Monday, September 5, 2016

ZENITH // So. Many. Trolls.

Disclaimer: There have been some bookish-community-related things that have been bothering me lately, so my posts for September might tend to be a bit more ranty. We’ll see. I apologize in advance if you prefer more positive things. I promise I will try to be nice, and I promise I won’t go overboard. But if I don’t talk about this stuff now—if I wait another few months—then I won’t play nice. And you want me to play nice. 

Rating: Four Stars—Great

I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of you already know who Sasha Alsburg is—but in case you don’t, she’s the popular booktuber behind abookuptopia. (I have no clue if that’s the right way to introduce a Youtube channel, but whatever. We’re just going to go with it.) For a while now, I’ve enjoyed watching her videos, so I was excited to learn that she was co-authoring a book with Lindsay Cummings (I ordered her books, THE MURDER COMPLEX and THE DEATH CODE, off Book Depository last week, and I'm stoked to read them). Initially, Sasha and Lindsay had planned to release the book in parts, but when the first part topped the New York Times Bestseller list for ebooks, they ended up with a lovely book deal from Harlequin Teen (expected publication date, Fall 2017). 

And…here’s where the problem starts. Shortly after ZENITH, Part One was published, I blithely wandered onto Goodreads, all happy and excited for Sasha and Lindsay, only to see so many people saying so many ugly things about (and to) them. Now, of course, I am not some sheltered little person with no idea what goes on in the outside world. I am well aware that trolls exist, and I have come across far too many for my taste. I also know engaging with them only makes it worse, which is why I'm not putting this discussion up on Goodreads and why I will delete your comments unanswered if you try to troll me on my blog. Normally I ignore trolls, because they are like spiders. You really dislike them, but you're never going to be able to rid the world of them by pointing out to them the error of their ways. But it bothered me enough this time that I’m going to share my opinion here, where most, if not all of you, are reasonable people with nice brains. So in the end, I guess it probably doesn’t matter, since you are all sensible enough not to be trolls, I would hope. Whatever. I need to rant. For the sake of argument, please pretend to be trolls so I can properly chew you out. Okay? Okay. 

First of all, let me just throw out a disclaimer here so none of us start out confused or needlessly upset. I am not saying people are wrong to share their negative opinions. If you dislike a book, you are free to write a review talking about how much you disliked said book. However, there are a few boundaries when it comes to free speech, just as there are boundaries when it comes to freedom of movement. 

For instance, say you are walking down an empty sidewalk. On this stretch of open cement, you are free to swing your arms just as much as you would like; you’re not going to hurt anyone. Likewise, in the privacy of your own space (like your blog), you are free to write what you like because people don’t have to come within reading distance of you unless they want to. 

However, say you are walking down the same sidewalk, but this time it’s super crowded. Of course, you could swing your arms as much as you’d like, but you’d hit a lot of people, these humans would get upset, and that would be on you. You would be the problem. When you start hitting people left and right, you sign away your option to stay out of that fight. Similarly, when you wander onto someone’s positive review and insult them for liking a book or say other nasty things without employing your God-given filter, you are hurting people, and that is where your privileged freedom ends. Freedom is not freedom if it requires that you take away another person's right to be treated like a human being. And when people get angry at you and want to throw you into a metaphorical dumpster after you trash them or bully the authors themselves, that is their right. I have exactly zero sympathy if they turn around and bite you in the face. This isn’t kindergarten, and if you don’t understand that at this point, you do not belong on the internet. 

But I’m getting distracted here. 

Perhaps you are wondering why the trolls were going into a feeding frenzy over Sasha and Lindsay’s book deal. Fortunately, you have me to explain these things for you. *polishes nails* 

From what I gathered before I decided I would rather chew off my favorite big toe than continue reading hateful comments, the biggest issue many of these people have is with Sasha’s perceived easy success. After all, Lindsay was previously published, but Sasha has, according to them at least (I don’t know everything, so I can’t say if they’re wrong), never finished a novel-length work before. And suddenly she’s got a major book deal and the coveted #1 New York Times Bestseller label. Even before that, she had managed to snag Jo Volpe as her agent (the same Jo Volpe who represents Veronica Roth). Not to mention she has over 300,000 subscribers on Youtube. 

So, these trolls are alleging that Sasha has had all this wonderful success handed to her on a silver platter, that ZENITH only did this well because Sasha is pretty and knows how to pout at a camera, and that all her fans are giving her book five stars regardless of the quality of the content because they are sheeple. They are saying that she doesn’t deserve her success, that it isn’t fair that she gets all this without working for it while all these poor souls have struggled to get published with no success. 

Well, as someone who has had over forty rejections on her first manuscript, I say boo hoo. Boo. Hoo. Life isn't fair. Fair is where you buy cotton candy. (I know, I’m a real shoulder to cry on. Have a tissue.) 

This is an actual video of me. 

But seriously, in case you missed it: GET. OVER. IT. 

Do you know why I’m being this harsh? Do you? I’m being this honest about my feelings because I don’t even care if Sasha did have her success handed to her on a silver platter (which she didn’t, because she worked for it, because no one gets a free ride; she got the deal because her book was popular—that is how the industry works). I am not ignorant, neither am I blind. I know full well that writing is one of the most competitive work fields. But I have never assumed that, in order to succeed in this field, you must first metaphorically slit your opponent’s throat. 

Here is how it works. The publishing industry is about money. That is not a shameful thing. All these people who work in publishing companies or as authors or whatever, they need money to eat and to live quality lives if they can manage it. Let’s be honest—we complain far less about doctor’s bills, and they charge far more than publishing companies do. And unlike books, you don’t always have the choice about whether or not you incur those bills. So unless you have something constructive and knowledgable to say about this issue, please go complain about something worth complaining about. Or better yet, shut up. I am beyond done with all these abusive comments in reference to a publisher publishing something or an author making money. 

Oh yes, I understand the struggle in these people’s minds, because I have wrestled this particular demon myself. Multiple times. I understand how sour you can get in your head when you see your own BEAUTIFUL BABY WORK OF GENIUS collecting dust in your hard drive because Little Miss Agent failed to recognize your screaming intellect whilst publishers fall over themselves buying wet rags and passing them off as REAL LITERATURE. *gasp* So let me give you a tiny piece of advice. Remember that the church might have punished Galileo, but he was still right: The universe does not revolve around you. 

Writing is subjective. Reading is subjective. And unfortunately, sometimes a book you love beyond measure (whether it's yours or not) just won’t get the recognition you feel it deserves. I know I get frustrated when I see how many people dislike IMAGINARY GIRLS, by Nova Ren Suma. But I also understand that this probably means I have more obscure tastes. Maybe this will even mean I will end up writing books that only appeal to people with obscure tastes. Will that be disappointing in terms of sales? Probably. Will I paint myself as the struggling, true artist, buried under the commercialized crapheap of mainstream writing, one of the last few literary lights in a cold, dark world. Heck no. Heck no. The moment people adopt that pretentious attitude about art, any sort of art, is the moment they cease to be true artists and become only tired parodies of themselves. 

So yes, sometimes publishers will print books we generally consider sub par (*ahem* FIFTY SHADES OF GREY *ahem*). When that happens, I think it’s important that we all sit back and realize that, if someone is able to make a decent living in this craft, and if people are willing to spend their money on these books, there’s really no reason to complain. This is why we have book reviewers. They let us know how they feel about new and old books so we can make informed decisions before purchasing them ourselves. Also there is this lovely invention called the library where I'm told you can borrow books FOR FREE. No publisher is going to stop you in a dark alley, relieve you of your wallet, and thrust a stack of poorly-written novels into your fear-paralyzed arms. And next time, when you see a publisher making another sound business decision like buying ZENITH, maybe you should consider applauding them for doing their job well, since Sasha’s success wasn’t the thing that made it so you didn’t succeed. 

Bottom line: If you hate a book, put it down, walk away, share your opinion politely, and then MOVE THE HECK ON. It is literally that easy. You do not need to bully the author or insult the fans or earn hundreds of brownie points in the club of I Really Stinkin’ Hate This Book by being a female dog about it. It shouldn't bother you that other people like a book you hated. You are not five. 

Oh, and another thing, when I see a writer or a wannabe-writer bullying other writers or fans of other writers, they go on a very special, very exclusive list called “People whose books I will never knowingly buy or promote”. Writing is business, as much as it would be nice if it were purely art. And if you behave unprofessionally, I will have no part in this business you want to run. If you do not support your fellow authors and at least keep quiet if you can’t bring yourself to be happy for their successes, I will not support you. I know this probably doesn’t mean much. Maybe it's even petty. It’s not like my boycott will hurt you. I don’t fancy myself someone who could cause a sales tipping point from obscure to popular by my words alone, so I also don’t fancy myself as someone who could damage another’s career. That’s not even an aspiration of mine, because I would prefer to go through this life doing as little harm as possible. But in the writing world, it helps to have support. And if you don’t support others, I will not have your back. The writing community is just that—a community, not a place where we stand around and throw crap at each other because we’re too immature to handle our jealousy like sane people. If you can't play nice, then don't try to join the other kids on the playground. You will just make everyone miserable. 

But back to ZENITH, because this is supposed to be a review of sorts. As you have already seen, probably, I gave ZENITH four stars. As short as it was, I really enjoyed what I read. Yes, it wasn’t perfect, but it has spirit, it has energy, and it has a vast deal of potential. People have claimed it’s a rip-off of THRONE OF GLASS, but having a female assassin for a main character does not make your book a rip-off of anything. In fact, I’m more interested in Andi’s character arc than I am in Celaena’s (although I am interested in hers as well). While Celaena is a hard-core assassin, the Bloody Baroness suffers each time she kills someone, which is a fascinating mental state, if you ask me. I already know I will be preordering the full book when it gets closer to publication. And, of course, I will be talking more about it then. In the meantime, rest assured, there is plenty of stabbiness and internal wrestling, and I am sad I don’t have the full book in my hands yet. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? If you’ve read ZENITH, what did you think about it? Have you been following the drama around ZENITH? Do trolls bother you?


  1. I have to admit, as someone who watches a lot of YouTube... I don't really watch Booktube. I know, I know how shameful. I do believe I have heard of her channel but not about her.

    I definitely agree with you. There were so many quotes from this post that I liked for example, "Fair is where you buy cotton candy." Puns are great. *ahem*

    This whole situation reminded me of Zoella who is in fact a well known British beauty guru (You probably know her). And many people really hated her books mainly because the first one was ghost-written.

    The thing is, people shouldn't spend their time hating on other writers even if they produce low quality writing that sells a lot. We should write negative reviews but should not completely bash the author... especially when they have tried their best.

    As for Zenith... I have never heard about it. Trolls don't really bother me because they're such unwise people. This week I did have a little argument with one because they said something about black people shouldn't be allowed to have children and also that we are the ones who usually laugh at inappropriate things such as violence. I know, you probably think I'm foolish but I only sent three replies. The last one was sent out of pure frustration telling the person that if they were going to keep twisting my words, I would no longer reply to their comments and that's how the argument stopped, to my surprise.

    1. No need to feel ashamed. I probably watch it too much, tbh. :P I wouldn't be surprised if you'd heard her channel mentioned somewhere. I hear her mentioned a lot.

      I'm so glad you liked the post! :)

      Now that you mention it, yeah, I can see how similar they are. Everyone is so mean and quick to judge. Like, chill guys, cool it.

      Negative reviews are fine, but yeah, writers should never bash other writers. That shouldn't be a thing.

      Ugh, I hate racist trolls more than any other kind of troll. Like why are they so ignorant and hateful? I engage with trolls from time to time, so I'm totally not judging you. Sometimes you just have to stand up to them for you own sake.

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  2. I haven't heard of this controversy at all, but man, that is still disappointing. :/ I wish people were nicer, just in general. Just... yeah. I wish that were true.

    1. I'm glad you haven't had to deal with all the negativity around it. :P If people could just behave themselves, that would be great, please and thank you. :P

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  3. *applauds forever because this post is fantastic* Like yes. Being rejected hurts (I've received enough rejections on my books to know that), especially when you see other works you consider subpar getting a ton of attention, but it doesn't justify bullying the author or those who like the book. Plus, it seems like the trolls didn't even read it (correct me if I'm wrong, but that's what I gathered)? They're just assuming it's bad because she doesn't have the Badge Of A Billion Rejections. Honestly, I wish I didn't have it, but I do and that's just part of being in this industry. And like you said, the fact that she's succeeding doesn't mean we won't. People don't just buy one book after all. The fact that they enjoyed hers actually means they might be more open to buying others (i.e. mine, lol) in the future.

    BTW, I may be quoting you every once in a while, especially the trolls to spiders comparison and the one about Galileo.


    1. Aww, thank you! *bows deeply* Rejections aren't fun, but they're never a reason to get mean or bitter. Some of the trolls had read it, but a lot of them were jumping on the bandwagon, and yeah, it was way more ugly than it should have been. And some of the trolls were going after people who had liked the book. Like, just chill. It's cool if you don't like it, whatever. But don't rain on other people's parade just because you're a butt.

      Go ahead! I would be honored. :P

      Thank you for commenting! :)