Becoming a Curmudgeon

Are writers as a group less willing to read rules and follow directions than the rest of the populace, or is it that I am mostly connected to writers online who don’t know how to follow directions?

I have a book blog, Dragon My Feet, where I post excerpts from books to help authors with a bit of promotion. I thought it was a good idea, but I’m getting exhausted having to explain over and over again that I cannot post what I do not have. For example, in the instructions for Dragon My Feet, I say:

“Please include a short synopsis (blurb) of the story, short bio, a link where I can find a photo of you and one of your book cover, and whatever links you would like me to add. Post the excerpt along with the rest of the information/links as a comment/reply on this page.”

Despite those clear instuctions. I get bios with no information about the book and no excerpt. I get blurbs without any other information, not even the title. I get excerpts without a title letting me know what book it’s an excerpt from. I get dozens of comments/replies by people who say they can’t figure out how to get their excerpt to me since I didn’t leave an email address.

When I’ve mentioned this lack of communication, I’ve had writers tell me flat out, “I don’t follow directions.” Is this part of the creative process? Make up your own rules and expect the world to follow along? Quite frankly, I don’t care if people follow my instructions or not, but as I said, I cannot post what I do not have.

I’m not the only one with such problems. My publishing company sponsored a short story contest with the winner to be published in an upcoming anthology. Some writers mistook the contest for a call for submissions, though the rules clearly stated it was a contest. Others were upset that their submissions were “published” on the site, though the rules clearly stated the submissions would be posted. (According to the vagaries of the internet, once a story has been posted it’s considered published. It doesn’t make sense to me that just because something was posted for a month and then deleted, it’s considered published for all time, but then, I don’t get to make those particular rules.) There was nothing underhanded about the contest — everything was stated up front — and if people didn’t like the way the contest was run, they didn’t have to submit a story.

Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe writers can follow directions. Maybe they just can’t read.

(Do I sound curmudgeonly? There is a good reason for that — I’m rapidly turning into a curmudgeon. I no longer have the desire to embrace the absurdities of humanity, and I see no reason why I should, especially if it causes more work for me.)

8 Responses to “Becoming a Curmudgeon”

  1. Ann Wilmer-Lasky Says:

    I understand your frustration and sympathize with you.. People, I believe, simply no longer wish to pay enough attention to follow rules, these days. I, perhaps. have the opposite problem. I agonize over not being precise enough in following the rules. Go figure. I guess I’m old school. I know writers are alltogether a bohemian and eclectic bunch and now have so many outlets they may figure they don’t need to follow rules. But I believe following the rules is a matter of respect. Something we should not gloss over in order to express our independence.

  2. Ms. Nine Says:

    If too many people are not following the directions, perhaps the directions are not clear enough. As a teacher and writer, I find that directions need to be very precise. It helps to provide examples. And it doesn’t hurt to repeat them. Even though I taught teenagers, some adults need explicit directions just like kids do. I hope you’re not too frustrated to give up. I’d be happy to help. 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but if you read this article, you would have seen the directions in question, which I quoted. As you can see, I lay out very specifically what I need. It is not my responsibility to explain to authors what constitues a blurb or an excerpt or a bio, particularly since I am doing them a favor by promoting their books.

  3. Caroll J. Garvin Says:

    Oh my, Pat… I’m sure this is no laughing matter to you, but I started to laugh anyway. Sorry! I’ve been following various agents’ blogs for years, and every so often one will vent about this very topic. I don’t know where some writers are coming from, but it’s pretty clear from their responses that they won’t be going anywhere in their writing careers. It’s just a fact of life: if you don’t follow directions you’re probably going to miss out. The agents accepting submissions, and those offering contests generally toss aside anything that doesn’t meet the criteria.

    Other than keeping your directive in bold print as you have it, and maybe underlining “… in the comment box on this page”, I don’t think you could be much clearer. I was a primary school teacher, and when mentoring youngsters, a little ‘hand holding’ guidance was necessary. However, by the time students reach college, they’re expected to have developed reasonable reading skills. If the writers you’re offering to support are already published, they’re beyond the hand holding stage. You don’t have to babysit adults. If it exasperates you, I’d just disregard the material that doesn’t meet your criteria.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I tried to look on the humorous side of this situation, but it is frustrating. The thing is with this new publishing world, where people are foregoing agents and traditional publishers, it doesn’t matter if authors ever learn to do things right. Some of them will make fortunes anyway, while those who write excellent books and who did do things right will remain obscure. A strange world. It sure killed my love of reading.

  4. knightofswords Says:

    It’s amazing what people don’t bother to read. I received an e-mail recently about my Malcolm’s Round Table blog from somebody who wanted to write me a guest post about travel. I wrote back saying that I focused on author interviews, books, and Glacier Park. The response was, how about a nice travel article. I must be getting queries from some of the same people who send you bits and pieces of excerpts, bios and titles.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sometimes it makes me wonder if there are any humans on the internet — if it’s all robots and automated responses. Hmmm. Come to think of it, you and I have never actually met . . .

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