Sunday, August 31, 2014

Disillusioned - The Ugly Side of Authors

In recent days, I've guest blogged about how to write a good-but-still-honest book review - and I talked a great deal about my feelings on the recent fuss over "review bullying", and whether or not you might be what I call a "pansy author". And then, just to be clear, I talked about what really constitutes actual "bullying" and what's really more of a bad review that a pansy author couldn't take.

And then, I just took some time off to reflect and think on what's been said - and what hasn't been said.

And you know what's sad? While I was reflecting on the sadness of bully reviewers (because they do exist) and the really really sadness of pansy authors, I had several different conversations with fellow authors who are currently undergoing personal attacks from other authors.

You know, when I first published To Love a Selkie, I met authors and bloggers aplenty, some of whom I'm still friendly with, others who were part of my life for a short time and are mostly gone now. But I've been an author now for one year, eight months, and thirteen days, and in that time, I've seen more ugliness than any of us would care to admit.

There's an element of competitiveness in writing, especially if you do it for a living, and there's no getting around that. We're all trying to make a living, and we all dream - at least a little bit - of hitting that top spot and riding the wave of fame for a little while. There's no escaping that, no getting around it. And there can only be one person in the number one spot at a time. There's only room for one "best".

But did you know that under the Brady Bunch image that is put on by the indie community, there is a truly ugly undercurrent? There are authors out there who beg for reviews, and then attack their reviewers as "bullies" if they don't say what they were expected to say. There are authors out there who attack each other's fans because they read the wrong genres (contemporary romance readers are "boring" or "prudes", erotica readers are "dirty" or "gross", YA readers are "immature" - it goes on and on), or they liked (or disliked) the wrong characters.

There are authors out there who attack each other as authors, because we differ in political views, views on gun laws, gay/racial/economic equality. And that's not even the worst of it.

THEY SABOTAGE EACH OTHER, TOO, WITH NO SHAME.

AND I'M DISILLUSIONED.

There are authors out there who send their fans and street teams to leave bad reviews on other authors' books, because if they can keep other authors down, maybe they can feel elevated for a while, or keep their spot on top for a little longer. There are authors out there who, after having a falling-out or disagreement with another author, will actually post about it, sharing all the details of their side of the story with the public, in order to be sure they look "good" and the other author looks "bad." All to make sure they get closer to the top faster, all in competition.

AND I'M DISILLUSIONED.

In the last twenty-and-a-half months, I've seen four authors go down, three of whom were really incredibly talented, simply because they couldn't take the competitive pressure from their peers. Because they lost the beloved illusion of the all-welcoming Indie family and got caught up in the cutthroat competition for the top spot. Because people they had once counted as peers, as friends, ganged up with the crowd and acted to take them down. Because their hearts were trampled in the stampede. Some of them were willing to tell me their stories. One gave me names - in trust - which I could honestly admit that I'd heard before, in dark whispers in the corners of the internet. But most? Most keep those names to themselves, out of honor, out of professionalism and integrity, out of a desire not to stoop to gossip and name-calling and shit slinging.

AND I'M DISILLUSIONED.

I mean, look - I love my books, I love my characters, and I love writing. And I'll write until the words in my spirit have dried up and gone forever (no danger of that, if the length of this post indicates anything), but I will confess - I'm disillusioned. And I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that one of my favorite bloggers no longer speaks to me at all because I read a book for an author friend of hers and I didn't like it as much as she wanted me to. I'm disappointed because I've had way too little conversations about author "fan-girling" and way too many conversations about author "mean-girling". I'm disappointed that suddenly it's all about the hottest models and the horniest book covers, and many of us have completely forgotten about the stories within. I'm disappointed that most of those stories will never shine the way the author wanted them too, because they aren't polished, or because we're all too caught up in the drama to share the good books we've read, or too scared to review them because one wrong word written in a review, one wrong name whispered quietly to a friend you don't know will turn on you next week, can just end it all before you've even begun.

When I walked into the Indie world in December 2012, shy and fragile and terrified, I was welcomed as a new friend, a new member of a family, a community of creative people just like me. Now, as I walk into September 2014, I'm a little harder, and maybe just a little jaded. And I'm glad I didn't get as sucked into the whirl as some others have, because my spirit is still intact. Because I can still write, though it's impossibly slow going these days.

Because as disillusioned as I am with the Indie community, I still have something valuable to give, and because as long as I'm in the game, I know that at least one of us isn't going to show their ugly side.

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