A few weeks back I bitched about authors who were making a practice of creating profiles under fake names on book review sites, giving themselves a bunch of 5 snowflake reviews, and tearing into other authors they perceived as competition.
It offended me then.
And in my own foul-mouthed way, I explained why it offended me. I also knew that my initial rage, though profanely succinct, was only the top of a volcano with more substantial heft somewhere below sea level. (Jesus, can’t I ever express anything in simple, non-mixed metaphor terms?)
Anyway, I’ve been thinking.
I don’t view publishing as a zero sum game. Either wrongly or rightly, I don’t think that a sale of a book published by another press means one less sale towards Tyrus Books’ bottom line. In fact, I’ve got this crazy ass theory that if the book purchased from somebody else is good, somewhere there is a happy reader who will be looking to address his or her book fix in the future. Maybe that’s when the reader selects something from our catalog. Maybe not. The most important thing? The reader is coming back for more books.
As such, I believe it’s important to promote reading and books. I feel blessed to exist in a community of publishers, readers, and authors that talk about books with genuine enthusiasm, recommending books that mean something to them, most of which have not visited anywhere near the NYT Bestseller list, because they love them.
Chris Holm, a dude I think I met at last year’s Bouchercon, but that I definitely know from Twitter, had a new book (The Wrong Goodbye) come out from Angry Robot— a publisher that some market analyst with a nice tie and stylish glasses would call our “competition.” Lots of folks I respect, like Elizabeth White, Keith Rawson, Steve Weddle, and others were talking about The Wrong Goodbye on the social media. It was real buzz, as opposed to the, “we’re going to show you this ad forty times today, and by the end you’re going to be mildly curious about this movie,” buzz that large marketing departments hope will generate conversation.
Caught up in the spirit, I offered to buy electronic copies of The Wrong Goodbye for the first two people to respond. I received the two responses in seconds. Then, the totally awesome @lolosletters made the same offer.
Certainly, our market analyst would protest, Ronald McDonald does not stand around Burger King buying people free hamburgers.
I am not Ronald McDonald.
We are not serving mass produced hamburgers. We cannot advertise billions sold.
I am ok with that.
But I am committed to feeding the hunger of others. In this case, it’s a matter of books and story. In this realm Angry Robot, Soho Press, Midnight Ink, and others have proven themselves to be farmers of good taste and good produce. I want to support them, because I am more like them than not like them, and I know that there is room for all of us in a thriving market. And I feel better about them, knowing they aren’t involved with genetic modification of food in a battle of commodity and profit over touchy feely things like taste and not going to make me long-term sick.
Writing fake reviews, bad mouthing others, and whatever other shenanigans “expert book promoters” encourage or fail to speak out against, are the cynical tactics of folks who have taken a short term, kill or be killed approach to books. To…yes, I’ll say it…art.
If you’ll grant me this one more indulgence, I’d tell you that this art, this business of connecting the universe through words and stories, both fiction and non-fiction, letting readers know that they are part of something bigger than any one of us is sacred to me. There. I said it. I mean it with all sincerity.
That, then, is why schoolyard antics on review sites are offensive to me.
It is also why I will give my time, energy, and cash to making sure that wherever there is a reader looking for good books, that reader will be able to find them, whether they be from Tyrus Books or from somebody else who takes the mission as serious as I do.
Preach mode, off.