Fri. Jan. 4, 2019: Social Media As Performance Art

Friday, January 4, 2019
Dark Moon
Uranus Retrograde

Getting in gear for what I want to get done in 2019.

Yesterday, I got some writing done (not enough) and worked with a client. It was a tiring day, although a good one.

I’m going to see how next week goes; if it’s similar to this one, I’m going to start getting up an hour earlier to get in more writing. I’m so tired when I get back from this one particular client that it’s hurting my writing. I’ll be wrapping a project there in the coming months, but I can’t afford to lose as much writing time as I’ve been losing, due to exhaustion.

I’ve added an additional yoga session at night, before the night meditation. To get the kinks out before getting to bed.

Weight trained yesterday (one of my designated days). I was still a little sore from Monday’s session, but I still like the way I’m easing into it. Too often, we push too hard at the start of the year, and then lose heart when we can’t keep up.

So I’m hitting the ground running in the sense of the plan, but I’m also being more careful in how much I take on at any given time. Or trying to. You know how that blows up.

I came across information from a friend I’d had all the way back in high school and shot off an email just to say hi, never expecting to be remembered. But my friend does, and we’re catching up. Which is fun. I’m glad I did sent the email!

I’ve been thinking about social media lately, and how so much of it is a form of performance art.

No matter how “authentic” we choose or intend to be, we still choose what to reveal and what to keep back. As we must.

There’s a lot of pressure on job seekers to be careful on social media. That’s a post for Ink-Dipped Advice, but my take on that is that if they don’t like what I do on social media, they won’t like what I do in the office, either, so I’m not parsing my words to please some unknown future client.

I’d rather stand for something and not get the job than be a coward and compromise my integrity in order to get it.

But it IS a form of performance art.

You build an audience. They feel the same sense of possession and connection and emotion as does the audience at a theatre performance or a film screening. Or, even more, as the audience does of a show they regularly watch.

Our social media audience knows us and doesn’t know us. We connect on certain levels, sometimes in ways that might carry over into life, sometimes that won’t. Some relationships become unbalanced. We do get to know certain people who can become genuine relationships, but there are also others that are more pleasant at a distance, or are just for the moment of connection, and then both parties move on. When one of the parties doesn’t move on, it can cause problems.

I’ve certainly worked with enough actors where audience members feel an intimacy with the performer that exists within the plane of the work, but not with the performer directly.

The plane of the work is when the artist’s work touches the soul, and the audience’s response allows the artist to create more work. That comes in the form of approval or challenge or applause or questions or money == most often a combination.

The audience expects to be fed. The artist needs to keep creating material to feed the monster, or the monster will move on to someone else who feeds them more regularly.

That can become a burden — for an actor, for a writer, for a creator on Patreon, for someone with a huge online following, be it on social media or on a blog or whatever.

Personal boundaries are important, while still feeding the audience. I think the best thing one can do is be honest when one needs a break. I know I don’t like to announce publicly when I’m going away (even when there’s a cat sitter living at the house), because I feel like I’m asking to be burgled.

At the same time, when we travel for appearances, conferences, etc., we have to get the word out there in order to bring in the audience, in order for the audience to meet us in person.

Which can be equally daunting.

I’m an introvert. There’s a reason I worked backstage rather than onstage. I don’t enjoy acting; I don’t enjoy being the center of attention.

The work is important. I like to be in the shadows.

But now, writers are supposed to be out there exposing everything even more than actors. I don’t agree with that. I don’t believe it enhances the work. It certainly can be exhausting for authors.

The flip side of that, is that I enjoy meeting people at conferences. I enjoy teaching workshops. I’m fine one-on-one. It’s the performance aspect I don’t like.

Which is why so many introverted writers are grateful for social media. We get to connect with our audience, we get to feed them, and we still get to stay in the shadows. We are both performer and our own stage manager, when we do it well.

I don’t like being forced into a spotlight. I don’t use author photographs or post selfies. That’s not my thing. I don’t like my workshops video taped or attendees to take photos and post. I don’t pose for photos at networking events. I know I was there. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. There’s no reason pictures of me need to be up on the Internet. It’s not about me. It’s about the work.

Keeping part of yourself back for only yourself, your art, your intimates in life isn’t “lying to the public” as is far too often the accusation. It’s an absolutely necessary measure of self-protection for the work and for the soul.

Everyone — writer or anyone else — needs to make their own choices about how much to share, how much to perform, how much to keep back. It is a personal choice, and not up for debate with the audience.

Audiences as an entity are fickle anyway. Individuals within the audience may become loyal, but the entity itself will always be chasing something new, something promoted as the “next big thing.”

Make your choices. Change them as you need to. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Client work this morning, then a few appointments this afternoon. I have to finish a book review and get that out. I have to write a good bit over the next few days.

The first batch of books for the contest has shipped, and will arrive in a few days.

I’ve also got to finalize some proposals that need to go out next week.

I should wait until Sunday to take down all the holiday decor (is it that time already?), but I’m going to start Saturday. I have a fancy dress party to attend on Sunday night, so I’d like to get as much done ahead of time as possible.

I’m signed up for a course on Human Rights in Open Societies out of the university in Utrecht, Netherlands. It starts in early February, and I’m looking forward to it.

Have a great weekend. I sort of feel like the year actually starts as of Monday.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019: Hit The Ground Running and Hitting Back at Those Who Denigrate Artists

Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde

Time to hit the ground running. I have a few thoughts on that, over on Ink-Dipped Advice.

Friday wore me out. I had to take the car in (which wasn’t as bad as I feared). I spent time with a client, then had some running around to do.

I was also still spinning ideas for the online brainstorming session I had with Jackie Kessler, Deanna Rayburn, and Erin Cronican on new material for WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST.

WOMEN WITH AN EDGE is a show with legs. Some of the material is evergreen; some is dated. It’s time for another show along the same lines that deal with topics relevant now. I have a few places I can test material, although there’s not a theatre on Cape who’d have the guts to produce the piece. Too right-wing around here.

But we brainstormed pages of notes, and I’ve taken it further. I threw some ideas into the Women Write Change forum as well on Monday, so I’m sure that will generate more ideas.

I want to write the first couple of monologues this week.

Saturday was unseasonably warm. I had another run to the store (because there’s always one more thing). We got the garbage to the dump (and the guys got their cookies).

I started playing with some more ideas. Because ideas come in batches. So it’s important to take notes, date the notes, and then figure what’s pulling hardest and where to put what.

Sunday I managed fourteen pages on an idea with which I’m playing — I think it will work. My two main protagonists are deliciously more complicated and manipulative than I originally envisioned. It will be interesting to see how they play off each other. A missing music composition is a big part of the story, too.

Worked on the proposal for the play set in Renaissance Venice. With that, and the anti-gun violence play, and the two women authors play, and WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST, that’s four stage plays and three novels releasing this year. Minimum.

We’re pushing the Jain Lazarus re-release back to 2020. It doesn’t make sense to do it this year. That way, in 2020, the third Gwen-Justin book releases, the third Nautical Namaste releases, the fifth Coventina Circle releases — along with the first three Jain Lazarus. Those are all outlined — it’s a case of writing/revising.

This year, I’m scrambling to get BALTHAZAAR and DHARMA out on schedule — last year was just too much. GRAVE REACH will be in good shape in a few months, and ready for edits. And we’re still trying to figure out if the Justice by Harpy trilogy can come out this year.

Plus, I want to make room to have at least one stand-alone a year.

I’m posting this on Monday, so I have no idea what my Eve and Day will be. I’m determined to make them good. I’m determined not to teeter at the edge of the abyss I usually find myself on every New Year’s Eve.

I have worlds to build.

Social media has just been depressing lately. I know I need it for the books and the writing. I enjoy genuine interaction, and I’ve met some great people.

But there’s too much viciousness. And too much whining.

You want to be a full time artist? Then you have to rearrange your life and put the work first. You can’t do it all and have it all. If you want to be a part-time artist in order to have a more balanced life, fine, go ahead. But don’t whine at those of us who made the choices and put in the work about “not having time to write.” You are CHOOSING not to write. You are CHOOSING other elements in your life over the writing. And they are your choices. So own them.

I’m also tired of being attacked for earning money from my work. Loving my work does not forfeit my right to earn a living at it — provided I’m willing to put in the work. I am. I do.

Those who aren’t willing to put in the work or believe getting paid for art and craft is “selling out” can go to hell. Because I have stuff to do and can’t be bothered.

And all these attacks on artists as not being smart or who shouldn’t have opinions or participate in political activism? Those who make their living in the arts tend to be smarter and more committed than those around them, or they couldn’t do it.

If you think artists are stupid, if you attack them for being intelligent, articulate, and committed to building a better world, yeah, you can go to hell, too.

I have no time for these jealous, petty morons. People who attack artists generally do so out of spite, because they hate that artists have the talent and the skills and the work ethic, and, most importantly, the COURAGE to put it all on the line.

I’m not arguing with them. I’m not “debating” with them. Let those who are only in it to cause trouble and spread spite twist in the wind.

I have art to create. I have work to do. I have a world to change, one story at a time.

 

Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, November 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

 

First off, let me apologize. I mis-read the list of topics, and I spent October talking about tolerance, which was September’s topic.

Let’s just say I’ve had a challenging couple of months!

I’m back on track for November, and the topic is “friendliness.” My first week on that topic will deal with friendliness at conferences.

I’ve attended plenty of conferences where I didn’t know anyone. Sometimes they were international; sometimes they were in my home country.

I’m a writer and an introvert. I need a lot of time on my own (which is why I don’t book with a roommate for conferences — I need to retreat, and I need to be able to maintain my writing rhythm).

But I still want to interact.

I’ve usually been able to meet at least a few people and be friendly enough with them for the duration of the conference so that I don’t feel like a wallflower. I’ve met people at conference who wound up being good friends for the long haul.

It was actually easier to make friends and hang out at conferences before social media. I don’t do selfies; I don’t post photos at events of myself with people; I don’t even use author photos (that’s in my contract). I publish under multiple names. What I look like has nothing, NOTHING to do with my ability to write.

I’m not an actor.

In my opinion, the writing should NEVER have anything to do with my appearance.

It’s about the work. Not about me.

It used to be that a conference was where you could attend, interact, and blow off some steam. It was kind of like Vegas — what happened at the conference, stayed at the conference.

Not anymore.

So, in my opinion, a lot of them just aren’t as much fun.

You don’t get to relax anymore. You have to be “on” all the time. Performing all the time. I wasn’t particularly wild, but I also didn’t have to worry that anything I said with irreverence or did might be taken out of context and posted for the world to see.

There used to be at least a bit of private space at conferences, where people could interact and not be on guard all the time. Vent, laugh, get to know each other as individuals, not as representatives of a brand or a company.

That doesn’t mean I advocate people being horrible to each other, treating each other badly, unwelcome harassment, and saying awful things. People did that, and do that. Sometimes it’s a moment of anger or misunderstanding; sometimes they reveal who they really are. There are plenty of talented individuals, in all the arts, who aren’t particularly stellar human beings. I’ve had my share of disappointments, meeting someone whose worked I liked, and finding I didn’t like them as a human being. I’d prefer them across the room to across the table. And yes, sometimes I’ve discovered something that is so averse to my sense of integrity that it destroyed my ability to enjoy their work.

I do believe that we should meet people on a platform of basic human dignity and work from there. But the fact that we have to be “on” all the time means that it’s harder to really get to know people. It creates more tension. Instead of a conference being a place to have some fun and a little freedom amongst one’s people, it’s one big long marketing adventure.

I was on the board of directors for a local writers’ organization for a few years. Their central event was a rather wonderful conference. Instead of panels, where attendees went to listen to other people talk process, there were workshops where they learned process and had the chance to apply it. There were evening speakers or lunchtime speakers and all kinds of great events.

Part of my job was to make sure the presenters felt welcomed and taken care of; make sure they had everything they needed for their workshops; make sure they had someone to share the meal with, and weren’t sitting off in a corner alone (unless they wanted/needed to in order to decompress).

I also felt it was my job to make participants feel more included. For me, it meant being more pro-active than I’d been as a participant. How many times did I go into the bar at the end of a conference day, not know anyone, and not feel comfortable enough to grab a seat alone?

In this case, I felt that part of my job as a trustee of this organization was to play hostess.

I’d gather up a few people, starting at the welcome cocktail party, and every evening at the bar after the day’s events ended. We’d settle in a place clearly visible from the door, and put together a bunch of tables.

As someone came in through the door, stopped, and looked around, with that deer-in-the-headlights look, I’d wave and say, “Hi! Come join us! Pull up a chair!”

The relief was palpable.

Most of the time, they did. If someone arrived and someone at the table knew them, they waved them over, too.

By the peak of the night, we had an enormous table of people getting to know each other. Often, it organically wound up being a mix of writers, agents, and editors. People moved around, switched seats, talked to a variety of people.

I also took the time to talk to every individual who joined us, find out what was working for them and what wasn’t, as part of their experience, which helped us build a better conference the following years.

By starting it at the first cocktail reception, I set a tone of friendliness. People started meeting each other. They had someone to attend talks with, or go to meals with, or even explore the area with.

No one felt left out.

Basically, I created what I always wished for at other conferences.

That also changed my behavior when I attended conferences. Instead of sidling in to the bar and taking up as little space as possible, I take a table that I like. When I see a face of someone I might have passed earlier in the day, or spoken to at some point, I invite them to join me.

As an introvert, it takes a huge effort to make that first move. But I know what it feels like to be unsure of one’s welcome. So I do it anyway. Even though I’m as exhausted mentally as physically by the end of the evening. But it’s worth it.

That doesn’t mean I wind up adoring everyone I meet. There have been times when I haven’t particularly liked some of those at the table. But I could still be cordial to them, and we could each find people at the table with whom we better connected.

Be the welcoming person you always hoped to find at a conference. It will make the experience better for everyone concerned.

So next time you’re feeling unsure at an event, smile at someone else and say, “Pull up a chair!”

 

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 6:58 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others

Monday, September 17, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

In this month about the Tolerance Topic on Upbeat Authors, let’s take a minute to think about what makes other people happy.

Social media has intensified the contempt people feel the need to show for those who enjoy things that they don’t. If we are going to practice tolerance, and walk our talk, then we need to stop making fun of people for liking what they like (provided their “like” is not actively causing harm).

If someone posts something about being so happy that it’s pumpkin spice season, take pleasure in their enjoyment!

Okay, I admit, I’m not a fan of pumpkin-flavored stuff. But I like that it stands for the change of season, into my favorite season. And people get so excited when pumpkin spice season comes around. Their posts make me smile. I enjoy their enjoyment, and it brightens my day. I don’t have to be enamored of the actual flavor in order to enjoy their happiness.

If you really can’t stand what they enjoy – scroll past WITHOUT MAKING A DETRIMENTAL COMMENT. Save those comments for something that actually matters, where there’s harm being caused, such as on the political spectrum, or if someone is abusing someone else.

If someone takes joy out of strangling puppies or drowning kittens, or trophy hunting endangered species, yes, absolutely call them out and report them to the appropriate authorities. If someone threatens physical harm or performs verbal abuse as their preferred pleasure, yes, do something.

But simple pleasures, the small daily joys in people’s lives that don’t cause harm? Either enjoy the enjoyment or keep going!

I’m paraphrasing an old saying that works along the line of a trouble that’s shared is a trouble halved, but a joy that’s shared is a joy that’s doubled.

Double your joy by sharing what makes you happy, and participate in doubling the joy of those who share what matters to them.

Published in: on September 17, 2018 at 5:13 am  Comments Off on Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others  
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Tues. April 17, 2018: Staying on a Tight Contract Schedule

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Direct (as of 4/15)

Even though the Mercury Retrograde echoes, I’m glad it’s gone direct. Not happy about Saturn and Jupiter being retrograde, though, and Pluto piling on at the end of the week. But, it is what it is.

The area is still in mourning for Sean Gannon, and will be for a long time to come. Hopefully, that gives some help and comfort to his family, although I’m sure everyone would simply rather he was still alive. Nero survived surgery and is recovering.

THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY is in galleys — I got them on Saturday. Yesterday, I started work on them. I’m starting to feel good about this book again, although, by the time I finish galleys, I’m always sick of whatever book’s in galleys! Part of the process!

I finally cracked the first chapter of RELICS & REQUIEM, and polished the excerpt that will go in the back of SPIRIT REPOSITORY. So that can progress on a steady pace, as it needs to.

Most of the weekend, however, was spent working on the serial. I’m putting the scenes on index cards, teleplay style. Even though I don’t like working that way, for this piece, I feel I need to. I need to weave a couple more lines together and figure out the big climactic sequence. Then I can pull out the points most necessary, do the outline, and get the piece off to the producer. They’ll either want it or they won’t. If they do, we go into development and see what happens; if they don’t, I’ve got a good start on the book itself, although when I’ll be able to slot it in, who knows?

The fifth POV muscled in, and I wrote a chapter from that POV, to see if it truly was necessary. It is. It made a lot of the rest of the outline click.

Worked on contest entries as well; some good ones. Enjoyed them very much. Picking the winner and the top five finalists will be even more of a challenge than usual this year. It’s exciting that there’s so much good writing out there, and that those good authors are no longer limited by the Big 5. Small presses that do actual print runs — not PODS, but print runs — need to start flourishing again, because they are the ones that will turn the industry around.

Sunday is usually my “day of disconnect” from social media, et al. I didn’t take it this weekend, what with all the corruption and the bombing of Syria and James Comey trying to save his legacy with his book and interviews. So I didn’t get the silence on that front I needed. However, I got into some lively conversations about process and art, which made up for the news feed chaos.

I didn’t take Patriots’ Day as a holiday yesterday; I worked with a client. I felt bad for the Boston Marathon runners. It was a nasty day.

I got back to work on MYTH & INTERPRETATION, RELICS & REQUIEM, and the outline for the serial. And contest entries and a book whose review deadline is coming up quickly. I hope to get the serial pitch out this week. Fingers crossed.

The updated media kit for TRACKING MEDUSA is up. I’m working on the updated kits for HEX BREAKER, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, and the Jain Lazarus series.

They are pushed back a bit, because I have to do the media kit for THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY first, and then create one for the Coventina Circle series in general, so I can get those uploaded by the end of the week.

I’ve run across some interesting people I’d like to host for A Biblio Paradise, and I’m getting the invites out over the next few days. And talking to my distributor about a special promotion when SPIRIT REPOSITORY comes out, so I can do a promotion.

I need to get some LOIs out this week, and also do some more purging in the basement. And, you know, yard work whenever the weather lets me.

Oh and hop on over to Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions, to see where I am on this month’s list!

Never a dull moment, which is a good thing!

Published in: on April 17, 2018 at 5:18 am  Comments Off on Tues. April 17, 2018: Staying on a Tight Contract Schedule  
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Tues. Oct. 10, 2017: Not Enough Weekend, Too Many Responsibilities

 

Playing The Angles Cover Sm

Playing the Angles

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and warm

Finally, some sun, after a string of rainy, humid, icky days. Remnants of Hurricane Nate yesterday. Again, I’m grateful it was just a few hours of heavy rain and wind, and not worse.

Read through the SAVASANA galleys. I made notes — six pages’ worth of notes of copy editing errors that I caught. Now, I pull up the document (I proofread on the Kindle, I catch more), and I compare my notes to my copy editor’s notes. And then I make the fixes. I’d hoped to have it done by today, but it was just too much.

Picked up my next two reviewing assignments, but haven’t had a chance to start them yet. Hope to fix that today.

Managed to work my way through about twenty research books, pulling what I need, noting citations, etc. I have stacks of books and videos to return today.

Did some work on the outline of DAVY JONES DHARMA.

Most of my writing was on THE MARRIAGE GARDEN, although that was not the original intent for the weekend. But it was flowing, and I didn’t want to get in the way. I wrote about 10K on it. I’m already well in to the second notebook, and nearly finished with Willow’s first section This book is going to take at least three years before it’s submittable, maybe longer. But then, literary fiction often takes longer than genre fiction because it’s a different type of storytelling. It needs a different type of structure. The story and characters definitely affect me, differently than most of my other work. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on the reader.

Lots of cooking all weekend, making up some new recipes, plus old favorites like the raw apple muffins from THE BREAKFAST BOOK, and moussaka from THE NEW YORK TIMES INTERNATIONAL COOKBOOK. I’m baking my favorite chocolate walnut butter bread later today, and tonight is stuffed eggplant from a Moosewood recipe.

I have so much to do today and this week that I’m overwhelmed. All I can do is break it down and do one bit at a time. I’m waiting to hear if and when I have a project meeting tomorrow, I have to follow up on a few things, and I have some pitches to get out.

I didn’t work on the short stories or the essay this weekend, so I have to spread them over the next few days, in and around everything else, and get them done. Same with the next section of FIX IT GIRL.

My mom had one of her pre-op appointments this morning, so there’s that to juggle, too.

Somehow, it will all work out. I’m not sure how, yet, but somehow, I have to figure it out and MAKE it work.

Being off social media more than on it helped. I miss being on Twitter, especially, but I don’t miss the added stress.

I’m percolating a couple of pieces that are getting ready to be written, and I have to fact-check some names and dates in order to write the opening scene of the Lavinia Fontana play.

I couldn’t do any yard work this weekend, in the lousy weather, so that’s stacking up, too.

Onward, and back to the page.

 

Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 8:41 am  Comments Off on Tues. Oct. 10, 2017: Not Enough Weekend, Too Many Responsibilities  
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Wed. Sept. 14, 2017: Balancing Act

Wednesday, September 14, 2017
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Yesterday was a long day of admin, filing paperwork, updating links, et al.

PLAYING THE ANGLES is now live on Google Play, ready for pre-order.

My article “Tracking Your Banged Buck” is live on WOW-Women on Writing, and I want to thank K.R. Conway, Jessica Glenn, Goddess Fish Promotions, Arlene Kay, Alyssa Maxwell, and Barbara Ross for their quotes. I made a document for their clip files, and sent that, along with the live link and a thank you, to them. I heard from the editor last night that the article is getting positive feedback, so I’ll pass that along today, too.

Exhausted by the time I got back, and came down with a migraine. However, I didn’t have the luxury of taking an afternoon off, so I kept working.

I did some work on the FIX-IT GIRL revision. It’s going slowly, and I’m frustrated. I’m not quite sure how to solve the frustration, which leaves me more frustrated, and so it goes. The first eighteen chapters of the revision sailed along well, but this is a tricky part, a turning point. I have to get it right, or the book falls apart.

I’ll just keep at it until I do.

Also did some work on THE MARRIAGE GARDEN, the literary fiction. This first draft will need a lot of revision, a lot of making scenes active that are now too narrative. But I need to set out the narration for myself first, and then pick which scenes to dramatize, and what to leave as narration. Because the book is quiet and introspective, rather than an action-driven piece, it needs a different approach. Too much action, and I lose the tone and the reflective quality that is the reason for the book’s existence. Too much narrative and it’s telling rather than showing and just plain dull.

We need to make some solid decisions about “Labor Intensive”, and I also need to get back to the draft of SAVASANA AT SEA, so that can go off to the editor, and she can catch me out on my bad habits again. 😉

As much of a slime pit as social media can sometimes be, through all this political chaos, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people from all over the world, in all walks of life, with whom I might not have otherwise crossed paths. They are intelligent, creative, and committed to making the world a better place. I hope we’ll stay in touch if and when things settle down.

It looks like I didn’t land two gigs I’d really hoped for this week. One of them would have been well within my wheelhouse, but the people making the top decisions have proven, over the past few weeks, to be consistently disorganized. On the other, it would have been a physical challenge in some respects, but the company’s lack of basic business protocol makes me wonder if the listing was scam. One can put up a slick website and still be a con. More research done, and perhaps I should be grateful not to be associated with either organization! Only time and what happens next will tell.

My editor asked for some revisions on a review; I have to get back to work on the next book, which is one of the most sloppily written pieces I’ve read in a long time. I need to work on some article pitches that I’d like to get out before the end of the week, and expand an essay where there’s interest, but it’s too short.

Whenever the days are nice enough to be outside, I’m trying to work at least for a few hours at a time on the deck. Pretty soon, everything has to come back in for the winter.

Speaking of winter, yesterday I worked on a section of THE MARRIAGE GARDEN taking place during a blizzard, while we had lovely, sunny, warm weather. It was an interesting exercise in sense memory for writing.

 

Thurs. July 20, 2017: Reinventing the Marketing Wheel — A Personal Journey

Thursday, July 20, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny, hot, humid

Yesterday, I promised some thoughts on marketing, so that is what this post focuses on today.

At this point, the bulk of marketing falls on the author. Traditional publishers get books in bookstores and to distributors, which is an enormous part of the equation. Some of the smaller publishers give as much support as their overextended staffs can. But the bulk is up to the author.

I just wrote an article for WOW-Women on Writing on how to track the results of where you put your marketing dollars to get the best return and to decide where to put the money for the next go-round. I was lucky enough to have several generous authors and promoters share their expertise. I will post the link when it goes live; it’s a piece of which I’m proud — there’s good research and work put into it, and I think writers across genre will find it useful.

This post, being on a personal blog, is more personal.

I’m preparing my backlist for re-release, and hoping to build on whatever momentum I create to move forward in my career.  Traditional publishers want something new; most of them are reluctant to take on a backlist, unless you’ve hit major traditional best-seller lists.  Many of my decisions are the result of sitting down with people I trust to discuss and figure out what I want and need from my career moving forward, and what was working and not working FOR ME. “This is what’s done” isn’t working FOR ME, and I need to create campaigns that work on both creative and financial levels. Sticking to someone else’s formula limits me. Therefore, I have to come up with my own.

It’s not that I have the ego to think I’m so brilliant that I can create an entirely new model. But I want to find a way to engage and expand my readership with my backlist that encourages them to continue on the journey with me for new releases, some of which will be released traditionally, and some of which will be released in channels that haven’t been invented yet. I have to find the best marriage for each individual project. I need to balance business and creativity.

If I’m only going to focus on sales, on the business aspect, I might as well work full time for a packager and only do for-hire work. Nothing wrong with for-hire work; it can be great fun and a way to build craft, especially if it pays fairly. But the reason I write is to make sense of the world, and to find a greater understanding of the people in it. That means I need to work on whatever interests/bothers/upsets/intrigues me. Which may not coincide with what is thought to “sell”. And yet, it may be what certain readers are looking for or yearning for.

Agents and publishers don’t know what WILL sell. They know what HAS sold. Every submission is a gamble, and they have to make their best guess.  They want the next big thing, but no one knows what that is until it’s there. They have to be careful where they invest their time and energy. Where are they willing to take chances?

I completely respect that. Some projects I write will resonate with them; some will not. It’s like dating — you’re unlikely to find your soul mate the first time out. You keep going. And there might be a few heartbreaks along the way. That doesn’t mean either party is “bad”; it means they’re not a good match. You learn and move on to a hopefully better one.

Far too much of the business is run on “everyone does this” and “that’s the way it’s done.” Not every channel works for every book and author. Readers want good deals; bookstores and libraries face ever-tightening budgets, and they have to be particular about where they spend their money. Amazon, for all its convenience, seems to be turning to a model to actively prevent authors from earning a fair return on their work, between the bots that manipulate rankings, arbitrary dismissal of legitimate reviews in favor of badly written, poorly spelled reviews by unqualified individuals with an axe to grind, and sabotaging publishers by pushing cheaper second-hand deals.

I have several re-releases I want to put back out into the world, with the hope that they’ll start earning their keep, continue to build an audience, and pave the way for the next books in their series, and help build a solid platform while I continue, with new work, to pursue more traditional outlets. The goal of each book is that the storytelling and craft improves from the previous book, which means every book becomes a better experience. For re-releases, I can apply what I’ve gained in craft to the release, and thereby position the next book even more strongly, because I’ve got a firmer foundation on which to build.

But the books still need to find their audience.

The plan and execution for each re-release is easier, at least on the emotional level. Far too often, working with some of the small publishers, I’ve taken the “partner” aspect seriously, working with them on ideas and campaigns, only to have the publisher not fulfill what was agreed, and simply shrug it all off. ARCS not sent to reviewers as promised, books that were ordered far in advance not showing up for special events, “forgetting” or “misplacing” information sent for multiple-author promotions. The most destructive, in my experience, is refusing to put a solid release date into the contract, refusing to commit to a date, and releasing a book when the publisher “gets around to it.” Even if the author is doing the bulk of promotional work, you can’t build a marketing campaign that will get a return without solid information.

Being responsible for all the aspects of the backlist releases myself takes much of that frustration away. That’s why many of the traditionally-published authors I know have decided to go indie or hybrid. It’s not because they “can’t” get published by a more traditional outlet. It’s because the publisher isn’t giving them the support that will actually give a reasonable return.  Granted, they start out with a major advantage over me — they had the support of the traditional publisher to build their audience in the first place.

I’m also tired of all the marketing campaigns being so similar. Far too often, I’m scrolling past book promotion posts, because it all sounds the same. Covers are too similar. Cover blurbs don’t hook me. If I see a review quote from a site I know charges authors for a review, I dismiss it.

How does one set oneself apart?

There’s argument that one shouldn’t. This is what readers are used to; this is what they want. I think that underestimates the reader. Yes, there are readers who read to escape, who want something safe and familiar. They want the category romance where the only thing that changes is the character name and location. They are happy with the ever-more-restrictive formula for certain cozies that is more intolerant, that dumbs down character and motivation, and reaffirms their own narrow view of the world.  They’re free to read whatever they want, and I believe there’s a need for every type of book and every type of reader.  We all have days were we want to escape, and not be forced to think too much, or have our views of the world challenged. If that’s ALL a particular group of readers craves, they’re not the readers for whom I’m writing, so I’m not targeting them.

I’m on the hunt for something different. I have three major releases coming up in the fall and early winter, and several short releases. I have to build the individual campaign for each, and I have to integrate and cross-promote where appropriate. Each campaign has to be unique to the release, while building momentum.

I’m going to experiment. Yes, I’ll use some tried-and-true techniques, but I’m also going to come up with some things that are different. I’ll be sharing them as I figure out what they are and how to use them.

I’m starting with the following questions:

–Who is my target audience?

–What elements have given me the best return in the past, and can I adapt any of them for this particular release?

–As a reader, what catches my attention? Can I adapt any of that?

–As a reader, what turns me off? Can I avoid that?

–What makes my book unique, and what tangible aspects of that uniqueness can I use in promotion?

The answers for most of those questions will be slightly different for each release. Since I write in different genres, the target audience for each of the big releases (paranormal romantic suspense, contemporary mystery, paranormal mystery) will be slightly different. There’s room for some crossover, which I hope to exploit. But there will also be differences.

Elements that have worked for me include good media kits and individual outreach (absolutely no generic email blasts). Radio is also always one of my strongest aspects.

What catches my attention? Hard to pin down, but I have to.

What turns me off? Constant demands that I buy the book; poorly written cover copy or excerpts; covers that I’ve either seen on other books or that are so similar to other books I think I’ve seen them.

Two of the biggest turn-offs tend to happen on Twitter: one is a series of identical promotional posts that are scheduled and keep turning up in my feed. The other is when a new-to-me author follows me, I follow back, and get an immediate direct message demanding I buy the book. For me, that’s an automatic unfollow.

Another thing I don’t do is author photographs. I get a lot of flack for that. I write under multiple names in multiple genres. What I look like has NOTHING to do with my writing. I’m not an actor. I’m a writer. My words are my instrument, my words are what I share with the world. My life (which includes my looks) are separate. Readers don’t need a photograph. I have icons that designate the different pseudonyms. It’s even in my contracts. I’ve lost contracts when I refused to supply a photograph instead of the icon that is recognizable for any specific name. Interestingly enough, the ONLY time that’s happened is when the venue didn’t pay, and they wanted to run a piece of mine for “exposure.” In other words, no loss there. Unfortunately, I lost paid contracts when a newspaper ran a photograph of me that it had agreed not to run (I explained my contract). I should have sued the paper. I didn’t, but I lost a series contract thanks to that, as well as a stand-alone contact.  Because it was specified in my contract that I do not do author photographs; I only agreed to the newspaper interview because they promised NOT to run a personal photograph (I provided professional photos of the topic of the interview, which wasn’t even writing-related).  They lied to me and cost me book contracts, which means income.

I’m sick and tired of fighting with people when I hang out and they want to take pictures to post on Facebook. No. I don’t do photographs. Period. I have personal photographs that are in frames or albums with people in my life who are important to me.  I am not part of the “selfie nation”.  I could go into a whole rant on it, but people would feel I judged THEIR choices, which I don’t.  They can take and post any photo they want — as long as it’s not of me.  I have no interest in posting a selfie of me in front of something. To prove I was there? I don’t need to prove anything. That is my choice. That is my right. People can share whatever THEY chose, and it’s not up to me. But I can also choose what NOT to share.

Social media has done a great deal to expand my work’s reach. At the same time, I’m not willing to stop being who I am for fear of offending readers. I’m politically active — in life and on social media. At this particular juncture in time, my very life and that of my family depends on my so being. I’m not going to stop. That may turn off readers. Chances are, they are readers who wouldn’t like my books anyway, because my characters stand up for social justice and tolerance, and fight against oppression, tyranny, racism, bigotry, misogyny. Readers who don’t believe in those issues aren’t going to like my books anyway. Nor will I let them bully me by threatening not to buy my books if I’m politically active. Then don’t buy my books — you are not my target audience. It is your choice where to put your money. I’m an advocate of conscientious consumerism, and means respecting the choice of those who’d rather put their money elsewhere. We’ll go our separate ways. YOU are not going to change what I write. I write what I write, and I endeavor to get it out to the widest audience possible, who then CHOOSES if it’s what they want or not. It’s fine to be “not”. There are plenty of books and authors that don’t work for me. I wish them well in their careers and move on.  I don’t argue with them or publicly trash them.  I move on.

In fact, an author whose work I used to read fairly regularly (although I feel she’s dumbed down her last few books) complained about authors being politically active and threatened to stop following or supporting any authors who remained active. Although I consider her a midlist author, she is traditionally published, and believes that her platform has strong influence. Fine. That’s her choice. But she’s now dropped from MY list. I wish her well; I hope she’s happy and successful. I didn’t argue with her or try to bully her into changing her views.  But I choose to spend my hard-earned money on other authors, and I choose to spend my time with people who respect my beliefs, even if they don’t always agree with them.

As a dedicated member of PEN, who used to work on behalf of incarcerated authors all over the world when I lived in New York, walking my talk is vital to who I am and what I write. I’m not going to dilute it because it threatens certain readers’ narrow frames of reference.

Again: they are not my target audience.

And the rule of marketing that works, after “write a good book” is “know your audience.”

My goal is to create interesting, engaging campaigns for books in which I believe. I want to expand my audience. I want to write books that interest, entertain, and maybe make readers look at the world a bit differently. I want to create marketing campaigns that are less of “Buy my book, damn you” and more “come play in this sandbox for awhile — you might enjoy yourself.”

I’m still working out the details. I know I’m going to pursue interviews (blogs, print, radio). Once print editions are available, I may start pitching for appearances again. My media kits are vital tools, and the Media Room on my website is the one of pages with the highest traffic.

I also spend time dissecting what is unique about each release. Themes, characters, leitmotifs that turn up in the books. I want to build aspects of each marketing campaign around that, to make the campaigns more unique. I’m not sure what all of those are yet, but I’m working on it.

Will any of this work? I won’t know until probably 2019. I’m going to try different elements. Some will work. Some will not. I’ll adjust.

One of the biggest challenges is handling of all this, keeping on schedule, and maintaining momentum while staying on track with new projects and with the freelance writing that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head, AND dealing with the difficult personal issues that I’m currently dealing with.

But, most important of all, I will keep writing.

I hope you continue on the journey with me. I hope you will learn from my experience. If my mistakes can prevent any of your own, that will be a positive, in my opinion.

Namaste!