Monday, January 27, 2014

How to Handle Social Media Missteps: Book Marketing without B.S. #9

Twitter is often an important tool in the writer's networking arsenal. It's fast, it's short, it's connected. Author Peter V. Brett was reminded last week that those strengths are also its obstacles. Today's blog post is to illustrate that being careful how you compose tweets about controversial or sensitive topics makes a difference, and how you handle it when you misstep makes an even bigger difference. (And if you're active and engaged, it is likely that you will at some point make a social media mistake.)

A Social Media Problem is Born

Last week's genre author twitterstorm was set off when Peter retweeted the following:

How did you read this tweet? Some people took it as he intended (more on that later), but many, many people took Peter to mean any number of things like "It's not fair I can't have more rape without people complaining about it" to "I am making light of a serious topic" to many other things, none of which he intended. It should be noted that Peter has had some controversy about rape in his novels before too, so--fairly or not--he may already have people feeling unsure about his sensitivity.

So he didn't mean it? You'd think I was just taking his word for it; but,  here is his next tweet, posted just a minute after the first one:

If you saw the second tweet, you'd likely get a meaning closer to what Peter intended; but, the problem with Twitter is that the tweets flow by fast and furious, and seeing one is never a guarantee someone will see the next one. I am guilty of dividing thoughts up into two tweets sometimes, so I can understand why it would happen. The low character count feels too limiting sometimes; but, this is a lesson to us all that a complete thought in one tweet is a best practice, especially when it's a sensitive topic such as rape. So what can you do to prevent this on the front end?

Stop and Think

While Peter's intention was good, much like editing in your writing, his meaning would have been much clearer if his second tweet had been his first tweet, and there had never been a second tweet at all. Usually you can be casual on Twitter, but when sharing (again, especially sensitive material,) it is best that you take a moment and consider how it might look to someone else. Put yourself in someone else's shoes and imagine. If you're creating  and writing, this should be something you already do anyway.

It is important to always remember that the only thing we're in control of as is what we say. We can not control how others perceive what we've written, how they'll feel about it, or what they'll say about it. 

Best Way to Handle a Social Media Problem

Problems like Peter's really can happen to anyone. The internet moves so much faster than you could ever anticipate, and it seems bad news travels further and faster than good news. We all have the potential to tweet something that either we should just plain not have said at all, or more commonly, that will be taken in a different way than intended. Maybe you'll realize it right away and delete it in time. Maybe you won't. And if you don't, and you want to handle it with grace, dignity, and humility. In my estimation, Peter handled this (mostly) well. What lessons can you draw? Here is what he did right:

His response was swift
Instead of letting it fester without comment (one of the worst things you can do with your "brand",) he replied quickly and profusely. No one could doubt Peter was doing his best to manage the issue in a timely manner.

He stayed calm and rational
He got a defensive at a few points (more on this and the language of apology later), but given the harshness of some people's reactions and how fast things were moving, I can understand his feeling how he did about it. Overall he kept it sane and decent. He never called names, he never got into any nastiness beyond initial defensiveness.

He expressed remorse
He apologized numerous times and admitted he could have done better and that he understood the other people's points of view.

He had humility
Even to defenders, Peter said he understood how the tweet was interpreted and expressed that he wished he could have handled things differently. He could have just soaked up his numerous supporters' comments and used them to say "See? You people who misinterpreted this are just plain wrong!" but, he did better than that. Here is a good example:

Finally, he put his money to work by donating to a related charity

This was a class act kind of a move, and can never hurt.

What should you do if you have a social media problem?

React quickly, calmly, and evenly as possible
You'll undoubtedly be feeling emotions such as defensiveness, anger, annoyance, and embarrassment; but, from a public relations standpoint you have to put those on the back burner. If you are not able to do that--at least in writing--ask a trusted friend for help in composing your response.

Also, take responsibility completely
That's the one area Peter could have improved on. His apologies were touched with the "I apologize to those who took my comment that way" and " I apologize for wording that could be interpreted as such". This (I assume unintentionally) serves to put some of the responsibility back on the offended party, and also doesn't indicate any sympathy for the people who were upset--which is important in smoothing over feelings. Better phrasing would have been something along the lines of, "To those I hurt by my earlier tweet, I offer my apologies. I was not careful in composing my earlier RT. I'll do better in the future." It removes the "if you took it wrong" language, and turns it into "I am 100% accountable" language. Even if you don't fully feel that way on the emotional level, that's how you apologize. That's how you take responsibility.

I should also say that I don't mean to pick on Peter. He did well on the spot and under a lot of pressure. He is not trained in PR and let's be real: writers don't have the money to have staff to help with this sort of thing. I was simply inspired to write about it to help all of you understand how easily this might happen to you, and more importantly how to handle your own social media problem situations as they come up.

I hope you found this useful. I'd be interested to see other situations you think were handled well (or handled badly) if you want to share them in the comments.

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Value of Vulnerability: Book Marketing without B.S. #8

Book Marketing without B.S. is a weekly publicity and marketing advice column for writers and other creators who prefer a realistic, clear, and no-nonsense approach. My goal is to help you cut through the bullshit with direct, understandable advice you won't be embarrassed to follow. Send your questions to

Today I retweeted a blog post by writer and Guardian columnist Damien G. Walter. It was called The DOs and DO NOTs of Getting Your Book Reviewed and in it was the kind of solid, realistic advice I appreciate (and have written many times before). The first thing he says is that you probably need to work on your craft and write something good. Write something better. It seems obvious, but so many authors and smaller publishers don't give the book enough time to go through plenty of editing and rewriting. (Well, sometimes the editing is lacking at the big houses lately, too, but the shrinking corporate reality of the big publishers is a blog post for another day.)

The second piece of general advice is this: "put yourself, as a writer, in the shoes of the people and publications who review books". Ah, yes. My old saw, empathy. Everyone's busy, everyone's inbox is overflowing, and of course we must not lose sight of the fact that reviews are not mere publicity tools, but information for readers (the consumers of your books). Walter also writes about having conversations, about engaging and being a part of the community of readers, writers, and super-fans.

By the time I finished reading, my impression was that the thread running through his advice is that of how important it is to be a real and social human being: don't spam, don't fake popularity (i.e. don't buy followers!), tell your story, share successes and failures. What does all of that sound like? To me it sounds like relationships. It sounds like human interaction.

In particular his advice to share both victories and defeats resonated with me. This was for two reasons. The first is that sharing in this way is a reflection of real and healthy human relationships. If you're with your friends, do you constantly chirp only your best news, neither listening nor sharing vulnerabilities? I certainly hope not, for your friends' sake if not yours!

The second reason relates to an experience I had during my recent talk at SFContario. Our energetic discussion arrived at the subject of how important contacts and relationships are in publicity. I candidly shared an experience I mentioned here in which I talk about the time I had to contact outside of my usual area, and how my rate of success had been much lower. I told the audience that the true lesson of the situation was in the humbling experience of realizing that I didn't have some magic in my query letters, just the more mundane reality of time spent on getting to know people and what they like, and building trusting relationships with them. Afterward, a few people told me that they appreciated my honesty, and that it helped them feel they could better trust my advice. While this was by no means a calculated move on my part, it illustrated yet again that the way you treat other people--the way you interact with them--makes a big difference.

You hear frequently that people don't want to be spammed, that they don't want you to just say "buy my book" over and over. Do you listen? Well, Walter's post is an example of a person telling you what they want, very clearly and concisely. Are you going to listen and examine your behaviour critically, or are you going to make excuses about why it doesn't apply to you?

My advice is to take a deep breath and remember that this is a long game. In our brave new world of publishing, your overnight success will take years, and--whether you like this or not--it will absolutely depend on two things: your attention to your craft and your ability to have real conversations with other human beings.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Calls for Submission #3

Once again I bring you Selene MacLeod with Calls for Submission (CfS). You can see all of the CfS columns here. Enjoy, and Happy New Year! - Beverly

Happy New Year! I hope you had a joyous and wonderful holiday and are feeling productive. Myself, I like to hibernate during the winter months, but this year, there is too much going on.

First, a plea. Crossed Genres Magazine, a pro market and all-around cool e-mag, needs to sell subscriptions to keep going. Check them out here: They've got several upcoming submission calls, so be sure to take a look at their guidelines while you're there. 

Pro Markets seeking submissions:

Fantasy & Science-Fiction. Special guest editor CC Finlay. No special theme for the July/August 2014 issue. Deadline January 14, 2014. Pro rates.

Women Destroy Science Fiction! Lightspeed Magazine special issue. Looking for sci-fi stories by women authors for their June, 2014 issue. Max 7,500 words. Pro rates, deadline February 14, 2014.

Resurrection House. Seeking stories 1,000-7,000 words. Deadline March 13, 2014, to be published in the winter of 2015. Theme is XIII. The guidelines say they're looking for “transformative” stories of What Was and What Will Be.

Eggplant Productions. Looking for fairy tales retold to feature POC, LGBT, disabled, and non- “Western” characters. Deadline April 30, 2014. Seeking stories for Spellbound, aimed at children 8-12 (max 2,500 words) and Spindles (max 5,000 words). Pays $0.05 per word, $1 per line for poetry.

The Journal of Unlikely Cartography. Looking for stories with a “Cartography” theme (think maps, graphs, GPS, etc.). Max 5,000 words, pays $0.05 per word. Deadline February 1, 2014. Read guidelines carefully, as there are several calls on this page but only one is currently open.

Two anthologies from Exile Editions (Michael Matheson): Start a Revolution: QUILTBAG Fiction Vying for Change. Reading period January 1, 2014-March 31, 2014. Looking for speculative stories 2k-10k, pays $0.05 per word. Theme is revolution and community building. This Patchwork Flesh. Seeking QUILTBAG horror (think Queer Fear Vol I and II). Prefer stories under 7,500 words. Pays $0.05 per word. Reading period open June 1-August 31, 2014 (so you have lots of time). Both anthologies will feature primarily Canadian writers.

Semi-pro markets seeking submissions:

Third Flatiron Publishing. “Astronomical Odds” theme anthology. Looking for sci-fi/speculative stories 1,500-3,000 words. Pays $0.03 per word, deadline January 15, 2014.

Aercastle Narratives. Quarterly magazine. First issue (March 2014) deadline is February 1, 2014. 500-2,000 words, no restrictions on theme. Pays $0.02 per word.

The Midnight Diner, who I listed last time around, has extended their open submissions call until the end of January. Seeking short fiction 3,000-6,000 words, pays $60. Also seeking artwork.

New Myths. Quarterly, has specified reading periods. Next period: January 1-February 28, 2014. Looking for all types of speculative fiction (no graphic horror), max 10,000 words. Also looking for non-fiction and poetry (must deal with some aspect of sci-fi or fantasy). Pays $50 for short stories and non-fiction articles, $20 for poetry or flash fiction (under 1000 words).

SubTerrain. Literary market, but magical realism/slipstream would probably work. Max 3,000 words, deadline February 1, 2014. Postal submissions ONLY. Pays $50 per page. Theme is “Coincidence.” Publishes 3x/year, so there are other upcoming deadlines on the site.

Token and royalty-paying markets seeking submissions:

Grinning Skull Press Little Monsters: Horror for Kids, by Kids. Seeking horror stories by young writers (age 5-12). Subject matter is open but G-rated. Deadline June 30, 2014. Pays a $25 gift card. 500-3,000 words, deadline June 30, 2014. Note: Grinning Skull also has an open call for a charity anthology of Christmas-theme horror stories, and an annual unthemed horror anthology.

Blank Fiction. Looking for noir stories for their second issue. Deadline January 15, 2014. Pays an honourarium of $50. Also looking for sci-fi stories for their third issue, deadline not yet determined. Stories must be under 15,000 words.

Angelic Knight Press. That Hoodoo, That Voodoo That You Do. Anthology of dark ritual themed stories, edited by Lincoln Crisler. Max 5,000 words. Pays royalties, reading period January 1-June 1, 2014.


The 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest. Looking for sci-fi stories set in the near future (50-60 years), max 8,000 words. No entry fee, deadline is February 1, 2014. First prize is publication (pro payment), a cool award and swag.

The Carter V. Cooper – Exile Short Fiction Competition. Deadline March 10, 2014. Postal submissions. Entry fee $30. Sponsored by Gloria Vanderbilt in her son's memory. $10,000 in the emerging writer category and $5,000 in the senior writer category. Max 10,000 words (30 pages). No restrictions on subject matter and style. Finalists will be published in CVC Short Fiction Anthology Book Three. 

The Fifth Annual Gemini Magazine Short Story Contest. Entry fee $5 (per story). Grand prize is $1,000 Deadline March 31, 2014. No restrictions on style, content, genre, length.

The Eckleburg Review Franz Kafka Award in Magical Realism. Entry fee $10, max 8,000 words, deadline July 1, 2014. Prize is $1,000.