The Escalation of the Advertising Game

So I came across something interesting in my feeds the other day. This one on a Facebook feed. Facebook, for those of you who don’t use it, is a social networking site ostensibly about linking you up with friends and family to share pictures and goings on, but really more about collecting and selling your data while funneling ads at you (I get, on average, about one message or e-mail a day from them urging me to give them money to advertise this website). So, if you’re like me and attempting to use to to keep up with the goings-on of friends and family, that means that you end up seeing a lot of ads.

One of these ads I usually shoot by caught my eye, because it was a Science-Fiction movie trailer. Which you’d think Facebook would have figured out is the kind of ad I don’t mind seeing, but with their usual “show them how to think” mantra, most of the movie ads I see tend to be for films my interest rating is around zero in.

I digress. So hey, Sci-Fi movie ad! I’m game! So I started watching it. It looked a little low budget, and I don’t recognize any of the actors … But I’m not very in tune with Hollywood stars anyway (save a few) and it could be a SyFy flick.

Plot sounded … interesting. Not super attention grabbing, but at least decently interesting. A spin on the “last man” trope, one of those stories that opens after everything has fallen apart and the survivors have picked up the pieces, only to have someone come along and disturb the apple cart again. You know, familiar enough, but constantly on the rebound because it is a solid trope.

So I’m watching people run with desperate looks on their faces, shadowy figures raise guns, etc … and the accolades start popping up on screen. You know, the kind of thing where critics who have seen the film already or been given previews deliver quotes to make you excited for the film?

Except … these weren’t film critics. And my brain did a sudden, jarring “Wait, what?”

They were book reviewers. I wasn’t watching a movie trailer. I was watching a live-action trailer … for a book.

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Genre VS Literary and the Cult of Twitter

Hey readers! Got an interesting one for you today. Sort of a call-back, almost, to last week’s post on “pulp” not being a stand-in for “fun.” Once again, brought up by an online discussion I saw in a reading sphere.

Oh, and the cover image there will make sense. Just bear with me for a bit.

This is a discussion that I suspect many of you have heard repeatedly if you’ve hung out in certain reading spheres, but a poster had dropped in to ask what the difference was between “genre” and “literary” as he’d seen both used often. They also pointed out that genre seemed to be used as a derogatory term, while literary was used as a form of praise, and wanted to know what they could do as a new reader to identify these “literary” books so they could get the best experience.

That poor soul, right? Okay look, I’ll level with all of you readers here: The division between them is largely nothing. Nothing but pretentiousness on the part of the reader or, in some cases, the author. We’ll get more into this here in a little bit, and along with a really neat example that just kind of shows exactly how foolish the whole debate is, but up front, and in reality … “Literary” is 99.9% hindsight. Those books that are written up-front as “literary works” tend to be overblown masses of text because the author went in with the goal of producing some overblown level of “literary prose.”

Wow, listen to those lighters being held up to torches. I call it like it is folks. Also, I know who’s lighting those torches: The same people that get uppity and snooty about “literary” versus “genre.” Because they hold what some of the people in the resultant discussion did, that only “literary” is worth reading, and that it’s “different” from everything else in a way that makes it superior.

How? Well, let’s start with the definition that was offered by these defenders of “literary” virtue. They explained to this poor poster that “genre” was a story that was just focused on cookie-cutter elements. As they put it, it was fiction that was heavily dependent specific narrative devices, had a niche market, and would not be of interest outside that market because of those narrative devices. It was further declared that genre boiled down to driven by plot and formula according to stereotype.

Meanwhile, they explained that “literary” works were those that ascended beyond cliche and genre to tackle interesting topics, explore new things, and be enticing to those readers outside of genre.

Bleh.

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OP-ED: Disney’s Star Wars Doesn’t Understand Strong Female Characters

Hoo boy. I know this topic is getting tagged with “Controversial” without even having finished it. Crud, it’s controversial just from the title. Discuss anything to do with female characters, strong or otherwise, and you’re painting a gigantic target on yourself.

Which is why I’d like to point out, for those sharpening their pitchforks before they were even finished reading the title, that I’ve had some experience with strong female characters of a wide variety. Yeah, it sucks that I have to lead with a disclaimer, but people are just that trigger happy these days. But I’ve written some very well-received female protagonists who are strong and capable, whether they be Meelo Karn, the Imperial Inquisitor of Shadow of an Empire, with her quick, deductive mind and talent for investigation, or Samantha, a young journalist determined to be the first to interview her city’s elusive superhero.

Crud, I’ve written Being a Better Writer articles on here before about gender in stories, and in those admitted that I have a fun habit of flipping a coin for secondary characters just to keep things fresh and fun. I don’t have a problem with strong female characters. The world needs strong women and strong men. Neither should be excluded.

Which, in a way, is where Disney is getting things wrong. And with that, we get to the point.

Disney’s Star Wars, as well as the company itself, has come under fire as of late. Once maligned for being a house proposing (generally) only a singular type of female character, Disney has in recent years worked to round themselves out, giving us characters like Moana or Rapunzel that are more varied than their female protagonists of the past.

Unfortunately, some aspects of Disney have shown they don’t quite understand what this approach entails, and have simply flipped everything as far the other direction as they can manage. The result is, well … bad. And I don’t just mean cringeworthy, but flat-out showing that the folks making the decisions don’t understand A) What a strong female character is and B) How to make one.

Still puzzled as to what could have made me write this post? No, it wasn’t The Last Jedi, though that movie falls into many pitfalls that are only expanded on what you’re about to see. And yes, I do understand that this now means there needs to be a BaBW post on strong female characters. It’s now on the list.

But that’s for a Monday in the future. For the here and now, I want to talk about Disney’s new Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures.

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Amazon’s Embattled Reviews Make Another Change

Amazon reviews are slowly becoming a digital battleground of the future. Or petering out as one, depending on you ask. However, whether it’s using Amazon reviews to “review bomb” folks whose politics other folks disagree with, or paying a click-farm in China to generate thousands of fake reviews, Amazon’s review system seems almost destined to be at the constant forefront of unscrupulous folks thinking “How can I use this to my advantage/other’s disadvantage?”

With that sort of activity going on (and the almost Hipster-ish dislike for Amazon now that they’ve managed to stand head and shoulders above their rivals), it really shouldn’t have been surprising to me when a long-time fan of my works contacted me to let me know that they were no longer able to post Amazon reviews, and thus they wouldn’t be able to add their review of my latest to Amazon’s page for such.

The reason? Well, Amazon has a new review policy: To leave a review, you have to be a customer in good standing. You can’t have been spamming the site with reviews that are clearly fake, participated in review-bombing, stuff like that. But there’s another new requirement now.

In order to remain “in good standing” you have to be an Amazon customer, having spent at least $50 with them in the last year.

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The Official Spoiler-Filled Shadow of an Empire Discussion Thread

This post is not for those of you who have not read Shadow of an Empire yet. Why? Because it’s full of spoilers. Or will be. I’m not going to be the one posting them.

Yeah, this is a bit experimental, but it’s my site, so I try what I like. This post is for all those readers of Shadow of an Empire who want somewhere to talk about it, open for spoilers. You can geek out about the ending, discuss your favorite characters, whatever!

Obviously, I recommend not reading these comments unless you’ve already read the book, or you really desire to have one of the best books you’ll read this year spoiled for you. Because these comments? There will be spoilers.

That’s all there is to it. Read the book? Looking for someplace to chat about it with others that have finished it and unable to find anything on TV Tropes? This is the place to be! Hit comments and go!

The Indie Hypocrisy: Reactions

Wow, guys. Just wow. I’ve been floored by the reaction to The Indie Hypocrisy. And with good reason.

Let me put it this way. My top post of all time for number of hits was 2016’s You Just Keep Pushing Me Away, a commentary piece on the lack of research in Literary writing that, over a few days, racked up 7,000 hits. Since a lot of other posts only range around 500 to two or three thousand, that 7,000 in a few days has definitely been the peak so far. That post had hits from all over.

But even with that, how many comments did it accrue? Just 20, including my own responses.

Meanwhile, The Indie Hypcrisy had nothing close to that. It’s still sitting at just over 200 views. Not bad, but nothing like YJKPMA. At the same time, however … Those of you who read TIH definitely had a lot more to say than those who read YJKPMA. At this exact moment, TIH is standing tall, I believe, with one of the largest comment chains in recent memory. To whit, between this site and my fanfic profile (where a short intro to the post also goes up), TIH racked up a grand total of 62 comments.

Best part is, these weren’t just the “Huh, sounds good” kind of comments. These were thoughtful comments, either pitching in with suggestions as to why such a disparity could be, questioning or pointing out the differences of indie books and other indie genres, or even discussing points raised by other commentators.

Ultimately there were far too many posts for me to reply to them all individually. At least, not if I wanted to keep up with my day to day job. But at the same time, there are probably a decent number of readers who never ventured into the comments, and there were so many comments made, with some really good points or at least perspectives, that I did want to come back to it as soon as I could.

Which, of course leads us to today’s post, which has seen me spending the last hour sifting through all of these posts, tallying their topics and approaches, and bringing them together here. Because while I do still have to get back to editing on Shadow of an Empire, I think a lot of the points raised by readers are important and worth talking about.

So, here’s how it’s going to go. I’ve gone through and categorized a lot of the comments on TIH, grouping them by topic, and I’m even going to go ahead and quote them, especially when they elucidate a point well in their own words. However, I’m also going to do this backwards. I’m going to start with some of the more “one-off” suggestions and comments, and then we’ll work our way down to the most common suggestions raised and discussed by the group. That’s right, the most supported and discussed concepts are going to be at the bottom.

Now, if you haven’t yet at this point, I do highly recommend that you read The Indie Hypocrisy before starting, since all of these comments are in relation to this singular post. But that accomplished, and my thoughts on the matter read, let’s see what others had to say!

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Op-Ed: The Indie Hypocrisy

Yup, an opinion piece. Kind of an odd one, too. But why not? After all, I finished the first draft of Jungle yesterday. I’m in a good mood. It’s been a while since the last one. And this topic has been on my mind for a good week or so; seems as good a time as any to bring it up.

Last week I had an interesting encounter. I was on a forum devoted to discussing video games (bear with me, this gets back to books fairly quickly) when something unexpected happened. In a thread discussing indie games and how great they were (games that are built and published without the oversight of a game publisher, just as indie books are written and published without the oversight of a book publisher), a group of posters started going off against indie books.

It was the usual argument. How could any book be good if it hadn’t been “approved” by some publisher. Publishers “only approved” good stories so anyone who wasn’t publishing through them was clearly not good enough to bother looking at. Publishers had all the editors, so an indie book would be rife with errors. You know, the usual junk that gets spouted off.

But what really made this whole chain jarring was the fact that this was in a thread devoted to discussing how great indie games were, games that did the exact same thing indie authors did—eschew a publisher in favor of their own efforts to bring a game to the world. So what it had boiled down to was “Indie games are great, indie books are horrible” and the same reasons for one being great were being espoused as reasons for the other being terrible.

This got me thinking about indie books and indie markets in general. It’s not hard to find someone slamming indie books on the internet. In fact, it’s just about the standard reaction. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, at least from what I’ve seen, indie books are the only place that this happens. Everywhere else, indie is embraced by the majority.

And that doesn’t add up.

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