Sunday, April 10, 2005

Since you've all heard the "I'm busy" excuse before ...

(and though I have been) ... I'll try to be a little more forthright. I'm going to piggyback off Wendy and Alison. I've been online a lot less lately because I'm a little disappointed with the online world. Since I've never really made any tight friendships online, I'm sure no one really cares. But there are things I really like about the online romance community, and things I don't like at all, and this is a post about what I don't like. I don't claim to speak for everyone, and I'm sure there are those who wouldn't like what I have to say at all, but I'm going to say it anyway.

I used to spend a ton of time at AAR. I've never been a heavy poster, but I like the site. But I'm getting tired of the people who've never been to the site before complaining about a bad review of their favorite author's new book. So you're Miss Big Name's bestest buddy and her biggest fan 4eva! We don't care. Come back when you have something useful to say.

I'm tired of the posters there who think they are somehow the den mother appointed to keep everyone else in line, and make sure no one says anything that might possibly be seen as impolite or critical.

And I'm tired of the authors who don't like AAR and places like it. Get over yourselves! There are readers out there who are discriminate and who want to talk about what they like and don't like. And yes, sometimes we might mention your name. That doesn't mean we're saying you're scum or you've got no talent or that we trying to ruin your career or you should die some terrible death. But from the way some (notice I said "some") authors act, you'd think we (and the site administrators) were saying all of those things and worse. And the way some authors think, we're all just different versions of Laurie Gold, or at least paid by her to say such mean things, which is just ludicrous. Like she's the only person in the world with the opinion that authors aren't perfect or above criticism. Like she's the only person in the world who's not your bestest friend or your biggest fan 4eva.

I'm getting a little tired of RTB as well. When some of us talked about the prevalence of author-only posts previously at Alison's blog, I agreed with a few others that there was too much of a focus on author-only issues, and not on reader issues or universal romance issues. The author whose post I used as an example basically said on her site that she didn't give a crap what we thought, that she'd keep writing the same thing. While I respect and agree with everyone's choice to write what they want to, I'm tired of this kind of attitude. RTB isn't anyone's personal blog. If you want to sit on your blog and say "I don't care what you think" then fine, say it. But RTB is supposed to be a COMMUNITY site (at least that's the impression I got) so it would be nice if it reflected the community.

Sylvia's recent post talked about community, Shannon's post on the RITA contoversy was great and obviously garnered a lot of interest. Kassia's was on a good topic, but I would have liked to see more opinion expressed and not so much worry about toe-stepping. I liked Wendy's recent post about librarians (but I might be pre-inclined since I work at a library) because she has a different and unique perspective on romance. But this and this and this and this and this and this (and plenty of others) were boring and of interest only to a select few (which might have been the point).

There are 30 columnists on RTB, and 18 of them are published authors (doesn't that seem a little imbalanced to anyone else?). There are six aspiring authors, two readers, one reviewer, one review site owner, one editor, and one librarian. One of the aforementioned published authors is a former editor, one an ebook author, and one a small press author. Definitely author-heavy and author-centralized. I think it's clear that whoever came up with the idea of RTB (and supposedly there are two of them), at least one of them is an author and they both spend most of their time on other authors' websites and blogs and loops. Not that I dislike authors. I like them. I like their books, and I think some of them have great ideas and great observations. But as a whole they need to stretch themselves. Stop talking so much about your writing process or the "author experience." Some people don't care about that, some have heard it all before, some just want more opinion and more reflection on ROMANCE.

Yeah, the online community seems author-heavy, but that's mostly because the authors are the ones with the high-profile sites and blogs. Readers tend to flit from site to site, maybe with a "home site" or two, but mostly posting a little bit of everywhere. Isn't it interesting to see how few reader sites were listed on RTB when it started, and how many have been added since? And I would definitely like to see some interest in and response to what the readers of RTB think. Seems to me that right now the authors are all trying to impress each other. I'd like to see RTB have a general comment board not connected to a particular post.

I hang out occasionally on other boards, both of other genres and of other topics, but I still come back to the romance community. It's where I started on the internet (well, after the military stuff, but I can't go back there), and it's where I feel most at home. Which sometimes is sad, because there are times, like this last few weeks, that I haven't felt at home here at all.


Temperley said...

I'm a writer, but I admit that RTB has bored me a few times--and the irony? The writer posts were the most boring. I don't know what I want from RTB myself at the moment, but I do know that I want something...MORE from the site. I don't care about the author vs reader thing. Just give me exciting, informative and interesting discussion starters.

booksquare said...

Beverly -- One thing about RTB, and maybe this will change, is that we're limited to about 500 words per post. Not that it's an excuse, but it does limit the ability to rant. Since I'm so out of touch with the online romance community, I'm finding the discussion about RTB to be fascinating...I was concerned that my first couple of posts were too negative about the industry in light of what others were posting.

You made an interesting point about community-building. Like any community, it takes a while to grow and find a voice (or voices). The online romance community was incredibly stale for a long time -- longtime reader-oriented lists pretty much died out due to political correctness. It's reassuring to see strong, opinionated (and informed) voices reappear. The romance world has grown too cautious due to the voices of a few. Hmm, I'm feeling a longer post coming out of what was supposed to a be "hey, thanks for speaking out" kind of comment.

CW said...

Good post, Bev. Agree with most of what you have to say, too. All this energy wasted, when we could be talking about...romances! Gah. :)

Meljean said...

Can I chime in a "me too" here? :D I hope all of these comings out and such will make a difference, and revitalize the site...because it really is a spectacular idea. I found this blog through RTB (and through Maili), and a lot of other blogs. Some of the actual columns/posts interest me, but like Evangeline, it was the rah rah! writer posts that turned me off the site.

Maybe I expected too much? I think I was hoping for an edgier version of the reader-to-reader board or ATBF. Not that everything has to be controversial...but at least bright and interesting--and about romance (but not necessarily a step-by-step guide to writing it).

So I hope once this furor dies down, it'll be all about the romance again.

Wendy said...

Hi Beverly! Just stumbled on in...

I think the online community is especially romance-author-heavy because by nature I've found romance authors more active. They really are some of the best self-promoters out there! And let's be honest - one of the easiest ways to self-promote is to have a web site :)

And I'm glad you liked the librarian post. It's an issue I've always wanted to address because over the years I've "heard" a lot of online readers b*tch about how their libraries are decidedly not romance friendly. There are reasons for this - besides the obviously that those librarians are ignorant cows :D

Wendy said...
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