- Posted by Johanna on October 31, 2010 at 9:17 am
- Category: Meta
I don’t know why this past week or two has been full of bad examples, but this one in particular got my back up for just being so much from a Bizarro-ish opposite-land. (Of course, I could be overreacting. Please feel free to tell me so in the comments.)
Regular readers of the site know that I am boycotting Bluewater comics because of their near-criminal exploitation of creators. I recently got an email from a relatively new comic writer asking me to take a look at two of his comics. I said ok, but when I opened the PDFs he sent, I saw that they were Bluewater titles.
(I also saw that they were bad. The art was nearly unreadable in spots, and of a quality level that I wouldn’t have published it. The stories took too long to get to their premises, and the dialogue was flat and pedestrian.)
I wrote back a short note saying “I’m sorry, you didn’t say these were Bluewater titles, which I don’t cover, so I won’t be reviewing them.” In return, I got an angry email telling me that refusing to cover books from any given company was “unethical” and unfair and made me “close-minded” for not giving the comics a chance regardless of their publisher.
Personally, I thought a boycott was the definition of an ethical act, making a decision based on the policies of the company. (Also, if these books were any good, I would likely have chosen to mention them anyway. That they weren’t simply made the boycott easier.) I’ve chosen to not support a company that steals from talent, so I refuse to give them any promotional support or coverage in my venue.
According to this writer, though, he has nothing to do with the company’s “questionable practices”. He’s just written titles for them. I don’t agree that that absolves him of any association. I think “I just work for them” (or, with a freelancer, “I just get paid by them” — although that’s questionable in this case, which is the whole point) is this generation’s “I was just following orders.” When your name appears under their brand, there’s a connection.
The note ended, “No worries, you will not be receiving my books for review from Bluewater or any other companies I work for. Have fun reviewing comics you deem worthy.” Isn’t that the definition of reviewing? Writing about works deserving of more attention? That’s the purpose of this website, anyway, and why I chose the name I did.
Reviewers are not whores. We do not have to write about anyone who pays us with a review copy. We are supposed to make decisions and judgments based on what’s worth talking about. In the current market, there are many more titles out there than any site can cover. While it can be temporarily amusing to tear down a bad comic, I don’t think it benefits anyone in the long run, since it’s rare that a creator, nursing hurt feelings, takes the criticism in a helpful fashion, and I’m not writing for that purpose anyway. I’d rather spend the time telling people why a little-known book is good.
My decision was confirmed by this NY Times article asking whether negative publicity helps a product. A recent marketing study had these conclusions:
A crucial factor … is how familiar a brand or product or other entity was before the negative publicity. … [T]hey found that negative reviews of a new book by an “established” author hurt sales. “For books by relatively unknown (new) authors, however, negative publicity has the opposite effect,” increasing sales by 45 percent over their expected sales trajectory, they write. Evidently this boils down to increased awareness: the mere act of introducing something to a broader public — even by saying that it stinks — increases the chances that more members of that public will want it anyway.
Maybe that’s why this writer was working so hard to guilt me into mentioning his book on my website. Regardless of what I said about it, it would be a bonus to him for getting the equivalent of free ad space. Which is why I’m not going to play along.