Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?
Okay, maybe not so much. Believe it or not, that was probably as painful for me to write as it was for you to read. I’m not apologizing – I meant every word. Part of it was because although this subject has been spoken of on other blogs, it’s in hushed terms like the straight truth is going to break something. And really, I know I took a big risk letting it all hang out like that.
I’m about to take another one.
In conversations online and off; in comments, blog posts and private messages I’m hearing the same thing coming through loud and clear. People, meaning writers AND readers (sometimes one and the same), want to know what they can do to help promote their favorite writers and to cut down on the amount of crapola floating around out there. They’re sick of it, too. I’ve already covered things you can do to help your authors, but what if you run across one of the types I’ve mentioned in my last post?
Simple. Don’t buy their shit.
With a printed book, this is easy. You read the dust jacket, the author bio, hell, you can sit and read the whole thing if you want, right there in the bookstore (until they shut down, that is. RIP Borders. *sigh*) You can check a book out in a library, borrow it from a friend or pick it up at a discounted price in a used book store, if you can find one. You can buy on the cheap at garage sales or thrift stores, and you’re out nothing more than a quarter if it sucks. Or, you’ve seen the book reviewed in the newspaper or on TV.
You can stick to your favorite authors and never try a new one again. But that sucks. Reading is about EXPANDING your horizons, not limiting them.
For the growing e-reading population, it’s just as easy. Same principles apply. Check out the author’s website or Facebook page. Read reviews by people you trust. READ THE SAMPLES on Amazon or Smashwords. If they don’t let you read a sample, well then, you have to wonder why, don’t you?
I said we are Gatekeepers.
Until now, the Big Publishing Machine has had control (a lot more than you think. But, that’s another subject). Now it is directly in your hands. Like Spiderman said, this is a lot of power, and with great power comes great responsibility. This is the hard part.
Say you do your due diligence, and find something that looks appealing, but when you pay for it and download it, it’s not all that and a bag of chips. The formatting sucks. You can tell there’s no editing of any kind, or the whole package is unprofessional. The story REEKS. What do you do? What can you do?
If you’re a reader and not a writer, you pretty much have the freedom to do anything you wish. You can write a scathing review, send the writer a message, demand your money back, bitch about it on Facebook, your blog or your Twitter stream. Have at it. Whatever you feel like doing, go ahead. More power to you. And thank you.
For a writer in the business, it gets a lot trickier.
You will seldom see a writer trash another one in public, no matter how much they deserve it. It’s not professional courtesy — it’s fear. Yes, you heard me. FEAR.
“Why, Netta,” you may say. “I’m not scared of that silly face. I’m not scared of anything.” Bullshit. Yes you are. You’re scared that if you write an honest review and it’s negative, it’s going to impact your writing career. And you’re right to be scared. You think I wasn’t scared posting that last rant? Or this one? How easy is it to sabotage a writer’s work or really fuck them up in this day and age? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. It will explain a lot should your sales tank and people spit through their fingers when you walk by. (Which is disgusting, if you ask me.)
So for writers, you have to walk a fine line. As much as you would like to write a review along the lines of, “You suck like a Hoover and I’m initiating legislation making it a felony charge with the death penalty should you ever go near any writing implements ever again in this Universe,” you can’t say that. Not only is it rude and unprofessional, it’s probably career suicide.
Or maybe I’m overstating the situation, but I don’t think so.
I’m not telling you that you can’t say what you want. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I preach being kind, professional and…well, kind. I don’t see any reason to be cruel or nasty. That just doesn’t fly with me. And people will judge you, like it or not, on the whole way you approach this sticky situation. But I will give my honest opinion, oh yes I will.
You’ll notice I did not single out one person in my previous post, although I’m sure we can all think of examples and in fact, it was one person in particular that sent me over the edge into Rantville. I’m happy to report that even though said person was not targeted in any way, they fixed their problem. I have no idea if they saw my post or not, but I still call that a victory. Now, I like them.
When you write a review of someone’s work, you can get your point across without being an asshole. If it’s a book or novel you just cannot recommend, well, you have a choice. What you do is up to you. My mother used to say if I couldn’t say anything nice I should probably shut up, but she was THE most outspoken woman I have ever known, so I take that with a grain of salt.
Don’t click a “Like” button of any kind unless you genuinely like that author or their work. And please, please don’t ever recommend something that sucks. This does so much damage — if I trust you, and you recommend something to me, and it sucks, I WILL NEVER TRUST YOU AGAIN. See how that works? In addition, I will question everything you say, everything you write, and I most likely will not buy your book, your story, your anything. You’re killing yourself here.
If I don’t like the material you’ve recommended, that’s different. We all have different tastes and I say, “Yay for diversity!” But if you rave about something and it really and truly sucks, especially because of LAZINESS, you’re in big trouble. And so is your reputation.
One thing is for certain. If you ask me for my opinion, you will get an honest answer. That’s how I roll. But I’m not mean or cruel, and I won’t call you bad names like “coochieface” or “buttmunch”. Promise. And I won’t recommend crap. That’s also a promise.
It’s a fine line, but we must walk it. Now, take the pins out of the voodoo doll, please. My ass is killing me.
Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!