Amanda just reminded me today’s my day. Mrs. Dave is in the middle of a five week course in Virginia Beach, and I’m playing single dad, and we’re out of bananas. And apples. It’s that bad, ’round here. Not excusing, just summing up.
Referring to the title, we’ve been seeing a lot of unprofessional behavior from all quarters recently. What have you learned to do, or bot do, recently, about how to behave as a professional writer? I’ve been watching some authors do everything they can to drastically cut down their potential market. That just seems … ill-advised to me.
You know, if you would just teach the munchkins to eat grass and leaves things would be ever so much simpler.
Not bad, but I prefer the Muppet’s version myself:
1. Never, ever, ever respond to a bad review of my books on Amazon or any other website.
2. Never, ever go overtly political with the general public. Keep the political sarc apart from your public persona as an author. (But let it flow in safe spaces like this.)
Um … I’m not sure this would qualify as a safe space. Haven’t checked with a web search, yet, but it’s likely our posts – and views – would show up.
I’m sort of in a quandary on how political to get. They’re not radical, but anything to the right of Joe Stalin sets some off these days. The ways things are now, if that book I release that has a female protagonist doesn’t sink without a trace, they’ll have a conniption, anyway, because a guy wrote it. Yet I still wonder how political to get.
Absolutely. There is no privacy on the Internet; our only hope is to control what actions can be taken with the information.
1. Don’t write a book based on current events (as I interpret them). The result is always clunky, and dated by the end of the week. And will tick off readers who disagree with my politics but who like my stories.
2. If necessary, pretend to be a grownup if there is no other apparently-adult human in the “room” (chat-board, discussion group, room).
3. Don’t diss reviewers or readers. Unless I’m at home, with the internet turned off, the phone not on, and I’m talking to my cat.
3a. Always, always remember that the internet is forever. Especially stupid, or heated, or embarrassing things on the Internet.
You must have an unusually patient cat…
She’s sick at the moment and can’t get away. Plus she sleeps through anything I say besides “Tuna” and “Milk for the morning cat.” (Borrowed from _The Night Kitchen_ by Maurice Sendak)
Some things do disappear. I used to read a blog called Cowtown Cop (he was in Ft, Worth). It stopped, and was wormholed out of of this galaxy roughly 15 years back. Still, why take that chance?
On point one:
I’ve got an alternate history that isn’t preachy but would make some people feel uncomfortable. .I have the opening, middle, and conclusion already thought out, but what it lacks now is protagonist conflict. I have an idea there, but it needs development.
This is where SF&F can provide a “safe” venue to explore some ideas. By giving it some distance, it can can provoke thought, not anger if it’s not a sermon for the choir. So I guess you could say current events can inspire some stories without being about current events themselves.
One thing I have noticed over the years on various writing forums is, when writing science fiction, the more “alien” you make your aliens the more appealing your stories will be to aficionados of exotic alien species, but the smaller and more niche your readership will become. Give the readers something to latch onto, something to relate to, and they are usually more than willing to go along for the ride.
I can’t help to be annoyed when the people from Kipling’s short stories are more foreign than the fantasy or alien race I’m being introduced to.
A planet of hats isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they’re all too often entirely uninteresting.
That can be seen as a corollary to the rue that the more intensely you appeal to any one segment of your audience, the less you’ll appeal to any other segment. So if you want a broad appeal, you can’t appeal too strongly to any one part of your audience, but need to appeal enough to keep people reading/watching/whatever.
Unfortunately, like any rule, it can be followed straight over a cliff. And that’s how we end up with a whole lot of drek that doesn’t really appeal to anyone, but is put up with for want of an alternative.
Thankfully indie is changing that last in books.
Recognize a toxic subject on an internet forum, and do not join the conversation. Still working on that.
When someone, yes, even a liberal, asks a non-political question, answer it helpfully. If we continue to engage people, and talk rationally, and politely, we can rope in a lot of readers we hadn’t expected to attract.
> drastically cut down their potential market.
I used to follow the blog of a minor SF writer. He was European, and leftist by my standards, but hey, live and let live. I liked his books. And then he went off on Americans, Southern Americans, Christians, and Republicans. And for months every post had more of the same. I kept checking in for a while to see if he’d actually post pictures of himself laying on the floor and chewing the carpet, but alas, no…
I assume he felt he was getting virtue-signaling brownie points from somewhere, but I figure he was trashing about 75% of his potential paying customers, probably with the idea that most of them would never know.
There were some comics who made a living by insulting their customers, but there are more books out there now than I can find time to read. Despite my fondness for his work up to that point, I couldn’t see any point in giving a bozo like that any more of my money.
People – even writers – are entitled to their opinions. I’m a reasonable adult; I’m willing to overlook their stupid opinions. But there’s a difference between believing something different and insulting everyone who doesn’t think the same way you do. Stupidity I put up with; gratuitous insults, I don’t have to put up with.
I stopped following a writer when I realized that their posts were entirely political. I didn’t follow them for politics.
And this is why my blog posts dried up. What I was writing was the same note over and over again, and that wouldn’t do at all.
I have most drastically cut my potential market by the simple expedient of not writing.
I don’t recommend it.
(Silly me, I thought with the kids back in school I’d have fewer claims on my time. It didn’t wind up working that way. I remain hopeful, but wish I was blowing my time reading and playing video games. Then I could feel properly guilty, and carving out time to do so would be a simple exercise in self-denial.)
“Work expands to fill available time.”
I used to not care about a writers opinions, as long as they wrote something that entertained me, I was happy to read it. Can’t stand VD’s politics, but he writes a good story IMO. Nowadays, if a writer doesn’t want my money because of “Reasons”, I’m more than happy to not give it to them.
Number one rule for entertainers in any medium: Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.
As a customer, I’m reveling in my renewed freedom to turn something off or hit the back button. I really don’t care about an entertainer’s politics *unless he shoves it in my face.* However, once that happens, the entertainer’s products usually go onto the “do not buy” list. There’s much more product out there than there are customers — why should I enrich someone who loathes me?
Have temperance. Not everything needs a reply. Crud, a lot of “controversy” is truly flash-in-the-pan and will be gone by the end of the week. Writing about it only eats into what time you have, and when it won’t matter in a week or so anyway … why bother? A lot of these controversies are designed to attract attention, to rile people up for advertising dollars and eyeballs. Step back, take a breath … and question whether or not it really matters. Often it doesn’t.
If you do feel the need to say something, remember that actions speak louder than words. There are a whole host of sayings to this effect, such as “talk is cheap” for this very reason. If you’re that determined to show the world you believe something, then stand for it, rather than sit and type a few twitter comments. Bear in mind that those who stand make targets of themselves, however, and make sure that if you’re going to stand in something, it’s something that’s worth standing for, that is important enough to stand for.
You can’t roll over and let the world walk on you, but you shouldn’t make a mountain out of every molehill that comes along either. And even when you do stand, don’t shout loudly, your readers should be there for your books, not discourses on an issue.
This was actually a topic I covered for one of my Micro-blasts Being a Better Writer articles on my site.
*Reads post title, reads post* I are confused. Are you referring to your littles or those diverse other peoples. 🙂
What have I learned? Not much. Oh, perhaps to keep my mouth shut and just nod….
Don’t take it personal and don’t make it personal.
Succinct and well said.
Know your niche. If that’s what they want, give it to them.
But think carefully before you go that route: I’ve seen ‘feminist’ (by their standards) writers like Tamara Pierce get raked over the coals and thought-policed by their own ‘fans’, and their books subject to remorseless scrutiny.
And let’s not forget Joss Whedon’s* punishment for daring to go off the reservation and write a couple of semi-sexist but good natured jokes (coming from a character who would make such a joke) and dare to show Black Widow in moments of vulnerability and regretful for her inability to conceive.
But they’re stuck riding that beast now.
*(pre-revelation by the ex-wife)
In Joss’s case, the feminists were watching for the slightest sign of weakness to pounce on. And they finally got one.
I sat on a panel on getting into the game design industry at GenCon, and the bigwig (he managed staffs of writers, editors, and artists; I manage me) said that when he receives a proposal or offer for collaboration that looks promising, first thing he does is search social media. Someone noted that you have significantly more tools to dig into stuff if you’re spending money on, say, Facebook.
This was the “prima dona/internet troll” check. If the prospective collaborator is basically a cesspool of vitriol online in public spaces, the assumption is that they will require significantly more energy to deal with. Unless that collaborator effectively prints money, well, there’s no shortage of ideas in the industry, is there?
So: professionalism is a way of life, a matter of (ahem) CONSTANT VIGILANCE.  Always stay in practice, was my take-away.
 Never thought I’d use that line.
When you want to freak out on the interwebz, don’t use your own name.
When people ask you: “Are you that Phantom guy?” or whatever your handle is, you -lie- and say no. ~:D
When you want to write stuff that you’re not sure you want your mum to read, use a pen name.
Lie, deny, misdirect. This is the foundation of a great life on the Interwez.