It was quite the interesting evening last night. I took the night off from the internet to introduce my gaming group to my new D&D character (after the fuckers executed my old one last week due to a little misunderstanding about supporting evil cultists...yeah, payback's gonna be a bitch! :). Elsewhere, people flipped the frig out over at Goodreads due to some policy changes, which you can read about here.
In a nutshell, Goodreads has decided to take a stance that book reviews and shelves should be about books and not author behavior. Anything they determine to not fit these guidelines can be deleted. Some are seeing this as censorship by a company that's bending over due to either a fear of lawsuits or the dictates of their new corporate masters. Others are dancing in the streets because they feel that their critics have now been silenced and thus manna will now magically rain from the heavens in the form of book sales.
My advice to this group is relax. Here, take a look at this picture of
my cat and breathe deeply. I think you'll see that in the end there isn't all that much to worry about.
You won't be forced to like a book that sucks nor like an author who's a dickhead. Likewise, I don't see anything that says you can't call out an author for being a dickhead in any of their forums, or make mention of the author in your review as long as the focus is the book itself. I can understand this. While I as a reader might be interested in learning that a writer is a jerk, if I click on a review for a book I'm expecting to see at least something about the book itself. My interpretation of the new rules, however, is that you are still free to mention the author and/or their behavior as long as that focus on the book is there.
To that other group I mentioned above, the ones who now see themselves free to be as big of assholes as they can because they wrongly assume the rules now state they can't be called out on it, all I'll say is don't make me laugh.
Some words of advice for authors, new and established. There is no golden ticket. Succeeding in this industry is difficult even if your attitude and talent are all in the right place. If they're not, though, you've pretty much bought yourself a ticket to failureville.
If your books suck, no amount of spin, PR, threatening, or cajoling will change that. Put a bow on garbage and it's still garbage. Also, and here's the kicker, nothing has changed with regards to telling to the world about it. You can still be one-starred and shelved for writing a piece of shit...and I, or anyone else, can still call it exactly that. That hasn't changed. You still need to focus on quality. Ignore that at your own peril.
So fine, maybe your book is okay...good even, but perhaps your attitude isn't. You enjoy berating people who leave less than five star reviews on your book, telling them how stupid they are for not understanding your genius. Maybe you love calling people out as ingrates for not leaving any reviews. Heck, maybe you even get a kick out of trying to sue people if they don't say the right things about you.
"Congratulations to me!" you say. "Goodreads has given me free rein to be the dick I was always meant to be!"
Hold on there, Hoss. See, there's nothing of the sort. Goodreads is simply telling people that if you're going to review a book, then make it about the book. Likewise if you're going to create a shelf for that book. There's nothing that says I can't call you out as part of this or in one of their many forums. There is likewise nothing that's going to stop them from banning your ass if you decide to act like one.
But here's the real fun part. Even if, say, they did - you still lose. Say tomorrow they adopted a policy of "Nothing mean said about authors any more, ever again!" I still have my blog. I have Facebook. I have Twitter, pinterest, email and a metric shit-ton of other forums in which to tell my friends what an asshole you were to me. Hell, I could even write an article for Salon or the Huffington Post about the whole sordid affair if I so choose. So can anyone else and this isn't going away any time soon.
If you're unprofessional, eventually people will learn about it and it WILL (rightfully) hurt your sales. No minor rule update is going to change that.
In the end Goodreads is an awesome place for readers and authors alike. Go there to discuss books you enjoy, topics you love, and other fun stuff and you'll be fine. Go there to spam, harass, or just be an overall jerk and I think you'll discover that it's business as usual with regards to the reception you'll receive.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to plotting horrific revenge against my fellow adventurers...
Sep 12, 2013
Sunset Strip: a tale from The Tome of Bill.
My name is Sally.
For over thirty years I’ve prowled the night, one of the undead. In that time I’ve walked amongst you - a wolf in sheep’s clothing - doing unspeakable things, killing countless people.
Now, on the eve of Armageddon, a chance for redemption presents itself. My past has come looking for me, beckoning me back to the scene of my rebirth - the City of Sin.
Those who killed me are intent on finishing the job. I’m outnumbered and outgunned, but they’ve got another thing coming if they think I’m outclassed.
In the end they’re all going to learn a very painful lesson: payback is a bitch.
“So how do vampires play into this?”
“I’m getting to that,” Christy said in between sips of a decaf cappuccino. Ugh, the very thought made me gag. Talk about a sin against mankind. “Two weeks ago, Tom and I went down to visit with his folks. His sister mostly kept to herself, but I happened to see her new boyfriend once when he picked her up. Something about him set off warning signals.”
“Sorta.” She broke eye contact. Before Bill’s doofy charisma had won her over, she’d been firmly in the kill all vampires camp. “I didn’t trust myself, though. Things are better than they were when I first found out I was pregnant, but my powers have still been going a little haywire every now and then. I’ve been self-binding myself just in case. It tends to mute everything.”
“Self-binding? If we’re gonna start talking kinks here, then I’m gonna need something stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I like being tied up as much as...”
“No! My powers. I’ve been using a ritual to keep them in check.”
“Oh, well that’s a bit less weird...sorta.”
“Anyway, as I said, everything’s been muffled for me. All I got was a little feeling, like the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The thing is, it kept nagging at me. So when I got back home, I decided to undo the binding and cast a scrying spell.”
“In other words, you spied on them?”
“More or less.”
“We’re back to kinky again.”
She ignored me. “I didn’t get much at first.”
“I take it you kept at it for a while?” I asked, bemused.
“Well yeah, she’s Tom’s sister. I mean, Kara’s probably going to be my sister in law.”
“Well maybe...someday,” she replied, blushing. It was cute in a deer in the headlights sort of way. “Anyway, the guy must’ve been real careful because I didn’t see anything that would have set me off.”
“I was scrying again two nights ago and caught Kara and her mother in the middle of a massive blowout. I really just caught bits and pieces, but it was mostly about his age.”
“He’s definitely a bit older than her.”
“She wouldn’t be the first girl to fall for a guy a few years her senior.”
“I know. I have no idea what she sees in him, though. From the glimpse afforded me, he’s nothing special. If anything, she’s out of his league.”
“Stupid and teenage girl tend to go hand in hand.”
Christy nodded knowingly. “Anyway, the boyfriend showed up and got into it, too. That’s when I caught it. It was only for the briefest of seconds, and I thought maybe I was just seeing stuff considering all the craziness we’ve been through the past couple of months…”
“He snacked on the mom?”
“Nothing that obvious. But his eyes turned black for just a moment. Too fast for either of them to notice, but I did.”
“So what did you do?”
“I jumped in my car and drove down there.”
“Wait, why didn’t you just teleport? I’ve seen you do it before.”
“Like I said, I’ve been binding myself lately. It takes a while to fully shake off. I wasn’t quite up to snuff to travel that way. I could’ve made it but would have been too tired to do much else if trouble started.”
“Okay, fine. I don’t need the details. So you and Tom…”
“Just me. He can get a little over-protective about his sister and, well, if things got ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.”
“Or fucking things up?”
She stared me in the eye a moment before averting her gaze again. “Maybe a little of that.”
Hah! Good to see she wasn’t completely blinded by love. “And?”
“And I was too late. His sister was already gone, run off with that...”
“Filthy beast of the night?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.
I put my cup down. “Did you ever consider that maybe he’s legit? Vampires aren’t all bloodsucking monsters. I mean, there’s Bill and…” I racked my brain thinking of another good example. Oh fuck it. “…and Bill. But I’m sure there are others like him. I mean, for all you know, they might really have something.”
“Don’t you think I considered that?” Christy asked, her tone clear she felt slightly insulted. “I know that in many ways you’re just as human as I am.”
I was tempted to correct her in that I wouldn’t fall for a dorkus like she had, but I stopped myself short. That wasn’t entirely true. Still, that was the ancient past, another life. I pushed aside the memory, avoiding that particularly gruesome memory lane.
Even so, it bugged me a bit. There was something disturbingly familiar with Kara’s story. I’m sure it’s that way with a lot of girls who wind up seduced by our kind. Here in the city, we tend to forgo the lovely dovey shit and just lure our victims into a dark alley. Of course, half the time they’re hopped up on one drug or another. But not every place was like here, was it? In other parts of the country they tended to move a bit slower. It still seemed like a lot of work for a meal, though.
“So what about the situation convinced you otherwise?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“While I was down there, I did some asking around about this guy.”
“I may have befuddled a few minds in the process.”
“When you've got it, flaunt it.” She smirked. Maybe we weren’t so different after all.
“Something like that. Anyway, it wasn’t too hard to find out that he was from out of town…way out of town.”
“Really?” My curiosity piqued again. “Been a while since I’ve been out there.”
“But you know people, right?”
“Well, yeah.” I rolled my eyes. Hell, I had an in with one of the Draculas, our ruling council. One didn’t get much more in-the-know than that.
“Good, because that’s why I’m here. I’m heading out there and I need information.”
“You’re flying to Las Vegas?” She nodded. “That might not be too smart. What if you…”
“I won’t. That’s why I want your help. If you can find out how many there are and how old the coven master is, that’ll give me enough to at least not go in completely blind.”
“Whoa there!” I put my hands up. “Even assuming I wanted to rat out a den of vamps to you, they’re probably just passing through. It’s a popular tourist spot, even with my kind. They could be...”
“They’re not. In fact, I know where they are.”
“Partly. But I really didn’t need to. I broke into the apartment where this guy had been staying and found a couple packs of these.”
She pulled a book of matches from her pocket book and tossed it on the table in front of me. I glanced down casually at it and my eyes widened in surprise.
No fucking way.
I blinked and looked again, hoping maybe my eyes had been playing tricks. There was no mistake. The words were as plain as the fangs in my mouth: Pandora’s Box.
My breath caught in my throat as the name sank in. Memories, long since repressed, resurfaced. It was like someone had kicked in a locked door inside of my mind.
Why that place?
Sep 8, 2013
Just remember, 15 minutes of infamy ends very quickly - often as soon as the next person dials 911 and calls the Waaahmbulance.
Let’s just get this out of the way now. People are going to hate you. There, now take that horse pill and swallow it. Go ahead, choke it down. Tastes pretty bad doesn't it? But was it truly the worst thing you've ever taken? Probably not.
See, you’ve published a book, put it for sale, or are planning to. The second you push that button you’re a business. Here’s the thing, people can and will decide they despise a business for any reason they please. Perhaps your product is shoddy. Could be you have a repulsive personality and would best be served not dealing with the public. Or it may be that it’s nothing you did. Maybe Amazon didn’t send the file correctly. The buyer might have decided to read your book Demon Hounds from Hell on the day after their own dog ran off. Heck, you might have just stuck your nose out at the wrong place and wrong time.
It doesn’t matter. Either way you look at it, someone somewhere will decide they hate something about you. When this happens there are a few actions you might be tempted to take.
Let's discuss a few and, more importantly, why they're really stupid ideas.
- Write a blog post detailing all the horrible people out there who hate your book. Yeah, that’ll show the meanies. They can’t mess with you. You’re a writer! Words are your sword and shield.
There's just one problem. You'll notice you don’t see Best Buy or Target writing blog posts about people who hate their stores, do you? Why? Because it’s a stupid thing to do. People don’t particularly care for crybabies and they really don’t like to be called out. If you name and shame people A, B, and C, then people D, E, and G may just pass on your wares, no matter how tempting they may look. They’ll assume if you have no problem calling out one group, you may just be the type to do it again. Why would someone go through that hassle when they can easily shop elsewhere?
- Jump into that forum post, conversation, or review and give them a piece of your mind. Do you want to know a secret? Fine, I'll tell you. Nobody is jealous of you for just writing a book. Get that out of your skull. You strung words together, that’s it. Yay, a chimpanzee with a typewriter could do the same thing.
If you make a million dollars with that book then people might be jealous, but by then why would you care? Haven’t you made your point?
Don’t feel the need to defend your work. If it's any good, it’ll stand on its own. If it’s not, you won’t be able to argue people into believing otherwise. Similarly, you’re unlikely to win the hearts of the masses by telling your detractors how illiterate they are for not understanding the complexities of your magnum opus. Go figure, people don’t appreciate being told they’re stupid. What a world we live in.
- Paint yourself as a victim, using juicy buzzwords like Bully, Criminal, or Cyberterrorist. Really? Please tell me you didn't actually think of doing that. There are people out there who are true victims of crimes. Congratulations, you just spit in their collective faces.
Now you're probably thinking this is tempting because people love to rally behind victims. There are people all over the internet pouring out their hearts for the downtrodden. The issue here is that if you aren't quite the victim you paint yourself out to be then eventually your house of cards will come tumbling down. People aren't stupid. Some will want to get the whole story and when they do, they won’t be overly pleased to find out that you’ve decided to confuse author with professional victim.
Also consider the long term. Even if people do feel bad for you, how long will that last? Is that truly the way to build a long term audience? Doubtful as eventually those unread pity sales will dry up, leaving you wondering why people aren't flocking to your subsequent efforts.
- Seek out communities dedicated to fighting back. There’s a website out there, I won’t name or link to them, but let’s just say their initials start with ST and end with GRB. They’re a collective dedicated to stamping out all those horrible monsters that are destroying writers’ lives. Another way of looking at that, though, might be: targeting people they’ve decided are responsible for their own personal failures.
Don’t believe the hype. As an author, consider what types of other authors you want to associate with. There are those who are dedicated to improving their craft, putting out better books, and growing their audience (however slowly). Conversely there are those who would rather bemoan their lack of success and point fingers. Consider your choice carefully here.
Even if you somehow decide that groups like these are a swell bunch, I would ask you to consider the logic there. You’d effectively be aligning with a group that is hoping to silence a portion of the population. Not cool for a purveyor of words. Even worse, you’d be a business that’s effectively trying to stamp out those you think are bad for sales...i.e. potential customers.
Imagine a collective of neighborhood stores banding together to crush those who say things they don’t like. Say something negative about Bob’s Butcher Shop, and the next day your name and home address might be posted on the walls of these businesses along with whatever nastiness they care to label you with. As a customer, would you ever want to do business with these people? Hell, maybe Bob is a freaking great butcher, but perhaps it makes sense to just drive to the next town over because you’d rather not give your money to someone like that. His burgers might be good, but they're probably not that good.
There are plenty of other examples, but hopefully you get my point. Even if common sense and/or decency doesn’t tell you these are bad ideas, try thinking strategically for the long term. Always ask yourself whether today's petty victory is jeopardizing your plans for tomorrow.
That being said, now that we've gone over some of the things you shouldn’t do, what about the other side? There are so many do nots here, what should a writer actually do? Well, I’ll tell you.
GET OVER IT!
Take a deep breath and sleep on it. Let the heat of the moment pass. Today's crisis can often seem minor tomorrow.
Concentrate on the important things. Put out more books. Become better at your craft. Let your stories speak for you. Redirect that anger toward dedication to not giving up. The best way to "show them", if that is indeed what you feel you must do, is not to call them names - a five year old could do that. It's to become better, to rise above it, to succeed despite the odds.
I’m not advocating rolling over and letting people trample on you. There are some that claim advice such as this is an admitting of defeat, of acknowledging that we have no voice other than our books.
Bullshit I say. I prefer to think of it as being smart and not picking pointless fights in which there will ultimately be just one loser...you.
Seriously, you’re a professional author now or you soon will be. You have stake in the game. The only one who will truly be hurt by any shenanigans that backfire is you. Sure, maybe you got in a good insult to that meanie reviewer, but guess what...they’re not selling a product, you are.
Always remember: if people decide your behavior speaks ill of you, then that next book they decide to not purchase might just be yours.