Facebook will remind you how fucked up you are and also try to make money off of it.

Laura Lis Scott:

Because Facebook wants you to be dysfunctional. (Cf. Piggies for tomorrow.)

Originally posted on The Bloggess:

I was just on Facebook, and this popped up in my feed as something suggested for me personally:

squirrelbutt

And first of all, it’s disconcerting when you get targeted advertising for half a dead squirrel, and it’s not even the good half.   Why send me this ad?  It’s as if Facebook said, “Hey, we saw this asshole and thought of you.”

And then it’s even more insulting because it’s all “Still interested?” as if they’re implying that this was something I was definitely interested in at one point.  And no, I’m not interested.  That’s why I didn’t bid on it when I saw it yesterday, eBay.  I was just looking at it.  STOP MAKING WEIRD ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME.  It’s creeping me out and it’s also making me feel bad about my internet surfing because probably everyone else is getting targeted ads for pretty dresses or new phones, whereas my page is all, “THIS ASSHOLE COULD…

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As I was tweeting to St. Ives

Seven years ago I signed up for Twitter. It was different back then, not the spammy marketing-dominated firehose it has become today. Back then it had more of a community feel. We were still figuring out what Twitter was, what it could be. People on the outside would sneer at us. “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” As if that really was what most fascinates geeks. No, people just didn’t grok Twitter. I’m not sure we did, either. I went through several phases, from following just a few people and trying to read every tweet—yeah, that wasn’t working out to well—to embracing the noise and following a bunch of people, and just catching what I could. Now I use it just to share interesting stuff and see what interesting people are sharing. Because of the nature of my work, the topics in my Twitter account today are mostly about tech, design, open source, internet policy, Drupal—that kind of stuff.

In contemporary context, my having joined seven years ago makes me an early adopter, but at the time I was definitely late to the party. Even so, I got what now seems like a pretty decent handle: @lauras. Yay for me.

Astute readers who actually view my posts on the desktop computer may note that this is not the Twitter handle I have in the sidebar here on this website. Why is that? Because the relationship between author and reader is quite different from the relationship between, say, geeks. Or friends. Or family members. Frankly, if I were to tell my friends and colleagues in the tech world that I was working on a novel, I’d get blank stares. “Novelist” is not a role that fits with the roles by which they know me. We’re all pretty persnickety when it comes to what books we read, especially when it comes to fiction. It’s just not easy for us to accept the butcher, the banker, the politician, or the web designer as an author of novels. Our favorite novelists are other—special people we see through the lens of the text. They don’t live next door. They certainly don’t do our taxes. (This is a whole topic I could get into much more here, but won’t. Maybe later.)

At any rate, when I decided to re-embrace writing fiction, I thought I needed a new Twitter account for the occasion, because nobody from my “old world” would understand. Thus:

This is the kind of thing you might find on my new writing/publishing Twitter account:

Five Things To Consider About Science Fiction http://t.co/a23xvRQl03

— Laura Lis Scott (@LauraLisScott) February 9, 2014

But this is the kind of thing you might find on my regular Twitter account, the one I’ve had for seven years now:

Someday I may consolidate these, but for now, I think I’ll stick with the Balkanized more focused approach.

The noise and discovery problem

fish

As a reader, how do you find a good book among all the choices out there? As a writer, how do you get your book noticed by readers?
Photo by Madhava Enros (Creative Commons)

A couple of days ago, Chuck Wendig posted a long expletive-rich rant about the proliferation of low-quality books—which he blames on self-publishing’s lack of gatekeepers—and how that makes it harder for everyone because the signal (quality books) is being buried in the noise (poorly written/edited/packaged books). And despite the high-handed tone so many writers adopt when writing about others (and perhaps I’m guilty of that as well), he makes some good points.

To sum up this point:

All books go into the big undiscovered pile at first.

All books need some manner of discovery to, duhhh, be discovered.

Traditionally-published books have access to more channels of discovery.

Self-published books have access to fewer channels.

So: what does this have to do with the quality level of author-published books?

via Slushy Glut Slog: Why The Self-Publishing Shit Volcano Is A Problem « terribleminds: chuck wendig.

There are nearly 200 comments on the post so far, but I wouldn’t call it a comments thread, as most of the participants, even when replying to each other, seem to be talking past each other. Even so, it’s an interesting read and worth a few (or more than a few) minutes if this is a topic of any interest to you.

One thing I find distasteful about many of these discussions about publishing is that the participants so often take the the attitude of “there’s this problem and it’s your fault!” Maybe this is more than simply a difference of opinion. Wendig writes:

But the very existence of self-publishing as the robust option it has become is one that comes out of a culture of people. And the books that exist now and do well now are sometimes the product of that culture and of the collective passions of people who freely share information.

These cultural differences I think do come into play. Maybe that’s why so many times it feels like these discussions are less debate and more tribal warfare.

I tend to see both sides, though, and feel caught in the middle. I come from two cultures—one of highbrow (or high-middlebrow?) attitude about the importance of quality, and one of entrepreneurial attitude about forging your own path, which in part, at least for me, has an element of rebellion against orthodoxy for orthodoxy’s sake.

I hate the noise that buries the signal in the books world today, but let’s face it, it’s only a change of degree, not a new problem altogether. I’ve bought and read an awful lot of crap over the years, and nearly all of it was traditionally published—mainly because self-published books haven’t been strong in the marketplace all that long, but also because, as a reader, I, too, have a prejudice against self-published books, in part out of habitual attitudes cultivated by long years living and working in traditional media, and reinforced by the all-too-often horrific quality of many books today.

That’s from the reader’s perspective. Where are the books I want to read?

What about from the writer’s perspective? How do I get my book in the hands of readers? This is where I focused my contribution to the comments non-thread:

This is a tough subject, but let’s frame it by comparing apples to apples, not apples to apple pies.

For the reader, it makes sense to compare end-product to end-product. The reader is looking for a book, and there’s no question that’s a challenge, and the proliferation of poor-quality books makes that harder, and the self-published author has fewer resources, theoretically, to stand out from the noise and get noticed by the reader.

However, for the writer, the fair moment at which to compare self-publishing with traditional publishing is not when the book is published, but rather when the manuscript is completed.

The author with a completed manuscript has a choice: To self-publish or make a go at the traditional publishing route. Either way, the author faces a discovery challenge. The author can try to stand out from the noise in the published marketplace, or the author can try to stand out in the traditional publishing process (finding an agent, being accepted by an agent, being noticed in the slush pile, surviving rewrites demanded at any step along the way, and so on). Either way, there is a lot of noise.

Maybe my view is too colored by Hollywood, where the myth of “meritocracy” is cited daily in self-congratulation.

The whole industry is in disruption. Yes, self-publishing is generating an awful lot of noise, and it’s next to impossible to get noticed. And yet it seems that the traditional publishing route has huge problems as well. Either way, when it comes to books, the reader is far far away from the writer, and there is no easy way to cover that distance.

This is how things are now. Where are we headed?

There’s a chimp on my platform

Photo by SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent)

MailChimp is one of the good guys of the online marketing services. Photo: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) (Creative Commons)

Every now and then, I do a little bit to build my “author platform.” Today I signed up for MailChimp and configured my newsletter, to which people can now subscribe!

I don’t actually know what I would say in a newsletter, but I figure when I have a book coming out or something, this will be useful.

I’d embed the form here so you could just sign up without going anywhere else, but WordPress strips out embeds like this, so all I can do is share with you the link to the sign-up form. In a fit of ambition, I also added the form to my Facebook author page.

Now this has been enough procrastination on this beautiful and snowy Saturday in Colorado. I have to get back to writing.

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