The Social Network Kool-Aid Acid Test, Part Two: Do Tweets Dream Of Retweeting Sheep?

Last night, I scrolled through my blog’s archives and read this. My post from February 26, 2011, “The Social Network Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
What struck me the most is how little the fundamental issues have really changed since then.
Back then, in 2011, the first novel of my trilogy was still a WIP, and I didn’t have to bother with all this social network silliness. Sigh, the “good old days”, when I could just go home and write uninterrupted. 😉
Of course, once the first work was done and I was weighing my publisher offers, it was time to outreach to the world at large. Facebook, for all its relentless ‘time-suck’, has been a blessing, connecting me with prominent independent creative visionaries like Kristen Lamb, T.C. McKinney and Joel Eisenberg.
Even now, my contacts on Facebook are paving the way for ever-greater successes in my (and their) future.

And then there’s Twitter… 😈
Jeremy Light Tweet about VS

Well, okay, if J.K. Rowling can “roll the trolls” on Twitter, I should have no problem with a reasonable comeback Tweet here and there.
Jeremy Light Tweet about VS - My reply

FYI, I’m not saying Jeremy Light was being a troll there, but if he had actually bothered to read “Vampire Syndrome” before commenting about it, he would have found out that Jack is in fact a much wiser character than Bella Swan. One of my main messages is that high IQ, quick wit and cunning do not equal wisdom. Edward Cullen and Bella Swan would both have higher IQ’s than Jack in technical terms, but when it comes down to taking wise actions in life, Jack has more wisdom than Edward and Bella combined.

Even if Jeremy had read only as far as the end of Chapter Seven, by that time Jack has been pursued by cops, pepper-sprayed, jumped out the window of a moving transit bus, chased by a Dodge Charger traveling 80+ mph, attacked by a dog (which he then bit in self-defense!), and bullied by a gang of teenagers. “Cute?”

Jeremy’s now-deleted comment was not really a case of trolling to me, but his Tweet shared one aspect I see in all too many troll Tweets: The tendency to dismiss ideas out of hand, without having any real insight or knowledge into how they are in practice. Since this also happens in other forms of social media…

S Brahm Comment
…we can’t lay all the blame for “trolls” or ‘the increasing tendency to casually dismiss ideas’ on Twitter.

What I will take Twitter to task for, are the issues which may already be laying the seeds for its possible ‘dysTweepian’ future, joining MySpace and Friendster in the Internet’s irrelevancy bin.

Here’s a link I posted in the original 2011 post:
Reuters – Tweeting celebrities risk boring fans: survey
Of course, all the Twitter/social media promotional “experts” continue to ignore this message, because telling under-exposed authors about the dangers of over-exposure seems to be a basic contradiction, something on the order of telling starving people about the dangers of over-eating.

“Seems to be”, because more and more of these “under-exposed” authors are over-exposing themselves on Twitter. The stream of book ads in my Twitter feed is now reaching a point where my feed is getting more than one Tweet every second at peak times.
Ain't Nobody original meme
aintnobodygottime2

The critical difference between Facebook and Twitter is the relevancy of the News Feed. Normal people actually have some good reasons to use Facebook. Does anyone keep in touch with their real-life friends or family members on Twitter, for instance? 😈

Normal people, which if you’re an author would mean the great majority of potential readers out there, have no real reason at all to use Twitter. Sure, you can “follow” some big celeb, but the odds of their answering any of your Tweets are firmly in the “Lightning/Lotto Jackpot” category.

Twitter’s appeal is laser-targeted to those who crave more exposure. A desire that celebrity worshippers, trolls and ‘unknown’ authors all have in common. The celebrity worshippers at least don’t add to Twitter’s ever-growing-feed problem, typically sticking to reading celebs Tweeting about mundane subjects, and the Tweets from those celebrities’ publicists. The trolls, of course, post vitrolic Tweets here and there, but you can at least be somewhat reassured the trolls care enough about their hate-bombs to post each of their Tweets directly to Twitter ‘by hand’.

Which is more than what you can say for ‘unknown’ authors. Under-exposed authors are the first to reach for Hootsuite, Tweet Jukebox and any other number of “social media managers” to paste as many feeds as possible on Twitter. Some also join Retweet groups, to multiply their posts’ reach through cooperative Re-Tweeting. More coverage sounds good in principle, because Tweets have never had the “feed-shelf-life” of Facebook posts. When the general consensus of ‘experts’ is that Tweets ‘die’ within an hour, it seems logical that posting Tweets every hour or so would increase your odds of connecting with readers.

“Seems.” There’s that word again. When (on Facebook!) one famous author complained about all the drama on her Twitter feed, I commented that my feed was “so full of book ads, I never see any drama.” She kindly suggested I thin the herd a bit, but of course if I did that, I’d lose a few hundred followers.

But would that even manner, anyway? Those same ‘under-exposed’ authors I mentioned before are also the prime target of the “follower sellers.”
The Powers Of Twitter 1071 edit

Yes, you read it correctly. Someone with 1,071 followers was trying to sell me “10,000 Twitter followers”. Well, if they won’t buy those “10,000 followers” for themselves, why should I? #MarketingFail 😈

Twitter’s failure to even slightly reign in those selling “Twitter followers” is ironically the main reason why no one with any modicum of intelligence places any sort of value on the number of “Twitter followers” anyone has. Anyone can have “10,000 (fake) followers” for less than the cost of a night out.

The reason why “reality shows” like the Kartrashians’ are beginning to crash and burn is because overexposure kills any “mystique” public figures have, and ultimately paints them in the most mundane and boring of ‘colors’.

From the aforementioned Reuters article:

Easy access to stars through social networking websites has made them less appealing and increases the likelihood of followers getting bored, music consumer research by publishers Bauer Media said.

“In this social media age, it’s all too easy to follow your musical icons on a minute-by-minute basis. There’s a consensus within the industry that this ease of access is leading to artists losing appeal more quickly,” the Phoenix IV report said.

The music industry is starting to consider restricting access to certain types of artists in an attempt to boost their staying power in popular culture and lengthen their careers, it added.

We have now achieved the ultimate in irony: The more ‘unknown’ an author is, the more they will over-expose themselves. Adding more and more Tweets to the ever-blurring pace of the Feeds, until it becomes “white noise” that everyone tunes out by instinct, just as Kristen Lamb predicted in her wonderful book “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World“.

VS Blog 26 Feb 2011 Social Network post comments

These ‘automated authors’ have become the “machines”, or, as Bree Ervin (thinkbannedthoughts) summed it up in her comment here back in 2011, “bots Tweeting to each other”. As I warned here in 2011 and 2012, book ads don’t sell books to each other. When the last human takes the flag with them as they leave Twitter, the dysTweepian future will have arrived. It might even go on without us, posting endless ads to feeds no humans are reading, in hopes of catching the attention of a Retweet bot or two.

Somewhere, the ghost of J.D. Salinger is having a good laugh about all this. 😈

Don’t #AskELJames, Don’t Tell

Before I begin my thoughts on #AskELJames, let me tell you a “secret”.

Back in 2010, the first agent who read the first early draft of “Vampire Syndrome” chucked my manuscript aside after reading just the first two sentences, and expressed an opinion similar to this:

AskELJames Read Tweet
/rant ˅

Even better, I had paid $50 for the ‘privilege’ of attending her workshop, in which I was promised she would read the first two pages of our manuscripts. My experience cost me $25 for each sentence she read. I myself am of the opinion that if you charge $50 per person admission, you had better damn well read the first two pages from all the attendees. Pay me $50 in cash, and I’ll read two pages of anything, and give you my opinion of it. Dinosaur porn, forklift service manuals, Justin Bieber fanzines; no problem, bring ’em to me. 😉

/rantover ˄

This agent’s workshop ended up being worth far more than $50, for me. Not for her unfinished critique of my work, but for the hard-won advice she gave us about the publishing industry. Specifically, the advice she gave us regarding advances for those authors who were prospects to sign on for Big Five (New York) publishing houses. When my ‘time’ came two years later, and my manuscript was in the hands of New York editors, I knew better than to take two of the deals that were offered to me, and that agent’s advice two years earlier was a contributing factor in my decisions.

Also, when someone thinks you’re “illiterate”, you have nowhere to go but up. Even E.L. James can’t say she ever paid $50 just to get that sort of opinion of her work, so I have her beat there. 😈

Some authors like Anne Rice see “jealousy over James’ success” as being the driving force behind the #AskELJames storm. As in, other authors are jealous of her, just because the Fifty Shades trilogy has made her wealthy.

Let me dispel a few of these notions. I turned down a significant advance from a New York house, and signed with PDMI Publishing (an independent traditional publisher) for no advance a few months later. I was in the position where I could have altered a fundamental precept of my work, for the purposes of financial gain. I chose not to, and instead went with a smaller publisher who respects the integrity of my original creative vision.

And, as much as we’d all love to have the money, would most of us really want to trade places with E.L. James, especially right now? I wouldn’t. Her success has come with a whole freighter ship full of baggage. James’ work, the ‘quality’ thereof, and its subject manner, have long been subject to an unprecedented barrage of harsh criticism in all forms of media, not just this latest frightfest on Twitter.

I didn’t join in the #AskELJames trashfest, because there are things I admire about her. James’ success came from fans connecting with her work in a genuine, non-hype-driven manner. She had sold over 100,000 books on her own as an indie author, which to me is much more impressive than her subsequent sales, which had the benefit of widespread Big Five distribution and an even wider-spread media hype machine.

And, whatever opinions one may hold about her writing and the quality thereof, she is a fellow author. We need to support other authors, not tear them down. The #AskELJames Tweet I posted above reminds me in the most personal fashion that any author is, or can be, subjected to this same merciless bullying.  Even the most beloved of authors can be sucked into the trolls’ quicksand trap.

J.K. Rowling vs. Westboro @Twitter

Rowling vs. Political Trolls @Twitter

The real driving issue here, which I haven’t seen anyone else discussing, is not a simple “jealousy” of James’ success. It’s the perception that a work of “inferior quality” has become successful, at the expense of unknown “better-quality” works. What no authors seem to be willing to admit is that they are upset that the public is buying James’ books instead of “better” works, and virtually all of the authors who Tweet-bashed her believe their own work to be “better” than James’. So what we really have here, when you dig down to the core of the matter, is that these authors are upset that the public is buying James’ work instead of “better” works, including, but not limited to, these authors’ own works.

One of the “old” rules of publishing is that authors have to put in years of their time refining the quality of their craft, subjecting their writing to the “sharpening tools” of critique groups, beta readers, etc. Then, after all that, an E.L. James comes along and knocks over their apple cart by directly connecting with her readers and bypassing all the old-school “dues” authors assume everyone has to pay, to be a “success”. The logic behind the mass of knee-jerk reactions thus becomes all too apparent.

Myself, I’m confident I made the right choice in refining my writing craft. I paid the old-school dues with the goal of improving my writing, not necessarily to be a “success”. I prioritize quality over the chase of the dollar. The successes of James, and Stephenie Meyer before her, prove that THE STORY is what connects with the public, not the perceived quality of writing. In today’s post-apple-cart publishing world, what many call “quality writing” may actually hamper your potential for success. Factors such as excess use of descriptions and fifty-cent phrases to “better” your work can act as barriers which will keep busy, time-deprived readers from enjoying your work. Let’s face it, many people are now reading books on their phones. Not to say you have to “dumb down” your work, but you can have quality, good pacing and reasonable brevity in your writing, when you make this your goal. The main point my Vampire Syndrome Saga makes is that wisdom can be expressed perfectly in simple terms, without falling into the common traps of over-analyzing, over-thinking and over-writing.

We can all benefit from following the Golden Rule. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” The ‘simplest’ of wisdoms are often the most profound.

Misconceptions About Down Syndrome

Huffington Post UK: 12 Common Misconceptions About Down Syndrome

The twelve misconceptions listed in this article are important to understand, but they are only the beginning.

In fact, the major driving force behind my creation of the Vampire Syndrome Saga isn’t any of these twelve. The central message of my saga is “Cunning, quick wit and high IQ scores do not equal wisdom.”

A rabid Vampire’s bite thrusts my protagonist Jack Wendell into a world of rapacious, reclusive human monsters who foist quick and lethal judgments upon those they consider to be “too slow” to survive and thrive in their cloaked domain. Soon after, the Venator law enforcers find Jack to be a much more difficult target than they ever suspected. Assuming they could even find Jack in the first place. Try as they may, they fail to realize Jack has a simple yet unimpeachable wisdom guiding his lightning legs across the numerous routes of his elusive escapes. Like many other humans (Vampires or not), the Venators over-think and over-analyze themselves into an inability to compete with those who just do the right things at the right times. The zen of Jack, inverting the concept of ‘disability’ into super-ability. Within the Venators’ pursued “mongoloid” beats a heart as fearless as the Mongol warriors of legend.

Jack’s continued survival unlocks a key the Venators had been burying within all of their previous ‘special’ victims. The key to a possible peace with the fearsome Pure Vampires, shark-like alien carnivores who strike terror in the hearts of all human vampires. Yet the Pures sense something inside Jack that no other human Vampire can match.

The major misconception humans (Vampires or otherwise) make about Down Syndrome is that the average person tends to equate speech level with cognition level. The perception persists that individuals with Down Syndrome have ‘slow’ cognition to match their ‘slow’ speech. If this line of thought was true, mute persons would have no cognition. And we all know that isn’t true.

In the Vampire Syndrome Saga, you are inside Jack’s head, free of the perceived limitations of ‘slow’ speech. From within Jack, you can see the difference between his thoughts and his verbiage. It has been said that people with Down Syndrome have to expend twice as much brainpower as a “normal” person to make the same amount of speech. Which accounts for Jack’s stammering, saying thoughts out loud intentionally, speech-stumbling over certain words, etc.

Some of my readers have commented that Jack seems “too cognizant” for a person with Down Syndrome (never mind that his 90 IQ is quite close to the statistical ‘norm’ of 100, more than enough for fully functional reasoning).

Other persons who have read my book have Down Syndrome, or close family members with Down Syndrome. And all of them so far have told me they consider Jack to be right on target. Guess whose opinions matter more to me. 😉

Why PDMI Publishing, LLC (Still) Matters To Me

As “Vampire Conspiracy” (book two of the Vampire Syndrome Saga) hits the editing room of PDMI Publishing, LLC, I think this is the perfect time to reflect on how I got here, and why I’m still here.

Back in the last days of 2012, a tiny upstart publisher by the name of PDMI Freelance Publishing was beginning to put some big plans into motion. PDMI sought to change its business model from “freelance” publishing (publishing books by commission of their authors) to a full-line traditional publisher. A small company, with a big dream.

My experiences with submitting my work to the Big Five in 2012 showed me that New York Publishing’s ever-narrowing marketing criteria was leaving a void in the literary marketplace, enough to support dozens of independent traditional publishers of the size PDMI has since become. So what I was searching for was a company with a vision for literary quality and originality, where my work would truly be at home. The size of the company didn’t matter, their mission was what mattered to me.

By the end of 2012, PDMI had signed two authors under traditional publishing contracts. Emily Guido, and myself. By September 2013, PDMI’s transition to PDMI Publishing, LLC, an independent traditional publisher, was complete.

Not that there haven’t been a few rocky paths along PDMI’s hike up the “mid-size” publisher mountain. The transition to traditional publishing was carrying some baggage from PDMI’s old freelance days. Some “squeaky wheels” needed new bearings, or even outright replacement. A few of the “freelance” authors were not happy with PDMI’s transition to traditional publishing, as can be expected.

Once PDMI fully transitioned to traditional publishing, they have grown by leaps and bounds. The dozens of people now with PDMI realize the company’s mission is to grow into a publisher big enough to be reckoned with. Something that will not happen overnight, or without a few growing pains at crucial stages.

I bring this to your attention, because of late there have been a few scattered voices of dissent, of the opinion that PDMI is “growing too fast.” The Big Five’s ever-contracting business models make me extremely happy that I’m with a publisher that’s willing and able to grow, one with a true mission to put authors’ personal visions into print, a company not afraid to take a few risks that must be taken, to achieve the “big dream” and a brighter future. The Big Five’s contractions leave more and more room for those “proud few” who have the vision to grow.

PDMI has charted their growth course very well, but not without having to pass through some rocky waters. The Editorial Department has had to be beefed up to cover the additional workload, by hiring new editors, and also hiring a software developer to design custom programs to facilitate much faster author/editor communications, with both parties working on the same Office 365 manuscript to make sure authors and editors are (literally) on the same page.

I signed with PDMI in December 2012, because even then, the company’s mission showed me they were on track to become what they are now, and are still on the right path to the right future. A few may have taken an Editorial backlog as a sign of “too-rapid expansion”, but I know such problems are akin to raising children. Even a child who grows to surpass your wildest dreams will not have a perfect childhood. We all have rocky paths along our roads to achievement. You can see the rocks as insurmountable boulders, or see them for what they really are: A life experience we must learn from and overcome, to get to the peak of the mountain.

PDMI Banner 2014

Update Aug. 2017:
I’m sad to report that PDMI will be closing down on Aug. 15th.
I’d like to thank everyone involved with PDMI in any way for all their great work and commitment to making our literary dreams come alive in print.
Three authors under the PDMI umbrella (Clay Gilbert, LaWayne Orlando Childrey and myself) are now signed for TV development deals with Joel Eisenberg’s Council Tree Productions.
A great testimony for the originality and quality of PDMI’s published works.

Trending: The Collective Consciousness

Kirkus Reviews – Q&A: Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency

I also find it fascinating that as an agent, I’ll suddenly see a slew of similar-type stories cross the transom via query letters or sample pages—as if writers are somehow unconsciously tapping into some cultural zeitgeist all at the same time. Creative synchronicity in the world.

Like Kristin, I am fascinated by the ‘trends’ agents see in their queries from authors. When many authors are working on similar projects at once (without knowledge of each others’ work), it suggests a ‘collective consciousness of creation’ echoed in the world of invention. Several people ‘invented’ wireless radio, but Marconi gets the credit. Edison’s DC current notwithstanding, our world runs on Tesla’s AC current, and we are finally ‘beginning’ to use the wireless power Tesla demonstrated over a century ago.
If YA/New Adult characters with special needs ever become a ‘trend’, I’ll be able to say I was way ahead of that curve

Leonard Nimoy #LLAP

Nimoy’s autobiographies were titled “I Am Not Spock” and “I Am Spock”. The younger Nimoy wanted to show the world he was much more than Mr. Spock (which, of course, he was!), and the older Nimoy fully realized the incredible impact his beloved character had on the world. Gene Roddenberry’s vision endures because great people like Leonard Nimoy embodied that vision, and made it a part of our culture.
‪#‎RIPLeonardNimoy‬, a shining star whose light leads us to the better way. ‪#‎LLAP‬

Leonard Nimoy Final Tweet

NY Times: Leonard Nimoy Was Not (Only) Spock)

Why Authors Should Pay Attention To Gravity

Well, okay, you should always pay attention to gravity (as in the earth’s natural force), but there is another, graver “Gravity” story you need to know.

Kristin Nelson Pub Rants Article: “Why Authors Should Pay Attention To Gravity”

Quick Summary: Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen brought the suit making a claim that the movie was based on her book that New Line Productions had optioned in 1999. Warner Bros. acquired New Line studios and what is in question is whether Warner Bros, after the acquisition, is required to honor the New Line option agreement.

One thing Nelson didn’t touch on is the possible ramifications for those who are (specifically) pursuing “indie” film adaptations of their novels. For example, it might be quite possible your “vampire novel” is more akin to the artistic spirit of successful recent indie vampire films such as Let The Right One In/Let Me In, Byzantium, Only Lovers Left Alive and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night than middling ‘major’ projects such as Vampire Academy and Dracula: Untold.

If a major studio buys out your indie film producer(s), a situation like Tess Gerritsen’s could easily happen. Authors pursuing indie projects will have to trust their “gut feelings” that the producers are committed to crafting the films that Hollywood won’t or can’t do. 😈