On January 5, 2009, I was directed to the Association of Illustrators forums where I was informed there was a heated discussion going on about my children’s book, Welcome to Monster Isle (the thread in question is posted in the “Off Topic” section and is titled “Welcome to Monster Isle, children’s book”).
I was pleasantly surprised to see the thread about my book was started by Helz Cuppleditch, a fellow illustrator that recently bought two books from me. She was posting to share her joy of the books.
Then, veteran children author/illustrator, Colin Thompson, a man I have never met or had even heard of, began attacking my book, as well as my publisher, Immedium, Inc. He went on to describe my book as “bad, mediocre, ordinary, crap, and terrible”. He then went on to tell others “don’t buy it.”
But Jeff, what if your book is bad, mediocre, ordinary, crap, and terrible? Why shouldn’t Colin Thompson be allowed to say this?
I would never presume to tell anyone they couldn’t criticize my work. Feel free to say whatever you like about my work. I am a strong supporter of free speech. Not everyone is going to like my style of art.
But it is very important to note that Colin Thompson never read or saw my book, other than a page or two. Again, I don’t like that he is posting to forums that my book is “crap” without having ever read the book. But he crosses the line, in my opinion, when he starts telling others not to buy it. So here we have a veteran author/illustrator, that I have never met, telling others not to buy my book. And he has admitted that he never read the book. Why he has chosen to attack my book, and my publisher, is a complete mystery to me. But we all know that endorsements can have a strong effect on the sales of something. People may value the opinion of Colin Thompson, a veteran author/illustrator, and therefore be turned away from buying my book.
When this man I have never met, and who admittedly never read my book, starts to try and affect the sales of my book in a negative way, I hope I am justified in being a little upset.
Below is an excerpt of posts from the forum.
|Helz Cuppleditch||“On the LCS website was a book called Welcome To Monster Isle, written by Oliver Chin and illustrated by the brilliant Jeff Miracola. I ordered a couple (directly from Jeff Miracola not Amazon) and they have arrived today, along with a colouring book. And Jeff has very kindly signed each copy for my daughter and her cousin together with a lovely drawing of a monster!!”|
|Colin Thompson||“Self publishing is one way to get mediocre illustration and BAD writing out into the world . .”|
|Helz Cuppleditch||“Fortunately we all have differing opinions of what is good, bad or mediocre Colin. I am not aware this is a self-publishing venture, but hats off to the guys for creating a story book that my daughter and her friends have had great pleasure from. It’s always inspiring to hear about people who get up off their butts and actually turn their dream into reality, be it on their own or through big publishing houses.”|
|Colin Thompson||“You’re right. It isn’t self-published. Immedium inc. publish a lot of other mediocre stuff.”
“Of course your daughter likes it, it was a present from her mother, but then Britney Spears, TV Idol programmes are popular too, but it just means crap takes over – but then you’ve only got to look at your PM to know that!”
“Low standards rule.”
“I’m not sure what has got your goat about this thread Colin, but I quite like to hear about fellow illustrators who are doing well.”
“And for thousands of un-published illustrators, mediocre would be quite nice.”
|Colin Thompson||“What got my goat was the mediocrity of it. Terrible writing and very ordinary illustrations. There are dozens of people on this site who could do much better.”
“Mediocre isn’t quite nice – better not to be published at all than be mediocre. I’m just annoyed/upset/angry/pissed off by the lowering and lowering of standards.”
|Helz Cuppleditch||“As I have said, I like to hear when people are doing well and we all have a different opinion of what is good. Personally, I would not shoot someone down for having a children’s book published that I did not like.”|
|Colin Thompson||“God, you’re all so f&%king tolerant. remember ‘rant’ is the end bit of tolerant and you don’t have to wait to old to be angry. Actually I am old, but I’ve been angry since I was about 11 – a total amateur in intolerance compared to my second wife who was REALLY ANGRY about everything, but it gave her cancer and killed her at 55 (probably shouldn’t mix intolerance with frigidity).”
|Jan Bowman||“I’m all for criticising crap books so yay Colin for posting an alternative assessment. Though in this instance it did seem somewhat of a random hit, however valid (especially at Christmas)”|
“Was that an assessment?”
“Assessment implies a set of standards by which children’s books should be judged. It suggests a line of inquiry, a process of learning. The only critique from Colin so far is ‘bad … mediocre … ordinary … crap … terrible’. Very constructive!”
|Jan Bowman||“I’m sure Colin is prepared to go into laborious detail re what he thinks is particularly crap about that book if pressed. Presumably you’ve read it Colin?”
“Anyway if you look at the link you can make your own assessment, based on your own experience … I wasn’t impressed with the illustrations either, not that I’ve read the book. I thought Colin’s judgment perfectly valid, but I completely sympathise with Helz for being a trifle miffed at this bolt-from-blue attack on a book she recommended.”
“Re illustrations: boringly ordinary. But prodded by your post Jonathan I had a further look and have to admit that while I don’t like the monsters, the compositions and surroundings are good. I like the ship-in-storm scene. So Colin perhaps your post did have more to do with a hangover (or something) than the book, as I wondered to start with?”
“Either way, Colin has every right to slag the book off. And you’re right to press for clarification Jonathan. Isn’t debate a marvellous thing.”
|Helz Cuppleditch||“Had I realised that posting up a thread about a book would turn into an exercise of critique, I would not have done it. Especially as it is not my book that people are commenting on, but that of a fellow illustrator who has no presence here.”
“As I have previously said, whether people like or dislike this book is personal opinion. But I would still like to point out the fact that Jeff CHOSE to add pictures and personal messages to the girls in each book. This is what has made these books extra special to the recipients, the fact that, for each child, they feel this book BELONGS to them.”
“And that is why I posted this up in the first place, so fellow illustrators here might recognise that there are some good people out there who are prepared to make things a bit more special and magical for others.”
|Jeff Miracola||“The book is not self-published. It is published through Immedium, Inc., an independent publisher out of San Francisco. I am very proud to be involved with Immedium and think they make wonderful books. The quality of their books is one of the reasons I was so eager to work with them.”
“Colin, if you purchased Monster Isle and it didn’t live up to your expectations, then maybe you can give it to a child who may find joy in it. If you didn’t purchase the book or read it at the library, then it’s quite sad that you would go to such lengths to slam the work of fellow creators, especially without having seen or read the entire book.”
“If Colin was serious when he called my work crap, then he’s a very unprofessional and mean-spirited person. If he was trying to provoke a reaction, then he is still unprofessional and mean-spirited.”
“By blindly coming out and saying my work is crap, he potentially turns off people from my work. I take offense to that simply because “crap” is not a very constructive criticism of my work. But the internet allows people like Colin to say these kinds of things. I hardly think he could say this to my face.”
“Feel free to call my work crap. I promise I won’t cry, get angry and throw my keyboard through my monitor. But if Colin wants to publish to the world that Jeff Miracola’s work is crap, it would be nice if he had the courtesy to go into more detail about what he didn’t like about my work, not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things. Even if I felt Colin’s work was crap, which I don’t, I would never publish that on some forum. Why would I try to hurt his chances of selling his books. That’s just not right.”
|Jan Bowman||“Jeff welcome to the forum.”
“I think the consensus on this thread has come round to agreeing you were unjustly slagged off. Forgive us.”
“And I’m sure Colin had his tongue in his cheek for a large amount of this thread.”
|Jeff Miracola||“So what if he is saying all he says with tongue in cheek. He still called my work crap. Joking or not, it wasn’t a nice thing to say. It certainly wasn’t a nice welcome to these forums. So what am I to take from this? Colin can’t stand that someone liked a book that wasn’t his, so he had to try and beat it down?”
“I jumped onto this forum just to let you all know that when you bash someone, occasionally they see what you say. When you bash someone, they are a real person with a family to feed. When you bash someone, you reveal more about your own character and lack of self-respect than you realize.”
|Helz Cuppleditch||“Hi Jeff – In a way I am very sorry I posted up this thread, my intentions were obviously to let others know how thrilled I was with your books and extra touches you added for the girls.”
“I feel very saddened that some fellow creators here have felt it gave them carte blanche to voice opinions of your work before they have even read the book.”
“I am contructive when it’s merits it. I reason I said the book was ‘bad … mediocre … ordinary … crap … terrible’ is because the book is bad, mediocre and VERY ordinary. Here’s my constructive bit – ‘Don’t buy it'”
“‘Tolerance is meaningless unless it’s contextualised with a set of values.’ I think ‘wanker’ is a fair response to that sentence, but then what would I know? I’m an angry old man skilfully evolved from an angry young man. However, I do make many tens of thousands of children all over the world, happy with my books.”
“I’m not hiding behind anything and stand by my statement that the book is mediocre. Sorry. By the way the pictures are much better than the writing which is patronising and bad. No I haven’t read the whole book.“
“I don’t think I’m rude. I think I just say what I think. I’m just as happy to rave about good stuff too. Also about the ‘getting where I am’ bit – you cultivate different persona for different situations. My main UK publishers think I am quite difficult. This is because they are horrible people who would be much happier if they didn’t have to deal with authors and illustrators. Whereas my Australian and American publishers think I am wonderful and lovely because they are wonderful and lovely ( also I do make them quite a lot of money). And yes, it is possible to make quite a good living writing children’s books.”
|Jan Bowman||“I’m glad you’re not backing down Colin.”|
|Jonathan Williams||Re: I think the consensus on this thread has come round to agreeing you were unjustly slagged off. Forgive us.
Re: I’m glad you’re not backing down Colin.
“Which of these is ‘tongue in cheek’ … your apology to Jeff or your support for Colin?”
|Jan Bowman||“Perhaps people should lighten up a bit.”
“Anyway since none of us have read this book, but Colin stands by what he says, fine, we’ll just have to check it out for ourselves.”
“Colin’s criticisms weren’t meant personally and it’s pointless to take them thus.”
There really is a lot more to read at the actual forum, which you’ll have to create an account to read the posts, but this post gives you a pretty good idea of what went down. Colin Thompson never responded to any of my posts on the forum. One can speculate that he was surprised to hear from the very artist he was bashing, but I’m not sure. He probably couldn’t think of anything to say to me directly.
I want to remind you that Colin Thompson is a successful author/illustrator, having created many children books. Presumably he is respected in his field. Why he would savagely attack my book and tell others not to buy it is a complete mystery to me. I had never heard of Colin Thompson before I was pointed to the AOI forum, nor read any of his books. I would never dream of calling his books “crap” or telling others around the world not to buy his books. For some reason unknown, he has chosen to attack myself, my publisher and the writer, Oliver Chin, of Welcome to Monster Isle. Colin Thompson should be ashamed of himself. His publishers, particularly his UK publishers, who he calls “horrible people,” should at least be aware that he has taken to attacking other authors/illustrators, not to mention his own publishers. Here we have a veteran author/illustrator attacking the work of a first-time children illustrator for no particular reason. Jan Bowman should be ashamed of herself as well and how she conducted herself on the forum. I never thought I could be attacked like this by fellow illustrators for no particular reason whatsoever.
As of January 8, 2009, Colin Thompson has not posted an apology to the forum or offered any kind of explanation for his attack on a book he never read or saw, or his attack on the publisher, Immedium, Inc., or why he would feel compelled to tell others not to buy it.
I want to give a sincere “thank you” to Helz Cuppleditch for taking the initiative to share her enthusiasm for my book with others. It means so much to me.