Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time, Consideration, and Thought

Technology makes everything easier and the Internet makes everything happen faster. What more could we want? How about people willing to stand up for what they believe is right?

A writer friend recently dumped her Kindle review site because of "threats of litigation." That's Net speak for whiny authors who demanded five-star reviews for their books in the name of solidarity and did not get what they wanted. The authors threatened to sue over the reviews and the website owner shut the site down, and it all happened in the space of a couple of days. In the old days, before electronic and online submissions, email at the speed of the ISP, and tantrums speed by electrons and fueled by tech-savvy self-publishing, such actions would have taken weeks, and most likely months. Now it all happens at the touch of a button.

The level of professionalism visible on the world wide web is pretty low right now. Writers who gain sudden fame and sell millions of dollars of ebooks are celebrities and every wannabe writer wants to emulate them. The wannabes seldom look -- or read -- beyond the dollar signs and have no clue what it takes for a book to sell. As far as they are concerned, it's all about Amazon, B&N, and other website review ratings, and those ratings, while not actually for sale, are available for the right kind of coercive tactics. Litigation is a favorite.

"I'll sue you and have your website taken down if you don't give me a great review."

My response? Write a better book. Brush up your grammar, punctuation, and spelling and make sure your book is as good as possible before you hit the button and put it out on the web. If you're not willing to do the work, don't expect a great review.

Even if a writer is willing to do the work, there is no guarantee a reviewer will like and highly rate the work. It just doesn't work that way. Some readers will love the work, some will hate it, and most will fall somewhere in between, but the last thing you want to do is whine about the review and threaten the reviewer and website manager/owner with litigation. It never works out well -- except in this case where the website owner folded.

Jennifer Brozek, editor of The Edge of Propinquity shared an email exchange with a wanabe writer who questioned whether or not she had read his submission because it took only 30 minutes. Most professionals would be thrilled by that kind of turnaround, but the wannabe writer wasn't thrilled. His turnaround came with a rejection. An email discussion ensued. Jennifer posted the results in an early post and the email exchange that resulted in the hate mail. Several other editors who read Jennifer's LiveJournal posts asked for the wannabe writer's name and email address. They don't want to contact him; they want to avoid him. And that, dear reader, is how business is done in the publishing world. I've brought the brouhaha to you the speed of ISP guided electrons.

Jennifer will not be closing down the website, nor will she shut down the magazine, even if the wannabe writer threatens to sue. Should he decide to sue, he will waste his time and money and the judge (if it gets that far) will throw out the case as frivolous. You cannot litigate or force someone to write a good review and you cannot force them not to publish a bad review. You can only roll with the punches, and they will come left, right, and center, and sometimes a rabbit punch to the kidneys on occasion. It's the nature of dealing with people, and wouldn't the world be a much nicer place without people mucking it all up?

In the old days, editors knew how to deal with tantrums and wanabe writer pique. They ignored them.

Considering the amount of work that goes into putting a magazine out every month, online or in print, there's not enough time to coddle whiners and hissy fit throwing wannabes. Next!

I've had my share of negative reviews, and got another one this morning, but that is all part of the process. There were no negative comments about grammar, punctuation, formatting, or spelling, just that the reader didn't get the point of the book. A woman is abandoned in New Orleans, left with $50, and no way home. She is homeless for six weeks, mistaken for a notorious prostitute, and spends the next six weeks in jail, except she doesn't know how long she is going to be in jail. Over the ensuing weeks, she changes from a woman fearful of her surroundings and the other inmates, women she views as shadowy and monstrous, to someone who is able to see the women as not so very different from herself, women who have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves in whatever way they could manage. When she gets out of jail and goes back to her friends, she is glad to be back, but she is also changed. That is the point of the book, seeing the women through her middle class background and prejudices. Some people won't get it, but most people do.

Luckily, some of the readers who did get the point were from New Orleans or had worked in the women's prison system. Those are the reviews to treasure. The others are the opinions of people I was not able to reach, and that's all right. No one reaches everyone. If they did, we would have one person in Congress and one president and everyone would agree who it was to be. We'd also have one religion, one monetary system, one type of government, and no wars. Nice world if you can get it, but not practical and not possible.

In the end, all that matters is that everyone is done with careful consideration and thought. The rest, those that fail to think or consider anything before they punch the button and give virtual life to their creations, do not matter in the grand scheme of things. They are the low bar, the lower end of the Bell curve, the lowest common denominator, and exist only to show what should not and cannot be done. The parts of the curve that have weight are the vast majority in the middle and the rest that rise like cream to the top.

The trick is to rise with the cream, and that takes time and work, something not found among whiners, wannabes, and litigious jerks believing they can force their way to the top through intimidation and threats. Best thing to do is ignore them, like sand fleas, mosquitoes, flies, and other annoying pests. Don't give in. Hold the line. Ignore the screaming, kicking, red-face child on the floor. He'll eventually get tired and quit.

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