Talk Less. Listen More.

Found art. Literally. I was looking at my camera uploads to choose a pic for today’s post and found this. No idea what it is or how it happened, but what a gorgeous mistake. Art can be like that.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Author behavior tips for social media. My answer is a little different this time. 

 

Seven Things You Must Avoid If You Want to Write

These three books are on sale right now. THE MARK OF THE TALA, the book that started it all, first in The Twelve Kingdoms series. Also THE PAGES OF THE MIND, my RITA® Award-winning novel, which kicks off a new phase in the overall series, and PRISONER OF THE CROWN, first in a stand-alone spin off trilogy, The Chronicles of Dasnaria. If you’ve been thinking about reading my books or this series, it’s a great time to start!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week regards the writer’s Seven Deadly Sins: the list of things you MUST avoid if you want to finish a project on time. Of course, if you’re supposed to be writing, and you’re reading this, you’ve already broken three of mine. Oops. But never fear! There is still hope for you. Read on.

Three Tips for Staying Grounded in a Crazy World

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2018!

I feel confident in putting this as a fait accompli, even though I’m writing this midday on 12/31/17 because I imagine most of you will be reading this in 2018, or as near to it as functionally doesn’t matter. I’m also confident that 2018 will arrive, which hasn’t always been the case.

It’s funny looking back at the turn of the millennium and thinking the whole banking/computer change from a two-digit year to a four-digit year was the worst thing that could happen… I look forward to the day when we can look back, shake our heads at the 2016 election, and trade our “where were you when you found out Trump was actually elected?” stories.

Until then, we do what we can to resist an increasingly authoritarian regime while still keeping our sanity. Thus, my take on this week’s topic at the SFF Seven: Keeping Your Sanity: 3 Things You Do To Stay Balanced/Grounded/In Control. Come on over!

The Big Reality Show Called Life

Yesterday my car rolled over to 100,000 miles! I was happy I remembered to keep an eye on the odometer and pull over to snap the pics. She’s 21 now and feeling frisky!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “If you had to be on a reality TV show, which one would you pick and why?” Come on over to the SFF Seven to find out about the one I love to rubberneck. 

quail scuffing in the April snow for seed

How Not to Promote Your Book

quail scuffing in the April snow for seedWe’re having a lovely April snowstorm today, which means the quail are here in force, and looking for food. They kick up the snow and gravel with their claws, to get at the dropped seed below the feeder. I took this photo from my office window. They scratch for seed while I scratch for words. It feels very companionable.

So, I realize my title probably brought about ten thousand suggestions to the tip of your tongue. It’s a large, fraught topic. And it’s complicated by the fact that most authors don’t really love self-promotion in the first place. We like tippy-tapping on our keyboards while the peaceful quail peck around outside. Some authors are really good at marketing, but others aren’t so much. Unfortunately this awkwardness can lead to creating the opposite effect of what they’re hoping for. 

They end up driving people away instead of attracting them.

I’m going to focus on one aspect of this syndrome today: the impetuous social media insertion. 

This is what happens:

  1. Author joins Social Media site (this can be any of them)
  2. Author posts intro post saying
    1. Hi!
    2. I’m new here
    3. I don’t know what I’m doing
    4. Normally I don’t have time for this sort of thing
    5. But it’s hit me that my book is coming out so I’m trying to do things like this!
    6. So, any ideas to help me?
  3. [Fill in likely response]

You guys have all seen this before, right? I see it all the time. I saw one like it just this morning, which is what got me brewing on this. 

Let’s break down why I find this problematic.

  1. I’ve said this before, but apparently it bears revisiting. Social Media is social. You join one, it’s like walking into the cafeteria at a new school, carrying your lunch tray and a hopeful smile. Sure you have a right to be there, just like anyone, but that doesn’t guarantee you a seat at any of the tables. Don’t expect the room to stand up and applaud your presence. It’s gonna take a little while to make friends.
  2. Intro posts are never easy. Twitter likes to show us our first tweets and they’re invariably something like, “This is my first tweet. I have no idea what I’m doing.” We’re all in that same boat. It’s awkward when the teacher asks us to stand up and say where we moved from, our hobbies, and how we spent the summer vacation. (Packing and moving, then unpacking. Duh!)
    1. All I can suggest is, keep it to an intro post. Say hi and gracefully retreat from the field. Your next step is making friends, so let that happen naturally.
    2. Well, yes, but that’s fine to say as much. Honesty is good.
    3. Okay, authenticity is good, too. But maybe don’t dwell on this. The old hands probably already figured this out. Nobody expects you to know where your classroom is. Just ask for directions. Don’t keep apologizing.
    4. Whoa! So, right off the bat you’re telling me that your time is more valuable than mine. Because you’re talking to a vast room full of people who’ve decided this thing IS worth their time. Because we all understand that it’s not about how much time you have, it’s about how you choose to devote your time. WE ALL HAVE THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. Nobody gets extra portions of time for good behavior. We can only control how we portion out that time. By saying this, an author is essentially saying, “this thing that you do was never important enough to me before, but now it is and I’m asking you to give me your time and attention.”
    5. Aha! And now we know your motivation. It’s not really that this social thing we do is suddenly interesting to you. Essentially you’ve told me that you’re interested in being my friend ONLY because you think I might be helpful in selling your book. Can you imagine doing this in real life? Picture sitting down at the lunch table with nothing but your books on your tray and saying, “Hi! Normally I have better ways to spend my time than eating lunch like you people, but today I thought I’d come sit with you, be all friendly, and see if you’ll buy or help me sell my books.” I don’t think that would go over well.
    6. And now you want me to offer ideas for you? Well, yes, social networking is a great place to get this kind of help – I advocate for that all the time. But you don’t get to just walk up to the food co-op and help yourself, right? You have to put in the time and effort. By suggesting that people should jump to offer you ideas and support, having done nothing for them before, you come across as a special snowflake. This is especially true when you’re talking to a bunch of other authors. People who are also  invested in selling their books. 
    7. [Fill in likely response]
  3. My likely response in this scenario? It’s super easy to delete, ignore, scroll past, unfollow, unfriend, you name it. MUCH easier than devoting my time and energy. There will be some people, ones who are undoubtedly kinder, more patient, and more generous than I, who will offer help. But – wow – when it’s so simple to delete, forget, and move on? That’s gonna happen a lot. 

The book gets forgotten before it’s found in these scenarios. Social media takes an investment of time and good will. Even then it can go wrong. But at least we can try to put our best foot forward. 

And, yes – you can always come sit at my lunch table, but not if you only want to talk about your books, okay?

Should Authors Comment on Politics?

This photo didn’t come out in focus – too dark – but I’m sharing it anyway because the moment of this full supermoon rising through clouds in Santa Fe during a penumbral eclipse was absolutely incredible to see. My wonderful friend, Anne Calhoun, was visiting. We climbed up onto the roof and watched the sun set and the moon rise. Neither of us got great photographs. 

Too much magic, maybe,

But you’re not here to listen to me talk about friendship, moonrises and magic. Or maybe you are. If you know me or follow me on social media, you’ll expect this sort of thing. If you clicked on a link because you found the topic interesting, you’re maybe wondering when I’ll get to the point.

Eventually, my new visitor!

Because this week’s subject is Hot Topics & the Author’s Social Media Voice, it seems the perfect time to point out that the these three things – voice, social media, and an author’s response to hot topics – are inextricable. I unpack this over at the SFF Seven

Rage, Impotence and Why Transparency Is Still Better

p1013136When I was in grad school, I drove this old Honda Accord that my folks passed on to me. It was a great car and I loved it. Got me everywhere, always started, great zippiness and gas mileage. At one point, I needed to replace the windshield and also some wheel bearings. I can’t recall why I did it this way (this was probably 25 years ago), except that I was poor, but I sourced a new windshield and the wheel bearings at a salvage yard in Greeley, Colorado. I lived in Laramie, Wyoming at the time – about 1.5 hr drive north of Greeley – so I drove down, picked up the parts and drove them down to Denver (another hour) to my mechanic to install. Denver is where I grew up and where my folks were, so I’m sure this made logistical sense at the time, timed with a visit to them. Why I wanted to go to that mechanic has totally escaped me.

Why I remember it at all is because, when the salvage guys loaded the windshield into the back seat, I helped position it. I closed the door on my side, then one of them closed the door on the other and I heard a crunch. I opened the door on that side and, sure enough, he’d closed it on the corner of the windshield and crushed it. I pointed this out and they pulled the windshield out again. The owner met with me in his office and said how I’d broken it. He was full of noise and bluster. I said it was crushed on the corner where his guy shut the door and he said, oh no, it broke down the middle. I said, no way! He looked me in the eye and said, “it’s in the Dumpster out back now, cracked down the middle.”

And I realized he knew he was lying and meant to bully me.

He offered to split the cost of the windshield with me – which meant I paid half for something I never even got – but I needed the wheel bearings, so I finally agreed. I drove off, fuming with rage and impotence, entirely uncertain what else I could have done.

Still makes me mad. 

The point of this story is that it happened before smart phones and social media. I could – and did – tell everyone I knew what a crap operation that guy ran. But, if I’d had a camera phone then, I would have snapped a picture before they took the windshield away. I would have posted it to hell and gone on social media if they’d still tried to cheat me. I would have left a nasty review everywhere I could find.

As it was, I had no way to hold them accountable. 

I see this as a vast change in the world. So many people are questioning why we see so much terrible stuff happening – cops beating innocents, protesters being bullied, bigots and racists spouting horrifying opinions – but I think that shit has been going on all this time. We just didn’t see it.

Instead we were all stuck with fuming in impotent rage, sucking up the hit, and moving on. We told our small circles, sure, but we had no way to broadcast the injustice to a larger world. In this day and age, that guy would never have gotten away with doing that to me.

All in all, for all its evils, I think the transparency is better.