Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

In Which Eeyore Has a Complaint.



The Old Grey Donkey, Eeyore, stood by himself in a thistly corner of the forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, ‘Why?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Inasmuch as which?’ – and sometimes he didn’t quite know what he was thinking about. So when Winnie-the-Pooh came stumping along, Eeyore was very glad to be able to stop thinking for a little, in order to say ‘How do you do?’ in a gloomy manner to him.

‘And how are you?’ said Winnie-the-Pooh.

Eeyore shook his head from side to side.

‘Not very how,’ he said. ‘I don’t seem to have felt at all how for a long time.’

‘Dear, dear,’ said Pooh. ‘I’m sorry about that. Why?’

‘Because, said Eeyore, ‘Somebody keeps rewriting me. I didn’t think it was allowed.’

‘Bother,’ said Pooh. ‘But it’s all because of something called outofcopyright. Christopher Robin told me. It’s happening to everyone in the Hundred Acre Wood.’

‘And what is this outofcopyright?’

‘It means people can steal our words and add other words like ok and there-for-you and long words that even Owl doesn’t know, like imperceptibly.’

‘Impercepti-what?’ said Eeyore.

‘I know,’ said Pooh. ‘It’s Terrible and Sad. For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and long words Bother me.’

‘Why don’t they make up their own words?’ said Eeyore.

‘Christopher Robin says they are in a Very Sad Condition because nobody has taken any notice of their words. So they steal ours and spoil them.’

‘That accounts for a Good Deal’ said Eeyore. ‘Not that it matters. But How Like Them.’

(With profound and heartfelt apologies to A A Milne and Ernest Shepherd.) 

Happy New Year - and another of my (very occasional) writing tips ...


My grandfather, Wladyslaw Czerkawski: the last lancer himself.

OK, I have a new book coming out in late February 2023. You can read more about it on Barnes and Noble's website here. It will be available as they say in 'all good bookshops' and on Amazon too. 

This means that issues of publicity and promotion are, dear reader, very much on my mind. Because these days, even traditionally published writers have to do a significant amount of promotion themselves. It isn't so very different from being self published in that respect, and I've done both. 

I've begun to share links to the book like the one above. Begun to talk about it as a real thing, rather than the difficult project I've been wrestling with for years. It has become exciting rather than harrowing - and it was harrowing and moving to research and write, even though I loved doing it. 

But something else occurred to me when I was taking stock of my social media profiles and use, early in the New Year. Facebook is as good an example as any. I still like Facebook, still use it to connect with old and new friends including a few friends I've known and loved since we were very young. I also use it to connect with other writers, to find out what they're working on, how they're going about it, and what's new in their creative world. I sometimes find myself straying into (perhaps unwise) political discussions on there, but mostly, it's just good to chat. Good to see people's photographs and artworks too.

Except that there are some people - and I hate to say this, but they do tend to be men - who only ever interact on FB when they have a book of their own to promote. They will not so much as bestow a small 'like' on anyone else's news, professional or personal, never mind go to the immense effort of making a comment. They are clearly only there for the promotional opportunity. It's a bit like those experiences we've all had where you've just started talking to somebody at a party and you can see their gaze already moving to the middle distance in case somebody more interesting hoves into view. 

So here's a marketing tip. By all means promote your books on social media, talk about your books, tell us about your trials and triumphs. We love to read these. But in return you have to show just a wee bit of interest in other people, their trials and triumphs too. 

It isn't too much to ask, is it? 

Superior Spoilsports and Rotten Reviews

Straight from the horse's mouth! 

Way back in the days when newspapers had reasonable circulations, and therefore paid - albeit not much - for reviews, I used to do some professional reviewing. It was never really my thing, and I mostly did it for the money. Like all writers, we do what we can to survive. Sometimes I enjoyed it, and sometimes I didn't. I always took time and trouble with my reviews. 

Once or twice, I'm sorry to say, I indulged in what I now think were fairly   mean spirited reviews of books I hadn't liked. I cringe now, when I think   of it and I'm sorry about it. My excuse is that I was young, and hadn't had   my fair share of mean spirited reviews myself!

 I still, occasionally, review a book on Amazon, but only if I've liked it or   at the very least appreciated something about it. Then, I can   honestly say nice things about it. The better the book, the more I enjoy trying to   analyse why I've liked it so much. If I've hated it, or read 50 pages on   my Kindle and asked for my money back - as I've done a few times - I   won't review it at all, even though I will be pretty certain about   why I've   disliked it. 

We all get bad reviews from time to time. Sadly, a single bad review will stick in our minds and keep us awake being indignant for far longer than ten good ones. I don't mean mixed reviews, or thoughtful reviews that analyse a piece of work on its own terms. Those can be incredibly helpful. It means somebody is taking us seriously, debating with the piece of work, if you like. But they don't have to like everything about it. 

I mean those one star, bald and bold 'I hated this' kind of reviews that you look at and wonder if they've actually read the book, or seen the play or film. 

One of the wisest things somebody wrote about these occasional terrible reviews was to try not to take them to heart, but to simply imagine yourself saying to the reviewer, preferably with a shrug, 'then it's not for you. And that's fine.' And then mentally walk away.

You have to practise doing it, but honestly, it works.

Social media, however, seems to have encouraged the phenomenon of the superior spoilsport, especially where a popular book or film or TV show is concerned.

Here's how it goes. 

A group of people will be on, say, Facebook, happily discussing something they've enjoyed. Let's avoid getting embroiled in book critiques by using an example from the world of music. I've seen it happening twice recently, once with Abba and once with the Beatles. In both cases, people were having a good time sharing what these bands and their music meant to them, debating songs and memories, disagreeing a little, but enjoying the chat no end. 

And then along comes somebody who posts 'I hate Abba.' Or 'The Beatles were rubbish.' 

I wouldn't mind if they ever gave a valid reason why they think this. But they hardly ever do. I can give you dozens of reasons why I love the Beatles, and Abba too. Some of them are extremely personal, but some of them are to do with my appreciation of the music itself. If you try to pin them down, ask them why they think this - which they're perfectly entitled to do - they just dig their heels in. 'I hate them because they're rubbish' they say. Which doesn't make a lot of sense. 

There have been a couple of widely praised TV shows that I've disliked recently, but I know why, would be happy to say so, and equally happy to acknowledge that this may be down to me, and not necessarily a fault of the programme itself, which I know other people have enjoyed. If pushed, I could analyse this further, point out faults in the writing and direction. But in my experience, you can forgive a whole lot of faults if you find something entertaining. 

I've encountered the spoilsports so often now, that I'm forced to the conclusion that there's a kind of superiority about it. They don't ever want to be seen appreciating something that lots of other people like. So they'll pretend that they, and only they can see through it. 

They are spoilsports. What I really want to say to them is just leave us to our enjoyment. It's not for you, and that's fine. But you don't have to be here right now, telling us how much you loathe the thing we love. We don't care. It's not going to change our opinion.

So just for once, go play on your own page, write an online one star review if you like -but leave us alone to wallow in our fandom.  

Promoting Your Books on Social Media - Only Connect.

This is one of a series of occasional posts about the more practical aspects (or should that be pitfalls?) of writing and publishing. 

For many years, I wrote for radio, TV and the theatre before turning to fiction and non-fiction. I'm traditionally published, but I also know something about self publishing, and have published several backlist titles and collections of short stories under my own imprint: Dyrock Publishing. I've taught creative and academic writing for years, from one off events to long courses. For most people, even after publication, discoverability* is the biggest problem. 

How do people hear about your book?

This post has been gnawing away at me ever since I tried to say something about using social media on one of those big professional Zoom meetings, only to have a man interrupt me with such casual rudeness that I'm still irritated about it. Not just because of the rudeness, but because I could see a genuine need for advice in the group - and could see, moreover, that some people were going about it in the most counterproductive way. 

The debate in this particular group turned to the use of social media for promotion: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads and various other platforms. The variety is confusing, and the demographics of each platform tend to change over time. There's no point in me reinventing the wheel and trying to describe to you what each site does best. There's plenty of information out there already and the best advice I can give you is to set aside some time, and have a look for yourself.

One thing struck me about the debate though: so many people, in a meeting aimed at writing professionals, said that they 'didn't like social media'. 

Now, that's fair enough. There are some social media sites with which I have a troubled relationship, in the sense that I find them not particularly user friendly. Or in one case, a bit of a bear pit. But you can't say that you want to learn how to promote your own work without spending at least some time engaging with one or more social media sites. If you feel so strongly about this dislike that you avoid them altogether, you're going to have to employ a publicist. There is a piece in this season's Society of Authors magazine, all about getting the most out of 'your publicist'. I found myself wondering just how many writers, even traditionally published writers, actually have them. Publishers do what they can, but publicity budgets are small, unless (paradoxically) you're so famous that you don't need the publicity. And if you're not famous to begin with, publicists don't come cheap. 

The second thing that struck me about the debate was just how many professional writers seem to think that landing on - for argument's sake - Facebook, and plonking down 'buy my book' posts and nothing else, will make people want to buy the book. There is nothing more off-putting than the Facebook 'friend' who never engages with you, or anyone else, until - fanfare of trumpets - they have a book to sell. 

So here's the big secret that is no secret at all. 

If you're going to use a site like Facebook, and are hoping that at some point people will be interested enough to buy your books, you have to actually engage with those people. 

It's fun. Some of them will be old friends you'd maybe lost touch with and that's a bonus. Some will be new friends. Some will be people you've met online and find that you like. Chat to them. Post photographs, Make them laugh. Make them cry. Let them admire your dog/cat/garden/recipe collection/model railway/full size Dalek made from egg boxes, or whatever else you love. Like their pictures. Reciprocate. Enter into debate. 

Join a few groups, not just to promote your book, or even primarily to promote your book, but to meet like minded people and to contribute. You don't have to give your whole life history away and you don't have to spend hours on there. You just have to engage and enjoy it. Ask for research help if you need it. Facebook is wonderful for this and in my experience, people are generous with their expertise. 

Then, if and when you have a new book coming out, some of these nice, interesting, witty people might be inclined to buy it. And if they don't, well, does it matter? It's the equivalent of a big, friendly book festival event, where there's a willing audience, whom you're happy to entertain, followed by a good question and answer session during which people often enlighten you, at the end of which, some of them will probably buy a copy of the book. Except that on social media, you don't need to wait for an invitation.  

Dip a toe in the water. Find one or two social media platforms that suit you.  Facebook is good for books as well as all kinds of other interests, so if you want to start somewhere, that would be the one I'd recommend. But other platforms are available. Watch for a while. Chat about this and that. Post some pictures. And eventually, yes, talk about what you're writing. Because people will often be interested in whatever went into the creation of the book. I know I am, where other people's work is concerned.

Only connect, as E M Forster would have said. 

 *This word, discoverability, when used in a recent publishing trade journal, seemed to cause a good deal of angst among a few men on social media. They wasted a huge amount of time and effort, trying to denigrate it. Ironically enough by using very long words in opaque sentences, presumably to demonstrate the elegance of their prose. It's a perfectly good word. And if you're a serious writer, aiming for publication, you need to know about these things. 


The Beatles, The Brontes and Opinionated People.


It's an odd feature of social media - I notice it particularly on Facebook, but I suspect Twitter is much worse - that when somebody posts an interesting conversation starter, and people weigh in with reminiscences and contributions and disagreements, some individual will occasionally add an opinion that simply amounts to 'you're wrong' - but often couched in much more robust terms. It happened recently, not to me, but to somebody else. It's so commonplace as to be instantly recognisable. I've deleted whole threads because of it - not because I dislike a good debate, but because I'm damned if somebody is coming onto my page to browbeat my friends. It is, let's face it, deliberately designed to do two things: draw attention to the person posting it, and close down any further debate. Like those exclamations in CAPITALS with FACT written after them.

This particular conversation was about the film A Hard Day's Night, and the music of the Beatles. It reminded me that I first saw the movie with my late mum. We had moved to Scotland a year or two before and the Beatles were my saviour during a time of intermittent misery. I loved Scotland, but hated my school. My mum and I went to see the film, and stayed in to watch it all over again. 

Even at the time, and young as I was, it seemed extraordinary; it seemed utterly unlike anything we had ever seen before - and when you look at other British 1960s movies, you can see why it was so striking, both musically and visually. I didn't know why I found it so wonderful, I just knew that it was. 

Many years later, I started to try to analyse why so many of us were so captivated and and why we remain so, watching it all over again. But because there's no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, here's a superb analysis from Colin Fleming in the Atlantic, from 2014, of The Deep Art of A Hard Day's Night.  'No band, maybe no artists ever, had a greater capacity for displaying and inducing wonder. And here we have that wonder made visual.' 

As Fleming points out, citing reasons, this isn't just any old rock and roll film - it's a Dick Lester film. A Dick Lester film that manages to capture the magic that was the Beatles. 

Pondering the phenomenon of the aggressive take down, though, it struck me that it existed long before social media. I remember a literary agent writing to tell me that one of my novels (this one, in fact) was 'a library novel fit only for housewives' He could just have said 'not for me, sorry' - but this grossly self entitled old man felt the need to take down a woman for writing a love story, while insulting other women and libraries along the way. What a tosspot. (More about this odd contempt for the love story as written by women in future posts.) 

In a similar vein, I vividly remember a certain middle aged male Scottish writer telling me loudly and angrily that the Bronte sisters were 'a bunch of daft wee lassies, with a crush on Byron'. It was one of those occasions where you spend several days afterwards thinking of suitable rejoinders, but it also coloured what had, until then, been an amicable relationship. I had considered him a friend. Afterwards, I never felt the same way about him. It wasn't just his misogyny showing as clear as day. Of course he didn't have to enjoy the books. Not everyone does. And there were many arguments he could have made. But it was the way in which he thought that his opinion mattered far more than mine, and was - moreover - indisputably right. Nothing I said would have made any difference. 

I'm happy to debate the relative merits of the Brontes and their various novels till the proverbial cows come home - as I'm happy to debate the extraordinary phenomenon that was the Beatles, especially since I experienced it at first hand. 

But sometimes the only response to an aggressive 'this is shit' is to shrug and walk away. 

Which is fortunately, easier to do on Facebook than in real life. 

Meanwhile, here's something to wake you up! 



Facebook for Writers

Dreaming of a white Christmas - or maybe not.

Over the past year, I've attended a few professional Zoom meetings with my fellow writers, and the subject of social media comes up fairly regularly. Some of us are happy to wade in and engage with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, and others aren't. Some think that Facebook is the work of the devil. It may be, and you will need a long spoon to sup with it. It is also a huge time suck. A veritable sink hole of time suckery. 

But it's still a useful tool for writers. And there are some very nice people on there. I've made contact with many old 'friends in real life' as well as making some new ones. 

The truth is that, much like real life, all these sites are a mixture of the good, the bad, and the truly ugly, but if you want to sell books, or help your publisher to sell your books, (as well as keeping sane during a pandemic) you are going to have to learn how to do a little interacting and Facebook is probably the easiest place to start.

What surprises me is how many writers still claim to know nothing at all about using social media and are quite nervous about it in general. 

So here are a few pointers about Facebook in particular. And since I don't claim to be an expert, do feel free to add your own comments and recommendations below. This is an ever changing world, so if you are reading this in some hypothetical future, it may all be very different! 

1 Practical matters. There is no point in my reinventing the wheel, so if you want to set up a Facebook profile, go to the site, press the buttons, and follow the instructions. They make it pretty clear and I'm not going to be able to add very much that's useful to it. 

There are a couple of provisos though. When you are setting up your Facebook profile, you can search for - or Facebook will show you - potential friends. You can send friend requests. Don't send too many at once, (the Facebook Gods don't like it) and begin with people who are friends in real life. People will also send you friend requests. You don't need to click on them all at once. Or at all. You're in charge. Gradually, you will build up a circle of people who know you, on and offline. Or people with mutual friends. You will even meet some lovely, interesting new people.

Look at the tab marked 'Privacy'. You can make your account quite private. For example, I don't let anyone else post stuff on my pages. By which I mean that they can comment on my posts all they like, but I don't want them dumping unwanted stuff straight on my page. It's why I have comment moderation on my blog. You might be surprised by how much spam crops up on here, but never makes it onto the blog, because I just report it and delete it.  I relax my privacy settings in time for my birthday though! You can post things only to your friends, or you can make them public. Facebook explains all this much more clearly than I can, so again, do read the instructions. 

2 Once you have a Facebook account, you can also set up a dedicated author page. Or you can just focus on that, if you want to. Again, Facebook will tell you how and give you options for the kind of page you want. I'll come clean here. I use my private Facebook profile - with some privacy settings tweaked - far more than I use my author page. But I do still use it. I post links to blog posts such as this one, and other professional news, and information about the book I may be working on at any given time. That also links in to Goodreads, which I find a difficult site to 'work' so at least it keeps my profile current on there as well.  It also gives me the facility to set up details of events. In a normal year I would probably use it more than in a Covid year. 

3 Groups are where it's at with Facebook - increasingly so. If your books are set in ancient Rome or 19th century London, you can be sure to find a group of like minded individuals - not writers, but just people who are interested in that time and place. Join them. Join in. There are many writers' groups out there as well but remember that you are more likely to find your readers in special interest groups. Writers read a lot, it's true - but they also work a lot, and find themselves reading for work. I for one don't read very much new fiction when I'm deep into a book, although I often reread old, much loved fiction, Dickens and the like, mostly as a means of escape from the intensity of my own work. 

4 Probably the most important point of this whole post - be generous. Much like in the real world, you have to interact with other people. One thing that stands out to me is how many beginners will join a Facebook group and instantly dump a 'buy my book' post on there. No interaction, no chat, no likes, no sympathy, nothing. I attended a professional Zoom meeting earlier this year and while the speaker was speaking, there were people in the chat facility posting 'buy my book' links. Not sure if they would have got any takers, but for most of us, it's a bit irritating. Some groups don't allow it. There are people on Facebook who I never see or hear of from from one year's end to the next, unless they have a book to sell. Then it's 'oh, look, here's my book, you have to buy it.' No. No I don't. 

There is, to be fair, a whole spectrum of engagement. I'm on there a lot - too much probably. But I blog a lot as well. And I'm interested in what other people are doing and thinking and saying, whether it's online or out in the real world. 

In summary, Facebook can be good for writers. But if you put very little in, you'll get very little out. Much like computers, it's a case of garbage in, garbage out. We've all been to those parties where you meet somebody and try to talk to them, only to find them peering over your shoulder, in case somebody more interesting or useful comes along. Social media is much the same. You don't have to like everyone, but you do have to be interested in human nature in all its many manifestations. 

After all, isn't that what being a writer is all about?