Hey, the real world is full of bad news today! Need to escape? Come join me and a bunch of other authors to chat about writing. 1pm EST and 8pm EST. The handle is #SFFChat. See you there!
Okay, okay – everybody is talking about politics lately. Kinda hard not to, right? The world is freaking out, opinions are being expressed, people are upset, and so on and so forth. So what’s a writer (or any artist in general) supposed to do, here?
On the one hand, I have the advice of Kevin J Anderson, who told me and the other guests at the Writers of the Future workshop a few years back that political discussions by an author were unwise. “There is no sense,” he said, “to alienate half your audience.” He suggested we stay out of it. Do our talking through our writing, essentially.
On the other hand, we have a cadre of very politically vocal authors such as John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Kameron Hurley, and others besides. Notably, I recall a tweet from Ann Leckie who said, essentially, that politics is present in our lives and in our writing, no matter what we think of it. To ask that an author alienate politics from their public discourse is to ask that the author alienate a significant part of themselves. What are the odds that if you don’t like my politics, you are going to like my writing, anyway?
In balancing these points of view, one has to admit that Anderson has a point: why alienate potential readers if you don’t have to? Of course, it is notable that Scalzi, Wendig, and the like are hardly suffering as a result of their political opinions. One might argue that for every person who puts a book down thanks to politics, another picks it up for the same reason.
It’s Leckie’s view that sticks with me, though. How do you even avoid politics in writing or in social media? The avoidance thereof is, itself, a political statement. Your writing is going to espouse political viewpoints, no matter how apolitical you seek to be. Politics is important. You ought to have opinions about it. Lack of opinions about it signifies privilege, which is a side-effect (or even a goal) of particular political views. So, okay, sure – you can tiptoe around this stuff for years on end and act like you have no opinions, but you do. We know you do, you know you do, and we can even find your opinions in your writing no matter what you think. So why not just be honest? Speak your mind. Will it piss people off? Sure. But they probably weren’t going to like you anyway.
Now, for my own part, I have tried to keep overt political statements off this blog. I haven’t always been successful (I’ve had one or two people ragequit over some idle quip here or there), but I think I’ve made this a fairly “safe” environment for fans of my work to read what I have to say on the subject of scifi, fantasy, writing, and other geeky endeavors. But on Twitter, I just speak my mind. Because if you’re following me on Twitter, that implies you want to know me, not just read my feed for book ads. Now, back before the political world went batshit insane, my Twitter feed was a pretty dull, sedate place. These days not so much. You don’t want to know my political opinions? Don’t follow me.
Of course, if you wind up reading my books or stories, you’re going to get my political opinions anyway. You just might not realize it, I guess. In thinking about this post, I debated whether or not to discuss or reveal what I feel the true, underlying meaning of some of my work is in a political context, but I eventually decided against it – Foucault’s author function and all that. I will point out, though, that everything in scifi and fantasy has contemporary political meaning, whether you like it or not. There’s the obvious ones, sure – Star Trek, Star Wars, and the like. But then there’s others, too. Game of Thrones is about us and our political systems, not the middle ages. The Walking Dead, likewise, is a story about our own political terrors. The Martian? Political, though indirectly so – a love letter to government workers and federal systems, to international cooperation and technological advance through capitalist means. The Expanse? Obviously. Colony? Hell yes. Even American Horror Story is rooted in political discourse. You can disagree, but it’s all there. Even the MCU can’t escape. Books, comics, movies, video games – they are caught up in it.
This is because politics is the stuff of life, like it or not. We authors (and artists) are engaged in the study and exploration of life and, therefore, we are inevitably drawn to discuss politics. So, yeah, I guess I could be all coy about it and resolve never to speak a political word in public, but then I’d be wearing a mask over my true self. I’ve never been much good at that; neither have a lot of good authors. Will it hurt my career to be so open on Twitter? That remains to be seen, I suppose. I just can’t fully imagine being any other way, though.
This, ironically, would probably make me a poor politician.
This Friday (10/7/16) from 12pm-2pm EST, I will be taking over the Twitter feed of local bookstore, On the Dot Books. Thus will my dominance of all local bookchains be assured, as they will quake in terror of my wrath ever after.
By which I mean I hope to have a lovely conversation with all of you wonderful people out there on Twitter regarding my books (read The Saga of the Redeemed!), writing, scifi/fantasy, and whatever you like. Ask questions, trade pithy jabs, and even be exposed to my vast store of stock photography and memes. It should hopefully be a lot of fun and serve to promote not only myself but also a great independent bookstore here in Boston.
So, this Friday, stop by during your lunch-break to pick my brain on Twitter at @onthedotbooks – great fun will be had!
The President’s Vampire
An Affair with Mr. Danger
The Time Woman
Deadly Street Damage: The Tough Man Files
The Legend of Various Elves
Learn to Do the Thing Quickly and for Free
The Secret of Stalin’s Moustache
This Place I Went on a Service Trip: Stuff I Did There
Nazis in the Panic Room
Dangerous Red Sunrise
The Iron Magic Sword Prophesy
Really Wet Rain
The Barbarian and the Bimbo
The Book of Satan’s Nephew
Gods and Werewolves
Curse of the Magic Pharaoh
The Boy with Multiple Talents
American Hero: The Story of an American Hero
The Collected Wisdom of Some Random Guy
Aliens and their Mailing Addresses
Why I Don’t Understand the Pyramids and How That is Upsetting
POLITICS AND OPINIONS IN EXCLUSIVELY CAPITAL LETTERS
The Sinister Paradox
Underground Crime Master 4
The Lotus Poison: An Erotic Fairytale
The History of the Civil War and Other Stuff You’re Wrong About Because I Said So
How To Make $$ on Twitter! (now available in print for $4)
Robot Love Erotica: Of Plugs and Sockets
A Vaguely Familiar Dystopia
Ever been on Twitter? I have. I bring from it a piece of somewhat depressing news:
Every single human being on Earth is trying to sell a book.
Yes. All of them.
And they want you to know about it. Yes, all of them. They tell you all the time: buy my book! Buy my book! I wrote a book, do you want to buy it? Observe this banner – it has my picture and is asking you to buy my book! Will you buy it? Have you bought it yet?
What about now? Have you bought it now? It’s been five minutes since the last time I asked you – plenty of time to buy the book. Did I mention it’s on Amazon? B&N? iTunes? Kobo? No? It is. All of them. Other places, too. I’ve been sticking them on seats at my local McDonalds. Want my business card? It *also* tells you to buy my book.
HEY! Look at the sidebar of this here blog! See those book covers? You can CLICK ON THEM! They will take you a place where you can buy my book, which is something everybody should do. Preferably now.
Hey, Habershaw – Lay Off! How Else Can You Do It?
See, that’s just it – I have no idea. I, also, have books to sell. I’m trying to sell them. However, joining the shout-out party over on Twitter doesn’t seem to get me much of anywhere. Or maybe it does. It’s hard to tell, honestly. I’m just one more voice in the roaring crowd of authors, all pushing the same product to, it seems, an audience made up of largely other authors pushing their own books. Facebook? That’s just a giant collection of friends of mine – marketing there doesn’t get me much further than my home town, family, and old coworkers.
It’s a daunting prospect, really. How can you tell the difference between a good book and a bad one, anyway? Who even has time to read even a tenth of the books that people are writing? Nobody, that’s who. I have trouble keeping up with the books my friends are writing, let alone everybody else’s.
So, I plug along. I’ve got this little blog here, which shoots out to about a thousand people (apparently), which ain’t bad. I try to be interesting, rather than just a bullhorn of “BUY MY BOOK”-isms over and over again. Does it work? Hell if I know. I’m selling books, yes, but not exactly at a blistering pace. I think maybe I need to shake-up my strategy. Maybe I ought to be more aggressive and in-your-face about buying my books. Maybe I should plug them like crazy and see if that helps.
I will tell you this, though: if you do read my book (any of my books), REVIEW THEM. I will never, ever get noticed if that doesn’t happen. Reviews = visibility on Amazon (and everywhere else), and Amazon visibility = sales. If an author you like wrote a book you enjoy, review it, dammit. It doesn’t need to be much, but it needs to be something. Five words. One sentence and a couple stars – that’s it. It helps a LOT (seriously).
In the vein of this article, I’ve got a few announcements:
1) Iron and Blood, the sequel to THE IRON RING, is currently available wherever fine e-books are sold. It just received its first review and it was five stars. FIVE STARS, PEOPLE. Get reading, dammit.
2) This week represents a final push to make Writers of the Future Volume 31 a bestseller. We’re really close, actually – we just need to sell a few thousand more copies this week. Do your part to make history! Buy it now! My story and all the other stories contained in this anthology are GREAT! I promise. Buy you a cookie if I’m wrong, pinky-swear.
3) Tomorrow (Thursday), I will be on the Citywide Blackout radio program on WEMF. I will be interviewed from 8:00pm to 8:30pm EST and, as this radio station streams online, you can listen in from anywhere in the world. I recommend that you do, as I am a fascinating person with a silky smooth voice. Well, probably. I hope. Anyway, I’ll be talking about Writers of the Future, my own fantasy novel series (The Saga of the Redeemed), and probably writing in general. It should be tons of fun!
I must confess something: I’m not much of a networker. Honestly, were it not for the existence of Facebook, I’d barely converse with anyone my own age. If Facebook crashes and burns, the thought of having to move to some other social networking site seems like a lot of trouble. I probably won’t unless forced (which is how I wound up on Facebook – my wife signed me up). I lose contact with people easily. I really don’t work very hard to keep in touch.
It isn’t that I don’t like people – I like them just fine – but I don’t especially need people to feel fine. I can go literal days and even weeks without speaking to another human being. I did it in college during Spring Break my senior year – I stayed at school and just sat at my desk and wrote for the whole week. I barely went out. I barely saw anybody. I don’t think I had a conversation with anybody that lasted more than five seconds. At the end of it, I felt fine. In fact, I felt more than fine – it was then that I finished the first draft of my first novel (no, you won’t be reading it. It was terrible).
I would say that I’m an introvert, but that’s not precisely true. I have no trouble talking to people, I just don’t need to talk to people. In fact, unless there is a reason to speak to someone, I usually don’t. I don’t do small talk, for instance – either we are having a conversation about something or we are not talking. I find meet-and-greet events tedious and troublesome, since usually it involves me having to strike up conversation with people who don’t actually want to have a conversation – they want to talk about the weather and ask banal questions about each other’s professions. God forbid you actually engage in a real answer to a question, like when somebody asks me “how are you” and I give them an honest answer about my health. Suddenly I’m the weirdo for some reason, when they are the person who asked. Sheesh.
But I digress.
As my novel, The Oldest Trick (Part 1), nears its deadline and eventual release, I’m starting to worry that no one will buy it. Well, maybe not no one, but barely anybody, anyway. Not enough people for me to finish out the series, not enough people to put it on anybody’s radar, and not enough people for it to allow me to nab myself an agent. I have, therefore, gradually begun expanding my ‘social media presence’. You can find me on Twitter (which is sort of like the small talk Olympics, so I feel like a camel in the Congo there) and I have set up profiles on Goodreads and Amazon. There’s this place, too, for what it’s worth. I should probably get around to setting up an Author page on Facebook, which is the only social media platform I use with any regularity. I’m also a recent winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, which is a networking advantage all its own, and I’ve maintained some contacts among other up-and-coming scifi and fantasy authors. These are all good things.
Even still, I feel disconnected, aloof. I’ve never been a guy for diving into the crowd. I like parties and I like talking to people, but I generally prefer to do it with fewer people as opposed to more (since, in the former case, I can actually speak with and be heard by others in comfort). There is no earthy way anybody is getting me to go to a bar, and especially not if the bar is playing music loudly. Give me a couch, a dozen friends, and a good meal. All that, though, is sort of the antithesis of what an author wants or needs to build his “brand.” I need to inspire the masses, somehow. I need to make a connection with hundreds or (ideally) thousands of people so that they like me and want to buy my books and follow my every step. Frankly, I have no idea how to do that. I could be doing it right now and I’d have no idea.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I’ll be fiddling with the layout of this blog over the next few weeks, trying to make it a more efficient portal to access my work (evidently, nobody seems to see the “where you can find my stuff” category on the sidebar, despite what I feel is its very, very direct title). Wish me luck, folks. Oh, and if you have any tips on how to be better at networking, be sure to pass them along.
And if you’re an agent looking for a talented fantasy writer, well, I could really use your help. I think. That’s just it – I have no idea.