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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Social Media Smackdown (SIWC 2014 Notes)

Wow. So, I had an incredible weekend at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Caught a few great panels, had some lovely experiences and conversations, got some great feedback on how to approach the second novel in a series, and had an excellent time pitching book one. I feel really good about things. This conference is so worth it, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

And since I've still got a huge pile of notes, I thought I'd get back to sharing.

Of all the panels, this one felt very timely, given certain current issues. Regardless, the discussion about social media is an important one, as it can be an important way for authors to connect with the rest of the world—but only if you want to.

* * *

Social Media Smackdown
Sean Cranbury, Sarah Wendell, Chuck Wendig
Moderator: KC Dyer

Sean Cranbury: Books on the Radio, Storm Crow Launch Series
Sarah Wendell: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Chuck Wending: Novelist; Blogger; Cowriter, Pandemic (short film)

What do you do for social media, and how does it take time from your day?
-    CW: Social media can be a time suck. 
Strategy 1: He focuses on writing; any blogging, he saves for the weekend. 
Strategy 2: He recommends Freedom to minimize internet distraction.*
Strategy 3: He gets up before his toddler, and gets writing done before he engages with social media. 
Note: He engages with social media because he enjoys it, not because it's an obligation.
* Or, if an internet connection is absolutely necessary, you can use Anti-Social, which is made by the same company and allows you to block only a certain list of sites.
-    SW: She runs a blog, and is greatly involved in community building, so she engages with people who talk to her.
Strategy 1: There are fans on Facebook who don’t like to leave Facebook; so she visits the people there too. She allows herself the reward of Twitter, but signs off when she's too busy
Strategy 2: So he tries to focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth; the brain switches between two tasks.
-    SC: Most of his day is spent online, between work and projects; much of his creative work is online, too.
Strategy: To be present, so he practices. Therefore, he’s online all the time

 Does your social media presence affect your standing?
-    CW: It does wonders, but is costing more these days because of the volume of traffic he gets.
-    CW: A writer’s career is very luck-based, but you can maximize your luck by “throwing pebbles”. And every pebble you throw has to be simply for the delight of throwing into the water and seeing the ripples. But sometimes the ripples touch each other. You never really know who’s going to read the thing you wrote. Therefore, his key rule is to be the best version of himself online.
-    SW: Follows people far outside the romance realm. The ripple effect does wonders.

About that Guardian article …
-    SW: A reader had an extreme reaction to a novel, and live-tweeted negative reaction; the author ended up stalking the reviewer and harassing, then finally wrote about it in the Guardian. Reactions have been mixed.
-    Catfishing: malicious use of a fake online identity (Goodreads accounts, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc) for bad behaviour.
-    Used for the purpose of establishing a relationship with another without the author knowing who they are.
-    How as a writer should we react with reviews and reviewers?
-    Some authors can’t take a bad review, but this can lead to unhealthy behaviour, such as the above example.
-    But negative reviews can lend legitimacy and help you find your non-audience. They can also help other readers, some of who will decide they want to read the book.

About Gamergate …
* Note: A fair and unbiased summary of the controversy can be found at Wikipedia.
-    CW: “About ethics in Journalism?”
-    Doxing: searching for and posting someone's personal information, particularly their home address
-    SC: Gamergate involved severe sexism and hatred online. Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency was a major target, though not the first.
-    CW: Briana Wu, Zoe Quinn – great positive voices
-    KC: Felicia Day recently spoke out about it. She was doxed within under an hour.

The Takeaway?
-    CW: All of this is about what you should and should not do as a writer online
-    SW: There’s a positive side to the internet, too. We can connect with people around the world. Hopefully the negative crap will die down soon.
-    SC: Lead by example. You can’t change these other people, so focus on what you can change. Show model behaviour, and as Chuck said, be the best version of yourself.
-    SW: You will make mistakes. Be able to own it and make genuine apologies if you do. People respect that.
-    SC: In the furious pace of the internet, it can be very easy to get rubbed the wrong way. The key is to not respond. Don't send that angry tweet, don't make some snide remark. If you get a bad review, let it go.
-    Spokeo: Allows you to opt out of sharing your personal info online.
-    SW: Protects the privacy of her kids by only tweeting about them with made-up names. She also doesn’t tweet about where she is to make it easy for people to find her in realtime. But she still has a plan and always tries to stay aware at all times. Being female with an online presence makes it more of a problem.

What are ways to increase social media use in our lives?
-    All: Don’t auto-followback on Twitter.
-    CW: That’s not the point.
-    All: Each form of social media has its own quirks.
-    Facebook pages aren't necessarily necessary anymore.
-    Ello: the newest, and still a very quiet, weird territory
-    CW: Social media strategy:  drives content back to blog, because he owns that space, controls that material.
-    SW: Tumblr: Has a lot of fun with Tumblr and talking to people of all ages, shares fandoms. Connects with people over passions they share, especially teens.
-    Pinterest? This reflects a trend in valuing the visual over the text, and Pintrest is a visual niche.

But what about the balance between visual and text in a blogging environment?
-    SC: You always need visuals. Pinterest and Instagram are good at sharing visuals.

What are Algorithms?
-    SC: Like invisible snakes, you’ll never be able to catch them
-    Amazon uses them as predictive for “Because You Bought...”
-    SW: Not always accurate. Increases community of readers based on human recommendation, not algorithms.
-    SW: Genre terms are too broad, so readers have generated more terms for themselves. Such as New Adul, which is about firsts (First-person intensity, like YA and Chicklit combined; a genre recreated in its own terms).

What Positive Connections Have You Made Online?
-    CW: Margaret Atwood has become a fan.
-    SW: Gets to sit next to CW; has been invited to writers’ conferences in Australia because of social media, the opportunity to meet readers around the world has happened because of that, too. She greatly underestimated how isolating it can be to be a romance reader and writer because of the ridicule and shame. Has so many friends because of connections made online.
-    SC: People are not a marketing opportunity. But he has made many connections from his work and gets invited all over the place. He even got invited to be on the Canada Council.

Suggestions for the audience? How do you make those connections?
-    SW: With social interactions online (even e-mail), there are three things that develop social currency: generosity, authenticity, and consistency. Be generous by sharing. Not just “buy my book”. And then when you spend your social currency, spend it well.
-    CW: There's a skewed view in publishing that you need to use it to promote yourself: Do not be a social media obligation, or blog or tweet just because your publisher told you to do so. Brands and platforms don’t work. Put the social in social media. It’s not a broadcast channel. You’re not meant just to talk, but also to listen. Be a fountain. Not a drain.
-    SC: Twitter is a listening opportunity. From people you’ve selected to follow. Don’t use social media unless you really want to. You follow who you want to and unfollow who you find useless, and thin out the herd as needed. It’s a listening post. Follow, watch. Follow people who are genuinely funny, like comedians. Like Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman.
-    SW: You can learn so much about things outside of the “traditional media” from social media. Plus if you’re learning from others and respond to it, you elevate the conversation. Also, don’t be a dick. The antidote to douchebaggery is knowledge.

What is Good Promotion?
-    CW: Promotion is not a dirty word on social media. It’s okay to promote yourself and your books. However, it’s not the best idea to do that as your only thing. Then it’s just noise. 1. Promote in a unique and original way every time. Be authentic and honest about it. Maybe mention something you experienced while writing it. 2. Don’t do it all the time. 10-20% max. 3. Talk about other people’s books. Be authentic about it. And people are more likely to check out your work if they’re checking other stuff. 4. Be positive.
-    SW: Have a policy. If you are angry or inebriated, maybe you don’t want to. Also, don’t forget yourself. It’s okay to talk a little bit about yourself.
-    SC: Don’t just talk about yourself. But when you’re out there and talking about things authentically, talking about books you like, helping the community – when you’re a good citizen, people will support you. If you do that, goodness will come back to you.
-    KC: Just remember: on Facebook, you are the commodity. But as a writer, linking to your blog on Facebook can be useful.
-    CW: Author pages are not so useful anymore, and it commodifies the page. And Facebook decreases the range you reach the moment you pay to promote a page.


  1. Thank you! So helpful!! I was unable to attend this particular session at SIWC.

  2. Really useful information. Thanks for the time and effort it took to post it --- it's appreciated!