Is There Life Without the Internet?

I spent most of yesterday updating my virus protection software. For some reason known only to the computer gods and gurus, simple tasks that should be done in a matter of minutes take hours upon hours. I ended up downloading the program and removing it twice, talking to several different billing and tech people (and some I’m not even sure work for the company — if you google “Trend Micro contact”, you get all sorts of phone numbers, only some of which go the to actual company.) And because they couldn’t simply credit my account with a refund and use that money for the second download I had to pay twice (though they did promise a refund for one of the downloads. Wink. Wink.).

Although I could write a whole post (perhaps even an amusing one) about my experiences with the update, mentioning it is by way of a prologue. I’ve used Trend Micro from the beginning, and it’s been good protection, so I’ve been sticking with them, but yesterday, halfway through the process, I told them I was so unhappy with their service, I was ready to throw away my computer. For just a second, I meant it, and I felt free. And then the truth hit me.

untiledMy life is almost all online. Sure, I could take walks, but who would I tell about my insights? I could write my thoughts, but who would read them? Who would talk to me about Is Introspection Possible? and What Is Luck?, my Soul’s Journey and Living Light and Free? This blog has seen me through some terrible times in my life, and some good ones. It was here that I first announced I’d found a publisher, first promoted my books, first talked about the agony of my grief, had my first inklings that there might someday be happiness for me again. I cannot imagine my life without it. But this is not the only thing I’d have forego.

Without the internet, I’d have no life as an author. I could still write books, but who would talk to me about them? I could perhaps still check with bookstore owners and see if I can do book signings, but what if I wanted to publish another book? Book files are all digital now. How would I get the manuscript digitalized so I could send to my publisher?

There is too much of my life I’d have to do without. I have friends in the real world, which is nice, but I also have friends in the cyber world — people from all around the world — that I’d never get to talk to or email again. I’d never get to check in Facebook again. Well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a loss, but still, it is a part of the online experience, and I’d miss all the people I’ve friended and those I haven’t yet met.

And Rubicon Ranch — the collaboration/serialization I’m writing with other Second Wind authors — I’d have to give up on that, too, just when all the authors are learning to have fun with it and run with it.

Every day online offers the possibility of something wonderful happening. So, after my whole online life flashed before my eyes along with the vision of what my life would be like without the internet, I girded my loins, gritted my teeth, stepped once more into the fray, (feel free to add whatever other clichés you wish), and finally got the job done. Now I just have to wait to see if they follow through on their side with the refund.

Either way, I’ll still be here.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

“Now That My Book is Out, What is the First Thing I Should Do?”

A newly published author asked me an interesting question today: “Now that my book is ‘out,’ what is the first thing I should do?” I ought to know the answer to that since I was in the same position not that long ago and will be again next month when Daughter Am I is released, but I’m still a bit mystified about how to promote effectively online.

So much of book promotion on the internet depends on social networking sites, which means that one’s promotion efforts have to start long before the book is ever published because you need people to promote to. That was the big lesson I learned during my first months as a published author. The internet is so vast that any message thrown casually out into cyberspace has about as much impact as a child’s balloon set free to drift on the wind. If you hand a child a balloon, however, at least one person for sure will see it, maybe even two or three. If you have “friends,” on social networking sites perhaps a few of them will see the messages you post on your profile and be glad for you. Or at least they will pretend to be glad for you since chances are they are promoting a book, too, and responding to such messages is part of their promotion campaign.

(Do I sound cynical? I don’t mean to. I am a bit disappointed that promoting on the internet hasn’t had the impact on my sales that I’d hoped, but on the other hand, I’m having a wonderful time meeting new people, discovering new books, rediscovering old friends, creating new relatives. In essence, I’m developing a whole new life, which is a thrill in itself.)

Some new authors send email messages to all their contacts, but unless you know the people personally, I don’t think it’s such a good idea. I’m hearing through the grapevine that spamming generally doesn’t have much impact on sales, and it only irritates people, which might cause a backlash. On the other hand, status updates on MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter are good, especially if you link the update to a blog article that tells about your struggles to get published or something else of an equally personal or helpful nature.

The secret to social networking is to be social. I admit I don’t do the one-on-one thing that well. I have a huge list of people I owe blog comments to, but somehow the days pass, and the list keeps getting longer. I’ve started responding to comments on my blog, though, which is a big step in the right direction. I used to think it was better to give commenters the last word, but recently my blog readers have convinced me they like a bit of dialogue, if only to let them know I read and enjoyed their comments. And I do. Read them and enjoy them, I mean.

I’m starting to ramble a bit here.

The point is . . . heck, if I knew what the point is, I’d be sitting back and counting my millions. Still, I have learned one thing — websites, blogs, tweets and status updates all work together to create something more than the individual parts. Who knows, that something may eventually turn out to be book sales.

Daughter Am I will be released by Second Wind Publishing, LLC in October, 2009

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