Weebly Woes: Internet Platform Removes Quail Bell Magazine Over Skirmish

Quail Bell Magazine, founded by artist and writer Christine Stoddard, was a literary publication that catered to new work by emerging writers. Based in Brooklyn — which is regarded by many as New York’s trendiest borough — Quail Bell Magazine published poems, short stories, photographs and more; most importantly, it was friendly to authors without agents…something of a rarity in the publishing industry. Since its establishment in 2009, Quail Bell helped hundreds of writers see their work in print and created opportunities for voices that would have been otherwise unheard. Unfortunately, on the 28th of November, 2022, Weebly — the content management system that served as Quail Bell Magazine’s platform — removed the website due to a complaint by an author who the company published over a decade ago. The author claimed that Quail Bell Magazine did not have the right to publish their work. This claim was disputed by Christine Stoddard who explained to Weebly that the disgruntled author had submitted their work to the magazine following standard literary magazine guidelines. Despite providing evidence of this fact, the author insisted that Quail Bell Magazine had infringed upon their copyright. In response, Weebly removed the website from the Internet — taking down thousands of articles from hundreds of authors with it.

Founder and editor Christine Stoddard was stunned considering that she had offered evidence which proved that the author’s claim was unfounded. Despite offering Weebly — which had full access to the website and its content — the opportunity to remove the offended authors work, the company instead decided to remove the entire site, essentially ending Quail Bell and hurting untold numbers of writers and artists in the process.

Never one to give up, Christine is actively seeking to raise money (at least $2,000) to reestablish the website on a different platform. Yet the bigger, and more disturbing, aspect of this story is the willingness of one writer to selfishly damage a publisher that had once helped them with little to no regard for the other authors whose work appeared on the site or the editor who worked so hard to make it all happen.

Christine recently discussed this experience via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): You’ve had a tough few days! Prior to this incident, had you ever had issues with Weebly?

Christine Stoddard (CS): Yes, we have had many issues with Weebly over the years, but in the past, issues were more quickly resolved. Unfortunately, since Weebly was bought by Square in 2018, customer service has tanked.

MM: What theories do you have regarding why this author decided to attack Quail Bell at this specific time, over a decade after their work was published by you?

CS: Vanity. Ego. Some people obsess over curating their online ego. This person published with us ten years ago. A lot about the Internet has changed in a decade; someone’s writing career can completely transform in that period of time. They may have regrets about what they have published, although this person was still including Quail Bell in their bio and linking to the pieces on their portfolio website. (We have since asked them to remove us from their website and they actually did, though they didn’t respond to my email regarding the matter.) It’s been suggested to me that this person wanted to “start over” as a writer and be perceived as “new” or “emerging” to capitalize on opportunities available to emerging writers. It’s true that there are many grants and competitions only open to people with no or limited publishing history. There are also publishers that won’t publish work that’s already appeared online.

MM: In your years publishing with Quail Bell, what sort of entitled behaviors have you occasionally noticed from authors?

CS: Some writers do not understand how much maintenance goes into keeping up an online website, things that have nothing to do with pure writing, line edits, or copyediting. There are huge technical components to the whole online magazine endeavor. Writers have insisted on name changes when they start using a new name and demand updates to their bios once they’ve become more established (or have a book or other project they’re trying to promote.) Writers might complain about a photo or visual attached to their work, which isn’t their choice to make — it’s an editor’s. For non-fiction pieces, they might not understand Search Engine Optimization and complain about an SEO title assigned to a piece. Writers have complained their piece wasn’t promoted on social media “enough” or included in one of our print projects. I could go on. They don’t seem to understand that literary editors are generally volunteering their time, with zero or few paid opportunities directly related to the work they are doing.

Literary magazines are a passion project; that’s why so many are registered 501c3 non-profits or run by universities. For me, Quail Bell Magazine is under the umbrella of Quail Bell Press & Productions, which includes other creative projects and endeavors, but it’s really the cornerstone. It’s the first Quail Bell project that ever was and literally hundreds of writers and artists have been involved or affiliated with it in some way over the years. I started the magazine in college and it’s been a part of my life and the lives of many others since then.

MM: You offered Weebly proof that the author’s claims were ungrounded, so why do you think they disregarded it?

CS: They do not understand intellectual property rights as they relate to literary magazines. Or they simply do not care. To them, a complaint is a complaint and it’s easier to offline a website than truly examine a case. Besides, there’s no profit in exercising due diligence here. They already have my money for the domain name and Pro Plan for the next few years. Welcome to capitalism!

MM: In what ways do you think people could respect editors and publishers more?

CS: They should know that editors and publishers are giving them an opportunity and a platform. If they wish to build their own platform, they are welcome to try. There are plenty of tools available on the Internet, but there’s a steep learning curve, to put it mildly.

MM: You’re currently looking to raise funds to help reestablish Quail Bell. What endeavors will this money help with?

CS: This money will help us remove the pieces that the author claimed we infringed upon (“stole.”) It will help us archive the website, which is a massive process. Then it will help us migrate the website to another platform, which is another massive process.

MM: What platforms are you looking into to get Quail Bell Magazine back online?

CS: I am totally open to suggestions and would be happy to partner with whichever business will respect us and give us excellent customer service.

MM: Even after finding a new platform, is it realistic to think that all of the content will be restored?

CS: I can’t say, to be honest. It’s too soon. I know many art and literary websites have had to start over from scratch. We do have more than a decade’s worth of work.

MM: As a result of this incident, will you be more selective about the authors that you publish?

CS: Yes. I think verifying people’s identity and Internet history, including personal behavior and etiquette, will have to become a part of the process.

MM: What are some red flags that can help you spot someone who might be difficult to work with?

CS: The cover letter is the first place. Googling someone and checking out how they have behaved on Facebook and in forums like Reddit and Quora is another way.

MM: Is there anything else you would like to mention?

CS: Thank you so much to Gretchen Gales, Ghia Vitale, and Amy Lee for steering Quail Bell Magazine and continuing to fight for it. Thanks to all of our contributors, readers, and supporters of all kinds over the years. We are accepting donations for the migration at Venmo @artistcstoddard and PayPal at info@quailbell.com. We appreciate all funds and my plan is to thank folks on my portfolio website at www.worldofchristinestoddard.com.

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Meagan J. Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author of novels, short stories, and poems. She is also a produced playwright and an award-winning modern artist.