We’re Not Responsible for….

This post has schizophrenia. Part of me wants to tell you that there are things beyond your ability to control. That not only are you not perfect, but you’re not expected to be. Stop beating yourself.

And the other part just wants to inform people in general of the things they can be mad at an author for. And the things they can’t. Which are different for indie and trad, but– both sides are held responsible for a world of crazy that’s not their fault.

That part also wants to ask you to stop being weird at me. I have enough of my own weirdness, and you can stop me cold for the rest of the day with a weird request, because I try to figure it out, instead of writing my own weird. I don’t mind weird. I thrive on weird. But don’t send me weird that makes no sense.

Um…. So, on things you’re not responsible for: You’re never going to write the perfect novel, with a thousand elephants. For one, it is impossible to contain that in a book. Unless it’s a very big book, and even so, the elephants tend to escape. Second, it will always be bigger in your brain. Hence why you want to write another completely different book instead of finishing the current one.

The other thing you’re not going to be the perfect writer. You’re not going to put out novels like clockwork. It’s good to challenge yourself, but you’re flesh and blood, and sometimes life intervenes. And life is a stone cold biatch.

So, forgive yourself; do the best you can. You’re required to do the work. You’re not required to do it perfectly. And if you haven’t figured out the advertising thing…. you’re just like the rest of us. Keep plugging.

Now, on things people think writers can do, or are responsible for, or which are super important (clue, they aren’t.)


Traditional writers are not responsible for:

Their covers.

Their editing up to and including copy editing. (Two of my books I never even got page proofs for. The others, errors somehow were introduced after, most minor, though one of the Shakespeare books had a complete spurious and uneeded paragraph in what someone thought was Shakespearean English. And might have been, if Shakespearean England had a ghetto full of native Elbonian speakers, who only knew half a dozen words of English. No, I don’t know who was responsible for that, but I’d like a little chat if I find out. The insanity was uniform across all four houses I wrote for.)

The timing of their release. No, really, they have no say on that.

Whether they come out in hard or soft cover.

What price they’re sold at.

Whether there’s a copy at your very personal local bookstore.

A series stopping. (I mean, sometimes the writer doesn’t feel that series anymore, but most of the time it is a house decision.)

Pretty much ANYTHING beyond the writing. And sometimes the writing, if it seems off, and not like the person, unless the person had a stroke or a life event, might be editorial demand. Things I had editors demand I write, though I mostly didn’t comply with them, because I didn’t know how or was morally repulsed by it: more sex. Explicit sex! Human sacrifice as a good thing. Random plot event with no rhyme or reason. Another character added because editor likes it/thinks it’s cute/should write her own frigging books. Ahem.


Indie writers are not responsible for:

Where Amazon lists their work. No, seriously. Sure you choose some categories and keywords, but then Amazon adds others by…. I don’t know. Best I can tell dissecting a weasel and reading the entrails. Sometimes we end up very weird places, and there’s really not much we can do.

Whether or not you like my book, or whether something offends you. I cannot put certain things like, say, no reason “Contains homosexual relationship” on the content, unless it’s ACTUALLY a romance or erotica, because otherwise it’s assumed to be that important and explicit, and people who would otherwise love it won’t read it. And heaven help me, when the big annoying series is done and starts going up, I will not mention “Hermaphrodite bio-engineered humans” anywhere, because again, it might very well get me in erotica, since that’s kind of a trigger word. You don’t like it, you can return it. That’s life. But I can’t communicate from my brain to yours everything the book contains.

Whether you read the entrails of a weasel to divine my politics. As I found out recently (on a blog post) a phrase I used for economics was interpreted by someone else to mean that I wanted to abolish police. Other people have done that with my writing, with funny results. Don’t try to psychoanalyze me. My characters aren’t me. Sometimes I don’t approve of them, or the whole world, but they’re needed for the story. (The people who tried to shame me for writing an historic monarchy, because I’m mostly libertarian, and deduced from this I was faking the libertarianism were particularly…. funny isn’t the word. Appalling, maybe?)

Being pirated. No, we are not responsible for your buying our book from another site, because “it was such a good price” then finding it had only three chapters. Look, there are pirates we can complain about, and get stuff removed. Most of them we can’t.

Your e-reader glitching. No, seriously, I am not responsible and can’t fix it from here.

Publishing your work. Are you actually and for real insane? If a writer publishes themselves, even if they have a sole-author press, it doesn’t mean they’re going to start publishing random people. Even if they LIKE the people very much. Much less if they don’t know them from Adam.


Things indie authors are responsible for, but please cut us some slack:

Covers. Yeah, I now, but it takes time, and honestly most books need recovering every two years. This is hard when you have a large volume. And when you moved. And have… ah…. interesting life events. I’m getting to them, I SWEAR. Will take time. Most of us aim for “decent covers” but time, money and sometimes artistic perception intervene. And not understanding that a cover is a billboard for the book, not a representation of a scene in the book. So, yeah, we’re responsible for that, but remember there’s no indie central. We’re each at a different point in our “getting” of the field and what we need to sell. And some people, while excellent writers will suck at covers or…

Copy-editing. Yeah, we’re responsible for this. And if you can’t pay for it (If you can and need one ask me, mine is excellent) trade with another indie. However, be aware some typos will escape. They do in traditional too. It’s just that readers hold indies to a higher standard. I don’t know why.

Plotting and story line. Again, we’re not guilty if we disappoint you, but if we disappoint a majority, yep, we came up with that plot and story line all on our own.


Readers, please stop leaving reviews that say “this is very well written. I only found a typo.” That’s not “good writing.” It’s clean, but good writing means a story that grabs you and does the things stories are supposed to do, of their type. Stop giving 5 stars because “I only found a typo” to stories that make no sense/are not set where they think they’re set/are actively horrendous. (I mean that. this is not a subjective observation.) This is not school. Turning in a clean copybook is not the objective.

Writers and readers and….

Stop asking me to publish someone. Whatever I am, I’m not a commercial publisher. Particularly if what they wrote is a short story, which by itself doesn’t do very well in indie. But at any rate, I’m not going to read it, much less publish it, out of the blue.

Stop sending me links to some weird site where the book is not for sale and ask me to promote it. No seriously. Particularly if I can’t find the book for sale elsewhere.

Stop sending me yelling emails about that erotica with the gods novel you think I wrote under a pen name. I don’t know why you think that. I didn’t do it. And what you just did is the equivalent of approaching a stranger on the street and licking their arm.

Stop sending me your story and asking me to promote it when it’s not published.

Stop sending me five covers from stock sites and asking me which fits your novel, when we never talked to each other before and I don’t know who you are. I might, if I’m in the mood, do that for friends or friendly acquaintances, but I have a house, family, cats, a garden, and about 40 novels waiting to be written. I’m not your mommy. Go look at covers and make your own evaluation. Or get another friend who is better at it, and ask them. I haven’t even read your novel. And no, this isn’t a suggestion to send it to me.

Stop trying to get me to recommend you at Baen. Yeah, I still have contacts there, but my novels are not published there, and even if they were, I can’t get you out of the slush pile. Someone like Larry might be able to, but I never had that pull. (And don’t go bothering Larry. Unless you’re already his friend, that isn’t going to happen.)

Stop claiming you met me at con x and I called you a bad name. First, I’m almost pathologically unable to be rude to people in person. At worst, I’ll ignore you and give you the cut direct, and you have to have p*ssed me off deliberately for that. (It has happened. Like if you threaten me, stalk me, or try to browbeat me.) I go to very few cons and I’m an introvert. I don’t remember most people enough to hate them/call them names. Yeah, it’s entirely possible you misunderstood my accent. It’s also possible you dreamed it. It just never happened.

I do a promo post on my blog on Sundays. The email to send that to is in the header of the post. Yes, you should use it, because otherwise I’m likely to forget it in the shuffle of my other email where I get…. editor notes and rewrite requests (I still do shorts and comics) and such. If you want to be included, send me an amazon link. No, don’t send me the novel/story. I probably won’t read it. At least not this year because…. argh, life.

If you need a recommendation for editor/copyeditor/cover artist, email me. I have names.

If you have paid (some of you have) for mentoring, I’ll get to it this month.

And don’t try to sell me bitcoin.

69 thoughts on “We’re Not Responsible for….

  1. …wow. People do have nerve, don’t they? If I ever ask you for anything (not that I have any such intentions at this time, I promise), I will approach waving cash and shouting “I WILL PAY YOU.” And it will be a reasonable request.

  2. Copy-editing. Yeah, we’re responsible for this. And if you can’t pay for it (If you can and need one ask me, mine is excellent) trade with another indie. However, be aware some typos will escape.

    I’m not 100% certain that we are responsible for this. I’m convinced that there are grammar gremlins that sneak into your computer at night and add random errors that can’t be seen until the book is in print. I have no other explanation for how five different people, one of whom is an OCD grammar Nazi, could have read a particular passage, and yet the phrase “you is” still showed up in the galley copy.

    1. Don’t forget the Word apostrophe faries. Also, apparently you can’t set which type to use in the Word for Android, as far as I can tell. It just does whatever.

      Of all the things, that’s probably the one that will actually push me out of my Boox for mobile writing.

        1. Oh. Yeah, some of the stuff we do we have to use them because an ‘s’ appended to the end of a part number of letters and numbers could actually be a different part number instead of a plural of a existing part number.

          Nothing quite like discovering you’ve got the wrong part when the reorder is a 15 week lead time…

    2. Grammasites are everywhere. They breed when you’re not looking.
      Sometimes they breed when you are looking.
      It’s a never0ending battle.

      1. You can go through, have a perfectly clean copy, and something will slither in between upload and hitting “publish.” That something will also hide until after you preview the manuscript, and only oozes forth once the title is available for sale.

        1. And authors, if you’re going to use alternative spellings, like “heNp” instead of “HeMp”, warn your poor helpless readers, otherwise when their spellcheckers, including the ones in their heads, light up like Christmas, they’re likely to see errors where none exist.

          Ask me how I know….. 😎

          (There were others that were easier to process, but when the letters are adjacent on the keyboard, it looks like a visit from the Typo Fairy.)

    3. Grammar gremlins? Really? That’s the stupidest idea I heard!

      I bet its just … cosmic radiation flipping bits (and I bet writers just radiate ionizing radiation, further increasing their chances) … or ghosts … or random fluctuations in the space-time continuum … or maybe a fisherman taking a pleasure cruse at night through eel-infested waters ….

      But grammar gremlins? I don’t believe they exist!

  3. I am still slightly annoyed to discover that IEEE was selling chapters of a reference book for around the same price that SAE was selling the whole book for.

    Not the author’s fault, and probably not even the SAE’s fault (though I’d expect they had to have had some sort of legal agreement with IEEE to re-publish?) but oh boy was it annoying. Less annoying than if I’d had to get the whole book at the IEEE price, but still annoying.

  4. As one of the offenders: *hugs* and thank you for the education, and the reminder about the risks of landing in ‘rotica’ dungeon.

  5. I met you at a con, and you noticed the infant I was schlepping around, and we talked about sons.

    I don’t expect you to remember that. Heck, I wouldn’t expect to remember that if you had a really good memory for faces, which you stated you do not. It was one random interaction almost fifteen years ago, and that infant is just about to get taller than me.

    People have the *weirdest* expectations of other people, ones they would never apply to themselves.

    1. I do have an excellent memory for faces. Unfortunately, this is compensated for by an abysmal memory for the names that go with faces.

      If I somehow wind up being famous, the first thing I’m going to do is re-read Double Star to figure out how to set up my own Farley file.

      1. Denver Worldcon, where you had been on the panel about reading your juvenilia out loud. I remember that Connie Willis said the alternate name for that panel was “The Bravest Writers in Science Fiction.”

        I also remember that Ed Willet should do dramatic readings of EVERYBODY’S hack jobs, because he’s got a great delivery for that sort of thing.

    2. I think I would be more worried if Sarah did remember the one time we met (a book signing in some town north of Denver; Thorton, maybe?). I’d be worried that this was a The Mirror Cracked situation, and I’d done something so unforgivable at that meeting that she’d never forget it….

      1. Oh. I know that one. It was a library event. No, I don’t remember you, but it was the only time I signed there, and it somehow involved Kevin Anderson. i don’t remember HOW.

        1. No, this was at a Barnes and Nobel, just after MH: Guardian came out. Larry was there, as was Dave Butler. Like I said, I’m not positive it was Thorton, just that it was somewhere between Denver and Broomfield. I remember that I had fun seeing you guys in person, but I’ll admit that I’m a bit hazy on the details too.

  6. Blamed for the e-reader glitching? Ya know, unless it’s only That One Author’s books, and if it is consistently That One Author’s books, then no, it’s not the writer’s fault. And if it was That One Author’s books, I’d start to wonder about hexes, curses, and someone with a grudge at the distributor.

    Or possibly something with the formatting if the file was purchased straight from the author, but that’s different. Otherwise? Waaaay above the author’s pay-grade.

  7. Waitwaitwait…an editor wanted you to write in human sacrifice as a good thing?
    I really want some context for this, because that doesn’t even make sense from a marketing standpoint, much less a moral one.

    1. It does if you assume said editor is a bent Leftie. They go for that stuff.

      Going by recent events, that seems a pretty safe assumption for Tradpub.

        1. Have you seen what they did to Archie? By stealth, indeed.


          TL/DR an existing female character was made over as a transwoman. The author speaks:

          “I’ve been wanting to make this happen for a long time, and it’s really cool to see it finally come to fruition. I never wanted Danni’s trans identity to be gimmicky, or for her [sic] to feel like she [sic] was only created to be trans. So, I’d like to apologize for sneaking her [sic] over the line like this,” writer Magdalene Visaggio told io9. “I wanted you to have a chance to fall in love with her [sic] for who she [sic] is, not what she [sic] is. I’m honored I got to make it happen, and I’m grateful to Archie for never, not even once, pushing back on my insistence on making their books a little bit more queer. I hope Danni finds a good home at Archie with supportive writers and artists helping to keep her [sic] alive for years to come.”

          They already killed Archie (Life with Archie #36) in 2014. I guess they kept digging.

    2. Some fantasy writers have used the idea of a “willing sacrifice” in their stories.

      IE Some magic (even in a good cause) requires somebody willing to die for the magic to work.

      Katherine Kurtz’s Lammas Night uses that as a plot thing.

        1. And from what you said, you made the correct choice.

      1. I have necromancers in my stories these days. I needed some people so evil that the whole human race would line up for a chance at them. We don’t see what they do, we just hear about it a little bit while we chase them down and destroy all their works.

        I blew some up in current WIP with a tennis ball going half the speed of light. The girls wanted to get their attention. >:D

        I think, as a general rule, if Character is willing to die for their magic to work, that’s one thing. Kinda dark, but Noble Sacrifice is noble, right? But when somebody else dies for Character’s magic, that’s not so good. As in, I’m stopping reading right there because the author (or more likely the editor) is bent.

        I’m not reading bent. My brain cells are old, they need protection.

        1. In Christopher Nuttall’s Schooled In Magic, one group of Bad Guys were Necromancers who killed people to gain greater Magic Power and got the Greater Magical Power but the “extra magic” drove them insane. Fortunately, the Necromancers found it very hard to work together.

          Oh, in another of Chris’s series the Necromancers were the “Raise The Dead” types and used the “Zombies” in war.

          1. I’m willing to entertain the notion of necromancy in a fantasy as a crime. The evil one kills people and takes their power for his own. Then we all hunt him down and he meets a bad end. Go team!

            Like a symbolic representation of Socialism, really. Stealing the substance of the people to pursue the interests of tyrants.

            Naturally the Left wants to turn that around and make characters support the collective by selflessly offering their lives. I tire of them.

          2. A bit OT but I can remember one of the very few non-utterly evil necromancers I ever saw in fiction was in one of the gamebooks for Hero Games’ Champions line. He was a mayombero (sorcerer-priest of Palo Mayombe) who killed various low level criminals as an offering to his gods, and then would take the soul of a good person who died recently and unjustly and put their soul in the dead person’s body. As he put it, giving them a new life while removing a criminal parasite.

            It helped that before he became a necromancer he’d been a transplant surgeon and as the write-up said, he ‘was used to playing God with people’s lives.’

    3. There was a place where they needed to save themselves, and they wanted to sacrifice one of their group “consensually” to get out.
      I found another solution. It …. no.

      1. Good call, that’s disgusting. And so very common in TV shows/movies these days, eh? Like they have this one idea, and that’s all they’ve got.

    4. A few years ago I read a book by some loony anthropologist titled HUMAN SACRIFICE that praised it to high heaven, and condemned Christianity for not doing it. They even praised the Australian Aborigine custom of making a woman kill and eat her first-born as a sacrifice to the ancestors.

      I remember wondering what sort of drugs that guy was smoking. As well as his ‘culture excuses everything’ argument. Besides, if that’s true, then if my culture says that people who eat children ought to be exterminated then how can he criticize it?

      1. Oh, like how the British forced women in parts of the Indus Valley (currently Pakistan) to not throw their first child to the crocodiles as a sacrifice. Turns out the tradition goes back to at least before 2000 BC/BCE.

        1. What WERE those evil colonizers thinking? HOW DARE THEY??!!!!??? /redundant sarc tag here.

      2. Christianity doesn’t do human sacrifice? Hasn’t the author heard of the Crucifixion? (I’ll stop there, at the edge of the minefield [full disclosure, I’m a practicing Catholic, so you can tell where I’m coming from]).

        1. It’s like cannibalism.

          Or sex.

          There’s a really specific area it’s a thing, and then a ton of folks go “oooh, we want this EVERYWHERE, from floor-wax to a supplement!”

        2. Voluntary self-sacrifice is really different from “Hey, let’s have the characters go full Aztec and see what happens. It’ll be cool!” [thinks of fan-video of “Blood of a Lion” using World of Warcraft lore] Totally different.

            1. There’s a reason the times that works are things like “Fixes the main reactor but dies of radiation poisoning” or “Holds the pass alone at all costs while the others go for help.” And that any time folk have to decide such things the argument is “There must be another way” not “We’re talking you into this”.

              1. Yes, the “there is a route to survive”– no matter how tiny.

                There’s a gap between “lock the door before I can get out” and “shoot me in the head.”

              2. Indeed. I had to read and watch the German play *Die Besuch der Alte Dame*. The visit of the old woman. It’s a revenge story that ends with the male protagonist being murdered by his fellow townsfolk. He could leave, he has every chance to leave, but they basically hem him in and order him to die. In exchange, the woman he wronged (the old woman) pays off the town’s bills. It left me feeling dirty. It was not voluntary self sacrifice, nor was justice truly done. And in the process the entire town was corrupted and punished. Ick.

              3. “Then out spake brave Horatius,
                The Captain of the gate:
                ‘To every man upon this earth
                Death cometh soon or late.
                And how can man die better
                Than facing fearful odds,
                For the ashes of his fathers,
                And the temples of his Gods,”

                1. Yup, and it worked because all three were volunteers. (There was also the possibility they could live through it, and, at least in Macaullay’s version they did.)

                  1. Some of them did. Michael Flynn did a take on it where some near-future American soldiers did the same thing (because one had read it) and did all live.

        3. Chuckle Chuckle

          He sacrificed Himself to Redeem Us All.

          We don’t have to sacrifice others now. 😉

        4. It doesn’t count because it was someone sacrificing himself, if I remember correctly. It wasn’t as ‘brave’ as sacrificing others. Who, he assured the reader, were completely willing to be sacrificed.

          The author literally said that not one human sacrifice in all of history died unwillingly.

          There was something about the ‘Black Legend’ version of the Spanish Inquisition, too, but I forget what exactly. Oh wait, he sneered at their mournful attitude at the auto-da-fe compared to the joyous celebrations the Aztecs engaged in when they slaughtered people to keep the sun rising. Because regretting even the death of unrepentant sinners is wrong, somehow.

      3. “loony anthropologist” is unnecessary repetition. Anthropology has been utterly insane since the late 1970s. I watched it go. You won’t find a single sensible thing in the anthropology journals written after 1985.

        We are not allowed an opinion because we are Colonizers!!!11! We dared impose our White European values on the noble denizens of the southern countries. Like this:

        “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs” (Sir Charles James Napier, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in India, 1843–1847)

        And that’s why widows don’t get burned on their husband’s funeral pyre in India anymore.

        Everyone on the Left conveniently forgets suttee. A remarkable oversight, given the Feminists.

      1. They don’t really care about us except as fuel for their fire.

        They’re getting their kink on. Hard to encompass as a notion, but all you need to do is look at S&M gear showing up in fashion and there’s your answer. Pervs, being perverted.

  8. As the owner of a Teeny Publishing Bidness, I do publish other people’s books besides my own – but I charge for the service. I also walk would-be indy authors through the process of setting up their Own Teeny Publishing Bidness at Ingram-Spark, and do editing (either/or line or substantive), formatting and limited cover design – but I will charge for that, too.
    And I do nothing without a contract specifying exactly what services I provide, and the costs thereof/ Yes, I’ve been bitten a couple of times, but no more than twice since 2009 or thereabouts, when the founder of Watercress Press fell ill, couldn’t continue at the work she loved (and was amazing at!) and I bought her out and carried on. (Which many of her long-standing clients were touchingly grateful for, as otherwise, their books would have been unavailable.)
    The publishing game has evolved over the last twenty years – I like to think that my Teeny Publishing Bidness has evolved with it. I seriously had so many clients last year – I swear, a lot of people must have spent the covidiocy lockdowns writing a book…

  9. Stop sending me yelling emails about that erotica with the gods novel you think I wrote under a pen name. I don’t know why you think that. I didn’t do it. And what you just did is the equivalent of approaching a stranger on the street and licking their arm.


    :blink blink blink:

    1. Meet the real Chuck Tingle!
      (Nah, even in text I can’t keep a straight face selling that line of dinosaur crap.)

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