Social Media: the Joys and Challenges for Authors

Here I have begun with my own story.  You will notice there are no statistics in it.  I have purely focused on more qualitative feelings about social media.

This blog post is  part of a series for authors trying to do their best to manage social media and feeling overwhelmed and frustrated or who are scared they are on it too much.  Some people love it, and others find it difficult. I think this is essentially because we all have different personalities and approaches in life and these can be magnified on social media.

Writers by nature are often introverted!  This makes the challenge of social media even more daunting at times. We might have expectations or conceptions about how these platforms work  which don’t turn out to be true for us but are true for others.  We are told that we have to build a platform, and that it should be engaging!

My journey with social media began with me not even thinking of it as social media but more as a tool to keep writing when I lived in a country area. My first entry into what we tend to call ‘social media’ was a blog which was mostly a letter to family  and friends about life in North Queensland which was new to me at the time although I did like to include poems as I did this in letters as well.

I should say at the outset that in my youth I had many pen pals.  It became too expensive to write to them all, and I lost touch with many of them as my budget of time and stamps became tighter.  Blogging presented a solution.

Over time the blog just kept growing and developing and I found myself writing a lot about the community I was in, and our life there. I love looking back through old blogs now.  I would have forgotten some of these things without writing them for my blog.

My family bought me a digital camera and I just loved it! I used my photos on my blog.

I used flickr as well because it was a great space to store photographs.  I found a few friends there as well, who I am still in touch with today. Some of my blogs were published in anthologies.

 

Ultimately my blog let me to being a community journalist/blogger  for ABC Open, and sharing the cyclone recovery story of my area.  I became a frequent ABC Open contributor for a few years as well.  Two of the friends I made through ABC Open later worked with me as editor and designer on my Magic Fish Dreaming book.  I stayed in touch with many of the producers and visited them on the way down to live in Brisbane.

 

The Book!

I did not set out to build a platform, I just wanted a space to develop and  share my writing.  My early connections were other writers and photographers in similar situations, especially women living in the country all over the world who were facing the same challenges.  I found their stories gave me strength, and I loved the way they journalled life.

I  took part in online writing prompts and writing worlds.  These were just so much fun.  We would set out on online adventures, and write into these worlds.  Blogging really gave me an opportunity to develop my writing through play and journalling.  I have formed some lifelong friendships through it.  Later on some of these people supported my kickstarter.

But despite all these wonderful things about social media I still have friends I prefer to telephone and catch up with.  They don’t use social media and we still connect mainly via email and phone! Now I haven’t even gone into email at all, but will leave that for another post. Email of course is a form of staying in touch, but I don’t tend to use that much anymore for that purpose.

Pam family friend with the kids – we stay in touch by phone and email

Gradually I learnt about twitter, which was interesting because you could tweet almost anyone.  It is a space where you can send messages to people whose work and philosophy you connect with and they might just tweet back.  I found twitter a great place for researching topics.  I was able to connect with poets and others in this space, some of whom I later met in real life.

Later one of the friends from twitter wrote the blurb for the back of Magic Fish Dreaming.  A Queensland Tourism body also sent me a support pack of goodies during the kickstarter, including tea and chocolate.  I did not set out to build a platform I was curious about the world and used it as a research tool.

The next area I ended up in was facebook, mainly because our family were there and really wanted us to join, I resisted for ages.  They didn’t really read my blog that much and it had become more something the community read, although it had been initially started for family.

Now facebook can be a truly complex place.  I find people can become upset so easily  and you find out things you don’t want to know.  Like perhaps a friend is racist.

You find the keyboard bullies and warriors.  It often becomes a place of opinions with no basis in fact and little basis in reality.  Yet, facebook was super helpful during cyclone yasi, at keeping people connected, and sending messages to large numbers of friends and family, from the wifi in Maccas.  We could never have phoned them all.

 

To respond to the challenges of facebook I find that I moderate groups and join groups in interest areas  which are themselves well moderated and stay only in those that truly inspire me.  I like to share things that are helpful to others, and in turn receive some priceless advice from people who know what they are doing say for instance with publishing.

I am part of private family groups and art groups so that my feeds don’t bug people who are not interested in those same things.  I have pages and public groups for projects, and sometimes connected project blogs.

This challenging space, became the place that made my kickstarter possible.  Many of my friends from blogs and twitter became also facebook friends, and real space friends.  When I moved to a new city I met many of them and they welcomed me to the area and helped me find my way to creative groups.

 

Write Link Buddies

I did not set out to build a platform on facebook, I joined facebook to connect with family and friends, and creatives met through both virtual and real space.  When I go to conferences and return home I often find people will connect on facebook or twitter.  Or I meet people that I have been speaking to for years, and I just really feel like I know them.

I did of course make a facebook writer page at some point and I do have a Magic Fish Dreaming project facebook page.  I still don’t really know what this achieves.  My general view on this is that groups are better than pages for engagement.  Mind you the Magic Fish Dreaming project page, is fun to share links with from the blog, and stuff I love about nature, so perhaps it is really just another form of journalling.

I find that social media when used well is great for maintaining and deepening connection, sometimes it can spark new connections and extend knowledge.  The main frustration I have is that sometimes it is very hard to keep up with all your friends and even family, actually it can be impossible.  There is so much information there all the time.

I don’t mind if you miss my news! I will try and contact you directly if I have time and feel you would really love to or need to know something.  I am not being pushy if I do this I just know the volume of information on facebook.

But often, there are people who take it personally when you miss their news, or don’t support their project,  launch, etc and they think you should notice.  But funnily enough if they phoned you, you would have responded.  I loved that my one family member phoned all close family about her engagement prior to any online announcement.  How wise and lovely!  Such a precious phone call.  Perhaps then some of our projects need the same approach with some of our contacts.

But like any area the most genuine friends and family find a way to stay in touch, and will actually pick up a phone or visit when they are in town.

A tree which was later destroyed by Cyclone Yasi. So happy to have this photograph of it.

Thoughts on social media – this is my take, in no particular order.

1- Be yourself

2- Be kind

3- Connect with people, fans, organisations, friends, family etc sincerely

4- Be passionate

5- Be humorous

6- Be thoughtful

7- Care about others and how they are doing and share things that could make a difference to them

8- Be thankful

9- Connect in real space when you can (of course wisely if you havent met people before in person and know them from online discussion groups)

10-Don’t make your whole social media about marketing!

11- Do work out the best times of the day to post and where your audience are – find out from the professionals; but always be yourself

12- Understand how the hashtags work as they are pretty useful everywhere

13- Cross pollinate your social media so that you share your blog posts on twitter and facebook

14- Find out how people who do it well work but also add to that your own twist

15- Create the best work or business you possibly can so you can be proud of what you do and it can speak for itself

16- Think about the groups you are in and apply all of the above

17- Be respectful of others

18- Have breaks

19- Find out about apps

20- Plan your time on social media to take into account all of the above and limit it to what will make you happy in life and productive with other tasks.

 

(c) June Perkins

In future blogs I would like to look at authors whose social media use is brilliant and inspiring any other topics of interest.  So watch this space.

Blogging the North

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A House Destroyed by Cyclone Yasi but the Roses are Growing – by June Perkins

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I’ve had an article Blogging the North republished by the Queensland Writer’s Centre.

It covers the story of how I become a blogger for community for ABC Open’s aftermath.

This was the time my Smile Within Book  and exhibition began to be created.

You can still purchase the ebook online through the Australian Society of Authors.

You might like to visit posts like Tupperware Houses and A Guide to Documenting Disasters.

Other Relevant Links

The Smile Within Blogspot

Smile Within WordPress

 

A Bold New Plan 2016

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I have some bold new plans for my blog next year.

After some soul searching I truly know why I want this blog to exist and what I’d like it to achieve.

I am announcing the end of blog tours, although I have truly loved hosting people at the blog and hope you will take the time to leave a comment for the wonderful Karen Tyrrell, and visit any of my visiting writers and stress that this does not mean the end of visitors, far from it.

New directions!  You’ll just have to wait and see.

This year has been a year of working out why I write, who for, and achieving some long held goals.

I’ve met some truly incredible mentors, at work, writing groups, public talks, and in the global cyberspace. I’ve also rediscovered a love of research!

Right now, a new logo is in the works, the kickstarter campaign draws ever closer and I am immersed in the thinking and practical tasks it takes to run your writing life as a small business.  I booked myself into a writing retreat in the Rainforest next year.   Wow so looking forward to that one.

But each day I look for a pool of creativity light, to dive into and create. Lately I’ve been mostly writing haiku and taking photographs as I work on the kickstarter for Magic Fish Dreaming, but I’ve had some writing stints on my other projects and am prioritizing which ones to begin.

I’ve done more reading than I have in years.  As a child, I read ten books a week, so in a way I am back in touch with my childhood reading self as much as my  contemporary writing self.

As I work to tutor university students in ways to bring their own writing to life I have invested in reading all the books they are taking in any course I tutor in – and have discovered some fabulous and innovative writers – as well as some writers whose work I don’t like, but not to say others shouldn’t – it’s more their work is not my cup of tea.

So in this years journey I  have discovered the cup of writing I want to craft and pour into my writing, both on the blog and in life. Self definitions become possible, but not self definitions that limit possibility.

Wishing you well! And for all those hanging out for the Magic Fish Dreaming campaign;  we are getting there, and the friends supporting this behind the scenes are such wonderful and caring individuals. I couldn’t even conceive of doing this without them willing me on.

Finding people who believe in what you attempt to do with your work is better than the discovery of any other kind of riches – it is being rich in creativity, friendship, soulfulness, and life.

May you too find that with your blogging, writing, and relationships with others. And if you haven’t found that yet,find the energy and strength to keep on until you do!

Yours Truly,

June Perkins aka gumbootspearlz aka pearlz

Author Anxiety – What Do I Call Myself?

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Lately I’ve been noticing some anxiety among writers about what they should call themselves.

There are so many terms now and some of them quite official (especially when applying for grants) – emerging writer, established author, aspiring author, aspiring writer, published writer, published author, unpublished writer.

Some don’t want to claim too much or too little progress. Others complain that some writers and authors claim too much.

The definition in the dictionary simply says that a writer, “is a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.”

As for Author it is usually associated with being professional but not always.

1 a). The writer of a book, article, or other text.
b. One who practices writing as a profession.
2. One who writes or constructs an electronic document or system, such as a website.
3. An originator or creator, as of a theory or plan.

And furthermore the same dictionary says the ultimate author is – God.

Where is this anxiety coming from?

It seems that the rise of the self published author is causing some in the publishing and writing industries consternation, including writers. Self published authors are many things depending on who you listen to. For some they bad writers who focuses on Romantic, Fantasy and Horror texts poorly written and edited, trying to break into the markets that make the most money. (Self publisher Authors should not be called Authors)

For others self published authors are people who couldn’t or just wouldn’t find a voice in mainstream publishing because of colour, gender and spirituality and have begun to publish the stories they know their community wants and others might want to hear too. This kind of self publisher is publishing histories and stories, manuals, self help books, and guidebooks, cultural heritage texts.

Some self published authors have formed ethical guilds to develop codes of practice and standards of writing. (Alliance of Self Published Authors)

Their books are not destined neccessarily to be best sellers but the stories they tell are important, that’s why they publish them. I think of  The Story of Fred Murray pamphlet and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass.

And then there are some self published authors who were traditional authors once and worked out they were better going independent.

Add to that the world of bloggers – coming from all walks of life with varying degrees of writer training. They’re sharing life stories, crafts, photography, poetry, recipes, views on parenthood and more. They are now told that their blogs are publications when entering competitions.

Another element of the mix are the smaller independent publishers who catered once, for the voiceless. Who brought and still bring together collectives to create opportunities for voice and a strengthening of diversity. They are not self publishers but publishers of those on the margins. Independent publishers not in it for financial gain necessarily, almost not for profits, (see Publishing from the Margins)

As for the published authors they are not free from these frameworks – some are commercial writers, technical writers, literary writers, nature writers and more. Some make a lot of money writing in popular genres. Some scarcely survive and so writer communities create funding to look after them in their old age.

But both these professionals and semi professionals must engage the reader – and the reader’s choices are guided by – internet searches and bookshop shelves, online book stores and word of mouth recommendations. So many studies are being done in this area I could get side tracked and go off on a tangent right now.

So many people, so many stories, make it so hard at times to negotiate becoming a paid published author. When I see these discussions my conclusion is – be a storyteller. Just write. Examine all the options open to you to share your work with the people who will benefit from reading it.

As a second generation migrant, I’m writing and telling stories in many genres to find where my authentic voice lies. I try documentary, fiction, poetry, creative film, mainstream comedy and I keep on experimenting with the style and options of publishing open to me, some doors open and some don’t. My dream is that my readers will tell me what it is they want to hear from me the most and then I’ll be well on the way to building a bigger audience.

I work on making my writing the best it can be – and study and craft, study and craft. One day success however we measure it may arrive. But another way of measuring success is to keep writing and improving and learning from what others you respect say to you. Can we only measure success in financial and material terms?

It is interesting to note that a study found those authors who combined both traditional and self publishing modes where better off than those who stuck with one mode and authors often were dissatisfied with something in both modes. With Self Publishing you have more control, more input, but also more responsibility to know enough about everything to make your book professional and to legally cover yourself. With Traditional Publishing there are also many challenges; especially for authors to achieve that high selling status in order to be viable investments  for the company. (Study cited in Lessons and Expectations as the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey Evolves)

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I’ve been observing discussions where some claim that you are only worthy of respect if you sell a lot of books? Others think it’s if you win literary prizes judged by those who can really write. There is an extra dimension of the popular versus the high literary craft that creeps into many of these arguments. I for one am never going to be a fashion and celebrity blogger or writer. But how many celebrities turn their hand to writing children’s books and life style manuals.

Maybe it’s the craft and sales combined that determine a writer’s credibility today – a book that uplifts anyone, entertains, educates has had a portion of success.

Writing is diverse as the people who employ it as their primary mode of creative expression. It will keep developing and emerging, in spoken, written and digital cyber forms. I for one am excited about the possibilities it offers.

It’s all about being open to diverse opportunities to create and share and not denigrating anyone’s choices.

It about accessibility, diversity and supporting the writer and teller of stories to develop their craft. It’s about accepting that not all of us who write well will ever be able to make an income out of it. We may have to have other jobs.
So where is anxiety coming from for the new writer? Perhaps its from the growing realization that there are so many writers out there that not all of us will be able to do it full time, no matter how good we are or become, or which publishing option we go with.

You see however much writers and publishers complain there is the unknowable magic of writers finding their readers – and readers finding the writers they love, that is not something we can individually control or predict, even if we can have a pretty good guess and strengthen the odds with attractive writing.

(c) June Perkins

 Loved these twitter comments

Like I say. Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.

I like (originator or creator, as of a theory or plan)and sometimes I say “word artist” but I’m not one for labels.

Professionally I was a journo. Now I write because it’s what I have always done – it’s my voice.
a writer can be a person who loves to write in any form. Ann Frank for example was a writer.

Pearlz Dreaming’s Blogger’s Manifesto

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Creative Commons rjacklin1975

1- Save all things I am keen to publish in other formats by NOT placing them on my blogs.

2- Blog the process and support materials that assist me to create my memoirs, poetry, books and films (cool things like letters, programs and historical hyperlinks.) Share some RAW MATERIALS (try not to give too much, but just enough away).

3- Sometimes share short EXTRACTS, covers, or drafts for reader feedback with specific questions.  Make these extracts examples of my BEST WRITING.

4- Share the occasional poem or piece that I want the blog to be its publication and it is shared to inspire not for any profit or expectation (but still make sure people respect copyright by attributing it to me if reposting or sharing). STILL HAVE NOT FOR PROFIT writing.

5- CONNECT MY EBOOKS TO KEY PARTS OF THE BLOG and my online work by doing any of the above. Create special blogs for specific books that expand the journey of the book. Keep experimenting with this.

6- Take on commercial projects and commissions that generate income for me to have time to pursue the genres I love, that might not be so commerical. Mix it up more.

7- Look for work in tutoring, teaching at university level and other fields so as not to rely on my writing for income and thus write things that may not have commercial value but more spiritual and community value.

8- Close and remove posts that I think should be traditionally published.

9- Explore the possibilty of closed blogs or subscription based publication.

10- Keep exploring blogging as an art form and create blog specific projects to support myself and other writers. Look at adding a paypal donation aspect to my blog (like busking).

11- Keep visiting and supporting those who are doing any or all of the above themselves as bloggers.

12- Strive always to be an ethical blogger (attribute links, respect creative commons, link back to quotes.)

13- Save written work on blogs and from home more systematically in clouds (like I do with images on flickr) and back up, back up, back up.

14- Join more blogging collectives pursuing any of these same goals.

15- Edit, edit, edit.

16- Always where needed research and check facts for blogs carefully.

17- Share things that might not find a space of home anywhere else but my blog, as long as these are things my readers would enjoy.

18 -Consider always the READER! Be they family, potential publishers and so on.

19- Read my manifesto when considering hitting the post button.

20- Be proud of the things I have learnt blogging, (eg: the people I have connected to, the potential characters that I have been introduced to and not apologise for that.) That is share the learnings and power of blogging whilst avoiding its pitfalls.

So from now on you might see more ‘raw materials’ of my writing scanned and shared.

You might find the ending of a story missing. You may find a link you once read has vanished.

But don’t worry – that means a polished piece is on its way and a link to where to buy it will appear.

Interviews will continue, but sometimes I may not put them on my blog but will send them somewhere for publication – which may even be online.