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Tag: Don’t Do This Ever

Don’t Do This, Ever: “Reviews Feed Us” edition

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There have been a few graphics going around social media lately that kind of rub me the wrong way.

Graphic reads: Save An Author. Give A Review" with a heart beside it.


Photo of an open book, with the words "The best way to thank an author is to write a review.

In the past, this sentiment never bothered me. I may have even expressed it a time or two. But I’m seeing an increase in readers speaking out about this practice. Now, from a reader’s point of view, I’m starting to see why this is frustrating.

Imagine going to see a movie. It’s a fun movie, you enjoyed it. You left the theatre feeling you got your money’s worth. Then, when you got home, the director has posted a Facebook message: “If you want us to be able to keep making movies, please consider writing a review at Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB.” How would that make you feel? Pressured? Guilty? Obligated? Maybe you wouldn’t go see a movie directed by that guy again, because you don’t want to deal with the plea for reviews.

What if you went to Home Depot and bought a new plunger? You brought it home, it worked fine, you’re happy with it. Then Home Depot sends you an email saying, “It would really help us out if you reviewed that plunger.” Nope, no thanks, Home Depot. I’ll shop at Ye Olde Hardware store from now on.

Do you, like me, get annoyed when Amazon Marketplace or eBay sellers send out messages asking for ratings and feedback? I freak out. I just wanted to buy something from you. I don’t want to help you build your business. I’m not looking for a symbiotic relationship here. Just let me buy my stuff and leave.

When someone reads my book, I view it as a consumer transaction. They either bought the book or checked it out from the library or downloaded it, and once they’ve done that, the transaction is completed. Nothing further is required from either of us. If a reader wants to reach out, I’m there, but they’re not obligated to. They can leave a review, if they’re so inspired. But they owe me nothing, because we’ve both benefitted from the exchange (unless they thought the book was shitty).

Some of the graphics I’ve seen suggest that if you don’t review, the writer might starve:

Graphic says: "The care and feeding of an author on Amazon. Buy the book. Share "I just bought..." Write a review. Like it. Tag it. Share the link. Keep 'em fed. Keep 'em writing." with various graphics from Amazon, Facebook, Youtube, etc. A thumbs up graphic with "Feed an author, leave a review".

Or, that they might stop writing. This is some fanfic bullshit if I’ve ever seen it. So many writers will tell you that the reason they write is because they enjoy it. It’s too difficult a job to do if your heart isn’t in it. So, if what you need to enjoy it is reviews, and you’re not getting them and your heart is not in it, then maybe it’s time to rethink some priorities. But it’s your job to decide whether or not to continue. Don’t put that responsibility on readers.

I’m not trying to be harsh here. I know that it’s frustrating when you see people racking up fantastic review after fantastic review. I know you want your book to reach the widest possible audience and have two full pages of positive quotes to sell it. But why alienate the audience you do have by holding that “no new chapter until I hit fifty reviews”-style fanfic threat over their heads?

What about making money? Don’t reviews help you make money? If you’re a professional writer, writing is your job. It might be your second job. Hell, it could even be your third job. But if you’re making money from it, it’s a job. If isn’t financially feasible for you to continue, then…you don’t continue. A reader doesn’t need to “feed an author”. They’re not responsible for the financial success or failure of your writing business, so to suggest that by not leaving a review they’re condemning you to poverty is absurd. Especially if they already bought your book, thus actually contributing on a monetary level.

Which brings me to the graphic that inspired this post. Six writers I’m friends with on my personal Facebook have shared this so far. They’re all awesome people, with only the best intentions. I’m just not sure they get how this sounds:

Graphic that reads: "Reviews help authors. Readers choose books based on recommendations. Leaving an Amazon review is like telling your friends how much you enjoyed your last read. After 20 to 25 reviews, Amazon includes the author's book in 'also bought' and 'you might like' lists. This increases its visibility on the site and helps boost sales. After 50 to 70 reviews, Amazon highlights the book for spotlight positions and includes it in its newsletter. A HUGE books for the author. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW AT AMAZON FOR AUTHORS YOU ENJOY READING!"

Since when do readers need to worry about helping us overcome Amazon’s arcane algorithms? It’s not their job to publicize our books for us. If you want to get into a newsletter, there are plenty of them out there. And blogs. And ad space on blogs. Is it cheaper to get free promotion? Sure. But is it worth the risk of losing readers by constantly begging for reviews?

Again, I’m not trying to be harsh. It’s one thing to ask for reviews on something you’re giving away for free, like fanfic or fan art or what have you, because the review, or even clicking the kudos button on AO3, is a form of (voluntary) payment. But if someone is paying you for a book, all they need to give you is money. My dentist has never once said to me, “Yeah, you paid your bill, but if you don’t help me fix this hole in the roof, I have to close down my practice.” The consumer has already paid for what they’ve gotten. They don’t need to stick around and fix the hole in your roof.

Plus, reviews are time consuming. Even a single line of “It was good, I liked it” takes time out of a reader’s day. They already gave your book the time it took to read it. Why on earth should we be asking for more? And it feels as though the question devalues that reader who doesn’t leave a review. “You don’t count,” we’re saying. “You read the book, but you didn’t leave a review, so you’re not as appreciated as my other readers.” And many bloggers have been scared into not writing reviews anymore, because of the way some bad apple authors have treated the whole blogger bunch.

Reviews are nice. Good ones make us feel good. And that’s super. But just because something makes you feel good, doesn’t mean you deserve it. And we have got to stop acting entitled to a reader’s public opinion.

Don’t Do This Ever: “Ego-Induced Amnesia” edition

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Ros Barber will never self-publish. It is beneath her. It should be beneath any “serious novelist” (a title Barber seems to self-apply), and she has taken to The Guardian to tell us why.

Now, I understand that “indie publishing” is all the rage, but you might as well be telling Luke Skywalker to go to the dark side. Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write). Here’s why.

I should warn you that any time someone uses the term “serious novelist” without irony, whatever follows will be an orgy of public masturbation. Barber’s piece is practically NSFW in this respect.

If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living. Self-published authors should expect to spend only 10% of their time writing and 90% of their time marketing.

Wait, I thought this article was about why Barber won’t self-publish. I won’t go downhill skiing, but it’s a comfort to know that my inexperience won’t hold me back when I want to write an article for a major media outlet about why downhill skiing is terrible and no cross-country skiers should do it. Somehow, Barber is the expert on how self-published authors divide up their time, despite her reluctance to do it in the first place.

But if your passion is creating worlds and characters, telling great stories, and/or revelling in language, you might want to aim for traditional publication.

I’m not sure it’s possible to be more insulting than Barber is here. Only traditionally published, serious authors can create worlds and characters, because clearly self-published authors draw words out of a hat and hurriedly type them up so as to return to their mindless, repetitive social media presence. Only traditionally published authors can tell great stories.

Barber goes on to describe the very marketing behavior many successful self-published authors already advise against, and assumes that all self-published authors are equally guilty:

Imagine we have just met. I invite you into my house and the first thing you do is show me the advertising blurb for your book and press me to check it out on Amazon. Then you read me the blurb for someone else whose book you’ve agreed to promote if they’ll do the same with yours. Then you tell me how many friends you’ve lost today, and that I can find out how many friends I’ve lost by using this app. Then you poke a reader review of your book under my nose. All within the first 10 minutes. Does this lead me to conclude you are a successful author, whose books I might like to buy? Or a desperate egomaniac with no thought for other people? One who may not be able to string a decent sentence together, since your sentences come out as semi-literate strings of hashtags:

The tweet Barber uses to illustrate her point once again raises an often overlooked component of self-publishing, which is access for authors of color. Does Chopra’s tweet include a number of hashtag sins? Certainly. But one has to wonder whether Barber realized that by choosing Chopra’s tweet as an example of the “semi-literate” over-saturation of social media promotion, she was betraying the narrow scope of her own advantage with the publishers of “serious novelists”. A highly educated white woman (a “scholar”, as described by a dedicated section on Barber’s website) has a much better chance of skating by the gatekeepers Barber later lauds in her piece. Perhaps some unserious writers come off as “desperate” because they have to work ten times as hard to get their books noticed by readers, let alone publishers.

One also has to wonder when, exactly, Twitter became Barber’s private living space.

In another section, Barber compares self-published books to wobbly cabinets constructed by inexperienced carpenters using shoddy materials. The subtitle for this section?

Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego

It doesn’t seem to have worked for Barber, but, as Kermit the Frog says in his popular meme, that’s none of my business.

My first novel was my fourth novel. It was accomplished on the back of three complete novels (plus two half novels) that didn’t quite make the grade (even though two of them were represented by well-respected agents). Yes, it can be frustrating, having your beloved book (months or years of hard work) rejected by traditional publishers. But if you are serious about writing, you will simply raise your game. You will put in another few thousand hours and complete your apprenticeship. And when you do, you will be very glad that the first novel you wrote was not the first novel you published, because it will now feel embarrassing and amateurish.

Amateurish is exactly the word I would use to describe an author who truly believes that talent and hard work will eventually result in a published book. Willfully ignorant is what I would call an author who sees traditional publishing as the inevitable end result of finely honed craft. If this were true, a certain world-wide record-smashing blockbuster series of novels based off an equally record-smashing blockbuster series of novels wouldn’t have slipped past those gatekeepers’ quality control. The Instagram filter Barber has chosen for her view of traditional publishing washes out the reality of commercial fiction and market trends.

You can only be a debutante once. First novels are all about making a splash. You’ll find it hard to make a good impression if the first thing anyone saw from you was that wonky cabinet with sticky drawers.

Again, I would refer Barber to some of the wonky cabinets built by first-time carpenters and haphazardly installed by the very quality control gatekeepers she lauds.

With genre fiction, self-publishing can turn you into a successful author (if you can build a platform, if you enjoy marketing and are good at it, if you are lucky). But an author who writes literary fiction is dependent on critical acclaim and literary prizes to build their reputation and following. If genre fiction is chart music, literary fiction is opera: the audience is small, and there are limited ways to reach it. Self-published books are not eligible for major prizes like the Baileys, the Costa and the Man Booker, and getting shortlisted for major prizes is the only way a literary novel will become a bestseller.

Here, I agree with Barber. Though some may take the comparisons of genre fiction to “chart music” and literary fiction to “opera”, I would agree with that assessment. That said, pop music is my favorite music, so I don’t see it as an insult. And it is rare for a self-published novel to win a major award. In 2013, Sergio de la Pava made headlines when he won the PEN/Robert W Bingham award for his novel A Naked SingularityWhat made De La Pava’s success so notable was the fact that his novel was self-published, and only became an eligible, “serious” novel once a publisher picked it up after the book had generated positive reviews under De La Pava’s own steam. In other words, this book that was dismissed by Barber’s precious gatekeepers was better than other traditionally published novels, even when it didn’t have traditional publishing’s stamp of approval. Instead of pointing out that self-publishing excludes authors from prestigious festivals and prizes, why not question why that’s the case?

Barber continues to explain the higher quality of editors at traditional publishing houses, and the advantage of not having to pay for those services. She also shares an anecdote from a one-time self-published author who turned to traditional publishing and is much happier.

She has just sold Korean translation rights to her children’s books, which illustrates another benefit of traditional publishing. Publishers and agents have reach.

Publishers and agents do have reach. I’m lucky to have a very good agent who uses her reach to sell foreign rights to my self-published books. So far, my self-published series has been translated into Italian, French, and Portuguese, and these foreign editions have been very popular with readers. Though finding representation for foreign rights isn’t a guarantee for self-published authors, neither does traditional publishing guarantee that your book will reach international markets.

For those who prefer orchestrated backing to blowing their own trumpet, who’d privilege running a narrative scenario over running a small business, who’d rather write adventures than adverts, self-publishing is not the answer.

A single look at Barber’s modest website will give you a clue as to what her “orchestral backing” sounds like. Take an hour or two to peruse and digest the bounty of self-aggrandizement there. Barber is an author, a scholar, a “conscientious creator” who “has been helping writers and other creative women to achieve their dreams since 2009”. Barber’s own self-promotion is a Wagnerian opera as composed by Gwyneth Paltrow. And if you manage to make it through the blaring sonic obstacle course of Barber’s instrumental soundtrack far enough, you can even find links… to her self-published books.

I’m not sure anything else needs to be said, except “don’t do this, ever.”

Don’t Do This Ever: “C*** Juggling Thunder C***” edition

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People in the indie book world are sharply divided on whether or not crowd funding your author life is ethical or not. The arguments around authors starting Kickstarters and GoFundMes to either fund the writing of their novel or finish a series (with the implication that readers would not receive the conclusion to the series unless the fundraising goal was met) is always pretty much the same: one side feels it’s unethical or “just not done”, the other thinks that any objection to the crowdfunding model is a denial of any author’s right to compensation for their work.

But one thing both sides probably will agree on? Don’t call people who disapprove of your model “cock juggling thunder cunts.”

Don’t Do This…Ever?: (an advice column for writers): “Crowd Funding” edition

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The internet book world has been abuzz with discussion about the ethics and logistics of crowd funding books.

Well, not books, really. They’ve been talking about crowd funding an author’s career.

When author Stacey Jay’s publisher declined to contract the next book in her YA series, she took to Kickstarter to fund the project. This isn’t uncommon, on both fronts. Many authors have crowd funded books, and many authors–and readers–have seen a series they loved discontinued by a publisher due to poor sales. It sucks for everyone, and I should know; it happened to one of my books.

Bear with me while I tell this tale.

Back when I was writing as Jennifer Armintrout, the sales of my Lightworld/Darkworld series were definitely not enough to earn out the $50,000 per book advance I’d received for them. When it came time to contract my next book, I had what my agent referred to as a “bridge” contract, a single title contract that offered a lower advance (I believe I got $35,000). The idea was that the sales of my next book would be enough to lead into my next contract.

They were not.

Although American Vampire was critically well received, it sold for absolute shit. In four years, it has not earned out. In fact, I think at last count it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 short of earning back the advance. Unsurprisingly, Harlequin wasn’t interested in another book in that series. Meanwhile, readers kept asking me if American Vampire was a series, that they wanted another book, and would there be any more books in my Blood Ties series. At this point in my career, I was writing as Abigail Barnette and making about fifty bucks a month. That’s quite the income drop from $50,000 per book, in case you were wondering. Nothing I sent out was selling. I proposed a spin-off novel about a popular character in my Blood Ties series, offering to write it without an advance for Harlequin’s Carina line of e-books, and was turned down.

In short, my career had taken a nosedive.

Things are obviously going better now, but had Kickstarter been a viable option back then, I might have undertaken a campaign on my own to self-publish a novel or two. When the state is paying for your heat, you can’t afford to self-publish. I would have asked for money for editing, for cover art, for professional design, probably even for advertising. I would have done it in a heartbeat.

So, what is it that rankles me about the Stacey Jay controversy? Well, several things, and hardly any of them have to do with Jay herself.

Foremost, I’m really uncomfortable with the stance her defenders have taken. Many have claimed that what Jay did with her Kickstarter was simply obtaining an advance in a non-traditional way. But it just…isn’t. An advance is money a publisher gives you before the title is put on sale. The idea is that the book will “earn out,” and the publisher will make that money back. It’s a risk they take, and as Jane Litte pointed out on twitter:


On the other side of the issue, people defended Jay by suggesting that those who questioned her campaign simply didn’t value an artist’s time or money:  

But it isn’t that simple. Writing isn’t “work.” It’s a business. If I own a ketchup factory, that’s running a business. If I work at a ketchup factory, that’s work. The owner of the ketchup factory assumes a financial risk in putting their product out there. They have to produce the product and pay the workers. The workers get paid for the work they do, the raw ingredients get paid for, and at the end of the day, if the business owner has money left over, that’s profit. This isn’t a business model that should be alien to anyone.

But supporters of Jay don’t see it that way. They see complaints from readers, bloggers, and other authors as an attack on Jay and a denial of the need for compensation:


No one cares what Stacey Jay spends royalties or advances on. No one expects writers to starve. I’ve seen readers called “entitled,” as though they’re demanding free product. No one has, to the best of my knowledge, asked Stacey Jay to write a book without being paid. What people have been objecting to is that a writer is asking readers to provide them with profits before the product has been delivered. That is not the responsibility of the consumer. I cannot ask customers who bought my ketchup in the past to fund my factory so that I can continue making product I can profit from.

As for Stacey Jay, she has posted a public apology and declared that she won’t be writing YA anymore. And again, there are authors, bloggers, and readers who are furious, insinuating that Jay has been forced out of the YA community or that disagreeing with her business model is akin to a personal attack, but that’s disingenuous. Jay decided to take down the Kickstarter and announce her retirement from YA. And you know what? If she feels that’s a sound business decision, I won’t argue with her. I have two series that at the moment I don’t have immediate plans to finish, because I won’t make as large a profit from them as I will working on other projects (don’t worry, they’re not either of my current series). It sucks for readers, in the same way that it sucked to see GCB cancelled, or like how every time I find a moisturizer I like, they fucking discontinue it. If publishing is a business, then business decisions are being made. If they’re personal or emotional, that’s not the fault of the consumers. The consumers are voicing objection to a business model, not saying that they want free ketchup, or to intentionally bankrupt ketchup companies world-wide. No one, not one person, has asked Stacey Jay to write for free. She has simply rejected the idea of writing on spec.

Stacey Jay is a talented writer. Read her Night’s Rose, written as Annalise Evansand you’ll see another example of the true unfairness in publishing; she should be more well-known than she is (or was, I guess, since this is spreading like wildfire). But that’s not how it works out, a lot of the time. More people buy Heinz than exquisite gourmet ketchup (that’s a thing, right? “The fanciest dijon ketchups?” BNL would never lie to me). And no writer is guaranteed to be paid for their projects before they complete them; it’s really nice, but it’s not owed. And these days, it’s almost become the golden ticket (if Willy Wonka were about ketchup instead of chocolate. I’m not rewriting the whole damn post to make that metaphor work).

Readers asking not to bear the cost of a work’s production in advance aren’t asking for anything for free. They were just surprised and insulted to be asked to pay for the production of the supply before the demand was fulfilled. They were further insulted by the excessively dramatic predictions of authors starving with their children in the streets, made by writers who had the gall to say the objectors were the ones acting entitled. That behavior isn’t making a case for authors, and it certainly isn’t helping to support Stacey Jay.

No matter how much we love our books, writing isn’t a job. It’s a career. You’re running a business. And nobody is responsible for making the ketchup but you.

DON’T DO THIS EVER: “World Before Columbus Syndrome” edition

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I’ll be honest: I don’t follow JA Konrath’s blog much these days. When I was first venturing into self-publishing, I ate it up. But as I continued down my path, somehow I just fell away from a lot of the self-publishing bloggers I’d been reading.

Last Tuesday, Konrath took to his blog to sing the praises of self-publishing and the freedom it brings:

“So why am I writing kinky romance?

Lots of reasons.

First, because I can.

We live during the greatest time in history to be a fiction writer. Anything you can dream up, you can publish. Maybe it will find an audience. Maybe it won’t.

But at least it has the chance to.”

Yes! Right on! Self-publishing is fantastic for that! I don’t see why everyone is so up in arms over this post!

Our male protagonist is a sex worker. An escort. A prostitute. I’m pretty sure Harlequin didn’t allow that back when Ann was publishing her romance continuities. I also believe Harlequin had a guideline that once the hero met the heroine, neither were allowed to philander. Strike two. Finally, the sex in Want It Bad makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like a Disney picturebook. Harlequin may have had some racy titles, but I doubt they ever got this racy.

Hmmm. I’m starting to get a sense of why some authors took exception to this post.

The “Ann” Konrath refers to is Ann Voss Peterson, who wrote award-winning romantic suspense for Harlequin’s Intrigue line. This is important information later.

So check out Want It Bad. It has romance. It has female-buddy banter. It has humor. It has insanely kinky sex. It’s a feminist, empowering, 21st century love story that couldn’t have been written ten years ago because the genre, opportunity, and mindset didn’t exist.

Oh. Okay, now I see why I took exception to this post.

Let’s start with the obvious: you could have totally written a 21st century love story ten years ago. Because ten years ago was in the 21st century. So let’s be pedantic and get that out of the way right now.

Your book has romance, kinky sex, female-buddy banter, is feminist and empowering, but couldn’t have been written ten years ago because there was no genre for it, no opportunity to write it, and nobody had the mindset.



Now, I’m not going to debate whether or not Sex and the City lives up to either modern or contemporary standards of feminism. But the popularity of Sex and the City was a watershed moment in how our culture viewed sex from a female perspective. Here was a show that gave us female characters who didn’t compete with each other, who talked about more than just how their lives related to men (though men were the topic of conversation more often than not) and which exposed the frank, raunchy, enthusiastic approach toward sex that women were sharing with each other. Again, I’m not debating whether the show covered all possible experiences (the characters were middle and upper class white women who were all straight), but it did have empowerment, feminist issues, “female-buddy banter,” humor, and kinky sex (every time I write about Sophie squirting, I remember that I learned about it from Sex and the City). The show had everything Konrath is praising his own work for having… and it ended its run in 2004. For those of you who are tragically bad with numbers, that’s… ten years ago. It actually debuted in 1998.  So clearly the “mindset” existed.

The problem is that Konrath didn’t realize the mindset existed. Or, more accurately, Konrath didn’t realize the mindset could make him money back then. In the comments section, he says:

Courtney Milan, who by all accounts is a good writer and a person I respect even if I don’t agree with her on everything, mentioned this on Twitter.

Which is why you said the “genre, opportunity, and mindset didn’t exist”?

I said that because it didn’t exist.

Has there always been erotic romance? Sure.

Has it always been mainstream?

No. Fifty Shades of Grey sold 100 million copies and opened the genre up to huge numbers of readers who never tried the genre before.

Fair enough, Fifty Shades of Grey did cause an erotica boom. But Konrath appears to be saying that yeah, erotic romance exists, but he wasn’t paying attention to it back when it didn’t stand a chance of lining his pockets. Now that he’s seen  the kind of cash erotic romance authors are making, he’s going to expose and break down the barriers of censorship that had already been crumbling since 2000, when Tina Engler founded Ellora’s Cave.

Again, if you’re bad at math, that’s fourteen years ago, four years before the mindset that allowed for female-friendly erotica’s existence.

When confronted about his statements, Konrath moved the goal posts and demanded evidence that erotic romance existed before his:

Can someone show me an HQ series featuring a sex worker who sleeps with a woman after meeting the heroine? Or a HQ continuity with candle wax, pillory spanking, and a sex machine?


So you’re telling me that FSoG could have gotten into Walmart years ago, as part of a HQ series or continuity?

You’re saying that HQ Blaze was not only mainstream, but the hero and heroine could sleep with others after they met, used sex machines, dripped hot wax on each other, etc, and were still for sale in Target or Sam’s Club?

If so, then I’m wrong. But if FSoG opened up this genre to worldwide acceptance, then my points stand.

As several commenters rightly pointed out, Konrath didn’t say that erotic romance couldn’t have been carried in big box stores ten years ago, or that Harlequin hadn’t published the elements in his book. He didn’t even say that his book couldn’t have been published ten years ago. He said:

It’s a feminist, empowering, 21st century love story that couldn’t have been written ten years ago because the genre, opportunity, and mindset didn’t exist.

The twitter and comments arguments continued in this vein, with women who’ve been writing in the genre for twenty or more books simply asking Konrath to admit that he’d written something objectively false, and Konrath refusing to acknowledge both the actual words in the above quote, or that Harlequin isn’t the sum total of the romance genre.

For some reason, this behavior doesn’t endear him to erotic romance authors, and neither does his behavior toward Courtney Milan in their twitter exchange:

Konrath grew even more defensive when author KT Grant suggested that a snipe he made with regards to Milan’s sales  compared to Peterson’s sales was hitting below the belt:

Courtney insulted me a lot in that Twitter exchange, and I was polite.

Then she insulted my co-authors, saying Ann didn’t know what she was talking about.

Taking potshots at me is fine. Potshots at my co-authors? I don’t play that.

Courtney has NO BUSINESS telling Ann Voss Peterson that she doesn’t knwo what she’s talking about. Ann has forgotten more about writing than Courtney knows, and she’s a better writer than damn ear anyone I’ve ever met.

Next time you get insulted, read it in context.

Ah. Apparently Grant was interrogating the text from the wrong perspective. I mean, clearly Konrath was perfectly polite in his exchange with Milan, as evidenced by his above potshot at Milan’s outspoken views on feminism.

At one point, Konrath appears to be trying to bring the conversation in his comments section to a close by stating:

I have no control over what insults people. But I did write a very funny, very sexy romance, which I’m excited about, and want to tell the world about, so I’m very amused by the reaction it is getting.

There’s no zero sum in writing. One author’s sale don’t come at the expense of another. I encourage writers, I don’t take offense when someone enters my genre. I wasn’t aware I needed to get a union card to write ER. 🙂

The amount of butt hurt wafting off this comment is strong. First of all, it isn’t the book that’s garnering attention; that’s just deluded self-flattery. The reason Konrath has found himself at the center of this conflict is that he said something ignorant, he was called on it, claimed he meant something else, but still stands by the original statement enough to continually argue with authors who know the genre better than him. And better than his writing partner; when asked by Milan if she could name a boundary pushing self-published erotic romance author, Peterson listed  Bella Andre, H.M Ward, Jasinda Wilder, and Liliana Hart, none of whom are considered erotic romance authors.

Second, no one in the conversation suggested that the book Konrath and Peterson wrote isn’t welcome in the genre, or that they’re not allowed to write in the genre. People were upset by the statement Konrath made, that a book like his couldn’t have been written ten years ago.

The cherry on top of the condescension sundae is when Konrath seems to imply that the ire directed toward him by erotic romance authors is one of financial envy. The concern was never that this book would sell so incredibly well that all of us would be out here wailing and gnashing our teeth in seething want of the same professional success. The concern was that Konrath had made the statement that a book like his couldn’t have been written (again, not published, not self-published, not successfully marketed, but simply could not have been written) ten years ago, because the “mindset” didn’t exist. And when faced with the overwhelming evidence that yes, the erotic romance “mindset” existed prior to the time he had the idea to make money off it, he chose to repeatedly ignore both the proof of that and his own words. He blatantly refuses to admit that the “mindset” that creates feminist friendly, kinky books existed prior to the time he believes it did.

For some bizarro reason, some ER writers think I’m disrespecting them by not acknowledging them, and that I have no business writing in this genre.

Seriously? You sound like whiny fans who are mad that the band they discovered in high school now sells out arenas.

Gosh. I don’t know why anyone would find that insulting at all.

DON’T DO THIS EVER (an advice column for writers): “I’m not special enough!” edition

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This installment may be shorter and more blunt (blunter? That doesn’t sound right) than usual, but I’m rocking a 101 degree fever and I don’t have the strength to exercise what little tact I have, or to write a long blog post.

Ayelet Waldman went on a twitter rampage when her novel, Love and Treasure, was not selected for the New York Times list of the one hundred notable books of 2014. The Daily Dot has the tweets here, in which she she says “Fuck the fucking NY times,” who reviewed the book positively, and demands that her followers to pre-order the paperback version to make her feel better.

I had never heard of Ayelet Waldman before this incident. To be honest, I wouldn’t have heard of her even if her novel had been deemed “notable.” Because I don’t read literary fiction, or at least, not much literary fiction. I’m a memoirs and genre fiction girl, and I don’t often see those types of books praised as “notable.” I’m sure there are plenty of people who use the notable books list to inform their reading choices, but if those readers care enough about fiction, they will seek out books that aren’t on that list, too.

Too many authors see themselves as competing for readers. I’ve never met a reader who only bought one book their entire lives. There’s a thing I hear repeated often, that just because a reader buys another author’s book, that doesn’t mean they won’t by your book. There is a phenomenon wherein certain authors’ new releases will absolutely sink every other release in their genre around their publication date; I don’t know why that happens, but it totally sucks. But that doesn’t mean something unfair is happening to you.

Every author feels like their book is better than everyone else’s book, that we deserve to sell more, that we deserve special treatment from publishers, that we should be critically praised. We can’t control those things, and we certainly can’t change them by throwing a tantrum. I get it, complaining is tempting; I’ve done it myself in weaker moments, albeit not on the same scale as some. But we can make a choice to accept what we have and move on, or destroy ourselves with unhappiness.

I choose the first one. I will probably never make the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, I’m pretty sure I won’t make the USA Today list again, either. I’m not going to win awards, I’m not going to have world-wide buzz. If it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to. My biggest books are likely behind me, but you know what? I have a niche readership who appreciate the books I have out there, and I’m able to make a living from my writing (thank you, by the way). That’s good enough.

It should be good enough for everyone else, too. And if it’s not, they’re tools.

DO NOT DO THIS EVER: “Self-Destructive Special” Edition

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The following is a that Bronwyn Green and I co-authored and presented to the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group, and we thought we’d make it available to everyone by posting it simultaneously. So if you’re looking to get some advice about common self-defeating behaviors for authors, read on after the jump.

DON’T DO THIS, EVER (An advice column for writers): Dudley Dursley edition

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Believe it or not, one of the questions I’m most often asked by people who don’t already know that I know absolutely nothing is, “Do you have you any advice for someone who wants to be/is a writer?” I’m the worst person to ask. Everything I have in my writing career, I got by falling into it ass backwards. Sure, I’ve worked hard for a long time, but to be honest, most of that work has been pointed firmly in the wrong direction. Then fate or some cosmic entity sees me struggling like a wind-up toy in a corner, and it’s like, “Awww. That’s really sad for her. You know what? Let’s just turn her around.” Something just happens, and I’ve arrived at some goal or achievement I feel I’ve done very little to earn. So, I don’t generally have any advice as to how to be a successful writer. Also, I have very little social media savvy. I talked about cutting my vulva with a pair of scissors on my twitter feed last week (@Jenny_Trout, in case you want in on all the vulva-maiming action).

I am a gossipy little streak of nonsense, though, so allow me to use someone else’s drama to craft some advice for you. Or, like Willam Belli says, “I’m going to teach you how to be better, through the faults of others.”

An author wasn’t happy the week that her latest book released:

chelsea cain 1


Writers, and I’m gonna be real here, especially female writers, have a really rough time balancing work and family pressures. I know that even though I’m the primary income in my household, my job is the one that’s most flexible and doesn’t require me to leave the house, so it’s always going to fall to me to make dinner, keep things straight for school, do the bills, do the phone calls, let the dogs out, give the kids baths, etc. It’s not that my husband is just too big and manly to help out, but he works a weird schedule and his job is pretty stressful, too. He’s always tired, he’s always asleep when the rest of the world is going on, so it falls to the person who is conscious (mostly) to do a lot of this stuff. And yes, the pressure is overwhelming when you’re sitting there, cooking a grilled cheese, and you know that you have a ton of work waiting for you in the next room, but your co-parent can’t exactly tell his job, “Hey, I’m going to need to leave for an hour so I can go make my kids’ dinner because my wife needs a solid eight hours to work.” It sucks so, so much to work from home, in this aspect.

So, I understand Author’s frustration at having to leave a sick kid to go on a book tour. I missed my kids so much on a two-day tour that my husband had to drive to Columbus, OH to get me, because I was a wreck. I know it must have sucked to go to a huge, mentally and emotionally draining expo when she wasn’t a hundred percent. That must have really sucked, and I know, believe me, I know, what it feels like when you work hard on something and it doesn’t do as well as you’d like it to (See also: Jenny’s entire career, 2009 to 2012). But there are a couple different reasons why authors cannot put out a message like this.

One of those reasons is that, wow. It sounds extremely entitled, doesn’t it? I’m not the only blogger to think so. In fact, I found out about this whole kerfuffle from Tez Miller’s blog. I’m linking because I don’t want you guys to think I’m straight up stealing her post when I now go on to say basically every single thing she already said. The reason our opinions are going to line up so neatly is because, well. Common sense.

The first mistake Author made was announcing that her book didn’t achieve list placement. Just a heads up: you don’t ever have to tell anyone how your book is performing. Ever. None of her readers would have noticed the book didn’t place, unless they’re particularly interested in the list placement of every author they’ve read. In fact, the first time you make a list, you get to keep saying, “Blabbity Blah Bestselling Author” for the rest of your career from the very first time you get placement, and pretty much everyone keeps on assuming all your books are bestsellers because of that. Seriously, I’m “USA Today Bestselling Author” Jenny Trout, because one book that came out in 2006 made the list one week and then dropped off and nothing of mine ever sold that well again. You just throw the title around and everyone assumes things are fine. The only people who notice that you’re not making a list is your publisher, your agent, and any of your particularly dedicated adversaries. But if you feel like being real about how a book is doing, you can. Nobody’s stopping you. Just know that you don’t have to.

If you are going to say something about your book not selling well, you might want to go with, “I’m disappointed that this book isn’t doing better, because I was really enthusiastic about it. Oh well, I hope everyone who’s reading it enjoys it!” I have heard from some readers that this kind of thing makes them uncomfortable; I’ll often refer to my fantasy series as “the one nobody read,” and I suppose that can come off a little ungrateful. After all, what about the people who did read it? Are they chopped liver? On the other hand, as someone who thrives on thinking I’ve got access to something secret, I love hearing that I’m a part of something obscure, so I guess it could go either way.

But what Author does here isn’t just, “Oh, my book isn’t performing the way I’d like it to.” She blames her readers for not pre-ordering. She can’t “count” on her loyal readers to boost her numbers and assure list placement anymore, and that’s why she’s disheartened with writing. That seems unfair, and that was her second mistake.  The people Author has a real issue with here are the people who aren’t buying her book. So why shit on the people who did buy it, by accusing them of not delivering on the promise the author assumed the readers have made? Why tell “core fans” that they’ve let you down, instead of saying, “Hey, thanks for buying and enjoying my latest book?”

The third mistake Author made here was to mention that all of her previous thrillers had made the NYT list. As in… none of her thrillers had ever not become New York Times Bestsellers. It is at this point, dear readers, that the patience of pretty much any author would wear thin. Making the New York Times Bestseller list is a dream of every novelist. If they say it isn’t, they’re lying. Everyone who says, “I don’t really care about list placement,” is going to be on the phone with every member of their extended family, their graduating class, and their dentist’s office staff within minutes of hearing that they placed on the list. People go their entire careers without ever getting close to the NYT. It is the very definition of “brass ring” for genre fiction authors. If the worst thing happening in your career is one of your books not making the New York Times Bestsellers list when all the ones before it did, you might wanna reframe your complaint. This comes off a little like Dudley Dursley counting his birthday presents. Or, as one twitter user put it, “But I ALWAYS win first place!”

She goes on to say that those thrillers that did make the NYT “didn’t sell gangbusters.” But they made the New York Times bestseller list. Here’s another tip: keep your career in perspective. You’re always going to feel like you’re not doing well enough, or that you could be selling better. That’s called insecurity, and if you’re a writer, well, congratulations, you have a wealth of it. If your books are becoming New York Times bestsellers, they’re selling well. Unless every other book under you on that list had extremely bad sales all at once, trust me. Your book is selling just fine.

The last tip I want to impart here is, don’t threaten to withhold from your readers. Whether Author intended to or not, she implied that she wouldn’t continue writing her series unless her fan base pre-ordered and got her on a list. And that’s crappy. It’s crappy when an author doesn’t finish a series, anyway–and I should know; I have two unfinished series out there, mea culpa–but it’s extra super crappy when an author claims their bestselling series is in danger because readers aren’t doing enough to directly benefit the author’s wallet.

So, if you’re a writer, or plan on being one, there’s some advice. Do not blast your readers on social media for getting you thirty-six presents this year instead of thirty-seven. And if you do… avoid zoos.