Archive for August, 2013

Many of my author friends often debate the merits of social media for selling books.   In this brave new world most publishers do little more than print hardcopies of your book, generate an ebook and put those on their “for sale” list.  The actual work of marketing your creation becomes a second act of creation even more daunting than the first.  How do you sell copies of a book nobody has heard of?

Enter Social Media, the last, best hope for driving word of mouth about anything.   Agents and author-advice mills are forever touting the magic formula of “get a blog and a twitter account and a Facebook page”, the idea being that people will see you there and become interested in paying for what you have to say elsewhere.

And now comes the tricky part.

For too many authors who follow the letter of that advice, the whole plan is heavily backfiring.

An example:

A few months ago I received a Facebook friend request from an author we’ll call “Joey Jenkins”.    I had never met Joey before, nor did I recall interacting with him on any of the fora or blogs where I tend to meet other people.   I’m still not sure how he found me, but upon seeing that he was a writer and we had a mutual writer friend I figured “why not?”

For most of this Spring and Summer Joey Jenkins has been a regular on my newsfeed.   He never “likes” anything I post, never comments on anything I post.   His statuses, which have the dubious virtue of showing up once every two-three hours have been to promote  his blog posts or to talk about his upcoming horror novel.    Those posts have ranged from the innocuous “I’ve been up all night editing Blood From A Stone” to the downright irritatingly self-congratulatory (My agent says Hollywood is interested in Blood From A Stone”).  

Yesterday Joey Jenkins mentioned another book he was trying to sell.  When I asked a question about it I was greeted with the response “You’ll have to get it and find out! :)”

That was the end of my “friendship” with Joey Jenkins.   It has also ensured that I will never spend one thin dime on Blood From A Stone or any other title from the Joey Jenkins empire.     

After I released Joey back into the wild he posted this:

“My social media feed is about promoting my books.  If you’re interested in cute puppy pictures, then following me is not for you.”

Now that’s all well and good and it’s entirely Joey Jenkins’ right to see it that way.   But here’s the problem.   If  the only thing you see social media as being good for is to hook you up with an audience of wallets, you have missed the point entirely and it is most likely going to shoot you in the foot.

Joey Jenkins is not an isolated incident.  He’s far from one of a kind.  He’s actually just the latest–and therefore freshest in my memory–author to think that posting relentless commercials is the same thing as  social interaction.

Being on Facebook or Twitter* requires you to bring your personality with you.   If  you’re an author who wants people to buy your book, let me offer you this sterling tip.

If you decide to be on Facebook or Twitter, find two other things to talk about besides your book.   Make sure that talking about your book is something you do no more than once every third post.   

You don’t have to be completely transparent, and I know that many shy and introverted people steer clear of Social Media because they believe that they have to share every facet of their lives.   That’s  not true at all.    Just pick two other things.  It can be any two other things…your cat and your love for Doctor Who; your gardening and your daily dinner recipes.     One interest makes you seem robotic and fixated whereas three interests at least give you the credibility of attempted authenticity.   

For bonus points I’d suggest that you “like”, “favourite” or comment on at least one post of each of your friends in your newsfeed.   You certainly don’t have to do that, but I promise you people remember.   I’ve actually bought books from a woman I’m not even friends with, just because I saw her commenting nicely on the posts of a friend of mine.

You may think your social media feed is just about selling books, but you won’t sell any books at all if you aren’t on your social media feed to be, well, SOCIAL.


*Ironically my twitter account is now largely just a place where I announce my blog posts.   I go through spurts of activity on Twitter, but I’ve decided to spend most of my energy on Facebook.   Since my Twitter friends and my facebook friends largely overlap, that’s okay.   In addition, my blog posts are just chock full of authenticity…to a fault.

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Thanks to the Iron and the B12  I’m finally jacked back into the matrix.      What does that mean?  Well, among other things it means that I’m returning to Book In The Bag with my sardonic yet insightful take (heh) on Popular Fiction.

Today I’m letting you all in on a little secret about Veronica Roth’s popular Insurgent trilogy. bookworm

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When doctors began studying the leprous population they all had the same question.

“Where do their fingers keep going?”

People had long assumed that leprosy caused body parts to drop off, and indeed the leprous in the study were all missing fingers, toes, tips of noses, bits of ear.   Yet none of these things were anywhere in evidence.  There were no grisly piles of discarded digits in sight.   That’s when the medical staff got the idea to watch their patients sleep.   And that’s when they saw that the rats were eating the hands and feet of the leprous during the night.   The loss of nerves in their extremities meant that the afflicted weren’t able to feel the rats and were therefore unable to brush them off.

From that point onward, the leprous began sleeping with cats.   And they stopped losing fingers.

I’ve been awake every night this week–and most nights of most other weeks–because the pain keeps me awake.   I move to the couch where I distract myself with Netflix and word games and self-hypnosis.   Since the pain is worse at night that means that I can usually eke out 2-3 hours of sleep during the day, which means that I’m not entirely sleep-deprived.

I’ve decided that I’m not really up all night in pain.  I’m actually sleeping with cats.   The hot needles and cold shards of glass that pulse in my  hands and feet are better than the alternative.  Better than being eaten alive and not knowing it.

Really, though, the sleeping with cats is just about the things we do to cope with what seems unthinkable.   Things get bad.  They get worse than you could ever expect them to get.   But you always have the option of sleeping with cats.   As long as you find a cat to sleep with you can keep your fingers and your wits about you.

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Orange Is The New Black is one of the hottest things on TV right now.  If you have a Netflix subscription, chances are you’ve  checked out the show or at least added it to your queue.   If you make it past the opening lesbian shower scene you’ll be treated to a show that is in many ways usual, in other ways unusual.    But it is definitely handy for this discussion in that it pictures (to a degree) the two paths I’m talking about.

I’m waiting for the inevitable blog post about how the villain in the show is a Christian, how her Christianity is portrayed as a whackadoo power play and how the enlightened  main character counters her by saying “I believe in science.”   (I, too, believe in science.  Much the same way I believe in economics and other mental disciplines.)    That inevitable blog post may or may not mention how there is another character on the show who is devout and yet not crazy, who uses her faith as a way to help her help others.

There are two main branches of this faith of mine, and at times I feel like they are diverging farther and farther apart.     I used to not mind telling people I am a Christian, because that used to mean that I believe in the Grace of God providing a redemption from my old nature and showing me a new path.

Christ-following is the basic heart of Christianity.  While “Christian” has become a cultural term loaded with additional cultural co-identifiers, Christ-following is the philosophical and aesthetic heart of the matter.   Christ-following is drilling down the teachings of Jesus and using the guidance of the Holy Spirit to follow those teachings.

Christ-followers are often part of the cultural Christianity in one way or another.   Our call to fellowship with other believers leads us into that camp.   The Christian culture itself isn’t entirely bad–no cultural expression is entirely bad.    I’m quite fond of casseroles and old hymns.   I’m less fond of militant purchases of chicken sandwiches and blog posts denouncing television shows.   “Christian” increasingly means that I identify with a certain set of political beliefs, that I actively dislike specific outgroups of people and that I cling to the idea of Christianity as a cultural safe-zone, seeking out others who use the teachings of Jesus Christ to build a fortress of sameness and exclusion.

The irony is that what is culturally Christian is often NOT Christ-following.    I suppose what I call myself shouldn’t matter.  What other people call me shouldn’t matter.   But in the end I want to answer before Him that I followed him into all the valleys of shadow and didn’t use His name as a hiding place.

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I probably should have picked a different title.  This one sounds like maybe I’m writing about a Dolly Parton drag queen.   I’m just tired of referring to myself as the Iron Maiden and the “I Am Iron Man” joke was old even before the first time I said it.   It was pre-old.   Like when you hear about a new variety show on tv and you silently pray that they’ll cancel it before it  airs even once because having it around gives you fits and reminds you of being a kid during the 70s  when tv had three and a half channels and you had to watch The Carol Burnett Show.

I’m back from the sabbatical that was forced upon me by my lack of blood.  I’d gotten so stupid I had no idea how stupid I was.   I just know that it went from “I can’t write anymore” to “I can’t remember that ice cream goes in the freezer, not the soup cupboard.”    I had my  first iron infusion last Wednesday,  and it seems to have worked.   I sat in a chair for six hours while red liquid iron dripped into my veins; by the time I left I could tell that my brain was starting to think thoughts again.

The procedure does come with side effects, and I’ve had them–am having them now–and they aren’t  pretty.   But they’re worth it.   Yes, I will trade a week of joint pain and nausea for three months of mental acuity.

I haven’t written anything other than FB status updates for the simple reason that I couldn’t harbour a thought in my head long enough to turn it into something worthy of record.    I suppose I should henceforth force myself to write every day regardless so that when I start to need iron again I’ll know it by the way my blog topics veer toward babbling incoherence.

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