You Don't Have to be Accessible All the Time

            Once upon a time I made a new writer friend. He needed an editor and I had a friend who might have liked to help him. Writer Friend gave me his email address and I said “May I share your contact information with my editing friend?”
            “Of course!”
            “Okay. Great! I just always like to make that verbal confirmation. I am super touchy about other people sharing my contact information.”
            “Oh I don’t mind having mine shared at all! That’s just my writer mentality. Anyone and everyone can contact me.”

            I looked at him like he was crazy. I couldn’t help myself. You do not have to be accessible all of the time. And I actually had to have a good friend tell me that before I believed it.

            Having a relationship with your fans is great! Absolutely do it! But as with every healthy relationship, you need to have boundaries. For instance, anyone and everyone can message me on my War and Chess Facebook page. Anyone and everyone can “like” that page. Anyone and everyone can interact with me and other people who like my writing on that page. It’s when they send my personal page a friend request that I have to say “no”. And believe me, I’ve had to have that heart breaking conversation with a new friend I’ve been chatting with every night for a month on the War and Chess inbox, that “No, I’m not comfortable with adding you as a friend on Facebook yet. Yes, we are still friends.” Because really, the things I post on my personal Facebook page are for my distant relations to keep up with me.

            It’s going to come off as a complaint but someone needs to tell you sooner in your career than later in your career. When you’re an entertainer (you write. You are!) people feel entitled to information about you. There are some people who you tell them “I would accept your friend request but I keep this account for my family.” They say “Great! I would love to meet your family!” and you’re left like “Bro, my boyfriend hasn’t even met my family!” For instance, I had a pair of young boys on Twitter try to harass me into telling them my real name “Helen M. Pugsley is too elegant! It’s obviously a pen name! Tell us your real name!” Back then I had a lot more patience, so after an hour of back and forth I finally blocked them both. One of them made a new account, apologized to me, and then asked again “But seriously, what is your real name?”

            Really and truly, I’m telling you, you do not have to be accessible to everyone at all times of the day. Bottom line. You’re absolutely allowed to say “No.”, mean it, and most importantly stick with it. In next month’s blog we’ll talk about how accessible you should be. You need to establish boundaries but you don’t have to be J.D. Salinger. (Salinger is the author of Catcher in the Rye. He was an extremely private man. In his career as an author he did a maximum of three interviews and lived in a cabin, in the woods, high up on a mountain.) Keep your private stuff private and keep your public stuff public!

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Do you have a burning question for Helen? Feel free to email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Just How Accessible Should You Be?

            In last month’s blog post, You don’t have to be Accessible All the Time, we talked about our rights to privacy as entertainers. What feels like, in the same breath, we’re going to talk about people actually being able to find you and your glorious books you poured gallons of blood, sweat, and tears, into to be able to share with the world.

            Once upon a time I was lucky enough to be able to write full time. I was told the number one thing that kills indie authors (like you and I) is remaining unknown. So I’d spend my day marketing on social media, establishing connects within the industry, and figuring out where the people who liked to read young adult fantasy novels hung out. Publishing a book is not one of those “if you build it they will come” type deals. You need to market. You need to put yourself, and more importantly, your book out there. Or else your gallons of blood, sweat, and tears are for nothing.

            So! For starters, one thing I didn’t think about until I went to that Wyoming Writers Conference is having a website. I started with a Facebook page and assumed that everyone would be able to find me that way. Now this is going to blow your mind… Not everyone likes using Facebook! It completely blew me away. Honestly. I met a very successful author who built her own publishing press. During a presentation she said “Most of you will be daunted by being told you need a web page.” The room nodded. “But you need a web page.” The room was daunted. “You don’t have to update it once a week. You can do what’s called a business card page.” Which is what I have. A business card website is exactly what it sounds like. This is the author, these are their books, here’s some links to every book seller ever, and every social media site the author is active on. Really, bare minimum you just need something so everyone can find you. At least the author part of your life.

            I don’t suggest having any sort of feed or blog on your website unless you’re actually going to generate enough content to update it at least once a month. It really turns people off when they come to your website, saying “Wow, the book I read by this author was really good. When are they due to put out the next one?” and they find a happy Thanksgiving message from 2017 first thing. I find people will get just as invested in your career as you are. Invest in your career.

            And when I say “invest” I don’t necessarily mean financially. When I was writing full time, selling my book was my main source of income. My secondary income was my Etsy store. All in all, I didn’t have much money to invest. So I found every free venue I could use to put my message out in front of the public. You know what that often is? Social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Tumblr, and many more. Wherever the people you want to reach are, and whatever you’re comfortable using. No matter what venue you use the goal is to reach the people who would be interested in your book, and start a relationship with them. Yes, a relationship.

            What I mean by “relationship” is that you actually check in with them like you do your distant family. I used to make videos on my Facebook page once a month-ish. (I am so awkward on video. It’s painful.) Post pictures of you working, your work, or quotes from your work in progress. As you use your platform more and more you’ll get those five guys who like everything you post and laugh at all of your memes. When one goes on vacation you’ll find yourself inboxing them to say “You still okay, over there?” I often compare success on social media to growing a garden. Let it grow. It’s an investment of time.

            It is also wise to set up an email account that is exclusively for business. These days you can usually butt-up your email accounts into one inbox. Dig around your email provider, so that way you don’t have to remember 50 passwords. Either way, no one wants to do business with someone whose email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It makes people uncomfortable. I’m glad your friends have cute nicknames for you but keep those among your friends. Unless you want the guy you’re negotiating a contract with to slip up and call you “Grandma Blipsy Bunny”. The fail safe formula for a professional looking email handle is first initial, last name, like This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (Go John Smith! Live your dreams of being a famous author!)

            At any rate, it’s important that you’re accessible. It is also important to your mental health and well-being that you establish boundaries. There is nothing wrong with having a public life and a private life. Keeping the two separate works best when you have two accounts for everything. There is a balance. Your fans love you and want to interact with you, but you still have to be the one to decide what you want out there.

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Do you have a burning question for Helen? Feel free to email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Develop a Thick Skin

            And now for the touchy subject of rejection. It’s going to come before fame and fortune. It’s going to come with fame and fortune. There will be people who absolutely, do not, no matter what you do, will not like your work. That’s okay. Keep going.

            If you choose to traditionally publish you will have to work through an entire tracking sheet of queries. (I recommend The Writers Market for a nice tracker graph.) If you choose to traditionally publish you will get rejected a lot. You will get rejected so many times you will make “JK Rowling got rejected seven times before she found a publisher for Harry Potter!” look like a joke. It’s good and it’s normal. I’ve heard of groups of published authors coming together, sipping coffee, and comparing rejection numbers like badges of honor. “18? Go home, kid. Try 35!” War and Chess got 25 in the five years I worked on it, and Tales from the Gishlan Wood is at about 15 right now. According to the anonymous void that is the internet, the internet says you should query about 80-100 publishing houses and agents before you give up.

            If you choose to self-publish, and thus sign yourself up to do your own marketing, there will be rejection too. Only, after the book is published! Book stores will tell you they don’t want to carry your book, libraries might choose not to carry your book if you’re not a local author, some of your friends won’t like your book, not everyone you know will read it, and not everyone who reads it will like it. (Traditionally published authors face these trials too.)

            What I’m getting at is that you need to develop a thick skin. You can’t just curl up in a ball and cry every time someone tells you they don’t like it. I mean, it makes Christmas awkward but Aunt Franny always spoke her mind anyway. What did you expect? Jokes aside, are you really going to have a horrid day every time an email rolls in that reads “Thank you for your submission but this isn’t what we’re looking for.”? I’ve heard of people scream crying and moping over each one. Even as a 14 year old girl I was like “Ya’ll need to calm down.”

            The only thing worse than a crybaby is the writer who explodes with anger. Sometimes, if I actually finish a book I though was “Meh” I go check the author’s Twitter page to see if they’ll come after me if I say their book was “Meh” on Goodreads. I once saw an author whose work I love but every time she got into an argument with someone she’d screenshot their Facebook profile, post their full name, the name of their hometown, and the slight, then tweet it so that maybe her loyal followers would harass the unlucky soul. “John Doe of Yoder Wyoming, you have stolen my tarts!” I unfollowed her. Another author made headlines a few years ago when he tracked down someone who gave him a poor review and smashed a wine bottle against her head. She was a teenager working in a grocery store. All’s I’m saying is don’t be that guy.

            It’s easier said than done but you need to develop a skin so thick that someone can just stand there and tell you all the things they didn’t like about your book while you sit there and don’t even blink. That’s the goal, anyway. You need to realize that rejection will happen. You’ll get your ego hurt. But how you respond to rejection is what defines you.

            It’s worth it though. It’s all worth it when someone comes up to you on one of your not so bright and shiny days and says “Omigosh, I read your book in one night! I couldn’t put it down!” and then goes on, and on, and on, for half an hour about how much they loved your book. Or even the “Your poetry is so raw and beautiful.” Comment on Wattpad. It becomes worth it when you hold a copy of your book for the first time, or your very first book signing when you introduce your book to the world, or when your close friends start giving each other copies of your book for Christmas and then they send you pictures of how happy receiving a copy made them, or a stranger within your target audience comes up to you and says “I really enjoyed this.” It becomes worth it. You just need to know there’s two sides to every coin, and prepare yourself for both. There’s nothing wrong with drawing the shades and hiding from the world once in a while, though.

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Do you have a burning question for Helen? Feel free to email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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