“Sensitivity Readers” Are Bullshit, and You Are A Sucker If You Believe Them

Before I left on Book Tour I wrote this post http://monsterhunternation.com/2019/01/31/to-the-book-community-go-fuck-yourself-an-anti-apology/  about how the “Book Community” (more like the Screaming Harpies of Tolerance) attacked a new author for being politically incorrect, until she pulled her book from publication (even though regular sane people couldn’t figure out what the hell it was she supposedly did that was so bad). Then she wrote an apology letter to the perpetually offended for offending them.

Here we are a month later and it has happened AGAIN.

Some other writer just pulled his book, and issued an apology that sounds like one someone would write before getting sent to a communist gulag.

I don’t know any of these writers (I’m not super popular in liberal writer circles for some reason, go figure) but apparently this author has previously been part of that same “Book Community” (i.e. the angry mob) that was destroying other writers for badthink: https://reason.com/archives/2019/02/28/he-was-part-of-a-twitter-mob-that-attack?fbclid=IwAR0wzRPtd1uctHBZcUBXpgAv6dtWYHCmZWa9C9nrRfeoZ9_q4Uo25yX6u6w

So the lesson this week is, live by the social justice, die by the social justice.

At this rate there won’t be any more YA books published. They’ll just pull them all shortly after releasing the ARCs.

I’m not going to repeat everything I said last time. If you are a reader, author, or aspiring author, read my link above and heed my advice, because this shit is nefarious and these bullies will never ever stop. They create nothing. They can only tear things down.  These perpetually offended bullies only have power over you if you let them. It’s a handful of assholes pitching a fit. Ignore them. Then hope your publisher has the spine and the basic sense to ignore them too, and if your publisher doesn’t then you have my sincere condolences, but you’ll be better off long term working somewhere that doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.

But this time I want to talk about a few specific things and aim this at the aspiring writers in the crowd.

Something that has come up in discussions about this fuckery is the concept of “Sensitivity Readers”. People have asked me what I think about Sensitivity Readers. A Sensitivity Reader is usually some expert on Intersectional Feminism or Cismale Gendernormative Fascism or other made up goofiness who a publisher brings in to look for anything “problematic” in a manuscript. And since basically everything is problematic to somebody they won’t be happy until they suck all the joy out of the universe. It is basically a new con-job racket some worthless scumbags have come up with to extort money from gullible writers, because there aren’t a lot of good ways to make a living with a Gender Studies Degree.

Writing advice time. If you are going to write about somebody different than you, or stuff outside your area of expertise, don’t be a lazy asshole, do your homework. And if you know people who are experts on that topic, or they come from that world, there’s nothing wrong with bouncing it off them to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row. But I’m talking about regular people, not professional grievance mongers.

Note, these Sensitivity Readers are always the typical progressive buzzword vultures, looking for racist/sexist/homophobic microaggressions, because it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has ever read a book from mainstream publishing that they don’t give a shit about offending any other group… Or even getting their basic facts right about anybody who isn’t Team Blue.

Seriously, I specifically set MHI in Alabama because of how sick and tired I was of how southerners are always portrayed as ignorant redneck hicks in most fiction. And I’m a westerner (though I lived there long enough Alabamans adopted me). Where are the “Sensitivity Readers” for combat vets? Where are the “Sensitivity Readers” for Christians? Or gun-nuts? (holy shit, these people are bad at writing action scenes, so they really could use that one)

Those don’t exist in Manhattan publishing. And that’s actually a good thing, because a right-wing finger shaking scold would be just as obnoxious as these left-wing fun sucks. Anybody who demands artists make art a certain way can fuck right off.

Now as writers, it’s our job to entertain people and make them happy. A good way to do that is don’t screw up your portrayals of them and their friends. You don’t need some bullshit Sensitivity Reader for that. You just need to not be a lazy dickhead.

Note, I said lazy, not “insensitive”. Because fuck your sensitivity.

You can’t make writing decisions based on whether somebody else got offended or not, because as we’ve seen time and time again, somebody is ALWAYS OFFENDED.

Screwing up your portrayals of people or rendering them down to cardboard stereotypes is just lazy writing. The key when you are writing about some group is make them people. Good characters are interesting, period. They have good traits and bad. Some of them will be smart, dumb, heroic, cowardly, good, evil, moral, or depraved. That’s true for any group.

If you listen to these Sensitivity Readers and the Twitter Mob, then you’re going to create boring shit characters who are totally predictable, because they’re all going to be the same and act in an approved way, and thus BORING. Any time somebody forces a checklist on the writer and makes them check boxes, it’s going to be crap.

It leads to clichéd writing. Here is Strong Female Character and her sidekick Noble Person Of Color/Gayness (and you’d better not give them any character flaws like an actual human being would have because that’ll upset the mob). Oh, there is the Rich White Guy. Gee, I wonder who the villain is going to be! (well, obviously it can’t be anybody else, because then they’ll yell at you on Twitter until you pull your book)

That’s just weak. It’s lazy. And the reader can tell when you are being lazy.

And before I get yelled at by random strangers who inevitably drift into my blog comments but haven’t read my books, I’m not saying you can’t write any of those. I’ve written all those character types, many, many times. I’m not the one telling you what you can’t do. I’m the one telling you it is okay to do whatever you want.

This guy got yelled at for having a Muslim terrorist bad guy. How does that make sense? There are Muslim terrorist bad guys in real life, but you can’t have one in a book? That’s just dumb.

But if you’re a good writer who actually gives a shit, you’re not going to just phone it in. You’re going to make that bad guy interesting, or bad ass, or scary, or even sympathetic (like the old saying goes, the bad guy usually thinks he’s the hero in his story). And then you’re going to have other Muslim characters who are good, ambivalent, or bad, heroic or cowardly, smart or dumb, moral or not, so on and so forth, just like you would any other bunch of humans. I’d do the same thing if the bad guy was Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic, or was into Nurgle.

Because—and this is the super important part that progressives always miss, not just in books, but in real life—humans are INDIVIDUALS.  You can’t just stick millions of distinct humans into an easily managed voting block because they share one trait, and act like they all think and feel the same way about everything else. You can’t declare that everyone in Group A must be X, and everybody in Group B must by Y. Identity politics is goofy in real life, and it’s artificially limiting in fiction.

The best characters are the ones who feel like actual human beings the reader could interact with in real life. They are flawed. They make bad calls sometimes. They talk like people would actually talk.

A bad character doesn’t feel like a real person. They come off as a cardboard cutout that takes up space. They may fool sheltered people who’ve never interacted with that kind of person before, but they’ll come off as obvious caricatures to anyone who ever has.  It is why us flyover red staters laugh at how Hollywood usually portrays us, but we are used to it.

Sixteen years ago the Wire came out. It was one of the most successful TV shows ever because every character had meat to them. Nobody was just a collection of arbitrary traits. Every single one of them felt like a person, and none of them were perfect. That’s good writing. Yes, race, sex, and sexual orientation was part of each character’s identity, but it was only part of their makeup, just like in real life. Yet if you wrote Omar Little right now in a book in 2019, I GUARANTEE that somebody on Twitter would be super offended because you made a black gay dude a criminal. And depending on their mood, and how much they like you that day, they may or may not try to ruin your career because of it.

But Omar is one of the best characters on a show filled with interesting characters, which is why perpetually offended assholes should never be given veto power over what artists want to create.  Perpetually offended assholes are short sighted, and frankly, shit at creating anything of value. So what do they know about making audiences happy?

If I had been forced to listen to Sensitivity Readers I would never have written Big Eddie, or The Chairman, or Toru Tokugawa, or Ashok Vadal. Sometimes bad guys are your best characters, and sometimes the story is about the bad guy becoming a good guy, and sometimes the story is about a good guy becoming a bad guy, and sometimes who is the bad guy depends on where you are standing.

All that matters is that you tell the story you want to tell, and don’t let some assholes boss you around about it.

EDIT:  I was just reminded of something.

To further illustrate how Sensitivity Readers stifle creativity and suck all the fun out of books, at a recent writing convention I attended there was a panel on Intersectional Feminism or something like that. I didn’t attend it (I’m not a glutton for punishment) but several of my friends went because they were curious to see how much of a train wreck it would be.

The panel was a bunch of feminists and the whole thing turned into a big competition of who could be more offended, and who could speak for more “marginalized” people. At one point a certain author (who is an upper class white lady) had to establish her street cred, so she actually called her professional Sensitivity Reader and put her on speaker phone.

Seriously, this shit is like the victim Olympics. It has fuck all to do with creating books that readers will actually enjoy.

I went to a party that night where a bunch of people who’d attended that clusterfuck of a panel were talking about it. Apparently the only panels at this event which were more dreary was the one about the evils of capitalism (I shit you not), and the one about writing comedy which degenerated into authors who’d drank the social justice Kool Aid telling everybody what not to write because it might be “offensive”.

Luckily the vast majority of the convention was free of this crap, but never ever give them an inch. Anything in the creative world that gets infested with social justice identity politics gets corrupted and strangled until its nothing but artists cancelling their art and issuing Maoist style apology letters.

A Note About Book Bombs

A Book Bomb is when you get as many people as possible to buy a specific book on a specific day, with the goal of pushing it as high up in the sales rankings as possible on Amazon, with the goal of getting it onto some bestseller lists, so that more new eyeballs see it. This is a great way to expose an author to new readers.

Lots of people do this, but the ones we do here on Monster Hunter Nation tend to work better than average. I love doing Book Bombs for authors who I think could use the boost. The most important thing about a BB is the author GETS PAID (as a devout capitalist I believe that every artist should put GET PAID in their mission statement). I started doing these to help friends in need, and it’s become a tradition.

I’ve had bitter cranks whine about how this is “gaming the system” because apparently authors are supposed to sit quietly while tastemakers and critics decide what should be popular. No thanks. I’ll game that system then, and appointed myself a tastemaking critic. But a BB ain’t cheating because these are all legit sales using actual money, being purchased by actual human beings, who will hopefully enjoy the book enough to leave a review and purchase the author’s other books. It’s about getting a critical mass of readers, fast, and trying to turn them into long term fans.

If you scroll down you can see an example from the one we did last week. They’re usually pretty darn successful. Even my less successful BBs will move several hundred books in a day, and the bigger ones will do over a thousand.  To put that in perspective, I read that the average (i.e. crappy) book signing in America sells like 8 books. So one of my Book Bombs is like having a hundred crappy book signings. My last tour I probably averaged 100 people at each stop (scroll down past the last Book Bomb post and I put up pictures!) so even at this stage of my career, a BB can be like ten awesome book signings worth of sales, only in 24 hours instead of two weeks of travelling. (But only a fool does book signings to actually make a profit on the books sold there, the reason you go is to meet fans in person because that adds to long term success)

The more people who get enthusiastic about a BB and spread the word, the higher it pushed in the rankings. The higher it goes in the rankings, the more new people check it out. Past experience has shown that whatever number of books we manage to move during the actual BB, a roughly equivalent number of books will be sold over the next week or two, as late comers see the posts, or Amazon picks it up to send out in their emails.

So they’re pretty awesome for the authors.

However, here is the downside.

The reason BBs work is that, A. my fans trust my opinion, and I’ve never shafted them with a book I honestly didn’t think most of them would enjoy. And B. I don’t do them so often that the fans get burned out.

Because of that I have to actually have a chance to read the book, and it doesn’t matter if I personally love it, the book has to be something that I think my regular readers will like. The hard part here is that I’ve got a To Be Read Pile that is taller than I am, and reading uses the same part of my brain as writing/editing, which gets used all day, so I don’t read for fun that often anymore, and when I do it’s usually stuff that isn’t related to my genre at all.

Then because of B, I can only do a Book Bomb about every other month. Tops. The reason they work is because they are special events. Not, Larry’s Book of the Month Club, because sorry, I ain’t Oprah. (her audience was orders of magnitude bigger, so when she plugged a book, it wasn’t a thousand more copies sold, it was hundreds of thousands, or in some cases, millions).

I guess there is actually a C. I never Book Bomb myself. That just seems like begging. BBs are a chance for me to help others. I figure I’m famous enough you guys will buy my stuff when you feel like buying my stuff. (preferably during release week though, because I too like being on bestseller lists!)

Now here is the part of this process that really sucks. Every time I do a Book Bomb I get a deluge of requests from authors and friends of authors. I get a few requests every single week, but the week after I do a BB, I get ten or twenty requests for me to do a BB for them. That’s just what I get. I don’t actually know how many requests Jack (who maintains this blog gets all the CorreiaTech marketing related emails) gets, but I know it is a LOT, and he only passes on the ones he thinks might be a legit good fit.

That isn’t even counting the I don’t know how many FB posts I get from fans, whenever there is any outrage controversy in the writing community (which is about once a week) where people tell me “you should give this person a Book Bomb!” Not going to happen when I can’t do a fraction of the ones where the authors actually ask.  (plus, it extra sucks when you’ve gone out of your way to promote the work of an author with differing political beliefs, and they later throw you under the bus when it becomes convenient for them, learned that lesson the hard way)

So I can only do about half a dozen BBs a year, AND I have to find the time to read them, AND think they’re a good fit for one of those slots, which means the odds ain’t good you’re getting one.

Sorry. I would love to help everybody, but I can’t. I’m just one moderately successful fantasy author with a slightly bigger than average internet following. So the authors who get picked are usually people that I know personally somehow, usually through us attending the same events. But even then, remember that I attend a lot of cons, so even of the authors I’ve met personally and LIKE, it’s still a ton of people to get through.

I’ve got a bunch of writers I want to do BBs for already, including people I’ve known for many years. Which is why I’ve done experiments like doing two books at a time (one regular priced trade and one bargain priced indy actually seemed to work okay, with the bargain impulse buy one getting WAY higher in the rankings).

I’ve had a few authors get really, really, really whiny about this after I told them I just can’t help them. Sorry. And for the handful of socially inept ones who got downright demanding and entitled to my time and access to the fan base I spent a decade building, oh hell no. They can go to hell  (as you may have just guessed, one of these is what caused me to write this blog post this morning).

Will it always be this way? I don’t know. I have to keep changing how I run them, because I learn new things from each BB, and the system is constantly changing. Like I now launch them the afternoon or night before the official date, because Amazon has a delay on its rankings before sales start to register. Back when I started it was like Wild West crazy town of numbers jumping the hour after we started. And the participants really enjoy being able to watch the numbers climb, which means they tell more friends, which means the author GETS PAID.

Speaking of changing rules, Facebook totally screwed me on the last one. It was halfway through the Bomb when I realized how badly they were throttling back who could see my posts and all the shares. (they limit how many of your followers can see your posts, even though those people actually WANT to read your stuff, so that you have to pay them to “promote” you, bunch of greedy bastards who are already mining our data to sell to evil megacorporations anyway).  So I switched gears and started putting up posts without outside links so they wouldn’t get throttled. Despite FB surprise screwing us, we still got Sakura to #1 in several genres and #147 of the millions of books on Amazon.

I might try doing these more often in the future, but I’m afraid oversaturation will make them less effective, which totally defeats the purpose. I’d rather do one thing right, than half-ass two.

Long story short, I love helping authors, I’m going to keep doing these, but I can only do so many, so please don’t get butt hurt if I don’t pick your book.

Noir Fatale, anthology edited by me and Kacey Ezell, eARC is available now!

This came out while I was on book tour so didn’t have a chance to post about it. The electronic advanced reader copy for the Noir Fatale anthology, edited by me and Kacey Ezell is available now from Baen.

https://www.baen.com/noir-fatale-earc.html

For those of you unfamiliar with Baen eARCs, that is where we put the advanced reader copies (normally meant for book reviewers eyes only) up for sale, so if you don’t feel like waiting for the general release in a few months, you can check it out now.

This is an awesome anthology of all new sci-fi and fantasy noir stories from a great crew of talented authors:

Larry Correia
Kacey Ezell
Laurell K. Hamilton
David Weber
Sarah A. Hoyt
Robert Buettner
Alistair Kimble
Griffin Barber
Michael Massa
Christopher L. Smith and Michael Ferguson
Hinkley Correia
Patrick Tracy
Steve Diamond

I would love to hear what you guys think of these.

Cyber Nuclear Book Bomb! Sakura: Intellectual Property by Zach Hill

For those of you new to this, a Book Bomb is when I pick out a good book, where the author could use some more publicity, and then we get as many people as possible to buy it on the same day, to push it as high as possible in the Amazon bestseller rankings. The higher we get it, the more new people see it, the more exposure the writer gets.

That’s a normal Book Bomb. I want this one to be our Cyber Nuclear Book Bomb! (it’ll make sense once you read the book, trust me) But this is a very special Book Bomb.  I’m asking all of my fans to share this and spread the word, and as you read on I hope you can see why I think it is important.

Our book is:

 

Zach was a very good friend of mine and one of the all around coolest people I’ve ever met.  He finished the rough draft of this novel three days before he died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism.

Paul Genesse and Patrick Tracy are talented authors, who were also friends of Zach’s, and they vowed to finish his last book and get it out there because Zach thought it was the best thing he’d ever written.

No matter how good you are, rough drafts still need lots of work, and working with Zach’s brother Josh, and a great team of artists (it is beautifully illustrated) and editors, they did a fantastic job. They’ve received no compensation for this. It was done as a  labor of love, and all the royalties go to Zach’s widow, Makenzie.

He was truly an extraordinary man.  I wrote about his life here: http://monsterhunternation.com/2016/01/18/in-memory-of-zach-hill/

I got to read an early version, and it is really good. I’m not just saying that because Zach was my friend (because I would totally lie for him!) but I don’t need to, because this book rocks. It’s everything that Zach thought was pure distilled awesome in book form.

It’s the story of a heavy metal singing android super star, who becomes an assassin during a cyberpunk apocalypse.  Zach lived in Japan, loved the culture, the people, and the music, and it shows. It’s ninjas, and bullet bikes, and gun fights, and jet packs, and killer robots, and lots and lots of heavy metal. This book is Zach and everything he loved.

And that’s why I want as many people as possible to see this, so they can get a glimpse into the fun, neat, guy that some of us were lucky enough to know in real life.

I don’t ask my fans for many favors, but this time I am. Please spread the word. This is a good book, and I want people to read it.

I’m launching this today (Wednesday) because Amazon stats have a long delay, so we should start see it ticking up tomorrow. I’ll keep updating the stats throughout the Book Bomb tomorrow (Thursday). Right now we are at:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,400 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

and in paperback:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT #1, 10:51 MST

And we have shot up a lot tonight!  Top 500 on the Kindle and #2 in a bunch of genres. Please continue to tell your friends, and if you’ve read it, post a review.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

I’m going to keep updating this through the day tomorrow.

EDIT #2, 8:30 MST

Overnight we cracked the top 300 on all of Amazon, and Sakura is now the #1 bestseller in 3 genres.  Normally that would be a pretty good Book Bomb, but this is the Cyber Nuclear Book Bomb, so we are just getting warmed up!  😀  Please keep spreading the word.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT #3: 12:30 MST

Still ticking up. We should see this morning’s sales start to register over the next few hours.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

And for the stuff really competitive stuff, we’re #16 in sci-fi. #4 is Dystopian.

EDIT #4, 4:30 MST, we have broken into the TOP 200 on all of Amazon. That is HUGE!

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT #5, 6:40 MST  Still ticking upwards.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)