Tag Archives: author

Author Groupie: A Frenzied Encounter with the Creator of the Oatmeal

Allow me to preface this with a note: I do not get starstruck.

If I met Justin Bieber at the malt shoppe, or wherever it is these whippersnappers hang out these days, I would quite possibly cut through the hordes of screaming teen girls and tell him to get a haircut. Same with just about any celebrity: haircut.

But when I set out to meet Matthew Inman, the writer/comic behind the Oatmeal, there was a percolating feeling of groupie craziness coursing through my veins—the bookish equivalent of that urge to toss one’s panties onstage at a rock concert (SIGN MY TITLES!). After all, this was the awesome factor 10 creative cybernerd behind some of my favourite comics:

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eBooks-My Very Own Consumer Research Panel (Mom)

I’ve been tardy with you my dear blogosphere. The last month and a half ushered in my first foray back to school in a few years for a Master’s in Publishing degree. The past month has been something of a work-your-butt-off-cry-home-to-your-mama fest, also precipitating my induction to modern technology with my new best bud Koby the Kobo e-Reader. It interests me to see what my target reader demographic will make of an eBook, and what I can do to make that process a little more painless.

Now I’m the kind of gal who carries around my twenty-pound Dell laptop and forgoes the impending hernia. The type of straight-outta-the-90s child who misses palm pilots and scrawls notes on stickies and whiteboards around my room as if they were prehistoric cave walls. Representing the Troglodyte faction with pride.

Imagine then my shock to discover that I am unknowingly functioning as my mother’s model for technological innovation. I routinely receive calls from her on the rotary phone opining that she can’t figure out the “damn iButtons on the damn iPhone,” (so adorable). This has been amplified as of late by my acquisition of a Kobo.

For a long time, my mother refused to be swayed by that snake oil salesman by the name of “technology.” Every time I go to visit her though, I put out the eReader and walk her through how it works. She slowly moves from cautious observer of technology to active participant after three such tutorials. Not to suggest that she is by any means a whiz at the eReader now. The last email I received from her sent chills down my spine: “BOUGHT AN EREADER [yes it was in all-caps] NOW YOU CAN SHOW ME HOW TO USE IT HAHA. BUT SERIOUSLY, WILL NEED HELP.”

With the push my program to learn about emerging forms of book technology, I wonder lately what the digital divide between people my mother’s age, and so-called “digital natives” will mean for marketing emergent forms of technology. If my mother and her flash mob of late adopters is any indication, approaches to selling new forms of technology will have to be gentle in delivery and coaxing—the equivalent of a big virtual hug that won’t yell at you or freeze you out. I’m interested (and fearful) to see how this experiment turns out.

Marketing Lessons from my mother’s eBook adoption:

1). The differences between PDF and ePub files are not exactly crystal clear to this demographic. Going on long explanatory passages isn’t helpful if what you’re even talking about isn’t clear. Plus, it breeds anger when the purchaser finds herself with a format she does not understand and finds difficult to use and read.

2). Visuals go a LONG way towards understanding. Step by step instructional videos and instructions utilizing images and BIG arrows are hella helpful.

3). When this person is confused and can’t talk to someone to walk through the problem, the device migrates to the back of a drawer and collects some excellent dust bunnies.

4). Accessorize: this goes a long way and is an easy thing to get excited about. Rhinestones, colour changes—any variety of crazy accessories creates continued excitement.


Source photo via Constance Wiebrands

The Writing Diva


Why hysterics, theatrics, and other acts of the demanding writer can spell DOA for a career

Nothing can spell the end of a promising writing career quicker than unprofessionalism. If your spelling errors are atrocious, your characters undeveloped, your book cover uninspired—these are things you can fix or learn to fix. The world is full of good story ideas that need a little tlc, and people who are willing to help. But throw a diva-esque tirade, and wham bam thank you maam! You will be destined to an unpublished life of bitter complaints on Facebook decrying the writing world which has so besmirched you.

I became aware of a strange trend of diva-esque writer entitlement recently at an industry conference, when I overheard a woman bemoan the fact that editors were nothing but “snake oil salesmen” and that she hadn’t put ten years into writing her manuscript only to have some “college boy” tell her it needed changing. She threw her scarf over her shoulder and huffed with indignation.

I was drawn inexplicably to eavesdrop on this woman’s coversation—in the course of my own writing career, how many times have I wanted to perform a ceremonial burning of form rejection letters, or tell a publisher in no uncertain terms to take a flying leap or shove it somewhere distasteful?! More times than it is ladylike to admit . . . My pillow has been the recipient of a number of well-aimed punches and Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kicks. But to vocalize these thoughts in public never even crossed my mind—my mother’s voice in the back of my head served as a constant reminder to “watch your manners young lady!”

The woman beside me remarked that she had taken to her blog to denounce the smarmy editor in question in grand fashion. It was an act of karma then, that the editor hosting the particular workshop we were attending opened her talk by addressing author behavior. She remarked that the form letter has become more pervasive not only because of increased submissions, but also for the very real reason that agents and editors are none too thrilled to have their personal commentary posted on social media sites. To the diva writer’s chagrin, the editor went on to describe several clients (authors with their first book in publication) whom she swiftly dropped after reading a number of rude posts concerning her on social media forums.

This is hardly an isolated incident. Your public behavior is the best indicator of whether you will be a positive author to work with, whether you are promotable, or whether you are simply to be avoided at all costs. As a writer, your words and behaviour are an indicator of you as an investment. Will people want to devote print space in newspapers, radio air time, or the resources to publish your book if you are a nightmare to deal with?

Not bloody likely.


Use the Manners Your Mama Taught You

It’s good to be passionate about your book and your writing. Heck, I’d be highly suspicious of any professed writer who wasn’t. But there is a difference between being passionate about one’s work, and being protective to the point of clinical insanity and possible assault charges.

I don’t need editing! It’s my vision that’s important!”

No. It’s not. No matter what kind of book you have written, no matter how good you are at editing, there is absolutely no way you will catch all the errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and content on your own. I’ll say that again. You need editing. The greatest criticism of most books (self-published books in particular) is a lack of editing. Those that receive some modicum of professional editing are much more successful than those which haven’t.

Editing isn’t some grand complex conspiracy of the publishing industry. Editors won’t swindle you into some Machiavellian schema of political cunning to steal your vision from your brain in a Twilight Zone-esque caper of creepy proportions and slash with random brutality. Any editorial work suggested is to make your book the best it can be. In fact, any editing suggestions are a sign that there is genuine interest in honing your story and its central themes.

Editing makes your book gooder better.


Don’t tell me what to do—I’m the expert here. I’ll tell YOU what to do with my book.”

To which the response will most likely be: “then you can take your book and stick it—” well . . . you get the idea.

Diva behavior like this speaks volumes to a publisher and any person even considering buying your book or promoting you:

-You can’t take constructive criticism.

-Any minor flaws in your book won’t be improved because of your hostile attitude.

-You are not worth the time, effort, and money to publish or promote.

-Any publishing relationship with you would be unprofessional, negative, and ultimately a loss.

-Would-be book buyers will be unimpressed by your attitude and may not buy your book on principle.

Does this mean you should skip off into the tulips, singing songs and whole-heartedly embracing everything that comes your way? Absolutely not. Be aware, discerning, knowledgeable about your industry, and ask questions. But above all, be polite and courteous. Say please and thank you.

It’s what your mother would want.