Friday, 16 September 2011

The Writer's Long Road

I made a comment this week that newbie writers are not ready to publish.
So we’re clear, when I said ‘newbie’, I meant they have literally just picked up a pen for the first time to write a novel. This may not have been clear on Twitter, where 140 characters doesn’t allow room for such caveats and disclaimers, but I was surprised when someone tweeted me about the comment.

This person found my statement so disheartening they felt they should stop writing altogether. I must confess, I was taken aback by this sweeping statement. Why should someone be disheartened by such a comment? Don’t people already know this?
Apparently, people don’t know this. Which is perhaps a reason for me to say it more often.
But we should know it. We none of us expect to ride a bicycle perfectly the first time – that’s why we have training wheels. My first day at law school, I was not ready to be a lawyer. Hell, my first day in my current job, I was not ready to be a lawyer, and yet, eight years later, I am a senior lawyer. These things take time. Is there anything that anyone can expect to do well the very first time they do it?

If a writer expects to succeed immediately, I would suggest they need to think again. The very act of writing is a lengthy process, even if you can devote your full attention to it, and most of us need to have day jobs as well. I have been working on my current WIP since January 2008. Granted, there was a long time in there when I did nothing, but if we break it down into actual active time it looks something like this:

• Four months to write a first draft and revise;
• Three to six months receiving feedback from critique group;
• Six months revising and editing (three times).
Now that’s very nearly eighteen months, and I haven’t even finished the last set of revisions, nevermind written a synopsis or query letter. Even if I was to land an agent, it would take time to find a publisher, and then it’s something like two years for the book to land on the shelf. We’re talking four years minimum from go to whoa. It can easily be more.
Granted, it’s much quicker if you self-publish. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. But you can see my earlier post on indie publishing for that particular rant.
The reality is a writer’s first ever manuscript is unlikely to be publishable without significant revisions. I won’t even try to rewrite my first manuscript. Or my second. Maybe – maybe – my third. The fourth I will.
Even well-known and best-selling authors were rejected multiple times before being published. Here are a few of the ones I know:
  • John Grisham’s ‘A Time To Kill’ - rejected 45 times;
  • Dr. Seuss - rejected 46 times;
  • Tom Clancy’s ‘The Hunt For Red October’ - rejected 12 times;
  • Patricia Cornwell’s ‘Postmortem’ - rejected 7 times;
  • Mary Higgins Clark’s ‘First Story’ - rejected 40 times;
  • William Stevenson’s 80’s bestselling thriller, ‘A Man Called Intrepid’ - rejected 109 times; and
  • James Lee Burke’s ‘The Lost Get-Back Bookie’ - rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, and upon publication was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won the Edgar.
If it took these authors this long and this many rejections to be published, then why should anyone expect to pick up a pen and immediately be worthy?
I’m not trying to be pessimistic. I suggest writers be positive, which I distinguish from optimistic. Optimism is believing the best will always happen. I’m sorry, it won’t. Being positive is believing you can make the best happen, with hard work if necessary. Optimism allows no room for realism, being positive does.
Realism is important, because if you aren’t realistic, you will only be disappointed when the things you expect don’t happen.
Writers, the hard, real facts are, if you want to be a writer, you must be in it for the long haul.
Go Back To My Site

Friday, 9 September 2011

Twitter Etiquette and Marketing

Etiquette. I’m big on etiquette.

Not the kind of etiquette that says things such as, in relation to tea:
‘After stirring, place your spoon quietly on the saucer, behind the cup, on the right hand side under the handle.’

I don’t see the point in this. Why does it matter where on the saucer you put the spoon? Putting it down may have value – I’m thinking about the person at the next table who taps their cutlery in a repetitive and annoying fashion. But am I likely to be offended or inconvenienced by where on their saucer they put their spoon? I doubt it.

No, I mean the kind of etiquette that helps us manage relationships, usually with people we don’t know well, and avoid conflict.

Allow me to explain further. Some of you may have seen the #stabbylove hashtag going around on Twitter. A few people have asked me about it. I explained it (in a non-writing context, as not everyone who asked is a writer) as:

‘#Stabbylove is when you tell your best friend that, yes, her dress does make her butt look big. Because she needs to know, and you love her’.

Someone then asked me (tongue in cheek, I’m sure) why that doesn’t apply to strangers.

Well, the real answer is ‘etiquette’. We can say something like to this to our best friend because she knows we mean well and we’re trying to help her not to embarrass herself. If we didn’t tell our friend, and she found out later, she’d be mortified.

The stranger on the street, on the other hand, will probably just think we’re being nasty and be offended. Because they are likely to be offended, it’s simply rude to say so. It’s bad etiquette, even if you meant well. Such is the oil that greases the wheels of civilisation.

Etiquette should be easy. It’s common-sense, and it doesn’t take much effort. Unfortunately common-sense isn’t all that common and too many people are lazy, which breeds a culture of rudeness and selfishness.

Etiquette also runs into problems when we develop new technologies. It’s commonly accepted now that to write LIKE THIS in an email is to shout at the recipient, but when email was new, we didn’t have those kinds of accepted practices.

So what about Twitter etiquette? Although there is no written rule that says I must, I routinely welcome my new followers. It takes nothing except a little time on my part, and I think it’s a nice courtesy. Nice enough that more than a few people have commented on it. With fairly minimal effort on my part, I have made someone feel good. Not sure there is a downside to that! There may come the day when this is no longer sustainable, but I haven’t reached that point yet.

But there are many things on Twitter that annoy me and other people I know. I think they are discourteous, but if you are a writer who is marketing yourself on Twitter, you should also consider the effectiveness of the techniques you are using. Will you sell more books by doing something that annoys someone? Probably not.

So here is a list of the things that personally annoy me:

• Repeated spamming of my timeline with promotional tweets about your book or blog and nothing else. I don’t mind promotional tweets here and there, but when I can go through the timeline of a list that has one hundred people in it and see nothing but a long list of promotional tweets for your book or blog, you are tweeting it too much. Once every few hours would be my maximum guideline, but if you must insist, once an hour might be acceptable. And please, try to tweet something else in between. I am more likely to read your book or blog after I have gotten to know you personally – if I like you. In the case of blogs, I know some people who won’t follow you until after they have read your blog, in which case you don’t need to promotional tweet them. In either case, your tweets are either ineffective or unnecessary;

• Sending a direct message to welcome a new follower. If you want to welcome someone, do it publicly. Is there any reason you can’t? Your new follower gets a mention, and if you’re going to be nice enough to welcome someone, why would you want to hide it away? Of all the things in this list, this one probably annoys me the least. It’s only a minor irk. But hey, if you are marketing yourself, don’t you want to show everyone how fabulous you are?

• Sending a direct message to a new follower - and you’re not following back! Don’t get me wrong, I do not subscribe to an auto-follow or follow for follow policy (more on that later). But it’s just rude to send someone a direct message they can’t reply to. Few things on Twitter annoy me as much as this one, and after I’ve tried and failed to send you a direct message, I’m unlikely to bother tweeting you. If you are going to contact someone, do so in a format that gives them the opportunity to respond. As well as being courteous, this also helps you to connect more meaningfully with your followers.

• Sending a direct message to a new follower – and it’s spam. The last thing I want from someone I just followed is spam. I don’t know you yet. Sending me a spam direct message does not help me to know you, but it helps me to dislike you. Get to know people before you encourage them to read your blog or your book – especially a book you expect them to pay for. People are more likely to respond positively if they know you and like you. Spam is not likeable. I know people who will automatically unfollow someone who sends them a direct message that is spam. Think about that before you decide to use this to market yourself.

• Repeated requests to F4F (follow for follow). I do not F4F or auto-follow. When someone follows me, I will check their profile, and if they look interesting, I will follow them. But I may later unfollow them if they don’t prove interesting. I don’t expect people to follow me back just because I follow them, although now that Twitter is imposing rationing on the people I can follow, I may from time to time unfollow people who are not following me. I may find them interesting, but if I have to choose between two interesting people, and one likes me and interacts with me and one doesn’t… Well, I don’t think the choice is too hard, do you?

• Auto-response – I only just came across this one in time for this blog, so maybe it’s not very common – or maybe I just hadn’t noticed. I received an ‘automated’ direct message from someone I just followed. Now it’s entirely possible some of the tweets I’ve complained about above are also automated, but this one had some kind of tag that drew my attention to this fact. I was unimpressed. I did not feel welcomed by an auto-response. It was like the recording you get when on hold to a call centre – ‘Your call is important to us’. No it’s bloody not. This person had ‘welcomed’ me and probably didn’t even know I was following.

Now I’m not suggesting these things annoy everyone, or that this is a universal list of unacceptable Twitter behaviour. But they annoy me. They annoy some people I know. If you’re doing any of these things, you are not marketing effectively to us. There’s a reasonable chance you’re not marketing effectively to other people.

Stop and think when you devise your marketing strategy. Think about what annoys you, and people you know. If the things that annoy you are not Twitter related (e.g. unsolicited telemarketing calls) think about what might be a Twitter equivalent (e.g. unsolicited spam direct messages). And don’t do them.

Think clever, be courteous, and above all – be effective.

Go Back To My Site

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

So there have been a few more blog posts from me lately than you’d usually expect. In fact, there will be three by the end of the week, including my regular post, when usually I only blog once a fortnight.

The first of these was a post to let everyone know about the guest post I did for Erica Lucke Dean last week, and this is the second.

So, I've been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award by @. Thanks Valerie! You can check her out here or follow her on Twitter.

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are:

1. Thank the blogger who awarded you and link back to them.

2. Share 7 interesting facts about yourself.

3. Pass the award on to 15 newly discovered blogs.

Now I assume it’s not compulsory to participate. How could it possibly be enforced? *checks over shoulder for gun-toting assassins* But I decided that it might be a little fun, so I figured I’d give it a shot. In the same spirit, I don’t expect anyone I ‘award’ to feel obliged to participate either. You can take it as a sign of my respect for your blog, and make your own decision about whether to participate. Some of you may well have participated previously.

So here’s seven interesting facts about me:

1. My Mum drove me to my last job interview. It was 2003 and I was aged 22. I would have caught the train, but it was ‘in the city’ and she was concerned for me. She still is. I get admonished not to ‘walk around the city in the dark’! I keep trying to tell her that occasionally this is a necessary evil of my job. And yes, this does mean I have been in the same job for 8 years.

2. At high school I studied mathematics (seriously advanced mathematics – I was the only student invited to advance to the class that studied ‘imaginary’ numbers. I declined, to the teacher’s relief), English (funny, that. Again, advanced…), Ancient History, Agriculture (say what?? And again, advanced – this subject required a scientific experiment with a report to be submitted to the Board of Studies for the entire State. My report was 100+ pages long) and Biology (this was my bludge subject). Notice how many science-type subjects I did? And yet I’m a lawyer who writes epic fantasy… Bizarre, yes? I regret that I didn’t study physics. I looked up the origins of the universe once. For fun. Then got angry when no one had any answers.

3. The best put-down I ever heard was when a fellow student boasted about how he was top of his physics class. Another student replied to him that was only because I wasn’t studying physics. That may have been a complete misrepresentation – I might totally suck at physics! But the look on this guy’s face was priceless.

4. My three best friends I have known for 26 years, 19 years and 19 years respectively. Since I’m 30, that’s not a bad effort. None of them are related to me, but one of them did marry my cousin. Who she didn’t meet through me. Weird, huh?

5. Yes, I am a lawyer. No, I am not the way I am because I’m a lawyer – I am a lawyer because I am the way I am. Did that make sense? No? Try to keep up. The results of my personality profiles are very disturbing. We did one at law school which had 4 categories. Each personality test gave you an X and Y coordinate to plot on a graph, and the whole class had to plot themselves on the graph on the board. Each quadrant of the graph represented a personality type. The closer you were to either axis, the more traits you shared with the personality in the next quadrant. I was in the top left quadrant. Top left of the top left quadrant. About as far from the axes as you could get and still be on the graph. On my own. Everyone else with my personality type was clustered near the intersection of the X and Y axes. Not only am I a weird personality type, I am an extreme example of my personality type.

6. I sing karaoke and I like country music. I don’t usually sing country music at karaoke though. Mine is not a voice generally suited to country music. Mostly I sing songs performed by men, as I have a very deep voice for a woman. A friend and I did a duet once – ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin. She was Jasmine and I was Aladdin!

7. My Dad has had a heart transplant. He was placed on the transplant list on Thursday 4 August 2005. I was due to get married on Sunday 14 August 2005. People can spend years on the transplant list, so we idly had the discussion of what we would do if Dad got a transplant before the wedding and couldn’t attend, but not with any seriousness. 36 hours later Mum’s on the phone telling me St Vincent’s Hospital has a heart for Dad and can I meet them there. By 12pm Saturday 6 August Dad had a new heart. I was fortunate enough for the hospital to let Dad out on day release so he could walk me down the aisle. I had a throw-posy for the tossing of the bouquet (because if I threw my actual bouquet it was likely to knock someone unconscious), so I gave my bouquet to Dad to take back to hospital. When Dad made it back to the hospital that evening, the poor chap in the bed next to his woke up and saw a man in a suit carrying flowers and thought he had woken up at his own funeral!

Here are the fifteen 15 people who I think deserve The Versatile Blogger Award.

1. Erica Lucke Deane - The Daily Blog - Light fun! Highly entertaining.

2. Christi McMillan - Christi McMillen

3. Kelly Gamble - Staring Out The Window

4. Leif Notae - Writing More With Less

5. Rhiannon Paille

6. Lisa McFerren - LHM Thoughts

7. D.C. McMillen - Not for the faint of heart! ;-)

8. Sirra - The home of the random tips & information for writers and the wannabe writers - Highly recommended for writers of all kinds

9. AE - Out Loud

10. Heather Jacobs - Heather Jacobs, Author

11. Imran Siddiq - Imran Writes

12. Anime - Anime’s Musings

13. MaryAnn Kempher - Conversations With MaryAnn Kempher - An interactive style blog for writers wanting to share experiences

14. Derek Flynn - Rant, With Occasional Music - I do so like a good rant!

15. Jessie - The Life Story Of A Bookworm

Go Back To My Site

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

In Pursuit Of The Perfect Cuppa

Last week I did a guest post for Erica Lucke Dean's blog (@). I 'won' this guest post for extraordinary clumsiness, although I still insist that the string of events was in fact an exatrordinary run of bad luck.

This is a fun, light-hearted post in the spirit of the clumsiness that won the guest spot, and you can find it here -

Go Back To My Site
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Real Time Analytics