Overheard On The Playground

My (now late) uncle had warned me about authors cutting and deriding other authors behind their backs. Indeed I had witnessed some of that in the 1990s from some of his writer “friends.” You may remember this I wrote in 2018:

The term “passive-aggressive” may well have been coined by someone observing a jealous author reviewing another’s work. Having years ago encountered some of my uncle’s “fellow” writers, I never forgot what pompous and self-important individuals some were. I recall overhearing more than a few chats that went a lot like this:

Mike: “I read Lynn’s new story after she asked for input. I don’t know where to start. I’ll be nice, though. But God…”

Uncle: “She’s alright. She’s better than me in lots of ways. I can’t spell for s-it. Sylvia always tells me that.”

[Later, after Mike had gone home.]

Uncle [to me]: “Known him years. He’s an okay guy, but can be such an a-shole. She writes fine, better than him. I think he’s always just pissed off she’d never sleep with him.”

So I remain wary of creative writing “buddies’” support groups.

And I am still wary of other authors I do not know well. For now the cutting and deriding is no longer out of the side of a mouth after you have left the room, or between two others privately on the phone, or even in a letter/email. Now there is public Twitter, which often resembles a school playground with those kids who look to stick it to others behind the others’ backs:

[From Twitter.]

This responding writer (who follows me and whom I follow) notes:

[From Twitter.]

And then we see this from another. I noticed she “follows” nearly 70,000 people and is followed by 95,000. (I am not in either group.) In several tweets, she observes:

[From Twitter.]
[From Twitter.]
[From Twitter.]

A good point may actually be made here: Never as a writer promise anyone that you will review their book(s) and never ask for reviews on Amazon for any of your own.

See how easy that is.

Particularly, in remembering my (now late) uncle’s experiences, I never approach other authors on the net because:

A) If they have been online friendly acquaintances for a long time, being human puts them naturally in a difficult position in trying to be “objective”… and they also have their own writing to do and simply may not have the time to read mine.

B) If they are just found through social media – like those three above – I have no idea who they *really* are and what their writing *expertise* truly happens to be. (My uncle read and gave me feedback on my first two books, and I accepted what he had to say because I knew he knew what he was talking about.) I want to see A LOT of what anyone has written themselves before I take an iota of “writing advice” from them: I have found free samples I have read of several novels by opinionated Twitter writers to be – in my opinion – average or even decidedly underwhelming.

C) Worst of all, it is entirely possible some writer(s) you barely know may badmouth a manuscript/book simply because they are jealous of what they see; or they may even give it a poor public review just for spite. We should not be naive. Those sorts of people DO exist out there.

[My novels. Photo by me, May 12, 2020.]

My position is this: I write novels; I share what they are about here on my site; they have extensive free samples on Amazon (so you will not be surprised as to what they are about and how they are written); if you want to buy one (or more) of course I hope you like it (them); and if you wish to review a purchase (or purchases), that is only your decision.

I never send out copies to other writers seeking reviews. Nor do I promise anyone anything in exchange for a review. NEVER.

Ms. “95,000 followers” above adds separately in the same thread:

[From Twitter.]

I cannot find her 2/2… but I think you get the idea. Apparently she believes her books are greatly better, and so do the other two. That is certainly their right.

But the assertion that indie books mostly do not sell gazillions and have a short shelf life is no great shocker. If you know anything about publishing, even most traditionally published books do not always rocket to the top of the charts and tend to have short shelf lives too. My uncle once told me he got $2 per sold hardcover – which can be about what Amazon pays an indie author today per sale – and in those “pre-Amazon days” they did not remain on most bookshop shelves for more than a few months until they got bumped for newer releases.

[Excerpt from Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1996-1997. Click to expand.]

The novels my uncle wrote mostly in the 1980s-90s were also mostly out of print within a few years of their original publications by his large publisher(s). Obtaining any but one or two of them now is not easy; and none are available as e-books. (Months before he died in 2015, I had been talking with him about how to get them on Kindle.) All of his work, all of his good reviews… and just a couple of decades on and even his are now tough to find. (I have no idea who is responsible for his “literary legacy,” but possibly it is my cousin. I have not asked her about the books because I had not thought about that question until now, so I may at some point. Twitter does have its accidental uses on the odd occasion.)

So most books are not widely read more than a few years after their publication. In that they are a lot like popular music. Some books may become “classics” over time and will be read for decades, but even generally well-received books tend to fade with time.

That is just the way the world is. It has always been so throughout history… we just may have kinda let that slip our minds lately. However, as we are now sadly learning – or being just roughly reminded of in this ugly pandemic – nothing lasts forever.

On that, uh, happy note, I hope you are still well and have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

4 Replies to “Overheard On The Playground”

  1. Good analysis, if somewhat pessimistic. Thinking back on all my jobs, the only one devoid of backstabbing was the one in the infantry, where the enemy would stab you from the front. And the enemy was clearly identified by uniforms, insignia and other equipment.

    Diplomacy was the worst, were it not for its lofty goals.

    I believe you may have the right approach. Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dan. Ha! I am sure – the infantry! I don’t mean to sound too pessimistic, but that is just how I have come to feel and try to “function” out here. I find so much of the Twitter author carryings on so draining, arrogant, and even juvenile, which is why I am less and less over there. More than once I have wanted to scream: “I read your free sample! You should get off of Twitter and spend more time actually writing!”


  2. Interesting re your uncle’s work and ebooks. Crime series are even more popular than ever—we are in the middle of the Bosch series—and I’m sure there are fans of his work who would love to see his books in e-format. Perhaps your cousin will reconsider. I especially love the story of how J.D. Salinger’s books were finally offered digitally after a disabled woman wrote to his son saying that hard copy books were difficult for her to handle. Apparently, this is what provided the impetus despite Salinger’s distaste for anything internet related. I’m sure you’ve heard this story. Anyway, love your post title, btw. Twitter does feel like a playground, lol! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeh, I am not sure what their legal situation now is. I presume their legal ownership has been “passed on” to his heirs, and his daughter would probably be the only one interested in them. With the Kindle and other e-books now, as we know NOTHING really ever has to go out of “print.” And he did have plenty of fans. Even posthumously he could – and should – have some new ones.

      Yeh, the playground. It so can be! LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

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