An Apology

As the season of gratitude approaches, I have too many blessings to count. And one of my biggest blessings is you, dear Kidlit reader. You have been with me for over ten years, along for the ride on the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. You make what I do on the blog (and Good Story Company and YouTube and Good Story Podcast and on every other free avenue that you can find me) worthwhile.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that I provide content for writers. That’s my passion, and what I do best. You may also know that I don’t do a lot of selling. There has never been an ad on this blog, and the only things I sell are my own projects, whether that’s my book or a webinar or the Manuscript Submission Blueprint. That was a collaboration brought to me by Children’s Book Insider, and I sampled several of their classes before agreeing to make one. I loved it, and I poured my all into the class I created. I’m still very proud of it! I also think it’s offered at a kickass price point that gives a ton of value for your hard-earned dollar.

Keeping this type of integrity in a culture of “monetization” has been hard. I get advertising requests every single day for this blog because it has been around a long time, because a lot of people come to it, and because my email lists and social feeds have a lot of followers. Over and over, I say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Even my own mother keeps asking, “When are you gonna monetize that blog?”

Sorry, Mom! I will not “put the good stuff behind a paywall.” I will not launch a subscription model where I make a quick buck off of you when you forget to cancel for a few months. I feel very strongly about this, and always have. If you read my blog and have never given me one red cent, thank you! Welcome! I’m so happy to have you! My editorial practice is thriving and I’m having my best year ever, with a team of eight wonderful employees. (I know, right?!) Please enjoy the things I share with writers for free. I mean it.

Now. What’s the apology for? Well, a few months ago, a very prominent writing teacher approached me to do a collaboration. My response was in line with my values (the names have been redacted):

I was very grateful to have an opportunity to collaborate with a famous writing teacher. But my audience was and still is my first concern. So in the above response, I wanted to make sure that my writers would be respected, along with their valuable time.

The teacher called me and reassured me over the phone that “the webinar is very content rich and only the last ten minutes are spent selling.” The product was a course from this writer. This teacher said “most people don’t even notice the sales pitch.” We had a great talk and I completely gave this teacher the benefit of the doubt.

But when the webinar rolled around, I’m afraid my expectations were not met. There was valuable content, indeed, and I learned a few things, but there was also a lot of selling. Blatant, in-your-face selling. There was even discussion of the finer points of a financing option. I watched on, very disappointed, but I had been taken off as a presenter for the duration of the webinar, so I literally couldn’t come back on the line. We were on this teacher’s webinar software, not mine. And would I want to interrupt and make a scene? I was in a very uncomfortable position. I felt that my trust had been broken and that I had been taken advantage of, but I was left not knowing how to handle it as it was happening.

The great news is, my readers are smart, tough, savvy, and honest. Almost immediately, I started hearing about how people did not appreciate this webinar. I reassured those who wrote to me directly, and this led to some really good conversations. I am so grateful that my readership trusts me enough to be honest with me, even when they need to tell me something tough. People wrote me some brave emails, and I’m so honored to have gotten to engage with my readers on that level. That means you guys care, and that level of engagement is so hard to find in today’s busy world.

Initially, the writing teacher expected me to send four follow-up emails, but after the content of the webinar, I decided that I didn’t want to engage further. I sent one email, reluctantly, after prodding from their team. But the backlash from my readers kept coming. Even now, almost two weeks later, I’m hearing about it. So I knew I had to take a tougher and more honest stand.

I wrote to Teacher and Co. and gave them a taste of the feedback. I expressed my disappointment and reminded them of our initial conversations about the balance of content and selling. Staying silent about it would’ve been perhaps more diplomatic. After all, I’m not here to start beef or make enemies. That’s why I’m not referring to the teacher or the event by name. The people who attended this webinar and were disappointed will know what I mean. But staying mostly silent while dealing with it behind the scenes did not feel right. It also allows this predatory marketing practice to continue.

So now I’m apologizing to you.

You, my dear reader. Your time, your attention, your support—these precious things mean everything to me. I am sorry to those who joined this webinar and were disappointed. You trusted me, and I steered you in the wrong direction. We all make mistakes sometimes, and all I can hope for is your forgiveness. I was operating on the best information I had at the time.

For those who took this webinar and happened to buy the class, I do want you to enjoy it. I do not want you to regret your decision after this post. I do hope that it’s a valuable resource because—again—I think this writing teacher has a lot of good things to say. I still think this teacher’s book is a valuable resource. (This teacher may not think I’m so hot after this, though!) I hope that the payoff in all of this is that you get some good tools for your toolbox. I can only hope that it has been created with integrity and attention to detail.

Safe to say, it will be a long, long time before I entertain another collaboration.

The questions of whether or not to write this post, and write to the teacher, have been weighing on me for two weeks. I know I can’t feed my family “integrity” for dinner, but I feel a lot better to have been open and honest with you. In life, there’s the easy thing, and the right thing, and they’re often not the same. Thank you so much for hearing me out!

Full disclosure: I was offered a revenue sharing arrangement for this webinar, which is standard for this kind of collaboration. I have declined any royalties and have been paid absolutely nothing. In 2020, I do plan to launch a very specific paid course (for aspiring editors) and an ebook, both of which will be offered for sale. I will also offer a few one-off paid classes for a well-known online learning platform. But all of these are being produced by me—up to my high standards—to be as content-rich as humanly possible. I continue to offer a few paid webinars per year that include manuscript critique as a justification for the payment. Any links you see to content on Amazon or Manuscript Blueprints are affiliate links that give me a small royalty payment—at no additional cost to the reader. I shoulder over $100 of web hosting costs per month to keep several websites running, and this allows me to offset some of that investment. Other than that, I make my living as a freelance editor, by being paid for my services.

28 Replies to “An Apology”

  1. Dee Buckingham says:

    I did watch that podcast, and in writing to a fellow writer I said it was a 90 minute ad wirh 20 minutes of good content. I focused on the 20 minutes and saw the rest as payment for getting that information.

    I have read his book, and tried using it but it gets a bit convoluted, but again, I take the nuggets and toss the rest as part of the process to get to the good stuff.

    Your enthusiasm for your guest was apparently genuine. Thanks for the effort of getting one of the big guns to do a free class. BTW, he has much of his stuff on youtube for free.

  2. Mary-
    I attended that webinar and was surprised that it seemed more of a sales pitch than a class. I have attended many of YOUR free webinars and never felt pressure to buy anything at all. In fact your webinars always offer an incentive to use your services in the form of a discount, not an arm twisting.
    So thanks for this apology. It means a lot to me.

  3. No need to apologize to me–I feel you are one of the most helpful editors, not only on the WEB, but in your book–which by the way I have read over and over throughout the years since the book was published. Also have recommended the book to the members of my critique group.

  4. Mary, I agree with Norma, no need for apologies. You’ve offered tons of free valuable information over the years. You didn’t have control over what happened. That’s sometimes the way free webinars go. It’s very brave of you to write this post.

  5. Naya Williams says:

    Hi Mary, the care you put into this blog and the love you have for writing really warms my heart. I’ve been reading for years and have never commented, but now feel a need to just come out and say thank you. Your advice is invaluable, you’re a wonderful person and this blog has been a safe place to explore writing, life, and everything in-between. Sincerely, thank you for keeping it up and I’ll be reading for as long as it’s available! Your integrity is appreciated, and so are you!

  6. Brigitte McCray says:

    Hi, Mary,

    You’re awesome, and I think it’s wonderful how honest and open you’re being. Thank you so much for all the wonderful free content you’ve provided over the years. It’s been so helpful for my learning.

    I did get some good pointers from that Webinar (I’m pretty sure I know which one it is); I simply fast forwarded through the sales pitch stuff, but I could understand how some people would have been frustrated.

  7. Susan Haas says:

    Ahah! This is just like reading a novel where you know things aren’t as they seem, but you can’t make sense of it until the surprise twist at the end! Thanks for the reveal as I, too, having consumed and appreciated your thoughtful services both free and paid, left that webinar scratching my head. Brilliant teaching moment, Mary! And of course kudos to you for always taking the high road.

    1. Mary Kole says:

      Thanks, Susan! I was as surprised as everyone else that day, believe me.

  8. Lisa Holden says:

    You certainly don’t need to apologise. I watched the webinar and fast-forward to the ‘juicy bits’. I also have the Teacher’s book and even took a course based on it run by a novelist (which was pricey but good). I appreciate your blog, and also have your book, which is super helpful. It’s lovely to know that you value integrity! In you we can trust! Thank you Mary.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I was super disappointed with the webinar, and very annoyed. I, too, was excited to hear directly from this teacher, only to feel very angry at the hard push that was delivered. I appreciate you apologizing, though I definitely felt it was the teacher who was at fault for the inappropriate and rather brutish sales push. I would have been okay with a short notice at the end, but this just went on and on.

  10. Hi, Mary,
    I thought that there was good content in the webinar. And, of course, the content you offer for free every week on your blog/website is invaluable. I understand your disappointment as this turned out differently than your initial expectation, but I didn’t feel the selling part was offensive. (I kind of figured there’d be a pitch at some point.) To be honest, I clicked off when that part started. And, yes, your continued engagement throughout the webinar would have been a lovely addition! All the best, Valerie

  11. Alice M Fleury says:

    I also attended the webinar, but I subscribe to his emails and knew what type of webinar it would be. I’ve watched a couple before, however, I was hoping this was more geared toward kidlit. No worries though. What turned me off was the class is only good for a year. CBI manuscript classes are good forever.

  12. Roslyn Heywood says:

    Thank you Mary,
    I have only ever seen gold in you. Please know, you are a ‘to keep’ editor AND…
    I am clearly not alone in valuing you and your work.

  13. Beverley Murrill says:

    I am so encouraged by your transparency, both here, and when I wrote my misgivings to you. You are the real deal and your responses have made me more inclined to take some courses with you next year.

  14. Cari Galeziewski says:

    Hi Mary, I watched the webinar over a week late, surprised that I hadn’t lost my window of opportunity. Since I was watching a replay, I was able to fast forward and sift through to take away only what was helpful to me. Thank you for all that you do to help writers. I am a longtime follower, I reference your book often, and I look forward to all that you will be offering in the future. God Bless!

  15. Shelley Giordano says:

    Hi Mary!

    I have followed your blog, bought your book, and purchased a manuscripts course you created and it’s *because* your free content is so spot on, truly helpful, and well organized. I was excited to attend this webinar but signed out early when it was clearly just a very long sales pitch. I warned a friend who had already read his book and would not gain anything new from watching the replay. And since I’ve read a few chapters of his book, there was absolutely nothing new gained in the webinar. I wondered what you thought and imagined you were not comfortable with the heavy sales tone.

    More than that, I felt he should have been embarrassed. It’s fine to sell your work and know its worth, but the level of sales in the webinar was quite extreme after giving me very little confidence in the actual content. Frankly, the webinar was cringeworthy and especially in contrast to your usual offerings and your work. But I appreciate reading your perspective and continue to value the high quality work you contribute for free and in paid classes. Thank you.

  16. Mary,

    Thanks for your transparency and working hard to ensure the reputation of your newly-established company.

    I attended the webinar live and thought, oh this is one of those classes where they just get you there to buy their product.

    I bought and love your submission packet blue print course and loved the content, the value, and recommended it to my critique partners.

    Thanks for your honesty and work to provide valuable resources to writers.

  17. Hi Mary,
    I didn’t watch the webinar. I’d planned to but couldn’t. I planned on watching the replay. Delayed. And something seemed off. The number of emails, maybe? I kept receiving them from said teacher. I have your book, love your book, recommend your book. Have done paid webinars with you. Enjoy your blog and how personal it is. This apology is so honest. My favorite line . . .
    I know I can’t feed my family “integrity” for dinner. . .
    So true. You can only live integrity, and wow, for me, this post does that.
    Thank you for sharing your fears.

  18. Dianne Caplin says:

    I thought it was me! My husband, who sells for a living has made me very aware of the ‘sales pitch.’ I must say, after writing for over 15 years, webinars have helped me immensely. I’ve paid thousands of dollars for information, webinars, and editing services. I’ve been lucky with one of my novels winning two awards, but haven’t had any luck with any others. In fact, I’ve never been able to duplicate my early success. I just thought it was a fluke. But it wasn’t until this webinar that I found what I was missing. Yes, I thought the sales pitch was strong and tried to use an emotional sway to persuade me to pay. In the past I would have pushed the button, right then and there. And yes the cost would be a strain, so, instead I purchased the book. But with that said, the magic my first book had and what all the other manuscripts have lacked was explained for the first time. I finally found what I needed, thanks to you Mary! Yes, it might not have been what you expected, but it was successful! No need to apologize to me. (Though I totally understand why you felt the need to do so.) Those of us who follow you, those of us who have used your services, know what type of person you are. We can never control others . No judgement here, just loads of gratitude!!

  19. Thanks for this, it just shows the kind of person you are. I was surprised by the webinar. I didn’t sign up for anything and I continued to get emails from the individual. I marked them as spam and it’s all good.

    Thanks for all you do and offer. I’ve learned so much!

  20. First, thank you, Mary, for always living in your integrity. It’s inspiring and very much appreciated, especially in times like these. I’ve been a long time subscriber to your blog, but don’t comment very often. I felt compelled to now because I understand your angst over this particular presenter. I have watched several of his webinars (I don’t know why, maybe I thought I’d learn something new from each viewing – I did not) and, frankly, in general, I don’t mind being sold to – most webinars have a section at the end where the person or people presenting sell their courses or books or services. That’s not a problem for me and I think most people who are familiar with webinars have come to expect that. It’s the unspoken pact between provider and student. We can always leave if we’re not interested in what they’re selling.

    However – what I take great offense to in this particular presenter’s webinars was how, from almost word one, he used fear tactics and high pressure selling to make us feel like we would never be successful or have a career in writing if we didn’t learn his particular techniques. That we would never be successful as writers if we didn’t buy his courses. Oh hell no. That’s unacceptable in any arena, but especially for writers who are already most likely neurotic about their skills and very often lacking confidence in their abilities. It’s the way in which he sold, not that he sold, that was disturbing for me – as it was in his other webinars that I watched as well – so please please please don’t feel that you are responsible for his shady selling tactics. That’s all him. I’ve read his book and I learned a couple things from the webinar too. He’s obviously been very successful with his theories, but he really needs to work on how he sells his products. Instilling fear is never the answer. And he is not your fault.

    So thank you, Mary, for your apology, it’s appreciated but, like so many others here have already said, not necessary. I love how you take responsibility for it though, that shows your deep character and that’s part of why I keep coming back. He could learn a thing or two from you. 🙂

  21. Stacie Martin says:

    Mary… I attended a SCBWI conference over ten years ago and that’s where found you. I have followed you for years through your blog and thoroughly look forward to your posts. I can’t wait to see what amazing content comes through The Good Story Company. I have learned so much about the craft of writing for children and young adults from you. I attended the webinar that you’re talking about. NO apologies necessary! I look forward to everything to come! You are a generous teacher and editor, who’s passion for helping writers comes through loud and clear. And with integrity. 🙂

  22. I love this post so much Mary! Way to be truly courageous, vulnerable and authentic in the face of discomfort! I’m fairly new to kidlit.com but even I was keenly aware of your high standards for tact and subtlety so I cringed with discomfort for you during that over-the-top sales pitch! In fact I only watched to the end in order to see your reaction. You handled it very gracefully and I thought of you for days afterward. You have earned my deepest respect and admiration with this post! ❤️

  23. I really appreciated this post. I was a little shocked by the webinar, especially since I have read the author’s book and got a lot out of it. I have gotten so much out of your webinars and blog over the years.
    I always come back, because I know that you’ll have high quality content!

  24. Mary – Thanks for this blog! I had respect for you, but this entry has notched it up several more levels. I got the emails, and after researching the collaborator, I decided there was something off, so I decided not to waste my time. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised at the collaboration but figured there had to be a reason for it. Your honesty at what went on behind the scenes is refreshing. Thank you for being an awesome teacher!

  25. Mary – Thanks so much for this post. I was completely taken aback by the absurdly hard sell in that webinar. He is not doing himself or his work any favors with that approach and I’m very glad to know you felt the same way.

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