“Couldn’t Finish It. Think This Might Be Self-Published.”

Reflections. Author image.

Well, I needed a break and I didn’t get it. Instead, I got the review. The one I dreaded. The one all writers dread. The one where the reader seems to have it out for you, as if reading your novel has made them angry and they make it their mission to cut to the bone, make their own statement about your incompetence and are apparently keen to eliminate your art-craft from the face of the Earth.

I may be overstating things. The two-star review I received yesterday, from a reader who did not purchase the book – not an “Amazon verified purchase” nor have I sold a book through Ingramspark for at least six months so this guy or gal who goes by “Flannery” likely had an older copy (apparently not the third state because they bitch about “punctuation”) that was either given to them or perhaps they picked up a used copy somewhere, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter because the damage is done.

I feel like I know this person. And that if I met them elbowed up at the bar (like normal folks used to do) I might like them. Because they seem smart. I don’t use that word ever, except when it describes a certain keenness of mind and legitimate level of experience. Except that now I hate them. Claiming a good story is in there somewhere – talk about a backhanded compliment – in all this mess of terrible self-published dross. It’s cutting. It hurts.

Frankly, they sound to me like a writer themselves. Or perhaps an out of work editor. Somebody, for instance, who can’t finish their own manuscript or had it rejected by the trads, or took too many creative writing classes in college or signed up for writer’s groups to evaluate their own crap. And listened to the feedback. And is bitter about it.

In short, it sounds to me like Flannery has read all the same editorial advice that I have. You know, the same what-to-do and what-not-to-do books. C’mon, buddy. If you know how to write, and I do, all that jaded, hyper-critical workshop ideology that seeks to professionalize and critique-proof a manuscript by way of current traditional publishing house editorial tropes (editing implements its own version of tropes) merely generates a type of novel that can be recognized a mile off as processed in that way. In the way, that is, of handing off your manuscript to some joker getting a salary to massage your writing into what their corporate salesmen think will sell. I sort of smell a rat.

Perhaps they are entirely correct and my novel deserves the public flogging? Perhaps you are doing the public a favor, helping them steer clear of my amateurish garbage. The irony is that I had just finished a day of editing TC2 that seemed to have gone very well – I’d added some things that even I liked a lot to a chapter. I feel confident that TC2 is shaping up into something worthy. Because I’m as critical as anyone regarding my work. It’s painful to read myself. I know I’m no genius, no artist, no gifted writer. But I have talent. I know what’s good and what isn’t. I have a lifetime of reading behind me. I’ve been writing my whole life in one way or another. Time Crime is good enough to compete. I’m no joke.

Yes, I am self-published. What those of us in the business call indie. Or authorpreneur. This Flannery isn’t. Nobody who has paid any attention to the publishing business within the last five or even ten years would use the term “self-published.” Unless to maximize, apparently, its pejorative poison. The smug, sanctimonious, nose-in-the-air arrogance that takes seditious pleasure in identifying what they apparently are eager to classify as second-rate work. This Flannery isn’t old enough to use the term “vanity publishing.” But I ran into this traditionally published type of elitism via a local bookshop when early on I was too naïve to realize that brick and mortar book shops don’t sell any significant quantity of books and have zero interest in stocking yours.

Anybody who has visited my website, visited my Amazon author page or read my blog posts will know that I never tried to hide my indie published credentials. And they are credentials in the positive sense, at least in my mind. Certainly, it is difficult to self-edit and hire and pay for professional editing. The line editing for Time Crime cost me $3,000. And this asshole Flannery takes it upon themselves to essentially accuse me of, I don’t know, at best ignoring the editorial advice and, at worst, paying for an incompetent editor. I wonder what my editor would say about this insulting review?

Meanwhile, as an authorpreneur, yes, I have literally paid for every amount of editorial, book design and publishing assistance. Yes, my manuscript was rejected by every so-called literary agent more than once. Indie publishing is my only way into the field. Who cares? Self-published is no longer an automatic criticism.

This tool Flannery ought to know that. Unless they’ve some hang ups of their own that they felt compelled to communicate via an attack, both oblique and direct, upon my integrity and authenticity as a legitimate author. I am legitimate. Time Crime is a worthy read. It isn’t perfect. I did my very best. Without the dubious input of a slew of beta readers and writer workshop nonsense. I’m no kid who hasn’t read anything. I’m not faking it. I’m no joke. Time Crime isn’t for everyone. And, Flannery, if you didn’t understand some of the “esoteric stuff” then, well, perhaps you could’ve taken it as an opportunity to learn something instead of becoming defensive of your own ignorance and anti-intellectual stance.

But you didn’t. No. You let fly. And I’ve done it, too; namely, let fly in a review on Amazon against a book I didn’t like. But I have to say that it was always against somebody (because we are indeed attacking the author themselves and not the book when we do this) who clearly had already attained a level of success in the field either by way of book sales and hundreds of reviews or a career in academia, what have you. So that my little going off on them had little or no effect upon their career.

Me? Well, Flannery, perhaps you’re exactly correct that I’m a self-published hack. And that if my book was so bad that you couldn’t finish it, and so unaccomplished and insulting to your dubious intelligence that it made you angry and inspired you to lash out with a certain kind of obvious flair for superiority. Perhaps, Flannery, you are a lot like Mr. Z. yourself? The protagonist, that is, whom you describe as “one of those guys you meet at a party who knows a lot about a lot of esoteric stuff and backs you in a corner and tells it all to you.” Since you didn’t finish the book, how do you know how Mr. Z. is?

I’ve experienced the kind of chemical dislike that poor Flannery seems to have been forced to endure by reading Time Crime. And not finishing it because it’s so terrible. And I try to remember that it’s oftentimes our darker nature that we recognize as the so-called shadow in the other person. We react passionately against it. It’s a threat to us. It can be argued that it is our shadow, too. Hence, I’m the first to admit that engaging in a zealous assassination of someone’s work is perhaps also a reflection of how you see yourself.

But, who knows? Flannery. Thanks for taking the time to get through part of the novel. And for taking the time and making the effort to write a review. It sounds to me like you can write. Too bad I wasn’t privileged to get on the good side of your pen. Perhaps I’ll see you in the trenches.