Making “Connections?”

I’ve seen on my Instagram feed in recent days that some “author loop” has been started by a writer I’d never before heard of (and she’s probably never heard of me either). I discovered it when a couple of writers I follow joined in. It seems to involve reposting some post of hers detailing what it’s all about, and then following other authors, including via some hashtag, and also commenting on authors you follow and promising not to unfollow.

I may “like” such posts I see in my own timeline as a way of supporting a friend. I do follow authors I consider friends. (You likely know who you are.) However, personally I avoid now seeking to make such broad-brush “connections.”

Between what I may gain as opposed to what I may lose, I don’t see a benefit to following authors merely to be followed back in return, particularly if their subject matter – regardless of how good the books may be – doesn’t interest me. On Instagram, I follow *people* I want to follow. (I have even gotten story ideas and character inspirations from among them: I’m not naming names, of course.) In turn most people who follow *me* there do NOT appear to be other authors.

That is why I steer clear of such “schemes.” I’m supposed perhaps to risk annoying even one of my current followers – some of whom have told me that they have actually read my book(s) – by sharing into their timeline some “spam-looking” meme(s) that [coincidentally] will first aid not me, but the “loop creator” writer’s “attention-seeking” effort? (That did work in this sense: I now know her name.) And I will do that in the hope I will then “connect” with other authors… who chances are won’t even read my books and don’t really even care about them?

Uh, as they say in the publishing world, I’ll pass. I don’t mean to read here as relentlessly negative, but I’ve encountered way too many writers in the past with whom I had thought I had made some “connection” on Insta only to discover after weeks or months they had unfollowed me and disappeared offering not so much as a peep as to why. Obviously they were game-playing, merely looking for follower-padding: the follow/unfollow types. Indeed I noticed one guy had even followed/unfollowed me at least twice: fed up with him, finally I just blocked him (which is something I almost never do to any real person unless they are profane/nasty to me).

This whole “loop” thing led me to remember this – which I had posted here back early in the life of this blog, in the late 1980s March of 2014. In it I was blogging about a chat I’d had in 2013 with my novelist uncle. Some five years since, four novels on, and he having now departed this life, I feel I much better understand him:

Last year, I came close to spilling the beans with him about my then almost finished first book. During a phone chat, after his ritual complaining that my mother never calls him and he always has to call her (it’s not that one-sided; my mother in turn complains all he does is whine and she can take only so much), he explained how he tires of friends and acquaintances who’ve been newly bitten by the writing bug sending him their unpublished manuscripts. I recall it going something like this:

“I have my own writing to do,” he moaned. “You know, nephew, I just don’t have time to critique everyone else’s. And a lot of it is just bad. If you’re a surgeon, Robert, why the hell do you want to be a writer? Geez….”

“Oh, yeh,” I replied sympathetically. “That must be such a pain. Everyone out there thinks they’re Hemingway, don’t they?”

[And yours truly then moved the phone to the other ear, and smiled to himself.]

In the last five years I’ve also witnessed social media unpleasantness at times between writers. Fortunately, I’ve not found myself involved in anything too big. The worst here was probably in my comments earlier this year when some writer would not back away from her assertion that the word “d-rkies” was NOT racist. Eventually she declared she was unfollowing me when I insisted it was.

I kid you not. Who needs that sort of time-wasting stuff? I sure don’t. That was one “connection” I did not need.

Some writers may also perceive you as an adversary and look to trash what you do. Do you ignore it? Do you respond? The idea there is some inherent “collegiality” among writers just because they are writers is, frankly, I believe, a myth.

Now returned from our America visit, “2019” is around the corner. I promised it will be out that year. I’ve still got lots to do:

[New tentative cover for Tomorrow The Grace. Click to expand.]

My advice to any writer is this: Spend your time 1) writing your books and 2) “connecting” with your readers who have chosen to “connect” with you. (“I wanted you to know I’ve read your book!”) Doing that, invariably you will also bump into like-minded writers, and they are the ones worth knowing. For it is they who may in the longer-term prove to be friends with whom you can truly swap “war stories.”

“Courting” other writers en masse on social media is a time-consuming distraction and usually a wasted effort that leads you to take your eye off of the true ball. That ball? It is pleasing your readers.

Have a good Monday, wherever you are. 🙂

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