Just over a week ago I posted a comment on an interesting article in The Bookseller entitled "When does a writer become a professional?". My aim was to provide some evidence to back up what the author of the article was suggesting about how you don't necessarily need to be earning a living from your writing in order to feel OK about taking it seriously - for me, it all depends what your criteria for success are.
I explained that I had decided to offer my work for free (because getting readers was more important to me than making money) - and that I had been pleasantly surprised at the number of downloads so far. I also observed that I was not the only writer who had gone down this route, at which point I seem to have committed a heinous crime in the eyes of the website moderator - I linked to the page of my website (Free Fiction Review) which contains my own recommendations of free, self-published fiction by other authors (my aim being to demonstrate that I was not alone in having gone down this route and that other writers have achieved success - of sorts - with this approach).
This link to my own site is the only reason I can think of why the moderator deleted my post as "Spam". I can understand why websites have rules on this, particularly in relation to self-promotion. But if he/she had bothered to read my comment properly and visit the page, it would have been clear that I am not in fact promoting myself at all - that page is entirely devoted to encouraging people to read free books by other authors, not me. No one pays me to write those reviews, nor is there any advertising on my site - so I have nothing to gain financially.
Now, in case you are wondering, the relevance of the Stalin photo is that there are 2 versions of it - one with Nikolai Yhezov (to the right of Stalin) and one without (above). Because not content with purging Yhezov, Stalin tried to have him airbrushed out of history. Ok, I admit it, this analogy is probably pushing it a bit.....
But I have had similar experiences when commenting on similar issues on The Guardian website (motto: "Comment is free" - hmmm, not so sure about that) and on Reddit. The Reddit forum I posted on specifically asked for recommendations of free books - so I provided a couple and then, not wanting to bore people with a long post, provided a link to Free Fiction Review. Result? Deletion of post and very sniffy comment from the moderator suggesting that I read their guidelines more carefully. I had read them in fact - and they permit linking to relevant external websites, including your own material provided you don't make a habit of it (which I had no intention of doing). But when I made the point that my page was relevant to the question they had asked on their forum, they were not having any of it. I came away with the strong impression that upholding the rules was more important than what people actually had to say on the topic in question.
So I suppose I should not have been surprised by the deletion of my post on The Bookseller article. I accept that websites need to have rules about what is acceptable and that moderators do not always have an easy task (although with a grand total of 10 comments on that article to date, the moderator can hardly claim to have been overwhelmed by the amount that needed checking). But it strikes me as a depressing state of affairs where rigid adherence to a set of rules seems to have become more important than what people might actually have to contribute to the very debate that the comments section is (presumably) there to encourage.
Posted by Paul Samael. Posted In : Random thoughts