In which I, firstly, have a plan, and, secondly, lack a plan

I had a plan for this week’s blogging. It was twofold. Firstly the blogging was definitely going to happen yesterday and secondly it was going to be about how David Cameron announcing that he doesn’t want a third term as prime minister isn’t news, and doesn’t demonstrate in any way that he’s a stand up guy who’s not motivated by ‘glory, ego or wealth’.

I would have been a good blog post; basically it would have pointed out that by ruling out a third term Cameron has created a whole chunk of news coverage based on the unspoken assumption that he’s going to win a second term, and secondly I’d have argued that Cameron is vulnerable to a leadership challenge straight after the election if he fails to win an outright majority for the Tories. At the moment an outright majority for any party looks like being a tall order, and so Cameron is shoring up his own position by discouraging potential rivals from challenging the incumbent leader too soon. Why would they risk it, if he’s going to stand down in a few years anyway?

But, having failed at the first part of my plan, a whole 24 more hours has now elapsed, so the tiny political hoo-ha feels even less like news, and I have become distracted by other things – primarily by how I think I might be doing social media wrong. I’ve suspected this for a while. Every time I find myself gathered with writing chums, either at conferences (occasional), places with cake (frequent) or, indeed, online (bascially all the time), the conversation invariably turns, at some point, to social media and How To Do It. And every time, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I do not have a strategy. I basically live on facebook and twitter, and I do post links to blog posts and new book releases and I RT book related stuff that looks interesting, but mainly I just tell the world about my lunch or the shiny thing I’ve just seen and then sort of chat to people. I don’t have a system for checking who’s followed me or unfollowed me or isn’t following me back. I don’t really schedule tweets or statuses, although I use TweetDeck so I totally could, but it would involve deciding what I wanted to tweet more than 4 seconds before I tweeted it, and I don’t know what shiny thing I’m going to be looking at in the future, do I?

Somehow I seem to have found myself embracing social media in a weirdly luddite sort of a way. I like just chatting. I like seeing pictures of the weird stain that random people on the other side of the country have found on their carpet, and musing about what it might be and how to get it out. I like feeling that if I RT or share someone’s post it’s because I think it’s interesting and not because I’m trying to get a certain number of reciprocal retweets every day. I like having a place (albeit a virtual place) where people who spend a lot of their time sitting on their own in their pyjamas can feel like they’re slightly connected to the world. I even quite like getting outraged en masse about some minor thing that does not matter at all, and then sort of sheepishly sidling away when we all calm down. Basically I like being social and chatting to people; I don’t really like to have a strategy for how I’m going to chat to get the most benefit out of it. Chatting to people is the benefit.

And here endeth today’s lesson. I had a blogging plan and I failed. I have no social media plan at all, and therefore can’t even say if I’m failing or not, which is nice I guess. How about you (especially you writer types)? Do you have a system for social media-ing and how does it work?

If you enjoyed these random musings and would like to read more by me, I also write actual novels and novella. Details here.

In which I witter on about self promotion and sisterhood

Ahoy, hello and indeed howdy one and all.

Reading it back I suspect that was probably a greeting that needed more commas, but I can’t quite work out where to put them so I’m going to move on and hope nobody noticed.

Right.

I’m also going to skip over my normal paragraph about being a bad blogger and promising to eat my bloggy fibre and be more regular in future. Best laid plans and all that…

So, anyway, this week I am mainly thinking about self-promotion. It’s a bit of a tricky topic for us budding writers out here in InternetWorld. If you hop over to Twitter you will find that the only form of tweet even nearing the ubiquity of “Buy my book,” is the humourous ranting tweet about the number of tweets saying “Buy my book.”

In addition to the relatively benign “Buy my book” tweeters, you also get the real hardsellers who send DMs (private one-to-one messages on twitter) instructing you to buy their book and write an amazon review, or demanding that you like their facebook author page. Those people are beyond the pale and should be rounded up and taken away to a place where someone can have a stern word with them and then they can sit for a bit and think about what they’ve done.

All of which is a bit tricksy for us writerly types, because ultimately we do want you all (every single last one of you) to BUY THE BOOK. Fortunately, I am here to save budding writers from this nightmarish social media stressfest, with my completely considered, not made up on the spur of the moment at all, RULES FOR ONLINE PROMOTION.

1. Tweeting or Facebooking a single line from your novel won’t make anyone buy the book. No single sentence is that amazing. If Shakespeare had been @shakespearebard and had tweeted “‘To be or not to be’ Brilliant new story: HAMLET! Out now ” he would have essentially managed to make Hamlet sound a bit meh. Bad Shakespeare. And Bad Twitterers. Bad.

2. Don’t tweet or message me just to ask me to like your Facebook page. Have a facebook author page by all means. I’ve got one. It’s fine and dandy. It means that you can keep your personal facebook and your public/work/writerly facebook separate. But the point of having it isn’t just to attract likes. Presumably the point of having it is to allow you to engage with readers in a fun interesting way that ultimately encourages them to BUY THE BOOK. Putting all your energy into getting likes for a facebook page seems like putting your cart before your horse, which is stupid because horses are notoriously poor at pushing stuff. Facebook likes aren’t an end in themself. Remember that people.

3. It is ok to tweet or retweet links to reviews, blogposts and news stories about your book, but it’s not ok if that’s all you tweet or all you put on facebook. Twitter’s tagline is “Join the conversation,” not “Shout promotion at strangers.” For every explicitly promo-y tweet set yourself a target of at least three tweets about your breakfast. Everyone loves breakfast. No-one loves having promo yelled at them across the interweb.

4. Be interesting. And if you only adhere to one of these rules, make it this one.

So in summary, facebook author pages are like horses. You need to be careful about where you put your cart, and be interesting. That is all dear readers. That is all.

Actually no, it isn’t! I’m not usually a fan of blog chainy type things, for similar reasons that I’m not really a fan of blog awardy things, which I explained back here. However, this week I was tagged in this:

by the rather lovely Jane Lovering, and the concept didn’t actually offend me so I shall play along. The idea is that we’re sharing the love between cool and interesting women bloggers who we admire. Jane has already tagged my fellow Choc Lit newbies, Rhoda Baxter,  Janet Gover and Jules Wake, and so I’m going to add the following:

Laura E James – one more Choc Lit Newbie. The Dear Mum post on 22nd July made me tear up.

Holly Anne Gets Poetic – in the interests of full disclosure I’ll acknowledge that Holly is a close personal friend, but she’s also my absolute favourite poetry blogger out there at the mo’. Read her. She is funny and dark and wise.

Neets Writer – I’m not normally a fan of writers blogging about writing. In fact the amount of writing chat around here at the moment is quite putting me off myself. But Anita Chapman does it well – she’s worth a read.

Kate Johnson -And one more Choc Lit girl to finish things off. The delightful Kate Johnson, who I have just about forgiven for taking MY little cup home from the RNA conference this year. Apparently she won it or something…

And that really is all. Bye bye.

Where I muse on compliments, chain letters and not liking cancer.

Not so long ago the lovely Sue Fortin included me in her list of Friendly Blogger award recipients. The Friendly Blogger award is a generally nice, happy, caring, sharing way of bigging up blogs you love. Us little individual bloggers scibbling away in our tiny corners of the modern Interweb appreciate all the support and links we can get, and so a bit of sharing the blog love is always welcome. The Friendly Blogger award invites you to “pay it forward” if you will, and when you read down to the bottom of this post you will see that I’m sharing a few of my fave blogs for your delectation. The award also invites bloggers to share seven interesting personal things about themselves. Sadly  my fundamental British/Northern/middle-class ness prevents me from doing that. Seven things? About me? Seriously, I’ve been with my hubbie over 15 years now, and he probably only knows about four things. I consider that a sign of a worrying level of emotional outpouring as it is.

The Friendly Blogger award also got me thinking about some of the downsides of my modern uber-connected life, the main one being that, although being easily connected to masses of people all over the shop opens you up to equivalent masses of loveliness, it also brings a whole world of opportunities to get irritated with humanity. Here are a few of my main InterWeb things that make me go Grrr.

1. Just for the record, I think that cancer is a Bad Thing. But here’s where I’m setting myself apart from those annoying Facebook status updates on the subject. I’m just going to assume you feel the same. Frankly, if you don’t, you’re a bonker and any further discussion would be pointless anyway. What I’m not going to ask you to do, is copy and post my view that cancer is a Bad Thing onto your blog or status update. I’m not going to imply that if you don’t do that, you’re a living embodiment of evil. I’m not going to suggest that failure to comply with a copy & paste instruction suggests that you are somehow in league with cancer and in favour of your friends and family suffering painful and premature deaths. I’m definitely not going to imply that if you fail to copy & paste as ordered you are not a True Friend.

For future reference, valiant status updaters, please assume that, when it comes to cancer, I’m against it. I’m also opposed to many other major life-shortening illnesses and pretty much anything that can be shown to kill children, puppies or kittens. Thank-you.

2. Secondly, internet, I would very much like you to learn to do simple maths. This would stop you, for example, from tweeting comments about how a month with five Sats, Suns & Mons in it only comes along every 800 years. This is obviously preposterous. Every month with 31 days (of which there are 7 every year) will have three days which appear 5 times. As a rough guestimate I’d figure that any given set of three days must appear around about once a year. And yet, every time there’s a 31 day month I see one of these tweets or status updates. That means I’m irritated unneccessarily at least seven times a year. So why not think about the numbers before you click on post and save me the mental effort of checking your working? 

Now I know that lots of people struggle with maths. I’ve taught adult numeracy in the past, and fully understand that maths is a subject that lots of people find intimidating and a bit overwhelming. That’s fine (well, it’s not fine really, but I’ll save the discussion of the bigger failures in education that have created that situation for another day). What I would suggest though, is that if you’re one of those people who suffers from a touch of Maths-blindness you shouldn’t write status updates or tweets that rely on a mathematical oddity for the point they’re making. There’s a high chance you’ll be wrong, and that will irritate me. And it should be clear by now, lovely internet, that I do feel that you need to be dedicating a higher percentage of your time and brainpower to not irritating me than is currently the case.

3. Actually, it’s not just the maths, I’d actually like you to think more right across the board. So, when you get an email that alerts you to a specific crime wave that is spreading across the globe, what I’d like you do to is pop over to Google, copy in a couple of key phrases from that email and click search. What you’ll probably find is that the email is a hoax, and you’ll have saved me the time of searching myself and then deleting the email, and you’ll have saved yourself from looking like a gullible fool. And again, I’m less irritated. Win:Win:Win.

4. Finally, I would just like to remind you internet, that, back in the old days of mail being delivered by a man (or indeed lady) who had to physically carry stuff to your house, there was such a thing as a chain letter. That was a letter that carried the promise of much reward if the receiver passed on the letter to x people, and, often, the threatened dire consequences for those who did not. Those sorts of chain letters were a fairly revolting attempt to prey on the superstitious and the vulnerable. Status updates/emails/tweets that demand reposting, or which promise great luck for those who repost, are exactly the same thing, only now they get reposted by people who would have thrown away a paper chain letter (and who would never have dreamed of starting one).

So don’t do it. Don’t repost messages that promise great riches for those who continue the chain. Doing so is manipulative. If you wish your friends luck and happiness contact them directly and tell them that. Don’t post it to a general audience with a veiled threat against those who don’t participate included. That is Very Bad Internetting indeed.

Ok. I think that is all. I’m breathing normally again and my little fists are starting to unclench after good venting of irritations, but please tell the world about your internet irritants in the comments (or indeed tell me why I’m wrong and facebook statuses promising to make me rich if I repost are beneficial to society).

As promised I’ll finish with a handful of blog recommendations. These are mostly of the writerly variety. As noted back here I don’t very often write about writing, so here are a few suggestions of some people who do, and do so rather well:

Talli Roland: http://talliroland.blogspot.com/ Talli writes a bit of general journal stuff about what’s happening in her life, but also about her writing and publishing experiences. As she’s just announced that she’s self-pubbing her next novel I’m watching her blog with interest to see how that goes.

Raw Light: http://rawlightblog.blogspot.com/?v=0 Jane Holland’s Raw Light blog is celebrating it’s 6th birthday at the moment. A mix of writing about poetry, prose writing and anything else that crops up.

Hollyannegetspoetic: http://hollyannegetspoetic.wordpress.com/ A poetry blog – this one generally has 2-3 new poems every week, so not even writing about writing, just actual writing. And (for those of you in Worcestershire) you’ll be supporting one of my fave local poets too.

Sally Jenkins: http://sallyjenkins.wordpress.com/ Good stuff on here on all different sorts of writing, including articles and short stories 

So there you go, four writerly blogs to make up for the fact that I can’t focus my brain enough to blog about what I actually do. As ever, if you like please subscribe either as an email subscriber or via NetWorked Blogs (and, yeah, I know that RSS feed isn’t working quite right at the moment – I’m working on it, promise.)