Do I Have to Have a Facetwibblogger+ Page?

Jim C. Hines is the author of the forthcoming Libriomancer, about a magic-wielding librarian, flaming spider, motorcycle-riding dryad, and other miscellaneous fun. He’s written seven other books and more than forty published short stories. Jim hangs out at and other online sites, but occasionally pokes his head back into the real world. (Mostly for the ice cream.)

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably encountered the common wisdom about social media. These days, in order to succeed, a writer has to have a website and a blog and a Twitter and a Facebook and a Tumblr and a Pinterest and a Google+ and a Goodreads, and if you don’t, you will plummet into obscurity, a forgotten FAILURE forever and ever!

Do me a favor. Since you’re already online, open up another window and do a search for Suzanne Collins’ blog. Nothing? Try searching for J. K. Rowling’s blog. Stephenie Meyer’s?

Wait, Meyer does have an update feed on her website … which mostly seems to be updates maintained primarily by someone else. Rowling has a Twitter feed, but it has only a handful of updates from the past few years. It seems like these authors have somehow managed to do all right for themselves without being active on all the social media. I could name more, but hopefully this is enough to make my point that you really can succeed as a writer without spending every free second updating various websites and feeds.

This might sound odd coming from someone who’s active on Facebook and Twitter, made a Tumblr feed for a goblin advice column, and spends a lot of time blogging. I do believe these things have helped to get my name out there, and have led to more people finding and reading my books. Social media can be a useful tool. But it’s not a requirement, and it’s not as easy as folks sometimes make it sound:

  1. Build your Facetwibblogger+ page.
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Most of us can point to authors who have become online superstars, folks like Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, who get tens of thousands of hits every day. Over on LiveJournal, authors like Catherynne Valente and Seanan McGuire have thousands of followers and routinely generate hundreds of comments.

The thing is, these people have spent years building their online presence. It takes a great deal of time and work, and none of them are doing it because they’re “supposed” to. Nor are they doing it just to promote their books. I’ve studied these authors and others to try to learn how to improve my own blog, and one of the things I noticed is that the most successful author-bloggers are those who, the majority of the time, aren’t talking about their own books at all.

Compare them to Author X, who joins all the sites because that’s what he’s supposed to do to promote his book. He posts reviews of his stuff, links to Amazon and other sites, and … nothing happens. Eventually, he gets frustrated and gives up. Virtual dust soon blankets the Twitter feed. His Facebook cover photo is a tumbleweed, his wall empty save for those Happy Birthday wishes from six months ago. Because, while most of us will tolerate the occasional ad or self-promo, very few of us want to tune in to watch a neverending infomercial.

I believe every author should have a website with their publications and a way to contact them. Beyond that, if you decide to build an online presence, do it because you want to. For me, I spend time online for the people. For the community and for the conversation. I hate playing salesman, and the last thing I want to do is spend my time and energy pushing books on people. I’d much rather geek out about Avengers or Doctor Who, or jump into a conversation about sexism in the genre.

You build a name by being interesting, not by hard-selling yourself and your work. People can and do succeed with a minimal online presence. If you choose to get active online, remember you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to share things that make you uncomfortable. You don’t have to do what That Other Author did – just because it worked for her doesn’t mean it would work for you. If it’s something you choose to do, then find the way you can enjoy it. The rest will follow in time.

(P.S. – I wrote this from the perspective of a “traditionally” published author. For someone who is self-publishing e-books, I do think it’s a lot harder to succeed without more of that online marketing presence. As always, everyone’s experience is different, and there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all advice.)

Planting the Decision Tree

Monica Valentinelli is an author who lurks in the dark. Recently, she released a science fiction novella titled “Redwing’s Gambit” which was based on the Bulldogs! RPG. She has over a dozen short stories published and two novellas with more on the way. For more about Monica and her work visit her website.

At some point in your career, you’re going to get some advice on what to do with your written works or your future as an author. Maybe the suggestions will originate from a peer or your mentor. Maybe it’s from an old teacher or a friend of yours. Maybe you spot something on a website just like this.

Getting inundated with advice isn’t always a good thing, because often pieces will conflict with one another or worse – derail you from your current manuscript. This article is geared to help you keep your focus on the page and weigh the benefits of what recommendations you encounter.

Here are a few decision tree matrices that will help you decide what’ll work best for you and your work:

  1. Knowledge – What background information are you required to know before you act on the advice that’s been given to you? How much time are you willing to spend researching the validity of the claim or learning the pieces you aren’t up-to-speed on? While you can’t put a price on knowledge, it is an intrinsic asset and one that may require more effort to attain in specific cases when technology, new forms of writing, etc. are involved.
  2. Achievability – Based on what you’ve been told, how many other authors have successfully replicated that same piece of advice? Or, are you willing to risk everything on the off-chance you’ll be “lightning in a bottle?” Another way of looking at whether or not a piece of advice is valid for you, is if the recommendation hyper-focuses on a trend. Just as one example: the latest zombie craze may sound like an opportunity in disguise, but what’s chic in fiction now has already been written, revised, and edited. If you can leverage that monster-of-the-day, great! If you can’t? Well, then maybe your forte is not braaaaaaaiiiiinnnssss.
  3. Relevancy – You know yourself and your work best. Ask yourself whether or not the advice is relevant to what you want to do, what you’re working on, and where you are now in your career. This is probably one of the most important qualifiers when you process information, because you’ll need to decide how well that fits with what your goals are. If you find yourself questioning your work to the point where you desire to change what you’re doing before it’s completed, then you may want to reconsider who and where your getting the recommendations from.
  4. Distraction – Will the advice prevent (or delay) your completion of what you’re currently working on? If yes, what benefits do you hope to gain from applying the advice and do they outweigh finishing your manuscript? This concept goes back to relevancy, but it also further clarifies whether or not you can acknowledge how the recommendation will negatively impact your manuscript or goals.
  5. Experimentation – If the advice given to you is a risk, is it one you’re willing to take? How much time do you want to spend experimenting versus strengthening your core competency? By identifying opportunities for trial-and-error when they arise, you can help shape where you want to go, provided you’re in a position to accept a positive or negative outcome. After all, speculative ventures are not guaranteed to work. That’s why they’re experiments.
  6. Data Crunching – Can the advice be backed up with good data? Would you be willing to use that data and apply it to your own career? Oft overlooked, data is crucial to any business owner who wants to make fact-based decisions. Mind you, good data can be difficult to obtain and it’s often a snapshot of a larger picture. The idea behind getting data in the first place is to have supported claims and avoid anecdotal bits of advice that are steeped in conjecture. Data removes the emotion right out of the equation and can help keep you grounded when you want facts.
  7. Financials – Will you be able to afford to take the advice you’ve been given? Or does it cut into your time to do other paying work? A lot of advice doesn’t always come down to the “M” word – money – but more often than not hidden costs can start to affect your pocketbook. In addition to time, stress is an invisible expense that can spur you to write or freeze your fingers. When you stop producing, whether they be short stories, novels, articles, etc. you affect your ability to monetize your work. Advice itself may not have a dollar sign attached to it; but the application of it can both positively and negatively influence your bottom line.
  8. Timeliness – Is there an expiration date on the advice? Does your success or failure rely on how fast you can complete the recommendation? The adage timing is everything is often true for pieces of advice that are not only time-sensitive, but also demand your full attention. Understanding the “what” and the “how” of what someone is proposing can pale in comparison to the “when.”

Hopefully, these eight concepts will help remind you what you already know, that advice is cheap if not free. However, nothing can replace the precious time you spend in front of your monitor, typewriter, or notebook writing. Regardless of what anyone says, you’re the only author qualified enough to shape where you’ll go. By training your inner voice to critically think about how the advice you receive applies to your work – you’ll be able to do just that.

Get a BookLife, Now!

When did you first set out on your dream to be a published author?

Just about three years ago, following the birth of my first daughter, I decided I better get my act together and starting living the dream I held in my heart. For me, there would be no integrity in raising a daughter to follow her dreams if I failed to show that I believed in the concept! Since that time, another daughter arrived along with a dog and a job outside the home. And, YES! I am a published writer of nonfiction (even penned a few short stories).

What got me that far is a set of guidelines I call  The Writer’s Five Ps (Passion, Perspective, Priorities, Process, Present-mindedness).  The Five P’s keep you focused, help you navigate through the storms that rise in life and make it possible to manage all the things that are important and special in your life without feeling burned out.

The Five Ps have kept my writing center-stage on a day-to-day basis. (For many aspiring writers, that’s half the battle). Still, I’m not quite where I want to be with my writing dream: to publish fiction.

In the pages of VanderMeer’s BookLife,  I heard my own voice call  to me:  “I want a book life, now!”

Not surprisingly, my  inner critique (The Burglar) answered, “How’s those FivePs workin’ out for ya, now?”

Contrary to Burglar’s modus operandi, I didn’t need to abandon the Five Ps. I just needed to rethink how I put them to work. BookLife helped me put the Five Ps to work strategically. Rather than just using the Five Ps to navigate my way through family life and get my butt in the chair everyday, I integrated VanderMeer’s approach with the Five Ps to put me on the path to my book life. In the three weeks since I began, I’ve done the following:

  1. wrote a stronger mission (artist’s statement)
  2. set more concrete long and short-term goals (achieved the following specific goals)
  • my website is being redesigned
  • a short story is under review for publication
  • gained clarity on plot for a stand alone novel and developed concept for 3-book series
  • secured a new column in a west coast magazine

I am a happier writer, still ranking high on the parenting chart (ask the kids) and I am more effective at change management.

I’m confident that my book will be in print or on an e-reader before the end of 2012  (I figure, if the world does end, or the great white light shines upon us, why not go out with a bang!).

You can do the same. Don’t let your inner Burglar rob you of your dream or cause you to abandon methods that have been working for you. Do use the voice of that inner critic to assess how your methods are working for you and what else you may need to get where you really want to be– to get a book life!

(Thanks, Jeff, for inviting me to share my experience as a Writing Parent on her way to getting a BookLife!) KMR

Karen M. RiderKaren M. Rider is a freelance writer specializing in holistic health and metaphysical subjects. Her interviews with visionary thinkers such as Caroline Myss and Wayne Dyer have been published in regional and national publications. Karen also contributes to The Writer magazine. She is an accomplished advertorial copywriter serving holistic /healing arts practitioners and “soul entrepreneurs.” She resides in Connecticut with her two spirited daughters and  (one very patient) husband. Karen is working on her first novel- a story of metaphysical suspense set at Gillette Castle in Connecticut.

The Writing Parent is Using Booklife

Check out this great blog post about the Working Parent’s use of Booklife. An excerpt…

BookLife makes you think strategically and tactically about your creative works. While The Writing Parent’s Five Ps (Passion, Perspective, Priorities, Process, Present-mindedness), help you keep writing center-stage on a day-to-day basis, BookLife provides a larger context for your writing dreams. The Five P’s keep you focused, help you navigate through the storms that rise in life and make it possible to keep all the things that are important in you life in your life, without feeling burned out. The strategies and tips in BookLife bring you deeper in your perspective, priorities and process because it forces you to look at your creative work in a much larger context.