Words do matter

A lot of things happened to me in 2011, both good and bad. By far one of the biggest highlights was being the GayRom retreat. I have been to several writer/reader conferences and none of them even came close to the acceptance and loving environment I experienced at GayRom. I felt as if I was amongst friends…no better yet, family and that I could be myself and not be judged.

So, as I see the atmosphere on the internet turn toxic as of late, it leaves me wondering, where did all that love go? I’m not talking about one particular incident either, but the whole reader/writer/blogger relationship in general.

Now, don’t think I’m pointing the finger at one particular group in particular either. I have seen bad behavior on all sides. A small number of readers are becoming so vicious in their reviews at Amazon, GR and other sites, that I now vowed to avoid those places. Which makes me sad, since some of my best online friends were the ones I made at GR. But now I am seeing reviews riddled with profanity and accusing authors of “trying to milk the reader” it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Many writers do this for a living. This is our paycheck, our livelihood, so yes we do have to let out releases on a regular schedule or else we wouldn’t be able to support our families. Despite, what many think, authors don’t make very much money, either. Please, don’t get me wrong and think that I’m ranting against those who give me low ratings, because I’m not. When somebody buys, reads, then takes the time to write out a review on my book, it shows that they cared enough about my work to take time out their busy schedule to give it some attention. So, believe it or not, I treasure the low star ratings just as much as I do the high ones. Plus, most of the vicious language I’ve seen in reviews have been books that haven’t been written by me. In fact, I don’t even know some of the authors personally.  So, this plea isn’t coming because I’ve had my feelings hurt over a particular review or anything.  All I’m asking is that you write a review that is more about the book and less about profanity and a personal attack against the author. After all, isn’t the true reason we’re there is for the books?

Likewise, I have seen authors behave in ways that would make a kindergartener embarrassed. Authors, if you get a bad review, my goodness it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one person’s opinion and you need to move on and do what you do best—write. The last thing you should do is attack the reviewer and make things personal. Not only are you giving all authors a bad name, but you are hindering your sales and your publisher’s reputation as well. And don’t, don’t, don’t set up sock-puppets or have your friends go on to defend you, either. I have never seen that end well. It only further serves to make the author look worse. Also, please stop going onto reader forums and pimping your books. The reader forums are for…well, readers and that’s not our playground. They should be able to have a place where they can go and feel free to talk about our books, without having to deal with mountains of SPAM. It was the relentless author promos that ruined the Yahoo groups and now that most of those are dead, authors are now moving on to GR and Amazon forums. Stop! It turns readers off and makes them less likely to buy your books. There are many other wonderful ways to promote your books. I have taken a few workshops on the topic and recommend you do the same. Trust me, it’s well worth your time. One other thing that I have seen happen a lot lately is authors swapping good reviews for each other.  It doesn’t help either of  you when you do that. The readers see right through it and it leaves a bitter taste in their mouth.

Which brings me to the last group, bloggers. Now, anybody who knows me, knows that I am a blog whore. I can’t get enough of the things. Better yet, I am close friends with a couple of bloggers. However, there are a few out there that seem to take great relish in ripping apart books, even going so far as to take out various snippets from the book in question, just so they can make fun of it.  Like I said, I treasure all reviews and I understand how important they are to the industry, I feel some bloggers take it too far. Okay, you didn’t like the book, that doesn’t mean that you and over one hundred commenters have to continue to beat the thing to death. A million, gazillion, bababillion (yeah, I just made up a new word. If Palin can do it, so can I) people loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As for me, I just couldn’t get into it. Does that make it a bad book? No, it just means that it didn’t fit my taste. Now, I know there are some books out there that have very offensive material in it. Trust me I do. I just sent in a formal complaint out to Amazon over a calendar that made fun of gay stereotypes. But, at the same times there are hardworking authors out there who I know have been hurt by these kinds of reviews. Because, yes this is their job, yes they are putting a product out there, and yes the consumer has every right to not like it, but in the end people often forget that the author is a real person, with real feelings and it must hurt like heck to see their book shredded like that.

So all I’m asking that in 2012 is can we all learn how important all words are and how they can hurt? Just like I ask that we remember that every reviewer, reader, author or blogger that you are lashing out isn’t just a faceless entity on a screen, but a real person who is behind the keyboard and that they have real feelings.

Now in closing, I am going to answer a few questions that readers have sent me about why I put certain things in my books.

Q-What is up with all the Ke$ha, Gaga and other music references in your books?

A-Despite being 100% tone deaf, music is a huge part in my life, it always has been that way. Even as a little girl, I used to sit on the couch and listen as my parents practiced for the church band they played in. As I grew older, I continued to love music, listening to it with my father and playfully arguing over which artists was the best. Even now, I listen to music the entire time I write. I have so many songs in my iTunes library that I could probably fulfill a playlist at a club. So, since the music is part of my life and a little bit of me goes into all my books, that is why so many characters like music.

Q-Why do your books have so much gay politics in them?

A-That is the easiest question to answer, it’s because now I have know first-hand how messed up things are as far as gay rights go. In my latest book, I even put in there how one character couldn’t donate his blood because he’s gay. I didn’t make that up to add to drama, it’s a real fact of life. While I do write fiction books, my characters in them are gay and LGBTQ individuals face discrimination EVERY day. There is not a day that goes by where some comment, news article or piece of legislation doesn’t remind me that my son is a second class citizen. So, of course that’s going to make its way into my books, because I would be doing the LGBTQ community a disservice if I just glossed over those issues. In order for these things to change they need to highlighted, not brushed under the rug.  

Q-Why isn’t there more sex in your books?

A-It’s not because I have anything against steamy books. In fact, some of my favorite authors write books that are scorching hot. It’s just my style of writing leads to sentimental. I love to write about the interaction between characters and how they get to know each other. I’m more of a dialog kind of gal. I had a good friend who told me I write sappy books, but that there’s nothing wrong with that. I tend to agree, I think the world needs some sappy stories out there.

So, there you have it. Some of the answers. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to put them in the comments section or shoot me an email at stephani@stephanihecht.com


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2 Responses to Words do matter

  1. Tam says:

    I'm always very careful what I say when a book doesn't work for me. Because it's ME. Some people liked or even loved that book. The author, the editors, the publisher, their beta readers, their friends, their family. Who am I to say that I am some kind of expert and their taste sucks? I try to say why, and if other have found they have similar taste to me, they can decide, but still, I know there are books that even those fellow-readers whom I almost mind-meld with, will hate that I loved for some reason. I think there are ways of saying "I dislike it when characters do A, so I didn't enjoy this." That's okay, some people love it when characters do A. Thank god not everyone likes the same thing. I would hate to not have "sappy" books and only have the world be full of angsty abuse recovering sci-fi BDSM spies. I'd have to find a new genre. I have learned so much from you about what is going on the US in the gay rights area. You are always informing and educating without being annoying. People tune out in your face yelling all the time, but I do tend to take some things for granted being in Canada, I forget it's not that way for everyone and it's good to remind those of us outside the US as well. I tend to stay away from the big sites where there are hundreds of comments. I just can't be bothered. I stick to my friends, where I know and trust the people there. It works for me. GR is still okay for me, but I don't follow that many people and I just have my feed from those I know and have a "relationship" with, even if only on-line. It helps to just go blithely along my way oblivious to the garbage around the edges. Ignorance is bliss and all that. 🙂 Hang in there and may 2012 be a kinder gentler year for so very many people.

  2. Thanks, Tam. *hugs* I've been wanting to post this for so long, but I didn't want people to think it was another case of an author whining about bad reviews. Honestly, I would rather have ten honest 2-3 star reviews than a bunch of fake 5 star ones. All I'm asking is that we all be nicer to each other. We are all here because of our shared love for books and that should be what we focus on.

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