Weekly Update – November 7, 2017

I want to put this right up front because this might be of interest to some people — especially those who are still trying to figure out your NaNoWriMo project.

The New England Speculative Writers group is holding an open call for its first anthology! Go here to get the details, but the short form is this: if you’re a New England-based writer, you’re eligible to submit a story.

I’m already working on mine, so maybe we’ll appear in the pages of this cool new project together.

WRITING PROJECTS

Well Behaved Women: I wrapped up a second draft of book one and am trying to focus on book two, but I have some plot work yet to do before this will really get rolling. In the meantime, I’m continuing to lay out the groundwork for a cool cover photo shoot early next year. I’ll share details as they come.

The Going Rate for Penance: This is the working title of my NESW anthology submission. I am about 1,400 words in, so it’s off to a strong start.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book four: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: Fourth draft finished, in the editing process.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: Third draft written.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (audiobook): Review completed, final editing in progress.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

  • Friday, January 12 through Monday, January 15, 2018: Arisia at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I’ll be back selling books and, hopefully, speaking on several panels.
  • Friday, February 16 through Sunday, February 18: Boskone at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel (tentative).

MISC.

I’m in the process of making some changes to how my books are distributed. This isn’t a big deal for you folks but it could be for me.

If you need more details, you can go read this post from Friday, but the TL;DR version is that I have pulled Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins from the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program and will be doing the same with The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich after the post-Thanksgiving weekend orgy of commercialism. The pros of being part of KDP Select no longer outweigh the drawbacks, so I am changing strategies that will, hopefully, benefit me in the long run.

Finally, if you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

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Changes Are Coming

Happy Friday, everyone!

Now, I know the headline might sound a little ominous, but it’s really not that big a deal — at least not to you, but it could mean some good things for me.

Last night the New England Speculative Writers group met to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects, and one of the subjects that came up was increasing one’s exposure. One of the specific points of discussion centered on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, and whether the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.

For those unfamiliar with KPD Select, the gist is that authors give Amazon exclusivity rights on e-books, i.e., I can’t sell e-books enrolled in the program through other retailers such as Barnes & Noble. In exchange, I get to periodically set up sales on Amazon that let me lower the price of my books without affecting how much I earn off each sale, and the e-books are included in the Kindle Unlimited program. Readers get to read unlimited e-books and I make my money there off each page read.

For a while this approach worked pretty well. I kept Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins and The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich in KDP Select as feeder titles, figuring people would check them out and then go get the other books in the series, and I’d still make a decent payday off the KU reads.

For reasons far too complex to go into here, the amount authors make per KU page read has gone down a LOT over the past few years. That, coupled with other, better ways I’ve found to entice readers into giving my books a try, had me on the fence whether it was worth continuing on with KDP Select, and last night’s discussion helped me make up my mind that it was time to leave it behind and try other things.

As of today, Secret Origins is no longer a KDP Select title and is not available through KU. Scratching a Lich, however, will have one last hurrah and will go on sale for 99 cents from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. After that, it’s coming off KDP Select.

Aside from the fact these books will no longer be available as KU titles, what this means is they, along with all my other books, will soon start popping up through other retail venues. This will be a bit of a process as I will have to set up the books for delivery via these other means, but it will expand my books’ availability and give consumers an option other than Amazon.

Now, I know in some circles it’s fashionable to bash Amazon, and I won’t deny the company is in ways problematic — especially when it comes to indie authors — but it has in the big picture sense been perhaps the single greatest boon to independent and small press authors who would otherwise struggle to make a dent in the marketplace. Nevertheless, there are readers who absolutely do not want to spend their money with Amazon, and this step will help me reach some of them.

So keep an eye out here and in my newsletter as I announce new retailers for my books, and please spread the word of the Thanksgiving sale. Thanks!

A North American Field Guide to Publishing Options

This comes up from time to time when I’m chatting with aspiring authors, so as a public service, I present a quick-and-dirty overview of publishing options available to writers.

PUBLISHING (also known as “traditional publishing”)

  • Can be a large corporation or a small, independently owned company
  • May or may not require author to have representation through an agent
  • Covers all book production costs for the author, i.e., they do not charge the author for editing, formatting, cover art, distribution, promotion/marketing, etc.
  • Will actively facilitate getting author’s books into bookstores and libraries
  • May or may not pay an advance; author makes money through book sales, a portion of which goes to the retailer, the publisher, and the author’s agent (when applicable)
  • May or may not actively market the author’s book
  • May or may not provide support in setting up author’s website and social media presence
  • May retain certain rights to the author’s work

SELF-PUBLISHING (also known as “independent authorship”)

  • No representation by an agent necessary
  • Author covers all costs associated with the production of the book and directly pays any contractors (editor, cover artist, publicist, etc.)
  • Author is responsible for books’ distribution through online platforms and brick-and-mortar venues; self-published status may make it harder to get books into bookstores and libraries
  • No advance; author makes money through sales, a portion of which typically goes to the retailer
  • Author is responsible for all marketing, either directly or through a paid contractor
  • Author is responsible for establishing website and social media presence, either directly or through a paid contractor
  • Author retains all rights to his/her work, unless the chosen publishing platform specifies otherwise

VANITY PRESS

  • Can be a large corporation or small, independently owned business
  • Generally does not require representation by an agent
  • Sometimes presents itself as a traditional publisher when it is in fact a self-publishing platform; does so for the express purpose of enticing authors into doing business with them
  • May or may not cover costs associated with a book’s production and distribution; may require author to cover costs in full or in part
  • May or may not facilitate distribution to bookstores and libraries; may charge a fee for certain distribution services
  • Unlikely to pay advance; author makes money through book sales, a portion of which is often collected by the vanity press
  • May or may not take an active role in marketing; may charge a fee for marketing services
  • May or may not assist author in establishing website and social media presence; may charge a fee for web/social media services
  • May retain certain rights to the author’s work

Weekly Update – February 21, 2017

af6-cover-ebook-editionFirst, I’d like to reiterate yesterday’s announcement that Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play is officially available for pre-order on Amazon. The Kindle version will be released next Tuesday, February 28, and the print edition should also be available on or around that date.

If you’re new to the Action Figures saga, or an AF fan who wants to introduce someone to the series, mark Monday, March 13 on your calendar, because that’s when Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins will be available on the Kindle for free. Actually it’ll be free all week (until Friday, March 17), so that gives you five days to grab a copy for yourself or gift one to a fellow reader.

WRITING PROJECTS

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootBlades of Glory: I managed to sneak in a little work here and there but was mostly away from the laptop due to Boskone (more on that below).

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: First draft finished.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: First draft finished.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins:  Audiobook recording in progress.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

Boskone is behind me, and while it was a decent weekend I’m doubtful whether I’ll try to go back in 2018.

The benefit of doing pop-culture-related conventions, especially cons like Arisia and Boskone, which tend to be more reader-oriented, is that you’re immersed in a target audience and the potential for sales and positive exposure is excellent. The drawback is that these shows can be very expensive. A table at Boskone is $70, plus they require people to basically buy an admission to the show (I personally despise that practice; I worked numerous comic cons with my wife and they didn’t hit vendors for a fee and then admission on top), and that almost doubles basic expenses. Then you add the unavoidable costs of parking, which can be considerable since they’re in Boston, and travel (gas and tolls). Even if you avoid superfluous expenses like food and lodging, you’re still dropping a couple hundred dollars just to be there.

In order to recoup those expenses, I have to sell at least 17 books at their convention price (I offer a small discount at shows to encourage sales), and that’s to barely break even. That might not sound like a huge number, but consider that there are several other authors there also selling their books, plus new and used book sellers, plus vendors selling non-book items. There’s a fair amount of competition for the patrons’ limited spending money.

The long and short of it is, Boskone did not provide a respectable ROI, and that is for me the deciding factor on whether to return to a given show. I’ve met several indie authors who do shows planning to lose money but do them anyway for the exposure, but I view this as a poor business model. Exposure is fine, but if it doesn’t lead to sales, it’s a waste of time, effort, and money — and the people I’ve spoken to admit they don’t know for sure that attending a con has directly resulted in later sales, and they certainly can’t connect any sales that do occur after a show to their appearance at said show. They might have correlation but they can’t prove causation.

 

Weekly Update – November 22, 2016

I’m about to get a bit political here, so anyone who cares to respond I’ll tell you now: I welcome contrasting viewpoints and additional information, but if anyone goes off on a tangent or cannot keep their posts civil and based in verifiable fact, I won’t approve them.

As an independent author who relies on Amazon.com for the vast majority of my book sales, I am naturally concerned that the online retail giant has wound up on a list of businesses Americans are being urged to boycott because of its connections to our president-elect and his family.

What concerns me is why Amazon ended up on this list. It states that the company’s “business” with the Trumps is selling clothing and shoes with the family’s brand on it.

This, to me, seems like a bit of a reach. For starters, Amazon carries EVERYTHING. That it sells stuff with the Trump name attached is hardly surprising and doesn’t to me speak of a formal business partnership between the two entities in the same way Trump and Macy’s had a partnership — and note that I said “had,” because Macy’s dropped the Trump clothing line like a hot rock.

Now, could Amazon also purge all things Trump from its virtual shelves? It could, and there is precedent for Amazon removing items following a public outcry, but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. A search of the site pulls up nearly 200,000 items with the Trump name attached to it in some way, from books to clothes to some amusing yet disturbing novelty items (the pen holder that allows you to insert your favorite writing implement in Trump’s ass, for example) — and only a tiny fraction of these items are in any way produced by a company with direct ties to the family, so it could take time to find and remove only those products. But I digress.

What I think is worth bearing in mind as you decide whether or not to participate in the boycott is that Trump and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are NOT on friendly terms whatsoever.

The Motley Fool has a lengthy piece about the relationship between the men, and it does not paint a picture of two guys who like each other, much less do business with each other. Trump has chastised Bezos for buying the Washington Post, which was very critical of Trump throughout the campaign, and the president-elect has talked about using the power of the federal government to investigate alleged (or perhaps, imagined) anti-trust law violations by Amazon.

After the election, Bezos tweeted, “Congratulations to @realDonaldTrump. I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.” Some have interpreted that as at least tepid support for the candidate — Fortune.com called it a “neutral” response — and used it to fire up their anti-Amazon sentiments because it wasn’t outright condemnation.

I’ll make it clear here: I did not support Trump, at all, and still don’t, and I would be delighted if Bezos took a principled stand and purged Amazon of all its Trumpernalia, but I doubt it’s going to happen — not without a powerful display of opposition from the public (I’ll get to that in a minute).

So the question becomes: how do you, the consumer, respond to all this? How do you support indie authors who rely heavily on Amazon’s reach in the American and global marketplace without necessarily supporting Amazon itself?

Well, for starters, I’d say don’t just stop spending money on Amazon. What I mean by that is, a boycott doesn’t work simply because people stop supporting a business; it works because they let the business know in no uncertain terms that reasons X, Y, and Z and WHY they aren’t spending money there anymore. There needs to be context, so I’d say the first thing to do is go to that boycott list I provided, use the contact information to make your voice heard, and let Amazon know directly and explicitly why you don’t want to give them your money anymore.

I’ll also note that as a rule I do believe in boycotts as a protest tool, but they need to be constructive, productive, focused, and come with two expectations: you might cause unintended collateral damage in the process; and that the entity being boycotted might not accede to your message.

And if the latter happens here and Amazon doesn’t dump all things Trump, what do you do? How do you keep indie authors alive without going through Amazon?

Again, you’ll need to put in some effort here. A lot of authors use Amazon exclusively, but not all of them. There are numerous other retail outlets available to indie authors so you can check them out, and the best way to find them (aside from the almighty Google) is to hit up your favorite authors via their websites, blog, and social media platforms. They’ll be happy to hook you up. Some might even sell directly through their website, such as I do (he said in a shamelessly self-serving way).

I encourage everyone to follow their conscience, regardless of which path it takes you down. If you choose to avoid Amazon like the plague and buy through other retailers, great. If you decide that boycotting Amazon would only hurt indie authors and don’t want to punish them in the process of making a statement? Also great.

Regardless of whatever decision you make, make it an informed decision and make sure your actions are clear in purpose.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins:  Audiobook recording in progress.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: In the editing process, on-schedule for a winter/spring 2017 release.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: In the editing process, will be included as a bonus story with Power Play.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: First draft in progress. Got a lot of work done on this over the weekend, so it’s safe to say I’m back on the Black End War groove.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: First draft in progress.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootBlades of Glory: Rough plotting in progress

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

I hope to hear about my Arisia panel assignments soon. If I don’t at least get on the panel I suggested (about writing fight scenes) I’ll be rather unhappy.

Finally, I’ll say this again even though I’ve remarked on it recently, but it’s come up in some of the writing forums I belong to so I think it bears repeating.

If you’re an aspiring author on the hunt for a publisher, remember that money is supposed to flow toward the writer. If an outfit calls itself a publisher but requires you to pay for editing, formatting, distribution, promotions, cover art, etc., they are NOT a true publisher but a self-publishing platform. More specifically, they’re a vanity press — a self-publishing service that masquerades as a true publisher for the purpose of enticing writers to cough up significant sums of money for services that a legit traditional publisher is supposed to cover.

If you decide that’s the route you want to go because you need things like editing and cover art, that’s fine, but do your research first, because some vanity presses claim various rights to the author’s work, and losing control of your own novel is a nightmare you do not want to contend with.

Also bear in mind that many self-publishing platforms such as CreateSpace do charge for support services, but those services are purely optional. CreateSpace also doesn’t claim any rights to the author’s work.

A Writer’s Anti-Scam Checklist

I’m writing this as an indirect response to a Facebook scammer who made an appearance on one of the writers’ pages I follow. She (if she was indeed a she) asked people to PM her if they were interested in an easy writing job that promised big money in return.

I was instantly skeptical and smelled a scam in the making. My instinct was confirmed to my satisfaction when I visited the poster’s FB page and found it curiously empty. I posted a warning to fellow page members. This prompted a brief exchange between the OP and me, and soon thereafter the OP was banned from the page as a scammer — after at least two people took the bait, unfortunately.

Scammers like this prey on aspiring and novice writers and depend on their naivete and inexperience to score some free labor and maybe a quick buck or two before vanishing into the Internet aether. Fortunately, having encountered quite a few of them, they’ve shown themselves to be fairly obvious if you know what to look for, so as a service to my less experienced fellow writers out there, here are some key warning signs that someone might be a con artist.

1: They ask the mark for money.

Neil Gaiman has a simple rule when it comes to writing professionally: money flows toward the writer.  Someone offering a writing job should never ask you to cough up any kind of fee or to cover costs associated with the publication of the end product (your writing). If any part of a writing gig involves you paying them for anything and getting reimbursed later, it’s a scam.

Similarly, a legit publisher shouldn’t ask an author to cover the cost of anything, from editing and cover art to distribution costs and comp copies to — and I’ve seen this before, no kidding — office supplies allegedly used in the course of working with the writer. All those expenses are supposed to be recouped from the sale of the writer’s work, not from any up-front charges to the author.

2: They ask for personal information.

If someone posing as an employer says they need a Social Security number as part of an application process or a bank account number so they can pay you via direct deposit, cease all communications immediately. Give them nothing and, if it’s a conversation over social media, report them.

3: They are stingy with details.

The FB post I referred to in the opening read something like this: “Want to work from home, control your own schedule, and earn big money writing? Contact me privately!” When I asked for specifics about the job, the poster got rather pissy (more on that later) and refused to say anything about the jobs they were offering — not the nature of the job, what kind of pay they were offering, not the name of the company — nothing. Even when asked directly she refused to say anything. Well, almost…

4: They behave unprofessionally

When I asked for more information, the OP became immediately defensive. I was told to back off, berated for expressing my doubts about her legitimacy, and shamed for not letting the adults on the page “make their own decisions.” The OP even threw an implied threat at me that she would wield “the power of my pen” (actual quote) against me if I gave her any more grief.

Despite what our recent presidential election might lead some to believe, responding to simple questions with belligerence is not mature or professional; it’s a warning sign that this person is offering nothing and knows it and didn’t expect resistance, so now he’s doing what teenagers trying to buy cigarettes at a convenience store do when asked for ID: they feign indignity to try and scare and intimidate the cashier into giving them what they want.

5: They have no distinct identity.

I checked out the OP’s Facebook profile and it immediately smacked of a fake account. There was no personal info, the profile pic was a stock photo (“professional woman with laptop”), she had all of 15 friends from several highly disparate geographical locations, and the page was only two weeks old, indicating that it had been set up very recently. Scammers regularly set up fake profiles for the express purpose of pulling a hit-and-run scheme, so if you’re suspicious about someone, look for telltale signs that a profile page might be bogus.

Added FYI: if someone’s profile photo looks a little too slick and professional, try using Google’s image search feature. Just right-click over the photo and choose “Search Google for image.” If a stock photo comes up, you know you’re being duped.

6: The company has no online fingerprint.

Someone might claim to represent a company, but far more often than not this is a Vandelay Industries type of thing. Run a Google search and see if the alleged business has full website rather than just a Facebook page or a Twitter account, which are much easier to set up for a quick con. If it doesn’t have a full-fledged website or any kind of serious online presence, be suspicious.

7: It has an online presence, but not the good kind.

I regularly advise neophyte writers looking for job opportunities, agents, or publishers to Google their prospects with the terms “writer beware” or “water cooler” attached, which will bring them to the Writer Beware and Absolute Write websites, which are great resources for ferreting out scammers and less-than-reputable businesses. Scammers either don’t realize writers talk to one another, or they hope that their current target is too naive to think of conducting a due diligence check.

Weekly Update – June 28, 2016

This week is jam-packed full of excellent announcements, starting with the big one:

Number One Spot

 

Number One Spot 4

That’s right: I can now legitimately claim that Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins is a two-time number one best seller!

Happy Kermit

Ad SquareTo celebrate this achievement, I’m going to make the Kindle version of Secret Origins available for 99 cents for one day only: July 19. If you’re a current fan, please spread the word to family and friends who might enjoy the series, and feel free to share this special promotional image ——————>

WRITING PROJECTS

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: The latest revisions are done! I still have a couple of test-readers as yet unheard from, but if/when they get back to me I may have to work any sound suggestions into the final draft — assuming they hit any points my other test-readers missed, that is, which would be surprising. My test-readers were seriously on the ball and pointed out a lot of issues, small and large, that I had to correct.

The result was unusual for this stage of development. Usually in the pre-editing phase, I’m mostly smoothing out the prose and trimming any fat; I expect word counts to do down, not up, but in this case the word count rose from approximately 77,000 in the third draft (which was up 1,000 words from draft two) to nearly 80,000 in the fourth draft.

The extra work was well worth it, though. What I have now is a LOT stronger than what I had a couple of months ago.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: Almost time to get back to work on this in earnest!

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins: Wait, what? Why is this on the list? you might well ask. Because I have officially locked in the talented Jennifer MacPherson to record the audiobook version of Secret Origins! I’ve had Jenn in mind for this project for a long time and I finally decided to pull the trigger and make it happen. Our goal is to have the finished audiobook ready for your holiday shopping pleasure.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

  • Wednesday, June 29: the Shrewsbury Public Library’s summer reading kickoff event, featuring a Local Authors Showcase. That runs next week from 3:30 to 6 PM and I’ll be one of eight (so far) local writers selling and signing books.
  • NEW! I’ve been accepted to the New England Authors Expo in Danvers, MA on July 27. This is a huge day-long show that connects authors with readers, libraries, bookstores, and industry reps. I expect to be exhausted by the end of it, but in a good way.
  • Sunday, October 2: The Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s 2016 Meet the Author series, which runs from 1 to 3 PM. As it happens, I’m playing a more active hand in promoting the Meet the Author series this year (more on that below).
  • Saturday & Sunday, October 15 & 16: The fall New Bedford Bookfest. Times TBA.

MISC.

BibBoardThis last cool announcement is primarily for the benefit of Massachusetts residents, who can now read my first novel, Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins for free via Commonwealth eBooks Collections, part of the BiblioBoard system, which helps libraries across the country increase its access to e-books.

Action Figures was added to the Indie Massachusetts curation through (quoting from the website here) “the SELF-e program, a collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioLabs designed to cultivate robust local writing communities and keep libraries at the center of the indie book movement. SELF-e helps self-published authors and indie presses expand their readership while adding new and diverse indie eBooks to library catalogs across the country.”

You can find Secret Origins in the YA and Children’s Fiction section.

I’m going to close on a bit of a rant/lecture, but I think this is worth the space, so please give it a read.

My wife vended MASSive ComicCon here in Worcester over the weekend, and we learned of a display of blatant cruelty that had us both seething.

The artists’ alley area of the con was huge, which meant a lot of industry pros, independent professionals, and motivated amateurs had somewhere to display their work, which was great.

One attendee apparently disagreed. From what we learned through a few people who witnessed this, a kid asked his father about artists’ alley because, being a kid, he didn’t grasp the concept. In the course of explaining artists’ alley, the dad said many of the artists in this area weren’t very good.

Dad then transcended dickishness and achieved douchebag status by pointing out one particular artist, who was sitting right there, as exemplary of the terrible art on display.

The artist is question, a young woman attending only her second con and selling sketches for short money, managed to shrug it off at first. Later that morning, Dad unlocked his asshole achievement badge. As the artist was returning from the restroom, Dad pointed her out to his kid and remarked, loud enough for her to hear, “That’s that shitty artist we saw.”

Folks, trying to work as an artist, in any medium, whether amateur or pro, is incredibly fucking hard — not just because of the finances involved, not just because society too often dismisses the arts as a legitimate career field, not just because other professional fields try to pass off “experience” and “exposure” as legitimate forms of compensation for artists they(try to) hire, but because at some point, someone is going to be unnecessarily, excessively mean for no reason whatsoever.

Criticism is part of an artist’s life. Good criticism helps artists grow and improve. Bad criticism is inevitable. It won’t be constructive, it won’t be solicited, it won’t be welcome, but it’s something artists need to learn to deal with productively.

The things this man said do not qualify as criticism. He deliberately singled out one young artist to be the target of flat-out cruelty for the sake of it. He said these things to tear this young lady down, because it gave him some twisted form of satisfaction to do so.

Fortunately, every artist around her rallied to her side, talked her down, and were ready to protect her if Dad came around again. When word of this spread, other vendors (including my wife and I) were almost praying he’d show his face again. There would have been a line of people ready to read this prick the riot act. Veronica went over and commissioned a quick sketch of our dog Beatrix to show her support. That’s the happy outcome here: fellow artists did not for one second stand for this bullshit and stood by one of their own.

But Dad is still out there and probably will piss on some other poor unsuspecting artist for shits and giggles, and maybe the next time that person won’t have people standing by him or her to provide the support he or she needs to roll with it and move on. This despicable excuse for a human being might well snuff out someone’s creative spark, and perhaps has done so already.

I offered this story not in the hopes it would enrage you or motivate you to be more supportive to artists — I trust you all do that already — but to make some of you think twice before you decide you simply have to tell an artist how badly you think he/she sucks. If that impulse is there, regardless of the reason, stop and ask yourself exactly why you feel you need to say anything. Chances are, you don’t have to say it; you want to, at which point the question becomes: Why? What good is served by dumping on an artist whose work you don’t like?

You don’t have to praise artists if you sincerely feel they don’t deserve it, but you don’t have to go out of your way to criticize them, either.

In closing, I offer the wise words of Kevin Smith:

Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.