Way back when I was finalizing Early Retyrement for publication, someone in my family (who will remain nameless) sent me information concerning an author’s exchange, a deal where you’d send your book to someone in exchange for their’s, and the understanding was that you’ve give it no less that four stars on Amazon. Yes, it was one of those I-rub-your-back-ditto deals.
I remember thinking at the time what a perfectly nauseating business practice it was. And then, recently on Facebook, a fellow writer noted a service where you’d pay $1000 or more and get 50 reviews, all glowing and positive and as sincere as anyone who attempts to “educate” you towards their politician, cause, or religious belief. You can read it HERE – its a wonderful example of Yankee Ingenuity (can you detect my sneer?).
I’m happy to say that Amazon shut him down, that at least one time virtue won, but we all know about evil. It always comes leaking back like a viscous oil.
So maybe I’m too squeamish for publication. I know that it’s all about press, that even noble books have “Best Read Ever” and “A real pageturner”, attributed to quick-scanning quid pro quo authors or wanna-get-noticed reviewers. Harry Potter relied on legions of soccer mommies to talk up the fact their their brooding spawn were actually reading anything, and so a marginal story went off like a rocket, with it’s own movies and theme parks and everything.
So publicity sells books, and everything you do, from phony amazon reviews (not guilty) to book shows (guilty) to weekly writing blogs (guilty) on an author’s website (guilty) along with Facebook notification (guilty). And that’s the question here; at what point does a writer become a shill? When do we leave the art behind and become blue-light-special hucksters?
I can’t tell you an answer here. This one isn’t as easy as writing tricks and editing skills. This gets down to your soul, and what you’ll do to spread your written word (and perhaps garnish your success). Modesty is not a survival trait. In my corporate existence, I see blowhards and self-promoters rise through the ranks, and all of them lack even the basic modesty of a hound dog lazily licking his balls in the sun. I’ve seen writers jump on all the book show panels they can (even one’s they have no earthly idea of) just to get facetime and book dollars. I’ve seen just about every version of snake-oil, false-prophet, shoot-the-moon, barnstorming, fast-talking, silver-tongued, bottom-deck lying humans are capable of.
The pool we contemplate is dark and dank and rather filthy.
I guess the only thing I can advise is that we are all different. With my stodgy values, morals and ethics, I’m unlikely to get ahead by pawning bad writing on an inattentive public. And that’s fine. I’ve figured where I draw my own, personal (and perhaps sometimes hypocritical) line between what is right and wrong, true and false, in my quest for literary recognition.
Each writer needs to reaffirm his or her goals and gains from writing. Perhaps you are only penning unimportant memoirs, little more than a personal diary you are willing to share. Or perhaps you just enjoy the art of creation, and making those funny little characters do funny little things. Or perhaps you have a marketing plan, with timeline and checkpoints, complete with a publicity firm.
Some of us will show up on Jon Steward, smiling and trying to be cool.
Others of us will smile and say, “Why yes, I did write a book on Amazon? It’s just a silly little thing… What, you’d like to buy one? Well, how nice of you. Thanks.”
We all make our own decisions, regardless of what others say and thing. So find where your comfort zone is, look a little beyond it (to see if you are not cheating yourself) and put your mark (big or small) on the world. Doing anything else just makes you crazy.