Those of us enchanted with words and language and reading and writing, imagination and storytelling, publication and the business of sharing our enchantment, see all these woven together as the fabric of our days. We’re a fierce tribe, but we forget.
We forget how small we are.
We forget that there are huge chunks of the United States that don’t even register on maps marked off with percentages of the population who read—they read nothing. We forget the studies that tell us 90% of those surveyed after leaving college say they don’t ever want to read a book again in their lives, and don’t. We forget that the average number of books read per person is one, perhaps two, books a year. Average. The size of the population divided by the number of books sold.
We forget the statistic that 10% of the books sold are not read to the end.
We’re so passionate about what we do and read, we can imagine just about anything, except a life not filled with books and the full-body buzz of reading.
Movies and TV and gaming and picnics and dating and hanging out with our crew tower over us on the list of Things To Do With Spare Time, if there is any of it in this hectic new world.
When these things are factored in, we’re not small; we’re tiny. We seek others like us. We’ve got stuff to share. We’ve got curiosity about the minds that make up the stories that we prefer over movies and TV and gaming and picnics and dating and hanging out with our crew.
We are Super Readers! We buy and read mass quantities of books written by other Super Readers! who buy and read massive quantities of books, and we forget.
Forget how tiny we are and how inevitable it is that we’ll bump into one another somewhere, somehow as we chase down everything we want to know about those who are like us.
We love what we do, but we bleed (we’re a bit melodramatic at times, too). We know how damned hard it is to write a book and put it out there. We’re hesitant to leave bad reviews for anyone with the courage to splash their insides to the outside and market it. We don’t review books we think are stinkers, but we might contact the author in private. Maybe talk a bit with them, offer suggestions, or we simply keep our mouths shut and let it be. We don’t want to hurt feelings.
The result? Amazon is now taking down writer’s reviews of other writers work, saying we know that person and, therefore, our reviews are not valid.
Amazon has forgotten what a tightly woven community we are; they see only the numbers.
True, there are ratings gangs that give false reviews.
True, there are too many books that are stinkers with a large number of positive reviews that piss off the average reader when the book is disappointing. Their time is precious.
If we are small, those with no integrity are microscopic, like bacteria that can infect and spread and cause great damage.
Thank you, Amazon, for the opportunities you have given us. Thank you, Amazon, for throwing open the gates and giving fresh air to reading, increasing the numbers of those who think it’s fashionable and fun, and thank you for giving us a platform to start a revolution.
And thanks for your attempt, although clumsy, for doing the only thing you could brainstorm into letters of review rejections to ensure that independent authors get the respect and careers they deserve.
But if we edit our mistakes, so should you.
Yes, please, toss out the reviews that give five stars and say: “It’s downloading now and I just know I’m going to love it!” or “I hate these kinds of books and didn’t get past page four on this one, so I’m giving it one star.” But as it is, those reviews are staying while the reviews of others who may have passed the writer in a hallway at a conference are not allowed. That’s not right.
Here’s where I get blunt.
None of us know what we’re doing, even Amazon. None of us have a universal business model we know will work and can share (quite a few have come very close), and we’re all of us fumbling our way, making mistakes, learning, stabilizing our business, trying new things and saying “Whoopsie. That boo-boo is going to cost me some big bucks.”
The difference is that when Amazon pulls a Whoopsie! it costs big bucks to those who deserve it the least. They’re not allowing those of us consumed by books and reading and writing the freedom to review other writers they may have met in passing. OhmyGod! They may even be lifelong besties who care deeply about each other and exchanged extensive and ruthless help on the writer’s way to publication. OhGoodGod! They may even be leaders who guided thousands in completing the journey beyond the gate you opened. HolyToot! they might know the author and be sucking up. Uh-huh, that works.
Often the good reviews come after many scathing private critiques. Did ya think of that, Amazon? You should. There’s still time.
I’m confident this will get straightened out. Amazon is a smart company and will wise up to the absurdity of this first effort at what I believe is quality control. There’s a better way, and as much of a dip as we may take while Amazon brainstorms something better, they’ve proven the unimaginable can be brought to life and surprise us all. At least I hope so.
There’s an arc to the story of independent authorship, and this one, like most good stories, will have a happy ending.
Until the next plot twist comes along.
They always do.
Speaking of happy endings, this blog as it is and has been, is coming to a happy ending. It’s been one hell of a year for me, but one of the best, culminating in two full months of illness during the spring (my mindset is programed for the academic year, not the ticking over of the traditional New Year).
All year long I’ve been on edge as something sleeping inside struggled to awaken. When I got sick, the most I could drag out of myself after a few hours of writing was sprawling on a lounger in my backyard, looking up at the sweet gum trees with a mind so numb I became a thinker without a thought, a writer without words. (I’d post a photo of that lounger and the towering trees, but the appearance and disappearance of photos is just one of the many problems I’ve had with this host. It’s not a bad host, just one that’s not right for me.) The minor sinus congestion I’d ignored earlier in the season, roared like a flame on the right side of my face, stealing most of my vision and all of my energy. One day I tried to yawn but couldn’t open my mouth. Not good. Time to pay attention, see a doctor. He said I was lucky. If I’d let it go just a few more days, the infection would have further invaded the soft bone behind my ear and headed straight for my brain. I had to ask him to repeat that several times, please, because my hearing wasn’t so good, either.
Luck follows me wherever I go, probably because I put a choke collar on it and drag it along if it doesn’t willfully trot along with me. In this instance, as I came back to health I finally realized how long I’ve been adrift while being busy to the point of exhaustion. That thing inside me awoke and saw the entire matrix of my messes and the solutions to the riddles of my passage through them. So many people stroll through life without the good luck of a minor illness to knock them down and let their mind sort itself out as the body heals.
Make your own luck. I would never advise idiot illnesses that can be avoided, but I’ve become an advocate of slowing down for extended periods of time, doing nothing and letting what floods in from outside take shape in silence. Think about changing the scenery inside and letting yourself drift away while staying in place.Drift for days or weeks. It’s been the most valuable tool I’ve found for clarity. I may even become a writer who is mildly pleased with what she writes.
I’ve never lost my core driving life forces of being self-sufficient and a nurturing daughter, mother, wife, friend, and helping hand to strangers. But I’m older now and, surprisingly, have been for quite some time. Really. It can be hard kick in the Zeitgeist nuts the first time you get a solicitation for the elderly, and realize they mean you (the jackasses), especially when you look so young and pretty in your teeny-tiny Avatar.
old mature now that I’m surrounded by people who are either standing strong and self-sufficient themselves, or the memories of those I’ve done my best to help leave this world with grace and dignity. Hell yes, it’s my turn. It’s always been my turn to take the wheel of my own bus, but there simply aren’t many maps for this next part of the journey, and we do fit well on forgotten shelves with the doors shut.
There are plenty of sage
gurus thinkers out there making form out of the chaos of change, but if you’re in my age group, there’s something about what they’re saying that sounds oddly familiar yet off in a most uncomfortable way…not to mention the overwhelming urge to lick your fingers and smooth their hair into place. Like Amazon and the world of self-publishing, we’re making it up as we go along. There’s a new voice to this stage of life, and I want to build a megaphone for that voice.
I have experiences those dominating the internet have only read about in books. I’ve been to emotional landscapes younger generations can not yet imagine, and I’m anxiously anticipating others leading me to new landscapes I can’t visit without their help. I’ve witnessed history and even slipped into the timelessness Joseph Campbell, Jung and physicists talked about. (It’s scary! I could only tolerate it for 30 seconds.) I see patterns where others see only bright and shiny new things, like global connection via the internet (it’s nothing new, just a recovery of something lost long ago). With this realization of my vantage point, I’ve found the most powerful source of creation in the universe: the question. Not the why or the what or the how, just an endless stream of questions, and acceptance of my own ignorance and anticipation of how much there is yet to be discovered.
It’s time to gather all my scattered blogs under the newly defined life force found in my silence. I’m as solid as ever on what I like to write and read (that’s a no-brainer: everything), but now I’ve got enough maturity to know how much I do not know and how past wisdom was a necessary illusion for that stage of life. It’s weird being an elder at the feet of elders I recognize by the tunnels in their eyes, not the number of their years. Some of them even flip their hair with their fingers and say things like, “Well, like, you know. What-ev-ah,” and others can’t hold their gas when they get excited (not always a function of age). Some vigorously plow through triple digits.
Life becomes intense the more it contracts; paradoxically filled with more options as what the elderly (definitely going to do something about that word) see as new horizons for GenX reveal themselves as not an option for us. It’s crazy. It’s a hootenanny.
This domain will remain somewhere in cyberspace for keeping in touch with old friends and my own blunders for review when I get too big for my britches (in no way am I a narcissist, but I can be a bit of an exhibitionist). Whether I blog a book of just write the damned thing and create a landing page, this is where I’ll come to shout about it and share a few things now and again that are too exciting to keep to myself. There’s so much to explore, and so much I don’t know at this point, except:
There is no way this story I’ve started here will not have a surprising but inevitable happy ending. I may stumble and stutter and stall now and again, but I don’t quit.