Thursday, April 02, 2009

I think about stuff

Okay, lots of stuff to cover and get through and all of that.

First, the other day I cam across this cool blog/site called Best Fantasy Another site had a link to this post about ARCs and reviews that I thought was really interesting.

Most of my thoughts on the subject are covered in my comment, which is the fifth comment down:

I think the disconnect comes from something I’ve seen a lot, which is the idea that reviews are written for the gratification of authors, or solely in order to provide them with pretty shiny quotes they can put on their websites and blogs. But they’re not. Reviews are for readers, plain and simple.

And more than that, reviews don’t sell books if the books aren’t readily avilable either. I might see an enthusiastic review somewhere. I might then jot down the title of the book and look for it on Amazon or next time I go to the bookstore. But when I do those things, I’m looking for something to read THEN. If the bookstore doesn’t have it I’ll grab something else. If Amazon or B& or Borders or whatever is going to have to order it for me and I’ll have to wait three weeks or six weeks for it, I might very well not buy it then either, especially if I have the money in hand and don’t know if I will when the book ships and I’m charged for it. Or heck, I don’t know I’ll get the book at all.

A really, really stellar review for a book that speaks to a very specific interest of mine might inspire me to go the extra mile. But in general, if the book isn’t readily available, I’ll buy something else. Reviews are for readers, to help them choose books at the store. While it’s always fun to get a shiny quote, and it’s always nice to see small-press books get some attention and reviews, the fact remains that if the book isn’t available there’s little point.

See, here's the thing. I'm pretty sure that the good reviews Personal Demons got contributed directly to the nice level of sales the book had; certainly it sold more than I'd expected it would. But that's also because those reviews were backed up by the book being available in stores. The book had a professional (if small) publisher, with professional distribution that got it on the shelves. So when people read one of those nice reviews, they could go to the store and buy the book. In that sense the reviews were extremely helpful.

But they were also legitimate reviews. Well-written reviews, which stated what the reviewer liked or did not like. Those ego-stroke reviews you see vanity press authors giving each other in a big, sloppy, "This book is the most wonderful thing ever, it totally swept me away and I couldn't put it down" circle-jerk? Useless. You think readers don't see through those things? Of course they do. Readers by definition are not stupid; they read.

But I do seem to see more and more the attitude the Best Fantasy Books gentleman describes: entitlement. I sent you a free book, so you owe me a review. More than that, you owe me a good review. If you read any of the review blogs or websites you'll see this more and more; reviewers being harrassed by authors, called names, yelled at, argued with, all because they either did not review or did not like the book in question.

This is an unprofessional attitude, frankly. Nobody owes you shit.

Which brings me to Agentfail.

Here's what bugs me about things like Agentfail. It's a great idea. It could be a really useful and informative discussion. Instead, it ends up becoming much like the last discussion the lovely BookEnds ladies (I really like them, and their blog; I had occasion to deal with Ms. Faust back when I was querying Personal Demons and was left with nothing but positive impressions); a gang of unagented writers complaining--raging--about the query process, with such viciousness it makes the stomach churn.

And in doing so they obscure the legitimate points that have been or might be made. The "No response=no" policy, for example. I don't have a problem with it. I never have. I certainly don't understand why it inspires such fury in people, or why they feel entitled to a response from people they don't know. If I send JK Rowling a fan letter, I don't expect that she's going to respond to me. Just like if I send the guy who lives two streets over a letter asking if he'd like to meet for a drink, I don't expect him to respond to me. Because neither of them owe me shit. Why would you not only expect that a total stranger go out of his or her way to speak to you, but then get angry because they don't use your name and include a few lines about how special you are?

Yes, I know the agent/querier situation is different. It's a potential business relationship. Okay, then. Here's an example. When we were planning our wedding I bought a box of chocolates. The company who made the chocolates was a small company that apparently does custom work as well. I emailed them and asked if they would be interested in making chocolates for my wedding. They never replied.

Oh, well.

I didn't feel the need to burn them at the stake. I didn't feel the need to start spreading their name all over the internet because how dare they IGNORE me when I sent them an unsolicited email for a job which did not interest them.

Here's the thing, guys, and I know it might be hard to believe but it's true. When your project is sellable, agents will respond. It really is that simple, and I knew that two or three years ago, long before I started seriously querying. If you're not getting replies, it's because nobody's interested, and while that's tough to deal with it is the simple truth.

That isn't to say I approve of "no reply=no" as a policy, or rather, I don't have a problem with it but do think agents who have that policy should set up an auto-responder for their email so the querier knows the thing was received. It's not hard and it saves everyone a lot of trouble.

But again, that reasonable request--have an auto-responder--gets lost under piles and piles of "You're not giving me feedback/you're not using my name/you're not calling me up to say hello/how dare you ask me to write your name on the query and then send me a form reply," comments, couched in combative and abusive language.

I realize I look at this from a different perspective now. Quite frankly, I want my agent reading the stuff I send him and working on deals for me, rather than spending extra time giving feedback to people he doesn't represent. Every minute he spends on that is a minute during which he could be doing something for me. Sorry, but it's true. I (and all his other clients) pay him 15% to work for me, to read my submissions and work on them, to vet my contracts, to use his connections on my behalf.

You, on the other hand, do not pay him a dime to query him. Which means, to put it bluntly, I'm paying his salary during the time in which he's reading and responding to your queries.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind this. I don't even think of it this way; I'm just using this as an example of how my view of it is different now, and why agents handle queries the way they do (because it's first and foremost in their mind, as well, or at least it should be; clients should be the priority). I don't begrudge the time it takes for him to handle his queries--or do things for his other clients--and I don't know a single writer who does. But again, I never thought I was entitled to anything from an agent. I never thought I deserved feedback (although again, I agree that a personalized response on requested materials--at least on fulls requested after partials--would be nice).

My point isn't that writers don't have the right to complain or be upset or hate the way things work or be irritated or have opinions. My point is that when the opportunity comes up to discuss issues in which agents could handle things differently or better, the anger doesn't do anyone any good. The sheer hatred permeating that thread, leaking from my laptop screen in a choking mist...does nothing to make the points expressed look better or more valid. It just makes it easier to dismiss all of the comments and complaints as the frustrated rantings of a mob of wannabes.

And it's depressing.

Okay. Moving on. Yes, we leave here next week; the movers are coming on Monday. My Monday post will be a short one; I'm going to open the blog to book recommendations from all of you, and I'm hoping that you'll all have a great discussion while I'm away, so please, link to the post, tell your pals, whatever you want to do. (Or don't, in which case I'll just feel unpopular and unloved because nobody's commenting on my thread.)

I'm not sure what my internet access will be. I will try. Later today or tomorrow I'm going to try and download Twitberry (or Tweetberry, whichever it is; I have it written down somewhere) so I can Tweet from my phone. So if that works, you'll still be able to follow me on Twitter.

I am able to update my Facebook page from the phone already, so if I don't manage to stop in here, and you're not on Twitter or whatever, you can check in there if you like.

(BTW, yes, I am fully aware that your lives will move on exactly as before while I'm away from the internet, and that it's not like my absence--or at the very least, very sporadic presence--for the next month or so is going to cause a huge gaping hole in the internet from which no one will recover until I return. :-) But A) it makes me feel better to list this stuff, as I then feel as if I have some control over the move and all the Big Scary Changes; and B) some of those who follow me or keep up with me in various places online are real-life friends or family members who might reasonably be expected to want to keep tabs on me and make sure I'm safe and sound.)

Turned in the final draft--or rather, my final draft--of the third Downside book yesterday. Final word count: 105,761. New title (yes, another one): GHOST BOUND.

We're currently looking for a new title for the second book; we want to change the title structure up a bit with the second book rather than doing it suddenly with the third. Still want the word GHOST in there if possible. I know you guys don't know much about the story or characters, and I'm not going to tell you because that would be a big old spoiler, but make some suggestions anyway, huh? Maybe it will spark something, who knows.

Goodness this is a long post! And I could have sworn I had something else to talk about too, but I don't remember it.


BernardL said...

I pray your move goes without a hitch. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I've certainly found that availablity issue to be true. even good reviews of my work has not always helped because the books aren't on the shelves typically at the big stores.

Angie said...

Definitely agree about reviews and entitlement. I love seeing people say nice things about my stories, but that's really not the primary purpose of reviews. [nod]

I entered one of those round-robin type contests a while back, where some number of writers each had a rafflish thing on their blog, with links to the other blogs, and everyone gave away a book. I'd never heard of most of the writers, but I bopped around and entered anyway. I actually won one, which was nice. But then I get the package and the writers's publicist sent me two books instead of the promised one (which was really nice of her) but then said something like, "Looking forward to reading your blog entry about my writer's novel!" and I was all, wait, what? That wasn't part of the deal, nowhere in the contest info did it say any kind of post about the book was asked or required. They could've gone to my blog and seen that I don't review the books I read, and even though this contest was long before I posted on the subject and explained why I don't, it was still pretty obvious to anyone browsing my archive that I just don't.

So I didn't. Which was probably just as well, because I started the bonus book (an anthology) and didn't care for it, and never have gotten around to the novel. I can guarantee neither the writer nor her publicist would've like what I would've said about her anthology story, though.

The expectation that of course I'd be blogging about the book was a real turn-off, though -- incredibly presumptuous, manipulative, and yes, entitled. Not a good way to get positive copy IMO.