Absolute Write Forums and the Coming of Bully Culture

Absolute Write is a site I no longer recommend. Interacting in the forums is usually unpleasant. It’s still good to check for info on bogus agents and scam publishers. But take everything with a grain or two of salt and don’t post anything. It’s dominated by bitter, bad-tempered rudeness.

     From "Online Author Etiquette"
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We thought it worth noting that the history of bully abuse on Absolute Write (chronicled here in so many ways) resembles the current social media problems with bully mobs. The socio-psychology is nearly identical. As we noted previously in another post about iPredators:

  • iPredators are driven by deviant fantasies, desires for power and control, retribution, religious fanaticism, political reprisal, psychiatric illnessperceptual distortions, peer acceptance or personal and financial gain.

Does the above sound familiar to you?


Updates and Memories of Ongoing Abuse and Clubby Narcissism at Absolute Write

Published 5/19 on the Complaints Board (along with many other complaints about Absolute Write):

STAY AWAY FROM THESE GUYS!

The advice is juvenile and hardly critical or informed...incompetent in many ways. 

I was a member of AW for a while, and I find myself going back every few months to check up on some of the horrible discussions. The advice is juvenile and hardly critical or informed, incompetent in many ways... Any opinion given as advice that challenges this status quo in any way is immediately dismissed, as though there were one way in which fiction must be undertaken, and one way only.

I have also gotten into EXTREMELY passive aggressive debates with other users and mods on several occasions, and, although that is the lay of the land when it comes to internet forums, there tends to be causes to incite such exchanges. On AW, no such causes are needed. It is also important to note that the vast majority of advice being given is coming from fellow amateur/unpublished writers, many who are far too inexperienced in both life and actual writing to possibly have the perspective to form good critical advice, and many of whom clearly don't read books--how are they expected to write?!?

I would put good money on 75% of the users not even knowing who Borges is, and these are people who are supposed to be giving legitimate advice? Their credibility isn't helped by the fact that several of the published authors on the site are self-published (not inherently bad), and most of the published works (both self and not) are horrible supernatural romance/horror romance/fantasy romance (notice a trend?), the kind with well built white vampire dudes on the cover.

Again, nothing inherently bad about this fact, except that, to me, the trendy YA/teenage audience these cookie-cutter works cater to is further evidence that they actively perpetuate and defend a kind of status quo, in which anything that challenges the fiction they write is artsy/pointless/breaking nonexistent rules/evil.
Thankfully, I can say in the few years I was with them back in the day, I gained a few pointers on how NOT to teach someone, and, now that I'm an English tutor at my college, I hope to do what AW can only dream of doing--actually helping someone improve their work with thoughtful criticism.
Further proof that many of the users are incapable of reading critically, including mods: I tend to word my posts very carefully, using very specific vocabulary and always prefacing and qualifying what I am saying with caveats and so forth, so as to allow for the possibility of my opinion on said writing subject not meshing well with others, so anyone who puts a smallest amount of effort into reading it will be able to understand I am offering a single perspective on an otherwise all-encompassing issue. Yet I would get post after post, some from mods themselves, dismissing and attacking points I made, almost always ones I prefaced with something like "to NEEDLESSLY do this is bad", as if I did not go out of my way to state clearly that I did not mean what I said as an "absolute" truth. If the people meant to be giving advice cannot even read an internet post carefully enough to grasp what was actually said, I doubt their ability to truly help anyone.

Thankfully, I can say in the few years I was with them back in the day, I gained a few pointers on how NOT to teach someone, and, now that I'm an English tutor at my college, I hope to do what AW can only dream of doing--actually helping someone improve their work with thoughtful criticism.

  ______________________________________________

@Fiendish writer, no one is lying about Absolute Write. That place is a almost a sewer of negativity. The mods are bullies. They bash self-publishing. They are so pathetic. I don’t know why writers even bother going over there- to have themselves kept in check by a bunch of bums. That’s just my personal opinion, of course. I’ve never been in trouble there or been banned, but I saw how volatile that place was and got away quick. Nobody is lying. Everything they say about that place is true.

      - "The Last of Us" (comment thread)


I'm one to lurk before joining in, and after watching the mods tear apart people for NO reason, then egging on others to bash those people, then carrying on long after they chased the person from the site...yeah I think I will pass on joining in. I've never seen anything so vile. There is a definite "clique" there. The site is great for them, but it looks like it's near impossible to become part of their "in club". Whether I could get in with them or not, I don't think I'd want to because I won't stand behind such poor behavior. This has to be the worst writing community I've ever encountered.

     - The Complaints Board


It's pretty much just what you'd expect. A lot of bad-to-mediocre writers giving bad-to-mediocre advice to bad-to-mediocre wannabe writers... The mods are powertripping jerks, just as many of the other posters have said. I met a handful of nice people, but no reason to stick around. I never posted any work to be critiqued because honestly, so much of what was posted in the critique section was so bad and the advice that was given equally amateur... I just didn't feel like I'd gain anything from it that I didn't already know. And most of the advice from different critters was conflicting, anyway. 

     - Rachel W. - The Missing Sitejabber Reviews


Ironically these “websites / authors” are doing what they claim others are doing, taking advantage of people who are looking in good faith for facts and information, truthful information about the publishing industry. Their responses are reduced to internet babble. A mix of half truths, alleged facts and very personal un-professional remarks and behavior. They tend to be abusive, Holier then thou, and totally off the mark. ALL they have to do is PROVE what they post. Just saying they have “hundreds” of complaint isn’t going to cut it. People are fed up with that attitude. Courts are leaning heavily toward companies and individuals who are entitled to face their accusers and their alleged facts.

One poster stated that they’re “reaping what they sow” how true. All of sudden people are asking them questions about who they really are, besides mutual friends.

So why don’t they just tell the truth?

     - Publishing Facts


I’ve only been a member briefly, and found this blog by searching how to leave the AWWC. It’s horrible. I thought it was an open, honest forum to exchange ideas and learn. I found myself in the middle of backbiting, condescending, bitter people (including two Mods) who were not helpful at all and hide behind screen names.

How am I supposed to take career advice seriously from someone called SuperModerator, when I can’t tell if they’ve ever published anything? I asked a specific question, and when I questioned politely but firmly the uninformed and negative advice an anonymous writer gave, she harangued and condescended like a fishwife.

On another thread, she jumped into a productive discussion and tongue lashed not only me, but every contributor! Lord, it must’ve taken her half an hour just to quote every single one of us LOL It was a ludicrous critique: she said we “had to” provide evidence for everything we said. This, immediately after telling me one of her pets doesn’t have to provide any, and I am rude for asking. 

     - The Cult - Absolute Write Water Cooler (comments)


I will give give "Absolute Write" credit for one thing though, they're very intelligent people. You see, they solved the mystery of my age. Using their version of commonsense and deductive reasoning, they were able to figure out that I am a withering and wilted old man. In a thread on their forum, they were talking about me. As everyone who has been following me knows, my age has not only been a bully obsession, but has baffled them for centuries. It's really all they can talk about... I will go on record and say that I am not one hundred percent positive that "Absolute Write" is a scam, I have no concrete proof of it, but when the owner of the site lies about her real name, and address, and has been sued on multiple occasions, then all of the signs point to ---> Buyer Beware!


     - Carroll Bryant


The main focus of Absolute Write is the "Water Cooler", a huge forum which addresses authorship of any kind. It has begun to suffer from a typical ailment that creeps in most long-standing Internet forums: the dreaded Clique Mentality. This occurs when a relatively small set of users contributes the vast majority of posts, combined with a set of unwritten rules--which are often rather unclear to anybody else than the clique itself. Hapless outsiders who violate these clique conventions will often find a mob of old-standing users pounce upon them like a group of ravenous wolves. I'm not joking--it's not a pretty sight when it happens. I have seen posters on Absolute Write being bullied merely for disagreeing with a clique member on a fairly minor matter. 

 The mob will pull any trick to discredit an outsider: ridiculing, twisting words of out context, and fairly often rather nasty personal attacks. People with few to no publishing credentials will get told that their opinions are unimportant and that their writing "likely sucks."  The irony is that most clique members are themselves writers of mediocre fare dwindling in the lower parts of the midlist, if that ...

     - Anon : The Missing Alexa Reviews


As far as I'm concerned, if a site is run this way it has no value so I will ignore it and encourage everyone to ignore it. It is run by a bunch of lower mid-list (and that may be being generous) old biddies who have nothing better to do than to dictate their rules to others. Free speech does not exist on Absolute Write and where free speech does not exist, I will not go. They talk a good game about "respect your fellow writer" but take umbrage at things in an oversensitive way and pull that respect from you without a second thought.

    - Mark Breuer : No Irish, No DGs


If you're a member of Absolute Write, I guarantee you've seen the moderators sweep into a discussion where the topic is one of their pet peeves, use the unfortunate poster as a punching bag, invite long-time members to join them, and then lock the thread and sometimes boot the member. It's never a straightforward warning about the rules, or a request for clarification. The moderators are not there to facilitate discussion, they're there to drive the discussion. If it ventures out of the bounds they like, even if the discussion is polite, it gets locked if for no other reason than "attitude."

It took me about five minutes to gather some examples. I went to a single topic and looked through the first few pages for locked threads. To be fair, two of the threads I saw were locked for legitimate (at least, what most forum admins would consider legitimate) reasons: resurrecting ancient threads. The rest were examples of moderators treating members like garbage.


     - Absolute Wrong : Silencing the Lambs


So whatever the merits of the campaign against Absolute Write, or the motivations of those behind this campaign, I have to (reluctantly) say that those in charge of Absolute Write Water Cooler richly deserve it. In the short time that I had an identity on that board, I would cringe every time that I logged on, in anticipation of the latest gratuitous, public insult that the board moderators had lodged against me, along with the warning "don't you dare talk back, or it will turn out badly for you" (their exact words).

     - B.Q. : Haters Gonna Hate (Comments on Victoria Strauss Troll Battle)


This morning, we found out through a few book club members that a forum known as the Absolute Write Cooler had identified us as a fake. Apparently, this is because we don't have an "existence that isn't associated with this book blog. No one reports going to lunch with her, she didn't show her pet at a local cat show, she hasn't participated in a Walk For Life, she isn't listed in a graduating class."

Correct me if I am wrong, but my book blog should be about books and what I want to include. If you do not see what you want to see, that doesn't make me fake.

Then came the next disturbing element of this unfolding drama. So we've been certified as fake. The forum moderator HapiSofi bashed the book club in more than one thread. She was applauded for her 'detective' work. Absolute joy, that people find so many useful ways to spend their time. But one thing, was missing. Where is HapiSofi's contact information? From as far back as 2012, three characters appear in every thread together. HapiSofi, James McDonald and AliceShortCake. Then there are names like Old Hack, VeinGlory and Torgo. Again, no contact information, no social media links for most of these profiles.


     - Quality Reads UK


FROM THE MISSING SITEJABBER REVIEWS:

Absolute Write... So they made a set of forums for self pub. I rolled across them a couple of months ago, and was pretty horrified by what I saw: a large number of folks claiming to be industry experts deliberately spreading misinformation about what self publishing was, how best to go about it, and whether one could actually do it successfully (outside a few “outliers”). So I stepped in and started pointing out the flaws in the logic.

     - Kevin O. Mclaughlin


What frightens me as a rational person is that there are those who cannot understand why WAR and other sites are taking the time and effort to resist the kingdom of Absolute Write. What are they refusing to see? It is obvious that this is a combination protest and consciousness raising effort on the part of groups and people critical of the ongoing abuse, smears and cyberbullying. It is also a movement to curtail their behavior by any legal means necessary, as WAR says, and I agree with this. 

     - Lesley Cameron - The Consequence and Sad Truth of Hate (comments)


Beware. Absolute Write, in the hands of Lisa Spangenberg and her associates, is in effect a judge-jury-prosecutor platform, and one utilized on an almost daily basis to publicly humiliate, bash, defame and even scold people they have never met and do not know, as well as businesses they have never interacted with in any form whatsoever. All it takes is for one question to be asked, or one axe grinder to make an appearance, and the predators smell blood. A swarm of anonymous fairies and fops with ridiculous icons appear and begin fomenting themselves into leaps of logic, unfounded assumptions, and distortions of reality. All this would be amusing if it were not for the fact that their extensive dialogues and diatribes become public record and are ranked high in Google.

And will the average reader always understand what kind of sociopaths he or she is witnessing. Not necessarily. They appear to speak from authority quite often, give the appearance of sincerity, and there is a background history of real scams revealed by Absolute Write. Users there like Victoria Strauss, who give the appearance of legitimacy, will rush in to show support. But as we all know, the best way to maintain the momentum at Absolute Write is to mix a few grains of truth into one continuous and hydra-headed avalanche of lie. In reality, the core site is a lie on more than one level. The owner and her sock puppets and assorted gang not only shred people all day for amusement and publicity (as someone pointed out, the mediocre writers get publicity for their poorly written books each time they post) and monetary gain (huge revenue from advertisements), the site itself purports to offer good advice to writers when in fact it does no such thing. Advice is amateurish and quite often just plain wrong.

Regardless, the bullies at Absolute Write, herded there by Lisa Spangenberg (as we all now know) and goaded on by her at all times with great vigor, basically function as a Salem witch trial. Accusations are often baseless, but delivered and discussed with excessive zeal. Victims are displayed for purposes of torture, and anyone who disagrees is accused of being a witch also.

One has to ask: what gives such cowardly arm-chair nerds the right to act as prosecutors, judge and jury? Nothing gives them the right. These are a bunch of losers looking for payback. I've seen it before. I've fired abnormals like this at my job because they were caught retaliating against other workers using phony online identities.

I know the type, and I sincerely hope someone is able to bring legal action against Lisa Spangenberg and her hateful crew.

     - PublisherW - The Missing Sitejabber Reviews


FROM DARK MARKETS "THE CULT OF ABSOLUTE WRITE":


"ABSOLUTE power corrupts absolutely." is the phrase that really sums it up which is funny and ironic. The head admin Spangenberg that has the sock puppet Stone is on a huge power trip over having that big board that looks great, that people want to join, but it's so insidious because it looks harmless and super fun but any of the mods that are nuts like that OldHack and Spangenberg will just randomly attack people and people can't even defend themselves their either banned or have some humiliating subnic, 

And I'm not talking about the small publishers and scam publishers that they bash, I'm talking about just writers trying to talk about any issue if a mod agrees with ANYTHING on ANY topic then they can insult, belittle and degrade that member to their hearts content and the member will be banned if they say one word in their defense or even if they say anything perceived as "snarky" back and they just play these nasty little mind games that they think are so clever, but anyone can see through them, it's just that people can't do anything much about them because it is a private business, but yes, the crazy power trip is ruining a magnificent concept and something that could be so good.

She really doesn't have to act so crazy and nasty to keep control of her board and it's really hypocritical to let certain mods spew misinformation and throw around insults like that Old Hack.


     - Shay Richards : The Looking Glass of Caroll Bryant (comments)


Now, if there is any environment more toxic than GR, it’s the Absolute Write Water Cooler. It’s a snake pit. And not just any snake pit. We’re talking Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark kind of snake pit. Why is it so bad? Its not just because of its members. Its moderators play a big part in it, too. Keep reading and we’ll show you what we mean.

Now before we continue, we want to show you some Alexa reviews we found  here. All of the five star reviews are legacy reviews, because once upon a time, when AW was fresh and new, it was a good place to be, but slowly over time, it became corrupt.

     - STGRB : The Banning of Robin Sullivan