A few of you have told me that you can’t access JennyTrout.com, and that the links lead you to a Wix.com error message. Wix.com is where my old site was, and after a long time on the phone with tech support, we couldn’t replicate the same error message, no matter which browser we used. Their suggestion was to clear your cache, or try a different browser. Which, you know, if someone tells me to use a different browser, I’m like Charlton Heston giving a speech about guns.
Another suggestion, given to me by a twitter follower (and I trust crowd sourced advice more than professional advice, really) is that it’s taking some time for the domain to propagate? That sounds fancy. I’m not sure I can afford that. But whatever it is, I think it means that this is a hands-off thing I have to wait out and not fix?
Anyway, the point is that I’m still looking into this. Literally nothing I’ve ever done on the internet has gone smoothly or well, so stay tuned!
Merlin Club, S01E01, “The Dragon’s Call” or “The one where Merlin meets everyone in Camelot in a single day”Posted: January 24, 2014
Due to the fact that I’ve optimized my blog for awesomeness, the first installment of Merlin Club can be found at the revamped JennyTrout.com
Update your bookmarks, dear readers! The Trout has found her forever home! Visit the blog at its brand spanking new address, jennytrout.com!
Some of you may remember my Raggedy Ann doll named John Denver. This is how I found her today.
Hey all! It’s that time of
week month every two weeks it’s just that time, okay? Time for me to update you on stuff going on in Troutnation.
The blog is moving. Yes, again. Later this week (hopefully), the retooled JennyTrout.com will be up and running, and this blog will be found there, instead of here. There will be a post at that time directing you to the new place. If you find the blog by googling “Sweaters for Days,” you might want to consider a new method. The new site is going to be more accessible (read: no flash), and have the blog and website stuff all in one place.
I’m going on the road! When the new site goes up, I’ll be announcing upcoming appearances for 2014. Not a ton of them, but in all different areas of the US, so if you’re in the US and I’m somewhere near you, stop by and say hello.
State of the recaps: I had the next Buffy recap nearly finished, then my computer restarted and the last time the draft saved was on January 13th. I basically have to start all over. So, sorry about the delay, but I’m going to get right back on it as quick as I can. Another 50SoG recap is also in the works. Thanks for your patience, as stuff has just exploded for me lately, and I’ve been forced to concentrate less on my fandom obsessions and more on like, my job and stuff.
Speaking of my job, the coolest thing ever happened. Yesterday, Anne Rice, the woman who was my idol when I was a teen, and one of the major reasons I ever wanted to write in the first place, shared my Huffington Post piece about John Green and self-publishing with her Facebook readers. It’s basically the biggest honor I’ve received so far, and you can see her post here.
The Bride cover reveal is January 30th. Does what it says on the tin. I’ll be serving up the cover and a sex scene for your reading pleasure.
Such Sweet Sorrow playlist on Tumblr: I’ve seen quite a few people post playlists for their fandoms, that is, lists of songs they feel go well with the shows/movies/books they love. Fannibals, by the way, are particularly amazing at this. I decided it might be fun to do the same thing for Such Sweet Sorrow, my YA novel that comes out from Entangled Teen on February 4th. You can find the post, and a link to a Spotify playlist with even more songs, on my Tumblr. If you’re a Tumblr user and it fits the theme of your blog at all, and you want to reblog it to spread the word about that book, that would be awesome of you! I’ll do one for The Bride in February, if this is something you guys like.
Merlin Club! A few of you have asked if I’m going to recap Merlin, and as fun as that would be, I have a lot of Buffy to get through still and I’d like for that to be the only ongoing recap after I finish 50SoG. Recaps are just a lot of work. However, my friend Jessica Jarman had the idea to three-way blog Merlin with Bronwyn Green and myself. This won’t be an in-depth recap, but something a little different and more interactive. Every Monday night at 8pm EST, we’ll be watching an episode and tweeting to the hashtag #MerlinClub. Then, on Fridays, we’ll be blogging about the episode we just saw, with preset questions and random zany observations. We welcome anybody to watch with us, tweet with us, and to play along at home and in the comments sections. We’ve already watched episode one, so if you’ve never seen the show, I suggest you Netflix the hell out of the first episode and join us next week for episode two!
I think that’s all I’ve got for this State of The Trout update!
If you were even slightly aware of broadcast television in the 80′s and 90′s, you’re probably vaguely aware of the coffee people. They started out in commercials in the UK, then later in the US, in a kind of viral-marketing-before-viral-was-a-thing on-going serial that featured two very sophisticated people meeting and falling in love gradually through increasingly far-fetched coffee related interactions. At the height of the coffee people craze here in America, TV Guide actually ran advertisements about when the ads were going to be on. No, seriously, people were that wrapped up in the ongoing drama of these two coffee-obsessed commercial characters hooking up that they actually tuned in just for the commercials.
Last night, D-Rock and I were watching Manchild with Bronwyn Green and Jessica Jarman, via Yahoo! Messenger and Dropbox because we are not bound by the constraints of traditional face-to-face socializing. Anyway, while we were watching, I brought up the subject of the Nescafe Gold/Taster’s Choice commercials Anthony Head starred in during the 1980′s and 90′s. The conversation between D-Rock and I went something like this:
Me: Do you remember those commercials about the neighbors who liked coffee or whatever, and it always seemed like they were gonna bang?
Me: You know, where the woman comes over to borrow coffee or whatever, and then you’d have to watch the next ad to see if they were gonna hook up? This was in the 80′s or the 90′s? They were on for like, ever.
D-Rock: Oh my god, yes! I totally forgot those!
D-Rock: And people were into those!
Me: Tony Head was in those.
D-Rock: It creeps me out that you call him Tony.
Me: Well, he was in them. He was the coffee guy.
D-Rock: Do you think those are on the internet?
Me: Everything is on the internet.
Well, dear readers… the internet did not disappoint:
Maybe it’s that time is a sort of varnish on people and events, and when you revisit those things the finish wears off a bit, or maybe its because these were five years worth of advertisements compressed into one eight minute video, but when you watch these ads all together like this, they become deeply weird. Oh, and before we get into this, if you’re weirdly sensitive about liking shitty coffee, this post may offend you. But really, if you’re that prone to dramatic reactions over beverage choices, there’s nothing I can do to help you.
The advert opens with this lady– I don’t think we ever learn their names, so I’m going to call her CL, for Coffee Lady–
showing up at the door to the Coffee Guy (CG)’s apartment. This is CG:
CL is in a pickle, because she’s having a dinner party, and she’s run out of coffee. CG invites her in, then he makes a face like, “I’m gonna tap that… even though this is 1987 and ‘that’ is probably constrained in layers of pantyhose and giant nylon underwear because for some reason contemporary women’s fashion dictates that any garment worn on the lower body must reach a minimum vertical height of the wearer’s bottom rib.” He goes to the kitchen and gets the coffee, Nescafe Gold Blend, and then he says:
CG: “Will Gold Blend be too good for your guests?”
Okay, back it way the fuck up, Baby Giles. You just met this woman, and you’re like, insulting her friends? Gold Blend is what is marketed in the US as Taster’s Choice. It’s freeze-dried instant coffee. It’s literally the worst thing you could ever put in your body. There should be something in the Geneva conventions saying you can’t use this shit to torture prisoners. Is he being sarcastic? Like, he’s making a jab about his embarrassing taste in coffee? I don’t know. All I know is, CL handles it like a boss:
See that face? That’s the face a cat makes when it finds its prey amusing, but ultimately it knows it will end up eating the mouse alive. CG is that mouse. If you haven’t watched the video (and why would you deny yourself?) let me assure you, the sexual tension is palpable.
Back at her dinner party, a friend asks CL if she’s met her new neighbor, and she says she’s gone over there for coffee. And it’s like, right away, you know something is up.
This ad, by the way, aired in November of 1987. Viewers had to wait until June of 1988 to see the next installment. I wonder if a second installment was ever intended, or if the restrained British heat of the first commercial formed an audience that demanded closure. But for whatever reason, people had to wait like six months for the next one.
This ad opens with… WHO IS THIS BITCH?!
How dare she? We have waited six long, agonizing months– and these are 1987 months, so they’re like, thirteen times as long as the months we have today because of inflation– and CG is having dinner with another woman?
Well, CL rings his doorbell, and she says:
CL: “You saved my life the other night.”
CG: “The dinner party?”
CL: ”The coffee. Very successful.”
CG: “How can you ever thank me?”
CL: “I’ll try and think of something.”
Oh, you know how she’s going to thank him. Other woman having dinner in the apartment? You better not pin your romantic hopes on CG. Because he’s taken, and he doesn’t even know it yet. CL brought him another jar of shit coffee to replace the shit coffee she borrowed, but he doesn’t invite her in, because, you know. That other woman.
CG: “Look, I’m in the middle of something right now, but perhaps–”
And then they leave it like that. They leave us teetering perilously on the very edge of ecstasy.
You know who I feel bad for? The woman in the apartment having dinner with CG. Because he’s going to go back to that table, make polite conversation, he might even fuck her, but he’ll be thinking about CL the whole time. He’ll make some vague promise to call her, but he won’t.
Man. I’m sorry, other lady. I’m sorry I called you a bitch.
The next advertisement didn’t come out until October. Seriously, October. How long did it take to make a commercial in 1988?
CG is showing up to a dinner party, super late. The hostess is annoyed and tells him that they’re already on the coffee. And he sees it’s Gold Blend and he slaps her right across the face, because only the very worst people would ruin a fancy dinner party by ending it with freeze dried coffee. No, just kidding, he’s totally fucking psyched that they’re having Nescafe Gold. So psyched, he says the brand name out loud.
CG and the hostess go into the dining room, where he spots CL at the table. The gaze they share is positively dripping with unfulfilled longing:
The hostess tries to introduce them, but CG says he already knows her, and CL answers:
CL: “We, uh… share the same taste in coffee.”
The same terrible, terrible taste. CL asks CG if he’s always late, and he says he won’t be late tomorrow when they have dinner, which is smooth as hellllll.
CL: “What makes you think I’ll accept?”
CG: “You can’t resist my coffee.”
Now I want to know what’s wrong with this dude’s personality that the only thing he has going for him is coffee. And it’s really, really shitty coffee.
Midway through 1989, the Coffee People returned to us. They’ve just had dinner. One assumes this is the night after the dinner party they were at six months ago, so they are really stretching out the suspense here.
CL: “If this were a restaurant, they’d be putting chairs on tables about now.”
CG: “And I would be asking you back to my place for coffee.”
Look at this suave motherfucker right here:
He has her over for dinner at his apartment, so the question of whether she’ll come back to his place or not is pretty much answered. Then, of course, they banter about coffee. They end up pretty cozy on the couch, so you just know that tonight is the night.
Just when you think they’re going to make the artistic choice that sends their storyline the way of Moonlighting, CL gets up and says she has to go home, because she’s on an early flight to Milan:
CG: “That’s terrible.”
CG: “They don’t serve Gold Blend in Milan.”
Damn Italians and their appreciation for good coffee.
The next ad came out in November of 1989. I’ve seen paranormal romance series that released faster than these commercials. How on earth did this captivate people for so long? I remember when the American ads were airing, people scheduled their viewing around them. People talked about them. I specifically remember my grandmother saying, “When are these two going to sleep together, already?” For some reason, my memories led me to believe that all of this happened within a few months. But this craze went on for years.
So, the next installment begins with… WHO IS THIS BITCH?!
CL says she’s going to go get changed. CHANGED! With another man in her house!
The homewrecker sees a cup of Gold Blend just sitting there, and he fucking picks it up like he owns the place:
So, CL goes to change, and of course, that’s when CG rings the bell, and this fucking joker answers the door. CG is visibly crushed:
That is the face of a man with a broken heart, and the restraint necessary to keep his fists from flying.
Then the interloper, the vile, vile interloper, has the fucking nerve to ask CG if he wants a cup of Gold Blend. I say again, how very dare you!
CL comes back from changing and asks who was at the door. And that jackass jerkwad guy in her house, who shouldn’t even be in her fucking house, says it a neighbor and that he told the neighbor that she was in the bedroom. And look at how pissed off she looks:
She’s upset because the guy, the homewrecker guy, didn’t tell CG who he was. The ad ends on this suspenseful note.
Fuck that homewrecker guy.
In June of 1990, the next installment aired. Are June and November considered sweeps weeks or something for British television? Because these are always right around those times. So, anyway. When we last left them (a paragraph ago) CG had just had his heart broken when he found another dude in CL’s apartment.
You know what I’m just starting to think? How the hell did people keep track of this story? It started in 1987, and it’s now 1990. That’s three years. Three years, and these things are like forty seconds long. How did people keep track of this convoluted romance?
Anyway, the commercial starts with CG going on a trip:
The elevator doors open and:
I’m so glad she has her keys in her mouth. Because she was too perfect. She was just unbelievably perfect and beautiful and able to resist the strong sexual advances of 1980′s Anthony Head. She had to do something to make her seem more realistic. And who among us hasn’t been caught doing something momentarily embarrassing in an elevator?
CG tells CL that he’s going on a business trip for a month. Actually, he says he’s going on business and she’s like, “Long?” and D-Rock said, “Yes. Very. With some girth.” Which is probably why we don’t write ad copy.
CG: “I called round last night, but you had company.”
Oh snap, he’s calling her out on the dude in her apartment. Homewrecker is about to get his comeuppance. But it turns out that homewrecker is her brother! Oh my god, what a completely unanticipated turn of events! This changes everything!
Also, I’m sorry I called your brother a bitch.
But now CG’s going away on business for a month.
D-Rock: What the fuck kind of business is he in that he has to go away for a whole month?
Me: International drug dealer.
CL is having a cup of coffee (natch), when her phone rings. Guess who it is?!
It’s CG! He’s calling her from the airport, so you know they’re in true love! He tells her he’ll be in New York, and she asks if he took Gold Blend with him, and he’s like, “Why the fuck would I? That stuff is terrible. They have real coffee in America.” But actually, we still have shitty Gold Blend here, it’s just called Taster’s Choice. So either way, he’ll be fine. He also tells her that he’s going to be staying at The Plaza.
Now, what is she supposed to do with this information? The two of them live in an alternate timeline, wherein a day is equal to six months. These commercials come out literally every six months, and it’s always the next day. So, if she decides to go to New York to meet him, the next two commercials are going to just be booking the flight and checking into the hotel.
Of course, she wouldn’t have to check in. She could just stay in CG’s room. *eyebrows*
December, 1990. Okay. This is the one. This is the big one. Gird. Your. Loins.
CL is at work. It’s late. Everyone is going home. And then, who should show up, but:
CL: “You were supposed to be in New York.”
CG: “I didn’t like the coffee.”
This is really the first time when the coffee seems intrusive. Here’s why: every other situation they have been in has called for coffee. When you end a dinner party, when you have someone over, when you’re entertaining people in your home, generally, you offer coffee. No big. But this is like, she’s at work…
and she’s using the same fucking coffee cup. In fact… everyone is using the same fucking coffee cup:
So, there’s another frightening aspect of this alternate universe. Not only does time move differently, but there is only one kind of coffee mug. And it is super small.
CG says he thought CL would have come to New York, and she tries to play it off like she wasn’t planning on it… but her plane tickets are right the fuck on her desk. This is the moment, dear reader. No more pretending.
Just as they’re sharing their first, delicious, probably coffee-flavored kiss, the one we have been waiting for, at this point, for three years, the phone rings, interrupting them, and the ad is over.
Now, the next installment didn’t come until over a year later. A year. Can you imagine? Something like two whole days will have passed in their universe. What happened during those days? Did someone invent a new kind of coffee cup?
CG is at work, which is awesome, considering he was supposed to be in New York for a month and he came back because he didn’t like the coffee there. I mean, obviously, that’s a thin excuse, because he’s drinking instant coffee, so it’s not like he can tell the difference between good coffee and bad coffee. But still, why didn’t he get fired? He’s on the phone to CL. And things aren’t going well:
CL: “I don’t think this is going to work.”
CG: “You may be right.”
CL: “We…we don’t seem to have much in common.”
Except for the fact that you’re both more in love with Gold Blend coffee than you are with each other. That’s something in common.
They list all the ways they have nothing in common, then arrive at the inevitable conclusion: they only thing they have in common is their coffee.
Later that night, CL calls CG, who is already in bed, and tells him she wants to see him.
Do you know how long they made everyone wait to find out what happens?
Not as long, actually. The next ad rolled in December 1991, if the YouTuber who uploaded it is correct. CG answers his ringing doorbell, expecting to find CL. Like, he hasn’t even bothered to get dressed, because he knows what is going to go down. But the woman on the other side of the door?
Now, I am hesitant to call this person a bitch. Because she might not be. I can’t allow myself to keep having these anti-feminist knee-jerk reactions, especially when the couple I’m rooting for is on the rocks, anyway. But I’m a little pissed off that this woman gets a name– Laura– when I don’t yet know the name of my beautiful, perfect Coffee Goddess.
We’re sticking with CL for her, by the way, because two CGs would just be confusing.
Laura just waltzes on in to the apartment, while CG tries to explain that he’s expecting someone. And Laura asks for a cup of coffee. Excuse me, Laura, but the man is expecting someone. He is expecting someone while in his bathrobe. He is busy.
CG answers the door for CL, and she’s totally psyched to hook up, but as she’s kissing CG, Laura comes in and starts talking:
And Laura is drinking coffee. Probably Gold Blend. Out of the same damn coffee cup:
And CG is like:
Okay, can we just consider for a moment that this advertisement is actually working against the product it is trying to sell? Seriously, this is a ballsy move. In the past, the coffee has been the thing that brings them together. Remember, it’s the only thing they have in common. The coffee is the glue that holds their fragile union together. And then this b–Laura waltzes in and just takes it. Why didn’t CG order her out? Why did he let her stay and have coffee? This doesn’t even speak highly of the fact that this is instant coffee. This advertisement is saying, “If you use this coffee, it won’t be finished fast enough that your girlfriend or ex or whoever isn’t still standing in your living room drinking it when the hot piece next door comes by for a booty call.”
Speaking of booty, go back up to the top and rewatch those commercials, but mentally substitute “booty” for every time they say “coffee.” Thank @esposa_de_olivia for that one.
So, now we’re associating Gold Blend with the destruction of a television relationship we’ve been invested in for four years. Who thought this was a good idea?
The next ad doesn’t come out to clear up whatever was going on until August of 1992. In it, CG pulls his car up next to CL’s and tries to explain about “last night.” He says Laura is just an old friend, and CL seems pretty unconcerned about the whole thing, but in that way women seem unconcerned about stuff when they’re suuuuuuuuper pissed.
At work, using the same damn coffee cups, a suave Italian gentlemen compliments CL’s choice of Gold Blend, and her presentation, and asks her to dinner.
Here he is, clearly confused by the English custom of talking mainly about coffee.
On their way out of the building, a receptionist stops CL to tell her that “he”– the unnamed CG– has called five times. So, he’s seriously trying to get her back.
The saga concludes in the advertisement that aired in December of 1992. Let’s really get our heads around this: it has been five years since CL first batted her big doe eyes at CG and asked to borrow some awful coffee. And in the interim, it’s been a whole week. A whole week! So what the world viewed as a torturously unrequited love affair was really just a whirlwind courtship between two people who get serious with romantic partners way too fast.
Anyway, this is how the story ends. CL is at dinner with the Italian businessman.
Oh my god. The Italian Businessman’s Coffee Lady. It could be a Harlequin Presents novel.
Anyway, she’s at dinner with the Italian businessman, and who should show up to crash it?
He runs up to the table and says:
CG: “Always the same restaurant. I thought we had this thing under control.”
CG: “Can we afford another scandal? Even the children are starting to ask questions–”
IB: “Excuse me–”
CG: “I’m sorry, you wouldn’t happen to be Italian?”
CG: “Opera lover? It’s always Italians.”
Basically, he just shows up and makes it seem like he and CL have a much deeper commitment than they actually have. Keeping mind, it’s only been like, what? Seven days? Even if we gave it the benefit of the doubt and said, “Okay, he was in America for some time, possibly weeks,” this is still incredibly creepy behavior. Even worse, he physically lifts her out of her chair and ushers her away.
At another table, I assume at the same restaurant and not, you know, at the second location, they have this conversation:
CL: “I don’t know why I let you do that.”
CG: “Because I s–”
CL: “Because you serve better coffee.”
CG: “[something I can't quite catch] Because I love you.”
He loves her. Really think about the timeline of this thing. Maybe this kind of stuff is normal in the nightmare hellworld they inhabit, where awful coffee isn’t just the only available beverage, but the only topic of conversation, but it’s not normal in real life. The genius of these ads, however, is that they doled out the crazy in small doses, over a wide swath of time, so that the viewer probably ignored all that “last night” business and mentally reconfigured the timeline.
CL never responds to CG’s declaration of love, and there weren’t any more ads. Well, there were, but they were in America for Taster’s Choice, with the same actors using unconvincing and mildly insulting American accents, and the whole courtship angle started over and went off into a different storyline. If only, if ONLY, there were some way to find out what happened after that night. If only I could spend more time with these people in their strangely fascinating alternate universe. If only–
This is on Amazon right now. Say thank you to @Kinelfire for this.
I am not even going to pretend that I did not buy this book IMMEDIATELY. And my expected delivery date is VALENTINE’S DAY.
It’s like they know.
This afternoon, I read a piece in The Guardian about John Green, and some remarks he made in a speech to the Association of American Booksellers. Most of his statements, overall, are inoffensive. He gives the reasons he would not self-publish, despite his large internet following, and all his reasons are fine. Writers generally get into writing because they want to write, not because they want to be independent publishers, and you can’t really fault someone for saying, “what I’m doing right now works, so there’s no reason to change it.” The only statement Green made that seemed at all controversial was the following:
“We must strike down the insidious lie that a book is the creation of an individual soul labouring in isolation. We must strike it down because it threatens the overall quality and breadth of American literature,” he said. “They hold me up as an example but I am not an example of publishers or bookstores extracting value because without an editor my first novel, Looking for Alaska, would have been unreadably self-indulgent. And even after she helped me make it better it wouldn’t have found its audience without unflagging support … from booksellers around the country. I wouldn’t have the YouTube subscribers or the Tumblr followers, and even if I did I wouldn’t have any good books to share with them.”
So many aspects of this quote concern me. First, I don’t believe it’s an “insidious lie that a book is the creation of an individual soul labouring in isolation.” While Green is right, the support of agents, editors, booksellers, and marketing teams do help to launch a book into the public consciousness, it isn’t impossible to accomplish these things as a self-published author. Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking come to mind immediately as authors who managed to build a successful following without the initial support of a large publisher. Their success is definitely out of the ordinary– but so is John Green’s. Only a very small percentage of authors reach the heights of popularity that Green has. He is as much an anomaly as Hocking or Howey.
Furthermore, while it takes many people to create a traditionally published book, and we celebrate their involvement when a title becomes a runaway hit, the fault of a novel’s failure is put solely on the author when it comes time to go to the next contract. While a string of failures will impact a publishing house, a single poorly received book can irrevocably destroy an author’s career. We might not stand alone in the creation of a critical success, but we’re certainly “labouring in isolation” when answering for a financial flop.
Second, I bristle at the implication that only with the help of a big six editor does a novel lose its self-indulgent aspects; before the advent of self-publishing, there were plenty of self-indulgent novels on the shelves. While Green is speaking only of his work, as a self-published author, I can’t help but wish that writers would examine the flip-side of this type of statement before they make it. It’s disingenuous to assert that only through traditional publishing are these feats of editing and marketing possible; self-published authors can hire editors, copy-editors, cover artists, and publicity teams. No, not all of them do, but not all successful traditionally published authors accept the notes and advice given to them by their editors and agents, either. Ego and attachment to bloated prose aren’t the sole provenance of the self-published author.
Finally, I find it disturbing that Green feels self-publishing is threatening the quality of American literature. How can that statement be taken in any other context than as an insult to self-published authors? He is blatantly stating that lack of involvement by traditional publishing is creating lower quality. I fail to see how else that statement can be interpreted, regardless of how Green may have intended it.
To add to the insult, Green delivered this ode to the gatekeepers while accepting something called the “Young Adult Indie Choice” award. Perhaps “indie” means something different to booksellers than it does to the rest of the world, but I simply don’t believe that an author who writes for the big six and vehemently rejects self-publishing fulfills any definition of “indie,” regardless of the number of YouTube subscribers he has.
Another aspect to consider here is that John Green is a white man. In publishing, as in everywhere else, white men rule the world. Green has been embraced as an author in a way female authors, even white female authors, rarely are. He’s been established as the star, the groundbreaker, the leader of the YA movement, in spite of female authors like Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins being credited with revitalizing the once dying genre. There’s no denying that John Green is a YA star, but while Meyer was derided for writing wish-fulfillment romance for teenage girls and her contributions only grudgingly acknowledged, Green’s prose seems to be considered sacred and above examination by readers and critics alike. This isn’t Green’s fault; women have always had to fight harder for recognition and validation in publishing, and they will continue to do so long after Green retires.
The fact that there are so few celebrated authors of color in YA is also a sign of Green’s privilege as a white male author; his books, no matter how groundbreaking or well-written, would not have received the support or acclaim they received if they had been written by a person of color. It’s very likely that they would never have been published, but dismissed as “ethnic” or “urban” and therefore deemed an unacceptable financial risk by traditional publishing. Through self-publishing, more authors of color have been able to find a voice and a market for their stories. Is this harmful to literature? Or does broadening the scope of which stories are told enrich the cultural narrative of our literature? I truly believe that if this were pointed out to Green, he would acknowledge the validity of this fact, but since he is a white male author, he isn’t obligated to examine it from that perspective.
It speaks to Green’s integrity that he values editors in his process. He’s certainly reached a level of success at which authors are allowed more control and self-indulgence, so to see him out there, saying, “I need help making these books what they are,” rather than, “I don’t allow editors to deconstruct my vision,” is such a breath of fresh air. There is nothing more disappointing, as a reader, than to see a favorite author’s work begin to unravel once their sales numbers soar and they’re given more leeway to ignore edits. If Green had (or if the article had) separated this point from his remarks about self-publishing, it would have come off as less of a condemnation.
John Green has the luxury of rejecting self-publishing because he is John Green. He is the current darling of traditional publishing. It’s very easy to say, “I would never self-publish” once that plan B is off the table as a necessity. Many of us who self-publish do so because we have to. We’re self-publishing either because we can’t break in to traditional publishing, or because we were traditionally published and failed in the market. That doesn’t mean the books we were submitting or the books that weren’t selling had no merit or quality to them, it simply means that writing is a business, and traditional publishing is not in the habit of shelling out their dollars for something they don’t believe will generate a return. Sometimes, these books are rejected because they’re low quality; other times, they’re excellent and too much of a risk. Nearly every editor and agent I know can point to a book they really believed in, but couldn’t sell to a publisher or get past marketing to offer a contract. How is this model superior to a market unfettered by the bottom lines of major publishers?
To me, the attitude of, “I will never self-publish,” coming from any author, indicates that they have never been in a position where it is their only option. Or, they have such an antagonistic view of self-publishing that they would rather just not write than lower themselves by self-publishing. But the fact remains that self-publishing is the only way many authors, for various reasons, will ever be able to put their books in front of an audience. Suggesting that alternative methods of publishing will harm literature is the same as suggesting folk art will harm high art, or YouTube will harm television, film, and music. None of these forms of outsider creation and free market have replaced the industry that inspired them, so why do so many authors and industry professionals feel that self-publishing be ultimately destructive to the entire business?
Perhaps Green didn’t think his statement would come off this way. Perhaps he was quoted out of context or his statements presented in the wrong order. Or maybe he just hasn’t thought about how exclusionary his reasoning sounded. But his speech does echo a long running theme in the debate over trad vs. self publishing. As self-publishing doesn’t appear to be going away, it’s long past time for this particular attitude to be laid to rest.