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

Finding What Works for You

Hey, look! A post!

Let's talk a bit about online presence—how writers and other creatives are told (or expected) to have one whether they like it or not. You gotta be on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and blogging (well, maybe not blogging anymore, but I will! Sometimes! Screw you, conventional wisdom!).

So the two of you who pay attention know that I've been streaming on Sunday nights for *checks calendar* about a year now. I started because it looked like fun, because I thought it would be a good way to play games I couldn't play around my kids, and because I saw people gathering an audience and I thought, "Hey, maybe I could do that."

Understand, I know how hard it is to build an audience, and I know nothing makes that happen overnight. I never expected to have hundreds of viewers who would all run to buy my books. I figured I'd just build something small—like I did here and on Twitter and Facebook—and maybe, maybe when I had something to sell or to say, that would be another platform for it. And I'd get to play games in the meantime.

Anyway, it turned out not to be as fun as I thought.*

* For me. Other people have fun with it, and that's awesome, but it just wasn't meshing with my schedule or personality.

I am no longer streaming. Could I have built an audience? Sure. But I realized I was no longer looking forward to it, and the idea of not streaming felt like... relief.

And that's my point. When you're looking at ways to build an audience or online presence, you have to HAVE TO evaluate what works for you—what do you enjoy, what comes naturally, what do you look forward to (at least most of the time)? Because otherwise... it just won't work no matter how hard you bang your head on it.

And besides, streaming (and blogging and tweeting and instagraming and... tumbling?) doesn't sell books. Books sell books. And now I have a little bit more time to do that.

So anyway, there's your conventional wisdom for today. Also your general update: I'm still working on stuff for you to enjoy, but I've got nothing finished or announced yet.

I do have a progress chart for the mobile gamebook though (I post updates for this on Twitter and Facebook occasionally). Here's where I am:

I hope to have this thing turned in by early July. We'll see.

So what are you working on?

On Being Thankful

I don't remember why, but decades ago I decided, as part of reflecting on the day, I would name whatever good things had happened that day. Whether they were big, awesome things like getting to speak to the girl I had a crush on (it happened once!) or small, stupid things like getting a green light on my way home from work. My teen years, like most, included some dark times, but I believe that habit helped me through.

Today, when I'm having a crappy day or bordering on depression, I'll force myself to name five things I'm thankful for that day, whatever they are. The first one or two are easy but have little effect. The third or fourth is always difficult to think of. I often want to give up. But by the time I get to number five -- for some weird, nigh-magical reason -- I actually feel better (and usually name one or two more things because it's easier all of a sudden).

With social media, I've seen at least a couple of people now post one thing they're thankful for each day for a year. My brother, in particular, has kept going and is now on year four. These posts don't often make me laugh out loud or inform my day (the two main things I hope for in social media), but they make me smile. They provide pleasant bright spots in what can sometimes be a dark feed.

They remind me there are things to be thankful for.

With all the crap my feeds have been filled with, I don't know why I haven't started the same thing sooner. But I have now. You are more than welcome to follow on Facebook or Twitter, but honestly it's not for you. It's for me, to remember that there is always something good -- there is always light.

And if that light touches even one other person? Well, that's awesome. That's the one thing I want most to do.

In the comments then: What are you thankful for today? There is nothing too small.

5 Things You Might Need to Hear Right Now

My hand-crafted echo chambers are full of mourning and outrage (with a sprinkling of praises and celebration). Reading through it is hard and not good for anything useful of any kind. Expectations have been shattered, and some are genuinely afraid for their lives or livelihood.

If your echo chamber is similar -- or if it's your life or livelihood that's endangered -- I'm not going to tell you it'll be okay or it will get better. I don't know that. I don't. But I do know a few things you might need to hear right now.

1) Take care of yourself. If you fall apart, nothing else you take in or put out will matter. There is no shame in taking a few days off to cry or laugh or escape. In fact, there may be shame in not doing that.
2) Turn off the Endless Browser of Outrage. I'm in a much better place than I was a month ago, but even I feel the gravity of the downward spiral with each turn of the scroll wheel.

STOP IT. Your life is not in here. It's out there, with friends and family. Nothing here will affect what you do out there, so if the Browser of Outrage is stealing your life, kill it. Take that life back.

3) Love someone. Love everyone. Be nice to nobody in particular. Be the change you want to see in the world.

I mean in real life. You can love people online too, but it's way more effective in real life.

4) Do you create? Then create. If you can't create for anything right now, then don't. Create for you. If you can create for a purpose, do that too.
5) Have a booplesnoot.

I Took Two Weeks Off Social Media and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you may have noticed that I took the last two weeks off from social media.

So there were a lot of reasons, but mostly it was my kids being off school for two weeks and the aforementioned big ugly reason I haven't blogged much. (My kids are not related to my anxiety, but both things affect how much time I have to get creative work done).

"Okay, so... what'd you get out of it?"

Right, well first you need to understand how Twitter and Facebook factor into my normal life. 

On a good day, the first thing I do is get through all the e-mails the US sent me while I was sleeping. Then I sift through Twitter/FB (and any associated articles) while I'm eating breakfast. It's my newspaper. I have a couple of lists of people for whom I try to read everything I missed, and for the rest I just read whatever Twitter and Facebook deem important for me to read. I usually do this again at lunch and then at night when I need to decompress.

On a bad day, I will additionally be checking them constantly -- every time Unity compiles, every time Torment loads a new scene, every time I come back from the bathroom, every time I get a glass of water or someone asks me a question or a cat mews outside. Hell, I checked Twitter three times just now while I was writing that sentence.

Lately, I noticed I was having more bad days, hence the social media vacation.

So what happened these two weeks? A list:
  • The first 2-3 days were hard as hell. I felt disconnected from everything and everyone. When Unity was compiling, I had to sit there and watch like a chump.
  • I found myself checking and Izanami's Amazon ranking about ten times more often than their updates can possibly justify.
  • I gathered news from primary news sources. It was super weird.
On the other hand....
  • I had way more time for Torment, my kids, and Shadowrun Hong Kong.
  • I watched the third debate without commentary and it didn't make me mad even a little (exasperated isn't the same as mad, right?).
  • I remembered how to solve Rubik's cube.
  • I didn't get depressed even once.

Let me say that last one again: I DIDN'T GET DEPRESSED EVEN ONCE.

When it came time to get back on, I was actually afraid. Did I want to go back to the monster that sapped 2-3 hours of my day and an immeasurable quantity of my joy?

Well, yes I did. Because among other things, that's how I connect with the world and that's how people connect with me. (The second day of my break, my mom IMed me to say my posts helped her get out of bed in the morning and now she didn't have a reason. I love my mommy.)

But I didn't want to do it the way I had been doing it, so I decided to change a few things.

Limiting the time is easy (for certain values of easy). For one thing, I don't need to read every single damn post that went up since the last time I checked. If I'm afraid of missing something? Hey, look: actual news! For another, I really really really really need to stop checking every time I'm in mid-thought.

Yeah okay, that part's not actually easy. But you know what they say.

How to limit anxiety? I spent a lot of time thinking about that (because I had time, you see). Turns out social media can cause depression (shocker), but why? Well, for me it was mostly all the outrage. There are a lot of legitimate things to be outraged about, but when you're scrolling The Endless Browser of Outrage, it kinda bores into your skull. I mean, that's why you're not supposed to read the comments.

I needed to remember that the world is not outrage. It's mostly pretty mundane -- or even happy -- especially the part of the world that has any effect at all on my life.

So for now, I'm trying to pay closer attention to my emotions as I read. Am I getting upset? Bored? Depressed? Maybe it's time to stop scrolling.

Will I stick with it? God, I hope so. Maybe you can help keep me accountable on that.

I don't know how or whether this applies to anyone else. But having done so I would definitely recommend a break from social media from time to time. And if you do take a long break (like a few days or more), before you turn it on again stop and think about how you want to consume it.

So what's your deal with social media? How do you handle the terrible signal-to-outrage ratio?

Why "It's Just a Joke" Doesn't Make It Okay

I had a little rant on Twitter earlier. It's primarily in response to Donald Trump's terrifying implication that maybe 2nd Amendment people can "do something" about Clinton, but it's also build up from years and years of online death threats to people followed up with "that's just the internet" and "geez, it's just a joke."

What's terrifying about Trump's joke is not the joke itself, but the fact that so many people are nodding along, the fact that he says crap like this all the time, the fact that he could conceivably be our next President, and...

Well here's what I said on Twitter.

How you can be part of a cybermob and not know it

Cybermobbing is getting ridiculous. I mean the entire spectrum here: public shaming, online bullying, harassment, and the general dickery that goes on all over the internet everyday.

The existence of this crap is not news (well, actually it is, like every single day). But it's often assumed that the people engaging in these activities are sociopaths, sadists, and trolls -- people who get high off wrecking other people, or who just have no conception of empathy at all. To be fair, parts of these mobs are exactly that.

But this post is about you, and how even the most innocent, well-meaning person can get caught up in mobbing someone and wrecking their day, if not their life.

An author recently posted the gif below, saying simply, "I don't claim to know s--t about soccer, but I know this women vs. dudes gif amuses me."

His point -- the point of the gif -- is that women athletes can be just as badass and worthy of celebration as men, if not more. Not really a point worth arguing against (unless you got a thing against badass women, I guess?).

The responses he got, though. Last time I checked, almost 50% of them pointed out that the woman in the gif is a rugby player, not a footballer.

They're not wrong. And that's not harassment nor bullying, and so far as I know the author in question was over it before I even had these thoughts. Most of the people correcting him even went out of their way to support his point (though there were a few who thought the mistake meant his argument was invalid which is... a different point, I guess). Taken individually, none of the comments would be a big deal, but when you get 20 replies like that, it can wear on you, literally.

It seems innocent. Each individual is thinking, "I have an opinion that he should know." But the recipient is thinking, "Dear God, MAKE IT STOP."

My point? Think before you post. You are not the only person to have the thought that you had, and you are likely not the only person to express it. Think, and then think again, and then maybe check to see if anyone has said the same thing before you do.

Too much work? Then don't post. Nothing bad will happen if you don't correct that person. But bad things become more likely each time you do.

"But I'm not correcting them. I'm really upset about what they did!" That's fine. There are things you can do, but being a dick shouldn't be one of them.

Social media is real life, guys. The people on the other end of those data packets are real people, and the words you type hit exactly the same as if you said them to their face.

The internet is a powerful thing. We are the ones who determine whether that's good or bad.

Twitter Horror

So I'm out of First Impact subs. I will continue to accept submissions as they come in (because, hey, one less post to think up), and September will still have a prize because I said it would, but I might not continue the prizes after that. We'll see.

In the meantime, I present to you this true story, told in tweets.

What To Do With a Bad Review

I once stated that I thought it was possible to respond to a negative review in a positive way (see the first footnote of this post). I am now rethinking that theory. Here's what happened to an author I know.

(Names and most specifics have been wiped, just cuz I don't want things to get worse):

1. A Reviewer posted a bad review of the Author's book on a popular book site.
2. In the comments, Reviewer picked out a couple users who liked the book (and had little or no other activity on their accounts), suggesting these accounts were sock puppets -- created by the author to artificially boost the book's rating.
3. Reviewer's readers agreed and mocked Author for such "obvious" fake accounts.

Before I go on, I want us to stop and think about what we would do in this situation. Assume the review counts (the book hasn't actually come out yet, so any buzz might count). For myself, it is taking every ounce of strength to take the high road right now and get to my point, rather than argue about Internet Immaturity and Spurious Evidence.

Oops. Moving on . . .

4. Author left a comment in the review thread -- not to comment on the review itself, but to mention that none of the accounts were fake (one of the accounts was actually her daughter).
5. Author was told somewhat bitterly that Reviewer is entitled to write whatever she wants about the book (note again, though: Author said nothing about the review).
6. A couple of people who liked the book spoke up in Author's favor (some in the thread, some in their own reviews).
7. These people were accused of being trolls, sock puppets, or both.

Then things got worse.

Friends of Reviewers left multiple 1-star reviews after not reading the book. Hateful comments were left on the reviews of the "fake" accounts. At one point, Author thanked a different reviewer for reading the whole book and being impartial, at which point two commenters blasted her for "dictating" what makes a review fair or not.

It's like this particular group of people has experienced other authors acting badly and assume Author is doing the same thing. They've seen authors with fake accounts and assume that any suspicious account is, likewise, fake.

To user-reviewers then: This is not (always) the Bad Author you're looking for. Sometimes people mean what they say, with no other agenda. Best not to assume.

But this whole thing just proves to me why commenting on bad reviews -- or trying to prove anything on the internet at all -- is generally a bad idea. Authors, don't comment on negative reviews. Yes, there are thousands of user-reviewers who will act professionally, even toward authors whose books they don't like. But it's not worth risking the ire of those who will misinterpret everything you do.

Professor Internet is right: it's better to just chill out and eat a sandwich.

What do you think? Would you have stayed out of it? (I don't know if I would have). Is there a way to step into this without making things worse?

So You're Thinking About Quitting Your Blog

Every time I see a blog shutdown, or hear someone lament how nobody reads blogs anymore, I get all worried. "Is my blog a waste of time? Should I focus my energy somewhere else, like Tumblr or Pinterest or dear-God-anything-but-Google-Plus?"

I don't think this blog is a waste (and your response to our family's emergency a couple of weeks ago just proves it to me). Blogs are basically the same as all the other places online. It's just a matter of how people interact and whether you prefer to express your thoughts in pictures, words, or 140 characters.

So really, whether you're on Blogger or Twitter or MyFutureLiveSpaceBuzzFeedJournal, this post applies to you, too. If you're thinking about quitting, remember these things:

1) You love to blog. (Oh wait, you don't? Maybe you should quit. If you hate it, social media's like the worst job ever, and then you don't get paid.)

2) You blog for you. We all know you can't please everybody, but the good news is you don't have to. Write what you want and get the word out there. You won't collect people just by sending them to your blog, but you will collect a percentage. That percentage is your people.

3) You blog for your people. We read blogs (and tweets and Facebook statuses and everything else) for information and/or entertainment. Do your best to give them what they want.

What do you think? Is blogging a waste of time? Why or why not?

Daddy, Where Do Crit Partners Come From?

I don't technically have a critique group. I don't meet with other writers on a regular basis, and the only person who sees my chapters as they come out is my wife. Part of that is there just aren't a lot of sci-fi/fantasy writers in Chiang Mai (though admittedly I haven't looked very hard, what with my abject terror of new things).

So I don't have a group, per se, but I do have critique partners -- those hardened souls committed to reading through the garbage I send them. I collect them the way other people collect Pokemon (though my crit partners complain a lot more when I try to stick them in those little balls).

Whenever people ask how to find good crit partners, I want to make a chart. Actually, that's misleading: I always want to make a chart.

Blogging: Either they found my blog or I found theirs. We commented. We discovered common interests. Then one day, one of us tweeted or e-mailed The Question, and a crit partner relationship was formed.
Real Life: I hope this is self-explanatory.
Twitter: Similar to blogging, except I either never knew this person had a blog or I didn't follow it until later.
Through Agent: Not a road everyone can take, but I have recently collected crit partners because we share representation. A great site if you want to exercise your critting muscles. And every once in a while, a stronger relationship is formed.

Conclusions? Well, blogging and reading blogs has been ridiculously profitable for me in terms of crit partners, but it's not the only road. And it's certainly not the fastest (I've been blogging for 4 years now).

If you're curious what my crit partners look like as writers, well . . . I made that chart too:

What's interesting to me is that, when we met each other, most of my crit partners were at the same spot as I was, and none of them were published. But 4 years later, I now have Real Live Published Authors who will happily read my stuff. That's kind of crazy to me, but I guess this is how it happens -- not by approaching the unapproachable, but by forming long-term relationships and sticking with them.

Where do you find your crit partners? Have any advice for people who have none?

Does Social Media Affect What Books You Buy?

A little while ago, The Intern had an interesting post on how much (or how little) social media promotion efforts affect sales. She challenged her readers to take a look at how many books they'd bought because of social media efforts vs. traditional methods (like, say, word of mouth).

So I did.


Of the books I've actually paid money for since 2008:
  • I chose 45% because I knew the author (meaning I had read one of their books before and liked it).
  • I chose 35% because of word of mouth (meaning a trusted friend told me I should read the book).
  • I chose 20% because of social media (meaning I discovered the book independently, from twitter, facebook, blogs, book trailers, etc).

I thought that might be a little misleading, since many of the books in that first category were purchased after I discovered the author via other means (for example, after I discovered Brandon Sanderson and read MISTBORN, I bought three more of his books). So I looked at how I discovered these authors.

Of the authors I've discovered (and bought their books) since 2008:
  • I heard of 70% from word of mouth.
  • I heard of 30% from social media.

So does social media work? Well, it worked for me, but there's one statistic I haven't mentioned. Why did I choose 2008 as my cut-off? Because I wasn't even on social media before then. Before 2008, 100% of the books I purchased were authors I knew or discovered by word of mouth.

So does social media work for reaching readers? I think it's a starting point. But I don't think it's worth plunging hours and hours and days into.

I do think it's a fantastic tool to network with other writers though. I got my ill-fated referral that way, along with some of the most awesome critique partners in the business. And Jay Kristoff recently blogged about how both Beth Revis and Scott Freaking Westerfeld discovered him and offered to read his book for a possible blurb (which upsets me, because I wanted Scott F. Westerfeld to blurb my novel, but I guess you have to have a book deal first).

Man, this publicity stuff is complicated. Does it ever work? What do you think?

In Which I Map Social Media to High School Like Everyone Else, but with an Actual Map

It's a little frightening to me how well my social media experience maps onto my high school ones. This is a picture of how. Your mileage, of course, may vary (particularly if you hung out in the gym -- for me, that was like one of the Circles of Hell).

 Classrooms: Where we did Actual Work. This is why we were at high school, but nobody wanted to admit it. And for sure nobody wanted to hang out here. If we could, we would've hung out outside all the time.

Rally Court: Our quad was loud, busy, and everybody could see what everyone else was doing (which was how some of the cheerleaders knew me as "one of those guys who plays cards all the time" (spoken with trademark patronizing giggle, of course)). But for the most part, it was easy to catch up with friends here.

For me, Facebook is like this. There are lots of people there, including old friends I thought I'd lost touch with. But mostly I go there to hang out with my family and real life friends. It helps that many of Facebook's features make it easier for me to maintain conversations across timezones.

Cafeteria: Like the Rally Court, this place was loud and crowded -- even more so because it was enclosed. You could never tell if someone heard you or not. But as I became more socially adept, I had new groups of friends who didn't hang out in the Rally Court, and this was where I found them.

Twitter. It's loud, crowded, and I never know if anybody's listening. But some of my best friends are there, and I like how quick and easy it is to follow people and read updates.

Academic Quad: This place was exactly like the Rally Court, but with fewer people. Occasionally a couple of us would wander there to get away from the noise, but mostly nothing happened there.

Maybe Google will figure out some magic feature to make everybody switch over, but I suspect that what most people dislike about the other social networks is caused -- not by privacy issues or odd features -- but by the sheer quantity of people. If Google+ ever goes big, it wouldn't surprise me to hear a bunch of the early adopters complain about it.

Library: This was where I preferred to be, though not for the reason you think. We played D&D in there. It was relatively quiet, and mostly only people who actually wanted to hang out with me came in there, much like this blog.

In truth, I think the particular features of a social network don't matter nearly as much as who is on it. At least that's how it is for me. If everyone I know suddenly migrated to Bebo or Wooxie or (God-forbid) back to MySpace, I'd be over there too.


So am I the only one who played games all through lunch? What was your high school like?

Twitter Unfollows and Signal-to-Noise Ratio (Also, a Chart!)

I don't automatically follow people back on social media, but once I decide to follow someone, I rarely unfollow. Unfortunately, it does happen. The likelihood of getting unfollowed can be determined (sort of) from the following chart.

What constitutes signal?
  • Anything funny.
  • News I want to know.
  • Interesting links.
  • Talking to me directly (esp. saying nice things to me or retweeting my tweets).
 What constitutes noise?
  • Follow Friday tweets, thank you's, and any other random list of Twitter handles I don't know.
  • Non-tweets, like "Good morning" or "Good night" or "Eating justice peas again."
  • Spammy links to your blog, your book, etc.
  • Most tweets generated by other applications (e.g. Goodreads progress reports).
  • Retweets.
  • Lots of tweets at once, filling up my timeline.

Now understand, I'm not saying you should have no noise in your tweets. Everybody's got noise (I link to my blog and send retweets plenty). The important thing is to balance it out, or even signalify* the noise by making it funny or relevant.

And perhaps most importantly, there's the Relationship Factor. This is a measure of how well I know/like you. I'll tolerate a heck of a lot of noise from friends, people I enjoy talking to, or Nathan Fillion. In fact, the stronger our relationship, the more likely I am to interpret your "noise" as signal.

How do you build up the Relationship Factor? That's a different post.

I admit, it's a highly subjective algorithm, but it has to be. I'm not going to be interested in everyone's tweets. The point is, if you want to stay in people's timelines, pay attention to what most of your tweets are about. That way when you do have to pimp yourself, people will listen.

* Totally a word. Shut up.

How to Get Me to Unfollow your Twitter Feed

I know this is going to cause a swath of readers freaking out wondering, "Am I good enough? Will Adam unfollow me too?!" Because, of course, you're ALL worried about what I think of you. (That's how it is in my head, at least. Maybe I should see someone about that...).

Okay, so nobody's worried about my follow. But to avoid hurt feelings, I want to lay this disclaimer: I unfollow people rarely, and only when they define themselves by tweets like the ones below. If you do some of these sometimes, but other times post something witty or interesting, or converse with me like a human being (as opposed to a marketeer), then chances are very good you're safe.

But if these are the ONLY things you Tweet, then you might rethink your social media strategy:
  • Follow Friday (#FF) lists of random Twitter handles, with no explanation as to why I should follow all these people you crammed into 140 characters.
  • Publicly thanking a list of random Twitter handles for the #FF mention.
  • Tweeting "Good morning" every time you get on and nothing else.*
  • Links to your blog, your book, you, you, YOU.
  • Tweet 20 times within a couple of minutes, thus filling my entire timeline with you.

Again, if you sometimes tweet things like this, don't worry. I link to my blog post too (a lot of my traffic comes from Twitter), but I try to keep that from being the only thing I say. The people I drop are the ones who followed me just for the follow-back, who just want to up their numbers even though nobody's actually listening to them, who don't intend to interact or read anyone's tweets but their own.

What behavior on Twitter (or any social media) bugs you the most? What do you LIKE people to do?

* I realize some people use Twitter only for conversation, and "Good morning" is a way to let their followers know they're on and ready to talk, but if I don't converse with you, it's all I see. Besides, we can talk without me following you.

5 Twitter Tips I Don't Like (and 2 I Do)

I have kind of a love-hate thing with Twitter. On the one hand, I've gotten to know some awesome people because of it. Because of my random comments to people, I've found crit partners and even read a soon-to-be published trilogy.

On the other hand, it's too much. Too many people to follow. Too many links to click. Too many tips to "maximize" Twitter. With that, I give you FIVE TWITTER TIPS I DON'T LIKE:

1) When someone follows you, follow them back. An effective way to boost your numbers, but I don't know if it's the best way to use Twitter. When I see someone is following 1,000+ people, I wonder what their "follow" means (aside from, "Please follow me back so I can look more popular").

At some point, all those people you follow become just white noise. I realize there are lists to manage the tweets you keep up with, but eventually your "All Friends" list becomes meaningless because you're only listening to the lists you've made yourself.

2) Stop following inactive accounts. Apparently there are tools for this, but I don't care if someone I follow isn't active. I'm almost grateful! The folks I unfollow are the ones who clog my Twitter stream with tweet after tweet that I don't want to read.

3) Join Twitter chats. I was on IRC back when the internet was just a baby, and while I met some interesting people and learned interesting things, I also wasted a lot of time. Chat rooms--even useful, focused ones like #yalitchat--are attention suckers (and that's without the complex processing required to figure out who is responding to what). I say: "Use, but use with caution."

4) Personalize your Twitter background. Honestly, I don't even notice what people's backgrounds are. When I decide to follow someone, I look at what they're saying and what they add to my Twitter stream.

5) You have to interact with people. It's called "social media" for a reason, right? Well, yes and no. I love having conversations with people, but I'd hate to think people were unfollowing me just because I didn't talk to them (I'm trying to manage life too, you know?). Some people don't use Twitter for conversation at all, it turns out. They use it for (gasp!) news and information. Who knew?

I think I'm just rebelling against the idea that you "have to" do anything on Twitter. None of these are bad things, and they'll definitely get you followers. But followers are not readers. Though to be fair, here are 2 TIPS I'M A FAN OF:

1)  Be interesting and/or funny. It's cool with me if you just listen on Twitter, but if you're going to speak, try to write something people want to read (even if it's just a couple people--that's cool, too). Helpful tip: A list of random people with an #FF or #WW tag is not interesting.

2) Learn to do the previous tip in 140 characters. This is more of a writing tip than anything. When I started trying to write things for Thaumatrope, I discovered all kinds of words and characters I didn't need. You don't have to abbreviate, or use 'u' instead of 'you' (in fact, I wish you wouldn't). You just have to use the same economy of language you're supposed to have in a novel.

Also, Twitter is a great place to craft that one-sentence pitch of your story. If you can tweet it, you can promote it!

Enough out of me. How do you use Twitter? What tips have you found useful (or not)?

Blog Growth

I want to take a look at how a blog grows, what does and does not affect it, what you can do to...

Okay, that's a lie. I just want to geek out about statistics.

This blog has been running since May 2008. Other than the spikes, you can see that it has had a pretty steady growth. Let's take a look at the spikes, the dips, and things I think should've affected this growth but didn't.

Both spikes were a direct result of someone linking to a post (this one in Oct 2009 and this one a year later,  though I think that first spike is a fluke ... as I recall, most of those visitors came from Google looking for this picture). Although I definitely gained readers both times, there was no significant, long term change in the blog's readership, no matter how big the spike. This is almost certainly due to the lack of swearing, drinking, and scantily-clad women on my blog needed to keep people coming back.

MORAL: Swear more, dammit.

The dips are usually when I posted less, like last August when I disappeared for two weeks. Makes sense in a graph that shows monthly readership as opposed to per post.

MORAL: Post more often to artificially boost my number of readers per month.

In Nov 2008, I started posting blog links on Facebook and Twitter. There's a little growth, but not what I'd call significant.

In Sep 2009, I started posting on a regular schedule. Again, there's growth, but that's more easily explained by the fact I went to 13 posts/month instead of 8 (see moral to THE DIPS, above).

In Apr 2010, I got published and ran a contest. I got a few extra page loads that month (usually indicative of new people checking out old posts), but otherwise no big change.

MORAL: Nothing matters. Give up.

I don't really believe nothing matters. The graph obviously shows growth, but it also shows there's no single event to magically boost your readers (at least not this side of being agented). I'd say the growth correlates more with me getting better at social media than anything else--commenting on blogs, interacting on Twitter/Facebook, stuff like that.

Not that I'm awesome (I'm SO not), but I try to figure out what people do and do not like to read, and then give them that while still being me. And I'm slowly learning how to actually talk to people, even if it's just over the internet. Honestly, this is stuff anyone can do.

So do you keep track of your readership stats? Have you noticed any trends in what works or doesn't?

More on "The Entire Freaking Internet"

NOTE: Apparently, I'm not the only one who decided it was Critique Week. On Monday, LT Host wrote about the different kind of beta readers, and Natalie Whipple is running a crit partner classifieds. I'm starting to feel redundant, but I'm nothing if not lazydetermined. Let us press on!

Stop me if you know this feeling. You find a critique group only to discover its members are where you were five years ago. Their comments are glowing because they don't know what to say, or else they're pedantic nitpicks that don't help you improve.* You'd prefer a critique from that recently-agented blogger you follow (or Neil Gaiman, if we're being honest), but they stopped answering your e-mails after that "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" comment you made on their blog.

What are you supposed to do?

Fortunately, God and Al Gore made the internet. Do you know how many unpublished authors of every skill level are out there? Thousands. Blogging, commenting, tweeting, and most importantly, critiquing. What you need to do is find the ones who (a) are around (or above!) your skill level and (b) like you a little. Then ask as politely as possible if they want to swap critiques.

How do you know if they like you? Comment on their blog, respond to their tweets, and be a friend. Don't be creepy. Don't be overly-friendly if you hardly know them. And DON'T interact just to get a critique (people can smell that).

How do you know their skill level? Most of the time you don't until you swap a critique. But generally, I say if you've got the time then swap. You can learn something even from beginners, and friends are friends regardless of (current) skill level.

Critiquing an 80,000-word manuscript is a big undertaking, so you need to know what you're asking of people. This is why you swap. This is why you're always professional. This is why you're understanding if they say no, regardless of the reason.

And this is why you're always, always thankful when someone does accept your offer. Even if this is the only manuscript of yours they read, you're making a friend, and that counts for a lot.

* I once got a critique for Pawn's Gambit that said, "Let me send you a story written in Scottish dialect. You deserve it for the headache I got from reading your story.... I suspect no matter what I say you're going to continue trying to write fantasy dialog."

Fortunately, by then I'd had so many people tell me they loved Air Pirates slang that the critique just made me laugh.

Finding Critique Partners

I've decided (somewhat randomly) this is going to be Critique Week on Author's Echo. Some of this stuff I've said before, but finding critique partners and getting/giving good critiques is so dang important, it's worth repeating.

But where do you find someone willing to read 80,000 words and tell you what they think? More over, where do you find people who are actually good at that sort of thing?

I know of three places, though the first two specialize in SF, Fantasy, and Horror. Hopefully folks can offer more in the comments.
  1. Critters Writers Workshop. Cost: Free. Wait Time: 4-5 weeks for each submission (you may submit many at once though, and they will be put up for critique one week at a time). Requirement: Critique at least 3 stories every 4 weeks. Submission Length: Up to 20,000 words.
  2. Online Writing Workshop. Cost: $49/year (first month free). Wait Time: Minimal. Requirement: Critique at least 4 stories for every submission (after the first). Submission Length: Up to 7,500 words.
  3. The Entire Freaking Internet. Cost: Free. Wait Time: Varies based on social media skills-slash-how nice you are: a week to years for the first submission. Subsequent submissions usually have minimal wait time. Requirement: Usually critique 1 story for every submission. Submission Length: No limit.
You laugh, but that last one is a gold mine. My first novel was critiqued by two friends (albeit an avid reader and a lit professor). My second by self-selected readers, still mostly friends and family.

Now, thanks to my *cough* "charisma" and a LOT of time wasted on the internet, I feel comfortable asking for critiques from multiple writers at or above my level, two agented authors, and two published (or scheduled-to-be-published) authors. Shoot, if I can make friends this awesome, so can you.

Social media, man. It really works.

Followers, Readers, and Venn Diagrams

I don't actually like the Followers widget on the sidebar there. I mean, yes, it feels nice every time the number goes up, but it's misleading. Followers do not mean readers. Readers don't mean fans. Fans don't mean friends. And really, I think we all want our blog/Twitter/whatever followers to be one of those last two.

Getting followers is easy. Well, not easy -- it's a lot of work. But it's mostly within your control: comment on and follow 1,000 blogs, and you will instantly get 100 or more followers. Just like that. Elana Johnson has some great advice on getting lots of followers, and I agree with every one of her points. But followers do not mean readers.

Turning followers into readers is a bit harder, but still within your control. Just write something people want to read. It takes practice and (again) hard work to figure out topics both you and other people are interested in (hint: it's not you, not at first), but it can be done.

Now I'm not large enough in the public sphere to understand how readers become fans, though I do know how to make friends (be one). But here's a secret: it's not a progression. The diagram above is far too simple. In reality, it's more like this:

You can have readers who aren't followers. Friends who never read your blog. Followers who genuinely like you and would help you out, but don't have time to read all your posts. Readers who like your blog and like you, but aren't really a fan of your fiction.

It's a complicated world, but the encouraging bit is this: you don't have to get a lot of followers to be successful. You don't have to follow everyone who follows you. You don't have to chain yourself to that stupid widget.

I admit, things can change when blogging becomes part of your profession. In the comments of Elana's post, she points out that her editor sees a 1400-follower blog. In fact it's the only measuring tool an editor, or anyone else, has to see how popular a blog is. But Elana uses her blog to make money. If only 100 of those followers buy her books, that's 100 books she wouldn't have sold otherwise.

But most of us aren't there yet. If I got 500 more followers right now, what good would it do me, even if I could turn them into fans? Not much. Blogging for me is more of a long term investment, so I invest slowly. I use it for practice, for networking, and yes I'm looking for fans and friends, but only so I have some folks to celebrate with when I sell something. I don't need "followers" to do that.

Twittering from the Other Side of the World

I've been using Twitter for a while now, and I like it, really. It's how I met some of my favorite people. But often I get the feeling I use it differently from other people. A lot of that is just living on the other side of the world.

I don't know how Twitter is for you, but when I get on the computer in the morning, I'm greeted with 50-100 tweets from the folks I follow. I'm too obsessive-compulsive to NOT read them all, even though most of them are conversations long dead. Occasionally I find a piece of information or a link that makes me glad I searched through them, but that, of course, only reinforces my OCD.

This is why I have to limit who I follow. I WANT to follow everyone who follows me, but I can't. And I can't take part in most conversations that occur during the American day. I realized how big this was while we were in the States. I got to chat with EVERYBODY. I finally saw what Twitter was good for. Unfortunately, it's not very good for me.

So I just have to use it my way. I'll toss out a tweet when I wake up, maybe another before I go to bed. I respond to any mentions, even if it's hours later. Really, there's little else I can do. And every once in a while I'll get someone who stays up extra late, or someone from the UK, and have a really great conversation. That, really, is why I'm still on it.

How do you use Twitter? Do you read everything, or only whatever shows up when you're on? Do you follow everyone who follows you? Do you expect others to do the same?

(I want to ask something of the folks who don't use Twitter, but all I can think of is "Why don't you use it?" (A) That sounds rude, and (B) I already know most of the possible answers. But feel free to chime in even if you don't use Twitter. I never want to be exclusive.)