Won’t Retweet, Won’t do Review Swaps, Won’t “Vote Up” Reviews: Why I Don’t Automatically Play Along with Many Writers’ Groups Anymore

Won’t Retweet, Won’t do Review Swaps, Won’t “Vote Up” Reviews:
Why I Don’t Automatically Play Along with Many Writers’ Groups Anymore

As Holly Near sings in her iconic relationship-gone-sour song, “Started Out Fine,” it “started out fine; we were moving ahead.” [Great song: go watch her sing it!]

Holly’s “Started Out Fine” on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qhxkd6Gn0E

When I first decided to become an independent author and self-publish after having gone the trad route with nonfiction and made a few attempts to go the trad route for fiction, I knew next-to-nothing about the social media circus I was about to join. I was starry-eyed, optimistic, eager and trusting.

I would get reviewers. I would network. I would make online author friends. I’d become part of communities I would find online. Yippee!

Oy.

Sure, I had a Facebook page, I had opened (and never used) a Twitter account, and I was listed on LinkedIn, for professional purposes (but hardly ever used it).

social-sites

I had found Authonomy http://www.Authonomy.com and Wattpad http://www.Wattpad.com and decided to post excerpts on these sites, hoping to begin to get readers, reviewers, friends, colleagues.

My niece set up my first website, Sally Ember, Ed.D., and I began to “blog my book,” posting excerpts there and on Facebook for weeks prior to publication (catching up with both excerpts sites, above, before release day).

I researched and decided to go with Smashwords, first, with a pre-order period (several posts about Pre-orders are on my blog, http://www.sallyember.com), then publish to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) when my first ebook went live.

That was the entirety of my social media presence in the summer of 2013, a few months before I hit the “publish” button on my first of the ten volumes in The Spanners Series. Some of these endeavors resulted in my finding exactly what I was looking for: a community of indie and/or self-pub writers, many of whom were also somewhat new, volunteering to review, comment, enjoy my excerpts and then my book! I was so delighted and grateful!

Some of these new connections invited me into groups I’d previously been unaware of, but I happily became quite active in them, for a while. These groups had members who were (and ARE) so supportive, showing me a variety of ways to be involved in cross-promoting one another’s writing.

At first, it was all sunny skies and rainbows. My ebook was gaining visibility, I was making online friends, gaining more reviews and having a good time. Mutual respect, support, encouragement, laughs, tips, ideas and more were flowing around groups and quite helpful to me. I even had some to share back to them. Awesome…for a while.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
image from: http://www.dreamstime.com

The clouds rolled in all too soon. Has any of this happened to you?
“Sure! I’ll ReTweet [RT] glowing praise for your book(s) [even though I’ve never read anything you’ve written]!”

“Of course, if you read and review my book, I’d be delighted to read and review yours [until I read a few that were AWFUL!]!”

“Please be assured that, if you vote up my book’s good reviews on Amazon or my book on Goodreads’ Lists or put my book on your “shelves” on Goodreads, I’ll do the same for yours [even though… {PICK ONE: I’ve never read these other writers’ books OR I don’t like the genre and would never read them OR I have started to read them but couldn’t continue because they were AWFUL}]!”

“Oh, great! I’d love to be part of this ‘review each other’s blog’ swap. Oh, what? You’re assigning me to an erotica site when my brand is PG-13?!?!? No can do. Oh, it’s required? Oh, you’re now calling me names, like ‘prude,’ and telling me I’m being ‘judgmental’? ‘Bye, then.”

thunderheads_canisbay
image from: http://www.artcountrycanada.com

Struck by scolding/lightning one too many times, I dropped out each of those writers’ groups that had absurd or untenable “member responsibilities.” I eventually dropped out of all but a few groups.

Whew! Relieved!

<strong>My integrity has been restored by establishing for myself some great ground rules:
1) I am not on “Tweet teams” which require members to RT every and all Tweets.
2) I do not do “obligatory” reviews or “swaps.”
3) I do cross-promoting only after I’ve gotten to know/read and respect the other person and his/her writing enough to put my name on a public recommendation.
4) I don’t “vote up” any reviews or books unless I’ve read and agree with the votes.
5) I don’t vote for book covers or books for voting-related rewards unless I actually believe they deserve to win.

The best part of being “older but wiser, now” about how writers use social media? If you see my name on a book or blog review, a promotional Tweet, a shared or reblogged post, you can rest assured I believe in what I’m sharing/promoting.

When I haven’t read the work of the authors and don’t know their blog or them at all except as members’ names, I only share or RT general promotions for the GROUP. That’s the way I handle all that social media group cross-promotion pressure, now.

Also, when an individual requests any of the actions I now refuse to take, I gently let them know I don’t do those actions and some I send to the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) Ethical Code, which I signed and promote on my blog, GLADLY: http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com/2014/11/alli-launch-ethical-author-code.html Go read it. Sign it. Share it. We all should!

ALLiEthicalAuthor_Final-Outlines-300x173

So, however you respect my taste and/or me, you can follow my recommendations or leads as you wish.

All the best to you!

Advertisements

A DNF (Did Not Finish) Experience Does NOT Qualify for a “Review”

As a writer and as a reader, I am a genre outsider. I don’t write or read squarely within any genre except Speculative Fiction, but that is so large as to be considered a literary category and not one genre (see previous post, https://sallyember.com/2014/07/10/guest-post-the-politics-of-speculative-science-fiction/, for what belongs within Spec Fic).

Furthermore, I don’t usually like what is published in most of the #SpecFic subgenres. I don’t even like their plots or characters. Same goes for #Romance. I often have to label books Did Not Finish (DNF), although I reserve even that designation for books I read a great deal of before abandoning.

DidNotFinish_purple_Banner

image from http://www.prettyinfiction.com by Jesse Burgoyne

Here are the reasons that I often Did Not Finish (DNF) a book. Books on my DNF list feature:

  • zombies and other horror characters/plots, especially “damsel in distress”;
  • dystopian, apocalyptic downers;
  • space wars, medieval wars, any other wars;
  • combat/violence masquerading as plot points;
  • instant, superficial romance (humans with humans or humans with aliens, shapeshifters, vampires or whatever);
  • gratuitous sex or violence (meaning, does not advance the character development or plot, and appears every so many pages, anyway);
  • military characters, past/future or pretend;
  • “instant” solutions, usually involving a main character’s finding a lover, to serious grief or other problems;
  • sexist, racist, misogynistic, heterosexist/homophobic, classist, ageist and other oppressive depictions of characters, even if they’re “realistic” for the characters or eras
  • clichès, trite plot twists, 2-D characters, and /or other types of bad writing
  • too many typos, grammar or other mistakes that reveal the absence of or very poor editing
  • nothing interesting, so I’M BORED.

As you might imagine, this list includes most speculative fiction and romance books.

You now understand the main reason I almost never do “review swaps.” I so strongly dislike other people’s books/stories, even when they’re relatively well-written, that I can’t even read past the first few pages for most of them. I have tried to read and review them, especially when they are well-written or the author is someone I wish to support for other reasons, but I just can’t appreciate what I don’t like.

Unlike other reviewers who find themselves unable to finish a book because they don’t like it, I don’t post a “review” of an unfinished book unless it’s written by a well-established author whom many others are praising. In those cases, I post my dissenting viewpoint just to round out the PR for that book, knowing my minority, low opinion won’t crush or crash them.

Otherwise, I don’t post my many DNFs with ratings and I do not post “reviews.” I strongly wish other DNF readers would adopt my policy.

It is completely unfair for anyone to give a “professional” opinion (which is what a review purports to be) of a piece of literature the reviewer hasn’t completed. I’ve had some “reviewers” read a few dozen pages of my 300+-page books and then have the audacity to post a ZERO or one-star “review.” What is the justification for that? When they label a sarcastic or dissatisfied DNF response after having read only a few pages a “review,” that infuriates me.

I don’t mind that some readers DNF my books. I understand that some don’t like them. I also encourage readers to comment on any books they want, all they want. As a frequently dissatisfied reader, myself, I empathize with DNF experiences. Sometimes, I explain.

I object strenuously, however, when these DNF readers label their preliminary reactions and comments a “review.” Even more heinous is that some have the gall to rate their DNF books.

In what other profession or situation does a “professional” who has had only a brief experience with the piece become entitled to the right to judge it? Can an Olympic judge watch just a few seconds of the gymnast’s floor exercise routine, then rate it? Do we allow a jury to hear only one witness or just a few words of testimony and give a verdict? When do we ever allow a teacher to give a semester’s grade after briefly meeting the child or giving just one quiz?

DeadLast

image from mackenzian.com

Yes: not all readers finish books or even read most of a book. I am a reader who has a list of titles pages long I have done that with because they did not hold my interest. However, for fairness and professionalism, I strongly request that readers and especially reviewers who DNF not to rate or review those books. Please.

It is fair and helpful, meanwhile, for professional reviewers and avid readers to maintain a DNF list and even to share it. Better would be that we explain a little about our DNF reasons, but that is not expected or required (we’re busy!).

dnf-recap

image from mylifeinbookss.wordpress.com

I hereby proclaim: these are fake reviews, due to the readers’ DNF status. DO NOT READ DNF “reviews.” DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT THEY WRITE. DO NOT SUPPORT “REVIEWERS” who postDNF “reviews.”

One bonus: Within a DNF‘s comments are sometimes witty lines. Those I am pleased to re-post, just for fun.

Meanwhile, back in authors’ support land: please don’t ask me to do a review swap. I mostly do not do reviews, anyway. I do not consider myself a “professional” reviewer. I am just an avid reader and an author.

When I do choose to read a book and finish it, I will post a review. I promise.

Mostly, these days, #Iamwriting my books and blog posts.

Best to you all.