Unfortunately, I’ve been learning that just writing a good story is not enough to break into the field of professional writing. You have to write a great story. Even then that might not be enough to get you through the gauntlet of bad reviews from professional authors who brook no intrusion into their sphere of influence from writers who can just weave a good story, editors who ravenously attack any work without perfect grammar and spelling, and jealous Indy Writers that take anyone else’s success as a personal affront.
Writing a good story should get you a seat at the table. A good story means that readers are enjoying your inner voice, your writing style and you’re capable of weaving a good story, but that you still have major improvements that need to be learned before you can proceed further. While a great story is a book that you can’t set down. That the story is so good that you rush through the pages eating it up and purchase all of the available books in the series until there is nothing left for you to read.
Literature majors and professional editors would have you believe that perfect grammar and spell makes a story. That without it, your story is not worth the paper that it’s printed on. On the forums they vehemently argue that authors like J.K. Rowling of the Harry Potter series, Stephenie Meyer of the Twilight series or Pittacus Lore of the series I am number four, shouldn’t be allowed to publish their works. These people cook every time they see a new release that the author is making millions, since in their minds none of those writers could properly put together a grammatically correct sentence to save their lives.
Just take a moment to think about the level of egotistical, self-importance that would take for a person such as this to have when all logic points to the contrary. Especially when their books aren’t selling and their hated authors’ books are being bought up by the bucket full. My answer to such people, besides the simple ‘they don’t care what you think since they taking home millions every month’ is this. Perfect grammar doesn’t make a mediocre story any better, but it does make an amazing story that much more enjoyable to read.
Seriously, who wants to read a boring book? Unless the reader is being forced to read the story due to novel being a requirement for something they need, it’s not going to happen. I don’t even know how this is an argument to tell you the truth. If your story is boring and people don’t want to read it, no amount of perfect literature structure is going to make it any better or more palatable.
For new Indy Writers taking their first steps into the field thinking that they accomplished the greatest feat in their lives and successfully completed the impossible task of creating a story and getting self-published, this is just the first of many hurdles. While most new writers never sell their books outside of their closest friends and family, if they do write good enough to get noticed and sell a few hundred or thousand books, that’s when they start receiving the hate reviews from other writers.
In my personal experience, this happened when my first book Flight hit the top twenty in its genre. In that same week I was visited with the love of four writers who critiqued my story as if they were doing a book report for their Literature class. Every possible error was high-lighted, every made-up personal affront listed and wrapped up in the bow of either a one or two stars review. Other writers do this in a separate way. Their books are written under a pseudonym name and they use their normal name to leave nasty reviews against their competition. One of my favorites is Meh. That’s how he lists the subject line of every review and he never leaves more than a star.
As a new writer seeing this for the first I was quite dumbfounded. After the fourth one, I decided to do a quick search on Amazon and low and behold the answer was there. They were other writers. One of them was angry that their newly released book wasn’t doing as well as the author thought it should have been doing, so he was going around to every book higher than his on the list and leaving bad reviews. I can only figure the others were similarly motivated.
Flash forward to my newest series, The World. I’d talked on and off with Aleron Kong of The Chaos Seed series about how much I enjoyed his books and how I wanted to publish my own books on his channel once I got around to releasing them. Due to my wife’s sickness and my desire to release all three books together, this ended up taking a year and a half longer than expected. I couldn’t seem to finish the publishing process while everything was going on in my personal life. Aleron said whenever I got around to releasing the books, I was welcomed to post on his site within the LitRPG community. Sounds great so far, right? Nope, turned out to be a huge mistake.
Within five minutes of posting my new book, First Login I was assaulted by Dave Willmarth and his buddies: LitRPGPodcast, Adam Shook and A Man of no Consequence. My back cover’s description looked like a similar plotline to Ascend Online and so they accused me of blatant plagiarism and fifteen minutes later I had nasty reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads. Funny how that is. LitRPGPodcast sounds almost legit if you read his post, but even with my amazing reading speed, I can’t read a three hundred and thirty-eight paged book within fifteen minutes. Two hours after that I was banned from LitRPG.
The bombardment of nasty reviews from other writers didn’t stop there. As my series does better and better on the charts as I sell more books, I am constantly receiving nasty reviews. While sometimes they’re valid critiques, the majority of them are just hate left from other writers and even editors. If not for the true fans that enjoy reading a good story, my series would have been pushed aside and drowned in negative reviews. Not from people who are looking for an enjoyable story, but by professional writers who are loath to see their ratings being challenged by some upstart Indy Writer.
Searching for a new LitRPG group, I ran across GreatLitRPG, LitRPG, LitRGPsociety, LitRPG Group, LitRPG Podcast. Whenever I went to join, I discovered that they were actually all the same and sponsored/owned by Alternative Realities Publishing (https://alternativerealitiespublishing.wordpress.com/). At the same time, I began getting blog posts and messages about other Indy Writers who had the same experiences. That they were banned as soon as they posted their work on the facebook groups. I even heard that the authors associated with LitRPG tried to ban anyone else from writing within the genre even though they hadn’t started the genre in the first place. It makes me wonder if the invite to these Facebook LitRPG groups is a way for existing authors to knock down any new works that are coming out that could challenge their own works’ success.
As a reader, I find this quite attitude quite disturbing. I want knew authors coming out writing the genre I love to read. I hate waiting six months to a year for books to come out from my favorite authors. Sometimes I want new and creative while other times I just want a comfortable base storyline that I enjoy curling up with to read. Having more books out there isn’t taking away from other authors, because none of the authors I enjoy reading produce a book a day. Even all of the authors I enjoy don’t produce a book in less than six months, so I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for something new that I like and am interested in to come out.
As an Indy Writer, I find attitudes and practices such as this to be underhanded and dirty. It’s why I say that just writing a good book won’t cut getting through the gauntlet of hate. Only an incredible story has a chance to get the fan responses and ratings needed to cut through the layer of hate that these published writers would use to keep new writers from joining their ranks.
Sometimes I’d wish that Amazon would remove the ability of any writer from leaving a review for another. Unfortunately, I know this would not stop the hate that pushes out new writers. While it might make it more difficult for established authors to do their dirty deeds, publishing houses would just setup independent bloggers and podcasters to post the same hateful reviews.
Truthfully, if not for the emails, messages and general support from the readers who have greatly enjoyed the story, I would have been pushed out of the LitRPG genre and I would have given up writing further books in my new series. While I do my best to ignore the regular attacks, it does get tiresome at times. Also, it makes it very difficult to get sift through the made-up reviews to find the true criticism left by real readers so I can take those points into consideration for when I’m working on the next book in the series. I do my best to educate readers and new writers in blog posts like this so that maybe when you’re read a book and enjoy the story that you’ll be motivated to post a positive review on Amazon. Still, it takes a thick skin to endure the spiteful hate that comes with the modicum of success I’ve had so far. I can only hope that my series gets out to the point that it can’t be held back by the hate that some published authors are will to bring into the profession.