Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Earlier this week, the most excellent Hack programme on Triple J featured an article on the posthumous use of social media and its effect on the grieving process. It’s not something I have had much experience with – of the handful of my loved ones who have died since I started using social media, only one had a Facebook account, and that was under-utilized – but as a speculative fiction author who likes to think about technological advancements, the near future, and things of generally morbid nature, the topic held great fascination for me. Coincidentally, I happened to witness this week what happens when someone dies and Facebook Goes Horribly Wrong, when the aforementioned social media site alerted the Facebookverse that it was one of my distant virtual acquaintance’s birthday. Trouble was, said acquaintance passed away some weeks ago. His timeline was filled with happy birthday wishes from a host of (presumably) even more distant acquaintances who didn’t get the memo. “Awkward” doesn’t begin to cover it.

But back to Hack. Among other things, the programme discussed such start-up companies as and LIVESON. Via sophisticated artificial intelligence programming that doesn’t exist yet, will take all of one’s social media interactions and analyze them to create a digital avatar that will continue to communicate with your loved ones on your behalf after you die. LIVESON is a similar service that will posthumously tweet for you. Their tagline is “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.”

So many questions, so little time…

Here’s what I’m thinking – and for a change, it has little to do with death. Writers are constantly being exhorted to spend up to half of our productive time attending to our social media profile in order to engage with our audience (or somehow magically attract an audience in the first place). Why wait until death to create an avatar? Why not get one of these puppies going and put it to work doing our online promotion for us? Surely it’s got to be cheaper than employing a publicist, and our fans need never know the difference between the real you and the virtual AI you. It’d be like David Brin’s Kil’n People or that Bruce Willis movie Surrogates, only without the somewhat creepy physical facsimiles.By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I also wonder what it would be like interacting with a virtual avatar of myself. Would I like me, or would I be an insufferable bore? Perhaps, if this technology ever makes it to fruition, it should be mandatory to spend some time with your avatar before death so you can make a more informed decision on whether or not to inflict yourself on your loved ones for eternity. On the other hand, if you really dig yourself but you’re a bit on the lonely side, a ready-made digital friend who shares your hopes, dreams, interests and opinions is only a mouse click away.

(A disclaimer: For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to focus mainly on Amazon, because they’re the biggest game in town, and indie authors.  If you neither have an Amazon account nor are an indie author, you might want to stop reading now, because this is probably just going to bore you.  Also, like book reviews, the opinions expressed in this post are highly subjective.  I’ve drawn on limited experience and a small number of sources, and in some places I’ve even made shit up.  Hey.  I’m a fiction writer.  It’s what I do.)

Why you no like my book? WHYYYY?!?

Amazon reviews.  Most authors have a love/hate relationship with them.  Some claim loftily to never read or pay attention to reviews of their own books (except when said review is glowing, in which case suddenly the whole world needs to know about it).  Some authors will share every Amazon review on Facebook, punching the air when it’s good and wailing and lamenting when it’s bad.  Sometimes they’ll even try to recruit other authors to argue with the reviewer, report the review as unfair or even go further in bullying the reviewer in various ways and on various forums (just so you know, fellow authors, I consider this to be extremely bad form, and will not participate if invited.  I probably won’t buy your book as a result, either).

Indie authors are particularly prone to obsessing over reviews, and I totally get it; if you’re traditionally published, then at least you have the opinion of your publisher that you’ve written a good book, who ought to know, ‘cos it’s their job to choose good books.  When all you have to go on is your own gut instinct, your beta readers (IF you have some, and IF they’re any good) and the opinions of your friends and family (not to be trusted!) that hitting that ‘publish’ button is a good idea, then feedback from reviewers becomes your main measurement of quality.  Problem is, reviews are notoriously subjective, so unless they’re all telling you the same thing, (“USE SPELLCHECK, GODDAMIT!!!”), they can be contradictory and even counter-productive.  And if you don’t have the hide of a rhino, they can hurt.  A lot.

Most readers, when you ask them, will profess that they don’t even look at the reviews when deciding whether or not to buy a book, and those that do look at them will tell you, somewhat perversely, that if the book is independently published and it doesn’t have any negative reviews, then they won’t buy it, because ‘obviously’ the reviews must be less than honest (the inference being that ‘obviously’, if it’s independently published, it can’t possibly be that good, which makes me wonder why these readers are even looking at indie books at all).

You might be wondering by now why, if reviews are useless at best and painful at worst, why bother trying to get reviews on Amazon at all?

It’s all about playing the stats game with Amazon.  It’s succinctly outlined under Reason Number 2 in this post from Gwen Perkins.

I’ve shared it before and I’ll share it again, but if you can’t be bothered clicking through to read the post, I’ll summarise: more reviews equals higher likelihood that Amazon will help you to market your book.  “More” in this case equals “over 20”.

Not all indie authors even want to play the Amazon stats game.  Joann H. Buchanan, author of “I Am Wolf: (The Children of Nox)” wrote a brief, eloquent post in a Facebook group on why we should “Screw the reviews and the numbers” (I hope to persuade her to guest blog here on the subject).  Normally I am the first to remind, if not others, than at least myself, of the real reason why we do this writing thing, and it’s not so we can win the stats game (I’m not sure it’s even possible to win it, for starters).  But for those of us who want to use a variety of tools in an overall marketing strategy to promote our works, Amazon plays a huge part in that strategy.

So that is the “why” of it.  In my next post, I’ll talk about the “how”.

In this week’s blog round up, the Darkness and Dismay crew show no signs of slowing.  Look out also for some pearls of wisdom and gold nuggets of amusement referred to herein –

M Edward McNally discusses negative reviews with hilarious and enlightening results in his post Ed’s Casual Friday: Everyone is a (one) Star.  I haven’t had a lot of crushing reviews (mainly because I haven’t had a lot of reviews in general), but when it happens – and it will – I will refer back to this blog for solace.

Nerine Dorman talks  about collaborative writing projects and her love for immortal characters on Autumn Christian’s blog.

Suzanne Robb and A.J. Brown chat about LEGO, chocolate and horror writing, amongst other things.

I hear from a lot of people who are self-proclaimed book snobs (“you just can’t beat the smell and the feel of a print book”), but horror writer Armand Rosamilia has a tale to tell about how he has become a Kindle snob (and also how he likes to spend lots of time at home sans pants).

I can SOOOO relate to this one posted on The Bookshelf Muse (which is ironic, seeing as I’m writing a blog post to show how many other blogs I’ve read recently…).  How much social media promoting is too much?  How do you know when you have a problem?  And most importantly, how do you fix it? With thanks to Gwynplaine Lives, who put me onto it.

Suzanne Robb talks to Australian horror writer Matthew Tait, where he mentions his novella Slander Hall and piques my curiosity with references to his next big project, Davey Ribbon.

AJ Brown gets down to brass tacks and bloodied straps (that a sly little reference to his e-book collection Along The Splintered Path) in his interview on John Peters’ Dark Scribblings.

Mary Frisbee talks about her “Made It Moment” on Jenny Milchman’s blog “Suspend Your Disbelief” – and it’s not what you might think.

I love it when I learn something new.  I’d heard of steampunk, cyberpunk and splatterpunk, but candlepunk?  Dieselpunk? Mannerspunk?  Find out just how many “-punk” subgenres there are in Marsha A. Moore’s post on Fantasy Faction.

A brave, honest and exquisitely written guest blog from Autumn Christian on the Dark Continents blog.

I hope this one gets read far and wide – Nick Mamatas, giving advice to writers on what advice NOT to give to aspiring writers.

Dean M. Drinkel gets the Suzanne Robb treatment and talks about “The Rape of Emmanuelle”, aka “the story they tried to ban”.