Hello, evil readers!
Today we're going to talk about Speshul Snoflakedom. If you're not aware of what a Speshul Snoflake is, well, I'll enlighten you.
There are several definitions, so you can head on over to Urban Dictionary if you're curious about all of them, but today we're going to focus on the syndrome.
A malady affecting a significant portion of the world's population wherein the afflicted will demand special treatment, conduct themselves with a ludicrous, unfounded sense of entitlement, and generally make the lives of everyone around them that much more miserable. (via Urban Dictionary)
How does this apply to your writing?
IN EVERY WAY.
Let's start with "demand special treatment," shall we? Slushpile Hell. #queryfail. Jessica Faust says it beautifully here in her post on Bookends, LLC's blog, titled Thought for The Day:
I love it when people start their query with something along the lines of "I know a query should get to the point, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way," or "I know you don't accept unrequested manuscripts, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way," or "I know a mystery should really have a mystery in it, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way."
Isn't that a little like me saying, "I know I shouldn't get fall-down drunk at writers' conferences, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way"?
Are you seeing a pattern here? People who do these things – who think, for whatever reason, that they should be an exception to the established guidelines or rules or procedure - fall into the category of Speshul Snoflakes.
A perfect example of this is a writer (and I use the term very loosely and only
because they spend considerable time at their keyboard poking keys and forming something that looks like words, despite the fact that they have been told – both gently and not-so by both professionals and betas alike – that they have no ability to do this whatsoever) who uses their medical diagnosis to get people to read their work.
I'll pause here to let that sink in.
Listen up, writers. You do NOT use ANYTHING, and I mean ANYTHING, to garner sympathy readers. Asking (or demanding, in this person's case) that you buy anything because of < insert medical condition or other pitiful situation here > is what I call "pity soliciting." You're selling something to people/wanting them to buy stuff by playing on their sympathy.
Also known as a GUILT TRIP.
Now, there are exceptions to this, HOWEVER – they can only be made by someone other than the writer themselves without making it a pity solicitation. If someone else says, "hey, buy Writer X's work please – their house just burned down and they could use the help," that's fine. Perfectly okay. BUT! If the WRITER says, "buy my books because my house burned down, my dog ran away, I have irritable bowel syndrome and my kid needs therapy," that's something else entirely.
Fundraising is one thing. It's fine to write something with the intent to sell it to have the proceeds go to something specific. It's a whole different thing to ask people constantly to buy your work BECAUSE of something out of your control/you want them to feel sorry for you.
You don't want people to buy your work because they feel sorry for you. You want them to buy your work because it's what they want to read.
Using your medical diagnosis or life tragedy to sell your work (ANY work, not just writing) is a cheap shot, in my opinion. Why would you put in your author bio that you're a breast cancer survivor? Who needs to know that? What's the aim there? Why is that important to tell people? Do you want people to buy your book because you had cancer? (If you do, then more power to you. I'm just saying it's a lame reason to get people to buy your stuff.)
Now if your book was ABOUT living with cancer or coping with it or whatever, THEN it's relevant to say. THEN it's a credibility thing. But if you're writing a mystery story that has nothing at all to do with anything remotely related, there's no point to putting that kind of information in your author bio other than to garner sympathy.
Your writing is about telling a story. It's about escapism, not reality. If you want people to buy your stuff, then write something they're interested in reading. Don't go for the cheap shot/pity buy.
This behavior has the complete and total opposite effect on some people. Like me. Even if I'm interested in buying your story, if you've thrown in a "poor me, buy this book" thing in your bio or on your back cover or even on your blog, I'm not going to bother with you ever.
"Buy my book! I have six kids to feed!" Um, well, that sounds like a personal problem to me. It's not a reason for me to buy your book.
"Buy my book! I have < insert medical condition here >!" Again, not a reason for me to buy your book, and NOT – I REPEAT, NOT – a justification of your lack of writing skills. It's like saying, "Here, I did something that sucks, now pay me for it because it was really hard for me to do because I _____."
Um, how about "no?" Does "no" work for you? Because it does for me. That might work for charities, but you're a writer, not a charity. Making yourself into a charity case doesn't earn you points here.
Also, this isn't something you should put in your query letter. I don't know a single agent who will want to represent you based on the fact that you're a < insert medical condition or personal problem here >. You never see in submission guidelines "special priority granted to persons with < insert condition or situation here >." Submitting your writing is about YOUR WRITING, not YOU as a person. Now, again, if your medical diagnosis or life situation has something to do with your story (i.e. you've written a cancer survivor coping book and have survived cancer yourself), you can put a line in the query about "what qualifies me to write this." Then it's relevant. But don't just say "I'm a cancer patient with six kids to feed and looking for someone to buy my book." (First of all, agents don't "buy" your book - they represent you and present your work to those who would potentially buy it. Just sayin'.) Trying to evoke sympathy will not get you an agent. It will most likely end up getting you rejected. This isn't because agents are heartless. It's because you obviously don't know how to write a query letter and are trying to guilt them into representing you. Emotional blackmail is STILL blackmail, and it's abusive. Don't be that kind of writer.
Now, if you've crafted a brilliant story/followed the submission guidelines/done everything well, it may or may not get representation. If it does, you can tell the agent LATER, personally, that "oh, by the way, this might interfere with things...." It's all about relevance here, people.
Sympathy isn't a way to get anything. See the part in the Speshul Snoflake Syndrome definition about "entitlement."
YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYTHING, EVER. You are not entitled to an agent, a book contract, a six-figure deal, publication, or anything at all, for any reason. Those things are earned, not given. (Unless, of course, you're a celebrity – then they'll just give you a book deal. Well, not YOU…a ghost writer because you're too busy being a celebrity to write anything, let alone write something coherent. Exception to Anthony Bourdain, who can write like a motherfucker.)
Well, that's not entirely accurate. I shouldn't say that Speshul Snoflakes aren't entitled to anything, because they are. They're entitled to mockery, derision and an award. A Speshul Snoflake Award (hereafter referred to as an "SSA").
It's been decided that Speshul Snoflakes are SO SPESHUL that we will occasionally feature one on this blog. I can't promise that there will be no names or links (this will depend on the infraction and obviousness of the Speshulness). Mostly it will just be drawing attention to How Not To Be A Douchebag Author. Our resident Photoshop guru may be making up this virtual award, and we will present it to the "lucky" recipient with our mockery. There is no shortage of "winners" here.
Why would we do such a thing? Because not only should stupid hurt, douchebags should be beaten. Then stabbed. With double-pointed knitting needles. (Wait, those are mine….)
Also...evil. Hi, evil writers here!