"Amateur Night"

Some of you may remember my, er, *spirited* reply to McFarlane's comments about independent and Acclaim comics a while back. This will be a column similar to that, but much more restrained because: A) It was a comment made by Warren Ellis, someone I like (unlike McFarlane, whom I cannot stand) and B) He has a legitimate point.

The comment in question comes from Warren Ellis' new e-mail newsletter, From the Desk Of... This particular quote was to be found in the August 23 edition, referencing an ad in the August Previews which referenced reviews by myself and Elayne Wechsler-Chaput, among others. The quote is: "Note to Steve Conley; when advertising your work and bolstering the ads with quotes, using the names of words of three Internet-based amateur pundits (no matter how talented etc), is, to the general populace, about as edifying as telling the world your Auntie Edie liked it."

I was mollified somewhat that he included the bit about "no matter how talented" as otherwise I probably would have taken it as an attack. As is, I'm a bit disturbed. I must grant that a lot of people reading Previews haven't clue one who Randy Lander is, nor what "Snap Judgments" are. But one would think that when someone sees a name attached to reviews, they'll assume it is someone who knows what he or she is talking about, and not someone like Auntie Edie, who has a personal stake in her cute little nephew's work.

I also take exception to the word amateur. While technically correct, it stings to hear my work referred to as amateur. I write on weekly deadline for an (admittedly small) audience that enjoys my work. But because I'm not paid, I'm an amateur? That doesn't sit well with me. Amateur to me conjures images of an unskilled novice, and though I may not be making money off this, I like to think I have a modicum of skill.

This is not the first time my reviews have been used on a product. I was quite thrilled when a quote from one of my reviews was placed on the Quantum & Woody trade paperback. But then again, Quantum & Woody was cancelled. I know that my words have an impact on the online community. I've heard from plenty of people who bought (or didn't buy) books based on my reviews. But I truly wonder if Ellis is right, and the fact that I'm not known outside the Internet renders my quotes meaningless for advertising purposes? And if so, I wonder what I can do about that.

Randy W. Lander

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