Friday, September 6, 2013

Stop the Spin Cycle!

by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.


There's so much spinning going on I'm surprised anyone is still standing.

Let me spin you a few:

FACT: I came in second place at a writing competition several years ago.
SPIN: Award winning author.

FACT: I've painted some half-way decent watercolors. (The logo for Bark Publishing, above, is one of mine.)
SPIN: Artist.

FACT: I received an Honorable Mention, an additional category established by the judges just for me, for a short story (available now through MY WEBSITE).
SPIN: Multi-award winning author.

FACT: My books have each achieved the #1 slot when they were available for free, and remained briefly in the stratosphere when they went back to full-price.
SPIN: Bestselling author.

FACT: I have been endorsed by bestselling authors, and big-time award nominated authors, plus I've read their stuff.
SPIN: Long-term mentors.

FACT: I was Head Girl at Dunstan Junior High (now Middle School).
SPIN: A successful career in politics.

FACT: I was on the school newspaper staff at Dunstan.
SPIN: A journalism background.

FACT: My books have received some nice reviews.
SPIN: Acclaimed writer.

FACT: I play the piano and actually own one.
SPIN: Accomplished musician.

How do I know there's a lot of spin going on? Truthfully, it's only a guess. But I know for a fact there's at least one author out there who has his/her washing machine permanently set to the spin cycle. On one hand, it's kind of clever and I'm sure he/she is selling more books because of the spin, but on the other I find it kind of sad he/she feels the truth isn't good enough. And if there's one, I'm betting there are more.

FACT: Today is my wedding anniversary. Thirty-three years of a great life.
SPIN: Nothing to spin here. I've been blessed.

What about you? Have you spied some spin?


  1. Thanks for shining some light on this issue. I know the spin is out there, and I've tried to ignore it. But the one that bugs me the most is when authors post about a fantastic ranking for their book and forget to mention that it's the free list.

    For the record -- if anyone cares: When I say award-winning journalist, it's because I really did win a Neal and the Grand Neal, the highest awards in trade/business journalism (which the public doesn't really care about).

    And I really have won both the silver and bronze in the Readers Favorite the mystery category, a tag I try to always include. And I have the role of stickers to prove it. (That's how important those awards are. Snicker.)

    1. L.J., you're one of the "Legits" who, if anything, downplay your accomplishments. The sad thing is that spin-monsters corrupt acknowledgments for everyone.

    2. Just realized that should have been "roll" of stickers. I should never post before I'm fully awake.

    3. Being an avid fan of all mystery and who done it books, I follow most all of those authors who write books with good story lines. For years I have followed authors such as Cornwell, Patterson, J.D Robb, and Jack HIggins to name a few.

      I have been reading for pleasure until three years ago do to a medical issue I know read out of necessity. Last year thanks to Google, I found the books of L J Sellers as I needed a new author who wrote with the reader in mind. LJ had me hooked with the first Wade Jackson book that I have now read the entire series. Her stand alone books were great and I know her new series in January will be a great read.

      My enjoyment is that the story line is not predictable. I have also been happy with those authors she has suggested I read. I for one would like to see more authors creating characters that seem real.

  2. Yes, I see that bragging - er, spin - a lot on Facebook, Peg, especially the "best-seller" one for a book that reached the top ten in a category when it was offered for free. Or a book that's in the top 10 of a very narrow, specific category, let's say for instance, cozy mysteries involving twins set in Paris. (Of course I just made that one up!)

    For the recent interview of me in Southern Writers Magazine, I was so glad they sent me the proof to check over first, as somehow someone there decided to call me a "bestselling author," which is definitely not true, even though both of my books have been selling really well. I immediately asked them to take out the "bestselling," which they did.

    Congrats, Peg, on all your accomplishments, especially the "happily married for 33 years one! Now THAT's something to brag about! Way to go!

    And congratulations, LJ, on your well-deserved awards, too!

    1. I remember when Amazon first attached the term "bestselling" to me. What did they know I didn't? I'm still not sure, but like you, I know that selling well doesn't equate to bestselling.

      It feels good to take the high road though, doesn't it?

    2. The "bestseller" label for books that reach number 1 in their very small categories always induces the eye rolling for me. It's the most irksome false advertising. While one of my books reached #1 in thrillers for a very short time, I don't consider that a best seller when it comes to marketing. If it stayed there for a year, that's an entirely different matter. Great post Peg. Congrats on 33 years, and congrats to all who have won legit awards and earned legit bestseller status.

  3. "Best-selling" author is one that yanks my chain. MANY authors claim this, even if they've sold 50 copies. Or fewer. ;)

    1. I know! Don't you want to ask them on what list?

  4. Bestselling and award-winning don't really mean much anymore, do they? I could say both about myself, too, but I sure as heck don't.

    And happy anniversary, Peg! :)

    1. That's the sad thing about the spinners. They ruin it for everyone else, including readers who used to be able to rely on that sort of thing.

  5. Oh, Peg, you're a riot! I could also think of ways to spin my life into the best-sellingest, award-winningest, rootin' tootin' cowgirl in the room, but I fear someone would say, "Really?" (I'm pretty sure that someone would be me.)

    I am thinking, however, since I have a tiara, of pronouncing myself Queen of something.

    And congrats on the anniversary. Now that deserves an award - with a nice dinner and some wine!

    1. Queen of Something sounds good. I have a pillow that says Princess of Quite A Lot.

  6. Thank you for writing this, Peg. As someone who helps organize a conference, I cringe when I see this kind of spin. Unless it's a "New York Times/USA Today bestselling" or "Edgar/Anthony" nominee or the like, I have to go on a search to see how accurate those well-spun labels are. We do try to place all of our authors, but it's important to know which are likely to draw attendees and which are more likely to be new discoveries.

    (When my publicist wanted to call me an award-winning author, I told him he had to specify that it was an award for service.)

    Happy anniversary, Peg. May you and DH have many more.

    1. I hadn't even considered the additional research conference organizers are forced to go through. Unless it's a famous author, you can't be quite sure of their bios, can you? Ugh.

      Even the Times bestseller list is open to wild manipulation, but at least it's more valuable than the Family Newsletter. ;-)

  7. Great post, Peg.
    I am an award-winning actress (high school drama competition), published poet (local newspaper), acclaimed book reviewer (just look at my LinkedIn page) and an experienced editor (high school and library school yearbooks).

    Happy anniversary to you and LOYL.

    1. You left out the fact you're a founder and contributing author of the internationally renowned blog, Crime Fiction Collective.

  8. Now I know how to do it, I'll have to try some! lol

    Morgan Mandel

  9. Peg, this is a fabulous post! But, you forgot bestselling author!!! :D

    And Happy Anniversary! That's a lot of years, I know because I've got you beat by one year.

    My son is VP of an international advertising firm in Boston. I defer to him, a lot. In the advertising business it is common practice to consider the use of 'permissible puffery'. We see it on product after product--number one, best-selling, etc. I suppose in all avenues of commerce there is a great deal of misuse, if not blatant abuse, in their sales tactics.
    We authors are told by our publicists to create our platforms, and that means digging deep into who we are and what has made us who we are. I don't feel like that is deceptive. Sidney Sheldon endorsed me with a blurb or two. And I state he went on to mentor me for several years. Did he converse with me every week? Every month? Heck no. But enough that I have absolutely no qualms taking this to my platform. Funny, though. I've saved the communications because I've had Doubting Thomas's. What's that about?

    1. I guess everyone needs to evaluate their own values and decide whether or not "permissable puffery" aligns with them.

      To me, and obviously not for everyone, permisssable puffery is just a cuter word for spin, and to me, it's deceptive.

      Thanks for commenting.

    2. And thanks for providing a different perspective.

  11. I didn't actually call myself a bestselling author until I reached the higher tiered ranks (top of the broader genres and overall list). I could have before that, but it didn't feel authentic to me--so instead, I called myself one privately and enjoyed it in the same way. I do now use that statement in my logo, but really, I don't actually feel it sells more books. Again, it's more for me--to remind myself of where I started, where I am now, and to appreciate it so I keep working harder to do better.

    Congrats on your anniversary, my friend--that is something to proudly proclaim :)

    1. I love that you hold the ranking more as a reminder to yourself than a sales tool. I do think it helps sales though… if a new reader isn't sure, she can feel better because you have passed approval by so many others.

    2. Maybe, but these days, the phrase is passed out so loosely, that I suspect readers are wising up to it and maybe giving it less credibility. More than anything else, I still hold firm to the belief that writing the best damned book you can is the most effective tool for selling one. Everything else is just window dressing.

  12. Happy Anniversary. (I don't think belated because I noted it on Facebook, which I can skim faster. I'm six months behind you on the anniversary front. Hopefully not that far on the publishing front. :)

    Regarding spin: It's something I fight against in my classes and in my non-fiction. It's one of the biggest, and one of the few correct, criticisms against independent publishing. If someone wins an Edgar (or a Hugo or an Oscar, etc.), they have earned the right. The same applies, in a different way, to a curated best-seller list. The label must mean something - it must be verifiable and related to common meanings.

    The advent of Newspeak in TV, especially news, and the internet puts a "puffery barrier" around people. It allows pretense to be real. (I tried out for the basketball team in high school. There was no spin or puffery there. I wasn't tall enough or athletic enough to make the team. No spin. If I wanted to be on the team next year, I would have had to make the effort to become more athletic. (Becoming taller wasn't an option.)

    Seth Godin talks about authenticity, building trust, connecting. Spin and puff eventually dissipate, leaving spatters of mud to be wiped up.


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