Tag Archives: Writers

Spoken Word at Enigma – 9/26/14

Come see me at Enigma Bookstore in Astoria, NY on Friday, September 26! It’s one of their last in-store events, so it’s a bittersweet occasion, but I couldn’t be happier to be reading in their beautiful space. Readings start at 8pm, and it looks like I’ll be in some pretty great company. Don’t miss it! EnigmaReading

 

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#CommunityBuilding: Twitter for Writers

Over the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with a number of writers. Some have books out already, some are shopping manuscripts around, some are polishing up their latest drafts – but a lot of them are wondering about marketing and social media. My advice? Don’t market. Now, I’m a marketer by trade, so that might sound strange, but work with me.

Photo credit: Flickr user Tashmahal

Photo credit: Flickr user Tashmahal

For the most part, writers are fabulous communicators. That’s kind of our schtick. Even better, writers usually enjoy communicating. So let’s call a spade a spade: Marketing is communication. It’s that simple. That’s all there is to it. That said, you do need to navigate your options and make sure that you’re communicating with the right people, in the right space, in a way that’s beneficial. My personal favorite, for many reasons, is Twitter.

Am I talking about that weird site where teenagers and college kids gather to commit their hashtaggery and their @mentioning? Yup. The forum in which Justin Beiber’s fans discuss how much they #belieb in him and where Lady Gaga posts dress-up photos of her tiny dog? Ding ding ding! Truth is, in 140 characters, you can make connections in one of the most organic ways the internet has to offer, and there is so much more to Twitter than teeny boppers and celebrities (although they’re welcome, too…let’s not be alienating). The site’s literary community, ranging from writers to reviewers to agents and more, is particularly strong. Hashtags like #FridayReads and #AmWriting are commonplace, and the overall atmosphere is incredibly supportive for writers of all experience levels. Tweeting is an ideal way to introduce yourself to fellow craftspeople and potential readers, and to have genuine interactions with the literary community.

That said, don’t blow your opportunities here. Nobody likes a sales pitch at a cocktail party, and no one wants you filling their social media feeds with links to your Amazon page. If you’re a writer who doesn’t have Twitter and you haven’t published yet, GOOD. Make a profile now, and start building relationships in the community before your book is released. You can make real friendships through the digital network, and connect with real people. And you want those people to know who you are, to be familiar with your voice, when it comes time to announce your publication date. They’re the ones who will be buying, reading, reviewing, and telling their friends about your work. You need them, but more importantly, you need the support – and that has nothing to do with sales.

Writing is a notoriously lonely endeavor, haunted by individuals who feel chronically misunderstood. Twitter not only makes it possible to connect with all sorts of different people – people who are like you and people different from you, people who understand you and challenge you and inspire – it makes it easy. There’s none of the will-they-think-I’m-a-weirdo-if-I-friend-them social anxiety associated with the more personal format of Facebook. There’s no pressure to produce longform works on a regular basis, as I do so infrequently while blogging. Just “follow” people (which sounds creepy out of context, but is a completely legitimate Twitter term), whether you know them or not, and say hello. No big deal, no awkwardness. It’s a public forum, and your presence is not an intrusion. You can see what other cool people are up to, or support them by sharing their messages and responding to their quips. Twitter is what you make of it, so get involved in a way that makes sense to you. Have fun. Be yourself. Hashtag with abandon. Slowly but surely, you’ll reap the benefits of being an active member in a community with a shared interest in the written word. And maybe you can check out those pictures of Gaga’s dog while you’re at it.



Find me on Twitter, tweeps! @daniwriteswords

There are tons of other social media/marketing options out there for writers. Other than Twitter, what works for you? What do you want to learn more about? Maybe this can become a series of posts about different venues. Who knows! Have at it in the comments, my lovelies!

 

Self-Publishing: A Quandary

I used to have a firm, unshakeable opinion on self-publishing. “Don’t do it,” I would say, when writer friends asked my opinion on the matter. It seems like every Joe(sephine) Shmoe and his/her mother is self-pubbing lately, leading to a flood of “OMG MY NEW BK IS OUT BUY NOW ON AMAZON ONLY $2.99 THIS WK!”-esque nonsense overtaking my Twitter feed. I still hate that, for the record–but it’s an issue that extends to writers with traditional publishers, as well as the self-pubbers…and that’s a marketing conversation for another day.

via Flickr user Rach (Rachel Sian) @ http://flic.kr/p/qe8Vd

via Flickr user Rach (Rachel Sian) @ http://flic.kr/p/qe8Vd

The main problem with self-publishing was, and continues to be, a lack of curation in the process. Without the traditional pipeline of agents and editors, a ton of sub-par and unintelligible writing makes its way to the public eye. The success of platforms like Amazon’s CreateSpace has eliminated the hierarchy of the publishing world. While browsing the internet for a new read (And let’s face it, that’s where people are looking nowadays. Not that I don’t love and prefer local indie bookstores, but this is a truth-telling space), there’s no pre-purchase guarantee that a self-published book has been read and vetted by someone with a trustworthy opinion about literature. There may be grammatical errors, distracting structures, incomplete characterizations–but here’s the big takeaway, my friends: traditionally published books have those, too. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most publishers are professionals who work with authors, editors, production gurus, and proofreaders to ensure an end product that at the very least reflects the cleanest version of its content. There are, however, also a huge number of writers without publishers who work to achieve the same effect. That’s the realization that lead to my change of heart. Today’s publishing industry is a corporate feudal system, where the majority of writers serve as peasant farmers and payday reigns supreme. The focus has shifted from harvesting and distributing quality books–beloved by editors, publishers, and readers alike–to bulk production of whatever the masses are willing to ingest at any given moment. The great acquisition question is no longer, “Is the work good?” Now, from the bottom of the slush pile all the way to the tippy top bookshelf, the literary powers-that-be are asking themselves, “Will it sell?”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s even marginally interested in reading. And in a way, we have the fluffy-melodramatic-romances-that-shall-not-be-named to thank for keeping money rolling in for the book people. Still, the fact remains that publishing houses put out crap sometimes. And agents and editors pass up fantastic, heartfelt, well-written manuscripts all the time–usually out of necessity more than greed or ignorance. It’s the nature of the game, and for the time being, it’s simply a survival tactic for the industry. You can only fit so many people in the lifeboats; women and children get dibs.

The result is a slew of ultra-talented writers who are unable to find homes for their work within the typical channels. As the stigma of self-publishing weakens, and the appeal of greater profit shares grows, more and more of these bards are taking matters into their own hands. So why not read them? In another time and place, these are the books that would have been picked up by the Random Houses and Simon & Schusters of the world. The authors are serious writers, many of whom work with private editors and book doctors, writing groups, teachers, and literary-minded friends to polish their prose until it reaches a standard that readers expect. They know their craft, and they’re not messing around. Great writers can click the “publish” button just as easily as terrible writers.

The current state of the literary world is such that, no matter where you shop for books or how those books are being published, some effort is required from the reader in order to weed out the undesirables. If you want mindless bubblegum pop literature, that’s certainly not hard to find; feel free to ignore anything with a thought-provoking synopsis. If you want something meaty and layered, with complex characters and an engrossing plot–those are out there, too. In any genre, any sub-genre, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or that weird dusty shelf in the corner where the books defy categorization, there is something to satisfy everyone. I promise you can find whatever it is that you’re looking for. It just might not be where you expected.

So here’s my final proposition: read the books that interest you. If you love them, recommend them to friends. Write Amazon reviews. Tweet about them. Do whatever it is that you do when you come across a piece of literature that you enjoy. Don’t give a damn about how that literature made its way from the author’s computer to your eyeballs. Just be grateful it found its way.

And if you’re a writer? Choose the path that makes sense for your work. Do what works for you, and try to do it as well as you possibly can.

What are your favorite self-published books?
Send me your recommendations in the comments!

Ain’t no party like a hungry writer party!

I was thrilled to attend fellow Wilkes alum Laurie Loewenstein’s book launch tonight at Bluestockings on the Lower East Side. Laurie’s novel, Unmentionables, is the first publication from Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of supercool indie press Akashic Books (you might know them from the uber-successful children’s book parody Go the F@$! to Sleep!).

It was a great event, with standing room only as Laurie read selections from her work. And any night that ends with chocolate mousse cake and fun with writer friends is a good time in my book (no pun intended).

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A reunion of fellow Wilkies! We stumbled onto this gem of a diner after the reading. Many thanks to Jose at Sugar Cafe (visit them on Allen Street on the LES!) for humoring us, taking our photo, and not blinking an eye when all I ordered was a slice of chocolate mousse cake.

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That chocolate mousse cake I was talking about? Yeah, it was incredible.

“It’s the space station,” or…On AWP and Why Writers Geek Out Over It

I just returned yesterday from Boston, where the annual writer geek-out (also known as AWP, also known as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference) was held. It was my first time attending, so I’m sure I was even more wide-eyed and full of wonder than usual than most of my counterparts. Still, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that these few days in Beantown were impactful for me, important in some way much greater than my singular experience.

AWP swag…I will always be excited about a good tote!

Of course, this AWP was marked by an enormous pile of snow that insisted on blowing through the northeast last week, thereby trapping masses of writers within the confines of our hotels and the tunnels connecting them to the Hynes Convention Center (I literally did not breathe outdoor air for three days…) My hotel roomie, the inimitable Kait Burrier, described the other-worldly nature of this situation best, I think, when she said “It’s the space station!” She was referring to Prudential Center architecture at the time, but I find that the metaphor holds up for all other aspects of the conference, too.

Because writers are weird. We’re weird, and we know we’re weird. We couldn’t possibly deny it. Most of us go about our daily lives feeling the weight of our own oddity, noticing the awkward pauses as our conversations with non-writers shift away from whatever point we were trying to make and onto something more ordinary. Sure, we can get some solace from general book talk (“Hey, did you read A Visit from the Goon Squad? It’s awesome, right? Yeah, those characters are really something.” And this is surely a lovely discussion…Goon Squad is incredible, after all, and you tell your non-writer pals so), but there’s something about the life talk, the unnameable chemistry that occurs when speaking with someone who “gets” you, that simply isn’t there. Our friends and family love us, enjoy us, appreciate us–to some extent, they may even understand us–but, for the majority of writers, it is only the rarest of interactions that makes us stop and think, Yeah, they really get it.

Imagine, then, a place in which 12,000 such people have congregated, all aching for conversation, literature, and frivolity. All feeling buoyed by the presence of each other’s oddities–embracing them, reveling in them. Together.

In short, it’s amazing. I mean, mindblowingly and heartwrenchingly amazing. Indeed, what masks itself as a conference is really a return to the writers’ proverbial home planet. A trip to our own bizarre space station.

So forgive us, please, for the onslaught of post-AWP lovefest blog posts, tweets, and Facebook statuses. Take it easy on us when you ask how our time away from home or the office has been, and we are only capable of responding with a glazed look, a breathy adjective, and perhaps some small, insufficient anecdote. We do realize how annoying we are. It’s just that…this was really something special. Like, really incredible. We’re going to need a few days to come back down to Earth.

Let’s Talk About Blogs

Blogging, by its very nature, is an odd and uncertain thing.  First off, let’s be honest for a minute and admit that we all forgot where the word “blog” even came from until we Googled it and landed in Wikipedia-land.  It has been integrated into our modern language, as well accepted in everyday use as “Kindle,” “app,” “DVR,” or “bootylicious.”

Why, then, is the best available definition something along the lines of:  “Well, you know, it’s like a website where you, like, write stuff.” What does one write about on such a website?  (“Oh, I dunno…like, whatever you want.”) There are blogs on politics, celebrities, food, travel, art, books, shopping, crafting, coupons, careers, parenting, fashion, music, religion, technology, golf–You name it, someone has taken to the internet to yammer about it in their own personalized public forum. With these many voices already covering nearly every topic imaginable, do I really need to add to the cacophony with my own off-key musings? I mean…really?

Of course I do.

I’m a writer, for God’s sake.  Have you ever hung out with a writer?  We never shut up, as long as there’s a keyboard around.  So here’s the deal:  I’m going to write some words; you’re going to read them. Everyone else will get over it.