Good afternoon, fellow bibliophiles! I am writing to you today to make an official announcement that is going to change the way we do things here at Pure Textuality.
First, let me give you a little background.
I am an uber-fangirl for Kevin Smith. I have an immense amount of respect for him as a person, and as an artist. When I am not listening to audiobooks at work, chances are pretty good I am probably listening to one of his MANY podcasts (Hollywood Babble-On, Plus One, Fatman on Batman, etc). His conversations are riddled with self-deprecating humor, but when you really listen to the man talk, he’s fucking brilliant (in fact, it kind of makes me want to shake the shit out of him sometimes to make him see how brilliant he is). He’s one of the few film makers out there I feel is genuinely an ARTIST at heart (not just in it for the money, but the love of the art). He has so many talents, and has done SO MUCH with his career. He’s a writer, a film maker, a story teller – HE’S INDIE. In a big bad way. Being an indie author myself, I find there is a LOT he has to say that I can relate to, and a lot I find inspiration from.
If you read my review of his book ‘Tough Shit’, you know how much I cherish the words in that book. Was it entertaining to hear the stories of his career? Absolutely, but that wasn’t what really hooked me on that book. The book opens with him telling the story of his father’s passing – a genuinely good man who led a good life. He worked hard, he loved his family to no end, he was a good father, and faithful husband. Just a good man all around….who, after such a good life, still died screaming. The story is positively heart breaking, but Kev came out of it with quite possibly the best advice I have ever heard:
It’s positively brilliant, and can be applied to anyone.
Anyway, ‘Tough Shit’ is not the point of today’s news.
Two nights ago, I was awake, unable to sleep due to the anxieties of life in that moment. After working all day in the height of a United Way campaign I am volunteering for, I came home to find out the septic tank at my house decided to issue a big ‘fuck you’, and I was forced to leave my house that night with no idea when I would be able to go back. I had to try to explain to my man cub why he needed to leave the house right before bedtime, then had to explain why he couldn’t go back and play with his toys. Materialistic as it may sound, I was seriously worried about my book collection smelling like a 3 week old mass grave in the height of summer (the house really did not smell good!). I also had a ton of work to do, and by the time I was done with the shit storm at my house (no pun intended), I was mentally exhausted. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t work. I had less than zero focus. So, I said fuck it.
Unable to sleep, I curled up with a blanket, pulled out my Kindle, fired up Netflix, and watched Kevin Smith’s Q&A special ‘Burn In Hell’. I figured, if anything, it would make me laugh, even after the day I had.
Well, about halfway through, someone asks him a question that leads to him telling about his relationship with critics when he released ‘Red State’. I honestly don’t even remember what the question was, because my mind focused on one point in the entire answer. I had heard the story before in ‘Tough Shit’, but for some reason, on this night, it really stuck with me, and it is all I have been able to think about for the last 2 days in respect to Pure Textuality.
When Kev released ‘Red State’, he ended up taking the indie road with distribution. Rather than sell the film to a distributor, he took it out on the road, showing the film, and then doing a Q&A afterward. Another thing he did was tell the critics to fuck off (I’m paraphrasing). Rather than listen to critics tear his art apart, for FREE, he issued his own fuck you and told them if they wanted to see it, they could pay, just like everyone else who actually WANTED to see the movie. He basically told the critics that they were bad at THEIR job, as they had been doing to him for years.
Now, I really wish I had taken notes when watching ‘Burn In Hell’, because I don’t have any direct quotes from the special. All I can do is try my best to explain what he said.
Art, regardless of medium, is a form of self-expression. It doesn’t matter if it is making a film, writing a book, creating music, etc. It is all self-expression. For someone to tell you that you somehow expressed yourself incorrectly is ludicrous. For someone to say you’re doing it “wrong” is just absolute bullshit.
And I couldn’t possibly agree with him more.
As you know, a good portion of the staff here at Pure Textuality are indie authors. We are all in one stage or another of publishing. Personally, I am published. I have ‘Burning’ and ‘The Devil You Know’ out, with ‘Speak of the Devil’ coming early next year. Even as a reviewer, reading others’ reviews of my art is big with the crazy making. Although the bad reviews have been few, they are very difficult to read. As a writer, you spend months pouring everything you have into creating your story, and having someone sit there and tear it to shreds because it didn’t happen to grab them the way it grabbed everyone else…yeah, that sucks.
Being an indie ANYTHING is difficult. Being an indie author is no exception. You work five times as hard, and spend an assload of money to have just a fraction of the success of those who publish through a traditional publishing house. You have no marketing team working long hours to make your book a success. You have to whore yourself out on the internet to get people to notice you and your book. Ok, not whore yourself out, but you get the picture. It’s a lot of work. At the end of the day, whatever that book is, whether you’re indie published or traditionally published, to you, it’s precious. It’s your baby. It’s your heart poured out on the page. It’s you bearing a piece of your soul to the world. When you’re an indie, it’s usually long hours of staying up at night to write, because you have to work your regular job during the day. It’s exhaustion you wouldn’t trade for one second in a world without the pride you carry for that little book. It’s everything. It’s your art.
Here at Pure Textuality, we have prided ourselves on being indie friendly. We don’t turn indies away, ever. If anything, I would put money on the fact that this site has published more reviews, and had more spotlight coverage, on indies than any traditional author out there. I don’t know that for a fact. I haven’t gone out and counted the posts, but I feel pretty confident about my statement. We love indies. We love to see indie authors get their moment in the sun. Even if only for that one day, we get the honor of sharing that author’s work with the world. I would never want to discourage an author from continuing with their art because I didn’t happen to love their book. I would never want my 2-star rating to make them consider giving up. That’s just not me.
Watching ‘Burn In Hell’, and listening to the story Kevin Smith had to tell, I was hit with a stark realization. Pure Textuality has spent the last three years doing exactly what he was talking about. By applying a rating to a book we read, we are saying that anything less than 5 stars was somehow done “wrong”. With how much we express our support of authors, indies and traditionally published alike, I suddenly felt like a raging hypocrite.
So, we decided to do something about it.
Soon you are going to see the format of our reviews change a bit.
First on the chopping block is our rating scale. We are throwing it out the window. Gone. No more 1-5 star ratings on our reviews. The point of a review is not to tell the author they somehow expressed themselves incorrectly, and we refuse to do it any longer.
Second will be the overall format of the reviews. Each review is going to have three sections:
This allows the reader to see the pros and cons of the book, and still make a decision for themselves as to whether or not they want to read it. Without the appearance of the star system rating, the reader is not being told what to think about the book. It allows readers to still form their own opinion without any preconceived notions.
Also, we have always had two strict policies here at Pure Textuality and they still stand: No spoilers and no tear-down pieces. Those rules will still apply.
We are all about supporting the art of writing, indie or traditionally published. I feel that with the new review format, it will serve both the purpose of giving our readers some book recommendations, and also provide up-and-coming authors with constructive criticism to help them hone their craft.
So, that’s it. As I said in the title of this post, you can blame Kevin Smith for my rambling.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope to maybe see some of my blogger friends adopt this same way of thinking, although I won’t push it on you guys, I promise.
Art takes love, time, and devotion. Artists of any kind better this world. Maybe this change to the way we do things will help encourage rather than discourage them.