Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Special Snowflake Syndrome

Man, I've seen a lot of this in the past couple of years. Among writers, I mean. Maybe the increase is directly proportional to the increase of authors in the m/m romance genre (the one with which I'm most familiar). Maybe it has something to do with the proliferation of review sites. But yikes, more and more writers seem to be getting inordinately upset over less than Omigod-this-is-the-best-thing-since-toilet-paper! reactions to their published work.

I'm always taken aback by such hand-wringing, which I now seem to be witnessing on a regular basis. So I figured it was time for some unsolicited advice from a DIKless veteran living far below the poverty line -- namely, me. 

1. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Reader sites like Amazon and Goodreads can be little slices of Dante's Inferno to authors. If you've experienced this unpleasant fact, and it's making your follicles lose their grip on your hair, stay away! The cure for your woe is that simple. I use Amazon and Goodreads as resources -- to get the skinny on books that might interest me -- but I never check on my own books. Never. Watching the bouncing ball that is a book's average rating, or seeing how few ratings a book gets, does me no good whatsoever. So I don't keep track of that stuff. Many writers need to adopt the same approach. Trust me; it works wonders.

2. Even if you can stand the heat, stay out of the way. Many readers don't appreciate authors breathing down their necks. So, refrain from being a buttinski. Give readers their space. Let them rave about your books or rant about your books or simply discuss your books without interjecting yourself into their monologues and dialogues. Readers are smart enough to know we appreciate good reviews. They're also smart enough to PM us if they have questions only we can answer. Hovering isn't necessary. In fact, it's kind of neurotic and creepy.

3. Take a reality check. Each of my stories and characters is a Very Special Snowflake. ("Snow" flake -- get it? Heh.) However . . . that's only in my world. More often than not, my Snowflakes aren't even noticed in other people's worlds. And why should they be? They're mere specks in a weekly blizzard of releases. Now don't get me wrong: I'm deeply grateful when they are noticed, and even more grateful when they're valued. But in an era when publishing a book is almost as easy as putting on your shoes, every author needs to tone down his/her expectations. Each of us is less and less "special" by the day. It's a fact of publishing life. Get used to it.

4. Rein in your ego. This is part and parcel of the point above. Don't assume your work deserves praise. Don't assume it deserves a place on every reader's keeper shelf. It doesn't deserve a damned thing, except what it is legally due from its publisher and distributors. Remember, we're writing popular fiction. Genre fiction, in fact. We're not in a race for the Pulitzer or Booker or Nobel Prize. We're not contestants on Top Wordsmith or Iron Author. No matter how convinced we are that we're uniquely inspired and were meant to write -- because God decreed it, or it's a destiny spelled out in our stars, or a gypsy woman murmured a blessing over Mama's pregnant belly -- precious few writers are genuinely and profoundly gifted. Even fewer are as gifted as they think they are. This means we need to put our work in realistic perspective and adopt some humility.       

Consumers' preferences are all over the place and ever-changing. That's just the way it is. And guess what? Writers are in good company. This truth also applies to musicians, actors, artists, film-makers, and anybody else engaged in some creative pursuit. So, for the sake of your sanity and self-confidence, resign yourself to the vagaries of human taste and the limits of your own talent. Definitely keep honing your craft, but save your angst for what really matters.

Now, for a palate cleanser. Enjoy. ;-)



Chris said...

Yes. This.

Cole said...

As a reader and sometimes reviewer, #2 holds a specially little place in my heart ;)

Thank you.

If only it wouldn't make me a buttinski to send your post around to a very specific list that I'll refrain from naming... What a shame!

Mem said...

Very sensible. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Cole, readers can be buttinskis; writers can't (or shouldn't). ;-)

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Val. Years spent in this business do tend to knock all the illusions right out of a person. :)

Tam said...

I was quite proud when I got my first one star rating. *sniff* I'm special now. ;-)

I confess I do check my ratings at GR, but it doesn't really bother me unless someone is WAY off and read something wrong, but even so, I would NEVER comment on it, no matter how strong the urge is to say "No, no, they weren't brothers, they were LIKE brothers." Whatever. It doesn't matter. I rarely comment on a review unless someone asks a question that way, then I'll answer it. But I try to distance myself so that people feel free to comment as they wish. I know if an author comments a lot on reviews, I may be less inclined to say anything negative for fear it will cause an uproar or hurt feelings.

I sometimes feel guilty that I'm not an author who popped out of the womb with a pad of paper in one hand, and a ballpoint in the other writing creative stories. I just kind of picked it up for the hell of it. So I feel like all those people who've been writing stories about Ken and Ken's roommate since they were 6, deserve to be authors somehow. Those of us who just do it for the hell of it should be sticking to fan fiction free forums or something.

I also have to be careful about taking those consumer preferences to heart. I just wrote something for the UKMeet and subbed it and then read a blog post where they said they hated crooked smiles. "OMG, I wrote a crooked smile. I should have changed it, someone doesn't like that. OMG, can I get it back?" Okay, step back from the edge. LOL I don't mind it, and I'm more of a reader than a writer, so that means some people do like it, or at least don't hate it. If I tried to only write something that 100% of the readers enjoyed, my book would be three sentences long. So I think it's good to take some of those ideas to heart (if something seems universally hate - starfish anuses), but most of the time, you have to go with what you like.

I should also work on writing shorter comments. I'll put that on the list. ;-)

BeeCycling said...

It may well be the proliferation of venues for people to review books. And for just anyone to do it, anytime, as opposed to reviews in newspapers or magazines, that all come out around the same time shortly after release. Once those are all done, then the writer can calm down about them and move forward. But with Goodreads and Amazon etc, you can wake up a year after the books came out and find a new review to get upset about. I guess for some writers this puts them continually on the defensive and leads to Drama.

K. Z. Snow said...

"I sometimes feel guilty that I'm not an author who popped out of the womb with a pad of paper in one hand, and a ballpoint in the other writing creative stories."

:-) I always get a kick out of author bios in which something like that is mentioned. And there are a LOT of them! Too bad these assertions don't mean anything.

You're right about everybody having their own little pet peeves. There's no way to keep track of them and no way to change them. All a writer can do is shrug 'em off. Fussing about readers' quirks is pretty pointless.

K. Z. Snow said...

So true, Becky. Then there's the sheer volume of reviews that GR and Amazon allow for, not to mention the general lack of regulation. I'm really not surprised that authors get bugged out. What surprises me is that they keep going back for more!

BeeCycling said...

What surprises me is that they keep going back for more!

Well, we are crazy... :D

Finn Marlowe said...

...little slices of Dante's Inferno. That's so perfect! When my last book came out and all my GR friends were reading it, I stayed off GR so they could talk about me behind my back. Smartest thing I ever did (because now they're still my friends!)