Friday, 2 May 2014

Power to the People!

I’ve been to a trade union conference, and I’m feeling all ‘Citizen Smith’ …

Last week, I was at the NUT national conference, which is why I've been a bit slack at updating my blog.  For those who don’t know, it is the National Union of Teachers, for whom I do some work for.  And for those who like to take part in a spot of teacher-bashing, may I give you some advice.  When going on a first date with me, it is best to avoid the phrase, ‘bloody teachers and their holidays.’  No amount of snide jokes about my day job will make me sleep with you, as I had to point out to an unfortunate member of the male species a couple of weeks ago.

The conference was a tough gig.  Sea front hotel, the dining out, the socialising, the freebies – yes, I managed to expand my NUT memorabilia – and I did a speech to 1200 people.  It was about Ofsted; otherwise known as ‘the dementors’ to anyone else in the profession who actually has a heartbeat.

So, on to my point of this post.  Something happened to me the other day and it got me thinking.  Someone sent me an email pointing out that he liked my novel but then imperiously pointed out that he was going to punish me in the review he was writing because of the typos that he found.  He then listed them in the email and told me he expected a response to his email.  I had to reply, and be polite, because he was using the threat of a bad review if I didn't, but lo and behold, he then sent me another email with a link to his own review website, with a price list to get a review listed.  Needless to say, I declined to take him up in his generous offer.  But it got me thinking about being an indie author and the lack to come back we have on this behaviour.  Apart from it being rude; sending indie authors, and complete strangers, emails with veiled threats as an attempt to extort money out of me is wrong and I fear that someone else more vulnerable than me would fall for it.

It got me thinking, if this happened at work, I’d have them in a meeting quicker than you can say ‘industrial tribunal’ but as indie authors, we have absolutely no protection from being ripped off, manipulated nor is there anywhere we can get any advice.  There is the Writers’ Guild, which is a trade union, but if you’re self-published you have to have eight pieces of work published in order to qualify for full membership.  And even if you were, I doubt there is anything you can do about receiving black-mail type emails from people who are threatening to write bad reviews unless you pay to use their service, or trolls leaving abusive reviews, or anywhere to connect with people who are in the know.  Most of us don’t have agents and we have to rely on Amazon to behave well because there is no other way to do this.

I wonder, if there was a way to form a collective of independent authors, what would authors want from the service?  What concerns to other writers have?

In other news, I’m currently editing my latest ghost story novella with the working title of The Book of Saint Giles, which will be my last ghost story for a while.  Until I write another one that is!


  1. That's shocking! Name and shame the git! I've had a look at the link the other tweep suggested and I reckon you should let them know about this. Grrrring on your behalf xxx

  2. I think some form of union type of organisation is a great idea. I'm not sure what sort of service could be provided but being part of a group that could provide advice about those sorts of sticky situations would be useful.

  3. Interesting post, LK. I think there’s much to be said for indie collectives in theory, but the logistics could be a little hard to work out. (We’re indies for a reason; the phrase “herding cats” springs to mind...)

    The behaviour of this reviewer was a bit suspect, but since we’re self-published most of our business takes place on the internet, where all rules are off. We have to learn to deal with that and stand up for ourselves. It’s not easy!

    In the meantime, you might want to consider joining ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors - I’m not yet a member myself, but I’ve heard good things about them, and I’d encourage self-publishers to take a look at their website. In any case, whether you’re a member or not, you can sign up to receive email notifications of their self-publishing advice blog.

    (“Citizen Smith” ... I remember watching the repeats years ago. Then I went to live in Tooting, much to the hilarity of friends and family...)

  4. Unfortunately, this sort of thing comes with being visible. A group of authors getting together to moan about it only gives trolls publicity.

    But in this instance, and on the bright side, he's giving you free advice (on something that, if true, you should amend). By all means, delete the solicitation for money - but one bad review makes little difference (not all readers will care about typos - and you have the option to replying saying they've been fixed).

    Take the high road - sort the typos, and move on. Don't need a trade union to do that.