When people get invited to free download promotions via the mechanism of Facebook events, of those who say no, a tiny number feel it necessary to also tell the author, publicly, how they feel about ebooks and Amazon. Anyone might think they’d been invited to praise Satan and suck the blood from the jugular of a freshly slaughtered baby, such is the righteous fury an invitation to grab a free book can invoke. God only knows how they react when they get junk mail through the letterbox offering them free spoons.
It might be declared, caps off or on, that, “ebooks are killing books” or “Amazon is directly responsible for a lady on my street turning to prostitution because it was able to sell Maximise Your Vagina Potential for just 20p” or “Kindles rob kittens of the attention they need in order to grow up feeling loved and less inclined to shred wallpaper”. The point is, ask yourself: did you need to express your opinion where you did? Wasn’t there somewhere better and fairer?
I don’t believe people think such statements through. It’s one thing to dislike a huge multinational company, whatever your reasons, but quite another to go public on independent authors’ pages and in so doing actively undermine their promotional activity. It’s not deliberate but I do believe it to be inadvertently cruel and ego-driven, as if your views—and mine for that matter, expressed here—actually matter enough to turn the vast tide of humanity in a direction of your/mine/our choosing.
Most independent authors are struggling to make money for food and shelter. The myth remains alive in the world that writing takes talent, yes, but is also a sweet indulgence for those capable of producing books. How wonderful it must be, to have a cute MacBook and a glass of wine, to occasionally get an idea, squeak with joy, stab a keyboard momentarily and then bask in your effortless creative glory?
Balls. Who the fuck do you mistake me for, Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous? It’s hard slog. It’s never been a harder, more thankless, less rewarding time to be a writer. When you attack Amazon on an author’s page, Amazon gives not a single shit about your viewpoint—you are but a mote of dust in the corporate god’s eye—but if anyone considering a download is turned away by what you type, you might be harming the income potential of a very nice writer who is, for all you know, one step away from drowning herself.
Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. There are the trolls who know what they’re doing and there are the do-gooders looking to save the world from itself, one online status update or comment at a time. These are the part-time, round-edged, soft-focus nuns and monks of the Internet. They’re not entrenched haters. They just indiscriminately use their flaming swords of truth to fry big and small alike.
I’m not saying don’t attack Amazon, although Mother Internet gives birth to both good and evil. Just choose your forums wisely and sensitively, shop from independent sellers, maintain a protest blog. There are lots of things you can do but if an author invites you to download her book for free one weekend, for the love of literature, please be graceful and stick to one of the three responses Facebook provides: Accept, Decline and Maybe.