Doing it Wrong
Fandoms, marketing, self-promotion, success… all the wonderful complications of becoming an author. Some people handle it better than others do. Let’s face it, in the days of Trad Pub, you could potentially be a hermit and still be successful because there was a slim chance akin to winning the lottery that the publisher would push the book even if you never faced the fans. Now? Now we have twitter mobs turned to ill gains. Look for instance at the scurrilous attempt to call Nora Roberts a plagiarist.
By accusing me, in public, of attempting to ‘shamelessly profit’ off of her creativity, she incited her readers into attacking me–on her feed, then on my pages, then on the internet in general. She did nothing to stop this. I have been accused of theft, of trying to use this first time writer–whose book has been well received–for my own profit. To ride her coattails as I have no originality. This after more than thirty years in the business, more than two hundred books.
So what I’m seeing here is a classic case of projection. The writer who I shall not name here – no point in rewarding shitty tactics, after all – wanted to feed off Nora Robert’s longstanding career and fame. So she accused her target of doing just that.
With two minutes on Amazon, and judicious use of ‘look inside’ I can tell the two books are almost entirely unrelated, save some repeated words in the title. One is the story of a thinly-veiled African fantasy, the other is (looking at book one, book two has no look inside) seemingly based on celtic mythology set in modern day. So… why the accusation?
Because publicity. This foolish author bought into the myth of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ and forgot that in shining a light on herself, she was also illuminating her accused, her victim. Guess whose book I am more likely to buy, now? If you guessed this one, you’d be correct. The author isn’t exactly an underdog – she’s had a massive career with great success – but it irks me to see such foul strategies put into play, and I’ll do my small best to counter them.
I’ve said it here before, as have most if not all the Mad club members. Be aware that whatever you do in public is going to reflect on your work. If you are reacting to a reviewer – don’t. Not unless you have something positive you can say. Besides, it really is true that often a bad review can sell you more books than only having 5-star reviews. If you’re going to make a public accusation of plagiarism, base it on far, far more than ‘muh title is similar!’ because not only will you look like a self-aggrandizing idiot, you’re committing libel, and you can only hope your target is as nice as Nora Roberts is.
Twitter mobs are a noxious weapon. We’ve seen them deployed against us, here. We’ve seen them destroy the careers of writers, scientists, and others. I have to wonder why it’s easier to use them as an offensive (in both senses) than it is to use them to help out others. Would this young writer have done better to say ‘hey, my book and hers share words in the title, but they are totally different and both good, you should try them both and report back!’ than to have denounced the fat target of a successful writer with millions of fans? With the proper hashtags to bring her work to the attention of Nora fans, I suspect she would have seen an uptick in her sales. As it is, I’m going to guess she’s getting mixed reactions at best, and a serious side-eye from any legitimate agents and publishers. I know this reader is giving her a judgy look and no sales.
Because here’s the thing. Riding the wave of a controversy – no matter whether you artificially generated that wave or not – is not a long-term strategy. You might pick up some new fans, but more likely it’ll be here today, and gone tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but I plan on making writing a career. At 42 years old, basing my calculations on the longevity of the women in my family, I’m not even middle-aged. Right now I’m more focused on the science career, but I’m slowly writing on the side. You see, my writing was never supposed to be my primary career now. It was supposed to be my retirement plan. As I’d spent most of my adult life self-employed, I didn’t have funding for retirement stashed. So I thought I’d write some novels, and when I retire from the science thing, I’d write more, and the backlist would be a support in my old age (Look, my grandmother is 82 and recently changed her facebook profile pic to one of her brandishing an axe, because she’d been out clearing brush around her house. She started publishing about a decade ago. I have reasons to believe the way I do). If I tried to surf from one controversial wave to another for the next forty years, I’d be dead of exhaustion long before my time. So that’s the plan. Live long, and prosper. Peacefully.
(Featured image of that low-life scavenger feeding off other’s kills from Pixabay)