Follow-up to Reenergizing the EU Novels

In this week’s Fangirl Speaks Up blog, one of the main talking points was editorial control. Interestingly enough, Sue Rostoni, chief fiction editor at Lucas Books made a post in the official Expanded Universe VIPs thread on the StarWars.com forums that highlights exactly why fans should be concerned with the vision of those guiding Star Wars books. This thread, currently in its third incarnation, has long been a venue through which Ms. Rostoni and others on the official side of the EU product lines have communicated directly with the fans about many topics.

The complete post is as follows:

Sue Rostoni
Mar 21, 2011 1:19 PM 

[Q:] Sue, both the Conviction blurb and the back cover mention Daala gettin[g] overthrown. As of the end of Vortex, that hadn’t happened. So are we allowed to know- does Daala’s overthrowing happen in-between books, or in the beginning on Conviction?

[A:] Yes, it happens within the pages of one of the books. I can’t think of which one — they all run together for me.

There are really only two possible explanations for an answer like this. Either Ms. Rostoni is being glib or she’s being painfully honest. Neither explanation is even close to acceptable for a person in her position in response to a customer inquiry.

Perhaps Ms. Rostoni thinks her reply is lighthearted and humorous. Sadly, it is not. A client does not find it funny when a lawyer says, “Sorry I can’t remember the details of your case, my client matters all run together for me,” or when a consultant says, “I can’t remember which set of design plans that was, they all run together for me.” As professionals our job is to know each one of our client projects and be able to answer questions about them, even when the question is spontaneous and unanticipated. Even if Ms. Rostoni did not already remember the answer to this particular question, which is bad enough, she clearly had time to look up the answer before giving a reply. To instead crack wise, if that’s what she intended, is very poor customer relations – and in fact borders on insulting.

Worse, though, Ms. Rostoni’s response actually could be genuine. If that is true, it is a sad statement about the state of affairs at Lucas Books. The fans of the EU novels care about the characters and the stories very deeply; many of us re-read our favorite novels repeatedly. Speaking for myself, I read the first and third Fate of the Jedi novels twice each, and the other four novels once each, and based off of that alone I can pretty easily recall and keep track of what happened in the respective books. And I only read the books for fun; it is Ms. Rostoni’s job to manage the story design and editing of the novels on behalf of Lucas Books. If it weren’t for the recent quality-control issues and the downturn in fan enthusiasm for the flagship series, it would be unimaginable that a managing editorial director wouldn’t have a firm grasp on what’s next.

Anyone who has watched Dave Filoni’s episode commentaries for The Clone Wars can see and hear his passion for his work. I find it inconceivable that Mr. Filoni would respond to a question about an upcoming TCW episode by saying, “I don’t remember what’s happening in that one, the next couple all run together for me.” The managing editor on the Lucas Books side needs to bring the same passion to her work that Mr. Filoni dedicates to TCW, and that the fans – the paying customers – of the EU novels devote to their commitment to this slice of the franchise.

If the Powers That Be can’t be bothered, how can they possibly think the fans should?

Lex

B.J. Priester has been a Star Wars fan since he played with the original Kenner action figures as a young boy. His fandom passion returned after watching Attack of the Clones in 2002 and reading the entire New Jedi Order series in 2003. He voraciously caught up on the novels and comics in the Expanded Universe in addition to writing fanfiction, frequently co-authoring with Tricia.

B.J. has served as editor of FANgirl Blog from its inception, as well as contributing reviews and posts on a range of topics. He edited Tricia’s novel Wynde, and is collaborating with her on several future projects set in that original universe.

Currently a tenured law professor in Florida, B.J. has been a practicing lawyer in Washington, D.C., a law clerk to a federal appeals court judge, and a law journal editor-in-chief. He is also a proud geek dad whose son who is a big fan of Star Wars and The Clone Wars.
Lex

Lex

B.J. Priester has been a Star Wars fan since he played with the original Kenner action figures as a young boy. His fandom passion returned after watching Attack of the Clones in 2002 and reading the entire New Jedi Order series in 2003. He voraciously caught up on the novels and comics in the Expanded Universe in addition to writing fanfiction, frequently co-authoring with Tricia. B.J. has served as editor of FANgirl Blog from its inception, as well as contributing reviews and posts on a range of topics. He edited Tricia’s novel Wynde, and is collaborating with her on several future projects set in that original universe. Currently a tenured law professor in Florida, B.J. has been a practicing lawyer in Washington, D.C., a law clerk to a federal appeals court judge, and a law journal editor-in-chief. He is also a proud geek dad whose son who is a big fan of Star Wars and The Clone Wars.

46 thoughts on “Follow-up to Reenergizing the EU Novels

  • March 22, 2011 at 8:42 am
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    Holy crap. That’s a fairly major event and she can’t remember what book it happens in? Letting those terrible, messy blurbs thru in the first place was terrible. This is insulting. You are right, she doesn’t care so why should we?

    I’m so glad I quit giving them money.

  • March 22, 2011 at 9:53 am
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    Very well said, Lex.

    Perhaps Ms. Rostoni thinks her reply is lighthearted and humorous. Sadly, it is not.

    It would not be the first time fans had received a “glib” answer from Ms Rostoni. Not long ago, her remark in that same forum about a certain book being “the one” in which Jaina and Jag get married comes to mind. I believe the quote from Ms Rostoni was, “Rock on!” At that time, although her intentions may have been good or light-hearted, it was read and received as an insult by many fans. Tossing out off-hand remarks – if that is what’s happening – only serves to undermine her credibility and upset the people who, so far, have been willing to buy EU books.

    On the other hand if, as you suggest, her words are genuine that really is both sad and unprofessional. The difference may be irrelevant. I think that how the fans perceive her words is the more important barometer of the situation.

    You are also right about Dave Filoni’s passion. I do believe that Ms Rostoni had that same passion about the EU books once; I hope that either she can find it again or pass her responsibilities on to someone else with fresh enthusiasm.

  • March 22, 2011 at 11:13 am
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    She is paid to know what is going on and can’t remember when a vital detail happens? That’s just ridiculous. It sounds like a major plot point. Her remarks only deepen fan resentment. Why give money to a company that doesn’t care about putting out a quality product?

  • March 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm
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    Sue Rostoni
    Mar 22, 2011 9:10 AM

    Sorry that my reply was offensive. My hasty remark was intended only to let the reader know that the action occurs in the book and not off-camera, so to speak. I apologize.

    *****

    darthlex74
    Mar 22, 2011 11:32 AM

    Sue,

    Thank you for your reply. I would encourage you to always keep in mind that your disaffected customers (and former customers), not just the fans who are still happy, are paying attention to all of the information coming out of Lucas Books and Del Rey, hoping for a sign that the EU will get its magic back.

    Lex

  • March 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm
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    First off, I rather enjoy the fact that Ms. Rostoni shows some personality in her posts over on the starwars.com forums. It’s much more enjoyable to read posts that sound like they come from a real person rather than emotionless business employee. Secondly, I do not think any apology was necessary from her, and the fact that she did go above beyond to do so, shows just how great a person she is. I for one am thankful that person like Sue Rostoni is attached to these projects, and I think she is doing a great job.

    -Stephen

  • March 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    She’s several books ahead of us all, and constantly at work on more. Interacts with multiple authors on multiple upcoming book projects, edits multiple manuscripts at a time, as well consults with Dark horse over their comic titles. She’s been so overloaded with work that she rarely has the opportunity to communicate with the fans at all anymore.

    So no, I think she clearly DOESN’T have the time to look it up, and that you’re just being a whingy jackass because she’s not kissing your high and mighty butt.

  • March 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm
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    Oh, please. This is ridiculous. Comparing Star Wars novels to legal work or other consulting situations is a gross distortion. Ms. Rostoni is not obligated to answer the questions posed by fans, but she takes the time to do so. And she did answer the specific question posed to her — whether the event happens in a book or between books. Judging her one response as an insight into whether she cares or has passion for her job is simply insulting.

    • March 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm
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      Considering that Star Wars books is a multi-million dollar industry it’s not a gross distortion.

      While this blog is open to all opinions, even those that disagree, you are done until you present yourself with a full name and a real email address. All other posts from you will be deleted.

  • March 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm
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    The reaction in the VIP thread and elsewhere has been about what I expected. I really only have two main points to make in response.

    First: Sue Rostoni is a professional who works for a major multi-national company. Her job involves product design, quality control, and customer relations. In that context, there is no such thing as a “casual” comment to customers or a “hasty remark” to a client. In the age of the internet, it is all too easy to forget that every single thing that a representative of a company says reflects on the company, whether it be in a formal announcement or in a casual conversation with a customer. I realize some fans (particularly those who have never been responsible for business development, client relations, or sales) may not view Ms. Rostoni that way, but many fans do – and there is nothing untoward about making our perspective known.

    Second: It’s fine if some fans think Ms. Rostoni is doing a good job, but I don’t – and I make no apologies for publicly saying so. As soon as any business asks for its customers’ money in exchange for its product, the customer has the absolute right to provide feedback to the parties charged with managing the product’s production.

    Ms. Rostoni’s post involved a plot point in Fate of the Jedi, so let’s examine what has already occurred with the FotJ series:

    * In the VIP thread, Ms. Rostoni acknowledged fan complaints that the first several books of the series were too short and did not contain enough story. She publicly announced that the authors and editors had discussed additional plot elements to add into the story.
    * Later, she publicly stated that the reason for the publishing schedule being pushed out the first time was to allow the authors to work these new subplots in to the books.
    * FotJ: Allies was published with several hundred spelling and typographical errors, and several hundred more significant editing and style errors. This occurred even though these errors appeared in the advanced reader copies of the book, allowing plenty of time for them to be corrected. No public acknowledgement of, much less apology for, this egregious quality-control lapse has ever been made.
    * At Celebration V, which Ms. Rostoni did not attend, Del Rey editor Shelly Shapiro acknowledged fan complaints that the series had been progressing too slowly in its story, and announced that the final three books of the series would dramatically increase the pace and tension, a theme subsequently echoed in the Del Rey promotional material for FotJ: Conviction and FotJ: Ascension.
    * The publication schedule for the series was pushed back a second time to accommodate this second round of story redesign.

    For Ms. Rostoni to then publicly state that she doesn’t remember which book included a significant plot point in the series (a governmental coup d’état) only reinforces the impression previously created by those self-admitted flaws in the FotJ series.

  • March 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm
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    The problem with franchises as big as SW is that its fan don’t understand that for writers, developers, editors (and so on) it is WORK, which they do as best as they can. Having said it, the only rude thing I’ve seen is Lex’s response. God bless he is not doin’g Sue’s job, or there would be no heart at all in the books.

  • March 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm
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    Lex, do you have any idea how overworked Sue Rostoni is? She is in charge of a major branch of a major franchise. A franchise that has been going on for thirty-four years and with a large Expanded Universe that is subject to retcons and other troubling issues. Sue Rostoni has to concern herslef with the content of the books, the authors signed on, the cover art, the blurbs- everything! For the life of me I don’t know how we can expect her to keep track of a detail like the one you were asking about in a series of books down to the specific book and portion of the book. Quite frankly, she has bigger fish to fry. Perhaps you would like to take her place and see how you fare?
    Respectfully yours,
    Reepicheep

    • March 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm
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      “the blurbs”
      That’s the thing… This was an issue specifically in the blurbs, both in the catalog and on the back cover. The plot point described as already having happened – Daala’s overthrow – as of Conviction has not happened. While I realize that Sue Rostoni is very overworked, would it have taken very long to (hypothetically) double-check with Aaron Allston that the blurb was an accurate description of his book before sending it to press?

  • March 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm
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    “…a significant plot point in the series (a governmental coup d’état)…”

    Considering the hundreds, if not thousands, of years of SW history that has been established over the past 34 real years, it’s hard to define this one event as significant. And even if it is significant to some people, it is certainly understandable that an individual (even one whose job it is to oversee these things) can’t keep track of every single detail.

  • March 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm
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    You just need to lay it off, Lex. We are lucky that Sue even answers these questions, and you get mad at her for a honest mistake. And she answered the question. If we had you doing that job, IF you even answered the questions, it wouldn’t be hard for you to get a detail wrong. So just lay it off? If you keep it up we won’t be able to get ANY Insider info on new books.

  • March 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm
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    Ironically, I agree with what many people have been saying: Ms. Rostoni didn’t have to answer the question. Which is exactly my point. I think it’s great that Ms. Rostoni interacts with fans, but if the only answer she could give off the top of her head was an imprecise, glib answer, then she shouldn’t have answered at all. It’s fine if some fans think those kinds of casual, offhand comments are okay – but I don’t, and I’ve never heard of a corporate marketing, business development, or customer relations expert who recommended that kind of interaction with clients or customers. Professional publishing – especially at the multi-million dollar level of Star Wars – certainly is an industry with just as much need to worry about customer relations as law, accounting, consulting, or anything else.

    Let’s be clear: Fate of the Jedi alone is a $30+ million project. The managers at Lucas Books and Del Rey ought to be handling it accordingly, and their string of self-admitted flaws in the series (see above) seems to indicate otherwise.

    I also find it interesting that so many people are claiming that Ms. Rostoni is overworked. Oh, really? Has she said that? I highly doubt Lucasfilm would like its employees to tell the customers that they’re so overworked that errors and imprecisions just should be overlooked. It’s not acceptable in any other professional industry, and it’s not acceptable in novel publishing either. Would you keep taking your car to a mechanic who was too overworked to spend the appropriate amount of time on the repairs? I read constantly and write professionally in my day job, so yes I think I do understand just how much work Ms. Rostoni has to do. And I make no apologies at all for my view that offhand remarks are very poor customer relations, especially when many fans have already stopped buying the product.

    I have a full-time job, a busy life, and do lots of reading and writing besides the Star Wars novels – and I can still tell you the difference between the major plot points of each of the Fate of the Jedi books, and I didn’t read them for my job, much less as a line-editor. And this is not some obscure detail about the Fate of the Jedi series. The overthrow of Daala has been building literally since the first book. It’s one of the major plot points in the series, along with Abeloth and the Lost Tribe. I find it really hard to believe that this event doesn’t stand out pretty significantly in the book in which it occurs.

    I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Star Wars products, and I have no hesitation at all about criticizing the product when I think it’s subpar, just as I have no hesitation praising the products that I think are excellent.

  • March 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm
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    Lex,

    I think it’s clear that not just “some fans” fine her casual approach to be just fine. *All of them* do, within the context of the VIP thread (your current main audience) anyway, with the exception of a few of your readers here. We get that *you* don’t like her casual approach. Cool. But so far, hardly anybody else seems to be bothered by it. As far as her answer to the question that sparked this thing today: Nobody else seems to be bothered by that either, with the exception of, again, a few of your readers. Now, you may claim that there is bias over at the StarWars.com forums, but I can tell you, many of the ones that have sided against you there have been very vocal about the EU, and improvements that they feel need to be made.

    Her answer yesterday was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for you, I don’t know. But this seems like a ridiculously petty thing to be griping about. Yes, there have been mistakes made in the past, errors and the like, but I think Lucasfilm is quite capable of showing Sue the door if they feel she’s harming the books department. Personally, I think you accomplished nothing here other than to ruffle the feathers of people who have actually complaints of their own, as I mentioned. Blogging is awesome, but taking it to the official site probably wasn’t the best idea.

    • March 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm
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      My audience wasn’t the other users in the VIP thread; my audience was Ms. Rostoni and her colleagues and supervisors. Which is in part what that thread is for: giving the fans a venue to reach out to the VIPs. I’m sorry if some fans over there don’t like seeing criticism of LFL, but the thread rules don’t mandate that only positive feedback is permitted, and my posts have not been edited or removed by the moderators.

      Yes, Fate of the Jedi was the breaking point for me. What exactly is wrong with me saying so to the Powers That Be? They can’t have it both ways, not in the era of the internet. If they want to have the VIP thread for interacting with the echochamber of fans who are happy, they also have to accept interactions with fans who aren’t happy.

  • March 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm
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    You misunderstand. There’s nothing wrong with posting complaints. I’ve got my own. And as I said, many people over there have been vocal about theirs, including some that disagreed with you today. Maybe if your complaint was presented differently, and by you as an individual (not a link to your blog; it looks like this is the official opinion of Fan Girl Blog) it might have gone over better.

    Also, your complaint was limited to your disgust for her style of response, which looks incredibly petty. There was nothing in there about your disappointment for FOTJ. Nothing in there about past errors. So of course, the only thing she addressed was the way she answered a question. That’s why I see nothing you tried to do or say accomplished here.

    • March 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm
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      FANgirl blog has always been presented as a place for people to express their opinions. Lex’s individual opinion on this matter aligns with my own personal view, which is the reason it dovetails off my original post on Reenergizing the EU.

      The purpose of this blog is to allow a voice outside of the echochamber that currently surrounds the Powers That Be. I’ll second the mindset that once a business chooses to embrace the internet as a marketing tool, it is impossible to not consider how everything, from formal announcement to casual remark, will be construed.

      Lex’s opinions on FotJ and the broader EU are well-documented. His later discussion of the series in particular (and also the topic within Sue’s initial post that proved troubling) provides further context to those who don’t have the full context of his concerns.

      I think it’s worth mentioning that Lex was one of the more vocal defenders of the LotF series and Sue Rostoni when it got panned by fans for some of the storytelling decisions, including Mara’s death and the lack of introspection following Jacen’s death.

      As always, your feedback is welcome.

  • March 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm
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    Sue Rostoni
    Mar 22, 2011 2:30 PM

    I haven’t addressed Lex’s post because I really feel no need to defend myself, but perhaps I would like to clarify any misunderstanding on the “run together” part of my statement.

    I didn’t mean for it to be humorous (this time). For me, the Fate of the Jedi is one story and in my head, I see it as one story. I generally get the page proofs for one book as the manuscript comes in for the next, so they “run together” in the storytelling of my brain. So to pick out an event that happened in the series, off the top of my head, yes, sometimes I can’t immediately pin in which book the event took place, and this time I didn’t take the extra time to find out. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it — things happen within the context of an entire workload and, oh yeah, I have a life, too.

    And now I’m almost late for a meeting….

    *******

    Lex: While I appreciate Ms. Rostoni taking the time to give a clarification, it does not allay my concerns or change my opinion.

    • March 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm
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      That’s because you’re being an unreasonable [*****].

      [edited]

      • March 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm
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        Hmph, is that really your name? Your post was allowed with appropriate edits to highlight the absurd nature fan support can take.

        Wasn’t the uproar that brought you here fueled by supposed rudeness on Lex’s part?

        You’re done as well.

  • March 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm
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    Don’t you think it’s a little strange to use Dave Filoni as an example of a Star Wars VIP who really understands what EU fans want?

    • March 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm
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      I assume you’re referring to the TCW’s disregard to certain continuity issues? If so, then no. While I do not wish to see continuity thrown out the window, it is my opinion that the obsessive attention to detail prevent writers from creating good stories. Even history books change their facts from time to time – Christopher Columbus was once the man who discovered America. More importantly, SW books (for the most part) are told from third person limited POV, not omniscient like a movie or cartoon, so I’m willing to handwave things like a Jedi Master’s name being retold incorrectly. Even newspapers can’t get their facts straight all the time.

      A good continuity debate is good for generating publicity and fan awareness, and possibly sales.

      I’d much prefer Filoni’s passionate engagement in the process as a fan and the respect I’ve always seen from him as a spokesperson for the product, which he’s tasked to manage through the creative process. I think he’s very aware of his role as the frontman and how it plays out in the public forum.

      • March 23, 2011 at 12:00 am
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        I mean with things like Dave Filoni completely missing the point. A great example is how in the recent Mortis arc, they were originally going to include two Sith Lords as ghosts, so Dave Filoni wanted to use Darths Bane and Revan. However, as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the character could tell you, Revan turned back to the light side. It would make about as much sense to have a Sith ghost of Revan as it would to include the skeleton of Malak when he was a kid. Never mind the continuity issues, what does that say about his authenticity as an EU fan if he thinks EU fans would love to see Revan in a context that makes no sense?

        I’d much prefer a spokesperson who sometimes answered fan questions incompletely off the top of their head than one who thought that just portraying something, no matter how off-model, was great fanservice.

        • March 7, 2012 at 8:58 am
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          I think he most likely meant the “good Sith Lord”. Revan as the good Sith, Bane as the bad Sith.

  • March 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm
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    I would have possibly emphasized the concern over the “they run together” comment is as much about the global, corporate Powers That Be as Sue Rostoni personally, but Lex is on target. Sue does have to talk to the customers — someone from the franchise has to, and she happens to be it.

    Sue Rostoni is the frontwoman for a product that’s really quite lousy at the moment, and the coordinated response from the SW franchise is like a textbook case of how NOT to manage a franchise. Dark Horse has acted just as cavalierly in its response to the customers. I don’t know what the hell advice they’re giving out there, but it’s really bad customer service.

    Based on the product alone, I’m about to be done. Based on the sales, a lot of other people are too, and the handling of the product shows why we’re bailing out in droves.

    • March 23, 2011 at 12:53 am
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      “I don’t know what the hell advice they’re giving out there, but it’s really bad customer service. ”
      Possibly “We have a [perceived] captive customer base, so we [believe we can] can tell the fans that they should be grateful to US for producing our product, instead of US being grateful to THEM for buying our product”?

      Speaking from experience watching blow-ups in other fandoms, here. (Mostly over some Big Name Fan getting infuriated over someone criticizing *her/his* fanfiction, but sometimes from the authors themselves… Anne Rice’s “You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective” comes to mind.)

    • March 23, 2011 at 7:44 am
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      LFL and Del Rey are multi-billion dollar companies that are asking for my money to purchase their products. I have, repeatedly, and I’m quite dissatisfied with the quality of the products I’ve purchased lately. So no, I’m not going to just sit back and say nothing – I’m going to take my quality-control complaints to the people in charge, just like I do for any other inferior product that I buy. As a paying customer, I absolutely am entitled to be heard. That doesn’t mean they’ll agree with me, or that they’ll make any specific change that I might think is necessary, but they’d certainly better listen to what every single dissatisfied customer has to say. Any company that stops listening to its customers, and starts taking them for granted, is going to end up with declining sales. Funny how that’s exactly what we’re seeing with Star Wars novels lately – books in print down forty percent from LOTF to FOTJ alone.

  • March 23, 2011 at 4:48 am
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    Take it easy, mate. Sue has a lot on her plate. She can’t be expected to remember every single thing.

    • March 23, 2011 at 10:30 am
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      This is a fairly major ‘thing’ that she could’ve checked before firing off a reply. And this is her job folks, it’s what she gets paid for by a multimillion dollar company.

      This is just one more thing in a long line of issues that the EU has been having. Sales are declining, clearly something is wrong. Star Wars fans shouldn’t be attacking each other though.

  • March 23, 2011 at 11:03 am
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    So, what is the point here? PR value or your dissatisfaction of the EU? Because the only issue you brought up to the “Powers That Be” (if what transpired goes beyond Sue, which is probably unlikely) was what you perceive to be a PR issue.

    On that subject, do you follow any Lucasfilm people on Twitter? Because messages that have gone public there are far worse that anything Sue has ever said. Bonnie Burton regularly posts “drunk tweets”, Katie Lucas has one of the foulest mouths I’ve ever seen, along with Tom Hodges, who also regularly engages in heated political discussions. That’s just three examples; there may be more. So obviously, Lucasfilm employees around the board aren’t very concerned about “representing”, so I don’t see why you feel the need to single Sue out when what she does pales in comparison.

    I also find it ironic that a blog so concerned about PR and ready to school others about it caused a PR nightmare for themselves.

    And for the record, nobody is “asking” for your money. If you don’t want to spend any more money on the Expanded Universe, check the books out from a library.

    • March 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm
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      I encourage you to reread the first two sentences of the blog post, it explains quite clearly what the point is. In one sense, yes, it involves “only” a PR issue. But if they can’t even get that right…

      The behavior of other LFL affiliates is irrelevant. It’s a simple logical fallacy to claim that because one employee got away with a felony, we have to ignore the misdemeanor. And of course, Ms. Rostoni was actually remarking directly about the company’s product.

      The reaction to our blog may be a PR nightmare in your mind, but not in ours. The fact that so many members of the fanboy echochamber are reacting so stridently to what we’ve said only vindicates how important it is that the alternative voices in the fandom be as visible as possible. This blog isn’t here to cater to people who view the franchise and the fandom with a mindset like yours; its mission statement is quite the contrary. So the fact that you and others are so annoyed by what we’ve said means we’ve got it exactly right. (Aside from the fact that some forum users even at TFN, NJOE, and EUCantina have spoken up to agree with the concerns we expressed.)

      Your last point is a fallacy too. If I’m a longtime loyal Chevy purchaser and I have trouble with my newest car, sure I could go buy a Ford. But I have every right to express my complaints to Chevy and ask them to make changes. Every company is always trying to improve its products. Having dissatisifed customers who simply walk away quietly, rather than share their complaints and ask for change, is the worst scenario – because it means the company has lost valuable input on possible improvements that could have gained sales rather than lost them. That’s why you’ll never see a company tell its customers to shut up or quit buying. It’s not a mentality I would ever follow as a business, and I won’t follow it as a customer, either.

      • March 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm
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        You just don’t get it. You keep replaying your mission statement in your mind while tuning people out. I’ve already said that I don’t have a problem with voicing complaints and that I have some of my own that I have voiced. Three or four times. I’d appreciate it if you’d pay attention. And it’s no surprise that you would collect some disgruntled EU fans along the way here. It’s impossible for any one company to have 100% satisfied customers. You haven’t enlightened anyone with that discovery, thanks.

        And just what is my mindset, exactly?

        In any event, I’m done here. It’s clear that this blog is beyond reason in this matter.

        • March 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm
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          Are we “tuning people out”? Yes. Exactly. The fans who’ve come over here to take issue with our blog post, and with taking its link to the VIP thread at starwars.com, are not the target audience of this blog. We don’t care what the fanboys in the echochamber think. The whole point of this blog is to serve as a voice to counteract their influence. Listening too much to the fanboy echochamber, and not enough to other fans, is part of what’s led Lucas Books and Del Rey into their decline.

          Did we “ruffle the feathers” of some of those fans by publicly criticizing Ms. Rostoni at the VIP thread? Apparently we did. Fine. Those fans weren’t the audience of the post in that thread; Ms. Rostoni was. You can say all you like that the blog post has “gone over” poorly with some fans and or that it’s “a PR nightmare” with some fans, but that’s not part of our calculus. We posted the link there for a reason and we’d do it exactly the same way if we had it to do over again.

          • March 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm
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            …So all dissenters are “fanboys in the echochamber”?

            How is that any different from dissenters describing all of you as “radicals” and “[fans with] serious entitlement issues”?

    • March 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm
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      Actually it’s not just Sue Rostoni I’ve raised concerns about on this blog and elsewhere; it just happens that her public post in an open social networking forum is what triggered this particular blog post. I think some of the other parties involved in the Powers That Be have also misstepped, creating a confluence of events that needed to be addressed. I haven’t hedged on making my feelings known about my dissatisfaction with the quality control in Allies or the general failure to represent female characters on par with their male counterparts. I have done this by posting reviews and critiques in message board threads that I know the authors are reading, by blogging here at this site, and also by expressing some of these thoughts in person.

      As an individual, Troy Denning has found joy in needling fans for quite some time, but after the reaction to Allies he resorted to veiled threats and dismissive statements that some fans (the ones who don’t like what he’s done to the characters and the storylines, apparently) have agendas. The truth is everyone has an agenda, including Denning himself. But in the past, I’ve praised Denning for his true gift as a writer and for his masterful portrayal of Jaina in Invincible.

      To Christie Golden as well I’ve expressed appreciation for what she does well and my disgust at her last effort.

      To Erich Schoenweiss, I happily participated and encouraged positive fan experiences he creates on Facebook. I’ve also stated flat out when I think he steps beyond his role as an editorial representative and begins to poke at certain fans.

      To Shelly, I’ve personally expressed what I enjoyed about LotF and that I’m concerned about the effort and storytelling in FotJ.

      With Sue, keep in mind this isn’t the first time she’s raised the eyebrows of some fans with her posts in the VIP thread. But in the past I’ve given strong praise for things I really liked about the books. Also keep in mind that the VIP thread is the only message board thread in which she regularly posts, and unlike many of the authors she doesn’t participate in any of the other social networking venues. So where else should we have posted the criticism for her to see? I realize some fans don’t want us to have posted it publicly to her at all, but that just misses the point. Making the post publicly is important so that the fans who agree with us can see that their voice is being represented and heard, just as much as the voice of those who disagree.

      As a unit, they all have to do better. They need a mission and a plan to engage fans. There are authors doing this well – Kemp, Miller, Duursema and Ostrander to name a few. The others could learn a great deal from them.

  • March 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm
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    Well, ok then. I’m not sure why you’re responding to people or allowing comments at all since you clearly have no intention for this to be a discussion. I respect that you’re passionate about this subject, but I am also disappointed that your view is so definitive that you are beyond the consideration of the opinions of those who disagree. You are the very epitome of something that you are rallying against: The dismissal of differing opinion.

    • March 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm
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      The comments are open to allow readers to express their reactions. Each one is read and considered. If we didn’t want to allow differing opinions to be aired on our site, we’d simply have deleted them without publishing them and ensured a one-sided presentation on this blog. Just because some of these reactions haven’t changed our minds doesn’t mean the feedback wasn’t considered.

  • March 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm
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    “My audience wasn’t the other users in the VIP thread; my audience was Ms. Rostoni and her colleagues and supervisors.”

    If your audience is Sue Rostoni, then take the conversation to Sue Rostoni – and not to the VIP thread. There are private ways to contact her, you know. You just wanted to force a response and apology from Sue. You act like the folks working for Lucasbooks and Del Rey are computers and not people. It isn’t your job to decide how much opinion and room for error is allowed to them. If you really think that the result of not listening to fans is a decrease in book sales, then help prove that point and stop buying the books. Tell others how terrible Del Rey and Lucasbooks are being by not giving you EXACTLY what yo’re wanted and not giving the PERFECT answer. You’re not representing the fans – you representing a handful of radical people who need to find a more productive use of their time. Making fools out of yourselves and getting the entire fan community against you is a pretty stupid use of time, if you ask me. If you want Lucasbooks and Del Rey to listen to your opinions, being polite to them may be a good place to start. Del Rey has told various fansites that they appreciate what they do for the community, and that they read and listen to our opinions. But that’s only a result of the fansites interacting with the editors in an appropriate manner – something FGC is not doing. I was considering asking Del Rey editors to participate in an a quiz to test their Star Wars knowledge; just for fun, and to run as an “Are you smarter than a Star Wars editor” article. But now I’m hesitant to do so. Any wrong answer given will just add fuel to your fire, and you may go so far as to claim that they are they have crossed the professional line by doing the quiz. You’ll have more reason to believe that because these people work in a million dollar industry, they must be perfect and never make a mistake. I hate to break it to you, but there’s a billion dollar industry called sports, and it THRIVES on mistakes. The players are payed millions of dollars and they make probably 20 mistakes every game, minimum. Get off your high horse, please. If you buy a Star Wars book, then you are entitled to receiving a high quality product worth your money – but there was never an agreement that buying that Star Wars book meant you were entitled to anything from any of the people at the company. Buying a Star Wars book does not make Sue Rostoni your personal servant. Buying a Star Wars book does not mean Erich has to behave exactly how you deem to be professional. And if you don’t like the quality of the book, I have a new, original solution for you. Return it. Sell it. Give it away as a gift. And don’t buy any more. You’re not doing this for the publisher’s own good. This isn’t an act out of the kindness of your heart to go above and beyond and assist these editors by turning them into better professionals. You’re doing this to prove a point, to make a statement, and to separate yourselves from the rest of fandom as some kind of elite group that knows better than the rest of us. It’s stupid, it’s pointless, and it’s fake. Fandom could be much better if we all stop trying to be arrogant know-it-alls in suits. Either enjoy Star Wars – or find a new hobby. It’s that simple. Really.

    • March 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm
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      Most of the points you raise have already been addressed in prior responses above, and I stand by those reasons.

      Ironically, you’re the one who claims to be speaking for “the entire fan community,” not this blog, which is dedicated to giving a voice to women (and like-minded men) who aren’t being heard in the fanboy echochamber.

      I’m well aware of Del Rey’s relationship with certain fansites, including providing advanced review copies of the books and similar inside connections. I’m sure Del Rey does appreciate what those sites have contributed to the echochamber. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that as Del Rey has relied more heavily on feedback from those sites, rather than the broader fanbase at large, the more their sales have fallen.

      Funny you should make the sports analogy. When a multi-million dollar sports franchise experiences year after year of losing, causing plummeting gate receipts and provoking discontent from season ticket holders, you know what they do? They don’t tell their customers to shut up and go spend their money on something else – they fire the coach and get new players.

    • March 23, 2011 at 9:25 pm
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      If you really think that the result of not listening to fans is a decrease in book sales, then help prove that point and stop buying the books.

      I did. I purchased one Star Wars fiction book in the past twelve months. When I can’t get my hands on someone else’s copy, I use the library and bookstores. The one book I did buy has been passed along and no longer sits on my shelf.

      You’re not representing the fans – you representing a handful of radical people who need to find a more productive use of their time.

      Interestingly enough my forum’s makeup is mostly 20-50 year old women who work full or part-time jobs, raise kids and go through life as normal people. They’ve expressed here and on my forums for the past several years dissatisfaction, but are too busy to spend all day on fansites. Far from radical. That is an entirely unfair characterization of the people who hold the same opinion as expressed on this blog.

      Making fools out of yourselves and getting the entire fan community against you is a pretty stupid use of time, if you ask me.

      Entire? Looks up at comments.

      I’m not sure that word means what you think it means.(/end Princess Bride homage)

      But that’s only a result of the fansites interacting with the editors in an appropriate manner – something FGC is not doing.

      Interesting you can tell me how to act appropriately but Lex isn’t allowed to tell someone that. I see a disconnect in your logic.

      I was considering asking Del Rey editors to participate in an a quiz to test their Star Wars knowledge; just for fun, and to run as an “Are you smarter than a Star Wars editor” article. But now I’m hesitant to do so. Any wrong answer given will just add fuel to your fire, and you may go so far as to claim that they are they have crossed the professional line by doing the quiz.

      You should. No one is suggesting she can’t be mistaken in a quiz; that’s a ridiculous inference actually. I’m pretty sure some fans would smoke the editors and authors. In fact, the fans should beat them. A missed answer would in no way suggest to me that they weren’t good at their job. Everything I do at work is about knowing where to find the answer, and in making a comment that didn’t need an immediate response about the next book in their product line, she was doing her job and could have easily found an answer. There is a distinction between fan fun/goodwill and selling a product and that’s why I think you’re making the wrong assumption about how a fan like myself would react. (Salesmen let their clients beat them at golf all the time.) So go for it! That type of fan fun is exactly what I think the Powers That Be need to do more of.

  • March 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm
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    I think its a bit much to go from forum comments to being critical of Sue professionally. Regardless of her actual feelings taking an isolated incident and going to:

    “As professionals our job is to know each one of our client projects and be able to answer questions about them, even when the question is spontaneous and unanticipated”

    Are you saying you’ve never been in a situation where you did not have the answer right away and could have chosen your words better? And honestly – you never said to a client I do not have that information I need to get back to you? If this is the professional standard you are held to at your job good luck!

    Personally I would rather have an environment where editors and professionals feel comfortable dropping in from time to time, even if it means they may not share our enthusiasm. Basically I am ok with her response because I know from reading countless interviews she does care, her choice of words in this case was not ideal. Happens to everyone.

    • March 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm
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      Of course I’ve had times where I’ve needed to look up information and get back to a client. That’s exactly what I’m saying Ms. Rostoni should have done: not give an answer until she had the right information. But she didn’t, and that’s what prompted the blog post in the first place. (Along with skepticism that overthrowing the government isn’t a sufficiently memorable plotline to stand out within a particular book.)

      I don’t doubt that Ms. Rostoni cares. But for me, I actually do think the editors and authors should “share our enthusiasm” for the stories, characters, and franchise. Many of them do, like Dave Filoni, Dan Wallace, or John Jackson Miller to name a few.

  • March 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm
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    To be totally honest, I agree with some of your points (Lex) — mainly that the quality of SW literature has been on a steady decline since the conclusion of LOTF, and that FOTJ has only made things worse with poor/tedious plot lines, preposterous grammar mistakes and errors, and the like. It feels like everyone at DR/LFL has caught the mundane bug. It’s a sad state of affairs, even depressing at times to ponder. How in the world did a book like ALLIES ever get published in the first place? And to all the people who are so incensed by what they perceive to be a shot at Sue Rostoni, ask yourselves this – would Sue allow something like ALLIES to be published and sold on the open market back in the NJO/LOTF time period? Absolutely not. Something has obviously changed, and I’m not saying that Sue is doing a bad job per se; perhaps you are right when you say she is over-worked. So something needs to change, in that case. The quality of FOTJ is just unacceptable to me. If I do decide to pick up a book for the preposterous $30+ shelf price, I’ll immediately return it for a full refund the second I finish it.

    I don’t necessarily think that all of this should be laid at Sue Rostoni’s doorstep. After all, she alone doesn’t control the vision and direction of the SW EU. I do, however, feel like it’s time they made some changes in the line-up, and I’m not talking about authors. This doesn’t mean Sue should be fired and thrown out in the cold, but SOMETHING needs to change. And soon.

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