Keepin’ It Real

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Two posts in one day?!


I wrote something a while ago — a long while ago — but I never posted it (though I did touch on it in Wednesday’s post at The Parking Lot Confessional). It felt like an angry letter, the kind you write and then sit on until you feel better and then never end up sending.

But then I read this post today by Maureen Johnson: Manifesto. And I shouted, “AMEN!” Okay, well, I thought “Amen”. And then, encouraged by Maureen’s words, I decided to post this thing that I’d sat on for so long.

Keepin’ It Real

Lately, it seems everywhere I turn someone’s telling me how to write a blog, how not to write a blog, how to build my platform, how if I don’t build my platform I’m doomed, how to have a writing career, how to blow a writing career, how to write, sell, pitch, land an agent, how to lose an agent, how to use social networking, how not to use social networking, etc.

Ugh. It’s all making me a bit ill.

I know as an author I need to be building a platform, but I’m interested in PEOPLE. Real people. I’m interested in you. Who are you? What makes you tick? Do we have ideas and beliefs in common? What stories do you have to share?

No, no, wait. Stop. Don’t tell me about your product. Tell me about YOU.

Are we really all so desperate to be noticed that we have to be promoting all the time? Where is the line between being authentic and being obnoxious? Is it possible to promote without being the equivalent of a car salesman?

I don’t want to be a product. A brand. I want to be real.

I understand the need for promotion, especially with the changes in today’s publishing market. But when all I hear is someone promoting, I find myself wondering if there is any depth there. Any substance. There’s a certain desperation in all the Look at me! chatter.

Of course not everyone I meet is like this. There are some very cool, very real people in Cyberland. I’ve met some of them, and they’re very cool and very real people in person, too. They use social networking to build connections, community. And when they post information, I read it.

These are the people I’m interested in following, friending, tweet-chatting, retweeting.

Interestingly enough, most of the professional, “big league” authors I meet are more interested in learning about you than they are talking about themselves and promoting their own work.

One example: At a conference last summer, I was walking to dinner with a group of writers. I knew who most of them were, but a few I hadn’t yet met. One fellow asked my name, what I write, etc. I answered, and he continued to ask me about my projects and whatnot. “What about you?” I finally asked him. “What are you working on?” He then told me what he wrote, and…well…he’s a big time author.

Go ahead, laugh. Yes, I should have recognized him. To my defense, I didn’t see his name lanyard, but I knew who he was as soon as he said the title of his book. (OK, so I don’t know everyone’s faces yet. I’ll get there.)

The point is, he had confidence and depth. He was making conversation, making connections. He was interested in other people. He wasn’t doing somersaults to get attention or sell his books. He was genuine. Authentic. Am I more likely to read his future books as a result? You bet.

That’s the kind of author I want to be. That’s the kind of person I want to be.

I’m all for keepin’ it real. Who’s with me?


Sci-Fi Social Media

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On Mondays I usually talk about writing, but…well…today I’m not. Today I’m going to share what I learned this weekend about social media.

[insert raucous applause here]

If you haven’t gathered yet from my recent posts, I attended the Phoenix Comicon. One of the panel sessions I attended was called “Sci-Fi Social Media”. The blurb in the program read:

Is your favorite author a Facebook friend? We look at how Sci-Fi notables are using social media tools — Twitter, podcasting, blogging, Facebook, Myspace, etc. — to build fan connections and communities around themselves and their works. Panelists: Jack Mangan, Michael Stackpole, John Scalzi, Aprilynne Pike, Leanna Renee Hieber, Sam Sykes.

Only good things could come from such a lineup, right?

Here are the bits of wisdom each author shared on all things social media. Hope you find them as useful as I did.

Jack Mangan

  • Use social media to make connections, not just promote
  • Be professional
  • Don’t feed the trolls
  • If you don’t want to share the names of your kids for safety reasons, make up online names for them
  • Buy a domain name for every book you write

Michael Stackpole

  • Sampling your work online is vital
  • Don’t be the depressingly honest author, sharing all your rejections and hardships; the audience wants to hear the romantic side of being a writer
  • If you read like a loser on your blog, you’re going to make your readers feel like losers for reading your blog
  • The only time to respond to critics is if a reviewer projects your thoughts (e.g., “this is what the author meant”); you can respond to set the record straight
  • If you respond to criticism, write your response and have it reviewed by someone else before posting; then remain professional and detached
  • Own what you do; know the trouble you might cause and what your response will be
  • If you’re concerned about privacy, set up separate personal and fan pages at Facebook
  • Ask others to help promote what you’re doing on your site
  • Have your own website and blog there
  • Get store software to sell your work
  • If someone plagiarises your work , contact the ISP hosting the site and have them deal with the infraction of their policies

Aprilynne Pike

  • If you obsess about the number of followers or friends you have on Twitter and Facebook, control is not in your hands
  • Set boundaries
  • You can’t do everything and do it well; choose which social media outlets you want to focus on and don’t worry about the others
  • Social media can be a time suck; decide how much time you’ll devote to it, how much you’ll interact, how many people you’ll follow

John Scalzi

  • Don’t have that desperate freaky new-author smell online (Buy my book! Buy my book!) or be self-congratulatory; instead, include information that is not related to books to make your audience feel comfortable; this leads to hand selling
  • Set boundaries
  • Be personable, but not personal; leave out the intimate details
  • If you talk about someone else on your blog, get their permission first
  • If you do something wrong, just say you were wrong and apologize
  • “Don’t fling poo at the monkeys, they’re better at it”
  • You’re not responsible for the fantasy version of you that lives in the reader’s head
  • Write the fictionalized/idealized version of your life
  • Make it clear there is zero tolerance for trolls on your site; set yourself up as the grownup
  • It takes years to build a following
  • Do the thing you’re comfortable with, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc.; there’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable blog
  • When you use social media, have fun and be smart about it

Leanna Renee Hieber

  • Contact book blogging communities and ask them to review your book
  • Karma in all things: don’t spew your vitriol into the world; don’t respond to bad reviews
  • Set boundaries for what you’ll share as well as what you’ll take in
  • Just starting out, you’re building a following; don’t gets caught up in the numbers

Sam Sykes

  • In today’s market, debut authors must have an internet presence
  • The best reason not to respond to reviews is the readers read your response as well
  • Be genuine; if you’re not genuine, the real you will come out eventually
  • Satisfied readers are quiet; if people are angry with you, they’ll tell you
  • Don’t be intimidated; if you have something to say, say it

The  panelists agreed on Michael Stackpole’s final piece of advice:

When using social media, be passionate and be sincere.