Acceptable Attitudes

I subscribe to a popular members-only writers’ group. While it’s mainly to discuss the process of writing, there’s room for other types of post.

A couple of weeks ago, one member announced that her book was now available on Amazon, but she failed to provide a link or even the title. When these were requested, she eventually provided the title, and at the same time insulted one of those who had asked. As other members found the book and read the free sample, they brought to her attention a number of errors in the text.

By the end of the discussion, she had admitted to publishing the book without reading back over her work, so desperate was she to make it available. She even became a little apologetic.

Bad Attitude (album)
Bad Attitude (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It comes down to one concept: attitude. The member who had started the post did so with a terrible attitude, though it was eventually softened by the firm yet helpful hand of many of the commenters.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, our attitude can earn or lose us readers. Around 18 months ago, I attended a literary event where one of the students constantly took over the conversation by talking about her degree course at length. She stopped coming back after her second visit; perhaps she ran out of achievements to boast about.

Fortunately, such an outright egotistical attitude is rare face-to-face, at least in my own experience. Yet a lazy approach can be similarly offputting.

I’m privileged to be followed by some amazing writers on Twitter, a few with verified accounts. But I won’t follow back if the writer posts the same link to their work over and over again, often adorned with tags such as #amwriting; one of many tags that’s now so common, it’s become meaningless. Laziness doesn’t fly with savvy Twitter users.

One user who gives an excellent impression is @RayneHall. A casual look at her page shows writing advice interspersed with photos of her cat, sparing use of tags – and plenty of replies to followers. To me, this projects the attitude of a writer who is passionate towards her subject without subjecting us to overbearing self-promotion, and who is willing to listen to the views of others.

If you view this entry on a laptop or desktop computer, you’ll see my own Twitter updates on the right-hand side of the screen under the handle @LadyGavGav. My usual style is to post jokes – especially puns – to engage people. These updates provide a little insight into me as a person rather than as a promoter. But when I do have something to advertise, such as a blog entry every Monday, the audience shouldn’t feel hit over the head with it.

In my experience, allowing an audience to see even a little piece of yourself is important. In 2015, I attended a Jeanette Winterson book launch. The first part of the event was taken up with videos about Shakespeare and speaking about his life. I was bored, frankly, because it wasn’t obvious at first that she was referring to the structure of her book. Thankfully, once the videos stopped and she began to answer questions, her own personality shone through; much more engaging than the razzmatazz that had gone before it.

There is no single correct or effective way to project a good attitude, but there are plenty of bad ways.

Advertisements

Do you know who I am?

Last week, I had the opportunity to show my published and soon-to-be published pieces to my work colleagues. Some of them were aware of my writing through reading this page, while it was news to others.

I don’t talk about my fiction writing much when I’m doing my day job. Although it certainly isn’t a secret, I believe there is a time and a place for promotion, and I was given that time and place on Thursday lunchtime, so I took advantage of it.

On Twitter and Facebook, it’s particularly important to keep a balance between ordinary updates and promotional copy. How often have you seen an account post exactly the same message four or five times a day? It makes people switch off, like that one individual you avoid at the party as you know they’ll talk about their pet subject ceaselessly. Besides, if you say everything upfront, what is there left to have a conversation about?

Two great places for advice about promotion – and there are dozens of others – include the writer Rayne Hall, and the marketer Wilco Wings whose advice can be adapted for writers.

And now I have your attention through our implied conversation, it’s time to launch into the self-promotion.

To date, three of my short stories have appeared in the following anthologies: Because of What Happened by The Fiction Desk, FourW Twenty-Four by Booranga Writers’ Centre (I’m not credited on the website, only in the book), and Alternate Hilarities by Strange Musings Press. While looking out materials for my work event, it seems I’ve misplaced my copy of Because of What Happened, so I’ll have to hunt it down like JR Hartley and his book about fly fishing.

 

I’m also due to have two poems published in an upcoming anthology called Seagate III when the last tranche of funding comes through, and one in a promotional leaflet for the MLitt Writing Practice and Study programme at the University of Dundee.

By coincidence, I received an e-mail last week from Giovanni Valentino, editor of Alternate Hilarities. In each of his anthologies, he likes to run a reprint from the magazine of the same name from the 1990s, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find the authors.

To this end, he’s asking the Internet for help. On the off-chance that you’re one of the following people, or that you know their whereabouts, please e-mail him forthwith at giovanni.valentino@strangemusingspress.com.

Issue 2

  • Alex MacKenzie, The Elvis Wars
  • Dana Cunningham, The Man Who Could Communicate with Animals
  • Buzz Lovko, The First Dinosaurs (a near Myth)

Issue 3

  • Dan Crawford, X-0001
  • Ken Goldmen, The Devil and Myron Rabinowitz
  • Michael Eugene Pryor, Irreconcilable Instructions

Issue 4

  • E. Jay O’Connell, Until the Tuna Runs Out
  • Alex MacKenzie, The Real Me

Issue 5

  • Tomas Canfield, Learning the Ropes
  • Leonard Jansen, Old ’99

Issue 6

  • Greg Costikyan, They want our Women!

Extrovert Through The Gift Shop.

There’s no escaping the truth that writing is a solitary occupation. Authors can spend hours of their life alone in attics, sheds, and cafés, immersed in the land, world or universe they’re trying to create. It’s therefore tempting to imagine that this breed of people are shy introverts. Actually, of the majority I’ve seen, I’ve found the reverse to be true.

These days, it’s important for a writer to be able to self-promote, as many publishers’ marketing budgets are not massive. A prime example is Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, whom I had the privilege to see at a live event last week. She was interviewed about her book The Luminaries and gave some excellent, confident answers. Doug Johnstone also illustrates my point, as he’s forever looking for an opportunity to crack out his guitar. Chris Brookmyre dispenses entirely with an interviewer in favour of his own speech, while Iain (M) Banks usually invited questions from the word go.

This space reserved for Banksy's next piece
This space reserved for Banksy’s next piece

Have you considered trying it yourself?

Public reading and question-fielding is not reserved exclusively for established authors. Anyone can do it, and I believe they should. Like many authors, I read my work out loud when there’s nobody around, as it’s a valuable tool for ironing out clumsy phrases and misplaced punctuation.

I also consider myself an extrovert. I might spend time alone in front of a PC churning out short stories, but I’m perfectly at home in front of a microphone or camera. I volunteered at hospital radio for a long time, and used to keep a video blog. I’m also lucky enough to have a writers’ open-mike night nearby, where I can try out new material. The audience is made up of fellow authors and poets.

That’s not to say I don’t find it terrifying standing in front of them. I’ve never made a complete hash of it, but I have stumbled, and that’s something I need to work on. But even if you’re an introvert, find a willing audience and push through that barrier. It’s valuable for seeing how well the piece goes down with the public, particularly if they’re laughing when they should be shocked, or vice-versa.If you do, your work will almost certainly improve, and if you become published, you’ll already have the experience of making public readings.

While I was writing this, I thought of one introvert who always causes a fuss whenever he exhibits a new piece. I refer you to Banksy in his iconic film Exit Through The Gift Shop. He seems uncomfortable with the camera being near him, but his self-promotion skills are second-to-none. I know he’s an artist, but if he were a writer, I wonder what type of work he would produce?