Twitter Don’ts

Or how not to win readers or influence people…

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Totally, I’m telling you what not to do.

Generally, I try not to. I often *fail* at that endeavor, but I do try.

But this time? Oh, yes. Straight up, Imma tell you what not to do on Twitter. (And probably FB, as well, but YMMV.)

 

Stop with the non-stop self promos. That’s job 1, and you know it. Everyone keeps telling you to not do this, and every day I open my Twitter feed and start muting new followers because all I can see for the first screen-and-a-half is the same one or two promos (which their mom dutifully retweets immediately) (and that part I completely get, because what else are moms for?) five times for five minutes, before they go off to work or brunch or whatever.

Many experts have done the math for you. Bad Redhead shows it all here: http://badredheadmedia.com/2016/05/04/which-social-media-channel-sells-the-most-books/

And I know most of you have seen this and/or similar articles…and yet…

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t. The numbers tell you: Twitter is to build relationships and name recognition. Twitter doesn’t get you sales.

And doing it for someone else? You think somehow that’s going to work better?

Frankly, there’s a strong chance that when it comes to the annual Twitter cull (come on, you know you do it, too) you’ll be on the block, because when you do this for someone else, the immediate assumption is that you are a bot.

People want to follow other members of their own species, not some algorithmical construct formed solely for the purpose of begging for spare change on the corner of Bits Avenue and Byte Street.

I’m not saying you cannot ever post about your work. You absolutely should have your header and a pinned post that reflects your status as an author, and showcases at least one title available.

And occasionally, a cute or clever promo is no bad thing.

Even better are very infrequent “progress reports”, RTs of good reviews, and perhaps an announcement of a new release.

But note the caveat: “infrequent” means that AT THE VERY LEAST, you let a week or six go by between promos.

Because I swear to Cthulhu, if I have to scroll past 47 identical promos of your paranormal romance thriller with a hot sex scene concerning three government spies more than once in the same 24-hour cycle, not only will I mute you forever (I never block unless you suggest you are a Nazi I need to punch) but there is now no way in twenty-six separate hells that I will ever RT anything about your book.

And still less chance I will buy it.

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After the Bugles Have Sounded

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It’s a funny thing about Remembrance Day.

We all put on our poppy pins. We listen to the prayers and poems, we sing the hymns and anthems. We lay wreaths, and we do it together, as a community, honouring the veterans among us.

And then we go home and back to our regular lives and vote in elections for the same kinds of people that keep getting us into these wars, without so much as a second thought.

I have a lot of relatives I never met. They lie in graves in France and Belgium. I had a few relatives, when I was growing up, who would not talk about their war. And they had relatives that they had never met, or ones who wouldn’t talk about their war, either.

But they were the ones who made that commitment. They gave us a motto – I’ve seen it plastered all over the internet both before and on November 11th: Lest We Forget.

Lest We Forget.

It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

It wasn’t meant as a slogan to turn dead bodies of our young into objects of warrior fetishism. It wasn’t meant to be a day for people who have never fought to get all teary-eyed and borrow the dead’s glory.

It wasn’t about honour or courage, or a way to elevate conflict into a holy act.

It was meant to remind us that when leaders make bad choices, it is the innocent who pay the price. We weren’t supposed to remember the dead as plaster casts of “heroes” – we were meant to remember that they wanted an end to war, to conflict, to strife.

Both “world wars” ended, in many, many ways, the old order of things. The men and women who came home wanted a far different future than the one their leaders had sent them to preserve. They had fought, and bled, and died, and they wanted to never again be at the mercy of demagogues playing diplomacy chess with other people’s lives.

They demanded real freedom, in the form of universal suffrage, medical care, welfare, old age pensions, and access to good education. In most countries, they got all, or part – and then, as we lost sight of the message, those things have disappeared, one by one, stolen by the false god of patriotism, draped in a flag to hide the naked greed that lives underneath.

And not one of the veterans we trot out onto a stage once a year went there to defend a pretty piece of cotton fabric. They didn’t go to defend a way of life that denied most of them any real choices or protections – they went for the future. They went for their dreams of what could be.

 

Don’t make that sacrifice an empty one, by pretending that we don’t still have a long way to go.

 

* This was originally published on November 11, 2016. But it bears repeating.

Worldbuilding – a thought exercise

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In fantasy, world-building is considered crucial. You need a strong sense of terrain, of architecture, of locations. You need a plausible and detailed history, a few thoughts about language (or at least, ways to introduce concepts/objects of an arcane nature), and probably a cuisine.

And, nine times out of ten, you need a religion. (Actually, if there is more than one country/culture involved, you need more religions, but since most fantasy authors just stop at one, we will, too.)

You’ll need gods and goddesses.

Well, you’ll need one, at least.

How will this work? Is your deity omnipotent and omniscient? Or are they removed and limited – are they bound by the law of physics at all? Are they kind and wise, or impersonally cold and unfeeling? Do they communicate through human intermediaries, or deal directly with their creations?  Where’s their “morality quotient” going to be set?

How can they be propitiated?

Often, they will respond to “offerings”, of course, but I would caution you against live animal sacrifice. Killing off protagonists and their friends willy-nilly has become de rigeur since GoT hit the public consciousness, so much so that we expect character deaths of even the most graphic nature to figure prominently now. But gratuitous (or even logical) depiction of the death of any other creature correlating to any cute or beloved earth-based animal is sailing into treacherous waters.

(Trust me on this: I killed off a horse in my first novel, and I have received more angst-ridden complaints about that than about any other single event in either that or any subsequent novels yet.)

How about prayer? Prayers are pretty unthreatening, right? Does your pantheon or singular god respond to those?

I mean, supposing you need some kind of catastrophic natural event to move the plot forward, but you have this benevolent, know-all/control-all Supreme Being(s) in place, who can be communicated with…and while you want to partially level a small city or bring down a mountain, you’d like to keep the mayhem under completely nuclear-holocaust proportions, so maybe the collective prayers of the faithful could limit the disaster?

 

And that is where, with the best will in the world, my internal critic just stops cold.

If I postulate a benign and omnipotent divinity who cares for all of Creation, one who can control both weather and geological movements, why would my character need to pray, and what good would it do, anyway?

I mean, that disaster didn’t come out of nowhere, did it?

That god/dess made that storm or earthquake to begin with.

That god/dess sent those people into the maelstrom, by prophecy or design.

That god/dess chose the solution: if they need the hero to survive, they could bloody well do it themselves without killing off thousands of innocent bystanders in the process.

 

They didn’t need that disaster at all, if they truly are a loving, all-powerful  Higher Power with limitless abilities to shape every individual’s destiny.

 

As in fantasy, so in the real world you and I inhabit.

Safety

 

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It’s all over on the social media front.

On the one hand, there are all the news stories, memes, and personal posts that imply that the western world is under siege from nefarious people from “other places” – that violence is stalking us and that we must do unpalatable things to keep ourselves “safe”.

On the other hand, there are the news stories, posts, and memes,  warning us that our worst enemies are domestic: this marginalized group, or that one, ready to tear our lives asunder out of jealousy or rage or just plain sadistic glee.

And then (on that third paw) those self-same people posting the dire warnings and the consequences of inattention constantly also forward us their motivational words of wisdom…

Do what you love.

Be true to yourself.

Never let go of your dreams.

You have to wonder, some days, whether these people have minds arranged like a modern call-in centre office: every thought neatly placed in its own discrete, self-actuated, and wholly private cubicle, where nothing from any other cubicle even gets a glimpse of another thought, let alone allows those thoughts to touch.

This world is not safe… but it never has been.

This world is many things… but it is not risk-free.

You can fail… and that’s okay.

You can die… and all of us will, sooner or later.

 

But instead of meeting these things with fear or overconfidence, we need to learn to weigh the costs, and do the right thing.

Not the easy thing.

Not the “sure” thing.

And definitely not the thing that makes someone else pay for our mistakes.

All Publicity is Good Publicity?

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https://qz.com/1054260/procter-and-gambles-new-anti-racism-ad-is-roiling-white-america/

When commercials like these come out, no matter how hard the company gets slammed, they mostly keep the commercial on for the length of the planned campaign. They rarely knuckle under to angry responses immediately.

They obviously know from the start that they’re going to get some push-back, and they seem okay with that.

How interesting it is, don’t you think, that when a company runs an egregiously outright racist/sexist commercial, or is caught perpetrating outmoded and offensive stereotypes, they act all surprised and “innocent”, and claim it was a “mistake” in judgement?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/08/dove-apologises-for-ad-showing-black-woman-turning-into-white-one

And yet, those ads, too, generally run for at least part of the planned campaign. They don’t disappear immediately.

I think that in both cases, the companies know exactly what they are doing, and have no illusions about the reactions they will get. It seems very unlikely that they wouldn’t: they all hire professional advertising agencies with decades of experience, and they do masses of market research before they ever book the airtime.

I think in the first instance, the company believes strongly enough in at least this much: that the bulk of their market will respond positively over the long haul to anti-racist/pro-equality messages and will associate the brand with their own core values.

It’s entirely possible that some of these ads are even less cynical than that, and that the people running these companies do, in fact, care about these issues, and are willing to publicly support them for purely ideological reasons.

It’s okay if it’s both.

The point is: they are doing it on purpose.

Which means, logically, that the companies who spend their advertising dollars on racist, anti-equality messaging also do it on purpose.

 

 

Additional Note: This, too, is part of the issue (pay attention to the presentation of both the fact and the wording of the “apology”… “some” call it offensive? That, in itself, tells you a lot right there.):
http://www.ajc.com/news/world/publishing-company-apologizes-for-textbook-that-includes-theories-some-call-racist/0zu5WzSkt6RIkfU5JN7GXO/

#NotAll fill-in-the-blank

Or: Whose ox is being gored here, anyway?

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Have you ever had a FaceBook friend or Twitter follower who seemed to share your values, speak your “language”, and agree on the nefariousness and malice aforethought of some particular subsets of humanity…?

You think they’re cool. You think they’re on the same wavelength. You think they “get” you…

Right up until the moment you make a passing, mildly amusing generalization about some other subset – moms, or men, or deciduous trees – and all of a sudden, they are mortally offended and taking it all personally and serious, as if you had called out their mom, their husband, or the maple tree in their front yard: explicitly and by name.

It happens to me about once a month. I’ve tried to sum up a general economic problem like the foreclosure debacle of 2008, calling attention to the ways in which many people contributed to the bubble that inevitably burst by acquiring property with the full intention of doing cosmetic renos and then flipping that property just to make a few bucks…

And wham! Someone I respect and love goes ballistic about how *they* went under and were bankrupted and lost their home because of trusting the real estate agents and the banks and how dare I imply that their misfortune was in any way their fault?!?

I lost longtime and valued friends because I once used the @yesallwomen hash-tag to discuss the many, many ways in which women in western European cultures are dishonoured and robbed of their essential agency as human beings, every day, in small but significant ways that open the door wide open to the more egregious and frequently violent actions that destroy them.

A wardrobe-mistress of a ballet company, someone I had been close friends with for nearly two decades, unfriended me almost immediately,  because apparently, according to her parting DM, she had never once been disrespected by anyone identifying as male in her entire life, and that was proof positive that I was a hatemongering feminazi.

Because #notallmen, right?

The woman who loved my memes and snarky comments about “husbands” went ballistic on me when I made a similarly generalized comment about stereotypical toddler behaviors and the over-the-stratosphere reactions that their mothers frequently resort to.

“Not my child” and “How can I possibly understand how hard it is to raise a child in this world?” was the least of it.

It’s totally human and it’s everywhere, all the time, and I’m willing to bet that even a lot of people who pride themselves on being uniformly positive, empathetic, and kind 100% of the time have still, occasionally, met this reaction to what they thought, sincerely, was a mild and affirmative post or tweet.

 

As writers, we’re taught to use our knowledge, understanding, and experience of the world and its inhabitants to bring realism and believability to our work.

But if we had a character that did this in a novel, the editors and the readers would flag it IN NEON LETTERS A MILE HIGH as completely inconsistent, unbelievable, and wrong.

Go figure.

Save

Me, Too.

This was the original post, when it came across my Facebook feed:

Me, too

As suggested: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

 

 

It resonated, deeply.

So I went for it, as did probably a gajillion other women I know and love.

And then…

Look, it’s not as if women are somehow unaware that men are also sexually assaulted and raped. In fact, despite the fact that they are assaulted and raped, most men almost never mention it, even in passing, and despite the fact that MRA-types like to whine about the undeniable fact that things that women experience daily are also occasionally things that can happen to men, women of third-wave feminism are the only ones actually fighting in any material way for protection and services to be available for men who are oppressed in these ways, too. We’re the ones campaigning for male oppression by the system to be recognized. We’re the ones who keep reminding the world that men, too, are victimized and assaulted.

 

But this wasn’t about that.

“Me, Too” was an attempt to show the world just how incredibly pervasive the problem is for women. How it affects pretty much every woman that you, as a man, has ever come into contact with. That it’s your mom, and your sister, and the woman in the Starbucks line-up ahead of you.

“Me, Too” was an attempt to start a conversation about this enormous problem that impacts women disproportionately, and is one of the key foundational weapons used to keep women in a subservient position in the world.

Within minutes, though….the idea that this wasn’t representing men became the topic.

 

You know what subsuming men into the sexual harassment/assault “Me Too” campaign actually did?

It made the men who become victims of sexual assault even more invisible and easier to be ignored, while subverting what was intended to be a very visual statement about women’s oppression into how we didn’t include the male victims.

It’s basically one big distraction move that took the teeth out of the impact — for ALL victims.

What might have been a great way to show just how big that impact is for women, and maybe make some men a little more aware of the problem, has turned into something that men can ignore.

If, however, y’all had waited, and then, once the conversation had gotten going, had your own “I Have” moment (or whatever two words seemed best to you), that impact would probably have been greater, and more powerful for EVERYONE.

Now, the conversation is not about sexual harassment or assault of anyone.

It’s about how women are mean because they didn’t include everybody.

Derailed and ignored, once again.