The past couple weeks have been ripe with ideas for blog posts I wanted to write, and I have to admit that with the idea that I was returning to some sort of version of my old routine today, I may have been swimming through a ton of the ideas on what I wanted to write about today…It’s amazing to note how much I’ve missed little things like blogging. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve missed writing…meaning I need to get some real time on The Right to Liberty today…
Anyways, although there’s all sorts of things I want to write about, there’s one that is actually a rather recent issue which has cropped up which I just can’t quite get out of my head.
It’s a dangerous thing. Increasingly often since I’ve begun my travels down the road of being an author, I’ve been asked by folks of my thoughts regarding different things, usually regarding a piece of fiction. I’m always more than willing to give my advice, always providing the caveat that I know pretty much absolutely nothing. In this space here, you’ll note that I frequently give my thoughts on a wealth of topics, and sometimes, especially when it comes to words, those thoughts could be considered advice.
(Side note: I was told just this morning by a friend that they had finished reading a book on content writing and found that a great deal of the information in the book had already been covered by me here on the blog…which shows just how educational spending time with me here can be…and how many people are writing books about content that probably shouldn’t be ;-))
But sometimes advice just plain isn’t wanted.
Now, considering what I’ve said above about how I’m asked more and more frequently about my thoughts on things, it’s easy to see how authors can find themselves getting confused about how they should interact with people. It’s easy to believe that everyone’s looking for advice, if all your conversations boil down to such. But sometimes that just isn’t the case.
I’m going to use an example here of an exchange that happened to me on a public forum rather recently. I use it just because I couldn’t help but notice how poorly it reflected on the person who offered the advice, not because it bothered me. In fact, the advice wasn’t entirely incorrect and was similar to thoughts I already had…similar, mind you, but quite far from exact.
As you may be aware, The Legend of Buddy Hero went on sale a couple weeks back (actually, the sale started on the exact same time my new little son was born). I had intended to spend the weekend doing a great deal of marketing for it and all that jazz, but, well, I got a little waylaid. Instead, I just put some links up in a few different spots in an attempt to at least put out a little word of mouth. One such place I tossed it was within the promotions section of a goodreads group for superhero writers.
The post said very little more than, hey, my book’s on sale! I’m not sure anyone who would have bought it actually read the post…writer’s forums are quite possibly the worst places to attempt to sell books. But someone did respond. His response was something along the lines of, “I would have bought your book, but your blurb immediately turned me off because the first sentence made me think it was one type of book and after reading it further I thought it might be a different type of book and…” Although it read rather biting, it could be construed as useful commentary…somewhat.
But it wasn’t warranted. Not in that place anyways. Once again, I’m not one to take myself too seriously, especially when it comes to marketing, so I really haven’t spent the time boiling over this as it might appear based on the fact that I’m writing a post about it. Simply put, by writing his response, the effectiveness of that piece of marketing plummeted. Akin to placing mustaches on billboards, the message was lost.
Of course, I thanked him for his thoughts and left it at that, although inwardly I was biting my tongue against comments about misunderstanding of genre and overclassification and simplification of storylines…
In the end, neither of us got anything out of the conversation.
And here’s where I’m getting to the point for today. Social media is such a crazy method in which to attempt to sell anything. As opposed to marketing of the past, suddenly people have a direct line to the producers of content and can speak their minds for or against anything. If I were someone who took himself more seriously, I would have taken that assault on my work quite a bit differently. “How dare this author who has only three fans on facebook attempt to tell me how I’ve done things wrong?!?” (I have no clue how many fans he has, didn’t actually look).
You see, although advice is a dangerous thing to give, it’s also dangerous for the recipient. Today’s world is filled with advice. So many people come out of reading my books and come at me with things they think I need to change. “Buddy Hero was good, but where are the black superheroes?” “Well, they’re coming, and I have good reason for their delay, but I can’t tell you that because that seems defensive and bitter.” “The Agora Files isn’t worth reading because it ends in a cliffhanger.” “It’s not over yet…”
Too easy in today’s world is it for producers of content and products to get embroiled in a battle over defending oneself. Everyone has advice. Every single person. As an artist, especially, one has to learn to roll with the punches. Everyone will give you advice and sometimes what they say will be useful. More times than that, they just plain don’t understand what you’re doing and you should probably ignore them.
But here’s the thing. As an artist who wants to sell things, there’s a sort of professional front you need to put on…if someone offers you advice, even if it’s absolute bull$hit, you have to smile, at least if you’re hoping to keep from alienating possible fans. Just take a look at your facebook feed for a few seconds. I’m willing to bet money that you won’t have to go too far before you’ll find a friend who has been talking out their love about a given TV show for the past few months who then has a problem with some small aspect of a storyline.
We have been trained in recent years to judge and to give our thoughts, and now that we have a direct line to the producers, to the artists, we give our advice as well.
But sometimes there’s a fine line between advice and just being a jerk.
That being said, I’ve actually received so much amazing advice over the years on my writing. In fact, there have been so many times in which folks have held back on giving their thoughts about my writing when I wish they wouldn’t. I think many authors and artists and producers need to reach the point where they openly embrace advice, even if it’s terrible. Sometimes there’s something in there that makes sense. In fact, when working on final edits for Rise of the Fat Mogul, I had a fairly extended conversation with my wife about the jacket in the scene. Her initial comment about the jacket seemed rather benign…but after getting to the bottom of it, I actually believe the scene was made a lot better based on the issue she found.
Of course, if you offer advice, I hope that you won’t mind if I come back with questions. One of the things I need most when attempting to use advice is to get down to the bottom of why you’re providing it. Sometimes, especially with writing, we see things very differently.
Alright, I’m outta here. Have a good one!