Sunday, 4 November 2012

How did your Mama raise you?

Writing used to be something magical when I was a kid. Authors were, to me, a race of their own. Someone who could get the world to listen to every word they said had to be of magical descent. Now that I’ve become one (of humbler descent but nevertheless weird), I see the literary world for what people say it is: a market. Sad really. What happened? How did the magic fade?

I blame the Internet. It has no doubt empowered us in more ways than I can count (math+me=???) but readers are also now spoiled for choice. There are millions of sites where writers now have to squabble and pull at each other’s virtual hair for space in a reader’s limited free time. Sad to say, some people have become a tinsy bit arrogant and don’t show writers the respect due to any person.

I was reading through some forums on a certain large online bookstore and came across a discussion which a reader used to practically trample on authors that were trying to promote their books. I agree that the forums are only for readers but the language that that reader used really got me angry. Many people complain that writers are flooding them with “spammy content” (is that even a real word?!) in their attempts at promoting their work. Helloooo? What else are we supposed to promote? Author=brand, novel=product!! Marketing 101, people!

 When did authors lose their right to be respected? Some would say that they lost it the moment they started flooding the discussion areas with links to their books. (Okay, some writers really wouldn’t know subtlety if it bit them on the nose, but I’ve never seen a rude author post or one that actually provoked a rude comeback) However, what is book marketing if not self-promotion? New authors are buried under layers of Rowlings and Co. and their bestsellers so they need to push and shove. Trust me—writers would very much prefer being holed up somewhere writing their next book instead of prowling and lurking around reader forums. We don’t tell people off for drowning us with photos of their babies’ 100th attempt at potty training, do we? So why don’t people think that new writers deserve the same respect given to annoying parents?

Frankly, I’m too stuck up/proud/lazy to kiss ass (especially when some of those butts try to bite back once in awhile) so I haven’t had the pleasure of being “put in my place” by anyone yet. I just think that it’s imperative to show people that there’s a real problem here. When I was a kid, authors were respected figures in society (and I’m really not so old that anyone could put it down to the strange phenomenon of the Dark Ages). A bad review is something else entirely—the reader has at least given the content a chance before chewing out the author.

 That person’s comment on the forums was plainly hurtful, rude and discouraging and I don’t think that the authors he aimed his comments at should take it lying down. Such disrespect should not be allowed and I personally call it as it is: Cyber Bullying! It needs to stop. None of the writers on the forums were forcing anyone to buy anything—they were merely recommending their work. There was no need to be rude and those readers whose vocabulary their mothers would be ashamed of should seriously rethink how they communicate with their fellow human beings. New writers work hard for pittance in return and are forced to the edges of literary society where they have to make sure they don’t step on anyone’s toes. It sounds exhausting and new authors should be allowed to be proud of their achievement (of actually being published after years of rejection letters and tears) and not be treated like used-car salesmen!

Needless to say, for every fool, there are a million lovelies out there who are genuinely thrilled about getting news from new authors. These are the people that we write for…don’t forget it! A big thank you to every reader that has ever sent a positive reply to a debĂșt author…your Mamas will be proud that you mind your P’s and Q’s.


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