Why the Writing World Needs to Change (Part 1 of X)

There’s a war going on, if you didn’t know, between the traditionally published, righteous writers of the past, and the digital hustlers like myself. They are virtuous. They are erudite and mesmerising. Their professionalism and eloquence pushes down on their shoulders, weighing them with the burden of being the gilded snowflakes in an age of simple snow.

I know this because Margo Howard tells me so. And implores, with her shimmering hands, that I follow this track of thought to its rarified end.

Unfortunately, however, I am but a pleb and cannot see the elegance of her arguments. The wisdom of her discussion. In my mind, her 1,000 word essay could be boiled down to the following:

  1. Two people who requested to read her book before its release didn’t like it, and — gasp — had the audacity to say so online.
  2. Reeling from these (two) negative reviews, she ran into the comforting arms of more friendly comrades. People who compared her brilliance to Oscar Wilde(!) and Nancy Mitford (!!?!). Also people who are in the same industry as her, and she might possibly meet on the cocktail circuit. Reviews, might I note in passing, Margo Howard forgot to link to. They were simply quoted out of context, as a B-grade movie producer might do when slapping on reviewer praise for their promo material.
  3. Not satisfied with that, she (re-emphasised?) her credentials. Gee whizz, she writes a lot. And let us know that she’s made millions of dollars, MILLIONS … OF … DOLLARS, from her writing. Which, apparently, did little to ease the pain of reading two negative reviews about her work. If one may be so bold, as one must when writing online, it seems the things most  indie authors shrug off in the dark corners of the internet, traumatised Ms. Howard. She may never write again.
  4. Tragically, these Vine reviews were not flushed into the pile of waste as they should’ve been. People liked them. People (average, regular folk) thought they were worthy of reading, and this continued to damage Ms. Howard’s psyche, so she contacted Amazon directly. (I know. I know. Who the hell can manage that as an indie author?) First, she claimed the reviews were almost lawsuit worthy. Shockingly, as I discovered in the next sentence, her concerns were not dealt with and she was fobbed off to another department. The Amazon executive understood, and was sympathetic that Ms. Howard had received (two) negative reviews written by the very people who were in the book’s target market, but she couldn’t do anything. Policy is policy, after all.
  5. Still unsatisfied with the insensitivity of the world and how (two) people had ignored her genius (plus one syndicated reviewer), she penned an article about it in The New Republic. For some strange, and completely unknown reason, they ran it. I guess it had some Amazon bashing at the end.
  6. I rant about it on my blog because it’s Monday.

Twitter summary: #Author loses their #shit after reading two negative reviews. Car crash at 11.

As someone who writes and shoves my unvarnished prose into the cold streets of the free market, I have to ask: who did Margo Howard write for? Who does she expect to read her book?

Pulitzer Prize winners? Vanity Fair editors? I assume, perhaps, she intends it to be read by us. Regular folk, the kids on the corner who read on those grey devices called Kindles?

Maybe living on a decent wage and in a regular apartment has scrambled my brain somewhat, but I’ve always assumed people have had opinions about the books they’ve read. Y’know, real opinions. The kind of opinions you sit around and share over a bottle of wine with lots of R-rated language. The ones that sell others on books.

Folk don’t just read reviews and go, “Yep, I had a different experience, but I must be wrong because that Pu-lity guy said so.” It’s those opinions, the word-of-mouth ones that sell books and made Harry Potter the international success it is today.

They only difference is now that some of those same thoughts, the points of view from people who’ve read 10,000 novels but aren’t syndicated, can now get typed online. They can get shared digitally and other folk can say whether they thought it was a good or bad comment about the novel in question.

And let’s be honest, if I had to choose between the Wild West of publishing she imagines and the feudalism that was beforehand; I’d have to ask you to pass me my Stetson.


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