Tag Archives: Support

Tales of Grand Illusion

Recently, a writer friend on Facebook posted about how he hated the “who you know” model for advancing his writing career, but he acknowledged that most of his opportunities came from people he knew. I can relate.

It’s not just in writing, the whole world revolves on a “who you know” axis. Every job I’ve ever gotten has been because of who I knew, whether directly or indirectly. Friends and contacts are an invaluable resource that you can and should be using to further your writing.

There is social media, like Facebook and Twitter, but there are other methods as well. We here at Shock Totem have a variety of ways that we try to aid writers in developing their talent on our message board. There are two very popular flash contests that we host regularly, as well as the underused Writer’s Workshop section for critiques, submission calls, etc. And we are happy to provide them.

We want to see writers improve and succeed, particularly horror writers, since that’s what we’re all about. There are a whole lot of fantastic writers slogging away in the trenches, and we’re doing what we can to lift up those whose work we deem to be noteworthy.

But as I replied to my friend, “who you know” has a darker side as well.

While we can and should be promoting our writer friends, there is a fine line between encouragement and enabling. If your friend has written and published a great book, buy it, and encourage others to do so. But if your friend has written and published a book that is rife with spelling and grammatical errors or just poor writing, you’re not helping them by promoting it as a “must read”. In fact, you’re harming them.

The whole idea of promotion is to widen your circle, so that not only your friends and family buy your books out of a sense of obligation, but also their friends and so on, until people who have no clue who you are are tweeting about how much they enjoyed your book. But if people buy a book because someone hyped it on Amazon or Facebook, only to discover that the book is bad, how likely are they to buy another book based on that person’s recommendation?

In these days of self-publishing, when anyone can write a short story one day and offer it for sale the next, a lot of sub-par writing is being published, promoted and praised. Writing is a difficult and laborious process, you don’t go from joker to genius overnight. Take your time; get a real, honest critique from someone who not only knows good writing from bad, but also isn’t afraid to tell you which camp you’re in.

Even literary giants started by writing poorly. But in the days when getting a book published was difficult, they had knowledgeable editors who were not afraid to tell them that their story needed work. Nowadays, if your only editors are your friends, how can you be sure that they are giving you an honest and educated opinion?

If you’re a writer, seek out someone who isn’t afraid to tell you that your story stinks, and can offer helpful suggestions to make it better. And if you’re an enabler, promoting or endorsing sub-par writing because the writer is a “nice person” or you want them to promote your book, knock it off. You’re operating on the dark side.

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With Regard to Donations

On the right side-panel you may have noticed something new: a DONATE button. A few people have asked us about it, so I figured it’d be a good idea to discuss it a bit.

Asking for donations is a tricky thing. Many people view it as a symbol of a failed business model, or worse, a scam. I understand that. I’ve seen e-zines asking for donations when they don’t pay a dime to their contributors. They’ll sight hosting costs or some other such cost that we all know is so minimal that it in no way justifies asking for donations. If you can’t afford less than $100 a year for hosting costs and domain registration, you have no business calling yourself a publisher.

Over the years, countless people have wanted to donate to us, but I always turned them down. Thanks, but no thanks, you know. I truly appreciate the gesture, that people like what we do so much that they want to contribute to our continued existence, but I didn’t want to take handouts. That’s how I saw it—handouts.

But recently someone said to me, “It’s not a handout, you dork, it’s a thank-you. It’s my way of saying thanks.”

That comment, as you can imagine, made me very grateful. And the more I thought about it, the more I understood it. I’ve donated to Apex for the same reason. I donated to John Skipp’s recent push to get Rose made (though unfortunately it failed in the end). I also donated to By Blood Alone’s recent campaign to raise funds to finish mixing and mastering their new album, Thunderbirds. I buy everything certain small-press publications or bands/musicians put out, even if it’s something I may not be too interested in. Why? As a thank-you, as a way to help support and contribute to their continued success.

So I get it. Thus, we now have a DONATE button. And I’d be lying if I said donations wouldn’t help us.

But I wanted to take it a step further. I’ve decided to match from my personal savings 10% of all donations we receive and donate it to Duotrope. Most of us use Duotrope, but few of us donate to them. I have in the past, but probably not enough. Yet for years, numerous times per week, I’ve used the service they provide for free. Seems wrong to me. So I want to give something back as well.

As always, the best way to support Shock Totem and our authors is to buy our magazines, but if you want to support us monetarily, you now have that option. And if you do, please know that we humbly and greatly appreciate it.

Thank you!

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