The Things We Say on the Internet

Disclaimer #1: This post is not inspired by anyone I know personally, just things I’ve observed on social media and my thoughts on it. Also, the intention of this post is not to claim or imply that I’ve never made an ass of myself on the web. I have. Repeatedly.

Disclaimer #2: This post is only loosely tied to writing…

I follow a handful of celebrities online (maybe a couple dozen on Facebook, a couple dozen on Twitter, and half a dozen on G+). Once in a great while, I’ll comment on their statuses or reply to their tweets, or even mention them in a tweet, but it doesn’t happen often. I’ve had a couple of “celebrities” reply to my tweets (and even had one thank me for mentioning him in an article I wrote for Mashable a million years ago). So I don’t view it as futile to try to interact with celebs on social media. If they didn’t want to interact with people, they wouldn’t be on social media.

What I’m about to talk about seems to be more prevalent on Facebook than anywhere else, but I’ve seen it on virtually every social network out there. It usually goes like this: a celeb posts something profound, deep, hilarious, or even a little boring, and there are a handful of comments that are semi-related to the topic (and often half of them are borderline-illiterate), and then, inevitably, begin the comments along the lines of “I want to have your baby!” or “You’re so hot!” or things that I will not repeat on this blog in case there are children or people with taste reading.

Now, I’m not gonna lie, there are times and certain celebs where I am thinking all the inappropriate things these people are saying. But I have this internal filter that prevents me from actually saying these things to a complete stranger. That’s what people tend to forget about all these celeb interactions: these people do not know you. They would not recognize you on the street, they would not take your phone call if you somehow got their phone number, and they would not invite you to their wedding or their kid’s birthday party. They do not know you. And as much as you like to think you know them because you follow their every tweet and status update, you don’t know them.

So why would you say something to these people that you wouldn’t say to anyone in real life? Would you walk up to a complete stranger on the street and say “I want to have your babies?” (Note: the correct answer is “no”, so if you said “yes” you might want to talk to someone about that.) Would you, sober, scream out in a crowded room that someone you’ve never met is hot? In front of their family and friends? Again, that should probably be a “no.”

It’s an epidemic on the internet. It’s like everyone loses that internal filter that tells them what they should and should not say the second they log on. Granted, some people don’t have that filter in real life, but the ratio is way off online.

This leads to other issues. It leads to trolling and people feeling like they can just say whatever they want when they’re online without consequences. Remember: there is a human being on the other end of whatever you’re saying. I don’t care if they’re famous, internet famous, or completely unknown, they’re a person! Sure, celebrities might be a little bit more used to people saying inappropriate things, but does that mean they like it? I’m guessing not for the majority of them. I’m guessing some of these things embarrass them. I bet they get uncomfortable when reading some things. And here’s the worst part: I bet they censor themselves because they know certain things they post will elicit a certain type of undesirable response. And that’s where everyone loses out, because we’re getting a less authentic interaction.

On that note, here are my three basic rules for interacting online. The goal here is not to stifle free speech or tell people what to do, it’s simply my own personal guidelines for how I interact with people, especially people I do not know in real life (who are more apt to get my special brand of humor), when online.

1. Remember that you’re dealing with people. Living, breathing human beings are on the other end of every comment you post.

2. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If something would make you feel uncomfortable if someone else said it to you, why would you say it to them?

3. Before posting anything online, ask yourself if you’d say the same thing to someone’s face. If you wouldn’t, why would you post it online for the entire world to see?

Following those three basic rules has kept me largely out of online embarrassment (there have been exceptions). I know that if I were to ever meet any of the celebrities or others I follow online, I wouldn’t have to be sitting there thinking, “I hope they don’t remember that thing I said that time.” Considering I want to be involved in the film industry, I hope there’s a good chance I’ll meet (or work with) some of these people in the future. So maybe that’s the difference: I view them as potential colleagues, while others view them as these unreachable figures that they will never, ever meet.

2012: The First Quarter

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been through a full quarter of 2012. The past three months have been life-changing for me, and while it didn’t seem like it earlier in the winter, it’s been changing for the better.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I went through a major personal crisis at the end of 2011. While I don’t want to get into the particulars in such a public forum, the gist of it is that after eleven years of living together and more than five years being married, my husband and I split up. This has turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and while it’s obviously not something I would have hoped for, I firmly believe that it was the right thing to have happened. Continue reading

Of Conferences and Fellowships

Despite everything going on in my life at the moment, I decided I need to do some proactive things related to conferences and fellowships that will take place later this year. After all, deadlines are approaching quickly for two particular writing-related things, and while they won’t take place until the second-half of the year, I can’t wait until then to apply. Continue reading

Writing Again

Just taking a minute for a quick update. The third and fourth Steam and Steel Chronicles novellas are currently with my beta reader. She’s usually really quick with notes for me, so I may start with revisions on them later this week. Still no idea what the titles will be, but I’ll post here when I come up with them.

I’m working on an urban fantasy novel I started last year. I had about 25,000 words done on it, mostly just bits and pieces of scenes. And then I got distracted with other things and dropped it, though always with the intention to go back and finish it. So I’m going to try to finish it soon. It will be the start of a loose series I’m working on, with books all set in the same world, and possibly with some reoccurring characters. I have one other book planned for sure, but it’s going to be a big world, so there will be a lot of room for new stories in the future. Continue reading

A Hiatus & Some Book News

So, I’ve gone through some major, life-changing personal things during the past few weeks. The direction of my life is very much up in the air at the moment, and I have to admit it’s kind of scary. Actually, it’s really scary.

There are a couple things I do know:

  1. I’m going to keep writing, both fiction and non-fiction. This is not something I’m ever going to give up if I can help it.
  2. I’m still working to get the last two books of The Steam and Steel Chronicles out. I had hoped to get book three out at the end of January and the fourth out in February, but that’s probably going to be pushed back by about a month. I still hope they’ll both be out before spring.

But basically everything else in my life is completely in limbo at the moment. To say it sucks is an understatement, but much of what is happening is beyond my control.

So that brings me to my next point: I’m going to be blogging a lot less for probably a few months, at least on this blog. I need to focus on my work, my books, and my life at the moment, and that means something’s got to give. I may still blog occasionally, when I find the time or have something I feel is important to say, but mostly it’s going to just be announcements about when my books will be available.

On that note, Hold My Hand is now available through the Kindle Owners Lending Library on Amazon, and will be available for free to everyone via Amazon from January 12-14, and then again later this month or next month (I’ll announce that when I finalize the dates). So if you haven’t read it (and based on my sales figures, most of you haven’t), take this opportunity to get it for free!

My Take on One-Pass Manuscript Revision

I’m approaching the revision process for the last two books of The Steam and Steel Chronicles, and thought I might share my revision process, as it stands now. It’s based on Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revision process (I highly recommend reading that post before you finish this one—go ahead, I’ll wait), though I’ve made a number of tweaks to it that fit my own way of writing and revising.

A couple of points before I begin, though:

  1. One-pass revision is probably not going to work well for first-time novelists or first-time revisers. If you’ve never revised a novel or if this is your first novel, you’re almost certainly going to need to do more than one pass. That’s okay.
  2. You need to figure out what method works best for you. If you prefer to go over your manuscript ten times, then that’s fine. Personally, I don’t. My goal is to continue writing new things, and get the old things as perfect as is reasonable in as little time as is possible. That means 1-2 revision cycles, tops.

So, without further ado, here is my method: Continue reading

Two Years?

I just came across some pretty disturbing information about the time frames involved in legacy publishing. Right now, from the time a book is signed until it’s actually released is running upwards of two years. TWO YEARS! And in some cases, we’re talking about ebooks taking that long!

What on earth are publishers doing with writers’ manuscripts that it takes them two years to publish them? I mean, seriously. I’m asking the question.

As an individual, I can put an ebook out in a matter of months. That includes a couple rounds of editing, copyediting, cover design, formatting, uploading, and marketing. And I work full time, so it’s not like I just have all day to do these things. If I can do this in a matter of months, why does it take publishers years? These are people with staff. With resources at their fingertips I could only dream of. And it takes them twenty-four months to put out a novel? As a freakin’ ebook?

And if you tell me that it’s because of backlog, because there’s too much in the pipeline to begin with, then the problem is only going to get worse. I’d say it’s time to fix that pipeline problem. Hire some additional staff or publish fewer books, faster. It’s not rocket science. I’ve worked with a large publisher, and I have to tell you that the inefficiencies in that system are astonishing.

Yet they wonder why indies are doing so well? As an indie author, I can see a market trend that I find interesting and I can write to it. I don’t have to wait three or four years (if you consider the time to write the book, get an agent, make the submissions rounds, and finally get signed, in addition to the actual publishing time) for someone else to put my book out. I see a trend, decide if it’s something I can actually passionately write about, and I can write it and have it out before that trend has reached its peak.

Publishers have a very hard time doing that anymore, because their publishing workflow and timeline is just too damn long. There are too many steps to the process that aren’t necessary and there are too many points of failure (and let me tell you, they do fail, and in my experience, they fail quite often). There are hundreds of digital tools out there that can be used to speed up the publication process and make it more productive and more useful, and from what I can tell, large publishers aren’t using any of them.

Granted, some publishers are putting books out rather quickly, in less than a year (my own non-fiction book was done in less than eight months between the time I signed the contract and the time it was available on Amazon, and less than a year when you look back to when the proposal was originally submitted). Some small fiction publishers manage to get books out in a matter of months. But the standard, the length of time most legacy published authors are coming to expect, is now eighteen months to two years. And that’s after the contract is signed.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t acceptable. Let’s actually crunch the numbers here:

I write a novel. Let’s say it takes me six months to get it into submission-ready condition (which is typical for a lot of professional, career-oriented authors). Let’s say I start this on January 1, 2012 (for ease of tracking). It’s ready to go on July 1, 2012.

I send it out to agents. It takes six months to find an agent who wants to take me on (which is honestly probably a bit on the quick side, as I know a lot of people who sub for much longer, but we’ll be optimistic here). It’s now January 1, 2013. It takes that agent another three months to find an interested publisher, and a month beyond that to negotiate an acceptable contract (again, this is being optimistic, but I’m trying to paint a best-case scenario here, not a worst-case one). It’s now May 1, 2013.

The publisher schedules it for release in April of 2015, just under two years after the contract is signed. But that’s three years and three months after I started writing the thing. And don’t forget that I’ll need to do a good bit of marketing after the book is released, so I better just round it up to four years.

Now, let’s say I have a very good agent, and she gets me a good advance for a first-time author: $30,000 for the book. I know a lot of authors would jump at that kind of advance, and a lot of them are getting paid a whole lot less than that. But broken down yearly, that’s only $7,500.

You might argue that during the two years that book is with the publisher I can be writing other things. But that publisher might just (probably does) have a clause in their contract saying I can’t publish any other novels (or even book-length works) before this one comes out. So effectively, my hands are tied. And the publisher isn’t going to contract another book from me until they see how the first one fares.

$7,500 a year. A part-time minimum wage job at McDonald’s pays more than that. Sure, you might get royalties down the line, but probably not until after that four years is up. And even then it’s completely up in the air whether you’ll actually get anything more than your initial advance. And we’re expected to make a living on that? I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t cover my mortgage for the year (and I live in a very, very inexpensive area).

Authors need to look at writing and publishing as a business if they want to actually make a living at it (and if you don’t, then ignore what I’m saying here). You need to site down and crunch the numbers and the time involved in each and figure out which one fits your own goals. Just remember that there are indie published authors out there who are making the best seller lists (including at least two in the Kindle Millions Club), so that’s not a deciding factor anymore.

Repeat After Me…

I spend a lot of time on writer’s forums (probably more than I should). Absolute Write is one of my favorites, as are the NaNoWriMo forums until they die out sometime around the holidays (they don’t actually die out, but they do become a lot less active). I’ve been active on various others at times, too.

I enjoy writing forums, and I enjoy interacting with other writers. Especially since I work at home and have very little interaction with the outside world on a daily basis. But there are some questions that get asked on a recurring basis, with slight variations each time, that kind of bug me (maybe it’s just because I’ve spent way too much time on these forums, and so it all seems a bit repetitive to me). Continue reading

What I’m Reading: Indie vs. Legacy

So I was thinking about my reading habits due to a few discussions on various websites, and I realized something: for the past six months or so, I’ve been reading a ton of indie published books and books published by very small publishers, and very few legacy published books. In fact, most of the legacy published books I’ve read in the past six months were purchased a long time ago and have been sitting in my to-read pile for awhile.

Since I got my Nook Color back in the spring, I’ve read ebooks by Amanda Hocking (indie), Zoe Winters (indie), Lindsay Buroker (indie), Greta van der Rol (small press), Kimberly Menozzi (small press and indie), Poppet (small press), Calista Taylor (indie), and Randolph Lalonde (indie). Print books I’ve read this year only include Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series (which I started reading last year) and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Oh, and some books I either picked up at places like Big Lots (when they’re $2 apiece for a hardcover), or books that have been shared among myself, my mother, and my grandmother (like John Grisham’s A Painted House). Continue reading

Writing: Career or Hobby?

I was driving home from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 midnight release one night (my husband’s airsoft team always does an appearance at these things) and we got talking about creative pursuits as a career vs as a hobby. It started out, I think, with a discussion of the music industry. Individual recording artists are often upset about the low royalties being paid out from services like Spotify. They get a fraction of a cent for each time their song is played, meaning they have little chance of gaining any kind of real income from these plays. And so they decry the industry and these services, and say they’re what is killing the music industry.

Independent movie producers say the same kinds of things. They only make a few cents (if that) whenever their movie is streamed via Netflix. Unless their film is viewed millions of times, they won’t make much money off of it.

I hear the same kind of thing coming from a lot of authors. If they’re forced to sell their ebooks at $.99, they’re only making $.35 on each sale. They have to sell thousands of copies to make any money. (The same things are said at $2.99, $4.99, and pretty much anything under the price of a mass-market paperback.)

Part of this has to do with the number of celebrities we see in each of these fields, and pretty much every other creative field. We see the J.K. Rowlings, the Stephenie Meyers, the Stephen Kings, of the world, and we think that that’s what success looks like. We think that all we should need to do is write something great (or not so great, depending on your opinion) and the riches should follow. Continue reading