Sunday, May 2, 2010

Odds and Ends and All Things In-between

It's dark outside and yet there is one bird singing its heart out -- and driving my cat crazy at the same time -- and refusing to let me sleep. Not that sleep is necessarily a good thing right now. Why, you ask? Well, I'm in the process of trying to do edits on a book that needs a couple of scenes added and several others modified and that means I have to listen to certain music. We've discussed in various posts in the past our writing processes (See Kate's Thursday post on her own process). Part of mine is listening to music, usually music chosen by the novel or short story I'm currently working on. For this particular novel, it's ABBA, specifically the soundtrack to Mama Mia. Try going back to sleep with a very loud bird singing outside AND songs sung by Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep running through your head. (And apologies to anyone out there who happen to like the way those two sing.)

So, instead of facing the prospect of killing the cat for trying to tear down the curtains and blinds to get to the bird that refuses to be quiet AND more ABBA running through my head, I crawled out of bed, made coffee and started trolling through the blogs looking for inspiration for this morning's post.

In the vein of Sarah's post this week, there's been a lot written about how to promote your book and yourself over the last week or so. Most of the posts ask the same questions Sarah touched on, so I won't recap them. However, a couple looked at the use of the internet as a social medium and how attempts at promotion can have adverse effects on your career. For a prime example of how this can work, check out Jason Pinter's Huffington Post piece about how a blog entry about his first book led to an immediate termination from his job with a large publisher. No warning. No counseling. No two week notice. Just a "pack your things and get out."

Agent Jessica Faust wrote about "The Internet and Your Career" on Wednesday. She ponders the question of whether or not we should have public and private blogs/facebook accounts/twitter accounts, etc. I happen to think she's right, at least for those of us trying to really break into the business. As she puts it, "Do you really want your future agent, for example, to see your spring break photos, your daughter’s first trip to the potty, or hear about your rather extreme political views?" That said, I don't think it is as critical once you are an established author. However, agents and editors do read blogs. They google our names to see what is out there. If they don't like what they see, they may pass on a novel, no matter how well-written it happens to be. So, the moral of the story is, in my opinion, separate your personal from your professional and think before hitting the "Enter" key.

For more on this, check out this post by agent Lucienne Diver.

Also from Bookends, comes this post about query rejections. I don't know about you, but I hate writing queries. In my opinion, they are the most difficult part of the writing process. Ms. Faust's post points out why. Agents look at queries in a very subjective manner. For them to as for pages, the query has to feel special. One comment really caught my eye. To paraphrase, the commenter noted that if you try to be too special, too different, no agent will touch your novel because there is no way to sell it. (And, yes, boys and girls, agents are in this for the money. It's their job.) Somehow, you have to find that fine line where you balance between what is familiar and "safe" and what is different enough, unique enough to stand out and still be something the publisher will buy and the public will read. After all, the market will only tolerate so many sparkly vampires and emo werewolves -- thankfully.

So, what's the answer? How do you make your novel "special" in a query letter so it will stand out to an agent?

What do you think about public v. private/professional blogs and fb accounts? Why?

23 comments:

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

LOL. Other than hoping my utter irritation at the industry and my er "extreme political opinions" don't make me permanently unemployed? Not much. Except my opinions are not extreme, and if we don't look at what's happening in the publishing industry, who will? We are -- other than readers (and most of us are that) the ones nearest concerned with it.
I don't know anymore.

matapam said...

Private v Public Blogs.

Hmm, something I'd not thought about.

I don't have a "Family Blog" where all the personal stuff would go, but then I tend to be reticent about that anyway. If I had small children now, it would probably be different.

Political opinions expressed on blogs . . . you've got choose between possible repercussions, or silencing your own free speech. Censer yourself. No Big Brother needed.

Social chit chat. I'll bet this is where at least half the trouble lies. Agree with someone, disagree with someone, seem to have insulted someone. Oops, that was a bit inflammatory. Sorry. It's too easy to hit the send button, when you ought to reread and not _lightly_ say something that could have a negative effect. And being deliberately offensive -socially- is really not a good idea.

Politically, it may well be worth the fallout.

C Kelsey said...

I like the idea of public blogs as long as they're updated frequently. I have a blog... but since I hardly ever have time to post I've allowed it to languish. As for FB... well, I'm on there all the time so I guess I support it.

Stephen Simmons said...

This hasn't ever really been an issue for me, since I hold a job that entails maintaining a security clearance. I've had to practice some degree of self-censorship ever since the days of BBS's. I agree with the basic idea of separating the "family" FaceBook account or blog from the "author" one, because your readers and professional contacts really don't have any need/desire to see what your mother has to say about Aunt Edna's cataract surgery, etc, etc ...

But just because they're separated, that doen't necessarily mean you can go hog-wild on the "personal" account. What you type will still be attributable to you, and will still be out there in the ether, waiting to bump into your professional contacts.

Kate said...

The whole private vs public thing is a mess. I've gradually reached the point where if it's out there, it's out there because I don't CARE who it pisses off.

So yeah, I censor myself all the time. I have to. The world could not cope with raw, unadulterated Kate (insert evil laughter here).

Amanda Green said...

Sarah, while I don't necessarily agree our political comments should be held against us, I do think there are some folks who ought to have a safety system in place that prevents them from posting anything without a 2 hour cooling off period. I've seen too many authors bitch and moan about their agents or editors -- and call them by name -- and agents and editors do the same about one another or about a writer. They seem to forget that, even if they remove the post later, once it's been published, there's a darned good chance it's been indexed somewhere and can still be found.

As for irritation with the industry, you know I agree with you there. And, honestly, so do a lot of other folks. Unfortunately, as long as the powers that be run around with their heads up certain body orifices, too scared to adapt to new technologies and buying demands, I'm afraid there are going to be more and more of us looking for outlets that aren't the usual big publishers. Until the day comes when they realize publishers can't continue to exist without writers AND readers, all we can do is look at all our options and not close any viable doors that might open for us.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, I really hadn't thought about public v. private blogs until I had a friend request on fb from someone I went to high school with. I stopped then and thought hard about whether I would accept the friend request since my fb account is mainly used to keep in touch with friend from Baen's Bar and to follow authors/agents/etc in the business.

Then I realized I'd already started doing that anyway. I hadn't asked my son to friend me on fb because, well, I don't need to know everything he's doing any more than I want him knowing everything I'm doing.

I think you are right about social chit chat being where most of the trouble lies. Not only do we forget how what we type may seem to someone else, we forget that when we put something up on fb or lj or myspace, more than one other person sees it.

And I agree that politically it may all be worth the fallout.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, you just pointed out the problem with blogs and fb. So many of us go into a new blog or fb or something similar with the best of intentions and then, after a few weeks or months, our intentions are all that's left. Well, that and a dead blog. My issue with fb is twofold. First, it is too easy for fb to become a huge time sink, especially if you try to keep up with every one of your "friend". My second issue with it is that, while you can reach a lot of people -- if you put in the time and effort to get a large friends list -- you are still limited by layout and length of post. It's the same with twitter. Sure, they show some good as pr forms now, but will they in another year or two? I don't know and I wish there was a better way.

Amanda Green said...

Stephen, you've hit the nail on the head. Every one of us should remember your admonition not to go hog wild if we have a personal as opposed to our professional blog. That's especially true if our personal blog is easily viewed by anyone. Or "re-tweeted" or whatever. Frankly, we need to remember that whatever goes online remains longer than we expect.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, I've basically taken that same tact. I don't have a "personal" blog, because, well, I don't necessarily want the world knowing what I do in my "private" time -- it would bore them to death if nothing else. The closest thing I have to one is fb and my Baen connections. But even then, I only post things I don't mind the world knowing about.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Personal blog?

Well, I don't think my private life is that interesting. What? The washing blew up and you had to buy a new one? WOW, that'll make headlines.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, exactly. Although I will admit to moaning on fb about the dryer dying or the car deciding not to work out in the middle of nowhere. Frankly, I've always looked at blogs as serving a single purpose, be it for professional use, to express political ideas, to comment on current events, or to keep family updated on what's going on. I guess I'm so used to keeping personal and professional separated that I don't usually cross those lines on my blog or fb.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Rowena, this is my issue with keeping up LiveJournal. Look, my kids are off bounds, because they don't deserve to be interfered with. And the only time I made a joke about a school project... oy. We won't even go there. (There were hordes of semi-literate teens in my blog, calling me names!)
My cats are cute, but not THAT cute. And I can't blog about the OUTDOORS ones. Obvious reasons. Same reason I can't post "will be outside today, gardening." Ditto family vacations and trips. "Mr. burglar, the house will be empty." That leaves cons -- and I'm either there or blogging it. My art. Whatever I'm reading (reading about dinos again. Not exactly riveting either.) Household work or writing. Writing is... well, while I'm in the middle of it, writing about it would just drive me nuts. So I update my LJ twice a year.
Actually FB is the best for this because I can put up the funniest thing that happened that day, or a review I just got or something like that. It's short. Twitter, otoh... do people really want to know I made Greek salad for dinner with homemade dressing?

Dave Freer said...

I think we're a bunch of dull sticks :-). There is very little on my facebook or blog that I'd worry about readers being curious about. My life is fairly boring really :-)

Synova said...

I've quit reading an author blog because of a religious insult. The fellow is local and I had wanted to be supportive and I'd already gritted my teeth through political stuff before that. Now that I'm thinking of it, I've quit reading more than one science fiction author blog because the atmosphere seemed hostile because of politics. It's not that I think that people shouldn't be allowed their opinions but it's not going to help promote yourself to insult half your readers, is it?

And now I'm realizing that I'm posting here in my "political/religious/internet" persona... which is just like my real one except that my real one is always thinking about what is suitable for polite company. Even in this one I don't post anything I wouldn't want my mother-in-law to see by accident. But I'm wondering if I should be posting as my careful self instead? Not that I think that anyone here is going to do a search on me or something but it's probably still better for me to make a habit to separate the name I write under and the name I rant under.

My first blog post was an explanation that I wasn't keeping my name a secret, I just wanted to make it possible for people who didn't want to know my politics not to know them.

I suppose that's pretty much what I'd like as a reader. I'd like to be able to look up my favorite authors and at least have the option of avoiding politics and religion.

Dave Freer said...

Synova - "but it's not going to help promote yourself to insult half your readers, is it?"

heh. I wish that would get through to a lot of people (including a few running publishing houses) I doubt ANY overt political slant of any shade can appeal to more than 1/3 (not even a half) of the possible readers. It does seem dim to offend or irritate 2/3 ofthe potential readers, but there is a market, of course, for re-inforcing bias. You don't have to write as well for sermons to the converted, so maybe that's the appeal. I've always prefered to take at least superficially a more nuetral tone, letting readers reach their own conclusions.

Amanda Green said...

Sarah, you aren't being fair to the "not my cats" outside. They really ought to get fair time with the inside cats. ;-p

And, yes, we would want to know about the Greek salad and homemade dressing -- as long as you give us the recipe for said dressing. Well, at least I would. But I know what you mean because that is exactly how I feel.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, your definition of boring is much different from mine. I've loved following your Flinders blog. Not only because the idea of making a move like you and Barbs have done is mind-boggling to me but because it is fascinating to see how you are adapting to your new home and learning not only the lay of the land but also how you are doing your best to "live off the land" as well.

Amanda Green said...

Synova, well said. I have a political blog. Well, actually a rant blog. Only a few folks know about it. It is not written under my name. In fact, it's not written under a name that can be traced back to me without a lot of effort, effort most folks aren't going to go to. The sole purpose for that blog is to comment on things I do NOT want friends and family having to sit through and certainly not things I want being held against me because someone in the publishing world doesn't agree with me. Maybe it's the way i was raised, maybe it's my age and remembering political events and fall-out from earlier in my then-professional life (long before I started writing), but I have learned to be more reticent about mixing my political views with my professional persona in public. That's not to say you can't figure out exactly what I believe in and hold dear when you read my fiction -- you can. It's just that I don't believe in beating someone over the head with it, unless I happen to feel it is something that has to be talked about. Then, when I blog about it, I do so in what I hope is a well-reasoned manner and one that doesn't cross the line into confrontational language and foaming at the mouth. I leave that for the other blog.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, thank you. You've said what I've always felt. It amazes me to go onto facebook or twitter or any of the other social media sites and seeing authors ranting and raving to the point I know they must be frothing at the mouth in front of their monitors about some political issue. Either they don't care that they are insulting or alienating -- or both -- a pool of readers or they are of the belief that everyone agrees with them. Both possible explanations are short-sighted and costly. Costly in that it means they are running off readers or potential readers. I've never understood that. There is a place and time for such rants, the "everyone sees what I write/say" isn't the place, imo.

As a reader, I appreciate authors like you who not only work at weaving a wonderful story but who, in doing so, give me something to think about. So, thanks, Dave, and keep it up.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Synova,

That's what I do. My politics are under my first name only. They're not hidden -- exactly -- but it would take a bit of digging to find.

Part of what drives me insane on FB is all my colleagues splashing their politics all over and calling those who disagree with them names. I don't have time for that, and driving away half of your audience strikes me as plain crazy. Yeah, my beliefs leak out in my books, but I'm not preaching them to anyone. I don't mind when writers' beliefs leak out, but I HATE when they take a break to preach at me for two and a half pages.
So I guess what I'm saying is (puts on choir robes) "Amen, Sister!" :)

Amanda Green said...

Sarah, I could live -- kind of -- with a 2 1/2 page sermon. It's the ones who beat their readers over the head for chapters, or even for the entire book, just to show how their politics are better than yours, etc, that drive me crazy. And yes, I wonder at those authors who seem to forget to turn on their internal editor before spouting politics and calling names on fb. Of course, the ones who usually do that are also the ones who are hitting me over the head with their books, at least until I toss said book across the room and decide it's good for nothing more than a doorstop.

Aleina said...
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