Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Never Enough

Yesterday Apple unveiled the latest version of the iPhone and guess what? Apple shares dropped significantly because..... it wasn't the iPhone 5 that people hoped for and expected. It was only a faster, more efficient version of the IPhone 4 with added brighteners.

I am alarmed by this trend of wanting and expecting more and more. We have become a people of entitlement. I found this out as a writer when I was asked by my publisher to write a Molly Murphy story, a prequel to the series, to be offered free on Kindle so that people who hadn't read the books would have a chance to get to know Molly, and hopefully buy the books.

There was a good side to this. It rose to number 2 on Free Kindle, which was quite amazing. However I started getting all these one star reviews which alarmed and upset me, until I realized that people were not judging the quality of the storytelling. They were punishing me because it was only a short story and not a whole book. Reviews said "I feel cheated. I was expecting a whole book."

Let me reiterate that this was free. They were getting a whole,complete and good story. Did they really think I was going to devote six months of my life to writing a book for which I would receive no payment? Don't they realize that writers have to live and eat?

I'm reminded of that song in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:
I want the world. I want the whole world.
I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It's my bar of chocolate.
Give it to me now!

Violet came to a bad end for singing that, but it's now the prevailing attidude. It starts with kids who have their own phones, TVs, iPods, computers etc etc by the time they are 8. Then there is nothing left to look foiward to. They want to be excited, entertained but they've been given all there is and they've lost the ability to entertain themselves. I can remember how proud I felt when I saved up for several years for a real new bike instead of the clunky old thing we'd bought at a jumble sale. I earned that bike. It was mine. It felt good every time I rode it to school.

So I'm sorry for this generation becasue there simply aren't enough technological innovations to keep them excited and happy. And I'm sorry for those people for whom a free story wasn't enough. Obviously they've never tried to do anything creative like write a story, so how would they know what goes into it?  Too bad.


  1. Great post! We definitely have a society and generation of people who think they are "entitled"

  2. Well said, Rhys! You might find some comfort in Tess Gerritsen's blog: post:
    She had same experience. I must say, it's put me off trying to write any more short stories!

  3. You have just voiced a sentiment shared by countless others. It shows in every part of life. It is sad. We see it in our politics, our schools and in the attitudes of the next generation. I appreciate your post. :)


  4. The thing everyone has to realize is that there are communities of reviewers at Amazon (and other large sites) who may not even read the works they review. They are the equivalent of vandals, just looking for something to damage.

    They recruit cover for their activities by picking a cause (expensive books, short stories, bad language, romances which don't stick to the formula, romances which DO stick to the formula...) and try to get others to jump on the bandwagon.

    They aren't worth giving a thought to. Don't be afraid of them. MOST of your audience appreciates what you do.


    You do have one legitimate problem with your short story, which is very very easily fixed. (Or at least it would be by your publisher, but probably not by you.)

    It is actually presented as if it were a novel. The product description is long, and begins with a slew of "Praise for the Novels of Rhys Bowen."

    IMHO, authors need to raise a stink about publishers who obfuscate the length of a work. They need to start putting word counts and a descriptive word (short story, novelette) to help readers know what they are getting.

    It doesn't matter if the book is free. There are lots of free novels out there, and most of the time a book which is not labeled as something else IS a full novel length work. No matter what you paid, if you think you're settling in for a long cozy read, it's a disappointment to find out you got something else. It isn't the money that makes you feel cheated, it's the time and attention commitment.

    It's not the kind of disappointment which would normally lead people to leave angry 1-star reviews, but it does leave more people ripe for recruiting by the review vandals.

    I'm sorry you got those reviews. I really enjoyed the story and I might use it to lure my mother into trying reading on a Kindle. I'm just pointing out that the problem is not entirely entitlement -- it's partly miscommunication.

  5. Ms. Bowen, you have a point there--it is disheartening that people want more and more. Hope I can teach my little granddaughter, now aged two, that books are reliable entertainment (even in times of power failure I've simply lit candles and gone on reading). I'll teach her that she can't expect every new toy the minute it comes out. Thank you for your post.