Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Obstinate Author

In writing just as in any other professional field there is a sense of business etiquette.

While the digital revolution has made it easier for authors to find their work in publication I can't help but wonder if that long battle to publication is what instills a sense of writing maturity. Is it the mountains of rejection letters? The months of revisions? The cold editors that shred your work? Or is it the critique partners that help you understand you're not perfect and help you move forward?

In the drive for publication writers fight a constant uphill battle to see their work in print and ultimately fight for it to succeed. If a writer is ever to succeed they need to have a dogged determination and obstinate nature. When the world is raining down problems and roadblocks at every turn, it's that nature that allows them to persevere. Unfortunately, that determination may also compromise their ability for their works to succeed if they do not know how to separate their nature from their work.

What has spurred this deviation from the writing analysis was actually a post I discovered from Smart Bitches. An author that used smashwords to reach publication did not find a kind review from BigAl's Books and Pals. While many authors hope for the best when placing the work before a reviewer every writer knows there will be praise and there will be pain. There's no getting around it. Not everyone in the universe has the same taste. The best a writer can hope for is that the praise outweighs the bad reviews. Unfortunately this author could not separate herself from the review. This is an excerpt from her comment on the review:

The book is out there doing well without your comments. My first book is great! and I intend to promote now without your ball. Face it AL, you did a booboo, and you can't correct it!

I know its you AL talking, stop hiding and stand up and be a man!

I want this review removed or its just considered abuse.

Hmm never did get involved in your forum for reasons, now I know why.

Writers are invested in their all of their creations. After spending countless hours translating thoughts into words, virtually living in the world of their dreams it can be jarring to have others criticize that world. If you've had a long battle then you've already experienced the criticisms. Essentially you've hardened yourself against such things.

Once a writer has assumed their platform they have to accept that all of their actions will be visible to both the publishing community and to their readers. A few callous words can easily render a hard-built platform to rubble.

The digital revolution may be re-shaping the publishing world but it is also letting the world make the decisions about the quality of both of writing and of authors. 


Michele Shaw said...

Phillip, I read that whole post you're referring to, and it was MIND BLOWING. Wow, like a crash course in what NOT to do. We have to take the good with the bad. That's part of the deal. We may not like the bad, but there is no way around it. If you can't be a professional, time to get out, I say. It's crazy how the whole story went viral so quickly as well. Proof that there's no taking it back once it's on the net!

Natalie C. Markey said...

I've always thought that even in the more casual-feeling world of Twitter and other social networks, where professional colleagues seem to blur with friends, it is up to the writer to remain professional. That's not say that you can put personal stuff out there and make friends, I have made friends but some people tend to disconnect parts of the Web from their professional career. In this case, it will be this author's follow up comment that will hurt her career far more than the review. I believe that people still pay attention to etiquette. I hope people who see this post understand just how quick you can make a fool of yourself by hitting a send button. Hopefully, the good that came from this will be the reminder that we are professionals. Act like a professional or except to not be treated as one.

Sorry for my rant,

LemonyTrystan said...

The oddest thing about this is that essentially it wasn't a bad review. Sure, she got dinged for grammar, but he also stated that the story was engrossing. Its easier to change sentence structure than it is to change horrible writing.
I think that this incident doesn't just highlight the need to think before hitting send, but also the importance of having someone to proofread your work, and not be afraid to really point out the parts that aren't working. I feel that a lot of people find editors who are friends, or people who tell them their work is great when its absolute junk. That does a disservice to everyone

Jill Kemerer said...

I read a recap of her hissy fit yesterday. Speechless. Really, I am, and that doesn't happen often!

Thank you for this honest, extremely thoughtful post. Writers need to be professional, and you stated it well.

PW.Creighton said...

Michele, thanks for the comment and yeah, it's certainly mind-blowing. It's not the first time something like this has happened but I think it's the first time it's been over such a small matter. My bigger concern is does this mean easier publishing means less matured writers?

Natalie, you're always welcome to rant. I love hearing other perspectives and giving everyone a place to voice their opinion. I think you're right about it being a reminder to writers but I'm not sure immature writers will see the same thing. Those that have endured will understand, those that have not will likely side with the author and not understand. Here's hoping.

Kate, thanks for the comment. You're quite right. The most peculiar thing here is that the review wasn't even that bad. Even worse, the review didn't have that large of an audience either. Sometimes editors miss things, critique partners are generally friends. It's more of learning to know when a work is actually complete. Mostly you just have to accept criticisms. Nothing will ever be flawless be it a diamond, painting or any other work of art especially in writing.

Jill, I hear you. Sometimes people just astound you. As I said above, I'm concerned that if publishing becomes something simple without the hardships to mature a writer we might just end up with more immature writers.

Jami Gold said...

Interesting question about whether or not the ease of publishing creates more immature writers. I think that's certainly a possibility. Who knows if some of these meltdown authors had stormed out of critique groups previously with the "you just don't get my work" defense.

Thanks for the thoughtful look at the need for professionalism. I knew you wouldn't be one of those just adding to the mob attack. :)

PW.Creighton said...

Jami, thanks for the vote of confidence and the comment. When an author has a platform it's not just to talk to readers or pitch to agents. Today's platforms will also dictate the quality both of author and their work. I guess it's even more incentive to pay attention to what you say around the net.

Amber said...

You definitely said it with eloquence, Phillip. I am new, but I am proud to say my opinion falls in line with you and the others above. I believe she should not have responded. I think it would be absurd to think that you would only get good reviews and not expect any amount of criticism, whether it's constructive or otherwise. Isn't this how we improve, as well? Maybe not from a book review solely, however it could be used in a helpful way. I do wonder if she had ever sought traditional publication.

The comments to the review seemed to go on and on. Many people had something to chime in with apparently. In my writers loop there was much talk of career suicide. Look at how long it takes to become successful in this industry for most, and how quickly it can be damaged.

A humbling prospect alone.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I agree with you. The road to publication does take a writer through a type of refiner's fire. The best thing an author can do is appreciate that the reviewer read their book, thank them for the time spent and then move on. No sense fixating on something you can do nothing about. Great post.

PW.Creighton said...

Thanks Amber, it can be such a struggle to create a strong writing platform we have to think of how what we say and do affect that platform. While she has certainly probably received a spike in sales and attention but the entire literary community have sort of pointed at her as an example of what not to do. Kind of the scarlet letter for the publishing community.

Kathi, thanks for the comment. Refiner's Fire. I like that term. Sometimes I think it's more of a kiln than anything. It's the maturity of the writer that dictates reactions. You can write the worst book in the world by critic's standards but if you're polite and professional they will remember that and tell everyone. It pays to be the mature, 'nice guy' in publishing.

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