Come with me now on a journey to explore a side of the Internet which is still driving me batty. I know you don’t want to be driven batty, but let’s face it, if you wanted peace, or even sense, you wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place.
Picture the scene. You’re at a party. You know nobody there, but you’ve been assured that it’s a friendly bunch. There will be no question of you flowering the walls all night on your tod. You get yourself a frothy pink drink, and are soon approached by a middle-aged man with childishly pink cheeks.
Middle-Aged Ruddy Man: Are you a writer?
You: Well, I suppose you could say that. I’ve–
MARM: I’m a writer. I’ve written 3 books about cats on drugs. I have many, many 5-star reviews on Amazon.
You: Erm, congratulations.
MARM: “This book was nice.”
You: Excuse me?
MARM: That was one of my 5-star reviews. Another one said, “LOL, so funny! Cats on drugs! LOL.”
You: Why are you speaking in italics?
MARM: Because it’s important to emphasise things, in case people are too stupid to realise my achievements by themselves. I use italics for my award-winning stuff too, especially awards nobody’s ever heard of. So, have you read books about cats on drugs?
You: I can’t say I have, no. I did once read a book about –
MARM: You should buy my book. It’s LOL. Here’s my card. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and my blog, which is all about my fascinating writing process. Make sure you leave a 5-star review. Excuse me, I have to go.
You swallow. It appears you’re not sure of the etiquette. You put down your frothy pink drink and get a nuclear-green one instead. A placid-looking woman approaches, wearing a cardigan the same colour as your drink. Her voice seeps into your ear before growing in volume.
Becardiganned Woman: BUY MY BOOK ONLY 2.99 AMAZON 5-STAR REVIEWS BUY IT NOW!!! EXCLAMATION POINT. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER
She moves on before you can timidly ask her to stop shouting. An unshaven young man wearing a ridiculous fedora bumps into you.
Indoor Hat Man: Hello. I have been published in the Remote East-Southwestern Weekly Literary Review Paragraph and had a movie treatment optioned by Small and Broke Student Productions, LLC. My flash fiction has been published on several unknown blogs and last year, I started my novel, which I aim to get published before I’m 30 because it’s been my dream to be a writer ever since I was 6 months old. Props. Have you heard of genre fiction?
You: Em, yes. I read a lot of books.
IHM: Well, I write that and several short stories which I hope to finish one day, and will publish shortly after. H/T my Mom.
You: That’s nice. I write myself, actually. I–
IHM: Gotta go. Bye.
There is a brackish taste in your mouth. The green drink isn’t helping. You move to another table, in search of water, behind a lady with extremely pale skin and a remarkably short neck. She turns.
Pale Skinned Lady: Good to see you here!
You: Thank you! Do you know where I could get some water?
PSL: You can read about water in my book, Tortured Texan Tornado. It’s about men who just can’t get enough of pale-skinned ladies with short necks. Smiley face.
You: Um, okay. How is that relevant to drinking water?
PSL: What’s your point? You followed me.
You: Not intentionally. And not to hear sloppy segues into even poorer marketing techniques.
PSL: But you’d love my book. It’s award-winning 5-star reviewed.
You: FOR THE LAST TIME, I DON’T WANT YOUR BOOK, I ONLY WANT WATER!!
PSL: How dare you threaten me! Soooo defensive. And soooo anti-author. I’m sick of trolls like you.
You: How was that trolling?
PSL: Help! Bully! Buy my book!
You flinch, but she leaves without further instructions. You decide to find a bathroom. On the way, you see a small crowd gathered around a stoop-backed man, speaking from a podium. You recognise him. He is an author whose first book, The Doomed Wild, was an international bestseller.
Bestselling Author: So I dressed as an endangered snow leopard, and hand-delivered my manuscript to an agent I just happened to hear was looking for a book with a strong snow leopard lead character. He rang me back the following morning with a 6-figure book deal, and the rest, as you know, is history.
[The crowd feverishly scribbles notes. One or two are drooling.]
Bestselling Author: Any questions?
Crowd Person 1: Yes. How do I get published?
Bestselling Author: Well, I’m not sure I can answer that. I can only tell you how I got published.
Crowd Person 2: But what does that mean for me? Like, if I do the same as you, and dress as a snow leopard, will I get published?
Bestselling Author: I couldn’t possibly tell you. But my difficult second novel, The Doomed Author, explores the theory that –
[The crowd sighs. They pocket their notebooks and move away. The Bestselling Author looks resigned, like this is nothing new.]
It is at this point that you decide to leave the party because you hear there’s a self-congratulatory shindig for bankers and politicians down the hall. You’ll feel safer there. At the very least, you’ll know where you stand.
(And before you go berserk, I know not all authors behave like this. But so many do, hence the rash of online articles on this subject lately. Now comment away.)