Shannon Stacey

Working on the assembly line

There’s a lively debate going on over at about writers not posting on reader blogs. It’s an interesting discussion and I’ve commented a couple of times, but this one’s long.

Quite often when authors express a reluctance to jump into the reader’s end of the pool, we’re asked “Well, aren’t you still readers, too?”

Yes and no. The bottom line is this—romance writing is an industy. Readers are the consumers and writers—no matter how many books they personally buy—are part of the manufacturer’s line. Let’s talk…cars.

Linda Leadfoot bought herself a much-hyped Chevy, but you know…she doesn’t really like it all that much. She blogs about all the things wrong with her Chevy and the comments start. Some car owners agree and tell her she should have tried a Ford. Some try to point out the good points about her Chevy. Some just rave about the new Toyota. And that’s cool. They’re all car buyers trying to figure out where to spend their hard-earned dollars.

Now here comes Frank with his comments. He agrees with Linda—the Chevy’s a piece of crap. He works for Ford. Now, he’s still a consumer. He still buys cars and drives cars and recommends cars to his mother and his friends. But he’s not really unbiased, is he? And doesn’t that kind of industry trash talk leave a bad taste in the mouth? When a consumer’s discussing a product with other consumers, the negative opinion of the manufacturer’s competition is suspect and makes him look bad.

Even worse, here’s a comment from Charlie the Chevy guy. He agrees with Linda that her Chevy’s a piece of crap. It was made on Bill’s line, and Bill’s a hack. Linda should try buying a Chevy built on Charlie’s line because he pays attention to the details and builds a fine car.

Now, here come fifteen guys off of Bill’s assembly line shaking their pompoms and screaming “Bill, Bill, he’s our man…!” and telling everybody Bill builds the best car EVAH and, while fighting Charlie’s accusations, they also trample on the opinions of the original consumers.

So now the car owners and potential buyers reading Linda’s blog are a little put off by both Ford AND Chevy (even if they don’t remember Frank, Charlie and Bill’s friends specifically), so maybe they’ll think about buying a Toyota.

In the meantime, Charlie’s hours are getting cut back because, even though he was referring to Bill’s assembly line, he’s badmouthing Chevy in public and that ain’t cool. And Frank, he applies for Charlie’s job because the pay’s better, but the human resources manager from Chevy read Linda’s blog and remembers Frank’s nasty comments about her company. They don’t need employees like that.

So you know what? Frank and Charlie and all of Bill’s buddies are consumers. They buy cars and they’re perfectly entitled to their opinions about those cars. But cars are also their business, and it’s really hard for them to take part in the discussions the car buyers are having without talking out of school.

So sometimes they’ll just stick to visiting each other’s blogs, talking about lug nuts and air shocks.

Edited to add:

There are some car builders who can objectively articulate the pros and cons of cars—both their own and those built by others—and car buyers and other car builders alike enjoy their discussions. But others either aren’t able to walk that line or feel their job is to simply build the cars and let the consumers decide.

8 comments to “Working on the assembly line”

  1. Charlene
      · February 28th, 2007 at 1:54 pm · Link

    So. How about those lug nuts?

  2. Jordan
      · February 28th, 2007 at 7:37 pm · Link

    This is a really great analogy. :nod: Thanks for sharing.

  3. Karen Templeton
      · February 28th, 2007 at 8:27 pm · Link

    Well, that was succinct. :tomato:

    But very, very true.

    Another thing that readers don’t fully understand (and I’m not even gonna try to use your analogy, I’m not feeling nearly clever enough today for that), is that criticizing another author’s book leaves one wide open for attack. Because people are petty like that. “Oh, she’s dissing my Fave Author Of All Time, let’s go say mean things about her book on Amazon, or rip one of her books to shred on my blog, or tell everybody she a secret member of [fill in your most hated organization here].”

    Who the hell needs the stress?

    So I limit my comments, when I make them, to singing the praises of books I liked (which can get an author into trouble in other ways, because, you know, if we say we like somebody else’s book, that must be because we’re BFF and squealy fangirls :roll:, not because we actually liked the book), but I’ll deal. And everyone else will have to.

    And anyway, you know, don’t you, what’s behind this push to get authors to criticize books in public? Simple bloodlust, the literary equivalent of cock-fighting. Or chick-fighting, in this case. Get a good brawl going, and doncha know, the rubberneckers will just come a’flocking to your blog.

    I’m not sure whether it’s more silly or sad.

  4. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · February 28th, 2007 at 10:21 pm · Link

    Brava, Shannon. :cheer:

    I’m still not sure what the original poster’s point was. She seemed to be unhappy that authors don’t to post on reader blogs, but that’s mostly what I see posting when I happen upon them.

    Anyway, it wasn’t just about posting about specific books, but about general topics, too, and those can be even more dangerous, I think. :)

  5. MARKY P
      · February 28th, 2007 at 10:22 pm · Link


  6. Shannon
      · March 1st, 2007 at 9:13 am · Link

    My lugnuts are stripped. :groucho:

    Succinct? Me? :lmao:

    The irony—I can’t write a long book to save my life. Maybe I should pretend I’m blogging my manuscripts. :type:

    I think you’re right, Karen. The romance blogosphere’s been in a funk for a while. What better than goading an author into Behaving Badly?

    Natalie, I think off-the-topic-of-book discussions can definitely be more dangerous. Plus, who has the time?

    You’re such a dumbass, Marky P. :neener: Lay off the cap lock.

  7. Jaq
      · March 1st, 2007 at 5:23 pm · Link

    Shan, I mostly lurk over here, but this post has moved me to delurk. Excellent, excellent, analogy.

  8. Shannon
      · March 2nd, 2007 at 2:06 am · Link

    Thanks, y’all, for getting what I was trying to say. Sometimes I think better in cars than in books. :rofl:

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