"You may worship me now."
I was at a writer’s conference over the weekend, which, for the sake of the following “story” will remain unnamed. The conference was a lot of fun. I had the opportunity to meet lots of great writerly type people, and learn from some of the best writers and agents in the industry. Over all, the conference was an absolutely awesome experience, and nearly all of the writers I met were wonderful people. One incident though, sticks out in my mind, and I've been thinking about it ever since.
In every industry (and especially anything involving art) you get the crazies. People that think they’re brilliant, that everyone else is a moron. These people expect to have critics worshiping at their feet, and obviously the only reason they’re not rolling in piles of money by now, is because the “gatekeepers” of the industry are too blind to see obvious brilliance when it smacks them in the face. Everyone else is a “phony” and a cretin.
I made the acquaintance of one such gentlemen on the second night of my stay. A couple of friends and I were sitting in the “lounge” area having tea (and of course, talking endlessly about writing) and he asked if he could sit with us. This wasn't particularly strange, since everyone at the conference was very friendly and socialized at every opportunity (why I love writers). So he sat down and we chatted about this and that, and the subject got onto his book, which he’d published with a small indie press.
He explained the book to us, and I’m not going to lie, my eyes were crossing just trying to sort out the plot as he was relaying it. Somehow from that we started talking about reviews on Amazon, and that’s when things started getting…odd. He expressed distaste for the reviews, stating that nobody seemed to “get” his book. Apparently reviewers were confused when the plot took a sudden turn in the direction of something completely different halfway through the book. Instead of admitting that maybe his first book was a bit confusing, he blamed the confusion on the “idiot readers” and implied to us that the subject was obviously over their heads.
At first, I thought he was joking, and even then I thought it was in rather poor taste. But as he continued talking I realized this writer was completely serious. He really did look down on his readers and think of them as “morons”. My companions and I sat in stunned silence while he talked. Eventually we parted ways amicably, but I've been thinking on what he said ever since then.
As writers, it’s hard to pour out your heart and soul onto paper and then throw it out to the public to do with it what they will. That could consist of ripping the book apart on Amazon, yes, but I think most of us realize that our readers are what make us. If you have no readers, you have no career. Readers are the reason for writing, when you have a bad day, positive comments and encouragement can get you through. There is no feeling on earth like having someone tell you they read what you wrote and loved it. And of course, you’ll have negative comments as well, because the good always comes with the bad.
It just seems like shooting yourself in the foot if you’re going to belittle your readers. Even if it’s only to your fellow authors, it’s just not done. That said, his behavior made me reflect inwards on myself, on my own attitude. Do I say or do anything remotely like that? Have I ever stooped to such a level, revealing myself as unprofessional or petty? Sometimes, after reflecting inwards on ourselves we see things that make us wish we hadn't.
Maybe I wasn't guilty of scorning my readers, but I had most certainly scorned fellow writers. How many of us have looked at a published book and called it garbage? How many of us love to throw stones at Twilight, and laugh at Fifty Shades of Grey? For me, the battle is when I cross the line between having opinions as a reader, and wanting to act professional as a writer. I can state my opinion on the plot of Twilight, but should I take to twitter and laugh at Stephanie Meyers? No.
I remember reading a story about an author/reviewer who blasted a writer in a review, then later that month went to a conference without realizing that author was attending. The author knew exactly who that reviewer was and when she shook her hand I’m sure the words of the nasty review were ringing in her head over and over like a church bell. Then there’s the story of Becca Fitzpatrick, who noted the name on a scathing review and later was asked to put in a good word for this author’s book. Obviously she politely declined, and the opportunity for this new writer was lost.
Now,I’m not saying that as an author you shouldn't review books. Don’t get me wrong. This blog post isn't about reviews at all. It’s about bad attitude. And the fact that, to some degree, most of us probably have one. I know that after my little bout of self reflection, I felt a bit ashamed of myself. Maybe my opinion is that Twilight isn't a literary masterpiece, okay that’s fine. But there’s no reason to be snarky about it.
It's important to remain professional at all times. You can state your opinion and say you didn't enjoy the book, but you’re crossing a big fat line when you make personal comments about the writer. There is never ever a good reason for a personal attack. It doesn't matter if it’s funny, it doesn't matter if those sort of reviews get the top ratings on goodreads. If it’s scathing and hurtful, you’re not being professional.
So in the end, I should really thank this writer who sat down for tea with us. I should thank him for making me realize that maybe my behavior hasn't always been one hundred percent professional, for making me look inwards and resolving to keep my snark in check at all times.
What’s your opinion on author attitude? Do you find yourself having to keep your ‘tude in check? Have you come across terrible author behavior before?