Once again this week, just as it has multiple times every year since the Internets began, Romancelandia has erupted into flames.
Out of the smoke and fire has emerged more than once from various quarters an old saw I truly hoped had been retired forever: If you don’t have anything nice to say about romance, don’t say anything at all.
Do we really need to have this discussion again?
At AAR, we write reviews for readers. We don’t write critiques to help authors, something that completely and totally falls under the category of Not Our Job.
As we’ve said over and over (and over and over) again, we’re here to help readers make the best choices with their increasingly hard-earned dollars.
We try not to write personally insulting reviews – though we are not perfect and a line has probably been crossed a few times. But, for the most part, it’s all about the book.
Which authors are asking readers to buy. With their money.
Do we support the romance genre? You bet we do. We help get readers excited about books and new authors and we do what we can to get the word out about books we love. We’re also out to entertain our readers and make AAR lively, fun, and a great place for discussion.
But we are not cheerleaders. When we see something we don’t like, we call it. Usually loudly and clearly. Because the way we see it, pointing out what doesn’t work does just as much to support the genre as celebrating the good.
Because we love it romance. We truly do. Each and every one of us.
But there’s another side to the “nice’ argument: Authors criticizing other authors online. Obviously, it’s a personal choice. But if authors choose to do so it is nothing short of delusional to believe that what you post online won’t eventually come back to bite you in the ass. Some readers will like you. Some readers will not. And, all the high falutin’ writerly stuff aside, authors – published or not – are selling a product and people don’t buy products from people – or companies – they don’t like.
Simple as that.
When Trent Lott went down in flames, I’ve always believed that he said what he did because he was too comfortable in the room. Hey, he was with his peeps so surely it was all right to reminisce about the good old days of segregation. As experienced a politico as he was, he forgot for a fatal moment that cameras were rolling and, no matter how hard he tried to spin it in the days following, all you had to do to understand exactly what he meant was to watch that tape. Which CNN was happy to show you over and over again.
My advice to authors is not to get too comfortable in the room. Because you never know who the hell is watching.