The downside of marketing yourself

Just to prove that I’m being honest about the experience of ‘marketing’, the past week has actually slapped me with a whole messy handful of dilemmas that arise for many writers once they start being ‘known’.

1 – a writer I’ve never met, whose work I’ve never read, asked me to review her new, self-published, novel

2 – T.J. Forrester asked me to review a story for his excellent new project, Five Star Literary Stories

3 – A writer I have met asked me to review her new book.

Um. Oh dear. And likewise … gulp!

In the case of the first, I went to look at an excerpt and decided that while the work is about an important and often poorly-addressed subject and in that sense is an admirable project, the individual words should have been professionally edited before publication (an example: two characters exchange a few sentences of dialogue, a third joins them and then the author says ‘a conversation ensues’ Uh? What was all that dialogue beforehand, if not a conversation?) and that’s what I told her, saying that if she sent me the book, I’d have to make that comment. I’m sure that writer now thinks I’m an awful snob, but I’m not; I’m happy to review anything people send me, but I do have to be honest, or I’m doing myself, and them, a disservice.

In the second example, I actually had to ask for another story because the first one had grammatical misconstructions that simply turned me off. Now in this case I’m entirely at fault – I am a pedant and I simply can’t bear certain written mistakes that have the same effect on me as fingernails on a blackboard. And that’s not fair to the writer, because where commonplace errors are acceptable, as these are, it would be nitpicky in the extreme for me to be negative about the story, but I couldn’t lie and be positive about something to which I had such a negative visceral reaction. Anyway T.J. sent me another story that I could review without reservation and so that worked out okay. Should you be interested, you can read both story and review here: Five Star Literary Stories. (Bear this in mind dear readers, where a reviewer is paid to review, they may have a gut-deep hatred for something in your work and yet, because they are paid, they are going to go ahead and review you anyway – don’t assume the reviewer is always right, although most of the time they are more likely to be right than you are!)

Case three: this is a toughie. The fault is mine, I think. It’s not that the writing is bad, I just don’t ‘get’ this particular style of writing. I know other people admire it, and on a purely technical level I can understand how the words are put together in a certain way that is effective. But it doesn’t please me, it doesn’t tickle my reading centres, and that is not a question of good writing or bad writing, but a question of personal preference. I like Turkish Delight, I dislike nougat – that’s just the way I am. Other people hate Turkish Delight, that’s the way they are. But send me a nougat book and I’m a bit stumped and not very hungry. I haven’t actually decided what to do about this one yet.

So where does that leave me?

1 – with a writer who probably hates my guts

2 – with a solution found

3 – with a dilemma still unsolved.

And the point of these stories?

When you become a ‘visible’ figure for any reason, you must expect to disappoint and upset a few folk as well as pleasing and entertaining others. The only thing you can do, in the end, is stick to your ethics, however much or little other people seem to understand them, and take your lumps. It’s been a bit lumpy, one way or the other, in the past seven days, and that’s why writers tend to have neuroses!

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