Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Well-Meaning Exchange

I always think people are going to miss these back comments:

Scott Driver:

A close "artsy" friend has a storefront where she sells boho shit that she's culled from thrifts in the area. Until recently she did it to keep busy while selling her art and treading water. It's not normally sustainable without another income stream. (In her case, her husband ... she's very talented but it's tough to make a living on visual art here.)

She has the social media network you'd expect of an interesting, talented, vivacious person. She starts posting each thrift find on Instagram ... things change. Now she posts whatever she finds, most of which is horseshit, and just based on her personality and a wide net, someone ALWAYS asks "omg how much and what size??" then rushes to buy it. It's completely altered how she views her dorky time-sink of a storefront. Now it's a thing.

Here's my question: Your in-person salesmanship - that face you give randoms at a con or a bookstore - are you doing that online anywhere? As far as I know, you're acerbic and uncompromising online, but willing to glad-hand and suffer fools in person.

You want to sell books or you wouldn't be sitting there watching assholes in front of a Chapters. Why are you willing to make salesman faces in person, where you might talk to three people, but not here, where you could reach a LOT more if you used the same salesman face? It seems perverse.

Alexis Smolensk:

Interesting. I am often astounded at the idea that people prefer to buy from a 'salesman face.' I find them quite off-putting, myself.

I am acerbic and uncompromising online - in two specific ways. Either I have identified an individual as a fuckwit, and I say so, or I attack wide groups of people for having what I consider to be a stupid opinion.

I never, ever, go after an individual person for no reason.

In person, whether I am selling or not, I am remarkably pleasant, friendly, witty, honest and forthright - particularly with strangers whom I do not know and therefore have no reason to dislike. This is why Toronto was an epiphany. I found I could speak quite candidly and absolutely honestly about the book, receiving in kind interest, a desire to know more and a remarkable approval of what I was doing. People who bought books from me did not feel pressured, duped, unsure or 'sold.' They felt enlightened, happy, encouraged and with a bounce in their step. People who bought the small book one day read it in a single night and came back the next day to buy the large book. I didn't have to slap on a 'sales face.' I had the product these people were desperate to buy.

When I am friendly, sweet, gentle in my content, full of tolerance and consideration online, I get trolls who hijack the conversation, treat my blog like a welcome mat, treat my readers like morons and show zero respect for anything that I've written.

Granted, there has always been a part of me that, as you say, does not suffer fools to live. Neither do universities, professional workplaces, the halls of power, people who make a lot of money for a living nor any person of intellect.

The difference between me and all of them is that I'm a WRITER; I write. Most of the extremely smart people I know do not give a shit about anything that happens online. This online community holds no interest for them.

I disagree. I think the world can be changed online. I don't think, however, that it can be changed by being nice.

TED Talks are nice. TED Talks are proving to be a dismal failure.

Now, Scott, I'll be frank with you, because I find you a bright guy. You may have noticed that I'm not selling the kind of thing your friend with the Instagram account is selling. She has a product that STUPID people will buy.

I am not selling something that STUPID people are interested in. I'm not selling cute, popular, sweet, precious, easy, stuff that will solve problems or a balm for people's ills. I am selling hard work, invention, creativity, failure and an admittance that you are inadequate. I'm selling the same philosophy that I live by every day. I'm not smart enough. I'm not working hard enough. I haven't produced enough value yet. This is what drives me forward and it is what I am selling.

I have a limited market. Despite that, in the last six months I have sold 250 books. My overall income from being acerbic and uncompromising has earned me more than $4,500. This is not enough to live on, but . . . it is enough to be proud of. I count these as people who want very BADLY to excel. I think these are amazing people. They put up with all my shit and my intolerance, then they tell me that I'm changing their game and their perceptions, that their players are loving the change and that they are running the best campaigns of their lives.

My god man. This seems perverse to you?

If you want compromise, if you want sales, I suggest you knock at the WOTC's door. Instead, you're here.

My technique must be working, no?

Listen, seriously. If you really feel that I should take steps to change myself in order to sell more - then I presume you feel that more people should read my books. If that is how you feel - if that is how you REALLY feel - then get off your ass and point your friends in my direction. Write a review for Amazon, write another for Lulu, write it on your facebook, write it on Reddit. Your pitching my book online is TEN TIMES more valuable than me doing it - because I'm obviously biased and selling, whereas you're someone who has been CONVINCED.

Go express your being convinced to other people!


William Jones said...

When I first found the blog, and had read your books through, I posted on here like a puppy with a new toy - full of enthusiasm and you had to reiterate the rules to me.

I did not find you acerbic and uncompromising in the least, you were kind and patient with me, yet left me extremely clear on what you do and don't want from the comments. That to me was perfect!

James said...

Damn, guess that makes me a fuckwit?

Still, I find you entertaining and your book really gave me a lot of ideas and a new philosophy as a DM that has already shown positive results despite only some implementation.

Congratulations on the sales. Publishing is a tough business.

Scott Driver said...

Sorry to back-comment so often ... it's not deliberate. I'm not very active online these days, and when I'm online, it's usually when I'm not at my best. I read a bunch of posts at once and it doesn't always occur to me that something I'm just now reading isn't fresh in other folks' minds.

I'm looking forward to reading the book and giving my impression in some forum or another. (I'm not a born proselytizer but I tell folks when I like something.)

Scott Driver said...

(And I don't conflate "acerbic" and "rude." I'm fine with "acerbic" and you've never been rude to me.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

It's all good, Scott. People needed to see the exchange; I need to enjoin others to spread word of mouth for me if I'm ever to be successful. There's no other practical means at my disposal.

I don't know why the internet seems so concerned with 'back-comments.' A comment is a comment. They're appreciated.

Archon said...

Well, as I make my way through the back issues of your blog, what do i find but a conversation about back-comments. At least I'm only 18 months behind now.

But seriously, it intrests me how you can be so different when faced with different people. I can never get that. Its probably a lack of practise, or youth, or just a total failure of subtlty, but i always am the same kind of person (or at least i think so - maybe i change more than i think it do). This makes being the kind of person who can talk to teachers, but also go to parties hard. I don't think i have either down right. How exactly did you end up having such different personas - is there anything more to it that that being what you can get away with/what benfits you most?

Alexis Smolensk said...


The answer to your question is survival.

Both my mother and father's families were large and I was forced to spend a lot of time among them when I was young. My mother's family were largely physically abusive alcoholics; my father's family were largely mentally abusive racists and bigots. Both sides were pretty ignorant. Given my parents' own dislike of their family, it is strange that we saw these people at all - but then guilt is a great motivator. My parents moved far away from their families and then proceeded to drag us a thousand miles to see them for holidays, cousins' weddings, reunions and other minor events.

My parents were emotionally abusive and - as it took me years to unpack - extremely selfish in their needs. There was some physical abuse too. This is where much of my anger comes from; my brother's anger too, as he used to beat me when it got to be too much for him.

My childhood experiences at school were also physically and mentally abusive, pretty much up until I graduated high school, despite being part of sports teams and such - most of this abuse was directed at my intelligence and at the intelligence of my closest friends.

I'm pretty much the way I am because of all this abuse and the urge to fight it bitterly while not running from it as my parents did. My parents were the sort of people who could put their fingers in their ears and scream na-na-na-na while ignoring the suffering (and the changes) going on around them. This is why they ended their lives without any friends, without any close family, without even their children on their side.

That's probably more than you wanted to know, Archon. But it comes down to learning to be a chameleon to survive and then recognizing that lying all the time (as I did as a kid) is ultimately a bad idea.