Amazon’s Ministry of Truth, or, Why I’m writing “for pleasure” now…

JA Huss commented on Selena Kitt’s blog post about “Scamazongate,” and quoted her Amazon rep’s reply: “Much of this article is pure speculation, rumor, and fear triggered by a misinterpretation of a recent forum update.” Only problem? Selena’s post was up *long before* Amazon’s KDP Help page post.

And guess what? Books like this one, a screen shot of which I posted yesterday, are still up and running. Yeah, they dumped the screaming links to the TOC at the end, but…that “Win a Kindle Fire” link is still operational. Just click on it in the Look Inside preview and sure enough, it takes you to the end of the available content. This “Alien Romance” can be read in its entirety in the preview – after which, “It’s of our great pleasure [sic] to present to you the following 20 self help bonus content [sic].” So it’s a fair guess that English is not the author’s first language. You’re then treated to:

A synopsis of the South Beach Diet (which I believe is a copyrighted trademarked patented thingie, the existence of which in this book should in itself be grounds for Amazon to block it).

Each of the “bonus” books starts with the same phony legal gibbertygibbish:

This document is geared towards providing exact and reliable information in regards to the topic and issue covered. The publication is sold with the idea that the publisher is not required to render accounting, officially permitted, or otherwise, qualified services. If advice is necessary, legal or professional, a practiced individual in the profession should be ordered.

– From a Declaration of Principles which was accepted and approved equally by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations.”

 

Then there’s a time management guide, easy recipes, healthy eating to control blood pressure, a “guide to happiness with proven methods,” dealing with social anxiety, dealing with culture shock…I gave up there, and that’s 2/3 of the way through the preview of this alleged Alien Romance.

And the fact that books like this are still up and running, sucking down KU bucks?

No. It’s not. It doesn’t exist. You’re imagining it. All that is pure speculation… rumor… and fear. According to Amazon. Who is out there singing “Everything is Awesome!” while their program crashes and burns.

I guess the real question is for some bright MBA student who needs a thesis topic: Is Amazon the new Standard Oil? Can a monopoly survive in the digital age by ruthlessly strangling its competitors, its suppliers, and its customers? Has Amazon made itself so dominant that it can now afford to shrug at protests with as much of a “heh heh” as George W. Bush shrugged at the pre-Iraq antiwar protests, well knowing they could do jack shit to change anything?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve already “gone home and re-examined my life” as far as this career goes. When I quit my job a year ago (admittedly as a beneficiary of a golden shower of KU 1.0 money, for a month anyway), I was determined to make it financially as an author, damned if I’d ever go back to Cubicle City. And multiple factors have squeezed me ever since – KU 2.0, of course, but not just that.

I’m bipolar, and my delusions of affect have always included a “reality distortion field” that refused to accept market realities. What the majority of romance readers want, as I’ve said before, is a Pringle, not a Kettle Chip. The same chip out of the can, every time, no surprises. Most popular novels are “two glass books.” That is, you can read or skim them while drinking two glasses of wine, and there will be no demands on your attention or intelligence beyond what you’re capable of after that last swallow.

But me, I was going to lead the horse to water and I was gonna make that fucker drink! Wait’ll they get a load of me! I wasn’t even going to write Werewolves of Brooklyn without doing intensive research on wolves, old Brooklyn, the Civil War, gentrification issues in NYC today… Yeah, that was a huge hit with my core audience, but it was a financial bomb.

The breaking point was a recent romance novel with a bipolar MC that was a huge bestseller. And the comments said things like “I learned so much about this illness from this book!” So yeah, I had to buy it and read it.

And guess what? There was nothing but misinformation, speculation, and a couple cut and paste bits from a Wikipedia article on bipolar. I thought of calling it out, especially because it’s worse than irresponsible for a writer to misinform their readers about a mental illness, but…shit. There’s so much drama in MM now, and my own goddamn “Josh Lanyon” post is still the most popular fucking post on here, which is depressing – more people want to read about some other author on my blog than they want to read about me. So I’m just burying it here, deep in this post, where only my hard core will read it 🙂

Romance depends on the whole “Mr. Rochester” trope – the Brooding Hero with Trust Issues and Dark Secrets. But now that the well of ordinary problems (broken heart, death, betrayal, etc.) has been drained dry, authors are moving to the DSM-V for fresh Secrets. And I think it’s horrible. I think it’s shameful that authors are making readers think they’ve “learned so much” about a disease when that author has just made up a bunch of shit and thrown it at the wall.

Maybe my writing income is in the crapper because I refuse to just “make shit up,” especially about things like PTSD.  One of the finest moments for me as a writer was to hear a nurse who works with vets tell me that I got PTSD right in A Little Too Broken. Yeah, it’s a fucking gay romance, who cares, right? I DO.

I let myself get more and more stressed about that declining income, about having to compete with books that didn’t even try, until I snapped. Just…lost it. Was I going to have to get a fucking cube job again? Was this it, was my dream over?

Then I thought long and hard and realized, no. The real goal is to make a living as an independent creative. Editing is creative work, my (dragging ass) audiobook project is creative work. Just because I’ll never have a bestselling novel doesn’t mean The Way Is Closed.

My editing business is taking off. I’ve even had a pro editor I used to work with as an author tell me that she loves my services page! That really made me feel confident I’m on the right track.

And the best news of all? Having that income liberates me to enjoy writing again. To stop stressing on sales, to turn off the RDF generator, to let go, to stop making the same mistake over and over.

And so the Gay Agenda changes again… I’m no longer “on schedule” on any of my books. I’m free to write what I want. If it’s not going to sell no matter how hard I try to make it saleable, then, why not just do it my way 100%?

I’m struggling with On My Honor. I don’t know if I can take the weight I’m putting on myself of writing about race and cops and all that – not right now. Because I won’t do it wrong, I won’t fuck it up, I won’t make shit up, and if that means waiting until I can get my head around it, fine.

I thought the other day, you know what I’d really like to do? Another Colum and Viggo Viking story! 15k of well researched smut! And I got…excited. I paged through my history books and got that surge of creative pleasure I get when all the locks tumble. So the Vikings didn’t have a real presence in Byzantium until decades after 810 AD, where we are now in the story, but… it so happens that at just that time, the Emperor Nicephorus was at odds with Colum’s enemy Charlemagne, and was profoundly irreligious, draining the Byzantine monasteries dry of their gold – who better to welcome Colum to his court! Especially when he and Viggo and their men can help them fight the encroaching armies all around!

There’s no money there. But fuck all if there’s not so much excitement and happiness and pleasure to be felt at the thought of writing it.

Worrying so much about the market, about when and how Amazon will pull the rug out from under me next time…it’s robbed writing of all the fun. That’s what I’ve really been missing. That’s what I need to get back.

6 Comments on Amazon’s Ministry of Truth, or, Why I’m writing “for pleasure” now…

  1. Thanks the creative muse gods 🙂 I loved Colum and Viggo (sigh). Maybe now your loyal fans, of which I am most certainly one, can now look forward to another Werewolves Of Brooklyn book in the future 🙂 Doing stuff for your soul feels good, doesn’t it 🙂

  2. Misery is misery, whether it’s from stressing about Amazon and your writing income or toiling away in the cube farm. I’m happy to hear that you have a creative alternative that will also support you! I appreciate the research and effort that you put into your books to make them as accurate as possible, as well as being damn interesting! For that reason, I loved Werewolves of Brooklyn and hope to read a sequel or three in the future. Meanwhile, have fun and enjoy your new hobby! 🙂

  3. That attention to detail? The effort you put out to blend authenticity with creativity? It matters, and it sure as hell is appreciated. Getting PTSD right matters. Getting bipolar right matters. It drives me crazy to see the popularity of books that are not only poorly constructed stories, but are just badly written – and often poorly edited – all around. But you nailed it. Fucking Pringles.

    I’m happy to hear that you’re finding a path that doesn’t end in our losing your voice to a soul-sucking cube. I hope you find the joy, and keep chasing to share it with us.

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