Online Presence: Now Is Too-Late Thirty

November 22, 2013

late clockI hate being late. I think it’s a leftover from my childhood when Mom kept insisting I had plenty of time before school. The clocks were wrong, and I was late for school one morning, which nearly made my intestines invert because my first grade teacher was a beast who loved to scream. It didn’t stop there. My brothers were slaggers when it came time for going to church, so I’d always arrive late to Sunday school. There I was, tromping through the door, all eyes scooped up and staried at me as the teacher brought out paper and crayons so I could catch up and draw my own version of Baby Jesus – which always looked more like Elvis riding bareback on a camel.

Every Sunday, as Dad broke all the laws of physics by getting us to church in 5.5 seconds on what in the real world would take 15 minutes, I would sit back in the car plotting my brothers’ painful demise while thinking, “Here we go again, it’s Too-Late Thirty.”

So I’ll readily admit that I have some issues with being late, which means that I recognize it as easily as the Rescue Beagles recognize a fresh margarita at 50 paces.

I see Too-Late Thirty in a lot of query letters and book proposals when they discuss promotion plans, and it sends chills up my spine – and not in a good way. It usually starts like this:

“Once my book is published, I’ll start a blog/Twitter/Facebook page to promote my book.”

No, no, no, no, a gabajillion times no. It’s too late. The prevailing thought is, “If I put up a FB page, Tweet, blog, they will come.” No. They. Won’t. You have to work your Times New Roman off to attract a readership, and it takes a lot of time. The time to be thinking about your online presence as a promotional tool is before your book even sells to a publisher. Preferably while you’re still writing your book. Yah, it takes that long.

And let’s face it, the internet is a huge behemoth that contains gynormous amounts of information, so not only do you need to establish your online presence in plenty of time, but you have to figure out “Who Am I?”

Intent/Message/Tone

You wrote your book with a particular intent, and your online presence is no different. The most popular blogs have a message/tone/intent. They’re consistent in the kind of content they put out.

Humor: Humor is always a great way to capture an audience. Don’t be afraid to use it. The more you make people chuckle over their morning cuppa, the more they’ll look forward to reading your posts. And when your book does come out, your readers will rush to support you. Cha-ching!

Don’t Clash: When I was 10, Mom told me I couldn’t wear my plaid skirt with a polka dot blouse because they didn’t go together. I thought she was daft. As I’ve grown up (ostensibly), Mom can still run circles around me when it comes to knowing fashion. It’s the same with your blog/FB/Tweets. If your writing style of your book is vastly different to your blog/Tweets/FB page, then you’re creating a disconnect. Of course, I’m talking in generalities.

Boring: An author I met awhile back has a brilliant book – it hits all the emotional highs with a delicious balance of humor and throat-grabby “holy crap” moments. His blog is about the most boring thing I’ve ever seen because all he ever does is talk about statistics and quoting other articles. Predictably, his blog has icicles on its little nose because he’s regurgitating boring stuff. He’s not sharing his own amazing story. I told him if he talked about his personal experiences, he’d have something to work with. Equally predictably, his sales are quite low.

Self-effacing: Is there anything more attractive than someone who’s not afraid to poke fun at their sillier moments? Let’s face it, we all have them, right? What you’re accomplishing by being self-effacing is that you’re showing your human side and allowing your readers to say, “Oh yeah, totally been there, done that.”

Create a Community Feel

There’s nothing more attractive than blogs that say, “Hey, you’re not alone.” Regardless of the tone/theme – be it writing woes, dependence, health issues, slogging through school, or romance – there are a lot of other people who’ve traveled the same road. Include your readers and ask them to share their experiences. For instance, there’s a great Facebook page called “I Love Beagles,” and it’s wildly popular because beagle lovers (not known for being particularly normal) love sharing their stories about this insane breed.

What elements of your book can create a community feel? The idea is to present material that has your readers itching to leave a comment. This means they’re engaged. Engaged = good.

Branching Out/Capturing Attention

Now that you’ve figured out how you want to project your online presence, you’re wondering how to get readers. Easiest way is to google other blogs that compare to yours. Get active on those blogs by giving thoughtful comments. People will link on your name and see your blog – and will mosey on over to see what you have to say. Now you see why this all takes time.

Also, be sure to use tags and do the rss feed thingy. When people google, your blog may show up.

The long and short of this is, if you’re going to go to the trouble of establishing an online presence (and I think it’s a good idea), then it makes sense to do it right, and do it early. Too-Late Thirty puts you constantly behind, and you’re forever playing catch-up…and your book won’t wait. In short, have fun with your online presence. Be you.


Footprints in the sand – Online presence

May 3, 2010

It’s a fact that for better or worse, we all create an online presence that leaves its little footprints all over the internet. So anyone can google our name and check out our latest attempts to sober up a small beagle or commenting on the latest in bellybutton ring fashion.

Laying the foundation – perception

If you dangle your modifier, you can be sure that someone will see it. The  concern is how you will be perceived by those little footprints – especially if you’re trying to impress someone, like an agent, or editor, or those within the literary community.

So to carry that thought a wee bit further, do you think your latest foray into blasting someone a new orifice on a public board will be met with concern and derision if you’re trying to become a formidable presence that commands respect?

Are you given to public temper tantrums and carrying out public vendettas? I’ve been knocking around writers sites for many years and have seen more than my fair share of unhinged posts that made me wince and think, “ooo, that’s going to bite them on the bum at some point.”

And it always does.

I google potential authors because I want to know who I’m dealing with in order to avoid potential trouble downstream. Maybe a manuscript looks really great and the author’s platform is fabo. But if I see where the author yelled at an interviewer [happened, pinky swear], or behaved horribly in some other public forum, then I’m going to run in the opposite direction because if they’ve done it once or thrice, chances are they’ll do it again. On my dime. Who needs the aggravation? I’m in this game to sell books, not play referee.

So the end result is that I’ll keep on walking.

It goes both ways

But this whole footprint/online presence is a two-way street. Has the agent or editor you’re thinking of querying behaved in an unprofessional manner? If so, you have to consider whether they’re a loose cannon. Editing can be interesting enough without having an editor whose verbs don’t completely conjugate, or an agent who takes a private problem to a public forum, or screams at an editor.

You need to consider very carefully about working with anyone who wages public wars over what should be a private matter. I’ve seen too many instances where the self-induced feeding frenzy causes pain and suspicion for those who become embroiled in those wars. The fallout is a destroyed reputation.

If that happens to be your agent or editor, then you have to ask yourself whether it’ll affect your career. I have agents who are on my ignore list because of their behavior. And I’m far from the only one who does this. You have to hope that isn’t your agent.

I’ve seen pints of blood spilled when new publishers are asked very simple, basic publishing questions and rather than answer the questions – because, gee, that’s what authors do – they go on the defensive and start name-calling. Ouch. I’ve seen cases where people felt their reputation was being questioned, and they fired back with heavy weaponry, taking no prisoners.

This kind of behavior accomplishes two things; inciting a feeding frenzy and making that person look like a bitter fool with lousy people skills.

Delivery system

I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty cases where real problems arise and need to be dealt with immediately, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain a professional decorum. Ours is a business based on reputation and results. The most powerful words are, “whee doggies, we gotta get us another print run!” – which has zip to do with this post – and “Hey, what have you heard?”

Beyond “what have you heard?” is what have you seen on the internet? What kind of footprints has that agent/editor/author left? No one can afford to tarnish their reputation because where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and it must be put out immediately. And that’s where your delivery system comes into play. How you handle yourself under tough times is what makes you graceful and classy.

If someone has said something about you on a blog or a writer’s board that you feel damages your reputation, then you need to deal with the situation posthaste by remaining calm and polite. If you come out with your Uzis on full auto and colorful metaphors blazing your trail, guess what the result will be? You’ll be laughed at, derided, and ignored. Those who are in a position to fix things could be petty and small, and decide that it’s more fun to dig in their heels and deny you your day in court. Believe me, not everyone behaves like the lovely, classy Victoria Strauss.

So what have  you accomplished? Your ultimate goal is to fix a problem, so you need to review your delivery system. It’s very hard to turn one’s back on someone who has approached you in a polite manner, as in, “Say, old chap, I see that you have listed my company incorrectly. Can we talk about this and fix it? Do you have any questions for me? How can I help?”

Hello! Who’s going to say “bugger off” with that approach. Even my old battle axe of an English prof in college wilted under that kind of approach. She was a horrible little woman who smelled like mothballs and graded papers in a manner that confounded us. I could have very easily incited a minor uprising among my fellow students just to exact my pound of flesh out of her after she gave me, and most of the class, a bogus grade. But what would I gain  by taking my fight to a public arena? More than likely, Ms. Battle Axe would have happily failed me and enjoyed every second of writing an F next to my name. Instead, I took her for coffee and simply talked to her about my confusion over her grading and my desire to excel in her class. In the end, the old bat gave me an A.

So yes, definitely protect yourself and reputation. But keep it private. Keep it polite. Keep it calm.

Anonymity is fleeting

How many of us have seen blogs that were supposedly anonymous? Oh yah, baby, we can say anything with impunity because no one knows who we are. We can sandbag agents or editors and call them vile names [hello Rejection Queen] and not worry about walking down the street and expecting a flying tomato aimed at our heads.

Read my lips: anonymity is fleeting. Someone always knows who you are and if you get too out of hand, they will be all too happy to out you. Then what? Your writing career is o-ver. Some people take absolute delight in hunting down and exposing anonymous posters who exhibit all the class of a drunk wildebeest. Make sure you’re not one of them.

In this day and age where everything we say and do is held up for public scrutiny, it behooves all of us to make sure the footprints we leave mirror the reputation we’d like to have. If you treat people with respect – even if you’re grinding your teeth down to a nub – it’ll come back to you ten-fold.

But if you’re an ass, that won’t be missed by many either. Pinky swear.


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