Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Random Writing Tips – Accept the numbers game


For the first six or seven years I was on Twitter, I was rather hit or miss on trying to get followers.  I posted whenever, and followed people I though seemed interesting and just hoped they might follow me back.  But then I decided to be more active.  I started to regularly post stuff, and I started to build up my followers.  What I would do, is I would check out who was following someone interesting or somebody I was following.  I would then start following people with interesting bios.  But since there was a limit on how many people you could follow, I started keeping track of who I followed and if they followed me back.  I think every Friday I’d note the last person I followed, and if they didn’t follow me back within a week or so, I’d unfollow them.  Unless they were really interesting.

It took me a couple of years, but I eventually had just over 7000 followers on my writing account.  (I think I had just over 5000 followers on my personal account.)  How many of them were actually people, who were interested in what I posted (often links to my books), and who actually saw my tweets, I’ll never know.  But things were looking up.  Then came Musk.  For various reasons, I stopped posting on Twitter, stating that if an adult took over I’d be back.  But I think too much damage has been done and all my work to build up a following there is gone.

At some point, I had started a profile on Mastodon.  At first, it was just to be another site to reach a different audience, but when I left Twitter, it became my main social media and marketing platform.  I do regularly post stuff, although I’ve drastically cut down on posting links to my books.  Screaming into the Twitter void “Buy my book!” was perfectly normal, but constantly marketing – especially on my instance – isn’t the Mastodon thing, so I’ve been reduced to posting stuff that people will find interesting and maybe check out my books.  I haven’t tried too hard for followers, but I did recently break 300.

Marketing on Twitter was always weird.  I’d tweet about Book A, and then someone would buy Book B, but I never knew how they ended up on Book B.  I had started keeping track of what books I tweeted about and which books were bought, but the results were inconclusive.  But one thing that seems pretty clear is my books sales have dropped dramatically since I left Twitter.  Apparently, having thousands of followers did help. 

All of that was to get to my tip: accept that to really have any success selling books, you need to play the numbers game.  You could be your generation’s greatest writer, but if nobody knows about you, you won’t sell anything.  So between writing and revising and living your life and probably a day job, you also need to find a social media site – or better yet two or three – and put in the time to build up a following.  To that end, check out Mastodon, and maybe give me a follow.


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Ideas that don’t work

Recently, I had the idea for a scene where a 1950’s scifi writer was telling his agent about his latest novel.  It was set in that far off year of 2024, and told of the beginning of a robot rebellion.  The idea behind it was, while all the technology was wrong, parts of this robot rebellion sounds a lot like what people fear will happen when the AIs take over. 

It was a nice little scene, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I eventually had the idea of this writing getting sucked to now, and he is amazed with how far we’ve come in some areas, smartphones, but disappointed in how little we’ve done, like, where are the Mars colonies?  At first, this seemed like an interesting idea.  He ends up with a granddaughter who is trying to finish and update some of the stories left behind when he mysteriously disappeared, and she has to beat the casual misogyny and racism out of him. 

I can’t remember if I had the first idea while I was driving to work, or while doing my mind-numbing day job, but I wrote the basics down in my writing notebook during my lunch break.  But I kept thinking about it when I went back to work, and that’s when things started to unravel.  Basically, everything was to have this grounded reality, but then there was this random time portal that … threw everything off.  I don’t know how long I thought about it, or how many little changes I made to try to get the story to work.  And when I finally had something that might work, I realized that it little to do with the original idea of a robot/AI rebellion, which had been the whole point. 

I have a whole folder of Dead Stories.  Some are just ideas I quickly figured out weren’t going to work, but others I didn’t figure out weren’t going to work until they were half-finished.  And I know that all the time spent writing – even work on Dead Stories – is still writing exercises that help future writing projects, but sometimes I wish I could put out a collection of my half-finished Dead Stories and people would be curious enough to buy it.  I mean, it is late stage capitalism, I need to monetize everything just to squeak by.  Say, have you checked out my most recent collection, The Uncapped Pen?