The Road To Heaven Is Paved With Crass Commercialism

I’ve raved before about my views on publishing, and particularly self-published work. The bottom line of my past ranting is that those who are good are being swamped and disadvantaged by the vocal majority—who are simply poor writers and poorly supported from a polished end product point of view. What’s more, there is no easily accessible way to reality check such unfortunate individuals.
 
What I want to focus on in this essay is the social network layer that is utilized (read: abused) by such individuals, as well as those who provide a ‘service’ to them.
 
Social Networks are SOCIAL
 
This seems self-evident, but a lot of people don’t get it. To pay for many of these social networks, there’s advertising, but in most cases the advertising is self-evident—every element has its place. Many writers, and those who want to make money ‘helping’ authors, hit the social network hustings in a big way. Why do they do it? Well, I can think of a few notable dynamics: firstly, because it is there; it is so tempting to say, ‘buy my book’, or ‘visit my interesting site because you know and I know I’m flogging my book, but you must appreciate my thin veneer of social networkese in this post/twitter’. Another reason people do this is because there is a very small fraction of people who have actually succeeded in getting some semblance of fame and/or income from using social networks to sell their products—of course, those who succeed, get more successful because they become celebrities for their archetypal standing, which feed more hopefuls who look to them, and the spiral continues to rise, but unfortunately still for those few.
 
I don’t, personally, disagree with advertising one’s book on Facebook, Twitter etc, and I have certainly done it as an author, as well as a publisher, but I draw a well-defined line. For me, it is more important to join a social network socially, and only announce the other stuff on a minority basis. I can guarantee you that you gain more respect from those who count more effectively, and quickly.
 
I will provide you with an example. There is an option in Facebook to seek ‘friendship’ with another member. What motivates you to ask a stranger to be a friend? Perhaps the litmus test is what you do once friendship is first obtained—do you say 'hi!' on their Wall or do you add a link to your book site? The latter is a classic example of sheer hypocrisy—there is no friendship, not even an attempt at it, only crass commercialism. I personally increase my friendships in FB quite actively and rapidly, and I never ask my new-found friends to see my commercial/marketing web pages or the like. They can choose to do so if they wish, but I’m not even going to give them a hint. Will I get sales from this type of activity? I suspect few, but hey, are other authors the best people to market to, even if I wanted to? No. That’s probably the most ironic aspect of commercialism in the literary field in social networks, because most authors are spending too much time in the wrong target areas.
 
I especially dislike those who have sites on how to make it in the publishing field, and how to produce the best erotic novel covers, etc etc. The majority of these people are failures themselves, or at best, are big fish in diminutive ponds. Of those who are successful to some degree or another, are simply adding social networks to their regime of blatant commercial marketing.
 
My advice is this, and it does in part stand on ethical high ground—as an author, use the social network if you can because it makes people aware that you exist. Don’t push your products to the max because you are in the wrong space—this is a social networking arena, not a friggin’ marketplace. Socialize, and do interesting things where no-one has to invest in them other than their time. If you have had literary successes, rave about them, along with your interesting pieces. If you have a new product for sale, or want people to know about what you have got on your shelf, do it—just don’t do it a lot. I look at some of the better companies that have presence on Facebook and Twitter, such as Simon and Schuster, and also my company, IFWG Publishing, and you will see that even they don’t hit you all the time with products. Not at all. They’re smart, and ethical.
 
I ask you authors out there to challenge yourself to be smart and ethical.
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Half Year Report: New Year’s Resolutions

Oh dear, the dreaded report card. Let’s see how I went:

  1. Be a more tolerant dad. My daughter has High Functioning Autism and, well, anyone who knows what I and my wife goes through, knows what I mean. Report: I think I can say I am making headroom here. It’s about education – the more I learn about the condition, and the more I interact with other families who have an ASD child/ren, the more I can adjust my own behaviors. I can say, a big part of this whole process is about the parent’s behavior, not the child’s.
  2. Be a great dad and husband. I hope this is the case – this is one my wife can only answer 🙂
  3. Lose weight. I have never been heavier, and so my goal for the year is to lose 20kgs. That’s a tough one. Very tough. No comment, which suggests I am doing badly. I have a big job ahead of me over the next 6 months 😦
  4. Read more. As a writer I need to read – one of the cornerstones of being good at the craft (target: 24 books) On track 🙂
  5. Outline Bitter Creek by December 2011 (or perhaps do much more). Not done, but still in schedule.
  6. Revise The Scepter and the Orb by September 2011 (first Evyntyde novel). Ditto
  7. Write 3 additional short stories and finalize/publish my Evyntyde anthology, Tales from the Chronicles of Evyntyde – by June 2011. Wrote 1, 2 to go. This tells me I have to pull my finger out.
  8. Complete first draft of my second Evyntyde novel, Crystal Peak. Not done, but in the schedule.
  9. Write at least 12 short stories in 2011. Ahead of schedule 🙂
  10. Qualify for membership of the SFWA. Always going to be difficult. Zero so far. We will see.
  11. Addendum – write and complete YA Dystopian novela, The Comfort of Beanbags. Stalled. Will have to work hard to get this going.

What can I say? The ones that really really mattered are on track, except weight loss, and I have some ambitious goals that still need hard work. I will report again September 1.

WIP Teaser: The Ten Commandments from my novella, The Comfort of Beanbags

Can’t resist – Earth has had a revolution, in a most bizarre fashion. Can’t say too much as it would dull the sheen of the story, but imagine if hard core clinical psychologists ran the world – or at least were instrumental at some distant point in the past. Here’s the Ten Commandments that everyone (who can) memorized:

  1. Science is the key to a sustainable future for humankind; you shall not place religion before science. Creationism is poison.
  2. You shall not practice, or even speak of, religion except in your home and in places of worship.
  3. You shall at all times obey the Prefecture Administrators, Prefecture Delegates to the World Council, and the Civilian Protection Officers, whose task it is to maintain the viability and harmony of human society.
  4. You shall respect your mother and father, who have allotted a portion of their lives to your wellbeing.
  5. You shall not kill or murder any citizen of the world, nor should you intentionally harm anyone.
  6. You shall not steal the assigned possessions of individual citizens or family units, nor shall you wantonly take shared possessions without due process.
  7. You shall not lie or distort the truth.
  8. It is an ideal to have no more than two live born children in your life, but you must adhere to the wisdom of the World Council regarding how many you may have. At this time it is one.
  9. You shall respect the common ownership of resources, lands and seas, as administered by Prefectures, and also respect the assigned resources and land to other individuals. It is a sacred task to not squander your, or shared, allotments.
  10. You shall not work or carry out any form of business on Sundays, as it is a time to rest and bond with your family unit.

How Important Is Reading for an Author?

I’m sure some who read my subject title think its a trivial subject; a no brainer. "Of course it is important to read other writers’ fiction, to improve." I agree at that level, but it actually has more to it.

For one thing, as a writer I am driven to write whenever I can and reading encroaches on my time. I have to do my day job, I have responsibilities to my family, including my daughter, etc etc. With what’s left, I have to make priority decisions. This is the most obvious consideration.

Another area of concern is the degree in which we immerse ourselves into other writers’ styles and worlds, and it can chip away at our own inspiration. I have heard writers say that other people’s stories (be it fiction, cinema, plays etc) inspire them for their stories – I do have some concern here as I believe it can, from a particular degree of exposure, stifle creativity. It’s a balancing act.

For much of my life I have been a copious reader – mostly speculative fiction, but no small amount of other genres and non-fiction, poetry and so on. When I started to write seriously, I almost closed it off completely. I needed the time to write, not read, and I genuinely felt I could generate my own creativity without the need for inspiration from other writers. It worked for me, but only for a few years. As I developed my skills, somewhat like an athlete developing their fitness, there comes a time when one has a hyper-sensitized skill level to detect what is needed for the next step up. I realized I needed to read more; much more.

Jay Lake, the voluminous bloggist and excellent, well-respected speculative fiction writer, blogged just on this topic and referred to the dual role that must be balanced – the consumer versus the producer. Here is his fifth part of the discussion with references to his earlier posts. He puts a valid case forward that there is a time and place for each, and I entirely agree with him.

Before Jay produced his interesting set of blogs with thesis, I made a New Year’s Resolution at the start of 2011. Eleven in fact. One of them was that I would read more. Much more. I set the goal of 24 books – any genre, style etc, and would include the books I edit. It isn’t a case of categorization here, it is to do with keeping the synapses running, exploring new ways of doing things by way of other’s experience, and ultimately finding your own unique style and inspiration, and writing better stories for it.
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Special

My short story, Special (which is a science fiction, concerning autism) has been accepted in an anthology titled Flying Island Press Benefit: Autism Awareness. As you can tell by the title, this is a benefit anthology with proceeds going to an Autism fund raising benefit. 

It’s not too late for new submissions to be accepted (noting it requires a strong autism plotline, or character, to qualify).

It will be released in June 2011.
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Comfort #2

This continues an earlier discussion (thread really) regarding my story conception of The Comfort of Beanbags, which I originally wrote as a short story. Here is the earlier discussion.

In line with the most basic of writing tenets, I know that this story should not be longer than what is needed in the telling, and with more time spent conceptualising this story than any other, I believe it should be more like novella – perhaps (gut feeling) around 30k. I have come up with lots of ideas on world building, and I am happy how it has settled. Very happy. However, I have never had to take so much time coming to this final form.

Now to do it. 🙂

Submission Acceptance: The Bond

Nice turnover.

My steampunk short story, The Bond, has been accepted by Rune Wright, in their Penny Dread Tales Vol 1:  Gears, Coils, Aether & Steam anthology. Their cover is pretty amazing – you can catch a glimpse in the submissions page (they are still asking for submissions) – http://www.runewright.com/submissions.html

I wrote the short on 8 March.

Next 😉
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Ginger Fred

Late last night finished (largely) my latest short story, Ginger Fred, the Pavement Artist. Somewhat different for me – light horror, more a mystery with undertones of the supernatural. Difficult to classify, but at a high level, perhaps horror. Hmm.. Fantasy? LOL

Wont go into it too much – it involves a tramp who regularly visits a seaside town and creates masterpieces of pavement art – but it gets weird when the pictures are able to convey what will happen in the future.
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