Awareness of Manipulation (which segues into the backlash against the Blogger Blackout)

Just had the sudden realisation that I notice when people try to manipulate others into serving them or their product. I know a clickbait title when I see one. And I’m definitely aware of my own reactions to them.

CLICKBAIT

The go with newspapers online nowadays is to stick a lot of stuff behind a paywall, but let you view a certain number of articles per month for free. I have a certain newspaper’s Entertainment headlines in my feed-reader. With MY blog post titles, I try to find a way to briefly sum up the article. I try to avoid clickbait titles, because you know that the blogger is just trying to get your page views to boost ad revenue. (For the record, I use WordPress, and I don’t sell ad space but online newspapers obviously do.)

Examples of clickbait titles (taken from my feed-reader today)
Knightley: ‘The real reason I posed topless’
Who is the Sunrise Cash Cow?
Rachel Bilson welcomes first baby
Star Wars: Episode VII name revealed
Guess who really wrote Smelly Cat

These are obviously clickbait, because otherwise the titles would be:
-“Knightley posed topless because _____”
-“_____ is the Sunrise Cash Cow”
-“Rachel Bilson names her first child _____”
-“Star Wars: Episode VII is titled _____”
-“_____ really wrote Smelly Cat”

When I’m aware that someone is trying to manipulate me into doing what THEY want to do, I deliberately don’t click. (If I really want to know, chances are the answers will be on ONTD or the TV news, anyway.)

GUILT-TRIP

This is, unfortunately, a commonly used tactic by some authors. It is manipulative, even if the perpetrators don’t mean it to be.

Examples of guilt-tripping (taken from my memories; may not be exact wording)
For less than the price of a cup of coffee
Please RT/share
Please leave a review on _____
Please vote for my book at _____
If we reach enough Likes/adds
If you don’t _____, my publisher likely won’t contract any further books

No doubt some of these sound familiar to you, even if you didn’t/don’t consider them manipulative.

If you live in Australia, here are the TV shows I recommend you watch when they’re on:
The Gruen Transfer
Gruen Planet
Gruen Nation
The Checkout

Not only are they informative, but they’re presented in light-hearted, snarky, funny formats. They’re all about how companies, brands, groups, and individuals manipulate the public into buying their products/voting for them/etc. Generally, these brands et al employ the one tactic that I wish authors would: THINK LIKE A READER. Because we know that they all want to benefit THEMSELVES, first and foremost – that goes without saying. But they try to market it as if they’re putting the CONSUMERS first.

Whereas some authors definitely employ the guilt-trip to make you think of them as individuals, and not the small businesses they are. (No, really – they ARE small businesses: check out the copyright pages in their books, and if the copyright name has “LLC” or “Inc.” in it, they are officially a business…however small.)

As a reader/consumer, the guilt-trip makes me feel like those particular authors are blaming the public if their books tank. If they don’t make the NYT list, it’s because we didn’t buy enough copies in the first week. If their contracts don’t get extended, it’s because we didn’t buy enough, review enough, promote enough…

Because it can’t possibly be the story’s fault, or the publisher’s fault, or the author’s fault? It’s somehow always the public’s fault. It’s especially even the fans’ fault for not buying, reviewing, promoting, word-of-mouthing more.

To the authors’ credit, they don’t flat-out say, “It’s YOUR fault my book tanked, YOUR fault they didn’t extend my contract.”

And I’m not some completely heartless bitch: I DO buy, I DO review, I DO promote. But I do it when/if I WANT to – not when I’m PROMPTED to. I don’t want to do too much more, or else it’ll come across as spam, and spamming does NOT put readers on your side. But I do:

-Share deal announcements (when I remember to, which I haven’t lately – sorry)
-Share pre-order links
-Share cover art
-Compile a mega-list of book releases with their info each month
-Compile a list of book releases with their info each release day (generally only for U.S. releases, which are usually on a Tuesday)
-Post reviews, and cross-post them to Shelfari, Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) – and NetGalley and Edelweiss where possible

I do all this because I want to. Not for contest entries, not because the author has requested it, but because I WANT TO. I DO care, but I won’t allow myself to be manipulated. The more you request your readers to promote something, the more I’m inclined NOT to.

Remember the Blogger Blackout recently? While most authors supported it, or at least understood it, others did not. Instead, they saw it as “punishing all authors”, instead of what it really was: About bloggers taking the time to get their enthusiasm back for blogging and reviewing. The backlash to the blackout showed that unfortunately some authors see bloggers as mindless publicity machines without our own agency.

That meme (via QuickMeme) is a quote from Futurama, and it basically sums up being a blogger – some people only care when you DON’T do something WHEN they want you to. They often don’t care about the great stuff you do on your own.

I didn’t mean for this post to bring up the Blogger Blackout, but the backlash to the blackout is also an example of guilt-tripping: Apparently the blackout participants and supporters (I’m the latter) don’t CARE about authors, we HATE all authors, we’re “warring on authors”… Somehow standing up for our independence was seen to be “attacking” those who wanted to control our actions, to disallow us our own agency.

We DO care about authors, we DO love books. But we choose to do it on OUR terms. Because we’re NOT getting paid for any of our blogging, we have to put ourselves first the only way we know how – by demonstrating our freewill. Even though there are those who’d prefer us to be mindless publicity machines.

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