Saturday, 5 January 2013

My Delusions Of Being An Author

With 2013 the bad reviews of my e-books have turned from a trickle, if not to a flood, then a regular river.  I never would have expected that I would have been so savaged for my views on Finland.  I am taken to task for portraying it as an ally rather than simply a co-belligerent of Nazi Germany.  Furthermore apparently my counter-factual analysis is poorly researched and superficial.  I am naive in that I focus on single elements of change and apparently fail to grasp every logistical and political element of the implications, only mentioning some of them.  I never start with foregone conclusions, but rather through testing the ideas come to conclusion of whether the alternative was feasible and the extent of implications from it.  This is clearly an unacceptable approach.

Ironically I worried that my ideas were too sweeping.  However, clearly the style of Peter Tsouras whose writing encompasses every movement of every military unit on a day is what people want to read. I set out to write essay collections that stimulated debate.  I did not aim in 2-5,000 words to cover absolutely every aspect of a 'what if?' and so I am attacked as being incompetent and superficial.  Others feel that I put in too much actual history and looked at too many potential outcomes.  Overall there is no acceptance for the type of book that I have been producing and selling for the past year.  There is no point in setting myself up to be dismissed as foolish and sloppy.  Clearly there are loads of other writers out there who are far better than me and so I am poor in comparison.

Yes, I have made mistakes.  I have portrayed Finland in the 1940s in a way which is apparently unacceptable.  My defence of my view of its government is apparently too weak to be acceptable.  I mistyped 'John' when I meant to write 'James' Buchanan, the US president.  I also managed to mix up Rhode Island which is the size of London with Michigan which is comparable in size with the size of the UK.  My spellchecker changed 'regent' to 'region' and I failed to stop it.  Of course, in this world of the single reader as all-powerful, these errors, corrected in a matter of seconds, mark my books out as unacceptable forever more.  I cannot afford and editor.  I know no-one with sufficient knowledge to edit the books that I write covering so many countries and time periods.  Errors slip through even with leading authors, I have noted errors in books by Philip Kerr, Henning Mankel and for Jonathan Franzen the entirely wrong version of his book 'Freedom' was published.  These days, make a slip-up and that is your book condemned without chance of redemption.  I have been told that there are so many errors in my books that people have not got time to list them all.  This shows that I clearly know so little about history despite researching it and teaching it for the past twenty years, that I can never hope to write an 'accurate' book.

I used to think that I wrote English well.  I do have a tendency to write over-involved sentences with too many sub-clauses.  To some readers it is difficult to penetrate such writing.  At the same time Britons and Americans see my text as too fragmented.  Despite all my reading and re-reading and editing, apparently I end up with incomplete sentences and too much repetition of words.  I clearly lack the ability to step far enough back from my writing to see this, that is even though I spend far more time editing than I do writing.  I made a mistake in trying a 'chatty' style for my books.  Clearly what customers insist on is a very serious style with short sentences that are complete.  Though I have tried to do this I have clearly failed.  Readers find my style so offensive that they simply have to write about it in detail.  Apparently every page of my books are filled with grammatical errors, no matter how much I run the grammar checker over my text.

I have clearly been deluded from comments on this blog and from sales of my books over the past eight months that I could be an author of counter-factual books.  I thought I had found a style which was appropriate for e-books, engaging people in historical debate without drowning them in details.  However, it is clear that I was wrong in this.  My books clearly frustrate and upset people to such an extent that they have to take them to pieces and portray me as a foolish, sloppy, naive and ignorant man.  The one comment that I cannot forgive is to be told that I lack the skill of Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich is not a historian, he is an extreme right-wing propagandist who supports utterly unacceptable policies.  To have had my work even compared with his is incredibly insulting.

There is no point fighting against the strength of opinion regarding my books.  Clearly their very existence offends people and so I am removing all the counter-factual history books from sale and will eliminate all the references from this blog.  I will keep my novels active until the torrent of abuse comes about them.  In this age of indignation it is a mistake to put yourself in a position where people are able to pour vitriol on what you do.  The personal cost is high.


Gabriele said...

I'm sorry but i'm not sure i fully understand your point. I don't own a kindle but I bought one of your books and read it on PC. I like your style. It's not perfect, as you also noted in this post, but it is readable and, according to me, well written (If something like this said by me has any relevance; after all, as you can guess by reading this message, english is not my first language and write in "over-involved sentences with too many sub-clauses" is the way they teach us to do in italian schools).

I've not read the negative reviews on your works but I guess someone was particularly pedantic about the role of Finland in WWII and someone other correct some misspelling, while other people didn't like the way you write... You can't please all of the people all of the time. Write a book is not like selling things on ebay, some "negative feedback" is unavoidable. Some of the critics can be well intentioned and some other will surelly be grammar nerds (or grammar nazi) or - please, forgive my refined vocabulary - assholes.
But why remove all your ebooks? Because they sell less after the negative reviews? Isn't "less" better than nothing?

Rooksmoor said...

Gabriele, thank you for the words of support. I received no positive comments on the e-books that I had on Amazon at all. The number of negative comments increased sharply this month. Though there were pedantic criticisms and there was a lot of stuff about Finland, it was the broader stuff about:

there being errors on every page; that there were incomplete sentences;
that my views were meaningless because I did not cover all the logistical, strategic, economic and political aspects of each issue
that I magnify minor issues far more than was appropriate;
that I am naive;
that my research is superificial and juvenile;
that I am not a fraction as good at writing counter-factual history as Newt Gingrich.

It appeared more critical on the site because the criticisms from the US site were copied across so doubling the criticisms on the UK site.

It was not an issue of fewer sales, it was an issue of no sales at all. Once you get a 2-star review of a book, it stops all sales of that book and damages the others you have written. By this weekend, the number of negative reviews had reached such a level that I was selling no books, even the fiction which had not been criticised. It is most notable at the weekend as sales are greatest on Friday evenings and all day Saturday.

The other thing was that me writing these books was part of the coping mechanism I had put in place to deal with all the rubbish, the bullying, the loss of my house, the separation from my partner and so on that had happened in 2012. However, with these personally-focused reviews, it has backfired, attracting very targeted criticism at a time when I am finding it difficult to cope with life in general.

I am very grateful for you writing to me as you are the only person who has said anything good about my books.

Anonymous said...

Don't be discouraged; it takes time to build a following for any writer.

I hope you are getting care for your depression, I know that it is hard to be objective about your writing when you are depressed.

Rooksmoor said...

Thank you for the words of support. I think a key challenge is that I had a following. I would not have even started publishing if I had not been advised and supported by readers to do that. I was selling books by the hundreds.

What has happened, though, is I have realised I cannot write for the contemporary e-book market. The demand is for writing in very defined parameters, there is no room for non-traditional styles or even for language styles that differ from the expectations of the dominant English reading audiences: Middle USA and urban India. I have seen how this has made novels that get through by voting become increasingly bland.

The other thing is that Amazon is haunted by people who produce nothing, they simply shoot down books with extensive criticisms that I am increasingly compelled to believe because no-one, but no-one has written anything positive about any of my books. Buyers do not even read the review comments they simply see 2 or 3-stars and do not even click on the book.

This week I received a 1-star review for 'His Majesty's Dictator' which was condemned as stilted and juvenile and ironically as closely resembling thrillers of the 1920s, 30s, 40s. It was precisely intended to be a pastiche of a 1940s thriller, so on that grounds it achieved its job. Another reader defended it, but the reviewer said his view of it deserving only 1-star stood because he believes no-one wants to read pastiches. So it was condemned in fact simply for the style. This re-emphasised the fact that unless it is yet another thriller about an Islamist group carrying out terrorist activity which litter Amazon by the truckload, then it is simply condemned as irrelevant.

Thus, I have failed as an author because I cannot write what the all-powerful reviewers will tolerate. It does take time to become successful, but my period of success has now passed.

Anonymous said...

Good evening. Unfortunately, we live in a society where due to the internet, a single idiot can be the cause of way too much grief. I have read three of your works (posted at a site I can no longer find ... something about "... Fairy"?, and always found them to be very entertaining. I have always been looking for more, but never looked at Amazon, so missed your eBooks (silly me). Have you ever thought about the fact, that maybe someone who knows you, and doesn't care for you, is actually the author of these negative reviews, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with your research, writing or editing? The negative comments remind me of the reason I stopped playing Farmville, when Zynga allowed a VERY few players to change the game, changing the production of ale, wine etc to energy drinks, because otherwise it was promoting drinking. It is the current state of the society we live in. Keep writing and publishing ... you can write, and that writing is good.