Thursday, January 16, 2014

Entitlement on the Menu

Okay, I don't follow a ton of sites, but I have a feedly "feed," and in addition to those celebrity gossip sites that I'm too embarrassed to mention (but follow diligently, my bad), everything else is sort of a mishmash of interests. And in the past two days a couple of the sites that I follow (on very different subjects) have experienced what is increasingly common: a verbal scorching of earth toward the person writing the blog. One was a REALLY rude attack in the comments section of this blog, and the second was mentioned in the blog itself, as a "Wow, am I doing something wrong because someone just reamed me another one for what I'm doing lately?" She was looking for confirmation that her latest sets of posts were okay. Mob mentality, hello, you are vile.

As much as I love the Internet, I do not like that really fantastic sense of entitlement that has erupted. The smug assurance that being anonymous allows you to say hateful things. That the idea that anyone on the Internet is there to feed YOU. Amuse YOU. And if the YOU isn't fed exactly the way they want to be fed, then YOU are outraged. It's entitlement on steroids.

There are so many things that are wrong with this attitude, but the one that just twists my knickers into knots is the idea that no one else matters, not even the writer. That other people who are part of this experience as well (not even taking into account the validity of someone posting whatever in the damn hell they want to post) is thoroughly ignored. There is no idea that, hey, this didn't appeal, or this blogger is getting stale, or this really isn't my cup of tea any more, why don't we quietly just NOT FOLLOW THAT BLOGGER. No, it's all in service of the reader--the one reader. It's their playground, they want to pull the strings, the writer and followers do not have any agency in this dynamic. The writer must amuse ME. Cater to ME. FEEEEEEDDDD MMMMEEEEEEEE!

I ran across this on amazon when I posted Pen and Prejudice. Someone wrote a one-star review that chastised me for not writing an extension of the original. I had the nerve to set the novel in the present day. This is clearly spelled out in the description of the novel, and if this person had bothered to take 30 seconds to read the description, then they wouldn't find themselves in a world they didn't want to inhabit for three hours.

I have no problem with someone not liking my writing for legitimate reasons. That's fair. But to diss me because you didn't take the time to read the description and then complain that it didn't fill your jones (because, ahem, you didn't take time to read the description), then I have no sympathy for you. Even worse, I have no respect for you, because, really, that wasn't smart. And it's not fair that I get a one-star review because you were lazy. What IS fair is that I get a one-star review because you think the writing is crap. Another reviewer gave me a poor rating because she thought it was too wordy. That's harsh but legitimate in the sense that this is my voice, and if you don't like that particular style, then you won't like my writing. Plain and simple. That poor rating hurt, but at least I understood it.

But there seems to be this weird disconnect between a writer's words and a reader's words. That the free-for-all that has made the Internet such an exciting place has also turned it into a Christians versus the lions arena where we are all allowed to spew our anger and our discontent. We're entitled. We deserve it. We have earned our right to be assholes. Like we went to Asshole College and graduated summa cum laude!

This is a symbiotic relationship. I'll try to respect you if you try to respect me.

My son writes for a blog that deals with local sports. Sports fans can be, um, rather passionate about their teams, and he wrote an article that wasn't well received by a contingent of fans who disagreed with his opinion. He received hate email. He showed me some of the comments and was, naïve thing that he is, shocked at what people would write to a complete stranger.

I shrugged and said, "Get used to it. It's the Internet."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thoughts on Marketing

This came up for discussion on DorothyL, the mystery list serv, but since any discussions regarding traditional publishing versus self-publishing is verboten, the discussion has been terminated. So I'm going to talk about it here, because I think it's really relevant to what all authors are facing these days.

In a nutshell, there were a lot of angry words regarding reviewing and how reviews are becoming less "review-ish" and (a) more of a platform for an anonymous person who sees reviewing as a power play; or (b) author using the review process as a form of stealth marketing; and (c) how much we are all being overloaded with marketing efforts by those pesky self-published authors.

I don't think that self-published authors are any more guilty than "real" authors. The bottom line is that we are all  now expected to be marketers. Publishers used to market books and now they don't. The blockbusters get the lion's share of the marketing dollars. The rest of us get nothing. And yet we're prodded to "market." This isn't something I'm particularly good at, and yet I have a blog and I have a website and it's damn impossible to keep feeding these beasts. And yet we're told that we have to throw words at them constantly. It's the new reality. Do Twitter. Do Facebook. Blog twice a week. Keep your website fresh. Do book reviews because they will get your name out there. Ask someone to review your book to get your name out there. But please make sure it's a positive review. Get your name out there. And did I say get your name out there?

You know what? I work full-time. I do not have time to do all that. I barely have time to read DorothyL! I think that the reality is that it is not an issue of whether or not you're published by a mainstream press or a small press or self-published. The problem is that we are inundated with all these people trying to market themselves because no one else is marketing them. (And as an aside, as newspapers have completely jettisoned their book sections, the dearth of decent reviewers is now being filled by people with opinions--which are not reviews, they are opinions).

So yes, self-publishing is part of the new reality, but it's only the new reality because the old reality has essentially collapsed. Plus you now have technology and an entire industry that has sprung up to publish your book, which is good on one level. Raise your hand if you were a mid-list author who got dropped by your publisher. And yet you have books you want to write, perhaps a series you want to finish. You have readers who want to read you, but you're not a blockbuster author. You are not Lee Child, which is not a slight on Mr. Child because you will not find a nicer man in the business. But basically you have lost the keys to the kingdom. You were "real" and now you are not. Plus, in addition to dropping you, publishers have dropped a whole bunch of good authors, so you're competing against your friends and colleagues for that elusive book contract. You've become someone who can't break into a market that is now minuscule.

What options do you have left? You self-publish. Basically you become "fake." And if you found marketing as a "real" author terrifying and hard, just try it as a "fake" author. EVERYONE is marketing like crazy. We are INUNDATED with information. It's overwhelming. It has become noise. And we are all making noise together.

I've decided that I'm just going to put my energies into writing. Because if I'm marketing, I'm not writing. I'm forced to adopt a "write it they will come" mentality because, literally, there aren't enough hours in the day. I'm at the point where I'm just going to write the best book I can and hope some publisher buys it. If they don't, I'll self-publish it and hope someone reads it. But the marketing end of it? I figure it's part of someone's spam folder. The blogs that I follow directly deal with the industry (John Scalzi's blog is marvelous, BTW). I don't have the time to read anyone else's blog. I apologize to my friends who are writers, but I just don't have time. But then I don't think you read my blog, because I suspect--no, I know--you don't have time either.