Monday, February 3, 2014
NINJA STUFF: An Appropriate Relationship Between Author and Blogger (Part One)
I stumbled into an online hornet's nest briefly over the weekend, which is good. It builds character:) It's important for me to remember that I'm an online figure (mostly anonymous though I may be) and the things I do online I do in full view of every Esteemed Reader I've ever had or ever will have. That is the reality of being a writer in our time. It's the reason the daring of some of our literature may dip a bit—some pretty wonderful things have been written by some pretty terrible people—looking at you, Hemmingway and Hubbard—but they didn't have to live in public. Today's authors do.
So I read a post by a fellow book blogger about reviews and an author's responsibility to the blogger writing the review. Specifically, her contention was that writers requesting a blogger take time out of their life to feature the author's book on the blogger's promotion platform should reciprocate by using their platform to promote the blog post. Knee jerk reaction: I agree.
Happy go lucky ninja that I am, I commented that it annoys me when authors invite me to dinner and don't pay for their meal, and it does. When Richard Adams was interviewed here, believe me, it was because I asked him:) It was extremely gracious of him to make time for this blog and a fanboy like me. He did not have to say yes. I had nothing to offer him. I cannot imagine his sales have been impacted by little old me, but Richard Adams is a class act and did the interview anyway. He owes me nothing. I owe him. The same is true for all the other authors I've invited to appear here.
The authors who've approached me and requested I review their book and interview them are in a somewhat different situation. I think offering to give me a review copy in exchange for a feature post at this blog is fair. I've been giving away copies of All Together Now to the bloggers kind enough to post about my book.
I flatter myself by thinking I'm an author bloggers don't regret agreeing to feature because I've been on their side of the transaction and I appreciate the effort and sacrifice that go into maintaining a blog. I'm one of eleventy billion indie authors flogging a book about zombies and the blogger has no way to know for sure that my book isn't terrible like so many others.
Giving them a free book is the least I can do and that free book should entitle me only to their consideration, not their guaranteed review, and certainly not their opinion being swayed one way or another—though of course it will be, because by the very act of "meeting" online, I've given them an impression of myself beyond what's available in my book.
No amount of courtesy on the author's part makes up for a terrible reading experience and the reviewer is well within their rights to declare my book awful despite my having been polite and given them a book or even an interview or guest post. It isn't rude or personal. A reviewer who promises their readers their honest opinion about a book should give it (that's not me), whether the author is a class act or a jerkface. If I met Roald Dahl, I might regret it, but The Witches would still be one of the greatest books I've ever read and my impression of his writing is probably aided by the fact that I didn't meet him.
I've given copies of my book to bloggers who to date have neither reviewed it nor so much as mentioned it to their readers. So long as the blogger looked at my book and gave it some consideration, we're square. I used to send books to agents in hopes of representation and it was the same—a moment of their time to consider me is all I can reasonably request in exchange for providing the opportunity. Does this sort of suck for newbie writers? Yep. If you're not used to putting up with some things that suck, you haven't been writing long.
In the event that the blogger who's time I've imposed upon agrees to feature my book, I technically owe them nothing. I've never charged an author for an appearance here (nor will I ever) and I've never paid to have my book featured. A blog post is a mutually beneficial transaction. The blogger needs content. You can't run a book review blog with no books to review. The author needs for someone, anyone to please talk about their book. That these two parties have found each other is a beautiful thing and nobody owes anybody anything.
However, there is such a thing as courtesy and decorum. If someone in life does something nice for you, you do not have to say thank you. But odds of more nice things being done for you are greatly increased if you do. And if you do something nice for someone, it is perhaps understandable if you are miffed should they neglect to thank you. It doesn't change the nice thing you did and you probably didn't do it to be thanked, but the person would likely be closer to your heart if they showed a little gratitude.
So when a blogger features me, I tweet a link to their post, I share it on Facebook, and I link to it from here. I like their reviews on goodreads and when Amazon asks me if their review was helpful to me, I assure Amazon it absolutely was. Perhaps this makes me seem self absorbed, and I am, I am, but I also believe in saying thank you. I do that also, but by promoting their blog, presumably I make at least one or two people aware it exists.
I have a couple fans and if I can send both of them to that blog, thereby benefiting both me and the blogger kind enough to feature me, I say that's a good thing to have done. As of this writing, demands to review my book have tragically not overwhelmed me:) If I were a writer of Hugh Howey's prominence, I might feel differently—but that guy somehow always finds time for his readers and smart writers will emulate the behavior of such a successful author.
I'm not angry at the authors who have had tons of twitter followers and FB friends, none of whom knew I reviewed their book because the author didn't tell them. It would've been nice if they had, but the authors, even the ones who requested my services, were not obligated to. I had the pleasure of reading a book, fresh content for this blog, and usually an interview with an interesting writer. Fair enough.
But I remember the authors who did show their gratitude for my time and am more likely to review their future works. I tell you this because this is a blog for writers and I want writers reading this to recognize this truth as I'm sure other bloggers feel similarly.
The vast majority of authors are wonderful people and if you read this blog, you know I love them. But there are some jerks out there and it's been my impression that the there's a direct correlation between being a jerk and being less successful as a writer.
I had an author beg me to consider their unknown indie book, then demand that I ask him different questions specific to his work than the questions I ask everyone. My response was to politely decline him, but my thought was that if those same 7 Questions were good enough for Richard Adams, you better believe they're good enough for an unknown indie author. When he came back months later with a new book, I declined him without even reading the book's description.
Conversely, the more successful the author, typically the nicer they are and the more I admire them. I met Kathi Appelt at a conference surrounded by writers who thought she walked on water (could be she does), and she made a point to seek me out over all those adoring fans and thank me for my review of The Underneath. She didn't have to do this, but it took all of a minute of her time to do it and it was a great thrill for me, not to mention a crucial instruction on how a great writer ought to behave that I'll never forget.
I've since bought other books by Kathi Appelt and I'm more likely to recommend her over other authors because she created a lifelong fan in a single gesture. I firmly believe that Kathi Appelt is more successful because she makes a habit of doing things like this and creating fans one at a time adds up over a writing career. If you're looking for a fan, you could do worse than a blogger who's interested in books—I'm halfway there already.
Likewise, Hugh Howey wrote me and congratulated me on publishing my first novel. Darby Karchut not only congratulated me, she read the book and reviewed it and now her blurb appears in the marketing. When I think of the sort of author I most want to be, I want to be this Hugh Howey/Darby Karchut/Kathi Appelt type. In the interest of time, we'll leave this point with those three examples, but know that most of the authors interviewed here have behaved admirably.
Other authors have argued with me about my review of their book, which is absurd, because I give every book here 5 stars. Some authors have become nasty when I told them I didn't want to review the sequel as I'd already promoted them once and there were other authors I wanted to feature instead. And some authors have sent me messages that can only be described as crazy pants. If they send me such messages before I write my review, I dump them, but crazy is sometimes hard to screen for.
Bloggers who deal with authors get to chat with some of the greatest people on earth, but they also encounter psychos—which is true of anyone interacting with a wide range of writers. I'm so glad I blogged first before becoming an author as it's given me an appreciation for what bloggers do and too many writers take us for granted. If you want me to take time away from my family and my writing to read your book and promote you in the same space as the fantastic authors who've appeared here, that's not a service you should have to pay for in any way, but it's certainly not nothing and a bit of gratitude goes a long way.
So when I encountered a fellow blogger asking authors to be courteous to bloggers, I resoundingly agreed. We need authors, but authors need us, and as an author/blogger, I need everyone:) The trouble was I didn't consider the post as it was written carefully enough before I commented. This particular post outlined some required things an author should do in exchange for being featured, and that subject is a little murkier than the black and white argument that authors should appreciate bloggers (and vice versa).
Our old friend Mike Mullin corrected me on that score. I've talked a lot about author's behavior toward bloggers, so in the second part of this post I'm going to talk about blogger's behavior toward authors. So stay tuned author friends and blogger friends, during part two remember what an advocate I was for you in part one:)
See you tomorrow, same ninja time, same ninja channel.
Go to Part 2.