On Publishing, Judith Newman, and #BoycottToSiri

Note: as much as everything I’ve heard about To Siri, With Love has horrified me, I have not yet read the book yet. This is not a review or criticism of the book, but instead on Judith Newman’s reaction to the criticisms of her new book. If you want to find out about To Siri, With Love and the #BoycottToSiri movement, there are plenty of other resources. 

Recently, a movement on Twitter under the hashtag #BoycottToSiri has grown in momentum as a response to a new book by Judith Newman called To Siri, With Love. Newman has replied to these negative responses with arguments that, put simply, don’t hold. She claims that the participants of #BoycottToSiri aren’t her “intended audience”, and that they don’t really understand the situation and her son – the subject of the book.

The #BoycottToSiri and Newman’s response are a great example of an aspect of publishing that is often ignored.

The thing is, once a book is published, the author has no control over who reads it. Yes, there’s usually marketing towards a certain audience, but there’s no audience police roaming bookstores, making sure that the “intended audience” of a book is all that is purchasing the book. Sure, Newman may have aimed her book towards one specific group of people, but it’s quite clear that that group of people aren’t the only readers.

Once a book is published, anyone can read it. That means that anyone can form opinions on the book, review the book, criticize the book, and so forth. The author’s intentions don’t really matter anymore – as scary as that is to think about. Just because a lot of reviewers and critics aren’t Newman’s “intended audience” doesn’t mean they can’t have an issue with the book’s contents, or can’t comment on problems they perceive within the book.

Also, Newman claims that no one can really understand her situation or her son, which is true to an extent. However, by publishing her book, she is, in a way, giving permission for others to judge what she writes about. She can’t suddenly take that permission back the second she hears criticism.

It’s important for all authors, writers, and content producers to understand that once a piece of work is published, it is free for criticism. It is the scariest part of being a writer, from my experience, but it is a part that cannot be separated.

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