Deserve’s Got Nothing to Do With It

“Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” –William Munny, Unforgiven

There is a lot of rage over people getting what they don’t deserve, and others not getting what they feel they do. Some writers continually grouse about those undeserving bestsellers, or get huge advances, like there’s only so much success out there, and it must be hoarded, like pie (or they didn’t deserve a bad review, so they go stalk the reviewer and call her at work and ask her how her children are doing.) But it’s not just writers. There are haters everywhere.

A world where we get what we deserve would be terrifying. Who gets to decide what you deserve? Here’s a hint, it’s not you. And that lack of control galls us. It is frightening, and we hate being afraid, so it becomes hate, and we project it. Who is making us feel this way? (It’s ourselves, but we project it upon convenient targets). For a detailed example of how this turns into a campaign of threats and terroristic threats, you can read The Kool-Aid Point by Kathy Sierra, a techie driven off the internet by vile trolls who decided she was getting too much attention because she’s a woman and must’ve used her wiles to get it, and thus didn’t deserve it.

It’s a harrowing read. And it’s unsurprising that the guy behind it came out as a full-on white supremacist in prison, because hate groups are the ultimate outcome of an obsession with an other denying you your just desserts. The ultimate projection of your own failures onto a convenient target. Why are we afraid? Why aren’t we as rich as those people on TV? It must be those people over there who are different than us.

Now, every entitled angry twit isn’t going to become the next Hitler, but feeding on that anger, that you don’t have what you deserve, and all those people out there do, is certainly not healthy. Healthy people concentrate on what they can change. We can’t change what the masses will decide (or marketers decide) will be popular. We can only persevere and improve, and count our blessings. Anyone who has the time to write, for example, or spend all this time talking on the internet, is a lot better off than most. There will always be haters who become enraged at someone else’s success, and a smaller few who decide to take them down a peg. Sometimes, like in Tom Perrotta’s ELECTION, it can be somewhat funny. But in reality, it’s pretty sad. All that energy wasted, tearing someone else down instead of … well, anything else.

Promotion ad Nauseam

Self-promotion is my least favorite aspect of writing, and I know I am not alone. I’ve done it wrong before, but I am trying to get better. I have read articles on dos and don’ts and secrets and no-nos, and coupled with my Internet Dinosaur badge (1988… that makes me a young dinosaur) let me suggest the following:

If it feels wrong, don’t do it.

Twitter

If you automate twitter posts to recur so many hours, I am not going to follow you or follow you back. Because I want to follow people, not town criers or newsfeeds. If all you post is essentially an RSS feed, I will instead follow your blog using my RSS reader. There is no magic number, but I try not to post a link to Protectors more than once a day, usually less often. In the past, I was not as polite, but I learned my lesson. There are twitter tools to find when the most of your followers are active. Share it then. Automate it, even. It’s once a day, who cares? As long as you communicate like a human, it won’t be obvious that you’re like a classic rock station playing “Layla” at precisely 4:32 every day.

A wiser writer than myself said that most people who follow you already buy your books and read your stories. Make them aware of new ones for a brief time, in small doses.

Do NOT send direct messages, especially canned sales pitches like “check out my webpage” or “thanks fr the follow my new book comes out next week RT plz” … this is SPAM. No one likes it. Plenty of people block folks who do this. I unfollow, even writers who I want to follow. Because I know what’s coming next, the spew of self-promotion. Do not feel compelled to follow people back. Are they interesting? Do they simply RT stuff? Listen, this isn’t a circle jerk. If you follow me just to get a follow back, please unfollow me now.

Facebook

Facebook is less onerous, because if you talk politics or update your wordcount every few hours, I can unclick “Show in News Feed” and mute you. I know writing feels like hard work, but we really need to stop acting like punching in another 2000 words is worthy of discussion. Writers write. Do you write? Great, you’re a writer. We don’t need reaffirmation of this. If you need a daily affirmation- Lawrence Block stresses their importance- read his fantastic guide Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, or the excellent Break Writer’s Block Now! by Jerrold Mundis. Both will teach you how to write in an organized manner, which won’t make a few pages seem delivering a breech birth.

Only make an author page if you also are not friending everyone in sight. Pages are good for keeping personal and professional life separate. There is no point (other than ego-stroking) to invite friends to Like your author page. Friends who like your pages get to see your posts repeated 3-5 times, and again when you share them with Groups. It gets overwhelming and annoying. Also, don’t make a page for every book you write. That’s just silly, it dilutes your fan base. I made this mistake, by making an author page. If we’re friends, please feel free to unlike this page. I have a separate page for the Protect anthologies- this allows people to be alerted of a new charity anthology without having to “be friends” and share personal info with me. That is the only reason for a page on Facebook if you have fewer than 5000 friends (the max).

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are great. But you know what? E-mailing your entire contact list, or a hidden list of writers and friends is NOT A MAILING LIST, IT IS SPAM. It’s passive-aggressive as hell, because to ask to be removed, the recipient has to tell you they don’t want to hear about your latest story/interview/baby/book/puppy fart video. You want to be a pro, act like one. Use a mailing list service. Mailchimp is one the pros love. It forces you to follow all the anti-spam laws and readers can subscribe and unsubscribe with a click. It is also free. You have no excuse. It asks for your address, so get a P.O. Box. Take some advice from pro Briane Keene’s “Writing Full Time” speech and get a P.O. Box anyway. You will want the privacy it affords you.

Blogging

Blog every day! Actually, don’t. I did for years. I’d sit around thinking of what to blog. I reviewed every movie I saw. It was boring for me and for readers. Blog when you have something to say. A few times per week. Daily if you aren’t rehashing stuff you’ve said a thousand times before. I blog about a new band, a movie, a dining experience, books, and I try to interview someone at least once every two weeks. The interviews take the most time, I come up with the questions on lunch break, and I edit them and make them look pretty on another lunch break. Blogging is writing- it will sap your creative energies- but it can also inspire you and kickstart you into writing on days when the fingers just want to scratch your ass instead. (NOTICE: all employees must wash hands before writing)

Goodreads Contests

I haven’t done one of those yet, but people sure love them. I don’t see a downside unless you spam about them. Don’t auto-DM people about this or your Kickstarter. They will see it in your feed when you post about it incessantly.

Well That’s Just Like Your Opinion, Man

Yes, it is. These are my opinions. Some people are better at ignoring bad Internet etiquette. And some people go on rampages to destroy people with bad ‘net manners. You don’t want them on your back. The more popular you get, the bigger chance you’ll piss one of them off.

Writers Who Do It Right™

Here are a few writers, both new and established, who in my opinion do it right: Lawrence Block, Andrew Vachss, Christa Faust, John Scalzi, Stephen Blackmoore, Karina Cooper, Christopher Moore, Roxane Gay, Ray Garton, Dan O’Shea, Mat Johnson, Charles Stross, David Brin. I have conversed with all of these writers. They don’t answer every tweet or FB comment, but they interact with writers and fans alike. They do not use their fan base as “minions” or ask questions that could be answered with a Google search. They do not spam you about their new releases, but they make you aware of them. They treat people with respect and thus get it in return. They do not circle-jerk and promote you for promoting them, or reek of desperation.

We all get excited about our work and yes, the best way to get the word out is on the Internet, but let’s do it right and not give writers a bad name. We don’t want to be lumped with Real Estate Agents at parties, do we? Are you looking to buy a house? I can get you a great deal on a mortgage *BLOCK*

Salami out.

Must You Finish a Book to Have an Opinion on it?

The excellent Mysterious Matters blog this week talks about the 50/100 page rule. That’s the number of pages that a reader will read, waiting for a book to “grab” them. Of course, some throw the book down on page ten, and others must finish it, either because “hope springs eternal,” as Agatho at MM says, or because of a neurosis. I used to compulsively finish the book. I remember the first one I quit that I actively disliked, a bio of Houdini that concentrated on his Oedipal complex rather than his act, and seemed indignant that escape artists hide keys and use trickery instead of superhuman powers. I loathed that book. But I gave it well over 100 pages, and I damn sure wrote an Amazon review excoriating it.

If that were my book and the reviewer slammed it, I’ll be honest, it would annoy me. I wouldn’t go on a tantrum and rend my garments and call attention to it, but I would likely be upset about it.

And I would be wrong.

You see, the reader owes me nothing. They have bought my book, and I am thankful. They do not owe me a review, good or bad. They do not owe me a ‘like’ or a retweet, or word of mouth. Of course, if they like the book, I would be exponentially appreciative if they told their friends about it, or reviewed it. But they don’t owe it. They don’t owe me anything.

I owe them.

You earn the reader with every line. Now, some readers skim; I try to write like Elmore Leonard said, and skip what most readers skim. (I stand corrected- Harry Crews said this, and Mr. Leonard repeated it. –ed.) We can justify it all we like, when we lose a reader. They had hemorrhoids, they have bad taste, they were tweeting and not paying attention. But in the end, we can’t really blame them. We have to do our best to write the best book we can, and if a reader doesn’t like it, they have the right to say so. Their “didn’t finish it, it was boring, it sucked” is just as valid as the equally vague “OMG I loved this book, I finished it in one sitting.” It doesn’t say why the book’s so great. We don’t even know if they paid much attention. But we don’t complain about these reviews, even if finishing the book in one sitting is unlikely because of the length.

We don’t like those “didn’t finish” reviews, but they’re the equivalent of walking out of the theater. They didn’t like the movie. They paid for their ticket and decided the next hour or two of their lives were better spent elsewhere. The same with a book. They walked out. Their review may not hold the same weight as Pauline Kael’s, but it’s as honest as any. Move on, and let it go.

But to quote the Dude, that’s just like my opinion, man. And the bad review is theirs.

What’s yours? Do you think it is okay to review a book you couldn’t bear to finish? Would you say page 50 or 100 was enough? Ten pages? One?

throwing the disqus

I have switched to Disqus for comments. I hope it works better. It will give you a broader range of login options.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

do you carry the mark?

qrcode

A QR code to my stories page. For authors with work on Amazon, you can make one of these to your Kindle page with this QR code generator. More and more people are reading on cell phones and mobile devices. And if you put this on a business card, they get to use their fartphone to get to your site without typing URLs. You can also have this tattooed on your pudenda if you are hardcore.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

get yer yum yums out

I just wanted to pop in and promote my favorite food blogs, who’ll keep you drooling daily. I try to share my culinary exploits in the kitchen and out at greasy spoons, but lately I’ve been healthier. For example, I made these wasabi pea crusted tuna steaks with butternut squash last week as a post-workout pigout for Pita-San and myself:
Here’s some good reading for good eatin’, whether it’s healthy or heart attack specials.

Thoughtful Eating
– by Raquel of Out of the Past Classic Film blog also likes to cook, and she shares some delicious recipes here. If you’re on Facebook, become a fan.

A Hamburger Today
– I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday… this is the hamburger center of the internet, and I read their reviews daily. The whole Serious Eats site is excellent, and I recently made their recipe for quinoa with bacon, kale and sweet potatoes. Quinoa cooked in bacon fat? Delish.

Beantown Brews – This beer blogger from Boston reviews lots of good brews, something I’ve been meaning to do more often.

Re(cession)IPES – It’s not updated often, but they have many great recipes that will fill your belly without emptying your wallet.

NJ Munchmobile – Pete Genovese of the Star-Ledger Munchmobile is what inspired me to food blog, and they are still finding hidden gems in the Garden state.

And for the hell of it, here’s my Thanksgiving plate. I can still taste it.
Turkey, turnips, asparagus, pearl onions, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, two kinds of cranberry, giblet stuffing, mashed potatoes and a biscuit. Still working that off.

writing for the same paper as Roger Ebert…

Yep, Tommy Salami has made the Chicago Sun-Times. Sort of. Thanks to Raquelle of Out of the Past, I signed up for Blogburst, a service that lets media sites pore over your posts and choose some to share on their website. The Times chose my Hot Dog Tommy’s review- possibly because they make a Chicago style dog- and a few others, namely my visit to Dogfish Head Brew Pub and my Hump Day post of Marion Cotillard. Now that was an odd choice, because now their site has bush.

Apparently they don’t check things too well. Hopefully it won’t stop them from selecting more; the Hot Dog post got 13,000 views on their website.