DearAuthor.Com Behaving Badly

The charming correspondence I have had with [the pseudonymous] Jane Little at, who believes frank lying about someone is a protected form of free speech.

You’ll notice that in this entire exchange, I have never threatened Ms. Little once. I have never suggested suing or seeking to have her site shut down. I have, in fact, done nothing but ask for a much-deserved apology and a retraction.

—–Original Message—–
From: Holly Lisle
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2006 10:52 AM
Subject: Contact from Dear Author Website

Holly Lisle wrote:
To whichever Ja(y)ne wrote “Holly Lisle Hates the Chains”:

It does astonish me that, since you not only misrepresented what I said but flat-out lied about it, clearly with the intent of damaging my livelihood, and I pointed this out clearly, you have neither printed a public retraction nor an apology.

You do owe me both.

Holly Lisle


On Dec 9, 2006, at 12:06 PM, Jane wrote:

Dear Ms. Lisle

We will be printing neither a public retraction nor an apology.

Under the laws of defamation, libel is only considered to be actionable when the statements that were made were untrue, not a omment/opinion, or otherwise privileged.

The quotes were taken directly from your blog post and the statements that were made on the DearAuthor blog were either true and/or opinion which is protected free speech.

Further, for a public figure such as yourself, the bar is much higher for proving defamation by requiring a showing of actual or legal malice, depending on the jurisdiction.

If you have specific parts that you believe were not accurate, feel free to point those out and we will take that into consideration.

Thank you,


Jane Litte

—–Original Message—–
From: Holly Lisle []
Sent: Sunday, December 10, 2006 10:21 AM
To: Jane
Subject: Re: Contact from Dear Author Website

On simple lies made by you which are clearly contradicted in my post, Ms. Little, I can carry the burden of proof all damn day. Witness:

1. to state “Holly Lisle Hates the Chains”. Flatly false. I never said it, I never implied it, and the fact that you managed to infer
it only compounds the extraordinary number of other lies you told in the same article. All listed below.

2. “Lisle says that her career is being killed by Chain Bookstores.” My statement, in fact, was exactly the opposite. “I’m not in danger of having my career killed at the moment,” from the first post in the series.

3. Next flat-out lie: “In Ms. Lisle’s fantasy construct, the white hats are the Indie Booksellers and the black hats are the Chain
Booksellers.” My exact words were “To understand why chain bookstores are the Villians of Bookselling.” Unless you are in fact
a bookstore, you were not figured anywhere in my equation, and neither was any other bookseller.

4. Next lie: “Amongst the dark lord’s sins are the failure or refusal of the bookseller in the chain to read the book; to want to respond to the market (ie promising sales); or even to actually want to sell books.” What I said was: “The computer spits out the fact that Midlist Writer’s New Novel sold 900 copies, so Corporate Buyer, who almost certainly hasn’t read the book, hasn’t talked to a single reader about the book, and looks at the book as no different than Cans of Tuna, Brand A, will order 900 copies of Midlist Writer’s Next Novel.” You are not a corporate buyer, either, so neither you nor any other bookseller was insulted by this —and neither were corporate buyers, who do skim some books, but who mostly listen to pitches from publishers’ sales representatives, and who, as a result, regard about 99% of the books the purchase as simply product. They have no emotional involvement with them.

5. Your next lie states that I suggested indies were a good sales point for romance: “Gandalf’s minions, the Hobbits, cheerfully
handsell all books. They never scoff at a romance readers inquiry about midlist authors like Caroline Linden or Carla Kelly. They never deem romance books as trash; instead the Hobbits value all the book readers the same.” My words were: “In an indie bookstore, a human being will notice that five copies of Midlist Writer’s New Novel sold out of six ordered. Indie Owner will say, “Wow. That’s excellent.” Indie Owner will reorder, say, three or four or more copies, and he or one of his booksellers might read the book, may suggest it to people who he knows to like that sort of thing, and when supplies run out, will reorder it again so that copies stay on the shelves.” I said nothing whatsoever about romance. Romance, and Wal-Mart, Target, etc., are completely irrelevant to my discussion because publishers have to pay about a dollar a copy to put books in the racks at those venues, and the specific book I was talking about, again introduced the previous post, which you clearly did not read, is a FANTASY novel, and in MY world, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. don’t exist as markets at all because MY book, which is fantasy, will never have a shot at those readers. Mentioning them is pointless.

6. Next lie: “Lisle goes on to say that Local Chain booksellers do not order books once they run out in the store and that they are
prohibited from doing so and that midlist books have no chance of selling more than their original order.” What I said was: “Even if
they are not, though-even if Local Chain receives seven copies and sells six, Local Chain WILL NOT REORDER THE BOOK unless it sells above a set number chain-wide. Most midlist novels are ordered in quantities too small to ever reach this number, and unless a miracle happens, are essentially stillborn. From the day the first copy of the first novel ships, these series have no chance (barring the aforementioned miracle) of selling more than their initial order.” Again, unless you personally are a local chain, you are excluded from this portion of the discussion, as is every other human bookseller, because here I am discussing the chains’ automatic replenishment system, which most books NEVER qualify for. Never do I state OR imply that booksellers are prohibited from reordering books. And most midlist book don’t have any chance of selling more than their original order. There are too many books and simply not enough human booksellers in the system to overcome the computerized order-to-the-net algorithms that destroy so many careers. You state: “A book may be re-ordered according to the discretion of the local chain bookseller,” and this is absolutely true. Out of all the books in the fantasy section, how many have you personally gone to bat for? Are all the booksellers in all the chains going to bat for that same book? What about all the fantasy novels you never got around to reading—any chance one of those might be worth saving?

7. Next lie: “Bookstores, says a manager of a local chain bookstore, receive arcs and promotional items from authors to help cull their book from the pack.” “Perhaps Ms. Lisle should have spent time cultivating relationships like those.”

I have.

8. “I find it hard to believe that an author whose sell through rate is 90%+ could ever lose a contract with a publisher.” Believe. If
you had read the post clearly, you’d find that even though the first book sells through at 90%+, the second book is ordered in lower
numbers, “to-the-net”, and therefore gets proportionately less shelf space, and leaves readers who bought the first book not finding the second, and does not sell to readers who cannot find the first, and therefore has a lower sell-through. And the percentage worsens for the third book. All three books can have wonderful reviews from readers, from reviewers, and the third can even be repeatedly called the “best book of the series” and there will be no contract for a fourth. I’ve been through this cycle with four publishers now. In each case, the computerized “ordering-to-the-net” system has decreased numbers that should have grown, and has eventually led to me moving to yet another publisher, yet another segment of the genre, and even to yet another genre.

9. Last lie: “Pretty sure that when you call Indie Booksellers the HEROES and Chain Booksellers the VILLIANS that your words were taken and consumed appropriately.” Never said it. Never implied it. In the economies of scale with chain computerized replenishment and ordering to the net, the human component, the bookseller, isn’t plentiful enough to make a difference for more than a handful of writers. Lora Leigh may have gotten her miracle, but Barry Hughart, a World Fantasy winner, didn’t. He never got a second chance. Alis Rasmussen, who eventually got a second chance as Kate Elliot, didn’t. And so far, I haven’t either. And neither have hundreds of other good writers whose books were never lucky enough to catch a bookseller’s eye.

The post was about ordering-to-the-net (which is why that was its title, actually), and in your entire dishonest rant about me, you
never addressed the ugly realities of ordering to the net to those of us whose careers don’t have a Wal-Mart to save us.

I still think both a retraction and an apology are in order, and I think I’ve presented enough facts to back that up.

Holly Lisle

Subject: RE: Contact from Dear Author Website
Date: December 10, 2006 5:17:37 PM EST

Ms. Lisle

Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, we have a differing opinion on the law that governs free speech and the limits imposed by the doctrine of defamation. As I am sure you are aware, the Supreme Court of the United States has required those bringing an action for defamation to prove that there is something more than opinion that is being challenged. Additionally, you know that commentary and interpretation is considered protected. If you decide to pursue this, I would rather discuss this matter with your attorney rather than engage in a continuing discussion of what the law permits regarding opinions.

The only “fact” that I see we have mistaken is regarding the health of your career. We will certainly print an apology and retraction in the following form. I will post this tomorrow morning.

Holly Lisle has contacted me and accused us of engaging in libel. She has claimed that we have lied and misconstrued her original post in the post that was published last week. We suggest that you readers, if you have any question in your mind about what she said, read her blog posts here and here. Dear Author does not believe in succumbing to intimidation and threats. We know that the First Amendment and subsequent case law interpreting the First Amendment protects us from challenges to our right to post our views and opinions. We remain committed to protecting this site from censorship and from any attempts to stifle our legitimate voice.

We did get one fact wrong. In the original post, I stated that Holly Lisle’s career was in danger. Holly Lisle has kindly informed us that she is in no danger of having her career killed at the moment. I suggest that all readers who feel so compelled to read her books can feel comfortable getting them at a Used Bookstore or their library or borrowing it from a friend or other reader through a source like paperbackswap to test out if Lisle’s writing is to your liking.

If you wish to post the below itemizations, I would be happy to link to that as well.


Jane Litte

All articles in this series, in order:



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24 responses to “DearAuthor.Com Behaving Badly”

  1. HaxxanDreams Avatar

    You’re not the first person this has happened to, and I would imagine it’s only a matter of time before certain sensationalist column authors step on the wrong literary toes and find out that their idea of defamation doesn’t quite iron out the way they thought.

    I’m not sure if it’s the same everywhere, but on my state’s website the incident doesn’t even have to be written defamation, it can be hearsay. Too, if the slander/defamation revolves around a person’s livelyhood and not just their character, or if it causes potential damage to a person’s status in the community, they can face not only fines but up to 6 years in prison. That’s pretty serious.

  2. eitje Avatar

    because if they don’t work as characters that could be in one of your books, then they’re not even very good at being people. ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. Holly Avatar

    I never build characters from real-life jerks. Why immortalize someone I can’t stand?

  4. eitje Avatar

    i had an idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

    the next time someone makes you mad, just use your character building directions to see if they’re a well-constructed character. if they’re not, then they’re not worth your time. ๐Ÿ˜€

    if they are… then maybe they could be a good arch-nemesis?

  5. Holly Avatar

    Eitje—isn’t it?

  6. eitje Avatar


    sometimes, the anonymity of the net is an atrocious thing.

  7. unxplaindfires Avatar

    Hey Holly,

    If Ms. Little did not think she was participating in libel when she wrote her post, that snide and obviously venomous letter including her “retraction” certainly seemed purposefully damaging.
    The sadest thing about this whole situation are the others involved. The booksellers and potential readers who rather than searching out the whole truth, ate her grule and called it apple pie. People can be lazy and will believe anything for one (or more) of three reasons. Either they fear it is true. The want it to be true. Or they are unwilling to see whether or not it might be false.
    What makes it worse is that in defending yourself, which you have every right (if not the duty) to do, people will cling to a lie even more.
    I hope none of this ends up truly hurting your career. It is one I have enjoyed greatly and I have let many people know not only of your books and site, but of your character.
    The truth, although it is a wonderous thing, is often a burden for those who tell it.

  8. scottbryan Avatar

    An apology is WORSE than a liability – it takes away your moral high ground. And it mean you can’t layer on the snarky comments about the other persons’ personal failings. Can’t be a victim either, when you apologize.

  9. Jenne Avatar

    A fascinating glimpse into the way some minds work. Thank you.

    One thing I truly cannot understand is how hard it is for people to apologize. A simple, “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.” Have we become the kind of society where an apology is a liability?

  10. Holly Avatar

    Someone on her site commented that Little is some sort of lawyer. If true, this is a thing of beauty that pays for all the rest of this crap in spades. On the one hand, her unprovoked and unjustified assault on me and my career is certainly costing me both goodwill and readers. On the other hand, though, I get to be the writer who was attacked by the lawyer who didn’t understand the difference between the words “bookSTORE” and “bookSELLER.”

    And even as the person on the receiving end of her shit, that’s just too funny.

  11. BJSteeves Avatar

    It is amazing the lengths that some “people” will go, to support a position with no facts to support that position. Then they use those lies and tell them often enough, believing that the lies will somehow become truth.

    I’m sorry that you have to put up with these imbeciles. Keep the faith and keep writing.

  12. sundart Avatar

    Thank you, Diana! That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s a sad commentary on the world today when a request for an apology is met by a barrage of defensive pseudo-lawyering.

    Sorry this all had to hit you during the holidays, Holly!

  13. pugh7755 Avatar

    You’re right, Jaye. The thing is some people have nothing better to do with their lives than to bash good people like Holly. They live off the misery they cause and the publicity they get from the comments of others (this one included, but it just had to be said). If people ignored their ignorance, they would just go away. The more comments they receive the happier they are. A sad excuse for a life really. They are the Al Qaeda of the blog world. They are never wrong. Their views are the only ones that matter, and they believe that if you don’t share them you’re just plain wrong and should be obliterated. They are spineless and hide behind the shield of a computer screen.

    Of course, this is just MY OPINION.

  14. Jaye Patrick Avatar

    How is it that a simply post on publishing industry methods result in legal threats?

    You’re right: misinterpreted your post by not reading it properly, and worse, paraphrasing until the results were totally wrong. Rather than admit a mistake, they resort to legal threats of the worse kind, as if they know more about the law than a long-published author would.

    Anyone who has a Blog, website or posts a comment is subject to the laws of libel and defamation just like any other media form. Care is needed whenever entering into the public arena. should grow up and grow a spine. Apologies never hurt anyone; and a little public ‘sorry’ now, might stop a larger mess of humiliation later.

  15. Diana Peterfreund Avatar

    Dear Holly,

    I loved your original post about the dangers of the practice of selling to the net. I also loved Talyn, which is off topic, but whatever. I’m here. It was great.

    I was disappointed to see misinterpret your post, but I’m shocked to see this exchange. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill! You asked for an apology, not a federal case! Libel and such is about damages.

    It has nothing to do with libel or defamation or the Supreme Court. It has to do with good old fashioned journalistic error. Newspapers print corrections all the time and there are no lawyers involved. A blog, like a newspaper, is a publication, and calls for corrections and retractions are NOT necessarily threatening lawsuits.

    Methinks they were jumping the gun a bit by calling out all this legalese — perhaps trying to make a case that no, they aren’t going to apologize, and no, don’t even think about taking it any farther because blah blah blah legalese. It’s as if someone tripped on the road outside my house, and instead of asking if they were all right, immediately measuring the setbacks from my property to see if I’m liable.

  16. Holly Avatar

    Very few women mistake themselves for bookstores. These two somehow managed to, and have managed to piss off a number of other booksellers and a whole bunch of potential readers toward me for no reason at all.

    I figured if I carefully pointed out where I spoke ONLY about chain bookstores and NEVER EVEN MENTIOND chain booksellers, they’d realize they’d attacked me with no reason. But some people want to be victims, and will look for opportunities to claim they’ve been victimized.

    These two take that category to whole new, pathetic depths.

    I’m not interested in suing them or shutting down their site; I never was. I know that that’s the American way, but I think it’s disgusting. Can’t help but hope the next writer they tell lies about is nastier than I am, though.

  17. Chassit Avatar

    Just to clarify 2: Holly commented on the STORES, the Ja(y)nes said you commented on the SELLERS. There is, unless I’m mistaken, quite a difference.

  18. Chassit Avatar

    I don’t have much to add, because I’ve said it before, but I DO have a few points to bring up:

    1. THEY (the Ja(y)nes) are the ones that jumped to Supreme Court rulings and laws, not you. They also made the leap to legal action as well.

    2. They completely missed how they said you commented on chain SELLERS and not the chain STORES.

    3. I’d like someone to tell me, please, because it’s a dream of mine: How many books do I have to sell personally before I am classified as a bookstore? Or do I have to be as big as one too?

    Thank you.

  19. Taymalin Avatar

    She really needs to read up on her libel laws. It doesn’t have to be false to be libel, just potentially damaging.


  20. TinaK Avatar

    That would be libel – not lible. Duh!

  21. TinaK Avatar

    Your email was as well thought out as your post and as always, your writing in all forms continues to engage, inform and entertain me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the ‘literary’ chick – from the tone of her emails it certainly sounds like she’s skated too close to the lible/defamation line in the past and knows that she’s pretty darned close here as well.

    I’d never take a recommendation such as what is presented in her ‘apology’, especially if I’ve never read an author.

    But, if people like fantasy, suspense and romance your books fit the bill. She can b**ch all she wants but it won’t turn away the fans you have and the fans you have are the ones who create more fans.

    Bravo Holly! I know you don’t have time for this crap.

  22. shawna Avatar

    It would be nice if she’d make up her mind, wouldn’t it? First she claims you have enough celebrity to make her libel-proof (a sketchy claim, methinks, since most authors don’t fall into the “celebrity” catagory..) and then slams you as being just the opposite.

    Sheesh. *shakes head* The sheer foolishness of people just… amazes me, some days.

  23. TJ Avatar

    And pardon my their/there mistake. I’ve yet to have enough coffee this morning.

  24. TJ Avatar

    I find it insane how people misconstrue facts to fit there opinion.

    To say that chain stores use automated systems that don’t pick up on authors who are actually doing pretty darn good is one thing. To say that the possibility exists for an indie store to handsell books, keep track of the successful ones, and order more of those is another.

    But to make up stories and twist words makes me irate. I’m all about the details, and people need to get their facts straight.

    I know of a good little link to a fictious example of selling to the net, if anyone’s interested. Sometimes it helps people understand.

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