Monday, January 16, 2017

Two Helpful Tips for Authors and Twitter

Recently some people have come lamenting to me about the chaos that can be Twitter. One person saw that I followed over two-thousand people, and wondered how I could keep track of them all. I've also heard some people lament that, after a while, Twitter becomes such a cluster of tweets that they feel disheartened to even bother. 

Here are some helpful tips to make your Twitter experience just a little bit better...

Lists are Your Friend

Lists are ways to organize your followers, or people on Twitter in general. (You don't even need to be following someone, or be followed by someone, to be on a Twitter list.) Basically, you go to the Lists option, create a list, name it appropriately, and then start adding people once it's been created.

Lists can be very helpful if you want to categorize your followers. Want Urban Fantasy authors all together? Put them in a list! Want traditional painters in one group? Put them in a list. Do some authors have podcasts? Put them in a podcast list. That way, you can go to that specific list, and see the feed only for the people on it. Granted, sometimes even lists can get about as long as your followers, which is why many people start splitting up lists. What I mean is some people might make separate lists, like "Fantasy Authors 1," "Fantasy Authors 2," etc. It's helpful to add here that you can add someone to more than one list, so if you have someone that writes fantasy, but also dabbles in science fiction, you can add them to those respective lists. 

Private lists can also be of assistance, if you don't want people to know they're on a certain list - or, alternatively, if you don't want people offended they're not on a list. For example, I have a "Cool Tweeps" private list that I use to keep track of people who I want to regularly check up on. These are authors that I speak with on more than one occasion, or people who are basically like online friends. Using this list helps me go straight to them and avoid the clutter of the feed - keeping it private helps prevent anyone from being offended.

The nice thing about all this? You'll probably find more convenient ways, for your individual purposes, to do all this. Go crazy and have fun with it.

The Mute Button is Your Friend

"Whoa there, Ben," I can hear some of you saying, "isn't muting someone kind of mean? What if I want to talk to that person?" Let me explain why, after a while, you'll be telling me how important the mute button was to you.

First, keep in mind muting someone is not like blocking them. If you aren't following them, nothing they do will pop up in your feed. If you are following them, then they won't appear on your Twitter feed, however, their tweets will still show up in your notifications and in your direct messages. So if you follow someone on Twitter, then mute them, you won't be blocking them completely, you'll just be keeping them out of your main feed. You'll still be able to visit their page and see what they're posting, and they'll still be able to respond to your tweets and interact with you, and you'll be able to see that.

Second, one thing you'll notice very quickly in the indie author world is that there are two types of people on Twitter: those who interact with followers, fellow authors, etc.; and those who do nothing but bombard their timeline with ads, automated messages, and the like. Keep in mind I'm not saying advertising your books is bad, but you don't want someone to go to your timeline and see nothing but ads that contribute nothing. Follow enough people like this, and your feed is going to be nothing BUT ads. You'll not want to look at it at all. (By the by, don't trust Twitter's "quality filter" - but don't get me started on that.)

When I first started using Twitter, I didn't really think about muting anyone. As I followed more and more people, I realized that I didn't want to go to my Twitter feed because it would be nothing but ads and automated messages. Finally, I decided to fix the problem: I sat down, went through my Twitter feed, and, upon finding someone posting an ad, went to their account; if I saw that their timeline was nothing but ads, I muted them. After thirty minutes of doing this, I saw a great thing unfold on my feed: I started noticing authors and artists whom I had followed, and yet never gave any much deserved attention. Why had they been ignored for so long? Because they had been buried in mountains of ads and spam. A few more people got added to my "Cool Tweeps" list.

Cleaning up your Twitter feed be like...
These are two simple, but helpful, tips I can offer fellow authors in organizing their Twitter, and finding a more efficient way to utilize it. I hope this blog post helps! Comment if you have any other tips or suggestions from your own Twitter experience.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Where ya been, Ben?

It's been a while since I posted on this blog, I know. It's also been a long while since I posted on Twitter, talked about my writing, let alone really had a good writing session. What's been going on, some of you might have been asking?

In August of last year, my family moved up to Ohio, where my wife is a native. This involved me quitting my full-time job at the time, preparing things in boxes, arranging for a truck, etc. Once I got up there, I had the fun task of continuing what I had started back in Virginia: getting a job. This meant playing the "apply for a job" game. Those who have engaged in this game know it can be a frustrating one. Between vague rejections that amount to "You don't suck, but you do suck," and having your heart played by potential employers ("This was a great interview, you're an outstanding candidate!" *sends rejection email the next day*), it can all take a toll on your ego. Add to this that when I finally did get a job, it was a part-time one with incompetent management (eg., forgetting that we have to work Christmas Eve, and throwing me on the shift last minute - not making that up), and management that wasn't even present in the building 99% of the time. One of my coworkers was an extremely toxic employee who thought every new employee was her replacement (and called me as much), thought everything you did was an act against her, and blew a gasket at you if you got fifteen extra minutes on your schedule and she didn't. Eventually I did complain to management, and they did straighten it out a little bit, but it didn't do much to make me want to stay there. What's more, it was having a toll on my desire to do anything else that brought me joy. I went home to my family bitter, and I had no desire to write, draw, read, or anything else, because on my mind was the fact that I had to go back to work the next day. It's really astounding just how much of an effect a toxic coworker can have. I actually did some research and found that 54% of employees are more likely to quit because of one, yet only 1% of workplace bullies are ever fired because of their attitude. But I digress...

Part of me wanted to resign from my job and become a full-time author, while still doing freelance design jobs on the side for sustainable income. The only dilemma is, at this moment, I don't make enough to justify going full-time. It's also harder when you have family to support, and can't just make a shot in the dark. Some full-time indie authors are women with husbands who already work full-time, or are husbands whose wives have taken up the mantle of having a full-time job. If that works for them, great, but I didn't want my wife working and taking time away from our daughter. As the reality of this situation set in, yet another potential escape from my nightmare seemed to have crashed and burned.

Ever have a moment where nothing you do seems to prosper or be blessed? That was my condition. I got into a deep depression. I didn't see any real value in myself. I didn't see any value in my work. Here I was, in my 30's, and stuck in a part-time job, barely able to afford for my whole family. Nothing I did seemed to help. I tried applying to other jobs, but continued facing rejection. I had no impetus to do anything but remain stuck in my life.

Now things have changed around. I got a full-time job offer which I accepted, and I resigned from my last job. The day after, I discovered my trust writer's journal, started looking through it, and soon began to add new ideas and concepts. My confidence was rejuvenated. Suddenly my creativity had returned. As cliche as it may sound, getting away from the toxic environment had given me a sense of self-worth that made me want to be creative and continue exploring my other talents.

Bear in mind I've been lurking on Twitter, and I've seen some of you sending me DM's, tagging me, etc. I did see it, and I intend to respond to you all as soon as possible. My goal is to get back into the swing of things, writing and doing what I love the most. So keep an eye on Twitter and the blog, because there'll be a lot more updates ahead!