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Waiter, there’s a Troll in my Blog! September 25, 2009

Posted by techtigger in Uncategorized.

Writers, by nature, tend to be sensitive souls. They pour their heart into every word, lovingly polish each phrase and hold the final piece up to the muse to bless.  And the muse says, ‘It’s beautiful honey! I love it!”  But sadly, the rest of the world is neither so kind, nor so careful of your feelings.  And while honest critiques can be good for a writer, there will always be those who feel the need to tell you what they think whether you asked them to or not.  These gutter slime take advantage of the anonymity of the web to verbally assault you  – they leave nasty, personal comments on your blog, they try to bait you into pointless arguments on chats, they trash your book on Amazon –  these, dear writer, are Trolls. 

vacuumSo what do you do if you have a troll infestation?  First off, don’t reply to them.  Nature abhors a vacuum and so do trolls.  If you ignore them they will often wander off to find an easier target.  Remember, they want to wind you up, they get off on making people miserable, so don’t give them any fuel to work with.  On your blog, you can always apply the Mighty Sword of Comment Deletion.  It works, and it’s fun to do.  Hah, take that Troll!  (Imagine Errol Flynn as Robin Hood while you delete, I know that makes the Muse feel better, she’s a fan of his…work…heh.)

But sometimes, even if you get them to go away their hurtful comments stick with you.  We all have that little scared voice inside that says, what if they’re right, what if my story really is that bad?  Fear not dear writer, there are fun and easy things you can do to patch up your battered ego, and even come out the better for having encountered your personal boogeyman.  Here is my patented 3 step method to recover from Troll attacks:

The Zen Approach

Try to think of trolls with compassion – the enlightened soul realizes that pouring out vitriol is what this poor, benighted troll needs right now.   There must be some pain in their life, some deep seated hurt inflicted on them that goads them to behave so badly.  And you understand, you’ve lashed out when life has poured salt into your wounds.  You, the zen Buddha saint in training, know that this person is not angry with you, nor do they hate you, it is instead themselves that they are at odds with. 

Whoa, deep, eh?

Sadly, I am not usually quite so enlightened.  When someone is being an ass I immediately want borrow a hat pin from the Muse and play pin the tail on the donkey.  Which brings me to step two:

The Comedian

PrintTake a moment to contemplate the lighter side of trolls.  Just who whizzed in their wheaties today? Did they wake up to find their pooch dry-humping their leg?  Did the cat hork a hairball onto their lap?  Go ahead, let your muse have some fun at their expense.   Don’t let that lady-like exterior fool you, she packs a wicked sucker punch. And when you see those nasty-grams in your inbox, just remember:   Opinions are like assholes – everybody has one.  Some are just louder than others.

Right, let me just hand the hat pin back and get the Muse to stop giggling madly so we can move on to step three:

Use Your Trolls Wisely

The muse is really into recycling.  Everything in life is grist for her mill, and trolls are especially good when reduced, reused, and re-characterized.  If you ever wondered how to make your antagonists more antagonistic, keep a file with notes about trolls. Real life is filled with petty jerks, and the world your characters inhabit should have them too.  Just remember, no naming names.  Lawyers have these fun little toys called libel and defamation of character, avoid them at all costs.  Your muse is creative though, I’m sure she can find ways to use their character traits without going into recognizable details.   Odds are if something makes you cringe or grit your teeth, you can use it to gain sympathy for your main character and build tension in your story.  Keep your eyes open for trolls, they may be the inspiration for your next really juicy villain. 

Okay, that’s enough from me, what do you do to deal with trolls?  Share your ideas in the comments section, let’s try to make Troll an endangered species!

PS:  Yes, comments are being moderated, because you know the Village Idiot Troll will think it’s funny to try and post nasty-grams here.  So you won’t see your comments right away.


When Queries Attack September 2, 2009

Posted by techtigger in Queries.

The amount of information on the web about writing is amazing, there are sites that cover just about everything you would ever need to know.  Do a search on google and you’ll have more writing advice than you can shake a stick at.  You’ve learned all the tricks, how to hook, how to plot, but what they seldom talk about in those writers workshops is that you will also have to wear a sales hat along with the writers cap. You don’t even own a sales hat!

The muse is running out right now to buy a new hat.  Trust your muse, she knows hats.  But while she’s out shopping, let’s take a look at two of the most common sales/query faux-pas.

The Telemarketer

dinner2It’s dinner time. You have a nice, hot meal in front of you, your favorite show is on TV, and the *%#$#! phone rings.  “Am I speaking to the man or woman of the house?”  NO. Click. Stomp-back-to-cold-dinner. 

What went wrong here?  Cold calls have been around for as long as there have been phones, right?  Yes, but nothing says ‘I’m going through the whole phonebook’  like an un-personalized sales pitch.  Queries are a sales pitch. Any experienced sales rep will tell you that calls to large, random lists are a waste of time, with little or no return for your effort.   Let’s try that again.

“Hello Mrs. Smith, I’d like to talk to you about ways to save money on your home insurance.”

Okay, mildly creepy that they know so much about you.  But literary agents are odd ducks – they like to know you took the time to research them.  Finding out who they are, what type of book they’re looking for and the guidelines for submission shows professionalism.  And keep in mind, they want you to send queries.   So, once more, with feeling.

“Dear Mr. A. Gent, I saw from your website that you are accepting queries for Genre X, and I have enclosed the first five pages of ….”

See?  Professional, non-stalker-ish and you can follow instructions.  I’m not saying you should use these exact words, but proper personalization can help avoid the dreaded form rejection letter.   In sales, getting the foot in the door is everything.

But wait! You say, as you glare accusingly at me.  Why do they get to use form letters when I have to go through the trouble of personalizing?  This brings me to sales faux-pas number two, shifting from personalizing to getting personal.

The Guilt Trip

puppyEvery time an Agent sends a form rejection letter, a puppy dies.  Look at that puppy, how could you be so cruel? Have you no heart, sir? Shame! SHAME ON YOU!

And you know what, it’s true.  Agents do … get letters like this from writers.  (you thought I was going to say kill puppies, didn’t you.  Shame on you! ) 

Okay, maybe the puppy thing was a bit over the top.  But people actually write back to scold agents for sending a rejection letter.   I’ll admit to being baffled by this sales strategy.  What if every telemarketer you have ever hung up on called you back, just to tell you what a terrible person you were for not buying the Acme Fish-O-Matic Cod Blender?   Can you imagine that?

Here’s a little bit of sales wisdom – The customer is in no way obligated, what-so-ever, to buy anything from you.  Ever.   Agents, editors, and publishers are all customers.

That being said, here’s another bit of sales advice – The customer that turns you down today, may well buy something else from you tomorrow.   But only if you make a good first impression.  So don’t blow it by going online and ranting about the Evil A. Gent, Destroyer of Writers’ Dreams.  Build relationships by being polite and professional. Chat with them on twitter, comment (nicely) on their blogs.  And maybe next time, the magic will happen.

loveYou see, what you missed in all this do/don’t discussion was this one simple, yet oh-so important phrase:  Agents want queries.  They want your queries, because they love books.  They have a passion for books, god knows they aren’t doing their jobs for the money.  They want that magic moment, when eyes meet words across a crowded desk, and its love at first sight. 

It’s up to you, dear writer, to give them that moment by sending out those queries.   So sit down with your muse, put on that fabby hat she just bought for you and start planning your sales campaign. 


PS – no puppies were harmed in the making of this blog post.

PPS – my friend gave me the adorable puppy photo, along with a warning.  Swissys grow up to be huge dogs, so buyer beware.

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