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Friday, December 04, 2009

5 More Things No Writer Should Ever Do

The publishing world is an interesting place. It's full of eccentrics and alcoholics and all manner of slightly-mental weirdos and nutbags who make life interesting. When I wrote the original "10 Things No Writer Should Ever Do," I kept it fairly focused on the issue of submissions, with a few allusions to certain nutty writers. Now's the time for a much more interesting list of things no writer should ever do:

Photoshop yourself into the photo of an established author.
I'm sure there's an intelligent reason to do this in an alternate dimension where unethical practices are acceptable, but in the real world there's no logical reason to do something this stupid, especially if you're not going to do it very well. Robert Stanek, a self-published author of supposedly terrible fantasy novels, did just that. Claiming to have done a book signing with Brian Jacques, Stanek photoshopped himself into a picture, but forgot to include his legs underneath the table. He's tried to play it off as either jealous authors trying to discredit him or an evil anti-Stanek conspiracy a la Area 51 where evil gerbils from space are trying to ruin his life. Okay, so he didn't say that last one, but he might as well have.

And what's wrong with this? It's all kinds of stupid. Don't do it. It makes you look like a horrible human being and could be a career killer. Plus, it's a good idea to at least pretend that you exist in reality as fantasy writers. We have enough problems convincing people we're not all wackjobs with unhealthy interests in things that don't exist...

Use fake accounts to post negative reviews of your "competition" while sneakily name-dropping yourself.
Stanek again? Well he's not the only one, and this kind of stuff happens all over the place, it just so happens to get more notice when someone with a certain level of Internet clout does it. But either way, it's bad news. If you get caught it could have devastating consequences for your career. Your accounts could be banned from Amazon, along with your books, and you could end up being the social pariah of the publishing community, unless you're good at spinning a conspiracy story. Some people have that skill. Others end up looking like that crazy homeless guy who thinks Big Foot ate his shoes and sold his parents to the Chupacabra.

Use fake accounts to post positive reviews of your own work.
As if the item before this weren't bad enough, some folks have been accused and others found guilty of trying to hype themselves by using fake Amazon accounts to write fake positive reviews. Amazon, it seems is trying to combat this sort of thing by introducing a system that lets people know if a certain user actually bought the book in question from Amazon, but it's a few years too late and a step or two too short of being efficient.

The ore pressing concern is that there's all kinds of stupid about this. Look, it's lame enough to have your parents review your book, but it's worse when you have to do it yourself. Is it that hard to get reviews these days? Maybe some authors don't have parents, or they have no friends to hit up for reviews. Whatever the reason, getting caught being an idiot is no picnic. At least if you're going to fake your reviews, be creative about it.

Write a memoir full of fiction.
Remember that guy from Oprah who wrote that memoir full of half-truths and lies? He sold a crapload of books, primarily because he was on Oprah, but he's also now remembered for being a lying scumbag. The moral of the story? Don't lie. Fiction writers generally have to lie, since everything they write about isn't true anyway, but don't go above and beyond and start lying about everything else. Don't make up stories or exaggerate your own life just to sell books. It's not worth it. Because when someone figures out the truth, it'll hit you like a brick wall. Ask the crash test dummies how that feels...

Sue people when legally you have no recourse to do so.
This has happened in almost every media field, from television to literature, and it's become far more common today because the Internet makes it so darn easy. The worst thing about this is that some people don't understand that you can't sue someone for stating an opinion about the quality of your work; the result is that a lot of naive folks will back down under the pressure of fake legal notices. And scam authors know this. A friend of mine once received a notice telling her she would be sued by a guy claiming to be an author's legal representative, but who turned out to be the kid's father. The notice, by the way, claimed that my friend could be sued for material damages for stating an opinion, one that happened to be 100% true (the author's work really sucked something awful). But authors keep doing things like this, sending out legal notices and trying to sue people for their opinions.

Why is this a problem? Well, for one, it's illegal to send fake legal notices in certain instances. The big one, though, is that you look like a thin-skinned little weasel and it adds weight to the very things you're trying to stifle. You don't see bestselling authors doing things like this very often for a reason. It's just stupid.

What other stupid things have you seen authors doing? If you've got an interesting story to bring my way, let me know in the comments!

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