Last week, I wondered if we were in a perpetual full moon phase because of all the craziness that seemed to be going on. Little did I know that the craziness was just beginning. In the time since that post went live, we’ve seen an author on Amazon taking the fight to reviewers because they didn’t like his book, another author going on a rant because of another writer’s politics and espousing the fact that you aren’t a “professional writer” if you self-publish on Amazon and then the latest from HarperCollins, once again proving that legacy publishers look at their customers as thieves. Foolishness, just foolishness with a sense of entitlement thrown in.
Starting from the top. . . .
For years, Sarah and I have inflicted on our friends and people we’ve done workshops with a certain book we found at an RWA conference. This book has been an example of not one what you shouldn’t do as a writer but also the fact that publishers will buy bad books and put money behind them, making them successful enough to become a series. While the book isn’t Eye of Argon bad, it comes close. So close, in fact, that I never thought to find one worse. Until we were introduced to a book in the Diner on Facebook. From a cover the author worked on for years but which screams amateur to poorly written prose, it is a prime example of why you always check the preview samples before buying a book.
That, in and of itself, wouldn’t be enough to cause comment here. What does is the behavior of the author himself. Ten reviews have been posted since the book was first published. The average rating for the book is two stars. Now, that’s not all that unusual. You can find bad books on Amazon and other retailers without much difficulty. Where this one differs is what happens with the reviews. This is the first time I have seen so many comments regarding the posted reviews. The author continues to try to refute the bad reviews — heck, he even tries to refute anything negative that might be in the good reviews — to the point that it goes beyond just being invested in what is obviously a story he believes in. His straw arguments are that you can’t review a book unless you buy it and read all of it. This comes after he has invited folks to read the first five chapters — or the preview on Amazon — and post what they think.
When that argument doesn’t work, he either completely ignores the specific critiques or he chooses one obscure point a reviewer has made and latches onto that with a death grip in an attempt to prove the critic has an agenda he is working and that is why he didn’t like the book. The accusations from the author have ranged from envy because he is such a good writer and the critic will never be able to write a book to the critic not being smart enough to understand what he was striving for in the book (mind you, this is a book the author says is for children) to religious bias and, quite possibly some sort of global conspiracy. He comes across as condescending and more than a bit “off”. That is never good when it comes to engaging with your readers.
As tempting as it is to respond to negative reviews and to try to explain why you wrote something the way you did, don’t. Just don’t. It isn’t going to help you any and it will drive you crazy trying to keep up with reviews and, worse, trying to make everyone happy. Write your own book, pull up your big boy — or girl — pants and take your lumps. There is going to be someone who leaves a review that has you scratching your head and wondering if they read the same book you wrote. Move on to your next project after you finish the first one instead of trying to guard the gate and defend it against the naysayers. If you just have to defend it, don’t, absolutely do not, claim that some unnamed person who holds some super important job that is so important you can’t name the job or the employer or the person himself read you book and loved it. The moment you do, you will be called on it.
As I said, pull up your big boy pants, kiss your darling book goodbye and send it off into the world to sink or swim.
In the next example of what not to do, don’t go onto Facebook or other social media to rant and rave — and, in the process, show your own fear of the changing face of publishing. In this particular example, an author ranted that they would have loved to join a professional writers group but for the organizer’s politics. The tone left no doubt that the organizer — who at least wasn’t named in the rant — was a wrong thinker and didn’t follow the current cause du jour of traditional publishing. My first thought as I read the rant was to wonder if the author put the same sort of requirement on authors they read as they obviously did on authors they might network with. For myself, as a reader, I don’t give a flying rat’s hairy butt what an author’s politics are as long as they don’t hit me over the head with them in their books.
But that wasn’t what really bothered me about this author’s comments. What did was the comment that you can’t be a professional author if you self-publish on Amazon.
That brought the whole potential for understanding that they were having a bad day and maybe had a history with the group leader that hadn’t been detailed in the rant. Nope, the comment about indies was a slap in the face not only to me but to every author who has taken advantage of the new opportunities provided by Amazon and other e-tailers. It also indicates that this particular author is still buying in to the arguments of traditional publishers that the reading public still needs gatekeepers. It also forgets that these same publishers have abdicated much of the gatekeeping responsibilities to agents who are now, in all too many cases, acting as competitors to publishers because they have their own publishing imprints.
Since the first of the year, I have made more from indie publishing than I would have received as an advance from a traditional publisher — assuming they didn’t see me as the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts. I know others who have made much more than I have. Indie authors have been able to quit their day jobs and work as writers full time. But, according to the ranting author, we aren’t professionals because we haven’t made our bones in the traditional way.
Sorry, but I’ll take indie publishing over almost every traditional publisher. I’ve seen how much work authors who are still traditionally published have to do to make sure their books are of the quality they want. Some hire outside editors and proofreaders because they know they can’t trust the editing and proofing that comes out of the publishing house. Almost all authors do their own promotion and spend their own money to do so, despite assurances from their publishers that they will take care of promotion. It is a lie, in almost every time.
I’ll settle for doing all that and keeping most of the money made from my sales. I’ll proudly wear the label of indie and call myself a professional writer. I don’t care that SFWA has yet to figure out what to do about indies who are making more money and accruing more sales than many of their so-called professional author members. As a reader, I’ll remember the words of those same so-called professionals who trash other writers simply because they chose a different path to get their work out to their readers.
If all that isn’t enough to convince you that the inmates are still trying to run the asylum, this last bit might. HarperCollins has decided that it isn’t enough to add DRM to its ebooks because, you know, all readers are potential thieves. Now the publisher is going to add a digital watermark to its ebooks so there will be an “additional layer of security”. The explanation offered is that HC wants to make sure the etailers it uses to sell its ebooks overseas are using the highest security possible. However, this new technology will allow HC to know if someone has illegally downloaded a book. Any bets on how long it will be before HC sends its first cease and desist letter to a reader? If you don’t want to place a bet on that, how about on how long it will take for the geeks to figure out a way to break that level of encryption as well as the standard DRM?
I don’t know about you, but I hate DRM. I hate being treated like a crook by people I’m paying money to. Of course, the whole thing boils down to the simple fact that publishers, on the whole, don’t believe ebooks are “real” books. That why they sell “licenses” for their ebooks and why they fight against the mere suggestion of the customer being able to sell an ebook after reading it.
And they wonder why people look for plug-ins and programs to break DRM and why we read as many indie books as we do.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for the grown ups — or at least someone with some common sense and an understanding of basic economics and the theory of supply and demand — to take over the industry. I’m tired of the tantrums and the digging in of heels and the denial that things need to change. This is a situation where the industry is broken and it does need to change and adapt if it is to survive.