Status updates – I’ve been working on a few “smaller” projects recently. The first of these, I just can’t talk about yet. I thought I would be announcing this one today, but there has been a road bump, and the official announcement will have to wait. As for the second smaller project… well, I can’t really go into much detail on this one, either. However, you’ll notice a new widget to the side for a short story. I’ve been invited to write for an upcoming anthology (yay!). Better yet, all of the authors have agreed to donate the proceeds to charity. Yes, I know anthologies don’t sell well, but once I was contacted about the theme of the anthology, I got an idea that absolutely demanded to be written. So it will. The story is currently going by a working title of “IMPs“, and the first thousand words jumped out of me last night. It has to be finished by December, so there’s plenty of time for completion and polish.
Chucklers is proceeding slowly, but steadily. The process on it has changed a bit, and it will likely take longer than Ed and I anticipated, but it will still happen. In the meantime, Y12 has been clamoring for release, and I’m beginning to contemplate the idea of working on multiple projects at the same time. I’ve tried to avoid working this way in the past, but the voices are getting louder. LOL.
Controversy – Some of you may know about this, but I imagine many of you will not. It’s something that really only affects authors and reviewers, so it may not interest many of you. However, there has been a recent article making the rounds that was supposedly written by someone who used to work for a company that sold reviews to authors in order to help their books climb the rankings and increase sales. I’ve explained my take ad nauseam about the relationship between rankings, title visibility, and sales (see “In answer to Mike’s question…” from February of 2012, and “Answering Mike again” from March of that same year), so I won’t bore you with it here again. The article in question (and I have intentionally not linked to it here – I won’t give it any more exposure than it has already gotten) accuses several well-known authors of buying reviews to elevate sales. This comes in the midst of the Goodreads controversy in which reviewers have accused authors of stalking them in retaliation for bad reviews, and authors have in turn accused reviewers of banding together to trash their books for no good reason, lowering their rankings (and so their sales) in a form of cyber-bullying.
There has been rampant speculation regarding the veracity of the claims on either side of that argument. After all, there have been authors in the last years who have admitted publicly that they did, indeed, purchase blocks of reviews. Others have admitted to trashing other authors with sock-puppet reviews in an effort to damage their competition. For some, their admissions came with an apology. For others, they simply looked at the practice as nothing more than a cold-hearted business tactic that they used to make themselves more successful in the industry.
There has been speculation that the recent “outing” article was written as an extension of some of the Goodreads cyber-bullying. I don’t know, I don’t claim to know, and I don’t really care. It is what it is. I will say this – I have seen examples of both sides of the Goodreads controversy. Neither side is completely innocent. There are some authors who behave badly upon receipt of a negative review. There are also reviewers who have attacked authors for doing nothing more than daring to ask a them a question about what it is they didn’t like about their book.
And I’ve seen what some of these bullies can do when they band together. I read a post from a budding author said she had actually decided not to publish her first book, because her reputation was trashed before the book ever came out – all because she dared ask a reviewer how he could give her book a one-star review before the book had ever been released. His response was to gather a band of other reviewers who decided to “put her in her place” by posting several more one-star reviews – again, all on a book that had yet to be released.
I myself, recently received a one-star review for my recent release that was an obvious hatchet job. Streets of Payne is a recent release, has received only three reviews on Goodreads (all five-stars), and seven reviews on Amazon (five were five-stars, one was a four-star, and one was the one-star). The one star review simply said:
Don’t buy. There is a reason why Amazon “give” it for free. Boring……Amazon don’t offer good books. The r fooling us.“
This same reviewer posted the exact same review for nine other books. The exact same, word for word, review – remedial grammar and all. Then he posted a tenth review, a five-star for another book:
loved it very much. its a great book. very special make you see the world in a different way. enjoy.“
I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about this reviewer. I do note that six of the nine one-star reviews have since been removed from Amazon.
So why am I bringing this up? What does an article that accuses a bunch of authors of buying reviews have to do with me grumbling about a bad review that I received. After all, shit happens, right? Move on. Nothing to see here. Right? Right?
Well here’s the thing – when I read this article that purports to out a bunch of well-known authors for buying “at least 500 reviews”, there were a couple of names on the list that just absolutely pegged my bullshit meter. Today, one of them spoke out.
Any of you who know me, know that there are a handful of authors that I reference repeatedly as gurus in the field of indie publishing. You’ve seen me mention Nathan Lowell, Michael J. Sullivan, Imogen Rose, and others. One you probably haven’t seen me list often is Hugh Howey. Hugh is best known for his Wool, Silo, and Dust novels. The reason you haven’t seen him mentioned much on my blog is that I only became acquainted with Hugh’s works in the last few months, and as you have no doubt noted, I haven’t been posting as much on this blog as I should.
But here’s the thing – I had the great fortune to meet Hugh at LoneStarCon a few weeks ago. He won’t remember me, since he was constantly surrounded by other fans, but his take on the industry, on his successes, and his views toward his readers were almost exactly the same as mine. He was a man who struck me as someone content to take the slow road, as long as it was the road of integrity. He was an author who understands that the new model for the writing industry not only allows us as story tellers to connect directly with our audience, but it actually requires that we do so. He understands that this is a business that allows some of us success, while others of us will continue to struggle, that it is a mixture of skill, persistence, and luck that determines who rides the wave, and who crashes beneath it. And he absolutely understands that whatever your level of success, it can all change tomorrow. In the end, all you can count on is the fact that you will eventually be left standing alone with your karmic debt.
I’ve listened to this man’s words on panels, and read interviews on him, and I follow him on FaceBook. He is one of those few people in the industry that I truly look up to. I’m a fan, yes. But more than that, I respect the man. Not just his writing, but his words and actions.
Today Hugh Howey responded to the accusation that he purchased reviews. He responded with a well written, and thought out post on his blog. One of the things that struck me in his blog post is his statement that he had tried for so long to remain silent as some people attacked him with trash reviews, or comments, or other open articles. He has always viewed it as part of the price of fame. And as he noted, he is lucky enough to have a large and loyal following that more than compensates for the small amount of negativity aimed at him. Not many of us are so lucky.
But one of Hugh’s friends has also been accused of buying reviews, and he decided he’d been passive long enough. Not because he was accused, but because a friend was. Again, this is a man of integrity.
At the end of his blog post, Hugh makes a pledge. He calls it his “Declaration of Integrity”. Many of his readers have begun calling it the “Jolie Pledge”, named after a cherished pet that Hugh often refers to in his postings. Hugh’s pledge says:
I, Hugh Howey, have never paid for a book review in my life. I swear this on my life and on the life of my beloved dog and faithful companion of ten years, Jolie. May she rest in peace. And may the accusers and accused alike find peace in their hearts as well.“
I think this is a wonderful idea. I like to think that I am also a man of integrity (or at least I try to be) . I try to keep from commenting on or criticizing those whose views I don’t agree with, unless they enter into my “personal space”. Yes, I keep the troll hammer handy, and will not tolerate trolls here on the blog. But I encourage honest and open questions, comments, and debate. And I will never belittle another person for their personal beliefs.
So I will also make my declaration here. I will take the same stand that Hugh has taken.
I, Jeff Brackett, have never paid for, and will never pay for a book review. I give my solemn word on this.“
And while Hugh wishes peace for the accusers and accused alike, I will simply say that I wish both the accusers and accused find the justice they deserve.
What can I say? Hugh is a better person than I am.
That’s it for tonight. Be safe, everyone.