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Why seanan_mcguire doesn't count

When I say things tongue-in-cheek, I usually forget where my tongue is and almost bite it off. I wrote:

Balancing the social with the promotional is hard. If LJ were my only on-line presence, it would be very close to impossible because putting up notices every few days in the month before a book's on sale date doesn't work for me as a reader - so I've no expectation that it will work for anyone else who's here as part of the LJ community. (Seanan McGuire doesn't count. If you ask me why, I'll explain later).


mtlawson, in his infinite mercy, asked me why seanan_mcguire didn't count. Yes, when I say infinite, I mean infinitely small.

But, it's a reasonable question, and actually, someone in real life did ask me what I thought the difference was, because seanan_mcguire does do this.

My answer to her was: Seanan is dialled up to eleven on a slow day. She is superwoman. She has cats who steal her underwear when she reaches for her suitcase, and bite her hand when she reaches for the TV remote if they happen to be watching the show she wants to surf away from. She paints, she sings, she writes songs, she writes novels -- she probably writes poetry on the side. She reads comics, watches horror movies, watches television, hatches crazy ideas for signings and launches, and thinks book book book with every other breath she takes.

Apparently this wasn't an explanation.

So. Seanan is so much Seanan on-line there's no sense at all of public persona. If you meet her off-line, you'll see what I mean. Ask her a question, she'll answer it. If she has a question, she'll ask. If the question seems odd, well. She'll still ask ("Who is Robert Jordan?"). And while she's there, she'll talk about her works in progress, her upcoming book days, her cats, her house, her background, the comics she loves, the horror movies, her book giveaways, her mother, her sister -- and nothing about any of this feels disingenuous, because none of it is.

No one wants to be disliked. I'd guess that everyone would like people to think well of them. But sometimes, in an attempt to be liked, we shove away parts of ourselves, or we remain silent about things, or we fall into personas the way normal business people fall into suits. We don't relax enough to be ourselves because we don't want to offend people we can't even see, and as a result, we're not entirely ourselves on-line.. There is nothing wrong with this. If you show up at work in cargo shorts and a polo shirt, and work is a stuffy fortune 500 business, you will probably not be working there for much longer.

But…Seanan would show up in a pumpkin orange dress, with a few ARCs of her book in her bag, and she would be so much herself that after a few minutes no one would blink, and the person in charge of the company would probably wander by and we would all discover that he's secretly a huge zombie horror movie fan, and in the end, he would take a copy of her ARC away with him, not having noticed the lack of a suit.

Okay, that was clumsy. Let me try it again with less hyperbole (although it's hard to keep hyperbole down when talking about Seanan; I'm not sure why).

Seanan is entirely herself on-line. There's a lot of stuff she doesn't post about, but that's not the point; what she does post is imbued with that self. She's written some of the best writing advice I think I've read on-line, and she comes up with useful and helpful posts that are also funny in that vein.

She'll rant when annoyed at stupid things. She'll practically sing when she's excited. She writes up to 4k words a day, which makes me feel lazy and unproductive, but that's a byproduct of me, not an intent on her part.

So, when she posts about her book day or her book reviews or her new sales, it folds into the rest of it because all of those posts are also exactly Seanan; I can practically hear her talk. She posts frequently; I think the only time there are gaps are when she's at a convention or in NYC. And even if she did post every three days about her upcoming publication date, she posts so much in the intervening times between notifications that it doesn't feel like endless title spam.

Not all of her content is spam. Not all of her interactions are about sales. She does interact with people on her LJ.

But if she failed to notice or mark her publication date? I'd probably really be worried about her.


Sigh. @=/=lj user tag.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
catvalente
Oct. 2nd, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Yep, this is pretty much how I do it--or how I like to think I do.
msagara
Oct. 2nd, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
You absolutely do the same thing, although you don't have insane cats and lurking zombies.

I mentioned seanan_mcguire because she does mention upcoming pub dates a lot, and she does a lot of link/review write-ups of exactly the type that without context drive many people insane; you always mention yours, but not in as scheduled a way, if that makes sense?
catvalente
Oct. 2nd, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Well, you know, Seanan's insane cat and my insane cat are actual sisters. My cat is slightly more under control because her cat is a year older, so she kept me appraised of how to avoid certain behaviors. I usually do the cat antics stuff on Twitter, though the easier to post photos. (One of her wicked cats, anyway. She has another who is gorgeous and awesome, too. I have another who hates me because she knows I'm only her stepmother and growls like a dog. I...have no explanation.)

I don't do the link roundups because I would have to be organized enough to find all my reviews. I link when I think one is particularly interesting. I think Seanan is a more organized person than I am in general. (Also I kind of stopped being able to read my own reviews after the Hugo nom. People got mean and it hurt too much so I just don't look now.)

But given that I have five books coming out in the next 12 months? (I haven't had a novel out for 18) I'll probably start being more regular with the bookish posts.
teenagewitch
Oct. 2nd, 2010 05:19 am (UTC)
That is totally how you do it. You mix in alot of fun stuff along with the writer stuff.
mtlawson
Oct. 2nd, 2010 04:26 am (UTC)
::snicker::

I deserved that.
mtlawson
Oct. 2nd, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
Ah.

She is comfortable in her own skin. Not just among friends, but among strangers. Or online. It's not calculated, it is just her personality bubbling forth. She makes it look effortless, because for her it is.
msagara
Oct. 3rd, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
She makes it look effortless, because for her it is.

I wouldn't actually go that far -- it's not effortless; it is a lot of work, and she has it all organized for a variety of reasons, and she doesn't ride off the rails. But...she does it in entirely her own way, and yes, I'd say she's comfortable in her own skin.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 2nd, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
My opinion, which seems to be the minority one at times, is that no one should feel obligated to share more of themselves than they feel comfortable with, including public figures. I am uneasy with the gossip mags who relentlessly follow celebs and with the people who read them. Some people thrive on the attention, and that is great, but its wrong to expect it of everyone.

I've stopped doing many of the things I used to because of other's expectations of my entertaining them. I just can't be 'on' all the time and the pressure to be was just too much.

That was my entirely wordy way of saying, you are liked and respected as you are, please don't feel you need to change, especially to conform to stranger's expectations.
dancinghorse
Oct. 2nd, 2010 06:26 am (UTC)
I think some publishers may be getting the message. Mine is doing actual promo. And making a book trailer. I am flabbergasted.

Personally I find that when I blog about writing, nobody wants to hear it (though they will happily hire me to teach them about it), but if I blog about horses, they get very excited. So if I talk about my horse book, they also get excited.

It's being you, yes. And being the you that's not like everybody else.

Also, not coming across as the sweaty guy with the cart full of self-published books, you remember him? There was always one (or two or three) at the conventions back when self-pubbing was not the done thing, trundling around and cornering people and trying to hard-sell them his book. People felt sorry for him and bought it, or else ran and hid when they saw him coming.

That's happening online now. It's a serious dilemma for authors whose publishers are expecting them to Do Something Online.
mizkit
Oct. 2nd, 2010 09:36 am (UTC)
I *always* want to hear about writing from you, because it's like a mini master class in How To Do It Rite. Just so you know. :)
green_knight
Oct. 2nd, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
when I blog about writing, nobody wants to hear it

Not true. However, the people who most want to hear about writing are other writers, and it can be difficult to balance talking to new writers (who want/need to hear a certain type of information) and talking to peers (who want/need to lead a discussion on a different level), particularly if you're trying to do them in the same post.

But the horse stuff, yes. (Or <insert any other hobby>. Writers giving an insight into what it's like to be really passionate about something readers know nothing about: that's a topic that won't get old. Whether it's roses or bellringing or horses or wilderness walking or archive research or ballet or-

I really don't care what it is, I'm interested in everything. And there you have your primary promotional tool: 'this person can write interesting and emotionally engaging stuff about a topic I never thought to sample. They have interesting insights and make me reconsider the world. They can make me feel as if I am there.'

And once you have me, whether in a novel (which, these days, I am unlikely to see: bookstores carry so few interesting-to-me books or debut authors, I'm unlikely to run into any) or on a blog, I am likely to pick up that novel and read it. And if I like it, I'll buy more and tell my friends about it.

Also, not coming across as the sweaty guy with the cart full of self-published books, you remember him?

I did not see the cart, but I met someone with a T-Shirt saying 'author of x' which turned out to be self-published.

The thing I don't get about 'promote promote promote' is that we know *exactly* how many copies relentless self-promotion sells: between 200 and 500 copies, if you're lucky. There's no evidence whatsoever that self-pubbed authors get the self-promotion part wrong: they are often far more apt and agressive in social-media usage, they have much _greater_ exposure than traditionally pubbed authors. What they don't have is the writing that sucks readers in and makes them want to not only buy a copy, but tell their friends about it.

For published authors, selling those etra 500 copies has to be weighed against annoying people who otherwise would have bought the book but who now feel the writer is becoming a nuisance.
beccastareyes
Oct. 2nd, 2010 12:02 pm (UTC)
I see what you mean. When I read Seanan's posts about, say, a new Toby book, I get the impression that it's about the same as any of my friends who has had something cool happen to them -- 'you guys, I wrote a book, and they're publishing it, and it comes out next month!'.

(I've seen a few other authors do this, but it helps that their blogs are also prolific so it's very much a window on their lives, or the portion they lives they like talking about with strangers. Which means, they talk about writing/their books, but also about their pets and hobbies and the crazy conversations they have with friends or sharing interesting links.)
sartorias
Oct. 2nd, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
It's called charisma, and yep, most of us (well, me) don't have it. But charismatic people can write about their daily minutae and people want to read it because it's about them.
msagara
Oct. 3rd, 2010 06:57 am (UTC)
It's called charisma, and yep, most of us (well, me) don't have it. But charismatic people can write about their daily minutae and people want to read it because it's about them.

I'd just like to point out, Sherwood, that you have one of the most active LJs I read, with a ton of participation and really interesting questions/answers. You don't write about your external life, so much as share your internal life, and your thoughts, and the things you think about or read about. It's all actually fascinating.
sartorias
Oct. 3rd, 2010 01:18 pm (UTC)
I dont write about my external life because I am the biggest bore in snoresville!
trektone
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
I figured someone else would ask about Seanan not counting, so I waited for your response. Hee! And having known her for a ... while I knew I'd be amused by your follow-up.
kittikins
Oct. 2nd, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
I found this a very interesting and thoughtful post, especially with regards to the subtext of the role of online communities and authorship. I've read your works for over a decade and Seanan's since days after the first Toby publication. I think, in addition to all of the above, Seanan genuinely enjoys the medium of LJ for interaction with people who are excited about her creations.

As a reader I appreciate authors who share what they are comfortable with- because it is genuine. Whether it is a 800 page book every year year and advice for writers interspersed on a LJ, or full-tilt narrated jungle boogie life (book!music!cupcakes!pumpkins!plagues!).
slweippert
Oct. 3rd, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
...it's hard to keep hyperbole down when talking about Seanan; I'm not sure why...

I don't know why either, but at point I knew exactly what you were talking about. She comes north to the Seattle area often for filk purposes, so i've met her a few times.

We love Seanan in Seattle; she's a law unto herself. :D
msagara
Oct. 3rd, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
We love Seanan in Seattle; she's a law unto herself. :D

Maybe that's what my answer should have been -- Seanan is a law unto herself :D.

Of course, you said it in many, many fewer words than I did...
(Anonymous)
Oct. 3rd, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)
Others have told me I say the same thing in fewer words too. I'm just not sure if that's a good thing or not, since I run out of story long before the 80-100,000 word "publishing sweet spot" and have to go back to add. (sigh)
slweippert
Oct. 3rd, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
That was me. LJ logged me out for some unknown reason. :(

Stephanie
msagara
Oct. 3rd, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
That was me. LJ logged me out for some unknown reason. :(

I guessed -- it seemed so much like an answer to the comment :). I think it's like anything else -- between my extreme and yours, there's a happy medium, *but* there's also fun to be had at either extreme as well :).

... although, come to think, It's not so much fun when I have to cut tens of thousands of words.

I imagine it's not so much fun to have to add them, either.
gothicsparrow
Oct. 3rd, 2010 09:54 am (UTC)
I was going to ask about Seanan as well, but apart from that I didn't have anything else to say.

I met Seanan at Worldcon this year (it was down the highway from my house, how could I not go?) and I kind of noticed that she's mostly like her blog, but in person. Which is pretty insane, really, because her blog posts seem a bit persona-ish. But she really is like her blog. (I was at her kaffeklatsch, otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to say much.)
msagara
Oct. 3rd, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Which is pretty insane, really, because her blog posts seem a bit persona-ish. But she really is like her blog. (I was at her kaffeklatsch, otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to say much.)

Yes -- this is exactly it. You think it must be persona-ish, but when you meet her, you realize it's not, and you have the distinct advantage of being able to hear everything else she ever posts on-line in her spoken voice.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )