It’s like a log ride–with books!

We’re taking a short break from the Stalwart Writer series. Kate’ll be back next week to talk about endings. Until then…

It’s been a rough year in the publishing world. I was going to list out the scandals and strange happenings that have marked 2014, but honestly I think it’d take way too much time. From bloggers behaving badly, to authors behaving badly. Amazon, and Hatchete, and Penguin. 2014 has been a strange beast.

A friend forwarded me a blog post–I started to call it an article, but to me there’s a very real difference between blog posts and articles–from Dear Author the other day. Basically, it was a response to Kathleen Hale’s despicable behavior outlined so ‘charmingly’ in The Guardian. Now it’s not really a surprise, if you’ve been reading my posts on this blog or any other, that I very rarely pick one side or the other in a debate. It’s not even some half-hearted attempt to be the peacemaker. It’s more an honest internal representation of people’s crappy behavior having consequences, and those consequences being unjustly harsh not negating the fact their original behavior was crappy.

The general response to Kathleen Hale’s Guardian fiasco, specifically from book bloggers, has been abject horror that an author thought it was okay to stalk a reviewer because of a bad review. And I don’t disagree with that. There is utterly no part of Hale’s behavior I agree with, except maybe her initial unwillingness to walk away from the situation because everyone told her the reviewers would ruin her if she responded.

I’m the sort of person who digs my heels in, in situations like that too. I’d like to think I’d keep my sanity well enough to not start calling someone at work and misrepresenting myself as a reporter, or digging for their home address, or any number of other really scary things.

There’s an inherent distance between Writers/Publishers and Reviewers. And somehow, especially recently, it’s started to feel like an unbridgeable gap. The honest fact is publishers and writers, doubly small pubs and new writers, need reviewers. We need honest reviewers with good circulation, because nothing will drive book sales like someone’s trusted opinion saying a book is awesome, or even just good enough to be worth the price on the cover. We don’t have the departmental where-with-all or the budget to take out full page ads in the New York Times, or commercials on television. We need word of mouth, and ideally from a community that isn’t doing it for us, but for themselves.

Arguably a large chunk of the strange power dynamic in the relationship comes from the fact reviewers don’t really need publishers and writers. Sure, people with book addictions need things to read. But that’s a personal need, as opposed to a professional one. They need a reputation for being honest, and decently above board. That’s pretty much it. Generally book reviewers, especially the book bloggers at places like Dear Author and Goodreads aren’t getting paid–even in ARC copies–for what they do. It’s a hobby, and if push comes to shove, if things get too hard they’ll probably leave.

They’re doubly likely to leave if the “professional” world accepts the stance that it’s okay to nuke a reviewer for giving a bad review.

Now, I don’t spend a lot of time deep in the reviewer community online. I did once, quite a while ago, but it wasn’t a good place for me. I’m sure somewhere there are reviews still floating around for the books I received ARC’s from, but I wouldn’t suggest looking. Let’s just say they were all bad and leave it at that.

What baffles me is that no one in the reviewer community seems to be talking about the fact the vast majority of the actual people in the author community find Hale’s behavior equally as abhorrent. Now maybe a few of them are peppering those opinions with all the times to their knowledge reviewers have been genuinely horrible to authors they didn’t like. Routinely it takes a dust-up like this to remind me the two groups don’t generally mingle.

So maybe that’s the problem. Maybe instead of circling our wagons and splitting the book community even further apart, we need to start pulling it together. And also, for the love of Pete, people need to learn to be nicer to each other. Even when they don’t agree. Especially when they don’t agree.

That being said, if you don’t agree with me you can stuff it.

Preferably, if you can do it kindly, you can stuff it in the comment box down there.

Cross posted to Words and Wonderings, for Well Written Wednesday.

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