Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Vow to Be Discriminate

Okay, I realize that title doesn't sound like a positive thing (especially if you overlook the "be"), so let me explain. If I am not discriminate, I am by definition indiscriminate. And that is something I do not wish to be.

I enjoy supporting fellow writers. Exchanging feedback on query letters, discussing the ins and outs of the business, offering chocolate when the rejections come in, swapping manuscripts for critique ... all high on my agenda. I'm happy to support with more than my time, too. I've bought several books (some hard copy, some eBook, and some both) over the past couple of years by writers I know. Often these are in genres I don't normally read a lot of, but in these cases I know the writer personally, and I know that the quality of writing is up to snuff, so I put my money behind them. These have been both traditionally published and self-published books.

But I will not support only because the "I know the writer" half of the equation is met. For one thing, I know too many, and half of them are self-publishing these days. Even at 99 cents or $3, that can add up.

More importantly, that "writing is up to snuff" part is critical. Reviewing books publicly can be super-sticky for a writer, especially one who's still seeking the ever-elusive agent and publishing deal. My even-handed criticisms might be based more on my decades of experience as a reader, but it just looks bad to have even a hint of "bashing" others.

So the only vote of support I might have for some books comes in the form of currency and/or downloads. If I don't believe a book is worthy, for whatever reason, I think it's okay for me to withhold that vote. Certainly, I don't think I do myself, my fellow writers, and most importantly readers any favors if I contribute to artificially inflating the rankings/visibility of a book I don't believe in.

The brunt of this falls on the self-published works, it seems, because there are so many among my acquaintances, and because the self-publishing process has an inherent reduction in quality control. I am not anti-self-publishing. I'm still actively considering it for myself. But I've always been picky and demanding when it comes to books. Super-picky, some might say. (Mindy McGinnis has her own way of putting it, as those of you who know her can guess.) That pickiness isn't going to change (and shouldn't, in my opinion) just because I've talked to the author.

So I'll continue to check samples and listen to the opinions of those I trust. If I believe in the work, you can bet I'll put everything possible behind it. I've already pre-ordered the eBook for Sophie Perinot's debut in less than two weeks, and I also plan to hit a brick-and-mortar store release day to buy a hard copy ... maybe two. (Who has a birthday coming up and likes historical fiction?) I'm already earmarking money for several copies of Mindy McGinnis's debut novel (which I was privileged to read and critique pre-querying), and that doesn't come out until Fall 2013.

Am I too picky? Am I missing the boat of Authorial Solidarity? Have you ever found yourself stuck between a writer-friend who wants your support and your integrity that says, "This really wasn't ready to go out into the world?" How do you handle it?


Tyson said...

I've just bought three books of my friends.

Genieve's, Laura's and Shoshanna's.

I know you know who these people are.

I don't just buy anything. And, when people tell me they will give me books for free to review. I tell them I will be 100% honest. It always amazes me the people who balk when I say this.

I am not rich. So, I too have to be discriminate. It's not about authorial solidarity, but about what you will enjoy and what you will wish you didn't invest in.

No one likes a bitter reader. :D

R.C. Lewis said...

I hear ya, T. :-)