When People Who Don’t Get It Attack
This fellow thinks I gave a “lukewarm” review to Glenn Reynold’s An Army of Davids for fear of displeasing his Instapunditness, who might then stop giving my books his all-encompassing love. He also calls me a hack. After I stopped giggling at both these things, I posted a long comment on his site, which I will now repost here.
“Scalzi’s bio screams HACK WRITER…”
Yup, I suck. However, I don’t talk straight out of my ass, which is what you’re doing here. Whatever you think you know about the relationship between Glenn Reynolds and my writing career is based on heaping amounts of ignorance, so it’s not entirely surprising you’re basically entirely wrong. Allow me to explain the many reasons this is so.
As to whether I fear to cross Glenn for fear of losing the creamy goodness of his InstaLove: Not really. His liking my novels has had a significant and direct effect on my sales, sure, because his readers trust him to make good recommendations, and he has a lot of readers. On the other hand, my current book has gotten good to excellent reviews in Entertainment Weekly, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal and a number of other places — all reviewed by people who don’t know me, I would add — so I think I would do just fine without him or his personal relationship with his readers. Indeed, my two biggest-selling books to date (Book of the Dumb and Book of the Dumb 2) were scarcely mentioned by him (which is to say one of them got one bland sentence, and the second wasn’t noted by him at all). It’s not at all likely he had any significant influence on those sales.
Likewise, my astronomy book The Rough Guide to the Universe has had the majority of its sales in the UK (which makes sense as the publisher is based in London). It’s gone through several printings and I’m about to update it for a second edition (it was rather well-reviewed by people don’t know me, too). You could make an argument that Instapundit has a vasty readership in the UK, too, but then, he’s never mentioned that book, either.
Did Glenn help sell my books? Absolutely. Am I grateful? You bet; it’s why I put him in the acknowledgments of The Ghost Brigades. He’s been important. My book sales don’t live or die on his whim, and I have rather more concrete evidence of that fact than you do to the contrary.
Now, as a practical matter, I cross Glenn all the time; his end-result politics and mine don’t exactly mesh, and there’s been several times over the course of the time we’ve had blogs where we’ve gone around on various subjects. Here’s one of the earliest: http://instapundit.com/archives/000480.php. If you think I’m scared to speak my mind because I don’t want to lose Glenn’s patronage, you’re an idiot (or, more likely, ignorant, to return to an earlier theme).
The reason I noted “Army of Davids” was because I liked the book — not in a lukewarm way you suggest, either. It’s genuinely interesting. If I hadn’t have liked it, I wouldn’t have mentioned it. The book is selling well enough that Glenn doesn’t need me to push it, and if you think he’s sitting there keeping tabs on who is recommending his book in order to punish or praise them later, well, we’re back to the “idiot/ignorant” thing again.
What you apparently have a hard time wrapping your head around is that personal blogs aren’t newspapers — they’re personal blogs. I haven’t the slightest hesitation in writing up a review on my own site of Glenn’s book or the book of any other people of my acquaintance because it’s a personal site, and it’s pretty transparent to my readers that I know the people I’m writing about. In the particular piece you’re all lathered about, I note in the entry that I am actually in the book. That would be your first tip-off that I am not a disinterested observer.
Would I write a review of An Army of Davids for a newspaper or magazine? Clearly not, because to repeat, I’m in the book, and even if I weren’t there’s been enough of an interaction between the two of us that I couldn’t be disinterested. On the off chance that I did review something for a paper/magazine in which I had some personal interest, even a small one (such as when I recently did a DVD review for Proof, which was written by a college classmate of mine whom I had not seen in 15 years), I’d note it up front. Because that’s the responsible and ethical thing to do. And as it happens I do the same thing on my personal site as well.
Complaining that people are not writing in a disinterested fashion on their personal blogs is like complaining that water is wet; likewise complaining that people champion the efforts of their friends and acquaintances on their personal sites is pretty damn stupid. People write whatever the hell they want on their blogs; most blog readers, I suspect, are smart enough to understand they are reading a personal site and grasp what that entails. The vast majority of my readers do, in any event. The fact you don’t is interesting.