After a botched release on Amazon, which angered many readers who, in turn, directed their ire at me, I questioned everything about the business of indie publishing. Given the level of vehemence in the emails that flooded my inbox, I questioned my career as an author, my audience, and my work and wondered how we could have disconnected to the degree that people would attack me like that. And as I write this, I feel very alone, so I’m going to talk to you, one on one, because my ruined book release has left me vulnerable, and there are some things I need to say, most especially to those who felt the need to send those horrible messages.
Authors know the solitude of their chosen profession. While our family plays, our friends call and leave messages, the sports seasons come and go, and the world celebrates various holidays that mark the passage of time, we sit at our keyboards and spin tales of heartbreak, of heroism, of happily-ever-after. We don’t ask for pity, because we don’t need it. We write because we don’t know how not to write. We write because we are compelled to do it. We write for the love of words. We write as a catalyst for rapport on some invisible but powerful level with people we don’t know and will probably never meet. We wrestle with word choice, scenes, conflict, and plot. We build our worlds to share something intimate with our readers, total strangers, for the most part. Yet our audience knows us better than our relatives, in some respects, because they’ve read our most guarded secrets; they just don’t it. Most authors have something inside us that we want to express, which would otherwise remain hidden, and for me that is doubly true.
You see, I don’t post a lot of private information on my social media pages—I can’t do it. And it’s not from some sense of mistrust of my audience. Rather, it’s about the anxiety I experience at the mere thought of sharing things about myself with the reader. Those authors who post pics of their kids, their hubby, their significant others, their illnesses, their new haircut or costumes—I envy them and their candor, because I epitomize the eccentric author holed up in their writing cave, never venturing forth into the sunshine. Make no mistake, I’m happy in my cave. At my first signing, I vomited. Yes, I got physically sick at the prospect of meeting my fans. When I signed at RWA last summer, I took my little sister with me, primarily because I was terrified, and I perspired throughout the entire experience. When the signing ended, we went up to my room and got drunk. Seriously, if you ever meet me, in public, rest assured that I’m far more in awe of you than you are of me.
For me, the ambiguity and verbal texture I invest in my books is my stage, and it’s there I speak to the reader—to you. From the safety of my platform in the guise of an ebook, I talk to my reader in plain and simple terms. I tell them of my fears, my humiliations, my horrible mistakes, my heartbreaks, and my struggles, and I love the fact that I can impart so many personal details, but my reader has no idea what’s based on fact versus fiction. Believe me, my books are, in essence, me.
While my stories are intensely personal, they’re also my commodities. They’re my products. Like my colleagues, I spend months developing and composing my works, sparing no expense to bring my tales to fruition. My work is edited, proofed, and formatted, and I check and double-check everything when I prepare a book for publication. I have a professional artist design my covers. So when I first received reports of an incomplete file for Demetrius, I was sick. I immediately reached out to Amazon for a solution, but answers don’t come quick from the ‘Zon, and I watched helplessly, on my birthday, no less, as vehement 1-star reviews appeared. But the messages that filled my email shook me.
I wondered if the senders realized that I am a person. Behind the beautiful book covers and the words in black and white, there is a living and breathing human being enmeshed in the story, and if I’m cut I bleed. I have my own struggles, which I have yet to announce to the public, because, for me, it’s not real until I do so. On Sunday, I was sliced, diced, and run through a grinder by several readers who proclaimed a love for my books, and I found that a rather odd juxtaposition. I also discovered their love doesn’t extend to me, and I’m at a loss to understand why.
The first thing I did was check my file. It was pristine. Then I heard from numerous readers who had no issues—they received the full book. Still other readers complained they were charged for the preorder and never got the file. At that point, I realized the problem was with Amazon. What I couldn’t and still don’t comprehend is why readers didn’t simply contact Amazon. Why would they think I could solve the issue, when I’m not Amazon? I don’t own Amazon. I don’t control Amazon. I have no ability to refund your money, and to the lady who demanded I give back her .99-cents now, I won’t get paid for Demetrius until June. And my cut of the sale is a whopping .35-cents, so you’ll need to contact Amazon for the remaining portion, but I’ll mail you that quarter and dime if you really want it from my pocket.
But the name calling, the accusations that this was some sort of stunt to get my readers to buy a second book to find out the ending of Demetrius, and the threats—yes, the threats, were devastating. They were also dangerous, because they made me doubt myself. I thought about posting some images of the emails here, but then I decided I’m not going to poison my safe haven with that vitriol and negative energy, and I don’t want to out anyone. But I would ask the reader to remember that authors are people, too.
We work hard to bring you stories, to take you on a journey of our making, with characters of our imagination, and while negative reviews are part of the business, as we can’t please everyone, personal attacks as a result of a computer error that was beyond our control are unnecessary and uncalled for, in the grand scheme. We celebrate the highs and mourn the lows. We cry at the sight of that first sale, and every author remembers that moment, grateful that someone chose our book, amid the millions, to buy. But we can only do so much. And I’m left to wonder how some of my readers, people who actually claim a love of my work, could treat me with such disdain. Maybe I romanticized our relationship too much, as I thought we took our journeys together. What I share with the reader is immeasurably private, intensely personal, and so many all but spat in my face.
That brings me back to where I started. I’m sitting here, alone. It’s late at night, and it’s quiet. And I’m empty inside. My latest work in progress sits neglected, because I honestly have nothing to add to it. I’m preoccupied with the mess Amazon made of my release. So I’ve decided to step away from the keyboard and leave my cave, for a while; maybe a week or two. I need to move beyond what’s happened, and I can’t do that with the ever-growing number of hate mail staring me in the face. Folks, there are hundreds littering my inbox.
Readers, our goal is never to hurt you. Instead, our primary aim is to get our work into your hands. For those who got a flawed file, I am so sorry for the inconvenience. Please contact Amazon Customer Support. Use the Digital Services button, select email, and then answer their questions. Tell them there are pages missing from your copy, and they will send you a new one. From what I’ve heard, the new file appears on your device in 5-10 minutes from the time you email Amazon.
For those who’ve extended support and encouragement, I will never forget your kindness, and it’s your understanding that sustains me. To my Lady Knights, I don’t know what I’d do without you, and you’re always there for me. And to my friends in the author community, I love you dearly for your sage advice, comfort, and reassurance. It’s time to clear my head, let go of the ugliness surrounding this mess, and come back rested and recharged. I’ve got so many more books to write, and I have to honor my love of the written word, so I will see you later.