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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Twenty Questions (Publishing/Blogging/FB and Social Media)


[Notice that it's the same few people asking all the questions? That's because they actually ask them. Send your Twenty Question questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com and if it's too big for a post like this like holy-shit most of these are, I'll give it its own mailbox. FFS send me questions with SHORT answers. I'm dying here.]

PUBLISHING

1-2) Kara asks: In the modern era, when you get to publishing stage, do you still have to submit to a gazillionty outlets, and get, somehow, a gazillionty and 3 rejections, or has it streamlined, at all? 
I have a secret hope blogging has...streamlined it, a little.

Where the actual sweet apples *do* I submit something for publishing, short of an online outlet? Do I need an agent/editor?

MMMMMMMM.
Sweet apples.
A gazillionty and three??!!?? Okay there, Optimism McConfidence. I guess expectation management is tomorrow's problem, and we're going with a wildly ambitious estimate of the number of rejections.

1) There's bad news and good news for the intrepid writer going the traditional publishing route. For the submit-everywhere author, it's actually gotten considerably easier to BE published in about the last ten to twenty years. However, the shrinking cost of publishing and the Internet have led to the rise of hundreds of small presses, zines, blogs, and outlets of every size, configuration and niche, and not all of them are worth the bandwidth they take up. You can be a "featured author" for years on some of these sites without gaining an iota of street cred that an agent or publisher would care about.

For those who take the time and energy to find the places where their submission and the medium's guidelines match up well, there are more places and more niche places to find publication. If you're into cephalopod cyberpunk chick lit with zombies, there's a website for you out there. However, these places may not have any greater prestige when it comes to readership, payment, or advancing a career.

This is assuming you're trying to build up a series of accolades for a cover letter. If you're just trying to publish a book straight away, it's much, much, much harder, largely because of the advent of non-traditional publishing. The industry is impacted, the big six is now the big five, small presses are struggling to compete with non-traditional routes (and often "Balkanizing" into niches to keep any hope of maintaining a market share), and more and more writers are realizing that everything they want beyond a gatekeeper's head-pat (money, notoriety, readers) can be achieved through non-traditional routes.

2) If you're going the route of traditional publishing, the short answer to this is yes. You need an agent. You absolutely do. The minute you can entice an agent with your cover letter, snap that sucker up.

Technically a writer can put on that hat themselves, but they shouldn't. They really, really shouldn't and that's really some of the best advice there is when it comes to the business of writing. (Possibly even THE best.) Agent-ing is a whole new skill set and a writer would be basically training for an entire other career when they could be writing. And, like any job one just dives into, the initial efforts are going to...(how to put this delicately?)...suck. Knowing where a fiction piece will fit the best but also which venue will pay the best, having connections inside a publishing house, knowing how to do the negotiations for pay (which will almost always pay for the agent's commission and STILL get the writer more money), being able to do a high level of marketability-content edits and smooth out some of the line editing (and occasional copy editing) so that a publisher will take a chance on a manuscript, and just a general advocacy that sometimes is more deadline reminderer, quasi-therapist, and motivational life coach than business partner.....these aren't really things a writer is well suited to do for themselves.

Underwater cephalopod chick lit meets victorian cyberpunk
horror. With zombies!
This is from the old worth1000 website
(since shutdown)
I would love to attribute it
and give it a shoutout link if you know it.
3) Terra asks How do you know what genre you're writing in? (For example, there's magic and vampires in my stories, which are set in a rainforest in Latin America, but am I writing fantasy? Urban fantasy? Horror? Women's lit?)

Believe it or not, my experience is that genre is usually a marketing question more than anything. "How do we SELL this book?" Writers enjoy bending genres, breaking rules, and tossing multiple conventions in the mixer (as artists are wont to do). Most likely the publisher will figure out what section to put the book in so that people who want that type of book are more likely to see it, but the only real place an author needs to worry about it (their query letter), they can actually say that it's a mix of X, Y, and Z.

Kinda puts that anti-genre elitism into perspective, doesn't it?

Where you might need to take your best guess is when you are wearing that hat yourself (say you are trying to place your self published book by genre or want to know if you should submit a short story to Weird Tales, Asimov, or Fangoria). In that case, you should probably go broad. Define it by it's broadest possible category. (In the case of your example, unless the horror elements are really overpowering, fantasy.)

4) Casey asks: Writing a book of short stories and plan on self-publishing. What are the pros/cons for self-publishing?



The answer to this question is definitely not short enough for this format, but fortunately I have written a long version of the answer. The main question you want to be asking yourself is how "validated" you would feel by traditional publishing. There is a lot of "street cred" and prestige that comes with getting past a traditional gatekeeper, holding a physical copy of your own book, and being a "published author."

5) Ian asks: I would like some tips for good query letters! Cheers.

Though I've written a more in depth guide here (second question), the MAIN thing is that you don't send a query letter–in fiction–for a book that isn't done yet, and that you keep it to one page no matter what.

6) Chelsea asks: Where is a good website to learn about proper manuscript formatting?

"Proper Manuscript formatting" is one of those things that is chiefly used to fleece money from unsuspecting would-be writers who think there's a big trick to manuscript formatting. (There isn't.) You spend a bunch of money on a program that promises the only thing holding you back from champagne brunches in the French Rivera is how many spaces you have between your title and the author's name and it'll put all the chapter headings in the "right" place for you. (Or these days maybe you go to a website with a zillion pop ups that aggressively wants you to sign up for the "deluxe" version.) And once you format properly, all your problems will be solved.

Except 90 percent of everyone who ever buys one of those programs still has to finish their book. And the other 10 percent is wrong that that formatting is why they keep getting rejected.

"Proper"
You don't need such a thing at all. Every publishing house is going to have different specific formatting guidelines, and they will worry about that when you set up the galleys. As long as your manuscript isn't using a different convention for every chapter (unless that's some bold artistic choice), the only thing you need to worry about are the super duper basics (which I've listed below) so that you look like a professional.

Basics of professionalism in submitting:

  • EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE. should have your last name, the title (or one word from your title if it's long), and the page number on it in the top-right header (within the margin). If there's an alteration to this in the submission guidelines, consider it the most important piece of information you could possibly pay attention to. Having worked with people on the "gatekeeper" side of the industry, trust me when I tell you that not numbering and labeling all of your pages is the fastest way to get your shit thrown in the garbage. (After all, why start a professional relationship with someone whose "Sunday Best" behavior demonstrates that they can't follow basic instructions?)
  • Your title page should include the title of the work, the word count, copyright info (if there is any yet), your agent's name, and your contact details. Don't get cute with the font sizes on this. It should basically all be the same size–-12 pt.
  • Have a margin on each side. Whatever is done automatically by a word document when you open one is fine. (1 inch or 3cm if you're doing it by hand for some reason.)
  • In English, align to the left. 
  • If you want to look like a consummate professional, use italics and never underline. Although that one isn't likely to make or break a rejection/approval.
  • Indent new paragraphs (don't skip a line and don't indent AND skip a line––just indent). The exception to this is the first paragraph of a new chapter or section. That one should start at the left margin.
  • Use twelve point Times New Roman and only black type. (You can usually use a couple of others like Courier and Arial, but TNR will never be wrong.) 
  • Double space. 
  • Lines between paragraphs probably won't be a deal breaker, but you don't need them and they will be taken out for your galleys. Just indent to show paragraphs.
  • Same with double spaces after sentences. It won't make or break you, but the industry has shifted to single space.
  • Begin chapters on new pages. It is more important that you be consistent with chapter headings than how you align them, but if you want a by-the-book submission, align to the center.
  • It doesn't really matter how many spaces you skip between the chapter header and the start of the chapter, but keep it consistent and don't do only one space or more than, like, ten.
  • (You may hear some other stuff like how to put a hashtag with a line at the end. It's not wrong, but it's a lot less important.)
  • And not that this has balls all to do with formatting or matters much in the age of computers, but always always ALWAYS keep a copy of some kind for yourself. You will never get back the one you send.
7) Chelsea asks: Is it possible to publish a full book without publishing credits in literary magazines first?

We're talking about traditional publishing, right? (Because in self-publishing and other non-traditional models, you can do whatever the frick and frack you want.) Yes it's possible.

No wait.

To get the full effect of this answer you have to imagine I'm doing that sort of super head tilt thing with a shoulder lift and spreading my hands. Yes, it's....possible.

But I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

Publishers, particularly the big five, are bringing shrinking budgets to an ever-growing slush pile of unsolicited submissions. Some bleary eyed intern who isn't getting paid will try to up or downvote a zillion a day as part of their workload, and most of them don't get past the first page. If you think your concept is brilliant or they just won't be able to help but love it, think of all the stories you've heard about writers being rejected a gazillion times and remember that every other person in the slush pile also thinks their shit is absolutely, positively going to be the exception.

Agents face similar difficulties. They are in an industry where authors can (and do) work around them more and more but facing an ever increasing number of hopefuls. Most have more clients than they can handle and are inundated with a deluge of queries. Many don't even have the time to try to read sample chapters and they give one quick glance at the cover letter to see if the writer has enough publishing accolades to be worth taking a chance on. They don't want to take a chance on clients who don't know the industry, don't have experience with extensive revision or rejection, and are going to need a LOT of help getting something to the point that it's marketable. If you haven't got any publishing credits, they may not even read the first page.

Publishing credits are kind of like your "experience" in a resume. They show you know the industry, have some minimum level of professionalism, have worked with editors (successfully), can take feedback, criticism, and direction, and are familiar with the steps of publication.

The straight-to-book-deal stories are extraordinary precisely because they are so, so, so very rare. And in almost all of them (if you dig a little deeper) you find nepotism, a pre-existing marketing apparatus (like a person's fame or influence in another medium), or some reason that the agent took them on.

8) 
R. Steele asks: When it comes to referring to real-world things, things that are the intellectual property of others (like popular songs, or items sold at grocery stores, or even bits and pieces of other novels), what is the responsibility of the author to add in a trademark or copyright symbol after, say, Kleenex... or Campbell's soup... or that Wrecking Ball song?

Details like these may seem like the perfect touch to a story for realism or cultural relevance, but how does a smart author pick and choose their battles? Especially the pie-in-the-sky temptation to write in the perfect soundtrack for when producers come knocking with the fat movie-rights oversize novelty check?

If you publish traditionally, your publisher's legal department will send you back to your manuscript to make sure you do whatever covers their ass–and they probably have protocols in a SOP manual somewhere in the building.

If you do non-traditional, or don't want to have to make changes for your publisher, here are some guidelines for responsible use that won't get you into too much hot water:
  • Don't name a product something with an existing brand name that is really close to the products they produce, but isn't ACTUALLY a product they produce, or you might have to deal with something called "copyright infringement." If I decided to call my brand of cashew butter Skippy, I would definitely be on the hook with Skippy, even though they don't make cashew butter*. They could come after me for copyright infringement.
  • You can, however, use real products and real companies (if you're not trash talking them) and this is why fiction writers very very rarely get sued.  It's called "nominative fair use." You get to call a Pepsi a Pepsi, and Pepsico can't just come down the mountain for you unless you're talking smack about it.
  • Weirdly, you might get into trouble if you do something called "trademark dilution." This is where you call a general product by a specific product's name. Like how any facial tissue is Kleenex, "Googling" something instead of using a search engine, or making photocopies called xeroxing. (Fiction writers get into hot water for this a lot. Usually such a writer just gets a letter from the company's man-eating lawyers urging them never to do it again, and that is, as they say, that.)
  • Defamation and tarnishment are areas where a writer can get into real trouble. Defamation would be depicting a product as dangerous when it isn't (like if you suggested that Taco Bell killed people). Tarnishment would be depicting the product in a negative way. Like making Pepsi the head of the evil conglomerate determined to take over the world. The most famous case is probably using the Dallas Cowboys brand in the pornographic movie Debbie Does Dallas.
  • The best way to handle defamation or tarnishment is to make up a product if you have any intention at all of portraying it in a negative light, but feel free to use it if it's just a detail.
  • If you quote another piece of writing (even a song), you have to use quotes and attribute it––just like in your high school research paper on euthanasia. 
*I don't know if Skippy actually makes cashew butter or not; it was just an example.


9) Sue asks: I am about to have a book printed. It is for a special event however I was thinking of taking it to a publisher. I am not sure what the protocol is. Because I have already had some copies printed. Would a publisher still be able to publish it if they wished? I am afraid that they might say "We can't publish anything that has already gone to print." Many thanks

.

There are three answers to this question depending on the specifics.

1) If you self-print your book without an ISBN number, those are essentially personal property and don't change any of the proprietary rights you have over your own words to sell the rights to a publisher. Legally, you don't have a book; you just have a fancy printout of your unpublished manuscript.

2) If you are the publisher of your book (with an ISBN number), you can make whatever deal you want with a new publisher to sell the rights. Get an agent and make sure they are ready to deal with that particular logistic when they're representing you. It really should only amount to a couple more pieces of paper to sign.

3) If some OTHER publisher has the rights to your book, this is where things get really messy. There will be bids involved and offers and the original publisher may not want to give up their licensing right. There will be lawyers and a lot more legalese than would fit into a quick answer. If this is the case, lawyer up (on top of having an agent), and cross your fingers. Some famous writers have switched publishers–sometimes even in the middle of a series–and have NEVER gotten control back for their earlier titles.


I am substituting this picture of a man getting punched
because I couldn't find a picture of a fight that
was sufficiently vicious for two lawyers going at it.

10) David asks: How big a deal is it to be published on a couple small and obscure web sites? It seem[s] pretty insignificant to me, since that's all I've managed to this point.



Better than nothing, but not as good as being published in small obscure literary print journals or big and famous websites.

The problem with breaking into the writing biz is that we are all waiting for the Stephen King phone call that changes our lives forever, and the truth of almost every career trajectory is that it is either filled with nothing but small steps that feel insignificant and add up over time or that our final "I made it!" moment comes only after years of (and hundreds of) such insignificant-feeling steps. (That includes Stephen King's if you read carefully.)

The fact is, every step is significant, and somewhere there is an ambitious writer just starting out who would sell their soul to have a website they could point to (that was not their own blog) where their words were published by someone who deemed them worthy.

You're right that this probably isn't the ticket to having an agent quite yet, but now you know what you can accomplish if you try. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to do. Keep writing, get better, set your sights for something higher, and keep going.

11) Chelsea asks: What’s the best website to learn the process for publishing a book? (If, laptop willing, I actually finish my book.)

Fiction? Non-fiction? Self-publishing? Traditional? Romance novel? Science fiction?

I'm going to answer this question in some non-traditional ways because it's one of those that could have an absurdly easy answer or a book-thickness complicated one. Believe me I have a couple of those late 90s/early aughts Publishing for Dummies books on my shelf. (The other one has an even MORE no-longer-really-appropriate name.) That's 150+ pages of "let us make this really, really simple for you" so the complicated version isn't going to be a "short answer."

I don't think there's a "best" website. This is an ENTIRE INDUSTRY we're talking about and the fact is there is no One True Advice™.  Sometimes even the genre you're writing in will greatly change how you go about getting published. And even if you're dead set on traditional publishing, there are many paths. There's a lot of information out there and a writer who wants to get into the industry should plan on spending at least a good afternoon or three cruising through several different websites to learn the basics of the business they want to work in.

At the simplest level, a writers is trying to write something worth publishing, hire a bunch of people to do the parts that aren't writing for some portion of what the writing is worth, and keep on writing other stuff. Everything else is an added layer of complexity and nuance.

Also, a whole lot of writers put their cart before their horse, and I want to stress that they could save themselves a lot of grief if they treat the industry as sort of "need-to-know." I'm not saying you're doing this, but far-too-many is the writer who goes around trying to assemble the entire codex of publishing information like it is the holy grail keeping them from being published. As if a query letter is some super hidden industry secret and they can proceed no further until they know the intricate ins and outs of agent/publisher negotiations and how many months are involved in waiting between galley proofs and book-on-bookshelf (sometimes as many as 18).

In fact, what is actually missing is the second half of their manuscript.

Once you write a book you can take a day to sit down and figure out the next step (revision/editing). And after that you can take a day to figure out the next step (market research). And then the next (agent research and query letter). You don't have to have all the knowledge before you can keep going forward, and for a lot of writers I think they create an unending quest for ever-deeper strata of knowledge about the industry as one of the many ways to not actually do the writing. But to a large degree it's like asking a bunch of questions about what's going to happen in the checkout lane, which line is the best to get into, and how the laser scanner works when you're not actually done shopping yet.

Plus...not to put too fine a point on it, but a lot of these questions come from people who write a novel as their first submission rather than cutting their teeth on short stories. (Which comes with a lot of assumptions––even if they're superficial and not entirely fair––about the probable quality of the manuscript.) It sort of indicates someone who wants to know the "trick" to just breaking in, and there isn't one. Most people either have a dad with a friend who works at HarperCollins or they work for about ten years making a name for themselves. For example, one thing that vets of submission (and rejection) know is that fifteen rejection letters is absolutely paltry compared to the room-wallpapering quantities that most writers eventually receive––particularly for a book. Fifteen rejections is no reason to give up.

If you have a book and you're going traditional, here's the basic rundown. Finish your book. (And I mean FINISH finish, not first-draft-pretty-okay" finish.) Make it as good as you can, including working with a professional editor. Then, spend an afternoon or two researching the market just to have a sense of where your work fits into modern publishing. (Googling "Publishing industry" and checking out a dozen or so links will work fine for this.) Next research literary agents and find several that you think look like good fits. (Mostly you can do this online these days.) Write a query letter. Send it to all these agents. Get rejected....a lot. If the agents are kind enough to give you some advice about your writing, HEED IT––or at least reflect on it over an extra long meal. (Go back and do another revision.) Write more query letters. Eventually you find someone who thinks they can shop your book. If they feel solid and you feel good about this relationship, sign a contract. (15% is the industry standard, but don't worry, they will get you more than they cost you in the end.) The agent will then work with you to make edits that will help your book be more marketable. Now your agent shops your book and you pretend like you're not hanging out next to your cell phone waiting for it to ring. Your book gets sold. Your agent has already negotiated on your behalf so you mostly go in to sign the paperwork. (Be sure and tell them if you have any major demands.) Legal tells you if there's anything you have to change. Then you sit down with editors and change stuff. First the big stuff the publisher wants changed, including some stuff that you won't want to change, but you have to if you want this contract (content edit). Then you get another round of edits that go over the style, content, and word choice (line edit). Then a copy editor that can notice the difference between a zero and a capital O from fifteen yards goes over your copy with a fine toothed comb (copy edit)*. A single copy of the work (called a "galley proof") is printed out that is as close to perfect as you can get it. You go through and hash out the very very last of the changes (because it's never actually mistake free). When the galley proof is perfect, you go to print––a process that usually takes months. The day after you can absolutely positively make no more changes, you will notice a typo.

This is how it's done.

*Note: Before you go thinking "the publisher will edit my book, so why should I?" please note first of all a publisher seeing a manuscript brimming with grammar mistakes will think you don't know how to write. Perhaps more importantly, however, a publisher will be considering how much editing your book needs in their calculation about whether or not you taking on your book will be "worth it." If they have to spend 20 minutes a page on each of three tiers of editing (because there's so much to clean up) and your book is 200 pages, then they just spent 500 labor hours making your book sellable. That's about $5000 they have to drop in editing costs before they can even get started. If their profit margin is 10% (that's pretty high, but it makes for easy numbers) that means they're making about 75 cents per book and they would have to sell 6667 books JUST TO BREAK EVEN. Very few publishers are going to take a risk that huge on a first time author. If you have not made every effort at this point to make your content, line, and copy editing as clean as possible, they won't even take you on.

Oh also, you market your book. (The biggest misconception unpublished authors have is that they won't have to market their own book if they publish traditionally. They are in for a nasty surprise. You will have to come to signings, release parties, readings, and probably commit to some social media presence as part of your contract.)

And these days, if you're very, very lucky, and signed with a big five, you'll get about ten grand. 
*looks up from keyboard* Holy shit! This is the SHORT answer? No wonder this post took me all week to write. I'm taking tomorrow off.

(No. Really. I'm not kidding, peeps. I'm not even going to feel bad anymore. This has become like three days worth of posts. Jesus fucking Christ!)


12) Chelsea asks: How much control does a first-time author have when a publisher accepts his/her book? (Asking because one of my writing professors has his books being published and he doesn’t get to pick the book covers, has to edit the book however they want, etc.)

Basically none.

Sadly, people do judge books by their covers and the
totally-would-have-been-an-immortal-classic book
Spending Christmas with a Yeti never got the acclaim
it so richly deserved.
And just for the record, that doesn't tend to change a whole lot from "first-time" to "multi-bestselling author," just so you know. Remember that weaponized bullshit Terry Goodkind pulled with his cover? That was because he didn't even have veto control even though it was like his six thousandth book and he has quite a following.

One of the primary reasons* that writers––sometimes even established, successful, bestselling authors in traditional publishing––go non-traditional is because they get back creative control over things like cover art and editorial control.

*Also they make a much greater percentage of their royalties.

FB/SOCIAL MEDIA

13) Bitter Cancer Patient asks: Is it possible to make money on FB or does it only cost?

Asking for a friend... who may or may not be a newly-uninsured cancer patient. #whydoIhavetopaytoreachmyfollowers

First of all, I'm really, really sorry. Cancer has shown up within my inner circle of peeps and it was, without hyperbole, the worst time of my life. I'm sure this is an incredibly difficult time for you and I just wish you all the strength and luck in the world.

To answer your question though....not really. If you have five years to build up an audience, you might be able to leverage that against a little bit of exposure for some crowdfunding (though if you remind your followers too often, they will complain and leave). Facebook is a terrible social medium for the content providers, and they have a number of ways to make it harder for anyone to make money rather than SPEND money on post promotion. Facebook will throttle your content to only SOME friends, throttle any links you post to outside pages to even fewer, and particularly throttle any link you post more than once. The only way to be seen by more is to get people to engage with your post (by liking or commenting or sharing). So even your medical Gofundme crowdsourcing a life-saving procedure so you don't fucking DIE that you share fifty times over the course of a month won't be seen by as many people as your Tumblr screen grab that makes people giggle.

14) Melissa asks: What forms of Social Media are you engaged in?

Mostly just Facebook.

I post links to my work to Twitter, G+, and Tumblr, and I post the occasional meme or article to Tumblr as well, but 95% of "the show" (all the memes, macros, puns, articles, and such) really only happens on Facebook. I find if I try to really keep up with multiple social media, I get sucked into a quagmire of time sinks. Every post takes just a few minutes, and maybe just a minute or two more to post it to another social medium, but then it adds up and multiplies, and suddenly I realize I'm spending more time managing all this social media than I am actually writing. So I limit it to one. Unfortunately Facebook is probably the reason I'm surviving capitalism without a "day job," so it's hard to quit them.

15) Matt asks: How do you disseminate [discriminate?] actual work from someone trying to scam you?

My "message request" box on FB.
Basically nothing but scamspam.
It just so happens I got a scam email today. I knew not deleting it right away might pay off!

Usually Matt, they look something like this:

"Hi!

My name is Alexia Wolker. I recently came across your site chrisbrecheen.com  and I really liked it! The articles were information and greatly education. 

I'm experienced writer and editor able to plan all of organization’s communications strategies. I'm writing professional articles on topics that are discussed on your blog and I think I can writes for you in a some of the interesting articles that will be useful for to your readers.

I have a unique and helpful article and I'm want to post on chrisbrecheen.com

Hope to hearings from you soon.

Thank you in forward,

Alexia"

Now I'm not going to be a prescriptivist about grammar on the streets because that shit is classist and often racist, and lord knows I make at least a few doozies myself every time I post, but if you're writing to a blog hoping to write for the blog, a phrase like "I think I can writes for you in a some of the interesting articles that will be useful for to your readers" should probably not be in there. Unless you're Oh from Home. (I watch a 4 year old, so some of my pop culture references are going to be little kid cartoons, okay?)

Notice also how this email says it likes my "articles" or "topics that are discussed" but offers NO information as to what those topics actually ARE or anything specific to me, my site, or even writing? That's a dead giveaway. Plus almost all of these emails LOOK exactly the same. They have exactly the same body shape. Header. Small paragraph. Large paragraph. Line that is mostly a link. Footer.

And then there's the FB offers to "rent" my page, as I've screen-shotted above. "Hello admin" or "Are you the admin of Writing About Writing?" almost always end up being offers to get $3000 or $5000 (it's never ANY other number for some reason) a week by posting 3 articles a day.

Though sometimes you just have to give something the sniff test. Had a guy who passed all the basic scam-filters but when we started talking about what he wanted to write as a guest blog, he kept aggressively steering the conversation to whether or not I could do some weird type of payment through a company that I'd never heard of, and would there be any way to get money for the guest blog right away (I usually wait a week to see how the post does and if I should be paying more than my base amount.) Something didn't feel right, so I Googled the company and sure enough found that it was a credit card phishing scam. ("It appears we do not have a working relationship with your bank! Would you like to add a credit card instead?")


16) C Sydney asks: Is there a path to redemption should the ban hammer be invoked? Or is it once banned, forever so?



It's pretty easy actually.

Just message me in some capacity. I've never not reinstated someone who sent me a sincere message asking to come back. Of course most messages I get are just trying to have the last word in some argument they think I'm interested in having, and I don't even finish reading them. Some of them unrepentantly whine about how I'm deeply unfair and they didn't do anything wrong, which tells me they either have no conceptual grasp of what they did wrong (in which case I'm very comfortable with my decision) or they do and they think they're justified (in which case I'm very, very comfortable with my decision).

This guy? Not so much.
What did the rest say? I'll never know.
I got about as far as the ellipsis before I deleted it.
"Slightly challenging" in this case included a racial epithet
and calling social justice warriors the real bigots.
But often people message me and they'd like back in and I take a good look at what happened.

FB sometimes "jumps" (updating right before I click so that I hit the wrong button) and I ban people I never meant to. They get reinstated as quickly as possible with my regrets.

Sometimes I see that their comments were more "on the edge" than "over the line" and they just happened to hit me when I was in a "blood rage" from whatever other people were doing on the thread. So the empathetic thing to do is to show some temperance and just let them back with an apology for getting carried away.

Or sometimes they sincerely apologize for comments that ARE over the line. And I know we live in the age of "You said something problematic once––I have screenshots," but I personally think people evolve and grow and I have got to give them the space to do that and to be better. Besides, I was a bit of a dudebro once myself, and it was the INFINITE fucking patience of people dealing with me that helped me to evolve and to continue to evolve.

17) Akcipitrokulo asks: Do you ever regret having the WAW page on Facebook?



I wouldn't say "regret." It certainly can be an unappreciated handful some days though, holy fuck.

However, Facebook is also the reason I have 10,000 readers a day instead of about 800 and I have made friendships from people who just started messaging me that are among my most treasured and will probably last a lifetime.

Facebook is my great love/hate relationship. I would not be where I am without its reach, and yet it makes me tear my hair out trying to deal with its ever-increasing rapacious bids to secure my money in order to show the very people following me the content they have asked to see. And of course managing the page when it has grown big enough that people sort of think it is "public and open" and they can go wild west in the comments (because free speech) instead of my house where they should extend some basic fucking courtesy tends to be way way WAY more of a time sink than I want.

18) Akcipitrokulo
 asks: what is the current total of blockees?

Facebook doesn't show me a total number of banned folks for a page, but I scrolled through and I would guess it's in the neighborhood of a couple thousand. Honestly that's pretty good for getting close to a million followers. (And probably at least another couple hundred thousand have "passed through" in the five years we've been a page.) It means only a fraction of one percent are behaving so badly that I have to swing Mjölnir (the ban-hammer).

19) Kara asks: How do you navigate FB's algorithm?

Mostly I don't.

I mean I just keep doing what I'm doing but there's no trick to getting around it.

Facebook's algorithm is a bucket of sphincters that I would like to send down a water slide lined with razor blades into a salt water and ammonia pool before reattaching them to whatever they were sphinctering for.

The FB Algorithm™ is one of the hardest and most frustrating parts of my job. They continue throttling content and showing posts to fewer and fewer people to "encourage" me to advertise by spending money. They treat me with my little content generating writing page that brings all kinds of fun memes, puns, and value to FB the same as a multibillion dollar company whose every post is a commercial.

My Patreon would arguably not be where it is today without Facebook, and that is how I pay the bills, so it's definitely frustrating to live and breathe according to the whims of an increasingly greedy necessary evil.

No fewer than seven times since I've started, FB has engaged in a major campaign to prevent pages from being seen by the people who WANT to follow them. They always wrap this up in bullshit like "We want to show you more of your friends!" but they forget to mention the part where A) You don't actually see any fewer ads––and in fact you're probably seeing more. Also, these were pages you elected to follow, presumably WANTED to see, could unfollow at any time, and provided content you are asking for. Any time they are doing that jackhole move, you can guarantee that, behind the scene, pages like mine are squirming because our reach just got hacked in half (or worse) and in many cases our livelihood is drying up AS we're getting all kinds of commercials to do paid advertising to "Reach more of [y]our followers!"

So basically they let you build up a following and then hold it for ransom. Rinse. Repeat.

The most recent throttle has been the hardest by far. It has taken three months for our page to grow from 800,000 to 818,000. I used to grow 18k in a week or two. I've been trying to remind myself that 800,000 is still pretty fucking awesome.

20) Anon asks: Do you really think your "You should be writing" posts are anything but annoying. 

 [Image description:
A comment saying:
Just in case no one has ever told you
.... thank you.
As I sit here in my bed,
 laptop open and 62,455 words deep,
three glasses of wine (maybe four or five)
down the hatch,
THANK YOU!
Sometimes I simply roll my eyes
at your posts,
but other times
I put the phone down
and get back to it.
I simply wanted to give you
an honest thank you
for pushing those of us who need it.]

I don't care.

I mean obviously they are something other than annoying to many because people "like" them, and talk about how useful they are in the comments, and send me thank you notes for them and stuff, but like most things on this page, I share them because I enjoy them (they often start my writing day) and this is my page. Unless I am somehow hurting you along the axis of a marginalized status, I haven't actually solicited your opinion about what I do. You can enjoy the show or not, but don't come into my house and complain that one of the many dishes I'm serving isn't exactly to your liking.

If they're not for you, feel free to scroll past them quietly, and if you can't do that, I'll be happy to show you where the door is.

[Note: This wasn't actually anonymous, but I showed him where the door was.]


 [Image description:
A comment saying:
I really love your page.
And I'm sorry for all the crap
you're going through
in your personal life.
If it helps any,
your posts help me through my crap.
Writing is so cathartic,
and your page helps me write.
I hope things get better for you and yours.] 


It does help. It makes it all worth it, actually.

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