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First of all, I do! I have this blog. That’s my social media.
But otherwise, there are several reasons you don’t see me on Facebook (you did briefly, for a few months) or Twitter (I lasted there a bit longer but hated it and the world by the time I left) or Tiktok. Here are some of them:
1) It’s not real interaction. It feels like real interaction, but it’s not. We develop opinions about others on social media, but we really don’t know them. They may be the nicest people in the world, the very person you’d want for your best friend or neighbor, and yet because they aimed for snarky humor, and it failed, now you have this whole bundle of opinions and feelings about them that are irrational and wrong.
Or, I should say, I do that. And I think everyone does, but I’ll own my part in it, and when we pile up everyone worldwide who does it, what we end up with is anger, enmity, and wrong judgments on a massive scale. You cannot get to know someone in 20 words of text or a random “like” of a video or article.
2) It’s a time drain, and it’s an energy drain, and it throws me off my goals. My goals include being a writer, writing four books per year most years, and I also read books (partly for enjoyment, but partly because of writing, to watch how genre expectations are changing, to see if I can/wish to write in a new genre.) That’s what I want to do with my best hours, not waste them on social media. (And I don’t have a TV either, though I will stream a free movie now and then.)
What happens when you check social media, or your texts, or the alerts you sign up for on your phone, or your three email accounts, is that you tend to go deeper into each than you intended, and you tend to spend more time on each than you planned to, and you tend to go around in a circle of various ones that has become a pattern, and then a habit, and then an addiction. And then sometimes you go around the circle twice. Or twice, three times a day. Yikes!
I’d rather write.
I’d also rather spend time with my friends, tend to my garden, take a walk, go somewhere interesting where I learn something (I’m big on parks with interpretive centers, but I’ll attend lectures and community events that are about something I don’t know much about at all). I’d rather go outside at dawn and stare at the sky, with my eyes and sometimes with binoculars, glimpsing the transit of a moon of Jupiter or the faint swollen hint of a big spiral galaxy. We have one short, precious life. Do you really want to spend it arguing with strangers online? Or even sharing cute parrot photos with strangers online?
3) Leading to: it makes me worry about crap I cannot control. At worst, it makes me try and do something about crap I cannot control! And that wastes more of my precious and finite life.
I’ll take something that was big in the writing community a few years ago. This idiot woman tried to trademark a common word. And then others did too. Like they’d try to trademark the word “invasion” as applies to SF books. I can only assume cocaine addiction is a big thing at the US Trademark Office, for they approved these ludicrous applications. Not only did I spend time raging about it online, in writers’ groups and possibly during my short stint in social media, but I became a person who haunted the Trademark applications and wrote refutations (not the right word, but that’s what it was) of them. In one case, I hunted down the heirs to a dead author’s copyrights and explained they were about to get hit with a trademark infringement lawsuit for something copyrighted 50 years ago because of this trademark application.
You might say “well, that was nice of you.” Yeah, well, thanks, but it was stupid of me. I have so many hours in the day that I have good energy. I want to spend it on writing and laughing with friends. My low-energy hours I spend on things like accounting, repairs, gardening, cooking and cleaning. My awful-energy hours I lie back and watch a movie I’ve probably seen before or play Wordle.
Did I “make a difference?” Probably not. Probably all that would have been worked out without my efforts. Or it won’t work out, and I’ll die and it still won’t be worked out, and that’s just the way of life. But this I know: my anxiety over it was an energy drain, and time spent on it was a waste of me. Leading me to:
4) When people say they like social media, they sometimes say “It keeps me informed.” Uhuh. I’ll agree this far: it keeps you informed only on what the social media owners want for you to be informed about. (which might be very iffy information indeed.) I’m sure all my readers are bright enough to grasp there are 10,000 awful things happening around the world that you aren’t being informed about, and that you could equally as obsess and worry about them as the 20 things social media and TV news fed to you today. And you’d have equal control over their outcome: zilch.
Don’t get manipulated like that. And quit worrying over what you can’t control. Control what you can, and (spoiler alert) that doesn’t go far beyond your own skin.
5) Making us feel connected, liked, entertained, and informed is the whole purpose of social media. Note I don’t say it makes us connected, liked, entertained, and informed. It makes us feel we are. That’s the product. It appeals to some junior-high age need in us when our followers grow or we get “likes.”
That we feel like this keeps us there so that the social media owners can gather data on us. That’s the true reason for it to exist. That they make money off us. That they make money off mining our data. That they make money off invading our privacy. It isn’t free. It looks free, and it isn’t. We’re (sorry to be blunt, but it’s so) whoring ourselves, our privacy, to these people.
They are taking it. With our full permission. And selling it. And getting rich from it.
If I wished to, I could know everything about every one of my readers. Facebook will tell me if I spend ad money with them. I could know your politics, if you were fat or thin, if you ever upvoted a racist or “sexy” picture, if you'd ever clicked from FB to take a personality "quiz" and what the results were, what your income is, how many children you have, if you went to university and where, who your friends are, if you own a home or not, if you are in credit card debt or not, and if you prefer Coke to Pepsi products.
Amazon is actually far better about protecting your privacy from advertisers, but they know even more about you. They know if you’ve ever ordered erotica or a vibrator and my books too. They know if you’ve ordered a book called “Is my child a sociopath?” They know your shoe size, FFS. They know everything.
I lied when I was on social media about nearly all of the details of my life. I lied about my university, my date of birth, my year of birth, and my income. (I even lie about that when I apply to a store discount card. Sometimes I say I make $1000/year, and sometimes I say I make $500,000/year, which I definitely do not and will never!) I hope my lies screw up their averages, honestly, when they’re trying to predict consumer behavior. I don’t even carry my phone with me to shop in known places (I carry a phone only on road trips to unfamiliar locales). That thing Google does where it tells you how busy stores are? It’s from pinging your phone, a thousand phones every day at that store. Google (or Apple) knows where you are every second, how long you stood at this aisle, that aisle, where you shop, and where you don’t. This means they can accurately predict a lot more about you, like your income within 5%. (Rich people don’t tend to hang out at the Dollar Tree and Salvation Army thrift store, to use a clear example.) If you pay via your phone, they can associate what you bought with that accumulated data. They sell data about you, your credit card and bank sell data about you….
But not much about me. I pay for groceries with cash and I don’t carry my phone. I’m harder to target with ads, with political solicitations, with targeted brainwashing of any sort (which is what advertising is, and more and more what "this might interest you" links are) than the average American. And I like that. I like being off the radar most of the time. (Can’t be entirely. I need email. I need to be paid into bank accounts. I have to file taxes. Since 9/11, a bank account requires a fixed physical address. So you can’t really be off the grid in 2022, but you can protect a lot of your privacy.)
6) So I don’t do social media, leading you to ask, I’m sure, “but how do you stay connected to people?”
I phone them. I email them. I text them “thinking of you” with a photo I just took of plants in bloom or a sunset. I go out to lunch with them.
“But I can’t do that with 3000 of my Twitter/FB/TikTok friends!”
Hon, those aren’t your friends. Friends are people you’ve actually smelled. That’s my prerequisite for calling someone a friend. If I’ve smelled them, spent enough time with them to know their cologne or soap or even, working hard side by side, their sweat odor, they may be my friend. If I’ve heard their laughter, not seen their “lol,” they might be my friend. If I’ve broken bread with them, they might be my friend. It’s about the nose and ears, friendship, not about the phone or computer screen.
And I assuredly do not have 2000 of them. Twenty is nearer the mark. The twenty people for whom you’d weep bitter tears if they died. Those are your friends.
As a writer, I have something of a passion about keeping words to mean what they actually mean, rather than torturing their meaning for commercial reasons.
In writing, I used to be involved with big writing groups online, and I learned about business there (although I also would have learned from lurking and not getting into petty arguments over little nothings, as I’m ashamed to admit I occasionally did). Learning about how to write, I 90% learned from books, articles, doing the writing, and the feedback of rejection. 10% I learned F2F, in classes and critique groups. I never learned a single thing about the craft of writing from an online interaction. I do still belong to a small online private group with whom I write and joke in the mornings. That small one is plenty.
So you can hunt for me on social media, maybe even find an account there, unused in years (if it has been used any time recently, it has been hacked, and it’d be kind of you to inform FB/Twitter/Insta of that.)
I can’t and wouldn’t tell you what to do. But think about it for yourself, too, okay? Is FB/Twitter/TikTok making you happier? Happier than going out to lunch with a good friend you haven’t seen in three months? Or not?
And I’ll quote the last line of Mary Oliver’s famous poem and hope you ask it of yourself, often:
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
As this is the only social media I do, I figure I should occasionally say 'hi!' Yes, I am still alive, and yes, I still write. :D
I've been busy writing this year after a slow period during the depths of Covid, launching two new pen names. I can't write the same book topic over and over again, so I need to switch it up to stay creatively fresh and happy. WWII thriller, fantasy, crime, some romance, historical YA, short horror and SF, adventure, time travel, post-apocalyptic, natural disaster thrillers... I've written a few different genres, haven't I? I have some literary short fiction out on submission to magazines that I wrote last year and this.
From 2015-2021 I made a living as a full-time writer. I also saved my pennies because I knew that was unlikely to last. It doesn't for most writers, and I was never deluded that I'd be the exception. Or, rather, most writers never get a year of full-time income, so I've been either fortunate, or my decades (more than three of 'em) of hard work earned that for me, depending on if you squint and tilt your head and look at it one way or the other. Unless one of my new pen names takes off, I probably won't earn enough to say I'm full-time this year...but then because of said penny-pinching, I can still eat and have electricity, and I find myself rather fond of air conditioning, heat, and food!
I still want to write a Lou Cadle hurricane book, but the last two natural disaster thrillers sold so poorly, I may not do so until I'm thinking of retiring. While I love the act of writing, if there's a chance I can make a bit of money with some other book in some other genre, I have to do that instead. It's like choosing paid work over volunteer work, and I'll bet most of my readers must choose the former over the latter. So must I.
If I ever get an idea for a post-apocalyptic series that doesn't feel like I'm my repeating myself (or redundantly repeating myself again, haha!), I'll write it and Lou Cadle may be more active again. If I don't, know how much I appreciate the readers I've had over these past eight years. What a fun ride it has been for me. And I hope you've had some days of immersion in imaginary worlds, where for a moment you believe those characters really existed.
Occasionally, I see this question, and I thought I'd give it an answer. The short answer is, the same reason you don't go into work from 9-5 every day and refuse a paycheck. People who work have an expectation of pay for their work. It seems reasonable to most of us.
The second way I can answer this question is this way: I put time into each book, and before I start any book, I put a lot of time into learning the craft.
|Started in 2005, finished in 2014|
This is no less difficult an endeavor that learning the violin well enough to get 17th chair in a symphony orchestra, or to play baseball well enough to be on a AAA farm team. It takes years of work, practice, and study. It takes coaching, or classes, which you pay for.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the hours it takes to reach excellence. Writers talk about the 1,000,000 words they had to write to achieve a professional standard. Interestingly, these are the same number! A very hard working writer with no day job, no kids, no sick parent to take care of could accomplish that in three years. Most writers take more like ten years.
During those 3-10 years, you might sell a story here and there, or you might even self-publish and sell 500 copies of a book (which isn't bad for a first book!), but you probably won't gross much over $1000 in any given year, and that's for about 1,000 hours of work. A dollar an hour if you have no expenses.
Also, you sacrifice in your life. Other people come home from work, watch TV and play games and go on vacation. You probably don't. You use all your spare time to write, often when you're exhausted from the day job. (I'm assuming there's no inheritance or trust fund or rich spouse supporting you). Nor do writer's homes clean themselves and meals make themselves. Life is work, and then you work at home and self-maintenance tasks, and then more work is required to write. It's a sacrifice.
To put out a good product, you're looking at something like:
$400 for a pro cover
$300 for pro proofreading
$100 for interior formatting
$ ??? for advertising. $0 to $50,000/year, as some friends of mine have spent (they might make back $150,000, so they feel it's worth it.)
Let's say you've done your ten-year, million-word writing apprenticeship. And let's say you have saved up $1000 to self-publish your first pro-level novel. How much time does that one take?
Probably six months to a year, or 500 to 1000 hours for that first good one. That includes: research, thinking, outlining, drafting, revising, line editing, proofreading, and running pieces of it past experts to make sure it's accurate. As time goes on, you can whittle down the hours it takes, but it still takes time. I have a number of ebooks that have made me $10,000 or so. If I spent 1000 hours on one, I'm making $10US per hour. If I spent 500 hours on it, I make $20US per hour. It's not a great salary.
For the last ten years, I've been one of the lucky ones, making enough money on 5-35 titles to pay my bills and call myself a full-time writer. I know how little I make when I'm the 2000th best selling author at Amazon. It's like entry-level money for someone with a university degree. Novelists generally do not make much money, and in trade publishing (the books you can find at your library), it's even worse money per sale.
I hear people complain that a five-book series that took an indie author two years of full-time labor to write is overpriced at $25 if bought individually (though most indies run sales on first books in series and often bundle 3/$10). People spend $25 on a minor league baseball game ticket or $25 on a hotdog and pop at a major league event. They spend that for popcorn and a matinee movie that lasts 90 minutes. They spend more than that every month for their streaming, and probably that much weekly on their coffee out. They spend four times as much on their internet service and at least three times as much on their cell phone bill every month. A single trade published hardcover would cost more.
When it all comes down to it, and even not considering all those details, books cost money because we live in a society where people are charged for food and rent, and those people expect to be paid for their work in order to eat and have a roof. It's hard to write when you haven't eaten for a week, and it's impossible to get the computer charged when you live out of a shopping cart on some cold city street.
Book 2 in the series She Drives
I had a terrific time writing my new heist book, starring Darla the getaway driver again. I like her voice a lot, and this one is funnier than the last because of her acerbic comments. Her lover/partner in crime, Flynn, has heard about a megachurch minister who has stolen donations, reported them as stolen from him to the police, and yet has hidden them in the wall of his church.
So she and Flynn, with an assist from Flynn’s high school buddy Carl, who is full to bursting of personality himself, pretend to be supplicants at the megachurch, wanting information on how to start their own scammy religious empire. They pay to be instructed, but what they’re really doing is scoping out the place so they can steal these ill-gotten gains.
Two problems, though. One, Carla has a hard time with her acting the role of demure helpmeet spouse. (For those of you who read book 1, this probably won’t come as a surprise.) And Two, Flecke, the head of church security, is suspicious from the get-go and far sharper than anyone else there. He may in fact be smarter than Carla, which she hates admitting. And then the creepy “pastor” complicates everything even more, and it’s a battle to see who wins and comes out alive...and with the cash in hand.
This is a typical mystery/crime series in that each book can be read separately, but there are subplots that continue from book to book.
Megachurch Heist: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZGWGMS8/
If you don’t want to read it, please mention the series to a friend who likes crime/mystery with a touch of snarky humor. Thanks!
As ever, I appreciate your reading, and I appreciate your reviews. Have a lovely summer, or winter if you’re in the antipodes to me.