Won’t Retweet, Won’t do Review Swaps, Won’t “Vote Up” Reviews: Why I Don’t Automatically Play Along with Many Writers’ Groups Anymore

Won’t Retweet, Won’t do Review Swaps, Won’t “Vote Up” Reviews:
Why I Don’t Automatically Play Along with Many Writers’ Groups Anymore

As Holly Near sings in her iconic relationship-gone-sour song, “Started Out Fine,” it “started out fine; we were moving ahead.” [Great song: go watch her sing it!]

Holly’s “Started Out Fine” on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qhxkd6Gn0E

When I first decided to become an independent author and self-publish after having gone the trad route with nonfiction and made a few attempts to go the trad route for fiction, I knew next-to-nothing about the social media circus I was about to join. I was starry-eyed, optimistic, eager and trusting.

I would get reviewers. I would network. I would make online author friends. I’d become part of communities I would find online. Yippee!

Oy.

Sure, I had a Facebook page, I had opened (and never used) a Twitter account, and I was listed on LinkedIn, for professional purposes (but hardly ever used it).

social-sites

I had found Authonomy http://www.Authonomy.com and Wattpad http://www.Wattpad.com and decided to post excerpts on these sites, hoping to begin to get readers, reviewers, friends, colleagues.

My niece set up my first website, Sally Ember, Ed.D., and I began to “blog my book,” posting excerpts there and on Facebook for weeks prior to publication (catching up with both excerpts sites, above, before release day).

I researched and decided to go with Smashwords, first, with a pre-order period (several posts about Pre-orders are on my blog, http://www.sallyember.com), then publish to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) when my first ebook went live.

That was the entirety of my social media presence in the summer of 2013, a few months before I hit the “publish” button on my first of the ten volumes in The Spanners Series. Some of these endeavors resulted in my finding exactly what I was looking for: a community of indie and/or self-pub writers, many of whom were also somewhat new, volunteering to review, comment, enjoy my excerpts and then my book! I was so delighted and grateful!

Some of these new connections invited me into groups I’d previously been unaware of, but I happily became quite active in them, for a while. These groups had members who were (and ARE) so supportive, showing me a variety of ways to be involved in cross-promoting one another’s writing.

At first, it was all sunny skies and rainbows. My ebook was gaining visibility, I was making online friends, gaining more reviews and having a good time. Mutual respect, support, encouragement, laughs, tips, ideas and more were flowing around groups and quite helpful to me. I even had some to share back to them. Awesome…for a while.

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image from: http://www.dreamstime.com

The clouds rolled in all too soon. Has any of this happened to you?
“Sure! I’ll ReTweet [RT] glowing praise for your book(s) [even though I’ve never read anything you’ve written]!”

“Of course, if you read and review my book, I’d be delighted to read and review yours [until I read a few that were AWFUL!]!”

“Please be assured that, if you vote up my book’s good reviews on Amazon or my book on Goodreads’ Lists or put my book on your “shelves” on Goodreads, I’ll do the same for yours [even though… {PICK ONE: I’ve never read these other writers’ books OR I don’t like the genre and would never read them OR I have started to read them but couldn’t continue because they were AWFUL}]!”

“Oh, great! I’d love to be part of this ‘review each other’s blog’ swap. Oh, what? You’re assigning me to an erotica site when my brand is PG-13?!?!? No can do. Oh, it’s required? Oh, you’re now calling me names, like ‘prude,’ and telling me I’m being ‘judgmental’? ‘Bye, then.”

thunderheads_canisbay
image from: http://www.artcountrycanada.com

Struck by scolding/lightning one too many times, I dropped out each of those writers’ groups that had absurd or untenable “member responsibilities.” I eventually dropped out of all but a few groups.

Whew! Relieved!

<strong>My integrity has been restored by establishing for myself some great ground rules:
1) I am not on “Tweet teams” which require members to RT every and all Tweets.
2) I do not do “obligatory” reviews or “swaps.”
3) I do cross-promoting only after I’ve gotten to know/read and respect the other person and his/her writing enough to put my name on a public recommendation.
4) I don’t “vote up” any reviews or books unless I’ve read and agree with the votes.
5) I don’t vote for book covers or books for voting-related rewards unless I actually believe they deserve to win.

The best part of being “older but wiser, now” about how writers use social media? If you see my name on a book or blog review, a promotional Tweet, a shared or reblogged post, you can rest assured I believe in what I’m sharing/promoting.

When I haven’t read the work of the authors and don’t know their blog or them at all except as members’ names, I only share or RT general promotions for the GROUP. That’s the way I handle all that social media group cross-promotion pressure, now.

Also, when an individual requests any of the actions I now refuse to take, I gently let them know I don’t do those actions and some I send to the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) Ethical Code, which I signed and promote on my blog, GLADLY: http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com/2014/11/alli-launch-ethical-author-code.html Go read it. Sign it. Share it. We all should!

ALLiEthicalAuthor_Final-Outlines-300x173

So, however you respect my taste and/or me, you can follow my recommendations or leads as you wish.

All the best to you!

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Part I: Letter to my Earlier Self, What I Wish I had Known for #Indiepub #Ebooks 1 and 2

Part I: Letter to my Earlier Self, What I Wish I had Known for #Indiepub #Ebooks 1 and 2

This was originally posted on 11/24/14 as a Guest Blogger on http://www.thebookcove.com/2014/11/author-sally-ember-edd-what-i-wish-i.html, when I was still writing Vol III and before I had written enough of these posts to make a series of “Open Letters.”

Now, there is a series, and I am re-posting them in order, one per week.
(The Book Cove posted one per week, November through December.)
This is Letter One of four, total.

As I get ready to release Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in my sci-fi/ romance/ paranormal/ multiverse/ utopian The Spanners Series, I consider what I wish I had known for ebooks 1 and 2 of this series, my first launch and second foray into being an indiepub author after having been traditionally published.

I decided to write a series of letters to my pre-publication self, since I believe in simultaneous time. I know that this letter and all the subsequent ones are already written and I am already reading them before I publish Volume I, This Changes Everything, and Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever. I’m sharing this information with the public here (again).

Follow that? It helps to be a sci-fi or quantum physics fan, for sure.

Here is Part I of my tips for my earlier self and therefore, all new indie authors who are about to publish their first ebook (or even afterward). There will be a series of such letters advising myself. I need a lot of help!

I appreciate the The Book Cove Reviews for allowing their blog to be the place these letters first appear. My tips had a chance to reach a much wider audience on that site. I hope many budding and newer indie authors besides my earlier self found them helpful when these letters were first published last fall, 2014!

What I Wish I had Known for #Indiepub #Ebooks 1 and 2:
An Open Letter to my Earlier Self

Part I

Dear Earlier Sally,

So, here you are, in December, 2011, writing your first sci-fi novel. You don’t know, yet, that you’re going to become an “indie” author, or even what that is.

Let’s recap what a sorry state you’re in, as an author, and see what, if anything, we can do to rectify this ignorance that could short-circuit your incipient writing career.

  • You still think you’re going to write query letters, try to find an agent, seek a publication “house” and become a published author the way you’ve seen it happen with your previous nonfiction books and countless others’ fiction books. You haven’t even considered not having a print book and haven’t even read or seen an ebook at this point. You have no idea how much this industry is about to BOOM!

    ebook sales to 2013

  • In fact, even though you’ve heard of Kindles and other ereaders, you’ve never seen one and don’t know anyone who owns or uses one, yet. You’ve never heard of or seen anything about Google+, “author platforms,” or blogging by authors. You think those who blog are self-centered, boring, unemployed journalists or stay-at-home workers who have time to surf the net and write drivel about their lives that you can’t imagine anyone wanting to read.
  • You aren’t on or aware of most of social media. For example, Twitter: you have no Followers except by accident (you now have 7). You never tweet, retweet, or favorite anyone’s tweets. In fact, you never read and respond on Twitter at all. Furthermore, your Facebook activity is conducted strictly to stay in touch with friends and family, people you actually know. You belong to no Facebook groups except those that include people you know and have a specific purpose (your high school reunion group, a meditation group).

    Social media icons

  • Additionally, even though someone told you to sign up for and join Goodreads, you almost never visit it and have no idea what it’s for. You also believe that people who use it are just sharing book lists and books they like. You never read or write reviews there or on Amazon and rarely buy books from online stores; you prefer bricks-and-mortar bookstores when you buy books and mostly use lending libraries.
  • You don’t consider yourself a book marketer and have not the faintest idea what book marketing entails, nor do you want to know. In fact, you plan to have all that done by your publisher and perhaps your agent (you’re a little fuzzy on who does what and when). You believe that their experienced and intensive marketing efforts will succeed in getting you/your book on TV, radio, and in print reviews and ads which will make your book rocket to best-seller status very quickly, since you’re sure it’s that good.
  • You’ve ever heard of or used any Google+ Communities, Hangouts, or Circles.
  • You have never heard of Metadata and wouldn’t know how to apply that to your ebooks, either.

    Metadata topics

  • You do not know about most of nor do you belong to any in-person much less virtual writers’ groups, authors’ groups, marketing groups, review sharing groups, or any professional writers’ groups of any kind.
  • You’ve never heard of ALEXA, Google Page Ranks, Google Authorship or KLOUT scores and you don’t know much about having an online presence. The extent of your knowledge is that you check Google every now and then to make sure nobody else is using your name or is saying bad things about you online.

Oy, vey.

Can your writing career be salvaged? Can you become a published author and have ANYONE know it? How will your book get reviews? How will you acquire any followers, much less readers? Will you sell even one book to anyone outside your friends and family?

How and when will you ever figure out that you need to create and maintain a website, build and improve your author’s platform, join and become active in online and virtual communities/groups, become KNOWN as YOU, your brand, online, as a sci-fi author and blogger, a creator and curator of useful content?

Writing Community

Tip #1: Forget the query letters, hunts for agents/publishers and all that trad pub jazz. Indie is the way to go. Ebooks are rocking the readers. Believe me. I know.

Tip #2: You may have noticed that I’ve actually decided to write these letters to you to offer a kind of road map to your salvation as an author. If you read and research each of the words or phrases I’ve put into BOLD in this letter, for example, those are the dots you have to connect, the work you have to do, to create the best future for your books and for you as an author.

Do a lot of it NOW, before you publish, and then keep doing more. That is key!

Stay tuned for Part II and subsequent Parts to this intraself communication which will contain advice for many indie authors as we continue on this journey of educating this indie author, earlier Sally: YOU!

Get to work!

Present Sally
http://www.sallyember.com
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HEV2UEW

Pros and Cons of #Writers’ Critique Groups

Pros and Cons of #Writers’ Critique Groups
Reposting from one year ago, since it’s all still true and useful and I have new Followers/Readers

Everyone know the biggest drawback to #self-publishing is the isolation. Yes, every #author who doesn’t collaborate in their #writing writes alone. However, prior to the explosion in self-publishing, most books and ebooks that came to readers went through several other sets of eyes and had several editing and revision drafts done by others that helped polish and tighten the writing prior to publication.

artsy-writer-working
image from vidyasury.com

Today more than ever before, pieces of writing from short stories, blogs and articles to full-length books, both nonfiction and fiction, are getting all the way to a reader with no other editor than the writer. This is not a great situation for most readers or writers.

Because many writers seek professional companionship and critiques as well as audiences for drafts and new ideas, writers’ groups have sprung up for many centuries, both formal and informal. These groups usually meet regularly. Size can vary from a pair to a large group of a dozen or more.

The activities in the group can include public readings and/or sharing of written material with participants’ immediate oral comments, pages returned with mark-ups and discussions of the shared pieces. Locations can vary and many are not available free, so some groups charge a fee or require members to pay dues to cover costs and perhaps invite a speaker/presenter to conduct a workshop or give a talk on occasion.

writers_group 1
image from http://www.audreypress.com

Writers’ groups often appoint or hire a facilitator to guide and contribute to the critique. In better-run groups, this leader also keeps time and makes sure the comments are constructive and fair.

However, some groups are not well-run. The ground rules are not clear. Time is not equally distributed because it isn’t tracked well. Comments are not always fair and constructive. The facilitator dominates the discussion. Discussions veer away from the writing into personal stories and tangents introduced by participants. Suggestions are made that are not conducive to the writer’s intent, restrictions, topic, genre or format.

The diverse types of knowledge and experience among participants and in a leader of a writers’ group can be rich sources of varied perspectives OR generate too many irrelevant and unhelpful comments.

Pros and Cons of #Writers’ Critique Groups

CONS: An unskilled or distracted facilitator
— allows too many destructive comments to occur and this encourages more of the same
— allows the exposed author to experience immediate hurt feelings or bewilderment
— allows the writers to leave the critique session discouraged and confused by conflicting advice and too many off-topic remarks
— offers too many comments and dominates the discussion, shutting down, arguing with or interrupting other participants.

Writers in poorly-run groups can be led astray, which can causes them to depart from writing in their own voices and to lose sight of their personal or professional writing purposes. Many writers get discouraged or even “blocked” by attending poorly run writers’ groups.

BEWARE! Better to be isolated than to attend a group that operates negatively.

critique
image from thewildwriters.com

PROS: An skilled or focused facilitator
— leads a well-run group peopled by dedicated, experienced writers as well as “newbies” who each feels comfortable sharing and contributing
— trains and supports members to utilize the time effectively for receiving and offering constructive critiques, with newbies learning from old-timers the most effective methods for delivering and receiving criticism
— can foster an atmosphere of professional support that provides many gems of advice and new points of view for each member, even ones who don’t share in every meeting.

These productive sessions are wonderful catalysts for the writers who share drafts and any who attend. Authors in well-run writers’ groups return from each meeting with new vigor for editing, revising and creating new content.

Tips for Writers’ Groups:
1) Productive critique sessions are NOT riddled with “we loved it,” “it’s great,” and “keep going” with little or nothing else.
Critics must provide reasons for their opinions, especially when they’re positive, so that writers learn what we do well and can replicate our successes.
Critics must also defend their opinions that tell a writer to make changes by offering suggestions for revision or reasons for the ways the writing doesn’t “work” for the reader/listener.

2) Without the prompting of a skilled, focused leader, opinions may be offered with insufficient or no reasons given. Offering positive or negative opinions without rationales is not useful to a writer and should not be allowed.

3) Focus, clear ground rules (e.g., the requirement to give reasons for opinions, taking turns, sharing time equally) and giving both emotional and cognitive responses to a piece of writing are all parts of a productive writers’ group.

4) If YOUR writers’ group is not productive and positive enough, make an effort to change it or leave it. Start your own or join a different group.

5) Networking has never been easier. http://www.Meetup.com is a source of in-person writers’ groups. You can also check your local library’s, college’s, county’s/parish’s, state’s/province’s and country’s organizational listings for professional writers’ groups in your geographic area or genre. Check Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and many writers’ associations and genre-centered groups online and around the world for possible writers’ groups, critique opportunities and other networking options. Some groups are now meeting online and virtually via SKYPE, iCHAT, Google Hangouts, etc.

CA writers club logo

If you are a writer seeking a group, I hope you find or start a great one!

Best of luck in your writing.