So, the internet. That wonderful, terrifying place. How does a new or established author negotiate all of its social networks and know all of the rules? How do you keep it from sucking away all of your time, not to mention your will to live? It’s a mystery. But luckily, we’ve got music videos from the 80s to help us figure it out.
Recognize the internet for the time suck that it is. Oh, the internet is useful for promotion, research, connecting with readers and friends, and keeping up with industry news. But if you’re an author, the majority of your time with a keyboard is probably best spent writing a really freaking great book. Don’t mistake me, I love the internet. LOVE IT. But the whole logging in/writing a blog post/sending e-mails to buddys/checking in on all of my loops/hopping on Twitter/Google Reader and so many reviews of awesome books/oh god and Facebook too! shouldn’t get in the way of writing. That is your primary job, and even if you don’t keep regular hours … well, it feels like this:
You’ll notice that Dolly Parton never mentions the internet. That’s because it’s getting in the way, y’all.
But, okay, let’s be realistic. You can’t stay off the internet. Promotion is necessary, and a lot of us would go crazy if we didn’t have other book lovers and authors to chat with now and then. So, the internets will happen. And along with the internets happening is the biggest time suck of all: the trainwreck.
Avoid the trainwrecks. Look, I understand that it’s hard. Sometimes they come out of nowhere. Sometimes they involve authors or readers that you like, or issues that matter to you, or are just so batshit crazy that you can’t look away. TRY. And for god’s sake, if a huge fight begins online, try not to get involved. Instead you should just…
(And not in the sense of “beating a dead horse,” please. There are a million equine corpses rotting around the internet, and not a single one of them is getting to its feet anytime soon.)
It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, just beat it. Go dance it off instead. And if you can’t completely avoid a trainwreck, then A) say your piece as calmly as you can, B) don’t nitpick, and C) recognize when the discussion isn’t going anywhere or becoming toxic. There are few discussions in which someone is going to come out a winner (but there will be plenty of losers), and there is no discussion that can’t be revisited when heads have cooled off.
Then get the hell out of there, because it’s a freaking time-suck!
And then there are reviews … oh, oh, the reviews. I’ve gotten to the point where I only skim them to see what worked or didn’t for the reader, but if I had the strength, I wouldn’t look at them at all. One thing to remember: Reviews are for readers, not authors. Do not go looking for constructive criticism in reviews, because they aren’t written for you. Sure, you can figure out what is or isn’t working for some readers (and probably go insane, because another reader will have the opposite reaction) and it doesn’t hurt to note any trends in the reviews, but recognize that reviews aren’t for you. But, okay, you can’t resist looking anyway.
Becoming addicted to your positive reviews will turn you into a zombie. Look:
Don’t be that woman. I know she’s hot like Vampire Barbie, but really, don’t. Great reviews are awesome, that’s undeniable. There’s pretty much no better feeling than knowing your book knocked someone’s socks off. But hanging around the internet, searching out good reviews, refreshing Amazon and Goodreads pages, living for your Google Alert to tell you that someone reviewed your book will turn your brain into mush. Scientific fact. And then you get hungry for more … but it’s never enough! OH MY GOD and then you are EATING someone’s brain and BEGGING them to review because YOU HAVE TO HAVE MORE.
Stop that. Seriously. And if you are going to check out the negative reviews, too, then do what this chick from Quarterflash did:
You might not be able to completely harden your heart to criticism, and sure, you might not be able to swallow all of your tears … but try. And know that those negative reviews are going to happen. Not everyone will like your book. Some readers will even say they didn’t like it on their blogs! If that happens…
Don’t bitch about negative reviews on your blog (or anywhere else on the internet.) Remember these immortal lyrics…
Send an e-mail to your friends, instead. Bitch in private. It helps, really. And here’s a tip: E-mail loops that are bigger than ten or so friends are not PRIVATE. And since I’m giving tips about loops and friends…
Recognize that some people on the internet are toxic to you and your writing. These can be other writers, readers, reviewers, anyone. They might not mean to be toxic; they might be the nicest people in the world. Yet whenever they show up on a forum, you might find your brain exploding. They might be needy in many different ways. It might be the person who is constantly negative (or persistently positive) no matter the circumstances. They might simply suck up all of your time. Like oil and water, maybe you just don’t mix — and every encounter leaves you feeling a little scummy. It’s a simple truth that you can’t expect to be friends with everyone. You can be friendly, sure. Professionalism and tact go a long way on the internet. But do your damndest to recognize and avoid the ones who are…
(Okay, I cheated. This was from 1990.)
There are a lot of other bits of advice and songs I could add, but that’s probably enough for one post. So I will leave you with the