I feel as if I should be humming the tune from that old kids' show Wonderama as I say that. My oldest son Beau used to sing along and drum on his peg board desk, "Kids are people, too. Wacka-do, wackdo!"
I'm not looking for a pity party. And I know perfectly well how to pull up my big girl pants and move on when my feelings are hurt. Still, things are getting out of hand.
I don't object to criticism... constructive criticism... offered in a respectful manner. In the fifteen years since I've been published, I have answered every single letter that asks a question or raises an issues that requires a response. I love reader mail.
And I don't even object to negative remarks about my books, as in "I really don't care for your Cajun books; I much prefer the Viking ones," or "I really don't like your Viking books; I much prefer the Cajun ones." Or "What's with the bad language in your recent books?" Or "Perhaps you should research a little better. There are no boulders in Louisiana." Really?
I absolutely want to know if I have mistakes in my novels. Who knew that you don't peel okra! Or that a certain type pistol does not have a safety on it? In a recent reissue of a Xmas anthology, 'TWAS THE NIGHT, I refer to that scene from Top Gun where Tom Cruise and his buddy are serenading a woman with the song, "She's Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." The problem is that I refer to her as Kelly Preston, instead of Kelly McGinnis. How could this error have gotten by numerous editors and copy editors and readers in the first edition, let alone the second? But it did.
What concerns me, though, is the venom I see growing in a most toxic manner lately, both in reviews and letters to writers. Perhaps some people think we are celebrities earning vast amounts of money (ha, ha, ha!) who open ourselves to this type of vitriol by the mere act of putting our work out in the public eyes. I'm more inclined to believe that it is the anonymity of the Internet that prompts people to behave in ways they wouldn't if they were face-to-face. Let me give you some examples.
I got a particularly vicious email from a woman complaining about the manner in which I'd treated adoption in one of my books. She never did say what it was that I'd done wrong, in her mind, but she told me in no uncertain terms what she thought of me. Furthermore, she intended to go on every website she could find to blacken my name and of course she would be telling all her friends and acquaintances not to buy my books. When I wrote back, very politely, and told her that I would love to discuss the issue in a rational fashion but that she really needed to reread her email and see how offensive it was, she replied that she meant the email to be offensive, she didn't take anything back, and she hoped I was insulted because of the putrid person that I am, or something to that effect.
Then there are the reissues I have coming out for the next 17 months. Yes, I said 17. Avon bought my backlist from Dorchester when it was having money problems (not just mine but six other authors as well). Legally, they cannot use the same covers, and, hey, I agree, some of the originals are nicer, but it's beyond my control. One of the titles was changed from MY FAIR VIKING to THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE. Someone in marketing said the former sounded like a gay novel. I kid you not! Both of these things are beyond my control. What I have done is update each of those books, add funny scene tags and new reader letters and glossaries. I've even unkilled some beloved characters in one of them, and I'm posting an alternative ending on my website to another. And I insisted that the front cover of THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE indicate that it is a reissue.
But I am being personally blasted for these reissues. It's not as if reissues haven't been around since paper was invented. It isn't as if Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, and every other author isn't being reissued. No, it's as if I invented reissues just to fool unaware readers. And the venom with which I'm being castigated is remarkable.
"I feel duped! I feel lied to."
"Shame on you, Ms. Hill!"
"I am not happy with your marketing ploy..." My marketing ploy? Huh?
"Your webmail won't even let me email you. Shame again!"
My email address has been the same for fifteen years, although my website was down for two days. Not deliberately, I promise. I was always available by email.
Here's the thing, folks. I don't like buying a book and realizing I've already read it, either. In fact, there are so many reissues out there today (the economy is affecting the book industry like the rest of the world), that I've become diligent about checking the copyright page. And, frankly, I think publishers need to do more in this digital age to put up the reissue information on the Internet, not just on the book jacket.
But having said that, would it be so hard to write a polite letter and say, "Ms. Hill, I was disappointed to buy THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE and realize that it was a reissue of a previous title I had already read. Is there anything you can do to ensure that your publisher makes this more apparent in the future?" That's all that would be needed. I would pass those letters on to my publisher and urge them to be more proactive both online and in print copies to make the buyer more informed.
So, what do you think?