Three Principles for Author Social Media

Three Principles for Author Social MediaAfter many years, I’m content to walk away from exchanges that I think are going to be negative, but it took me many years to get there. Here are some quick notes on what I’ve learned about being an author and social media. Let me tell you how we got to here.

I found myself exhausted after a late-evening sesh with Twitter the other night. Many people have strong opinions on the publishing biz, and sometimes those conversations find their way to Twitter where simple opinions become exhaustive examination. Seeing the approaching storm, I closed the laptop for the night and turned my attention to video games.

So what are the takeaways from a wild ride across social media? Here are three big strategies that it took me a long time to figure out. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and take these in. Remember, these are strategies so give them some time to sink in.

Don’t Say Anything Unless You’re Sure You Can Say the Right Thing

In a world of hot-takes, quick reactions, and viral social media, it’s tempting to open your mouth to say something. Kim Kardashian gets away with it, right? Uh, yeah, but no. You have to remember: anything you say online can literally become ammunition to be used against you at a later date. Kim’s got a million-dollar PR team ready to smooth over any social media faux pas, do you?

The simple way around this nightmare scenario is to remember those old-fashioned adages: “Keep your words soft and sweet, you never know which ones you’ll have to eat.” You’ll never have to apologize for something you didn’t say.

But this is the 21st Century, right? We’re social media people, right? We have to say SOMETHING, don’t we? Of course. And therein lies the strategy I mentioned above: Don’t say anything unless you’re sure you can say the right thing. Respond, don’t react. See your words as a sword, swing only when you are sure of a hit. If someone should stick the proverbial microphone in your face, there’s nothing wrong with saying: “I’m not sure I know enough to give a complete response.”

No one will remember when you said nothing, but EVERYONE will remember when you said the wrong thing.

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You Love Star Wars, But Star Wars Doesn’t Love You

As an aspiring sci-fi author, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with Star Wars. On the one hand, I love everything about Star Wars (Hello, see the previous post?) and will be celebrating May the Fourth with all of you. On the other, stuff has happened to the Star Wars franchise that makes me realize an uncomfortable truth: You love Star Wars, Jackson, but Star Wars doesn’t love you.

Maybe you saw this news story on Tuesday – Disney took some heat for some poorly-worded tweets connected to MayThe4th. According to the news story, ‘Disney Plus, encouraged fans to share their favourite Star Wars memories using the hashtag on Monday. It followed up with a legal warning suggesting any user who tweeted the hashtag was agreeing to Disney’s terms and letting it use their content.’

Then the fans exploded with indignation, and Disney walked their comments back, saying ‘that the wording applied only to specific tweets in the original thread.’ I’m over here like ‘Um, kay …’ Disney’s social media faux pas rips the Band-Aid off of many fan fears that festered ever since Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas. They want to be seen as cute and cuddly, but then they drop the Death Star on your head. It’s hard to look like an Ewok after you threaten to force-choke Twitter.

And look, I love both Disney and Star Wars. But that doesn’t mean I love what they’ve become. Forty-plus years after New Hope, I hung up my Han Solo jacket and started writing new stories, and exploring new universes as an emotional necessity. I wanted to find new scifi universes I could fall in love with, and that would love me back.

So if any of this resonates with you, if that Twitter thing is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, know that you aren’t alone. If there’s something about Star Wars in a post-prequel era that doesn’t sit well with you and you’re really sure what it is, but the feeling won’t go away, maybe I can give you the words. Let’s say it again, for the people in the back:

You Love Star Wars, but Star Wars Doesn’t Love You

“This is all stupid,” some might say. “I still love Star Wars and everything you’re saying is wrong!” Okay, that’s cool. I’m not saying that you have to stop loving Star Wars. I still do, myself (Remember the start of this blog post?). But I think it’s important to give myself the freedom to see things as they are, to look beyond the obvious.

It’s always been my experience that science fiction isn’t just like fiction. There’s a central cultural truth about sci-fi that I believe even if I don’t have the empirical data to back up, and here it is: Sci-fi fans and creators enjoy some mutual interaction / control over the universes. Star Trek, for example, has gone out of its way to include fans in the movies, to the point of hiring them to be extras on different films (See Star Trek, the Motion Picture)

Star Wars doesn’t follow that Fan Happiness Playbook. They’re content to keep fans on a tight leash, and let’s be honest: in many ways Star Wars fans are to blame. So I don’t completely fault Disney for exercising that level of control over Star Wars, but at the same time it’s important to see the relationship for what it is: Star Wars doesn’t love you.

Being aware of that, giving yourself permission to realize that, is liberating in many ways. You can enjoy Star Wars when you want to, when it’s doing something for you. And then when you’re finished you can go enjoy something else (I suggest old 70s sci-fi – tons of interesting old ideas down there).

But the main thing is to understand what Star Wars is, so that you can go decide what YOU want to be. Don’t forget that, don’t lose sight of that. YOU are in charge of your own universe. Go make it something you love.

Sci-Friday #62 – Virtual Disneyland

Can’t visit Disneyland because of the Coronavirus? Not to worry, we can do virtual Disneyland right here. Let’s start with the new Rise of the Resistance:

Then we’ll ride the TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland

And finally, we’ll ride on Pirates of the Caribbean because, it’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

Have a great weekend!

Notes from @Scalzi on Writing / Querying

John Scalzi did an AMA on Reddit yesterday, so I took the opportunity to ask a me-specific question:

So the key here for any author, regardless of stature, is the ability to keep going. It doesn’t matter what you did before, it matters what you’re going to do next. Lack of success isn’t the universe saying ‘no.’ It’s the universe saying ‘not yet.’ Write on!

Thank you, Amelia! More Helpful Free Author Tools

I got a lovely note from Barbara Lincoln, a librarian in Salt Lake City last Thursday, who writes:

Good Afternoon Mr. Allen, I would just like to say a quick word of thanks!

As a youth services librarian and educator, I’ve been running a fun writers workshop for 12-15 year olds and thought you might enjoy hearing that we were able to get some great use out of your writers’ interest links lists before the self-quarantine and social distancing. We were even able to use some of this information for our most recent group project!

Thanks so much for sharing! I hope you don’t mind, but one of our youngest, Amelia has also asked me if I could share an article that she and her mother found together on writing basics for young writers, which includes a great breakdown of potential writing careers, education options and essential skills, self-publishing, book proposals, the editing process, etc. I’ve included it below if you’d like to review! We noticed you don’t have this one listed yet, but Amelia was actually the one to bring up that this could be something you might like to include for other young writers who could also be coming across your information and have an interest in becoming a published author someday, like Amelia!

If you find you are able to use this one, would you please let me know? We’re meeting tomorrow virtually, and I would absolutely love to surprise Amelia if you’re able to do so – I’m hoping to keep spirits up in light of what’s happening across the country right now, and I think it would make her day to know she was able to ‘pay it forward’ and maybe even show her mother her contribution if it ends up being included!

Thanks again for all your help here Jackson,

Barbara Lincoln

Thank you, Ms. Lincoln – this was a welcome message to receive.

I’m happy to say that I loved the idea and included Amelia’s contribution on the Free Author Tools Page, with credit. Now it’s up there to help other authors, too! Thank you, Amelia!

Information like this is absolutely essential for other authors since learning how to write for a living is a challenge for anyone at any age. I love that I’m able to help the young authors of SLCCN and thanks to kind people like them, I’m able to pass along more helpful author-related info.

Thank you again! You made my day.


Mesh – Forging and Shaping

As promised, Mesh has gone through another round of edits and now it’s ready for presentation to new lit agents. The changes made to Mesh and the process of these edits reminded of something: forging and shaping steel into a sword. Watch this cool video, and then I’ll explain what I mean:

What you may have noticed at 3:37 of the video is how the blacksmith had to go back again and again to heat, shape, re-heat, and re-shape the steel until the design matched his expectations. Sure, there were plenty of times where he could have said ‘done, good enough.’

However the blacksmith has his standards, and when it comes to writing I have mine. Yes, I thought Mesh was done before, but when it was obvious there were things that could be better, I have no choice. I have to go back and re-shape the material, especially if I expect my ‘blade’ to survive the battle.

Forging and shaping Mesh has other benefits: the feedback received now shows Mesh is a high-MG/low-YA novel, not just a YA novel as previously thought. I wasn’t aware that there was such a strong distinction, but there is and it means life-or-death to an agent query. (Click here to read more about why that matters)

So in a nutshell, Mesh is ready for viewing (again). I sincerely hope that the book is ready for the next phase of the journey, but I have to be ready to go back to the forge if it’s not. Thumbs up!