etc. It wasn’t originally stated in a separate thought but was being used to back up her claim against the original letter. It was an attack on the person and not the argument, hence an ad hominen.

    I’m afraid your going to have to explain why the peanut butter argument doesn’t hold up given that it is a comparative example to counter your position and not Pam’s. Both are about someone being offended, being offered an apology, and rejecting an apology in a way that should be accepted but is not. Since the peanut butter example was to counter your claim that it is not for a third party to judge whether someone should accept an apology and not a counter to Pam’s claims of not feeling the apology was apropos. Since your claim was an absolute claim that a third party should never judge in this case, and I offered a counter example, claiming that it isn’t a fair comparison misses the point of the example.


  44. Jenners

    Good Lord! Do they want the book reviewed and promoted or what? I think excerpts are one of the best ways to help “sell” a book and give a glimpse into its tone and style. And in the context of a book review, it certainly isn’t like someone is trying to pretend that they wrote it. This was very condescending and I hope whoever is behind this gets a good talking to!

    And for the record, this probably would have scared me off!


  45. Kim L

    Wow. Glad there is an apology out there at least.

    Methinks there is nothing like a controversy to drum up publicity and sales. Marketing tactic?


  46. Marco

    Rational Moderate, you are a great example of The Tireless Rebutter. Congrats as far as I’m concerned. You’ve succeeded in wearing me out 🙂

    Now back to the original subject: If I read through the comments here and in other places it seems the consensus is that this whole thing was handled very poorly. It’s an example of bad PR. I suppose your attempts to do damage control for the publisher have failed. You have accomplished nothing except for maybe annoy / amuse a few people.


  47. Reading Upside Down » Blog Archive » Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - What the?

    […] Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? […]

  48. Elizabeth

    This publicist HAS to be new to publishing. No one could be this ignorant of copyright law! And the phrasing of the letter, exceptionally rude! I thought PR people were always charming!?


  49. Table of Contents; My Favorite Posts From the Last Week « Brews and Books

    […] a certified 1st Amendment-loving anti-censorship lefty, and Trish’s fantastic rant about fair use touched all the right buttons for me. [from Hey Lady! Whatcha […]

  50. chartroose

    I agree wholeheartedly, Trish!


  51. zibilee

    I think this letter was just tacky and in very poor taste.


  52. Samantha

    Trish- Thanks for sharing this with us! Whether or not it was intended in the manner it was received is moot as it has created such an interesting discussion. I personally would have been offended by the letter but that is just me.


  53. Sheri

    Holy cow! I never saw this post until today. WOW!


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