Flattered and deceived (Mistake #124)

I imagine few writers begin writing because the prospect of being flattered by readers and editors is attractive to them, but I don’t think I’ve ever met one who didn’t enjoy the pleasure of being told their work was read, enjoyed and appreciated.

It’s only natural and there’s no shame in it. We writers are creatives. Unleashing the fruits of that creativity onto the world can be nerve-wracking. How will it be received? Will it be liked? So many of us are fretful about this. Validation and compliments are like oxygen to many of us.

Everyone loves flattery, but for writers, in the more extreme cases, it can mean the difference between continuing to pursue writing, and giving up altogether. We’ve all had those “What’s the point?” moments during our careers. A reader finding value in your work — and telling you so — can be a huge boost. Suddenly, it’s all worthwhile.

But this widespread love — or need? — of flattery can make all writers vulnerable to false or deceptive flattery, and its possible consequences.

Be wise to it.

In writing world, the most obvious example is vanity publishing: novice writers sending their manuscripts to publishers who advertise that they’re looking to publish some, the manuscripts are then complimented, sometimes gushingly, and a promise of publication follows … as does the request for money to fund the project.

Remember this: in publishing, money flows from publisher to writer, not the other way.

There are also vanity anthology publishers, who invite poems (usually) and accept all for publication in an upcoming anthology, irrespective of literary merit, and which the publisher then markets to contributors, rather than the reading public. Often, you have to agree to buy one of these sub-standard compilations in order for your contribution to be included. It’s preying on those desperate to have their creative work published, and it’s a disgrace.

Both of these are well established and have been well covered by many bodies representing writers, and by many writing advisors, and I trust readers of this blog know to keep well away from them.

In the event of empty flattery, use liberally

What’s new?

There are several questionable wheezes about, in my view. One comes from an organisation calling itself Feedspot which appears to run a ‘best blog’ award scheme and website.

I am tired of receiving emails from them. Really tired. I’m told one of my sites has been selected as a top blog in its particular sector and ‘awarded’ a medal, which I’m asked to place on the blog, with a link back to the source website. Panellists and an ‘editorial team’ were behind one of my selections, I was once informed, but no names were provided to me when I requested them and asked for further details.

It’s cobblers on stilts. Vacuous and cynical flattery, it seems to me, from a web developer asking for link backs as a site-building exercise. My ‘win’ was for a top allergy blog, but the breadth of categories in which Feedspot awards these medals — tattoos, lawn care, meditation, feng shui, plumbing, and many more bizarrely niche examples — suggest to me that there can be little critical judgment, proper assessment or use of recognised experts behind these selections.

There are others. Another favourite is the out-of-the-blue email with the news you’ve been nominated for an award (again one which you didn’t enter, of course) and informing you how you can publicise your participation and encourage your readers to vote for you via social media. All this would achieve is publicity for this empty soulless endeavour … and lots of traffic to the organiser’s website. As someone who runs an award, one with proper judging procedures which take months, I assure you these are bullshit … and playing along I’m afraid risks making you look needy and desperate to those who recognise that they are bullshit. Think about it: is it really meaningful to ‘win’ something because you’ve harangued your followers into clicking a button to greater effect than the next participant? Is that something to be proud of?

Please don’t fall for or indulge it. You might ask — “What’s the harm?” Well, a cartoon rosette or medal with ‘I’m a Top 100 Thingamijig Blogger’ looks amateurish to editors who might stumble across your website and be in a position to offer you work. That’s one harm.

Be questioning, then, when someone flatters you and asks you for something in return. If your work has found favour with some supposed ‘review panel’, ask for their names and relevant experience. If an organisation emails to say how much they enjoy your blog, ask which particular post most struck a chord. If you’ve been nominated in an Award you did not enter, raise an eyebrow and ask about judging protocols. Be specific. Do it politely — there’s a small chance that it might be genuine — but do do it. It could save you some heartache and damage against your reputation.

You may want to do some background checks first, of course. Or you may want to trust your instinct and move on. That’s now what I do. All award nominations and phoney adulation received — along with other crap such as offers to write for my ‘great blog’ (“all I ask is that you include this one link!”) and free ‘infographics’ — get sent straight into the basket where all the Viagra emails go to die.

Generally, that’s all they deserve.

Comments 6

  • Interesting points and relevant, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Glad it’s not just me who gets the viagra emails then

  • Great post, Alex (in fact, it’s won my award for ‘best post of the day’! Do have a rosette to pin on your site….). But joking aside, when I first started blogging, I was always being ‘awarded’ a prize for the best/most exciting/jolly good blog and at first I was flattered but then I realised it didn’t actually mean diddly squat and was a bit like those awful chain letters that used to go round in the 70s (or was it just me?): if you were given an ‘award’ you had to choose so many other blogs to pass the award onto. It all got a bit silly and if I ever get them now, I just ignore them. Lesson learned!

    • I WANT THAT ROSETTE! Yes, I remember both those things you mention … And yes, we all learn lessons, sometimes the hard way. Hope for some readers of this post it wasn’t too hard. I just want everyone’s celebrated successes to be meaningful ones.

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