For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, some bloke once said. Doesn’t mean the reaction is right.
Writer Beware is a fine, upstanding watchdog of the writing community. Hosted and helped, in part at least, by the SFWA, it looks to shut down the con-schemes prevalent in the vanity presses, or at least educate novice writers to avoid the predatory clutches of such shysters. You know the sort of thing – “pay us £2000 and we’ll publish your book!” (which normally translates as “pay us £2000, we’ll press up 50 badly-set copies designed by a blind chimpanzee high on Sunny D, we’ll make absolutely no effort to market your book, and you’ll feel cheated instantly and have no recourse to the law!”). Real fly-by-night companies.
Victoria Strauss, Anne Crispin, and their colleagues are thorough and tireless in their efforts, and I’ll take this opportunity to thank them publicly. (You can also do this by buying their books – after all, they don’t get paid for doing the WB! work). But obviously every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
In this case the reaction is an anonymous hate-site called the Write Agenda. I won’t link to it, as they seem inordinately proud of the hits they receive, but I will quite happily spend some time – my own time, I should note, not paid by anybody or any organisation for this purpose – deconstructing The Write Agenda’s miserable excuse of a website.
And, who knows, I might just make it onto their celebrated blacklist!
The first thing you see on any page of this site is a bold title. In fact, that’s almost all you cansee.
There are sub-headings below this space-eating monstrosity (which is too large for the space it is given – the first sign that these people have no idea how to design, typeset or present themselves), but they don’t mean anything to the casual visitor. Propaganda Alerts? Propaganda Watch List? The Write Agenda Ninja Group? Nope, me neither. You have to dig a little deeper – just as you have to with the con-artists WB! warns against – to find out what these chaps are trying to warn you against. If you can be bothered, that is.
Deconstruction Number One: Who are you people?
I already said it was anonymous. These are people who are so angered by the threat posed by WB! to their ill-gotten gains that they have forgotten their own names. “We are a group of individuals, writers, want-to-be authors and inquisitive wordsmiths that have become “literally” numb (1) from reading the numerous author help related blog posts,” says a piece of puffery a third of the way down the first page. “Many of these postings are subjective and do not offer any substantial documentation regarding purported claims regarding publishers and other industry professionals. In addition, many of these sites have become nothing more than complaint boards that disseminate speculative claims without any substantiation.”
So far, so woolly. Nowhere does it give you any indication of who they actually are or what they represent. And from that pointless paragraph they could just be complaining about the direction of the wind. “We do not discount the validity of some claims made. However, we want to question both sides of an issue and to assist other authors in making informed decisions,” they continue in bold type. What claims? Which ones are valid? I’d like to see both sides of the story, please!
You have to scroll even further down – if you can still be bothered by now – to start seeing the links to the site’s actual articles. These are, almost without exception, attempts to smear the names and reputations of anyone who has had anything to do with Writer Beware! Hmmm. So much for informed decisions and utilising both sides of an argument. Clearly, they have something of a grudge against WB! Let’s see… who would have a grudge against WB?
…we are not affiliated with the individual that “had his defamation lawsuit against Writer Beware dismissed a couple years ago.”
Really? Proof, please. Who are you people?
Deconstruction Number Two: Inappropriate behaviour for booklovers
Next we move along – swiftly, and covering our noses against the stench of sockpuppetry – to a page called “Book Donations Needed: The Write Agenda’s 1st Annual Book Burning”.
Wait. What? Did I just imagine this? Did a group of authors, wannabe writers and inquisitive wordsmiths just call for a book-burning? Really? Yes, they did. You’d expect this sort of behaviour from holocaust-deniers, KKK and nutjob creationists, as well as bonkers fundamentalists of all creeds, but not from people who allegedly love books. Unless, of course, they don’t love books. Maybe they just love taking money from people who love books. There are some authors I would happily never read again, but I will never wish books burned. Not a one. Not even the Bible, though it has done more harm than good in the last couple of millennia. Ever read Fahrenheit 451, Wrong Agenda peeps?
The page link has been taken down from the front of their site, but the page itself still exists(2). Here’s a screen print.
Hey you guys, whoever you are – fancy explaining your ideas to us at any point? Dig yourselves out of a hole? Or are you too literally numb to do so?
Deconstruction Number Three: Author Watch.
TWA (I’m really tempted to add another T, but that would be childish, so I shan’t. You, on the other hand, gentle reader, can molest their acronym as you wish) helpfully provide a weekly bestseller list of books that are “non-traditionally published”. I guess that means, as no other definition is provided, that these authors have been taken for a ride by one or other of the charlatans that WB! warns writers against. Even better, beneath this chart there is a “Watch list”. All seven books on this list are from the same company – TurnAround Media. Go to TurnAround’s site if you want, and tell me what you reckon: old amateur bait site for desperately naive writers? I personally love the way they’re so dedicated to their authors that their monthly newsletter went out the window after only three editions. That’s not even making the effort – just like the lack of thought that went into the TWA site to begin with.
OK, I’m done for now. I could go on for hours, rubbishing every page, but I have writing of my own to do and I shouldn’t be letting these tossers rile me up in this manner. They sound like they’re sore losers, which means that Writer Beware is very much doing its intended job. And that is something good indeed in this world of crap.
Edit: here’s a nice recent summation by WB! of their thoughts on TWA, which I didn’t actually read before posting the above. Nice to know that my initial thoughts on Turnaround Media were probably correct.
(1) “Literally” numb? Poor chaps. Rub it and hope it doesn’t fall off.
(2) Or at least, it does at the time of writing. Here y’go.