Thursday, June 13, 2024

Social Media - Handle with Care. By Harini Nagendra

Here's the question we're answering this week on Minds: What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

Way back in ancient history, I first heard about this new platform called LinkedIn, from my sister. You have to get an account, she insisted. It's great for jobs and networking. Not for academics, I thought - but on her urging, I created an account, and then promptly forgot all about it - except for accepting the occasional invite.

Then in 2015, I was writing my first book, a non-fiction book on Bangalore. A friend pointed out that I really needed to open a twitter account and claim my space, so to speak. I created an account, and then forgot about that too - except when my book launched, and I posted a few promotional messages. After a while, I started to use twitter more regularly, but for my research. It was used by climate scientists regularly, and a great place to go to, to engage in conversations and encounter new ideas. That was before the great collapse happened of course.   

Then I started to write more regularly - and realized the utility of social media. I now use LinkedIn and twitter semi-regularly, as well as Instagram and Facebook. Because using four different platforms can suck up your time, I try and keep it simple - usually posting the same material on all four sites. I haven't done any fancy analysis, but I have noticed that my readership is quite different across these sites - what gets traction on one platform will sink unnoticed into the swarm of new posts on another. And I can't predict why. It baffles me. 

I find social media most useful for what is often called 'networking' - learning what's going on in the world of climate change or mystery writing - and importantly, to make new friends. Through Facebook, I learnt about and joined Mystery Writers of America - a chance meeting at a Mystery Writers of America connected me with James Ziskin and Catriona McPherson, which then - many months later - led me to this terrific group of Criminal Minds writers! Thanks to Facebook, I also connected with more writer friends who launched a Facebook group called the Cozy Crime Collective - with members in Ireland, Australia, the USA and other parts of the world. What fun - and there's no way that any of this would have happened without social media. 

Buuut... I'm very skeptical about the value of using social media to promote your own writing and drive sales. It's a great way to get more people to read, say, a newspaper op-ed that I write, or a blog post. And it's certainly gratifying for the ego (which can be very dangerous). If I post a pretty reel and get a ton of 'likes', does that translate into sales, though? Unlikely. In my experience, what's worked best is when a reader enjoys my book and shares it with their family and friends. To get more readers, a writer needs to get off that social media blackhole and use that time to stare at a blank screen - and hopefully, write another book.

So, what's my social media strategy? It's to prevent doomscrolling and stop these attention-hijacking platforms from taking over. I don't have social media apps on my phone - I only install the apps when I have a new book to promote. Otherwise, I use my computer to read and post, which imposes a certain discipline - that way, I'm not obsessively scrolling through my phone on the way to work, or before going to bed. I've tried that, and the people who design these things are way smarter than I am - they know how to grab your attention, and hold on to it.

I don't have a fixed schedule to post. I post when I have something to share. But I do love reading about what my friends and colleagues in the world of climate change and fiction writing are doing, and for me that's the best part of this. Connecting to different parts of the world while living in Bangalore... what could be better?

If you're still with me - Kings River Life is running a US-only giveaway for my latest book, A Nest of Vipers - to enter the contest, click here!

A Nest of Vipers By Harini Nagendra: Review/Giveaway | Kings River Life Magazine


The Social Contract from James W. Ziskin

What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

I don’t have an organized, well-thought-out social media strategy. That is to say I’m a pantser, not a plotter, when it comes to the Internet and my writing career. I know more or less where I want to go and what I’d like to achieve, but the windshield is foggy and the map is torn. I remember the old Thomas Guides maps of Los Angeles. The ones before there was GPS. Before even MapQuest, the Thomas Guide taught me how to get around LA. Google Maps doesn’t teach, it tells. Today we follow the directions without thinking, and that’s probably why we don’t know where we’re going. We’ve been seduced. It’s easier to do what we’re told.

So, to wring even more life out of this analogy, I don’t use anything like Google Maps to plan my social media strategy, I use what I’ve gleaned from Thomas Guides. I know how to get from Hollywood to Westwood, even if it’s not the most efficient route. And forget about avoiding traffic, accidents, and speed traps. I can’t see any of those when I set out on the Internet.

But I do try to arrive on time. Or in time. I hope my posts and promotions strike some kind of chord with readers.

Here are some bits of advice I tell myself regarding my social media posts. And I agree to follow my sage counsel. Let’s call it my “Social Contract.”

1. 🎶 Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood 🎶
Be clear, Jim! Be brief. Not everyone appreciates long-winded theses in their Facebook feeds. And, while you’re at it, avoid controversy. Unless you want to argue with strangers and offend/lose friends.

2. 🎶  I can see clearly now 🎶

Good photos. Fun photos. Of yourself. No blurry photos! Your friends like to see you. You always seem to get more clicks when there’s a picture of you, even if you do have an ugly mug like me. 

And cats. Don’t forget to post pictures of cats.

3. 🎶  Don’t let the sun go down on me 🎶

Make sure you don’t fade away. Post something about your writing career—your successes—from time to time. Just to stay in the game. You don’t want readers to forget about you.

4. 🎶  You’re so vain 🎶

“But enough about ME. Tell me what YOU think of my book…” Jim, don’t be that guy who only promotes himself. Aim for a healthy balance. Yes, you’re on social media to further your writing career, but don’t make your online presence a late-night infomercial. Or a bad date with a blowhard. Talk about other things besides your writing. Entertain. Show that you’re an interesting person instead of telling people you’re a talented author. 

5. 🎶  Shower the people you love with love 🎶
Share the spotlight, Jim. Pay it backward and forward. Promote your writer friends. And writers you don’t know. Tell readers about other writers, the famous and the not-so-famous. Don’t hog the limelight of your own posts. Be generous.

6. 🎶  I can’t help falling in love with you 🎶
Okay, Jim, maybe “love” is too strong a word. But you want readers to like you. Find you interesting, compelling, entertaining. You want them to want you as a friend, invite you to their parties. So don’t be a dick online. You don’t necessarily score points for being nice, but you sure lose them quickly for being a jerk. Don’t mock others. Don’t rain on parades. You hate that movie? That song everyone’s talking about? Fine. Share your opinion with friends and wretched, like-minded people in your private life. Social media is public. And it doesn’t go away. Sure, you might be clever and make some people laugh, but you’ll alienate others. Don’t believe everyone will admire your wit, hoist you on their shoulders, and parade you around the room. A lot of folks will think you’re arrogant and clueless.

The above are strategies and practices I follow to cultivate an online identity. I’m not saying I fake who I am. But I try to be aware that readers like to be intrigued by you and, by extension, your writing. And if you’re a writer, you probably want to be entertaining and likable. Maybe like an old song.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Outreach online

What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

Although I participate, I’m no expert on social media. Since I got onboard, the idea’s been simple: to network and build relationships. On the personal side, these platforms keep me connected, and they’ve also allowed me to meet new friends, many who I’ve had a chance to get together with at a variety of writer events. 

On the business side, the idea is to gain attention and followers. For me, it means joining groups, chatting, commenting, posting images and clips of new books, upcoming events and so on. On Facebook, there are my personal and author’s pages, as well as various Writers’ groups I’ve joined. Business ads can be had and posts can be boosted. There’s also X which is good for real-time posts and ads can be bought here as well to help broaden the audience. Instagram’s another place to post images and videos. And Goodreads connects me with others who share the love of books. Aside from making connections, there are reviews and comments on just about everything that’s ever been published as well as letting me know about new releases. I like that it lets me keep track of the books I’ve read as well as the ones I want to put on my TBR pile. And it allows me to set up some giveaways of my own new releases.

Joining these sites is free, excerpt for the ads, post boosts, and giveaways, and they are all a great ways to drive attention to my website, here to the Criminal Minds site, and to my own blog site Off the Cuff.

And since we’re on the topic of promotion, I may as well tell you about my

next novel called Crooked. It’s published by ECW Press and launches on September 24th. 

Here’s the synopsis:

Notorious outlaws Alvin Karpis and Fred Barker meet the old-fashioned way: serving time in Kansas State Prison. After their release in 1931, the two reconnect and form the infamous Barker-Karpis Gang and begin a spree of robberies that leave a wake of terror in their path, including two dead cops. Now hunted in several states, the gang settles into hiding in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they thrive under the protection of a crooked police chief, who happily turns a blind eye to their activities — so long as they commit crimes outside of his jurisdiction. With increased security at banks, the Barker-Karpis Gang switches to kidnapping, catching the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and landing them at the top of the most-wanted list.

The cover’s being finalized, and as yet there are no planned events around the launch, but once it’s all finalized, the info will be posted — you guessed it — at the various social media sites.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024



Terry here with this week's question: What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation? 

There used to be something called "platform." These days it's called your "brand." Which makes me think of cattle.
And "brand new." And "What brand of toothpaste do you use?" 

 Alas, if you're reading this for advice, you can stop here. In truth, I have no social media strategy. I can't think of my books in terms of "brand." When I try to do self-promotion on Facebook or X, I get all shy and tongue-tied. In person, I know I'm congenial and able to be myself. For some reason, on the social media page, I freeze. If I'm talking about politics or sports or my pets, or my pet peeves, I have no trouble spouting out whatever comes to mind and feeling relaxed about it. But if I'm talking about my books--the beloved fruits of my toil--I become stilted. 

 I envy those authors on social media who seem to have a light touch that somehow draws you into their orbit and makes you want to buy their books. I think of Meg Gardiner, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Rhys Bowen, Joe Clifford, Matt Coyle, Art name a very few. Each of them has their own style that sets them apart. From perky to gloomy, to stylish to avuncular, they seem to be able to breeze in and out of social media, even when touting their books. 

 When I have a new book out or a good review, I dutifully put it onto the Facebook or X page. Somehow when Cara Black says, "I'm so excited about my new..." it sounds like she really means it. But when I say I'm excited, it feels phony. Am I really excited? Or am I just going through the motions of pretending to be excited? I sometimes think about hiring someone to do my social media presence, but I always think I should be able to be authentic for myself. But what is authentic? To promote my Samuel Craddock books should I start a page about cattle? Or barbecue? Or older lawmen? To promote Jessie Madison, should I start posting about diving? Or going to exotic places?
I don't even know where to begin trying to wrestle social media into submission. I've read books on the subject, attended talks and panels, and tried to stay open to the idea of making my social media "work" for me. But so far, it continues to always feel awkward, like I'm trying to sell Tupperware to my friends. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong--thinking that everybody on social media is my friend. But then again...that's exactly what I think.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Being Social

What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?


My social media strategy is not all that sophisticated. I post book news on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), and more recently, Threads. I have private and public addresses on both Facebook and Instagram, although most of what I post on all the sites concerns my books. I'm finding the longer social media carries on, the less likely I am to post anything about my personal life, even on my private accounts.

Another key part of my social media strategy is blogging not only on 7 Criminal Minds every other Monday, but also on my own website. I blog every Saturday but started taking summers off a few years ago, ending in April or May and beginning again in September. I talk about my writing week, events, media coverage and news. I'm amazed at how many people tell me they read it weekly!

As for promoting a brand, I had photos taken by a photographer and these are used widely. I suppose I've been branded as a local Ottawa crime fiction author who sets her stories in this end of the country. I'm also somewhere between cosy and really gritty -- writing more the 'medium-boiled' kind of mysteries.

My online reputation is probably low-key, upbeat and respectful. I respond to every interaction from readers who send messages to me, and I work at being approachable. I don't comment on politics or rant about issues on my public sites. My social media is all about writing, books and outreach to readers, other authors, librarians, booksellers and media.

For me, social media is all about spreading the word! You can follow me at any of the links below :-) 


Twitter (X) 7: brendaAchapman

Facebook & Instagram & Threads: BrendaChapmanAuthor

Friday, June 7, 2024

Getting Your Writing Mojo Back, by Josh Stallings


Q: In your writing life, how do you cope with your self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, frustrations, and despair? I’d really like to know.

A: This is a hard but timely question. There is a multiverse of different forms of what I’ll call, “I suck so bad why bother typing” syndrome. 

Near the mid point in every project I am sure that I’m not up to the task of writing the book. It is either the wrong book or I’m the wrong writer for it. Erika always reminds me I’ve been here before, on every book. Right, but this time it feels real. The only cure for mid way book blues is to keep writing and push through. By midway I don’t need any more deep dives into research, don’t need a focus group or friendly critique. I just need to trust in the process and get typing. 

I hate “trust in the process”,  seems like a bullshit line like “the dog ate my best draft.” But what it means here is, I need a certain amount of critical mistrust in my work to keep myself digging deeper. Not so much that it cripples me, just enough to keep me honest. Somewhere near the middle of a book I slip out of balance, and the only way to prove my abilities to myself is to do some hard good writing. That yin yang, love hate relationship with a project is my process. It has always pulled me from the fog of self loathing. I need to trust it will get me home once more.  

As for despair, the business of getting an agent, getting a publisher, losing your perfect editor in the middle of a draft, having a book fail to sell, most of us have been through these trials and they are fucking brutal. They will lead the cheeriest of us to despair, disillusionment and depression.

When these strike I remind myself that hard times and depression are not a writer thing, they’re a life thing. I know something about this. I’ve fought depression off and on all of my life. 

In my younger days I used drugs and booze to get through personal difficulties. This solution more often than not made things worse. Getting sober I had to learn to get over myself. Turns out my pain is not special. I am not so brilliantly broken that you’d never understand me. I’m just a dude trying to make it through the night. 

I’ve been lucky to be friends with many talented writers, to a one they have told me they too have had to walk through painful feelings and self doubt. Accepting that I am not made special by my pain allowed me to see that I am also not alone in it. As a writer I am a worker among brilliant workers. 

Recently I found peace. A new feeling that I am safe. It’s weird. It’s good. It came as a result of some deep thinking about success. What does it mean to me? It’s a big idea so I broke it down to what does a successful day look like? If I go to bed without the need to make any amends, that would be a brilliant day. Only a few amends would be great too. That’s about mitigating bad behavior. I want to be a little more than just not being a jerk. Part of my recovery is some prayers. A month ago I started reading and saying the prayer of Saint Francis. 

Universe, make me a channel of thy peace,

that where there is hatred, I may bring love;

that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;

that where there is error, I may bring truth;

that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

that where there is despair, I may bring hope;

that where there are shadows, I may bring light;

that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Universe, grant that I may seek rather to comfort

than to be comforted;

to understand, than to be understood;

to love, than to be loved. 

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

Trying to live up to these ideals as a matrix for determining success takes it out of the hands of others and gives me control over achieving my success.

What the heck does that have to do with writing? Good question. What do book sales or critic's opinions or awards have to do with writing? Nothing. Zippity do dah. Zilch.

It is impossible to compare myself to other writers when I’m writing. The act of writing is all consuming. It is a meditative practice. There is no room for outside world bullshit when typing a new world into existence. 

My trouble comes not when writing, but when I’m thinking of writing.

"I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention. I believe that someone should become a person like other people.” - Paul Schrader, screenplay for Taxi Driver

The good news is I can write any damn book I want. Chase any story and dream that calls to me. I can slip into my office, crank up Otoboke Beaver (a Japanese all girl punk band my son Jared turned me on to) grab the keyboard and I’m flying.


What I’m Reading now: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

Thursday, June 6, 2024

HISKITH (my one chance to use the working title), by Catriona

Out 4th June. Details here.

I'm ducking out of the question this week, because I've had a book come out on Tuesday and that gives any writer a free pass for a bit of BSP* The book is called DEEP BENEATH US, although the working title was HISKITH, and for the first time ever, I've attempted a POV character who is a . .. man! I wonder if I've written a plausible man. I hope I find out. For now, here is Barrett Langholm, fifty-ish, divorced, beleagured father of teenage girls, as we meet him at the start of the story . . .

(I should say, I always have to do a "wee-ectomy" as part of editing. No book could withstand having as many instances of the word "wee" in the dialogue as Scottish people use in real life. This time I also had to to a "Jeez-ectomy" on the girls, Sorrel and Willow. I've got a sneaking suspicion this draft precedes it. Jeez!)

If pressed, he would call himself a man’s man. He likes a pint, works with his hands, and his pals are all men. To be more accurate, both his pals are men.. So when his wife left and took his daughters, he never dreamed of arguing. He missed them quietly, then he bought a house big enough to give them a room each when they visited. He took them to Ikea and stood like a horse asleep on its feet while they chose sheets and rugs and something like long Chinese lanterns for keeping shoes in.

‘Daddy! Open your eyes!’
He paid up, packed the car, wielded the Allan key, adjusted castors, left them to the rest of it – the soft things, went downstairs and rang for a Chinese. Those were the days when they’d eat a takeaway.
‘Rice, Dad? White boiled rice? Jeez.’
It wasn’t until the dog that he cried. A full eight months after the decree absolute, when he’d missed a birthday for each of them, it was the night he lost Bess that his throat formed cracks like old mud in a dry bed and his mouth trembled like the flank of a cow on a flysome day. Water, sharp as spikes, squeezed out of his eyes and he stared at the wet patch on the pad of his thumb as he wiped it away trying to remember when had he last shed a tear. It might have been when his old dad died, and he was locked the tiny toilet cubicle of a Co-op Funeral Home, clearing his throat and thumping his fists on his thighs until he mastered himself.
He hasn’t cried for Bess again. He does his job, priding himself on being dependable and thorough. He transfers cash to his girls, all three of them. He walks the hills in head-to-toe Gortex and good leather boots, dark with Dubbin and watertight as ships’ hulls. He rinses his flask with baking soda and leaves it airing with the stopper out, re-uses the foil from round his sandwich if it’s cheese, throws it away after ham, for hygiene.
‘Ever heard of M&S, Dad? Does the word ‘Greggs’ mean anything? Jeez!’
He diesn't let any of it trouble him. He spends his quiet evenings happily oiling tools with a podcast on, or having a cold bottle of lager in front of Storage Wars.
‘Jeez, Dad, you’ll watch anything with ‘Extreme’ in the title!’
Only, he’s too worried for soothing chores tonight. They don’t live on their phones like a couple of kids, but Davey usually picks up the landline and it’s rung out unanswered twice now. So, at bedtime, once Barrett has brushed his teeth and tied the top of the bin-liner ready for the morning, he puts a jerkin on over his sweatshirt, changes his slippers for a pair of rubber clogs and sets off.

Hawthorn tree showing effects of prevailing wind

If he’d a fourby he could head straight up the hill behind the house but as it is he takes the main road down to the outskirts of Sanquhar then peels off onto the two-lane, past the wee pony paddocks with their corrugated iron and tarpaulin shelters. There are letters in the Standard sometimes, complaining about the state of these not-quite stables, but it makes Barrett happy to think the Sanquhar weans can have a horse if they want, that folk like him can keep a few sheep or some chickens. He hears all of them as he drives past: whickering, bleating, a soft cluck from inside a huttie as the birds notice a car in the dark then resettle themselves. He passes a cottage or two with their lights on, a farm with the men still busy in the sheds – autumn calving like they all do now – then he takes the Hiskith turn, onto the single-track with the drystane on either side, his headlights picking out the soft green of the lichen at the foot of the dyke, the sharp green of the moss on the lee of the stones, that egg-yolk yellow of the hawthorn leaves that only lasts a week till a wind clears the lot. It’s lonely up here but there’s no denying it’s bonny when the sun shines or on nights like this when the moon’s like a great big gong hanging in the sky.
He clicks his headlights off, checking, and right enough the moon’s bright enough to drive by, its cold light making the mica glitter in the copestones and turning the stalks of dead grass to silver. Beautiful.
But it’s not safe to keep driving like that. Even on this road to nowhere. To Hiskith, which is the same thing nearly. And it’s a waste of a journey that’s a bugger in the daytime, far better at night when you can see headlights coming miles off, round the blind bends.
Soon enough, Barrett bumps over the cattle grid and the walls fall away at either side of the track, revealing an open moor stretching ahead as far as he can see, with blots of black trees here and there and dabs of white sheep hunkered in about them for shelter.

Southern Uplands and moor

As he climbs, feeling the wind buffet the chassis, seeing the last farm lights disappear behind him, he thinks again about what to do if Davey comes to the door. Will he accuse his friend of not answering his phone? What business is that of anyone’s? He’d sound like one of the girls:.
‘She’s not answering her phone!’ Voices hushed and thumbs flying. UOKGF?
‘What does UOKGF mean when it’s at home?’ he asks, reading over a shoulder.
‘“When it’s at home”! What does that even mean, Dad? Are. You. Okay. Girl. Friend. Jeez!’
Barrett could say, ‘Are you okay, boyfriend?’ if Davey answers the door. Through his worry, the thought makes him smile. Maybe he’ll just park up and watch the house, see that the lights are on and check they go off at bedtime. Davey heads up at ten o’clock, usually.
He watches the strip of turf up the middle of the track disappearing under his bonnet as the miles unspool behind him. Then, as he breasts the final hill that hides the reservoir, he lifts his foot and slips the car out of gear, keeping it poised on the brow, looking down to where the track passes the old school, goes on again skirting the head’s house, and then suddenly stops, nothing but a shining plaque of water with a perfect mirrored moon floating in it and the road emerging again at the far side beyond the dam. Barrett isn’t a fanciful man – this expedition is the most he’s indulged a feeling since Bess died – but he shivers to see the truth so clearly laid out before him in the moonlight.
gentle valley with moorland in distance

They didn’t demolish anything before they flooded it. He knows that, but he tries never to think about it. Tonight, though, with the road catching the light that way, it’s too easy to imagine a cart trundling down, past the school and the heidie’s house, on past cottages and a church, past gardens and middens and byres. A smithy, a shop, a bridge. He can almost see the beak counting the bairns coming up for the bell. Would he have worn a black gown and a board? Barrett shakes himself. ‘He’ was probably a nice woman that cuddled them when they scraped their knees and took them out brambling. He hopes so. Bairns need a woman.
Only, this nice woman in Barrett’s mind is wearing a tweed skirt and a jumper but the village was flooded when women still hid their ankles. It’s that daft bat and her tea towels he’s thinking of.
‘You can’t say that, Dad. Jeez!’
He flicks a glance at the old school, all its windows black at just gone nine o’clock, and thinks: Aye, I can.
Maybe she’s why he finds himself lifting the brake and coasting down silently, out of gear, passing the gate without looking, passing Davey’s too, with its warm light behind drawn curtains. He pulls up with only a crunch of shale chips at the water’s edge, turns to face back up the hill, and switches the engine off.
Not exactly Davey's house but not far off

Bess, Bess, Bess. It’s only the wind, finding the slits in his hubcaps and whistling through them, but bugger if it doesn’t sound exactly like somebody saying her name. And just like that, even though he’s staring out at a sheet of silver water and the black velvet mass of the hill beyond, what he sees is a bright day of scudding clouds and the droplets coming off her coat like diamonds as she clambers out of the loch and shakes herself, then sets off lolloping along the stones, snuffling at nothing with her tail going.
He shouldn’t beat himself up for worrying about Davey tonight, he tells himself. He’s a good man, a good dad despite everything, and a good friend. He’s a failed husband, it’s true, and not much of a . . . he’s long past thinking ‘boyfriend’ and he can’t say the word ‘lover’, even in his head.
But he cared about his ex-wife while he still could, he cares to a fault about his stroppy daughters and of course he cares about his friend. He lifts his head and looks at his eyes in the mirror. Should he go and knock on the door, he asks his reflection. What’s the worst that could happen? He looks away from his own eyes again and settles down with his hands in his pockets.
Old fool. He’s pushing fifty now and he’s been outside in the air all day, doing a last mowing at the care home, raking it, bagging it up, hoiking the bags of clippings into the back of the pick-up. His last thought as his eyes close is, if he’d known he was coming here tonight he could have brought some big bags of that sweet grass up the hill road and turned them out over the fence for the ponies.
He jolts awake, bucking against the seatbelt with his heart clattering, catching sight of his own wild face in the mirror and rearing back to get away from it, all this before he remembers where he is. What the hell was that noise? Was it in his dreams? Was it out there in the real night?
As he settles, he sees the churned water on the surface of the reservoir just now fading to ripples, and he can’t help a moan escaping him. It must have been a rifle shot, although it sounded deeper and bigger than that. But what else could it be? He rakes the dam and the barrier, passing over something that looks like a figure, but surely can’t be, and then he's on his way, still rattled.
He's miles down the road, almost on the two lane, before he realises that Davey’s downstairs lights were still shining.

You know what? No one likes a big-head and British people are so self-effacing that we end up making more work for everyone who ever tries to compliment us, but I'm going to say this: I like Barrett. I'd like him in real life and I like him as a character in the book.  Which means, since I wrote him, I like something I wrote. There's fifteen years in California, right there! If you like him too , more information here are those buy links again here.


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Despair, they name is Author by Eric Beetner

 In your writing life, how do you cope with your self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, frustrations, and despair?

This week’s topic hits me hard. After 30+ books I long ago gave up the idea of being a best seller. I have let go of any expectations of awards or starred reviews or movie adaptations. I’m a sub-mid list writer with a (very) small but dedicated readership with no hope of making it out of the basement. I know it and I’ve learned to be okay with it.

I’m okay because the alternative is to quit. Any creative business is a minefield of struggles, doubts and missing validation for your creative endeavors. But if you started out to become and author in the 21st century thinking this was a path to fortune and fame, well, buddy that’s on you. 

Inadequacy and frustrations abound in my writing career. I’ve always been right at the doorstep, never to be let in. I’m not alone by any stretch. There are way more of us on the outside peering through the glass to the party going on inside than there are authors at the party drinking champagne. And it only gets harder. Writers often only get one shot at it these days. A recent Esquire magazine article told the sobering truth. 

When it comes down to it, I’ve achieved more than I hoped to. I’ve published a whole lot of books. Worked with some great people. Made amazing friends. Been nominated for awards (never won and those were a while ago) and earned the respect of authors I greatly admire. So I can’t be too bitter or let the negative thoughts creep in without checking myself and being grateful it went as well as it did. But I’ve also had to give up hopes of breaking out of the small press world, or being published in foreign markets or being invited to events I don’t put together myself, with a few greatly appreciated exceptions. Letting go of those desires helps tamp down the despair when none of it materializes.

Self-doubt isn’t a huge problem. I know I’ve written good books. I’ve told the stories I wanted to tell. I know I can hold up my work with many huge best sellers. But oftentimes that is its own frustration. Reading a talked-about book or an over-hyped author and thinking “This isn’t better than my stuff” can be equal parts self-assuring and soul-crushing. What is it they have that I don’t? How did this book become a break-out hit and mine languish, unread?

Publishing has so many factors far out of our control as authors. It comes down to the money and muscle to put a book in front of readers. I’ve never had that. It’s not like my books have been widely available or publicized and the reading public has roundly rejected me and said, “no, thanks.” Like most authors out there, the vast majority of readers have no idea who I am. To make them learn takes money and influence I don’t have.

The unfortunate frustrations I can never find a way to spin into a positive have been all the incredibly hard work I’ve put into my writing career and the help/promotion/opportunities I’ve tried to give to others that never amounted to much. I feel like a fake when I tell my children that “Hard work pays off.” I’m living proof that it doesn’t always because I’m hard pressed to find another author who has worked as hard at it as I have. I’ve hosted reading series for years, created a podcast, set up events, hosted events for others, helped authors set up readings at events where I wasn’t even attending. I’ve never entered into any of it thinking of a Quid Pro Quo, but I’ve been disappointed with how little has come back my way. That hits hard, until I realize in the end nobody owes me a damn thing. So quit your complaining, Eric, and get on with it.

And that’s what it comes down to for me. Getting on with it. I write my way out of the frustration. I write my way to happiness, even if the book is only for me. 

I feel certain my best books are some of the unsold manuscripts I have. Books I truly believe in, but I can’t get traction with. And when it comes to that, I get even more frustrated over other writers than I do about my own career. Why can’t Jake Hinkson get decently published in America? He wins awards all over France and his books are amazing. Same goes for Peter Farris. And the publishing industry has sucked like joy out of it for writers like John Rector and Allan Guthrie to the point we may never see another book from them. That makes me so sad. But I also know I’m one foot in that same boat and I’m fairly certain if I were to go away tomorrow, few would notice. But that’s true of most authors. Hard to be missed when nobody knew you existed.

So to deal with it, I try to find a new story to tell and I release any expectation I have of how it will be received. I write for me, which is where we all start. It will never not be frustrating and I know every best seller has a long list of frustrations of their own. Success doesn’t make the publishing industry all of a sudden glide along on a smooth river of honey. But when just one reader connects with a book and lets me know, that can give me the energy to continue for a long time. And when feeling any self-doubt, just call up another writer. You’re not alone. It never gets easier, just different shades of frustrating. But we do it because quitting isn’t an option.