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The Advice Checklist

Clippy-Advice

This rant list has been brought to you by a few comments on this blog post, and by observations about the internet in general. Before jumping in to immediately offer advice on all the things, please consider asking yourself the following questions. Thank you.

And yeah, I get the potential irony of giving advice about asking questions before giving advice. I also think there’s a huge difference between sharing my thoughts in a blog post and jumping into other conversations to tell an individual what you think they should do.

Did this person ask for advice?

Hint: Posting about something on the internet is not the same as asking for advice. Requests for advice usually involve phrases like “What do you think I should do?” or “I need advice.”

Do you think your advice is something this person hasn’t already heard?

Hint: I’ve been diabetic for 16 years. If you’re neither diabetic nor a doctor, I probably know more about my disease than you do. I’ve read the books, heard the advice, followed the online discussions, talked to the doctors, and so on. On a similar note, someone who’s overweight has probably already heard your advice to exercise more. Someone with depression has already heard your advice to “just think positive!”

Do you know enough about this person’s situation to give useful advice?

Hint: Telling someone with financial problems to get rid of their credit cards isn’t going to cut it if they’re currently paying legal fees following a divorce, are underwater in their mortgage, and just got laid off from work.

Are you more concerned with helping or with fixing the person so they’ll stop making you uncomfortable?

Hint: People talk about their problems for a range of reasons. To vent, to process their own feelings, to connect with others and know they’re not alone… If you genuinely want to help, great—but in many cases, giving advice isn’t the way to do that.

Are you more concerned with helping or with looking clever? Are you willing to be told your advice is unwanted?

Hint: If the person in question says they’re not interested in your advice and you respond by getting huffy or defensive or going Full Asshole, then this isn’t about the other person. This is about you and your ego. Take your ego out for ice cream, and stop adding to other people’s problems.

Are you sharing what worked for you or telling the person what they should do?

Hint: There’s a difference between “This is something that helped me,” “This is something you might try,” and “This is what you should do.” For me personally, the first option is easier to hear than the second, and the third usually just pisses me off. But also be prepared to hear that the person doesn’t want your advice, no matter how you phrase it.

Do you know what “giving advice” looks like?

Hint: I wouldn’t have thought this one was necessary. Then I got the commenter responding to one of my posts on depression by telling me, “Listen to your inner self and make it your outer self” and insisting he wasn’t giving me advice. He was just “stating an opinion.” Dude, if you’re telling someone what to do, you’re giving advice. If you’re getting huffy about it just being your opinion, you may also be acting like an asshole.

Have you asked whether the person wants your advice?

Hint: If you’re not sure what someone wants, asking is a pretty safe way to go.

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I’m not saying you should never offer advice. A few days ago, I left a comment on someone’s Facebook post where she was questioning whether she should bother trying to get her book published. I offered my experience, disagreed with a writing-related myth she referenced, pointed to several options that had worked for myself or other writers, and acknowledged that my advice might or might not be helpful for her particular situation.

But I have zero patience these days for the useless, knee-jerk advice that comes from a place of ego and cluelessnes.

Aftermath of a Kindle Daily Deal

Earlier this month, Libriomancer [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] was a Kindle Daily Deal, meaning Amazon was selling the e-book for a mere $1.99. This was the first time one of my books had been selected for the KDD program, and I have to say, it was pretty sweet. But how much of an impact does that $1.99 day really have?

I’ll probably never have exact numbers. These sales will show up on my next royalty statement, which covers January – June of this year, but doesn’t break things down by day or week.

Here’s what I do know…

1. Once Amazon drops the price, most other online retailers follow suit. Soon after I posted about the Kindle Daily Deal, I realized the book was also on sale at Barnes & Noble. Then people mentioned Google Play and iBooks. They all seem to monitor and price-match, which means the book was on sale pretty much across the board…at least in the U.S. Alas, Europe and most other non-U.S. ebook sellers didn’t get in on the action.

2. Libriomancer was, at least for one day, outselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

Libriomancer vs. Shades of Grey

3. We probably sold >1000 ebooks on Amazon alone. But wait, didn’t I just say I wouldn’t get numbers until my next royalty statement? Well, yes. But I do have the ability to pull up my Amazon affiliate account and see how many copies sold through that link. About 350 or so people bought Libriomancer through my site and links. My friend Howard Tayler (of Schlock Mercenary fame) was kind enough not only to mention the sale, but also to email me afterward and let me know he’d had close to 400 sales through his post. Given that Amazon was also marketing the book, and other folks were signal-boosting, I think 1000+ is a reasonable guess.

4. Apparently Libriomancer is a Sword & Sorcery book. This was news to me. But who am I to argue with this screencap?

Libriomancer #1

5. I have absolutely wonderful friends and fans. I was blown away by how many people signal-boosted the sale. Thank you all so much for the support and word-of-mouth.

6. I’m still addicted to checking my Amazon rankings. Most days, I’ve gotten to where I don’t need to check in to see if my sales rank has gone up or down, or if anyone’s left a new review, or whatever. But I was clicking Refresh all day to see what kind of impact the sale would have. At one point, Libriomancer was #1 in two different categories, and #16 among all paid Kindle books, which is pretty sweet.

Libriomancer Rank

This also put the book near the top of Amazon’s “Movers and Shakers” for the day:

Movers and Shakers

7. It boosts sales of other books in the series, too. Neither Codex Born nor Unbound saw the same level of sales, but the Amazon rank for both of those books ended up in the four-digit range, meaning sales were above-average for them as well. Probably not a huge number of sales, but definitely better than nothing! Hopefully there will be some longer-term sales too as people finish reading Libriomancer.

8. A few weeks later, I’ve got 24 new Amazon reviews for Libriomancer. I don’t know if those extra reviews will help to sell more books, but it’s nice to see, and it means at least some of the people who picked up the book also read and enjoyed it. Yay!

9. Amazon pushes and markets its KDD books. As one of my fellow authors put it, this is a situation where the author gets the benefits of Amazon’s market and advertising power. They promote their Kindle Daily Deals, and while I don’t know how much that helps, it’s certainly a significant boost.

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Thanks again to everyone who signal-boosted, and to all of the readers who shelled out $2 to try the book. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ll probably check back in later this year once I’ve seen royalty statements, and can compare this six-month window to prior royalty periods. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other authors who’ve done the KDD thing. How did your experience compare to mine? Any additional insight or information you can share?

Depression

  • Depression lurks in the corner.
  • Depression waits for an opening.
  • Depression is exhausting.
  • Depression has little patience for others, and even less for you.
  • Depression remembers every mistake, real and imagined.
  • Depression is afraid of change.
  • Depression is “fine.”
  • Depression teaches you to lie.
  • Depression is ashamed of you.
  • Depression is forgetful.
  • Depression doesn’t want you to go out tonight.
  • Depression thinks you deserve it.
  • Depression tells you not to talk about it.
  • Depression is abusive.
  • Depression is seductive.
  • Depression disguises itself.
  • Depression is always tired.
  • Depression thinks you’re weak.
  • Depression wants you to read the comments.
  • Depression doesn’t care about the good things that happened yesterday.
  • Depression expects you to fail.
  • Depression doesn’t believe things will get better.
  • Depression is overwhelmed.
  • Depression wants you to think you’re the only one.
  • Depression knows you more intimately than any lover.
  • Depression is a glutton, and depression can’t stand the thought of food.
  • Depression demands perfection.
  • Depression undermines success, and magnifies failure.
  • Depression is comfortable.
  • Depression is a bully.
  • Depression lies.

Miscellaneous Roundups

1. Apparently Friday Kindle Daily Deals might actually be weekend deals? I dunno, but Libriomancer is still $1.99 as of this posting, just in case you wanted to pick it up. I’m told you can get the Audible book through Amazon for just a few bucks more as part of the deal. Yay!

2. Hugo nominations end on March 10. Obligatory reminder stuff:

  • Invisible is eligible for Best Related Work.
  • Legend of Korra: Season Four is eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.
  • I’m still reading through fiction, but here are some of the things that have stuck with me:
    • The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison (Novel)
    • A Barricade in Hell, by Jaime Lee Moyer (Novel)
    • City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Novel)
    • The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul” by Natalia Theodoridou (Short Story)
    • “Recollection” by Nancy Fulda (Short Story)
    • “The Regular” by Ken Liu (Novella)

3. Currently working on a short story that may end up including more profanity than all of my other fiction combined. It’s an interesting change of style and voice for me…and I admit, I’m having fun.

4. That’s all. Tune in next week for the next batch of guest blog posts!

Libriomancer is a Kindle Daily Deal

Today only, Libriomancer is a Kindle Daily Deal, meaning you can head over to Amazon and pick it up for Kindle for only $1.99. This is the first time one of my books has been spotlighted as a KDD, and it’s both awesome and a pretty big deal :-)

ETA: It looks like several other ebook vendors have jumped on board as well. The book is $1.99 at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks!

Libriomancer is the first book in the Magic ex Libris series, and remains the bestselling of all of my books. Io9 called it a “love letter to science fiction and fantasy, with real emotional weight at the center of it — except this version is a rollicking adventure story full of ridiculous little touches … a seriously fun ride for anyone who’s loved geeky books their whole life.”

The book includes:

  • A magic-using librarian from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
  • A motorcycle-riding dryad
  • An enchanted convertible
  • Smudge the fire-spider
  • Johannes Gutenberg

For those who haven’t read it, here’s the synopsis:

Isaac Vainio has spent the past two years working at the Copper River Library in northern Michigan, secretly cataloguing books for their magical potential, but forbidden from using that magic himself…except for emergencies. Emergencies like a trio of young vampires who believe Isaac has been killing their kind, and intend to return the favor.

Isaac is a libriomancer, brilliant but undisciplined, with the ability to reach into books and create objects from their pages. And attacking a libriomancer in his own library is never a good idea.

But vampires are only the beginning. This was merely the latest in a series of attacks against members of Die Zwelf Portenære, a secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg to protect the world from supernatural threats. Among the casualties is Ray Walker, Isaac’s friend and mentor in magic.

Complicating matters further is the arrival of a dryad named Lena Greenwood. Along with a neurotic fire-spider named Smudge, Isaac and Lena set out to find and stop whoever is behind the attacks. But things are worse than Isaac imagined. An unknown killer of unimaginable power has been torturing and murdering humans and vampires alike. And Gutenberg, now more than six hundred years old, has disappeared. If Isaac is to have any hope of preventing all-out war, he will have to truly master the magic of libriomancy.

Assuming he doesn’t lose control and wipe himself from existence first.

The first three Magic ex Libris books are out. I’m working on #4, Revisionary, but the first three form a pretty complete trilogy arc. Just in case you were worried about cliffhangers or anything.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still pick up the book and download an app to read it on your computer or smart device.

If you’ve read and enjoyed this series and felt like signal-boosting, I’d be very grateful. If you’ve been thinking of checking out my work, today could be a very good day to pick up the e-book.

My thanks to DAW for continuing to believe in and support Isaac, Lena, Nidhi, and Smudge!

#SFWApro

Cool Stuff Friday

Cool Stuff Friday jumped the gun this week, on account of something else Jim will be announcing tomorrow.

The Flash

I need to geek out about The Flash. We started watching the show with episode one, and after so much bleak and dark DC comic adaptations, The Flash is an absolute delight. It’s fun. It dives unapologetically into the comics universe, and doesn’t shy away from the more “out there” aspects. For example, one recent instance gives us a cameo of Grodd. That’s right, they added a superintelligent CGI gorilla to the show. And damn if it didn’t work.

I should say up front that the show isn’t perfect. I could do without Flash’s speed being a bit variable depending on the needs of the script. (He’s fast enough to pluck a bullet out of the air, but can’t circle around and take a gun from Captain Cold?) And they haven’t done a great job with their female characters. Barry’s mother is fridged in the first episode, and the other two women are significantly defined by their romantic relationships, unlike the rest of the cast.

Flash - My Bad

But there’s so much The Flash does right:

  • Barry and Joe: When Barry’s father was arrested for the murder of Barry’s mother, it was Detective Joe West who took Barry in. Now that Barry’s grown up, he and Joe have this amazing relationship of love and respect and communication and trust. Joe still looks out for Barry, but he also treats him like an adult. Joe finds out Barry’s secret in the first episode…and they geek out together over some of the things he can do. When Barry demonstrates how he can vibrate to disguise his face and voice, Joe just bursts out laughing. I love these two!
  • Cisco: Cicso Ramon and Dr. Caitlin Snow are employees at S.T.A.R. Labs, working for Dr. Harrison Wells. Cicso is the geek who shows up wearing T-shirts and builds freeze rays and so on, but part of his goofy charm is his need to nickname the various villains who show up from week to week. Comic book names can sound pretty ridiculous, but by turning it into just a thing Cisco does, it works. It also creates opportunities for banter with the other characters. Cisco is more than a two-dimensional geek, and gets to be a deeper character in some episodes, but he’s also just a lot of fun.
  • Dr. Wells: I love the ongoing mystery here. Tom Cavanaugh manages to give us a character who seems to be a villain, but how villainous is he, really? He’s got secrets and lies aplenty, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals. And yet he has moments when you want to cheer him on, like the scene with Grodd at the end of episode 14.
  • Diversity: Central City’s police chief David Singh is an openly gay man. So is the villain the Pied Piper. Joe and Iris West are black. Cisco is Puerto Rican. The writers don’t make a big deal out of and of this; that’s just who the characters are. Could the show do better? Sure…I’d love to see some episodes pass the Bechdel Test. But as these things go, I think they’re doing pretty well.

Pied Piper

  • Other: The special effects work, which is impressive, given the small-screen budget. The music is great. They brought in John Wesley Shipp, star of the 90s Flash TV show, to play Barry’s father. He has wonderful crossovers with Oliver Queen from Arrow, in which Oliver shoots Barry in the back. As one does.

Short version: This show makes me happy. It’s right up there with The Librarians in terms of fun and entertainment.

What do the rest of you think?