Literary Corner Cafe

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why We're NOT Wild About Red Room

When we first heard about Red Room, we thought it was a terrific idea. In fact, two of our editors even had Member (not Author, editors aren't always authors) pages over there. Not anymore.

For one thing, both of our editors got a nasty computer virus from Red Room that completely erased their hard drives in fewer than thirty seconds. (Luckily they had everything backed up on CD.) Now, we'll give Red Room this - they can't police every single thing that every single member puts up on their "space." However, Red Room's owner, Ivory Madison claims she raised more than $3.25 million to fund her project, so one would think she could put up a Web site designed by a legitimate designer and not use a drupal content management system riddled with bugs. The site's terribly unattractive, but still, this isn't its major drawback. Not everything that's good is attractive. However, things don't line up properly on Red Room, other things overlap, the directory of authors and members isn't in alphabetical order, etc. When one wants to read an author page, things are okay, but when one wants to read a member page, one's presented with a totally white screen - until the reader scrolls down, down, down, down, down and finally sees the member's profile. This shouldn't be. Sure, we know Madison can't spend her entire booty on Web design, but for $10,000 she could have the best Website in the world - and she has a site that looks, well, to put it charitably, bad.

Touted as a "MySpace for Writers," that's exactly what Red Room is. And really, if you're a serious writer, why on earth would you want to be on a "MySpace?" Now, we've got nothing against MySpace. It's secure, it was designed by actual Web designers with Cold Fusion, and it serves the purpose it was meant to serve, the purpose it states it serves. However, serious writers write, they don't hang around Red Room writing blogs about the paucity of their lives and leaving comments for others who should be writing as well. In fact, if a writers wants exposure, much better to actually BE on MySpace than on Red Room. Or Associated Content. Both sites have millions of members, and both sites are secure and free from viruses.

The advertising that a reader can "connect" with A-list writers like Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan, and Maya Angelou on Red Room is half true, half not true. At best, as we see it, it's a slanted truth. Yes, these writers have publicists who put up pages for them, but these are, as we said, A-list writers. They're WRITING. They aren't blogging on Red Room and "connecting" with readers. If you truly want to connect with one of these writers, write them a letter through their agent or publisher or through their official Website.

Ms. Madison says she'll be adding publisher, agent, and editor pages to Red Room. We aren't fortune tellers, but we don't feel this is going to work. Publishers, agents, and editors are the busiest people in the world. We should know - most of us are editors. We read, we have breakfast meetings, we have lunch meetings and dinner meetings, we take work home with us almost every night and every weekend. We skip social events and getting our hair done. The last thing we have time for is surfing a list of D-authors on Red Room.

The A-list on Red Room already has representation. The remainder, the active writers and would be writers on Red Room are, for the most part, D-list authors. People the general public has never heard of. If they already have representation, they don't need it. If they want representation, they're going to have to get it the traditional way.

As for Madison's own writing, she wrote a comic book. Just one. And it's ranked approximately three million on, with one review, awarding it only one-star.

This is our opinion only, of course, but we don't like Red Room, and we feel if you're a writer who wants to be taken seriously, you'll steer clear of the place. Red Room is rapidly becoming the place serious writers DON'T want to be seen.

Another problem with Red Room, even if it were attractive and even if were populated by A-list authors (and there's nothing wrong with B- and C-list authors, many of them just need a little more publicity) is the fact that when a reader is browsing your Red Room page, there are so many distraction to take him or her AWAY from your page. Other blog entries and comments, etc. People see something that interests them, and they immediately click away from your page and go on to another. You want the focus of the reader's attention to be on you and your writing, not on someone else's.

Content is king, and the bottom line on Red Room is that the content just isn't good.

Example: We found this comment on Red Room: Anybody can dawn a bulbous red nose, fluffy red wig, baggy clothes and giant shoes and bulldoze around like a clown in disguise, but the impostor will eventually be unmasked. - Ben Campbell

Now, the comment above is supposed to be from a PUBLISHED WRITER. What published writer worth his salt, we have to ask, would write "Anybody can dawn...." If this wouldn't be so sad, it would be hilariously funny, and this shows you the calibre of "writers" that frequent Red Room. The correct word is, of course, "don." Dawn, Ben Campbell, is that special time of day when the sun comes up. :)

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