Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Writers are Sleazy and Annoying."

Some people hate writers.
They think we are self-absorbed assholes with no clue about how to interact with the real world. We can’t fix your car, we can’t balance a checkbook, we don’t know how to talk to girlies.
And yeah, that’s all true, for the most part (and before you comment, saying, ‘hey, jag-ass, I’m a writer and my checkbook is perfectly balanced and I’m composed and charming with the lady-folk’, please remember I’m talking about everyone except YOU, okay?).
But that’s not really the point, and it’s not the main reason the writah-hatah-playahs hate. They hate because on the social media sites, we spend a lot of time posting about writing—our own writing and the writing of others we admire.
And that just ain’t right.
None of this hate has actually been directed at me, understand. I haven’t had any first-hand encounters with people who gave me hell for posting about my work. But I actually saw this on Twitter once, a couple months ago: “I don’t follow writers, because all they do is try to shove their book down your throat. They’re just sleazy and annoying”. It made me a little sad, because the solution, the thing that would satisfy the writer’s need to get his work out there and at the same time not alienate anyone, doesn’t present itself very easily.
In my case, it comes down to this—a good chunk of my FB friends and Twitter followers are also writers. And as an avid reader and Fan-Boy, I actually WANT to know about their work. I really do. So it’s hard to get my head around someone who is put off by that… but I guess I get it, to some extent. The writers who post absolutely NOTHING but stuff about their latest novel or story or review can be obnoxious, yeah, okay. I’ve learned from watching other writers who’ve been doing this longer than I have that your best bet is to keep the self-promotion stuff down to two or three times a week, if you can. Just so you don’t annoy the people you’re trying to get to buy your stuff.
But here’s what it really comes down to. I don’t have two separate personas. There’s not the “Writer Heath” and the “Average Fella Heath”. It’s the same guy. My posts about writing (whether it’s MY work or someone else’s) don’t come from a different head than the posts about how we went to the museum or how my daughter cracks me up or what I had for breakfast.
So I have to assume that, if you know me, or if you like me at all, you might be interested in knowing that I have a new story out. Or that I’d really like you to buy my book or write a review or something. Just like, if I know and like you, I’m actually INTERESTED in the fact that you got a promotion or saw a kick-ass movie or that your kid is sick this week. I’m not being facetious. If we’re connected on any of the social networking sites, I actually consider you a FRIEND of sorts.
I suspect the problem comes from writers who actually think of themselves as two different personas. They're in it solely to promote their work, and nothing else. But if you're a writer, or artist or dancer or what-have-ya, the people following you are doing so because they want to know something about you other than that. This is not solely a professional venture. Let them know you're a human, and not just a writing-marketing machine. Share something about yourself. Be a real human being.
I bet that would make all the difference.
By the way, come back next time, so I can try to get you to buy something, okay?


  1. Haha. I liked this. And my old lady eyes love the huge font. For once I didn't have to lean forward. (I have a new rx for glasses coming soon).
    I apply the principle "show a little leg". It's like hitchhiking. How can you get a stranger to pick you up? Sick kids notwithstanding, what else can you talk about besides the book or yourself? Yeah. I'm also private. I like to keep my routines seeeecret. Shhh.

  2. You understand what very few people trying to market their stuff on the internet don't. You need to build a network, earn the confidence of people and shit...make friends. Internet friends, but friends nonetheless.

    Writers, bloggers and other internet people often visit my Twitter and my blog, begging me to comment on their stuff or leave review, but they don't help me either. That is a double edged sword, because doing something for free is a good dose of freedom. You can chose to help whoever the fuck you want. So I tend to ignore the machine gun Twitspammer and reserve my energy for worthy people

  3. Love it! Well said, Heath. I also like the huge font. Oh, by the way I've got a couple of new books on Amazon if you want to check them out :0)

  4. This was great - I'm glad Carrie linked to it!

  5. There are writers I follow on Facebook who post everyday links to their work on Kindle, Amazon, etc. Some might find that annoying, but I'm glad to know this stuff. I follow them because I'm interested in their work, I like to know where they are publishing, what they are working on, and how to support them.

    You're right that it is best to post things other than just self-promotion, and the must successful social media people do just that. But I'm not one to complain about people sharing what they're doing -- because that is what made me interested in them in the first place.

  6. Carrie, yeah, "showing a little leg" is always good-- I have trouble sometimes treading that line between personal and "too" personal. Or worse yet, completely uninteresting. Your posts are ALWAYS interesting.
    Thank you, Ben, Julia and Tony...
    And Cullen, that's the benefit of being friends with writers and other creative types-- they get your obsessions and share them. I agree that that's what makes me interested in them to begin with.

  7. It is a real quandary. Facebook was more fun when it wasn't so much about self-advertising. But what's a writer to do with no other way to make their books, stories, etc, known. I guess moderation is key. If you only go on facebook to hawk goods, you probably are making a mistake. If you only go on it to hawk friends' stuff, that is only a little better. If the print media hadn't died, no one would need to do this. It is all sad, isn't it?

  8. Patti, it is a little sad, but them is the breaks. Heath, it ain't no substitute for face to face, but one of the things I like about the Internt is the chance to shoot the shit about comics, books, movies and whatever. I like sharing my views and hearing what others have to say, especially from people who take the time to actually engage. And I find the diversity of what people are into endlessly fascinating. Mate, I hope one day we'll be able to have one of these conversations when we're in the same room or preferrably the same bar.

  9. I am the beginnery-est of beginners self-promotion-wise, but what you say, Heath, all rings true. My blog attempts are at least half "ain't this cool?" mentions of books and movies, and a bit of diary about projects I'm working on here and there. As far as "writers" in general are concerned, I want to read the folks I am coming to feel as if I "know" through Twitter and blogs like yours about writing and blogs/e-zines like thrillers, killers 'n' chillers and spinetinglermag etc. because they write good stories, first, are doing something I also want to do, second, and third and equally important because they are personable. They are sharing in an endeavor that I wish to participate in.
    On the other hand, I've pretty much sworn off workshops, online or in person. I think reading critically and writing as much as you can, regularly, are the best teachers. I'm way too sensitive about others' opinions of whatever "leg" I show to bear it gracefully, in person or in an online workshop -- all I care about is placing/selling a piece of work. Thoughts on workshops?

  10. Patti, I think we forget as writers/readers sometimes that we're a strangely isolated little group, sharing a common interest that most people don't share. But maybe I'm being a bit cynical, I dunno...
    Andrew, you nailed it exactly. I'm not the most social person in the world, and so I'm come to actually be quite fond of the friends I've made in the world of the interwebs.
    Ron, I'm pretty bad at promotional stuff myself, but I agree entirely that, the more personable a writer is, the more likely I am to check out his work. By that same coin, I won't promote something I don't genuinely like, no matter HOW much I like the writer as a person. As for workshops, I'm not a big fan, generally. But that could change, maybe. Katie Moore and I have been kicking around the idea a bit... we'll see.