Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Standing OUT in the Crowd

You’re a small voice in a stadium full of people, screaming to be heard. Screaming doesn’t work, because everybody is screaming.

Buy my book, look at my product, pay attention to me!

If you get in my face, to deliver your message, I will turn away. It’s annoying. And the screaming is like the constant drone of machinery, chipping away at my cochlea, numbing me to any message you might deliver.

If you have something meaningful to say, through your book, or you have a quality product to sell, I first have to trust you. If you can build a relationship with me, give me something of value first, or talk quietly, but with substance, I will look your way. And if you show me you’re a real human being, I’ll like you even more.

I recently joined a writing community of teens and teen writers, because I’ve written a teen book and I would like opinions from readers and writers of the same genre. It’s a critiquing community of which there are thousands of members. How do you get a reciprocal trade of opinions when there is so much choice? I noticed that one of the “Top Critics” has flitted around from manuscript to manuscript, giving each a cursory glance—one chapter—writing a critique and getting points for evaluation. She’s spread herself thinly through the community and thus gained the top billing. However, I don’t think she’s well liked, because her critiques lack genuine involvement or care in developing these young writers.

Comments like: “She doesn’t really look at the pitches.” Or her own comments: “Thank goodness, an adult to talk to . . .” I won’t continue. Suffice it to say, she writes for teens, but I wonder if she cares for teens.

I know I can’t spread myself so thinly. Nor do I want to. I joined the community, I picked manuscripts that were along the lines with what I write or offered my advice when requested. I became deeply involved with three manuscripts because that’s all I’m capable of managing at one time, and I’d rather go deep than wide. I like to make connections with readers, with children, with teens—that’s why I write for them. But I know a surface connection in a critiquing capacity is useless to me and to the teen writer.

The same goes for Twitter. You can’t bond with 14,000,000 people. You can only talk at them. But if I connect with a few people deeply, and I like what they have to say, then I’ll probably like what they have to sell—at least I’ll have a look at it. And I’m sure they’ll do the same for me.

An iron link between two people is stronger than a thousand tiny threads.

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