Thursday, April 16, 2015

Social media, authenticity & marketing: Getting the balance right

Rock tower by the Yellowstone River

I got a private message on G+ this morning.

Not *that* kind of private message! The really awesome, validating kind. It truly made my day and the take home message for me was this:

 ". . .  thank you for being an Author who puts herself out there as a person who has more interest in being real than in spamming her followers with advertisements continuously."

And this is (nearly verbatim) the reply I wrote, additional commentary in italics: 

Thank you for this. Every single time I post anything about my own work, I have a tiny panic moment, wondering if this will be the post that tips my stream into obnoxious-land.

 I actually got several comments over the years from G+ folks that I made it too hard for people to actually know I was an author with books published because of my reticence to 'spam'. That's when I created a more complete Google profile and a pinned post with my book and purchase links.
I can't tell you how many times I've dumped my twitter feed and started over again because it became an endless stream of 'buy my/support my/fund my' messages. Same for FB, etc.
Promotion fatigue is a very real thing. When I see yet another pitch for someone's kickstarter/indiegogo campaign, I experience a moment of acute annoyance. This wasn't the case a few years ago. I wonder how widespread this experience is.
It's a real struggle to find that right balance and authenticity means everything to me. So thank you for the feedback that I'm getting it right more often then getting it wrong. :)
A few times a year, and when I have a new release, I make a recap post with the quick 'elevator pitch' of each of my novels and where to buy them. I still worry that it's too much.
As far as what works? Lord, I wish I knew. After Derelict took off last summer, I thought I had the 'magic formula' which I tried to replicate with Time and Tithe. But lightning didn't strike twice. I could analyze a bunch of reasons why, but at the end of the day, there is an element of luck and serendipity to this business of being an artist that no marketing expert or advertisement exec can explain.
Ultimately, I'm much more comfortable sharing my excitement about someone else's work than my own. Hell, I'm more comfortable talking about my hobby (ceramics) than about my writing work.
It would be easy to get bitter about that, lose your mind to envy of someone else's success, or double down on what everyone tells you works (even though you know it doesn't). Or you can take that negative energy and keep working.
Just keep swimming. . . AKA channel your inner Dory from "Finding Nemo". And I try not to beat myself up for the twinges of envy. As long as I don't wallow in it, or let myself slide into bitterness, I think I'm doing okay. And I really do celebrate the successes of my writing friends. I guess what I'm trying to say is that having mixed feelings is very human.
Do I hope lightning strikes for Derelict's sequel? Hell yeah. And I have all the things in place that I had for Derelict: my newsletter subscriptions are growing slowly and steadily, I'll be offering a pre-order discount, I'm in process to have an audiobook of Derelict soon which I'm hopeful will support the sequel, etc.

But there's too much I don't have control over. What I do have total control over is how I present myself, online and off, and in what and how I choose to write. Other than that? Not up to me.
How I wish this were otherwise. How I wish there was a secret sauce for success. (Hey, look, alliteration!) But there isn't. Save yourself from all the clickbait articles about "Five ways to sell a gazillion books." Read this series of posts by Delilah S. Dawson instead. They are filled with authenticity and truth.
And I read those posts [she linked me to Dawson's posts mentioned above] - they are pure gold. Should be required reading for every creative person putting there work into the world. Thank you for reaching out to me - first of all because you made my day and second because you have prompted my next blog post. :)

And as much as I appreciate hearing that I have gotten the balance right, I also want to be called on it when I don't. What tips your personal 'spam' scales in social media? 


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Being honest; being real

This may feel a lot like 'vagueblogging' but to give specifics is to betray a certain confidence, which I won't do. (Ironic, giving the title of this post, no?)

But something happened today that made me realize how much everything comes full circle: the things I dealt with as a child are the same issues I have inherited in parenting my own children. Despite struggling to avoid some of those pitfalls and working on my stuff, today I was smacked in the face with it.

Ultimately, I can't control what another person - even (especially?) someone I love - believes. I can only be here and hold those I care for in lovingkindness.

This is a poem I wrote 5 years ago that I dug out as a reminder.

Unsealing the Records

When you were born blue
eyes owl round, dark downed
there was no one to ask if loss
too was passed through placenta and blood.
Sixteen now, when you meet my gaze, looking
glass familiar, no relative
wonders who you take after. Born
on your grandmother's birthday, one more
gift for a woman terrified of too much
fortune. I was far younger than you
when I learned some questions were weapons
even in the right hands. How words
could be strung on a necklace
or garrote. I swear there is nothing
you could say as sharp or shameful
as silence. I am here.
Ask me anything.

          -- LJ Cohen, 2010


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dad

My father turns 92 today.

That seems like an unbelievable number on so many fronts. First, because he remains thoughtful, articulate, vital, and incisive and I know so many people, far younger than he who have disengaged with life. Second, because that means I am not too many months away from 52. And third, for the sheer amount of life he has crammed into those years.

Me and my Dad, 2013-ish

So, the fact that he's 92, means that he was born in 1923. I think about what he has seen and experienced on history's grand stage and am amazed. A child of the depression, he lived through his family losing everything and having to struggle to survive. He saw Jackie Robinson play in the minor leagues and then in the majors. The Brooklyn Dodgers and their betrayal. WWII and his service as a sonar operator on an ocean going tug. Technology: from television to a moon landing to computers shrinking from the size of a building to something to hold in the palm of your hand.

A Brooklyn boy goes to war.
Along with a love of baseball, he instilled in me a set of values and morals I live by to this day.
  • Do your best  
"If your job is digging ditches, dig the best damn ditch you can."
  •  Treat others with integrity
Even now, at age 92 and living in an apartment in a life-care/assisted living community, he treats everyone around him, from fellow residents, to health care staff, to janitors and personal care attendants with respect and I've seen him tell off other elderly residents when they don't do the same.
  •   Understand the value of work
My father taught me three financial guidelines as a child that I will never forget:  
- Save first
- If you can't afford it today, wait until you can
- To quickly find your own value for something, translate the price tag into the number of hours you had to work for what you want to buy. 
I am grateful - so very grateful - for the years I have had with this incredible man. As his health declines, I know that each visit is precious, each day a gift. He lives too far away for me to see him as often as I'd like and today I will call him, sing "Happy Birthday" and tell him how much I love him.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I wish I could be there with you today.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Tale of Two Images

First of all, I'm off blogging this week at The Scriptors, the website of an Indie Collective I'm proud to be part of. My current blog post answers the question "Hey Lisa, what's with all the dragonflies?"

From the longer post called "The Way of the Dragonfly: Surviving as an Artist":
"So we have a perfect storm: challenging work, unpredictable production, and minimal remuneration. Any artist who plans to succeed needs to find the inner resources to not only withstand that storm, but to embrace its challenge."
 And then there's this second image, one that showed up in an email when I was down for the count with a nasty virus and did more for my mood than motrin, sleep, and copious amounts of tea.

Original art, copyright Chris Howard, 2015
This is the concept art for ITHAKA RISING's cover and I couldn't be more pleased. The guy depicted on the cover is Barre, a musician and reluctant crew member on the forty year old derelict freighter, Halcyone.

ITHAKA RISING is the sequel to DERELICT and will be published late June/early July 2015.

A derelict ship and a splintered crew are not the rewards Ro had hoped for when she helped disrupt her father's plans to start a war with smuggled weapons. But with the responsibilities of full Commonwealth citizenship and limited resources, she is forced to take her father's place working as an engineer on Daedalus station while she and Barre try to repair the damaged freighter, Halcyone. Barre's brother, Jem, is struggling with the disabling effects of his head injury, unable to work with his beloved computers and code.

When Jem disappears, his trail dead ends at the black market. Ro and Barre are desperate to find Jem before he sells his future, risking his mind for an illegal neural implant. But they're not the only ones looking for "The Underworld" and its rogue planet, Ithaka. What they find endangers more than just the three of them and forces them to confront a very different truth about the war they believed was ancient history.