Sunday, April 17, 2016

Briefly, regarding the hype machine

I've now posted favorable reviews of over half the short stories in One Thousand Words for War.  One might think I was hyping the book or something.  One would be right.  I've been included in a very fine YA anthology; I'm proud of that fact and you, the discriminating consumer, DESERVE TO KNOW about this VALUABLE BUYING OPPORTUNITY!!!

A couple of you have backchanneled me regarding the twin questions of overkill and credibility.  These are understandable concerns.

I recognized fairly early on in the process of "professionalizing" my writing that the publishing industry had some sketchy corners to it.  I make reference to a few of them here, including the general emphasis on writer "platforming" as a mechanism for increasing sales.  Originally this meant sales of the author's own books; increasingly the expectation is that authors will shill for other books in the same genre and from the same publisher.  No, those author blurbs you read on back covers are not all coming from writers who enjoyed the book in question, or even who necessarily read it.

Fortunately for me, this realization came at roughly the same time as the realization that I'm not an elite writing talent.  The latter realization frees me in certain respects:  I don't need to worry about a failure to be dishonest costing me millions of dollars, because I'm not going to be making millions of dollars in any case.  I don't need to trade in my integrity, because I have nothing to trade it for.

To that end, I promised myself three things early on:

1.  I would never write anything I didn't want to write.
2.  I would never allow fear of public or professional approbation to prevent me from writing anything I wanted to write.
3.  I would never publicly misrepresent my feelings about my own work, or that of others.

The single greatest benefit of not being a full-time professional writer is that I can adhere to those three principles with a clear conscience.  I am free to, for instance, mercilessly ridicule Bartolo Colon.  And I am free FROM saying positive things I don't mean about other people's work.  You are unlikely to see me publicly criticize other people's writing or professional conduct unless there's a VERY good reason.  This is less out of concern for professional consequences than it is a manifestation of the golden rule; I don't want other writers to do it to me.  In general, if I think something I've read is average or below average or godawful, I simply won't make mention of it.

You may, however, depend upon the principle that when I endorse a book or story, here or elsewhere, I do so out of sincere admiration.  I will usually try to provide the reasons for my endorsement, and those too will be sincerely meant.  You may or may not share my impression of the work, but I won't be trying to foist it on you out of any ulterior motive.

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