Creative people rest in a unique position in society. Until very recently, with the explosion of “independent” artists, we have been expected to create art for the sake of art. Being business-like sullied our art. Talk to any musician about how it feels at the end of the gig to have to hunt down the organizer to ask for the check and go through the standard “it’s here somewhere, can we mail it?” routine.
Everyone else is allowed to worry about their bottom line, but not the artist herself. I wrote a lengthy rant on this subject when a bookselling gateway wanted me to basically work for free while he made money off my efforts. When I pointed out the inequity, he chided me for lacking in generosity. Another example: Pirates say they steal downloads because they can’t afford to pay. When I say I can’t afford to write for free, I’m the greedy one.
This rant is a little closer to home. I may come off like a self-satisfied “I’ve got mine now you get yours” bee-yotch but bad manners are bad manners. Rachel Spangler wrote a marvelously wise blog about the soft sell that has spurred my thinking, and I want to credit her for that, but my mention of her does not imply that she agrees with anything I’m saying.
We’re All New Once
I was once a first-time writer. That was twenty-mumble years ago. Back then, had I gone to an event at a bookstore and walked up to the table where the featured writer was sitting, placed my book on that table, announced to the crowd that I was there, then sat down alongside and refused to move, it would have been career suicide. The pond was very small. My talent was not so exceptional that I could rise above a reputation as a monumental jackass. I’d have never seen the inside of a women’s bookstore again. My publisher would have heard about it. My contract would have been in jeopardy. In addition to a 7 a.m. lecture about my jackassery, Barbara Grier would have told me that such behavior did not sell books.
Of course, I hear you say, no one would do such a thing. It’s the height of rudeness. Who crashes someone else’s space like that? Yet all over the Internet authors have set up their own spaces, their Facebook walls, their blogs, their wherever. These spaces are carefully crafted to represent their work. They took the author’s time and money to create.
And I don’t know an author who hasn’t had another author post BUY MY BOOK links on their space. Cover art, links to buy, promotional copy, the works.
It’s rude. Just as rude as crashing a reading would be. I don’t care if you’re new and I don’t care if you can’t get anyone to notice your book and I don’t care if someone said you should do it and I don’t care if you see other people doing it who claim it works. They’re lying to excuse the fact that they’re being rude. Even if it did actually work, it’s still rude.
It pisses writers off. It pisses readers off. It doesn’t work. It does not sell books. It makes you look desperate. It also makes you look like a liar, to wit, “I need to hijack Karin Kallmaker’s space because my books are best sellers!” Right.
Karma Can Be Stealthy
Unfortunately, in today’s world there are few consequences for being rude. I wish I could send you a 7 a.m. phone call from Barbara Grier. Alas.
Instead, I delete your post, take the time to diplomatically ask you to stop, deal with your emotional angst when you respond that you never meant to bother me and/or your protestations that there’s nothing wrong with what you did. Or I block you and risk, of course, being thought lacking in graciousness and generosity for not wanting you to plaster your poster over mine when I bought the space, big meanie that I am. This is what the other authors I know do as well.
But we don’t forget your name. You may never know that’s why you’re not asked to play reindeer games down the road. The pond is not as small as it used to be but word still spreads.
Kindness and courtesy still matter. They will always matter. If you can’t practice them for their own sake consider this: Readers notice.
Same goes true for a transparent proxy doing it on your behalf. If someone is doing it for you that you don’t know tell them to stop. Everyone assumes they are your proxy and you are reaping the bad P.R.