Authors and Social Media: Friends or Foe?

Authors get a lot of mixed advice when it comes to social media. Let’s talk about different author approaches and tips and tricks to make social media work for you. In this post, I’m combining notes from two panels.

From the titular panel, Francesca T. Barbini, Gareth Powell, and Georgina Kamsika discussed if social media was our friend… or our foe.

And in Social Media: Tips and Tricks, Brenda Noiseux, Stevie Finegan, Lydia Gittens, and Pablo Defendini shared their experience with us.

Top 3 Things To Know About Social Media

  1. Commit to the platform you’re most comfortable with
    • If you try to do them all — have a team
  2. Pay attention to what you’re looking for: connection or sales
  3. Be yourself. Be authentic.

Should You Have Separate Private and Public Accounts?

As I’ve mentioned before, and with all things writer-related: it depends.

If you have a business or family that you want to keep out of the public eye, it’s a good strategy.

Otherwise, it’s up to personal preference.

Some people don’t, some people can’t — their public life IS their private life, and some people… are glad to know where the split is.

You should look at your profile and see if what appeals to your current friends/followers is what appeals to the audience you want to build for your work. If they’re in alignment, you’re good. If not? You might want to consider a split.

Best Methods To Engage Others

  • Honesty
  • Offering help online
  • Feeding positivity
  • Twitter polls
  • Acting like it’s your own personal pub — and just chat with people
  • Quote and tag people who are talking about you!
  • Note: Things like #authorLifts (twitter hashtags, where you tag people and have a big follow loop thing) are going to find you writers — not readers. It’s a way to game your account. Most of the people on that hashtag are looking for followers, not friends. But! Many writers are also readers. Look to find your community and friends.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

On Instagram? Around 30

On Twitter? Around 3

On Tumblr? Only the 1st 5 show.

5 Tips To Make Twitter More Useful

  1. A tweet stays in a feed for 17 minutes on average. Tweeting every 2 hours (assuming you have something to share) is recommended. More before a big event to up your traction. People see more tweets from those they’ve interacted with recently.
  2. Pin a tweet with your intro/link to your latest book
  3. When you have more than 1000 followers, you’ll need to start making twitter lists to keep track of groups.
    • Suggested lists: Close friends, worklist, local emergency feeds, mentors (people you look up to), BookTwitter, Etc
  4. Curate your list. You don’t have to follow people who don’t interest you, who you don’t think will be interested in your product, your book, your blog. Don’t hesitate to block someone who is trolling you or thinks twitter is a dating site.
  5. NOTE: people don’t know if you’ve muted them. So, if you don’t want to hear them, but don’t want to offend them, this might be the way to go.

3 Facebook Tips

  1. Facebook Ads are more effective than boosts — but pick your target demographic carefully.
  2. Personal pages currently have better reach than author pages, even if you reach the friend limit, people can still follow you.
  3. Facebook is actively throttling crossposts – especially to Patreon or WordPress – it might be best to put the link in the first comment.

7 Newsletter Tips

[If you’ve been following, you might know I both hate email AND have an email newsletter. Some of you are reading this FROM your email!]

A mailing list is something that you own. If Facebook shuts down tomorrow, you could still get your content and news to these followers. ListServes, Myspace, even G+ are gone. Internet communities are never guaranteed.

  1. Email can be time-consuming but can be very rewarding
  2. Try not to send news more than once a month or quarter
  3. Email viewers skew to an older demographic
  4. Mailchimp is highly recommended [Note: that’s what I use!]
  5. Make sure you don’t use words like “freebies” in the title or the email system might dub you ‘spam’
  6. If you send too many emails yourself, the email system might dub you ‘spam’
  7. If you send them out yourself, DO use “BCC” (blind carbon copy), so none of the readers can see the other email addresses — or “Reply All” to them.

3 Snapchat Tips

It’s a way to connect, but not necessarily sell to your target audience. In case you are unfamiliar, it’s a chat program that’s mostly used to share pictures with filters and maybe added text. You can chat back and forth with individuals, spend a single snap to a group of people, or share it publicly as a ‘story’. A story will disappear after it’s been watched.

  1. Younger demographic
  2. Can’t schedule
  3. Stories can reach all of your followers

Stats To Watch

When you start doing social media, there are dozens of numbers for every site you’re working on. Analytics Pages – both for Facebook and Twitter, Youtube has one as well.

  1. Demographics – Currently, facebook is the older audience, instagram/snapchat are younger.
  2. Likes/Click Rates – see which types of posts do better and if there is a timing component. Try different things and see what resonates best with your audience.

Social Media Tools

There are tons of tools for social media. Everyone, from solo artists to corporations are using them.

A few hints on using tools.

  • If you’re going to schedule your social media, you should still comment and interact outside of the scheduled posts.
  • Remember to consider time zones and viewing habits for different platforms.
  • Try to sound just as personal and authentic in the scheduled tweets as you would if you where live posting.

Tools to try

  • TweetDeck – It’s a browser tool, not an app, but you can watch multiple feeds at a time, or a feed based on a single hashtag that’s trending. You can also use it to schedule tweets (like during twitter pitch contests) [I use on occasion.]
  • Unfollow tools are handy
    • Many people follow you, then unfollow as soon as you follow back to boost their own “follower-to-unfollowers” ratio. Making themselves look more popular. They’re users who forget you within a week. Feel free to unfriend them.
  • Hootsuite – great for cross-platform scheduling
  • Picmonkey – photo editing
  • Trello – project management tool [I’ve been trying this intermittently. Mostly when I’m juggling several projects.]
  • Slack – Chat website/app that can share files. Good if you’re coordinating a team
  • Falcon.io – Costs money but is very handy for a campaign
  • Canva – lots of free stock pics (and premium paid ones) [I use for my preview pics]
  • Facebook Groups have scheduling, as do Pages — but pages just made it an annoying option to access that’s easier done on the PC than the phone.
  • Old school – a folder with a bunch of pics, or a list of tweets to share later

4 Ways Social Media is Bad For Authors

Now, before we decide if social media is the answer, let’s acknowledge the downsides.

  1. It’s a huge time sink
  2. It’s so active, your feed is rarely still
  3. When you’re not feeling social — it’s draining. For extroverts, you might find yourself not wanting to go out
  4. You’ll find yourself comparing your progress to other writers’ successes. And that can be very discouraging

Should Authors Do Social Media?

If you don’t want to, don’t. The resentment of being forced to do it will bleed through and you won’t come across as genuine.

It can be a useful way to get to know editors and agents in the field. But remember this is a small field, everyone knows everyone, so be careful who you offend.

If you do, “Look after your name, and your name will become your currency.” Your brand IS your name when you’re a writer. Everything you do will reflect on you. Tweets from 10 years ago regularly come up in the news.

Debate if you want to politicize your career. Many people do. Many people avoid it like the plague. Decide if making a political stand is the right choice for you — and the choice you can live with.

If someone upsets you, and you have thousands of followers, be careful what you say. You don’t want to abuse your power and have all of your followers descend upon some small-time person with maybe 20 followers. You won’t come out clean — you’ll look like a bully.

Are you the type of poster/tweeter who shares rants? Or well-researched articles? Or both?

Only you can decide where you spend your time and energy. And what sort of image you choose to share.


Let me know what your favorite social media platform is and what tools you like!

Let me know if there’s anything I missed! Even with two panels, there was only so much we could cover!

YA Futures

YA is big and has been since the late 90s. But the future today doesn’t look like it did even 10 or 20 years ago. What does YA science fiction readers want today?

At the titular panel at WorldCon2019, I had the opportunity to listen to the top professionals in the field discuss what they see coming. On the panel were Charlie Jane Anders, James Smythe, Eric Picholle, Fonda Lee, and Kristina Perez.

3 Things That Don’t Fit In the YA Science Fiction of Today

  1. A sense of inevitable progress
    The golden-age of science-fiction brought us flying cars and space cities. From the Jetsons to Star Trek, optimism for a better world was writ large in our stories.

    These days, we’re making our dreams a little more down to earth.
  2. Angst
    The 90s and 00s taught us that angst and cynicism were ‘grown up’ and ‘mature’. Spoiler: they not. And teenage angst when written by adults, far too often turns into teenage melodrama.
  3. Space
    With the advent of the space race, sf writers assumed our future was out amongst the stars. These days, we’re looking at our own planet and resources.

    Space, right now, is a hard-sell in YA.

10 Things In YA Science-Fiction Today

  1. Social issues
    You don’t have to evaluate them, but they should be in there.

    Related? Teens don’t need as much hand-holding or explanations when dealing with LGBTQ+ themes, versus adult readers.
  2. Near future
    Where we might be in 20 years, not 100 or a 1,000.
  3. Taking the brakes off
    With YA, you can turn emotions up to 11. As a writer, you can delve into your own neuroses and baggage and trauma on the page.
  4. Hope
    The reign of dystopia is changing. The future looks bleak and people are looking for hope.
  5. AI
    Even if we’re not there yet, we’re getting really close to being able to fake true artificial intelligence. I would say some robots are pretty close to dog-level intelligence at this point.

    And then? There’s always “the singularity”, when the first artificial intelligence becomes self-aware.
  6. Genetic Manipulation/Trans-humanism
    The science is there. It’s time to explore the moral and ethical quandaries inherent.
  7. Fun Adventures
    Doing stuff with friends to fix things, save someone or something, or just wild hijinks!
  8. Hackers
    Hackers are more and more becoming the heroes of the story.
  9. Online Friendships
    Friends aren’t always local these days. Plenty of friendships have started or moved online as distance becomes less of a constraint.
  10. Mixed media
    With text conversations and real world descriptions, mixed media storytelling is getting bigger.

Clearly, as we don’t actually have any time-travel machines, these are all guesses and YA trends change faster than any other genre.

Let me know what you think is coming for YA. Did the panelists get it right?


As always, thanks for reading and I’ll be back again soon with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Booktube: The World of YouTube Book Discussions

The booktuber world is right next door to the authortuber world — full of people talking about their to-read lists, the books they’re actually reading, and their own community. As opposed to us authortubers, talking about writing tips, writing progress, and apparently streaming virtual write-ins. Both are full of people passionate about books and wanting to talk about it on youtube.

In the titular panel at WorldCon, Stevie “Sablecaught” Finegan, Claire Rousseau (Books and Quills), Thomas Wagner (SFF180), Linnea Sternefält (RobotMaria133), and Brianne Reeves (BreeReadsBooks) shared with us their experiences being booktubers.

Why Youtube?

Everyone had their own path and reasons that led them to youtube.

For Claire, 5 years ago, her partner started a geeking out/gaming channel. After seeing how it went, and attending a convention, she wanted to get in on it too, but with her own hobbies. Thus, her booktube channel was born.

Linnea started as a blogger. She’d seen the English-language booktubers, but was worried there wasn’t a large enough audience in her native tongue. Then? She found the other european-vloggers and decided to try it anyway.

Bree had graduated from college and was underemployed. So, she got back to her love of books, found the community, and wanted to join the conversation.

Thomas had been doing traditional book reviews on http://www.sfReviews.net since 2001. He’d seen his gamer friends start up game vlogs and wanted to try, so he tried it — without even knowing the community was there! He’s found that reviews are a lot more personal when your face is attached to the words.

Common BookTube Videos

These booktubers wanted to talk about books on youtube, but what sort of videos are out there?

  1. Book Hall
    – A stack of new books that you’ve gotten.
    • Thomas called his a ‘mail bag’, because he didn’t know it was a thing
    • Bree loves watching these, but hates recording them
    • Linnae loves these
  2. TBR
    – Your to-be-read pile. What you’re planning to read in the coming week or month.
    • Claire loves these
  3. Wrap-up
    – Your end of the week/month where you talk about which books you actually got to, and what you thought about them.
    – Some people do a video for each book (like Thomas, with his traditional book review roots)
  4. Book discussions
    – Talking and analysing books. These come in many forms.
    1. Simple analysis
    2. Comparing the book to the movie
    3. Comparing and contrasting different books of a similar theme
  5. Top 5 Wednesday
    – Share your top 5 books in a given theme/genre

Getting Started on Booktube

Don’t be afraid to join in. You don’t need much to get started, and all of the booktubers out there started just like you, wondering why anyone would care what they think about books.

These are people who love reading and just want to connect with other fans. Just like you.

  1. All you need is a smartphone, a youtube account, and the internet
  2. Crappy videos are fine – talk to people and build community.
  3. Try to post on a consistent schedule, at least once a month.
  4. Audio is more important than video, look to upgrade that first.
  5. To upgrade your video, you can do it in phases
    1. Better microphone (like a Blue Snowball mic + pop filter)
    2. Better camera (like a logitech USB webcam)
    3. Better lighting (like umbrella lights)
    4. Video Editing (like VegasPro)
  6. Monetization.
    1. If you get big enough (4,000 view hours + 1,000 subscribers), youtube will let you monetize.
    2. Patreon may be a better way to get money, but you have to have something to offer people at the different tiers that people are interested in. And that often means bonus material.
      NOTE: Most monetized channels can pay for a coffee. Or, in a good month, start to recoup the money they spent on equipment.
      WARNING: In some countries, it is illegal to accept donations/ patronage without giving them something physical in return.

Joining the BookTube Community

Most of these tips are going to sound familiar if you’ve seen any of my other posts on joining other online communities.

  1. Subscribe to other booktubers!
  2. Comment on other booktubers!
    • Comment on what they’re discussing, be on topic! You might think a compliment like, “you’re pretty” is something everyone wants to hear. Instead? The booktuber is probably thinking you didn’t care about what they were discussing.
    • NOTE: If your comment is non-specific, just long enough that your name links back to your own channel, they can tell you’re just trying to use them to find followers. It’s rude and won’t win you any friends.
  3. Watch to the end! Many booktubers have bonus material there. Like booktube challenges, or requests for you to share your own links below (either for your channel or similar themed videos).
  4. As always, don’t be disappointed at slow traction. It takes a while to become an “overnight” success.

Booktubers to watch!

If booktube sounds up your alley or you’re already a fan, here are some people the panelists suggested to check out.

And, of course, they didn’t do it themselves, but I’m happy to plug them, our panelists:


Had you run into Booktube before?

Are you a booktuber yourself? Tell us how you got into it and share your link below!

As always, thanks for tuning in, and I’ll be back again next week with more panel notes. And maybe some ramblings on PitchWars, because it’s that time of year again.

Done To Death: The Art of Killing Characters

When you’re reading a story and a character dies, you can tell if it’s just the writer trying to manipulate your emotions or if it’s good storytelling.

In the titular panel at Worldcon77, Patrick Rothfuss, Veronica Roth, Su J Sokel, Amy Ogden, and Daryl Gregory did their best to make sure we know that every death should count.

Before we got started, the panelists listed their credentials…

How many characters have you killed?

  • Su killed 3 in one novel.
  • Veronica, in her Divergent series, asked if we counted “outside of catastrophic events?”
  • Amy killed all of humanity. Twice.
  • Patrick has killed 5 characters.
  • Daryl says his only die offstage.

How To Use Death and What Deaths Are Overdone

Fridging Characters

There are tropes that keep popping up, and one of the most trite ones in fiction is using the horrific death of a 2-dimensional female character to motivate the (usually male) main character.

From TVTropes: “The name of the trope comes from a storyline in Green Lantern, in which the villain Major Force leaves the corpse of Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, literally stuffed into a refrigerator for him to find.

We’re not saying horrific deaths are bad (in fiction. Please don’t kill people.) We’re just saying they need to matter beyond character motivation.

Parents

Many stories start off with the parents being killed. Even books for those who aren’t old enough for school. And this is traumatic for small kids. We want to teach empathy. We want them to understand death. This is a bad way to do it.

Daryl’s daughter would always go ask him for a snack during the Lion King stampede and get back just as Simba was running away.

Patrick’s sons loved the 3 Little Pigs and the wolf destroying the houses. But they wanted him to tell it without gobbling the pigs all up.

As Amy said, “as a mom, I’m tired of seeing myself die. As a queer person, I’m tired of seeing myself die.”

Queer Characters and Characters of Color

Either as bad guys or as expendable characters, queer characters or characters of color are often the first to die.

Children

Killing children, just to demonstrate that the villain is a bad guy.

Patrick declared, “if that’s all you can do, you’re a bad writer. I stand by this.”

Other

Veronica, in retrospect, admits that there is a bullshit death in her second book. She could have handled that differently. There are plenty of horrible ways to LIVE!

The list could go on. Do we want to show readers the gritty truth, or a better world?

How Do You Make a Death Not Bullshit?

  1. Give fullness to the dead character’s story arc
  2. Try to only kill well rounded main or secondary characters, but think first if there is another way to progress the plot.
  3. Listen to the character – they should tell you if their death is bullshit.
  4. Feel free to have foreshadowing — best done when it’s only obvious in retrospect.
  5. Context matters — who is being killed by whom?
  6. If you do kill characters — parents, children, lovers, make it matter. Make the reader cry and miss them forever.
  7. Showing life after trauma is important.

The Power Of Writing

At this point, the panel started to meander, but we followed along for the ride.

Patrick shared a story. After the Frog Princess, 70 kids were hospitalized from salmonella (from licking frogs). Now, he worries a lot about the consequences of what he writes.

Veronica asked, “then how do you write?”

Patrick — the man whose audience is still waiting, 8 years later, for book 3 of his series — replied, “I’m the wrong person to ask.”

Where You Are Emotionally Affects Your Writing

For almost all of us, what we’re worried about and what we’re struggling with tries to come through in our writing.

There are two approaches.

  1. You can try to leave it at the door.
    • Personal essays, blogs, etc on whatever is bothering you can be a cathartic way to get it out, so you can focus on the story you want to tell.
  2. You can use your writing to work through it
    • So many writers end up doing this. Even if they don’t know that they are.
      • Veronica’s first series was literally about exposure therapy. Later, she went on to be prescribed it!
      • Patrick was thanked for his handling of PTSD in his writing. 10 years later, he realized where it came from. Now he’s in therapy.
      • Amy notes that as a mom, she’s leaving a worse world for her child than she was given. Everything she writes is about climate change.
    • NOTE: Mission-oriented novels come across like after-school specials. It’s okay to work through things, but forcing the theme doesn’t come across as genuine.

[Audience Question] How Do You Handle Villainous Deaths

Everything should be complex — the desire to simplify makes it less real. Just remember, death is a change and it’s the final one. [source?]

Disney took the violence out. Took the blame out. The hero still wins, the bad guy still dies. But, the hero isn’t the hand by which the villain dies. And that might be wrong. There should be consequence.l

[Audience Question] Which Death Would You Undo?

Veronica said, “Lynn.”

Amy’s answer? “Humanity deserved it.”


What stories have you read where death was handled wrong? Which ones have done it well?

If you write, how many characters have YOU killed?

The Future of Podcasting

Podcasting has had its ups and downs since it first started. The market is big, but there’s a lot of small fish out there and it’s hard to get noticed.

At the titular panel at Balticon53, Mark Redfield, Mike Luoma, Philippa Ballantine, Christiana Ellis, and Fred. G. Yost discussed where podcasting has been and what they hope and fear we’ll see in the future.

What Is Podcasting and Where Did It Come From?

Podcasting, for those who are unfamiliar, is the practice of using the Internet to make digital recordings of broadcasts available for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Traditionally, these were audio-only, but some are on Youtube.

Caveat: I have a vested interest in this topic. The Anansi Storytime and other Legendsmith Productions I help voice are podcasts.

Technically, you could argue that my vlog is a podcast — especially since I’ve been considering downloading the mp3s and setting them up on a server…

Many podcasts grew out of the audio-dramas from radio of yesterday – and these really capitalize on the strengths of the format. Some grew out of blogs. Some grew out of traditional radio talk shows.

Podcasting gone through several phases:

  1. A ‘nerd’ thing
  2. OMG! Podcasts are everywhere!
  3. Yeah, podcasts. *shrug* They’re normal. Like TV.

Podcasting is more democratized than traditional media, but there is the fear that as it gets bigger, it will become more corporatized, regulated, and controlled. Like the internet.

Where Is Podcasting Going?

To the best of my knowledge, none of the panelists were time travelers or gifted with foresight, so all of these are clearly educated guesses, wishful thinking, and/or fears.

  1. There’s a lot of fan content – some image that will only grow
  2. There’s a feel that the podcaster ‘clubhouse’ was invaded by infomercials – but the money’s not there, so this may be temporary.
  3. Niche marketing (with big bucks) from corporations however, is a bigger concern and is competing with home-grown content.
  4. Corporations and old media are just porting stuff wholesale — this doesn’t always work. But they’re risk averse.
  5. Patreon is already helping support podcasters (or at least pay for a little bit of the equipment) — subscriber Podcasts are coming to other medias. Some are now on Luminary.
  6. It’s getting mainstream!
  7. The fear? A lot of the popularity is driven by obnoxious commutes. As self-driving cars become a reality while more and more companies have work-from-home policies, the audience might shrink.

Tips For Podcasters

  1. You need consistency
    • Publish regularly
    • Pick a tone/voice
  2. Don’t be generic — you’ve got to show your passion
  3. Don’t chase trends — grow your community
  4. Professionals having fun does better than a clean, polished lecture. (Where do I fit on that spectrum, peeps?)
  5. Don’t tie all of your media to one service
    • The host might change the rules and flush your content (Tumblr)
    • The host might decide you’ve violated copyright/decency/etc and delete your content.
  6. If you record a long segment, don’t be afraid to break it into sections! A part 1 and 2 can be good for driving more listeners to the earlier content they might have missed

Do you listen to podcasts? What sort of podcasts do you like?

What do you see for the future of podcasting? Did the panelists get this one right?