As I write this, I am in the final stages of preparing my second monthly newsletter – in it will contain something juicy for my subscribers for my upcoming project. This weekend, I prepared an Instagram story as a call-to-arms for anyone in my meagre following to join up before I drop the newsletter on Monday.
This all seems straightforward, does it not? By my own confession, I am not a social media marketing expert; indeed, the whole process seems very much smoke-and-mirrors, but I do try to do it a bit better each time. I don’t think I could’ve made my newsletter easier to sign up for, and I’m thankful to all those who have subscribed so far.
However, I’ve had feedback to my social media efforts that, on the face of it, seem fair and critical – and indeed useful – but I’m struggling a little to deal with quite how they’re being framed.
I’m quite lucky to find myself involved in a few communities and with a group of fellow authors who are very supportive. I never take that support for granted, and indeed, signing up to my newsletter is a personal choice by any reader or supporter, as there’s nary anything quite as personal in today’s digital age than an email address. Being able to beam my message right to people’s email addresses is a powerful privilege and not one I take lightly.
But let’s get back to the matter of feedback. Should we value feedback from those who claim to support but don’t put any action behind those empty words.
Let me expand on the personal experience I have had: I’ve received feedback on a promotional Instagram “story” from a follower on my Instagram who has made no effort to actually engage with the stall I’m setting out. They won’t sign up to my newsletter as they “don’t want clutter in their inbox”. Fair enough. I think it’s true that it’s more important that my newsletter readership is engaged, rather than just being merrily sent to the inboxes of people who will never read it. It’s a nonsense to spend time crafting a newsletter – as I have done – that sits unread in an inbox full of junk mail. I won’t ever get a return in engagement on that. The comment from this particular follower that there’s no point them signing up to a newsletter they have no intention of reading is valid, on its own, on face value. Initially, I was minded to take this feedback in isolation, but as we will discuss, my thoughts on even that have changed.
But then I pondered a bit on the particular history of this follower, who I do know on a personal level. They didn’t choose to buy – or even read – my short story The Landlady as it was “too scary”. Despite not even looking at it. My upcoming newsletter will mention an upcoming live-stream I’m hoping to hold in connection with Nightmare Tenant (I’ll absolutely blog about it soon) – even this did not tempt them to subscribe, even to see what the announcement was. It was a completely cold reaction; fair enough if my writing exploits are not to their interests, but the framing of this came across as very mean-spirited. No sign of a “good luck though”, just a blunt rejection. The impression I got from them was that they’d make a point of being busy so as not to engage with any of my promotional endeavours.
I’m really excited about Nightmare Tenant but I can’t help but feel a good amount of disappointment and dismay from these responses. Sure, there’s some good standalone points that I can use to improve. But this particular ‘supporter’ has pretty much confirmed that nothing I do will ever be ‘good enough’ for them to actually engage. That’s a pretty disheartening, especially as this is a personal contact who purports to be on friendly terms with me.
I get absolutely that my writing thing is not to everyone’s interests, and I do not take support in any of these endeavours for granted in any way. But two things emerge from this situation:
- Is this feedback valuable? Even on face value, some good points were made. However, they came from a source that has expressly said they will never engage. Do I feel incentivised to take this on board? Not really, honestly. This is something from an author’s standpoint. I feel there are some good points in the comments that have been made, but the way they’ve been framed to me puts me on the complete defensive.
- As a supporter, remember that those who you offer criticism or advice to are human. I feel quite disappointed that, while offering some good ideas for improvement on face value, this supporter has become unaware that how they’ve framed their criticism – without any positive balance, no “That’s nice, maybe next time try…” – no, it’s just finding faults. And they’re not prepared to make any investment; indeed, it just comes across as less helpful, more snide and nitpicky.
Once again, there is no obligation for anyone to support my writing endeavours by subscribing to the newsletter, buying any of my work, or even reading my blog or social media pages. I am so, so grateful to all the full-throated support I have received, and it keeps me going. I enjoy the community I’m in so much, and I am grateful for their support.
But this kind of completely negative support doesn’t help me. Sure, the points being made to me, in isolation, are good for continual improvement but it’s more the framing of them that just leaves me feeling quite demotivated and upset. I’d have found it less upsetting or distressing if this had been a random online internet troll but the fact it’s from someone I know on (apparently?) friendly terms cut a bit deeper. That’s less easy to dismiss out of hand.
I feel there’s a social contract here – I’m more than happy to support my fellow authors as my support – signing up to an email newsletter – ultimately costs me nothing. I give people the support I hope they would give me – not because it’s a quid-pro-quo, or that they then owe me their support as I’ve lent them mine, but because they genuinely want to help me like I’ve helped them.
The social contract between creator and supporter should be two-way: a supporter can offer genuine and earnest feedback in goodwill but should be prepared to invest a little in that creator in terms of tangible support. Conversely, as a creator, I am much more inclined to take heed of feedback, suggestions or comments if the person has made that tangible commitment.
My strategy from now is not to take this particular instance to heart as ultimately it doesn’t matter. I’m not angry about this; rather, I think it is their loss if they cannot find a reason to offer genuine support. I’m grateful, more, for the real and full-bodied support I enjoy and will focus on that rather than this negativity. I would prefer to surround myself with this kind of support – enthusiastic, but not sycophantic as criticism needs to be constructive and helpful for continual improvement – than focus more on this than needed.
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