It's getting, it's getting, it's getting kinda hectic

Moving in! It's happening! It's kind of a complicated process because the new place still lacks some key things (like a stove and curtains) but hopefully it will be done fairly soon!

In the meantime, here's a couple of article I thought were interesting but didn't have time to actually write posts about:

This one is about the music market in Japan. Japan has been notable because it's resisted digitization, but guess what's happening right now? Oh, yeah, digitization is happening with a vengeance and all the Japanese labels are being caught out because they thought that Japan was the one market that would never, ever change, so why should they prepare?

I also have to point out something that has always annoyed me with reporting about the Japanese music market: People always report the revenues. So they say (or rather, they used to say), Oh, the Japanese music market is so much better than the U.S. music market because evil, awful digitization hasn't happened there so their revenues are still high!

Anyone see the problem there? Revenues are not profits. If I sell something for $10 that costs me $8 to produce and ship, I have revenues of $10 but profits of only $2. What's so nice about digitization (be it music or books) is that you can sell something for $5 or $3 that costs you next to nothing to make. So yeah, your revenues go down, but who cares?

That one is about dodgy on-line reviews. Businesses are starting to sue people who post negative fake reviews for defamation--something to keep in mind if you're ever tempted to trash someone via sock-puppet.


My Other Blog

I've decided to start a blog that's just going to be completely self-indulgent--it's called My Other Blog. Partly, this was because I want to have a place to post about things that I can't manage to force into this blog (surprise, surprise, today's post is about Korean rappers). And partly it's because I feel like I have less to say about self-publishing--you know, do it, don't get ripped off, is there anything else? I'll still post about what I'm doing, of course.

Good limits, bad limits

After thoughtful consideration yesterday, I decided that the best way to deal with my story problems was to have a raging bout of insomnia that would leave me unable to so much as read a book. (Although, granted, my current book is John McPhee's Annals of the Former World. Guys, this may be the lack of sleep talking, or it may be because The New Yorker has so thoroughly adopted his prose style that I feel like I could finish his every sentence, but I am getting to be of the opinion that McPhee is overrated as a writer. At one point he lists a bunch of different geological ages because he thinks the names are kind of cool. I'm looking forward to the page where he just starts listing names out of the phone book--you know, because they're kind of cool. And his stories just never seem to climax. I get the feeling he was probably a pretty boring person.)

Anyway, today I read Kris Rusch's post on how nowadays she can write what she wants, YEAH! Screw publishers and their schedules and their little minds!

And on the one hand, I am delighted that e-books mean that short stories and novellas and little genres can flourish once again, and Rusch certainly brings up some examples of publishers being really arbitrary about stuff.

On the other hand--well, I also read this today. It's about a Web site I happen to enjoy called Eat Your Kimchi, which is by two Canadians living in Korea. Initially they started making videos about life in Korea so that their families could see what was going on with them, but then they started getting traffic from people who were curious about Korea.

And then they started getting traffic from really oversensitive Koreans who HATED them and wanted them deported! Things got extremely unpleasant, especially when they would criticize K-Pop groups, because Korean pop fans are notoriously insane.

The thing is, as awful as it got and as unfair as it certainly was, I've watched a lot of the old videos, and I have to say that their newer ones are much better. Why? It's not the production values (although those have improved), it's the fact that they no longer offer up knee-jerk negative reactions to things that they don't know anything about ("ERMAHGERD, this food has TENTACLES in it!"--uh, you've never had calamari?).

You could say that they've become more careful, but I would argue that they've become more thoughtful--and that's a good thing. It prevents them from falling into the whole Ugly American (Ugly Canadian?) rut, where they just run around shrieking, "ERMAHGERD! Why are things DIFFERENT here? It's like we're in some kind of foreign country or something!"

In addition, when they do get critical (which they still do), they are either very thoughtful about it (like this) or they come up with something hilariously funny. Remember those crazy K-Pop fans? Instead of just bitching about these lunatics who desperately need to get a life, they came up with the immortal character of Fangurilla.

The line between being true to your vision and just being self-indulgent is a fine one, and I think it's harder to draw a lot of times because 1. criticism is never pleasant, and 2. sometimes it is delivered in an entirely malicious and dishonest fashion. But even the worst form of criticism can have some value--at least if you take the right lesson from it.

Sorting out a Web audience

So has been chugging along, which has been interesting for me. I've been a firm believer in half-assing my own online marketing, but while this blog serves multiple purposes (and marketing myself isn't really one of them), that Web site was created for the sole purpose of marketing. So stuff like checking Web stats, which is just an amusing diversion on this site, is actually important there.

Originally, when I made the Web site, I had a certain audience in mind: Myself, when I first discovered the group. There were a lot of Web sites catering to obsessed fans, but I wanted to serve people like me: American native-English speakers who didn't know much about Block B and wanted to find out more.

Well, one of the first things I realized was that, duh, the people who go looking for a Web site called already know quite a bit about Block B. What got me hits was adding to the free mixtape songs available on the Music page. It can be kind of a pain to find those songs, so the more of them I put in one place, the more helpful the site was. (And I probably should keep adding songs, but OMFG THERE ARE SO MANY that editing that page is a major hassle.)

The other thing that I've noticed is that I get hits from people all around the world--Asia, Europe, you name it. That's been the cause of some reflection: If I'm writing for native English speakers, I should feel free to use more-sophisticated language (especially because I don't want to reflect poorly on Block B by sounding like an idiot). But if I'm writing for people who speak or read only a little English as a second language, well, then, I should make things easy on them, right?

I haven't changed the language, but what I have done is to list fan sites that translate the group's Korean Tweets into any other language, not just into English. I didn't do that before, because how the hell would I know if someone is doing a good job translating Korean into Chinese or Arabic or Hungarian or whatever? But given who is coming to the Web site and the response to that particular expansion, clearly it's needed.

Some of the cultural stuff isn't going to change--you'll notice that there is absolutely no mention of how handsome/cute/attractive the guys are (except for Jaehyo, because he was pretty much Miss Korea for a while there, and that's a lot to leave off a resume). This is very uncommon when people talk about Korean music, because looks are considered extremely important in that industry. But 1. I'm 43 years old, for Christ's sake, and 2. as the above statement implies, I'm American, and I know that to Americans it's a huge turn-off when people start talking about how musicians look instead of how they sound. "He's soooo cuuuute!" is basically taken to mean, "I'm 14 years old, horny, stupid, or otherwise entirely without critical judgement!" The American market is really big and really worth aiming for, so I'm not going to cater to the teeny-boppers (who have eyes and can decide that a particular young man is soooo dreamy!!! all on their own) because that will alienate everyone else.


My stomach went insane again last night (note to self: If you are fighting off a bacterial GI infection, DO NOT eat a box of cookies before you go to bed. That was just stupid), so today my big accomplishment was getting groceries without falling asleep behind the wheel. (Huzzah!) And tomorrow the contractor cometh at the crack of dawn (he's fixing the bathroom--I've decided against replacing the ceiling, BTW, because I'm probably going to sell the house this year or next). And since school is starting, next week I have the kids pretty much every

Anyway, I noticed a surge in traffic to this site from The Passive Voice because ABE linked here about making audiobooks (and click the "audio" tab if that's what you're after), so now I'm thinking...audiobooks...a schedule shot to hell...audiobooks..... I couldn't tolerate the work earlier, but I'm less messed up now, so maybe I should give it a go.

I also noticed that a lot of people are coming here by Googling some combination of "minons" and "piñatas." Should that frighten me?

I just want to kill them all and let God sort it out

No, the new domain name hasn't gone through yet, even though I was PROMISED last time that it would go through by now. Yes, I had to call again, even though I was PROMISED last time that that would be my last phone call. We're at the juvenile finger-pointing stage, which is always extra-delightful with tech people because they do it by throwing around a lot of nonsensical jargon, which all basically translates as "It's not my fault! Those other people are crazy, and it's their fault! Boo-hoo!"

Here's how it's going to work: If I don't have a useable domain name by the end of next week, I'll switch registrars.

Where are our robot overlords?

You know, getting this domain name set up was really a snap--no one owned, and setting it up was a breeze. (Yeah, I didn't map it onto the Web site properly for a really long time, but that was my fault.)

Getting set up--oy. I had to buy the domain name, which is a few extra steps in the process, but the main issue is that in order to actually complete each extra step, I have had to call and follow up (sometimes more than once) with the two tech companies involved. All these steps are supposed to be automated, except that they're not, so you fill out on-line form #4,587,536, click "Submit," and then . . . nothing happens. Until you call. And call again.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this point, but I'm always struck by the irony of how completely technology firms are dependent upon actual human beings doing things like checking their e-mail in-boxes. The reliance on human beings wouldn't be so bad if it weren't apparently illegal for technology firms to hire more than one customer-service representative who actually knows what they're doing. You get the Lone Magical Dude, you're in luck. You get the Massively Stoned and Confused Dude, you gotta keep calling.

Haters gonna hate

I saw this via a Twitter retweet, and I feel like it's one of those things that I'm supposed to be able to relate to (since I am a woman who writes science fiction and all), but I can't, really.

To clarify: I can certainly relate to the joys of being treated like shit by people who want to put me down. That, FYI, is the modus operandi of people who don't like the stories being written about them by journalists. When I was a reporter, I was regularly and consistently accused of being:

1. Too dumb to understand the real story.

2. Too ignorant to understand the real story.

3. On the take by a company's competitors.

4. A puppet of my editors or publisher, who were on the take.

5. An evil person, just generally.

This happened at least once a week. I should note for the record that my stories won awards and all that, so despite being the product of a drooling, corrupt, malevolent idiot, my work held up pretty well.

Were these insults occasionally delivered in a sexist manner? Yes, they were--albeit rarely (the physical threats were rare, too). But once someone has crossed the line so far that they are telling you to your face that you are too stupid to understand anything, suggesting that your gender is to blame is really not much of a stretch. (Just like if someone is so self-absorbed that they hijack a forum with their endless reminiscences of 1969--seriously, you think sexism is to blame? You think that guy knows you're a woman or even realizes you exist? You think he would treat you better if you were a man? No, no, no. Here is an inside look at his thought process: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME!!!)

The advantage of being a reporter is that reporters are treated this way all the time. We all get this. It is normal. If it doesn't happen, you start to worry--the saying is that if you're not pissing people off, you're not doing your job. (Likewise if some people don't truly hate your writing, you're probably being too generic and derivative.) There are very few professions where receiving a death threat gets you applause and high-fives from your co-workers. Journalism is one of them.

Why? Because journalists know that haters gonna hate. We don't sit around and say, "Why are people treating me this way?" We know why: Because they're assholes, that's why. The bigger the asshole, the worse they will treat you.

And they are bullies. These are people whose sole pleasure in life--seriously, it's their only form of accomplishment--comes from hurting other people. If they see vulnerability (for example, a long post complaining about how mean people are to women SF writers), they will strike (hence the U SUX BIT^ch!!11! replies--most likely from people who have NEVER, EVER read Ann Aguire's books and have no particular opinions about science fiction or literature in general). That kind of thing is chum in the water to these people, and the more upset you get, the better they feel.

In a nutshell: Don't feed the trolls.

You know, if you're going to use Twitter... might want to take 30 seconds or so and learn how it actually works. I keep having people respond to or favorite retweets as though they are things I wrote myself--that "RT @somebodywhoisn'tme:" actually does mean something, OK? It's like misspelling words or using bad grammar: You might have a point, but you've just made yourself look really ignorant, which isn't going to help your credibility.

Bitchy rant over--sorry about that. I'll make it up to you with my new favorite song....

Hate and the Internet

Today isn't a work day for various reasons, but I thought this was an interesting article on trolling that also pretty much applies to reviews in general. Something to keep in mind:

But sheer experience is also altering the landscape. After you've been through one or two of these hatestorms, you recognize a very simple reality: They change nothing.... Everybody knows there is a vague climate of hate surrounding everything that is distinct in any way. So who cares?

How I probably should be doing social media

Adding to yesterday's chemical-induced excitement was the fact that Zico of Block B released another single. (That you can't pay for. Because it's a remix of another song. That you can't pay for. Because while the label went to the trouble of making a music video, they never actually released that song to iTunes or anything. Did you know that the Korean music industry has a huge problem with people illegally downloading songs and not paying for them? I wonder why that is?)

I found out about the new song through the English translation of Block B's Twitter feed, which I check religiously at this point. (Another song came out today!) The group is currently on hiatus as they sue their label, but as Zico writes (translatedly), "Who said it's an absence period when things are coming out all the time [Korean character indicating laughter]."

Anyway, this got me thinking about the fact that, hey, I do check this random Korean hip-hop group's translated Twitter feed pretty much every damned day. And that's something, because 1. it's not like the translators update it every day, and 2. I'm incredibly lazy about Twitter and never follow anyone on it who I don't actually know--I've certainly never followed a music group before. (Yes, if you follow me, I will follow you back. And then I will totally ignore you. I am a Twitslut, sorry.) In addition, people keep remarking on how Block B has managed to maintain its fan base despite the fact that they're on hiatus and not doing standard promotions, and I think their use of social media has a lot to do with that.

So, I thought I'd take a crack at analyzing how Block B uses Twitter, with the vague, gauzy notion that, if I were a more-industrious sort of person, I'd actually apply these lessons to my own use of social media. Keep in mind, though, that what I see is the English-language feed, and that's both compiled and curated by these guys.

Here's what I notice:

1. They talk about something other than themselves. In their case, music. As a result, the feed never degenerates into boring pictures of what people ate today. They don't assume that you're there because you're an obsessed teenaged fan with no life--they're willing to assume that you and they share a common interest, which is not How Totally Awesome They Are, OMG, Squee!

2. They both fulfill and subvert expectations. The members of Block B still must cater to fans (and expectations in Korea are actually pretty rigid in this regard). So when fans send them presents, they Tweet pictures and thanks.

They also post "selcas," which is short for self camera--a phrase that is utterly meaningless in English, but has been adopted by Koreans to mean a picture you take of yourself. Teen idols post flattering selcas all the time.

So, when Block B's Jaeyho goes for a hike, he posts a flattering selca. And then, because he's with Block B, he posts an unflattering selca. He and the other members do that all the time--they call them anti-idol pictures. Taeil gets a bad haircut? Selca. Here's an anti-idol photo of the whole group.

3. The primary goal is entertainment. If it's funny, it goes public. Jaeyho's brother is pissed because Jaeyho won't answer the phone? It's a Tweet.

Because of that, the feed is like a little treasure hunt: You never know what you'll find, and it's sometimes really funny, cool, or otherwise rewarding. It's intermittent reinforcement, which psychologists will tell you is even more motivating for people than the predictable kind of reinforcement, and which emotionally-abusive douchebags will tell you is also way less demanding of your energy and time.

Things to keep in mind

Edward Robertson has a good post about not getting too dogmatic. He points out that the AbsoluteWrite forum, like Writer Beware (if memory serves, they're pretty much run by the same people), has chosen to get left behind and is now virulently anti-self-publishing. Which is really a shame--both performed an important service once.

And Helen Kay Dimon has a great one (via Isobel Carr) about not being an enormous whiny baby to your readers. Seriously.

With a pin-pin here, and a pin-pin there

Lindsay Buroker had a recent article on using Pintrest. Once again she takes something I would never have considered doing (Pintrest? For a book?) and notes that with, oh, about 30 seconds of effort you can have a presence on yet-another social media site.

And in one of those serendipitous things, another social-media savvy person I know (who works in the nonprofit sector) linked to this graphic about Pintrest's demographics and how the people on there like to spend money (especially on food, it seems).

The focus on food and the fact that the site clearly skews toward young mothers makes me a little skeptical that it's worth doing for books like mine. (Of course, if I were writing, say, women's literature with recipes, this post would be about how I'm already on Pintrest.) On the other hand, there is Buroker's (eternal, and eternally valid) case that, "I didn’t have to work very hard for those visitors." So I think I will get on there eventually.

Ah--"I didn’t have to work very hard for those visitors." Her lodestone and mine....

Just a rat with a button

Anyone else get an e-mail about Amazon's Author Rank program and roll their eyes? Oh, goodie, another set of numbers to make you feel inferior! This time you're listed by name, so you're SURE to feel inadequate!

Amazon is very good at handling authors, and that has a dark side. Camille LaGuire did a recent post on how Amazon's immediate feedback is so compelling that LaGuire thought her books had stopped selling, when in fact they were selling fine at other retailers.

Writes LaGuire, "[Amazon's] whole site is optimized for you, to reward you and make it easy for you to just focus on them and forget everyone else.... [B]y giving you that little hourly reward, Amazon conditions you to watch Amazon's stats and keep doing things to make them move."

And yet, people want more. There was a recent post on FutureBooks by a Web designer complaining about how little data Amazon and the other e-book publishing platforms give you when compared to, say, a Web site. Passive Guy linked to it with the note, "PG seconds this complaint. He understands far more about the visitors to The Passive Voice than he does about the people who purchase Mrs. PG’s books."

As a practical matter, yes, I understand the issue. But, wow, I feel deeply ambivalent about all the data I can access regarding visitors to my blog (although is it hilarious at times). A big part if it is that I want writing novels to be a higher priority than writing the blog. But you know, I've been sick lately, so I've been writing blog posts rather than working on Trials. And when I do that, I gain a lot of traffic to this site.

Do you know when I lose traffic to this site? When my blog posts are all titled "Progress Report" and are all boring one-liners about how I wrote X many words today. In other words, the more productive I am with the novels, the less of a reward I get from my blog stats.

That's just something I have to inure myself to, but I know that subconsciously it's working away at me. That's part of why I occasionally go read reviews--I need a different kind of prodding, the kind that comes from readers, not other writers.

I feel like having access to lots of sales data is also a two-edged sword--I mean, yes, it indicates whether or not you're reaching readers, plus of course it's money. On the other hand, it is so easy to get all wrapped up in that world. You do need to act like a publisher at times--thinking long and hard about how you want to position your book, for example--but a lot of that stuff is easier and less intimidating than writing novels, and at least for me it can become just another form of procrastination.

Oh my God, Google

I'm trying to pull Trang down from Google Books--could they set that site up to be any LESS user-friendly? Obviously, the book never went up in their store, but I want the excerpts down from their free site, too. The problem is that I canceled out my account there, and now there is literally NO WAY their system will either let me take down my own book, or God forbid, actually contact a human being so that they can do it. Everything is scripted, and since my situation doesn't really fit the script options, I can't tell them what's going on. Instead, I was forced to re-sign up and act like someone else put my book up--crazy. And I have no idea if that's going to work or if I'm going to have to file a DMCA complaint against myself. Beyond stupid. I regret ever having engaged with these fuckwits in the first place.