The Dunning-Kruger effect – does it work for emotions too?

As part of my research into the latest novel, I stumbled upon this absolute gem of a study. It has seriously made my week. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of already knowing this, the paper they did is titled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” (1999). Basically, if you’re really dumb, you will never realise it. In fact, you’ll honestly believe that you’re actually very smart and are exceptionally good at lots of things. You won’t doubt your own abilities or understanding of anything, because you’ll know better than everyone else.

It explains so much of the world. I’m sure everyone can think of people they’ve met who baffle you with their confident assertions of ridiculousness until you start doubting yourself. I have a particular person I know, who without naming names or identifying them in any way, leaves me almost speechless on a regular basis. Things so obviously false are said with such utter certainty that you have to stop and do an internal check and a quick summation of proof for your own interpretation of reality before you can respond. But part of the problem is also that if you’re unaware of your own stupidity, you’re unlikely to change. In a follow-up study, “Why the Unskilled are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-insight Among the Incompetent “(2008) they found that people who performed badly in testing did not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve. People who performed well though, did learn from feedback they were given on how to improve.

Though I enjoyed reading about it, relishing, finally, an explanation for that person in my life, it does start one down a rabbit hole of introspection. Basically, any time I’m not doubting myself could be a time when I’m being stupid.

On the other hand, all those times where I do doubt my own abilities, like when I wonder whether I should keep pursuing a career in writing because maybe I’m really crap at it and it’s only my friends telling me they like my writing to be nice, maybe I’m actually doing okay. It’s somewhat reassuring, but endless self-doubt is time consuming, as well as boring for other people. It can also stop you from doing the things you need to do, like marketing.

Then I though about relationships and whether the Dunning-Kruger effect could apply to emotional intelligence too. To give some context as to why I might wonder this, up until my late thirties, I thought I was rock solid and had escaped a not ideal childhood almost totally unscathed. It’s only been lately that I’ve been recognising that I have issues I’ve been oblivious to for years. As an example, I have trouble identifying my emotions. I have a few go-to responses for almost every situation, and sometimes they aren’t the most sensible. For instance, if someone does something that I find hurtful, I shut down completely. I don’t talk and I don’t explain, I just disappear. If I don’t see the person, I don’t have to think about what happened. It’s like an emotional magic show where I make the thing that wounded me vanish like it never happened. Which is stupid, obviously. It isn’t a rational response, and doesn’t help the situation, at all. I know this, so now I have to try to change this response, which isn’t easy.

But, now that I know that I’m emotionally stupid, does that mean that I’m not?

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Assumption of Crazy

Legally, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but on the internet, the assumption is that you are a wack job until you can prove that you’re not. This last week, I’ve had two instances where I’ve been left reeling, realising that people have made that assumption about me. Being someone who believes they have an okay grip on reality and social norms, I found it quite shocking. Not that I don’t have my moments, where I look back and face-palm, but no more than most people.

I blame the whole author/book marketing attempt thing. I don’t enjoy trying to strike up online conversations with people I don’t know, and I don’t think I’m very good at it. But you have to try. I was reading one of those “helpful” articles on how to broaden your reach by attending book festivals. Unfortunately, the only ones I’ve been invited to be a signing author at are overseas and in the middle of nowhere. So, given none of the ones that don’t require a passport and a fortune in global roaming have asked me, I took the article’s advice and approached one of the regional festivals, which are more likely to appreciate your advances.

I carefully worded my introduction, polite and to the point. The response came back, equally politely that they we already set for authors. My “thanks anyway” return then bounced. They had blocked my email. Already – on that innocuous exchange. What exactly did they think I was going to do? I’m hardly going to hunt them down and start stalking them because they are a good six hour drive into the interior of Australia. Attack them in a flood of furious emails? Who knows, but any of the options would take far more energy than I currently possess. I struggle to maintain the rage with the teenagers next door playing music at  3am. Even with the kids home for school holidays, I’ve come to reluctantly admire their mess generation skills. They have raised it almost to an art form, particularly in the field of crumb distribution. I’ve reached the point where I just stand back and marvel.

The second one was a book blogger, usually one of the friendliest of the species. I wrote a quick intro, a personal one, not trying to market anything. I genuinely thought their blog was good. Again I got a four word plus emoticon response and nothing else. It was a clear discouragement to future correspondence and they usually want to talk to everyone.

Now, I’m just waiting for the third slapdown, which will possibly send me into online hibernation for good. I’m not particularly thin skinned, but there comes a point when you have to accept that you have no idea what you’re doing and clearly whatever you are doing is wrong because people are assuming you’re deranged. People like me are why PR companies are such a good idea. If I take myself out of the equation things might go better. I’ll think of myself like a guilty defendant – the best possible course is to get a good lawyer to speak for me and  then just shut the hell up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal – is there any point?

It’s been a looong time between posts, mostly because I didn’t really have anything to say. To be honest, I’m not sure if I do now. But what I do have is a book cover. I really like it too. I’ve had it since last year because I had it done to try to inspire myself to write more quickly. Needless to say, it didn’t work. My writing just seems to come at the speed that it comes. I could no more write a book in three months than I could flap my arms really hard and fly.

It seems to be a part of the marketing process that you do a cover reveal. I’ve done it twice already, mostly because my publisher told me it was a thing, but I have to say it did seem rather pointless. So what if lots people can see the cover – even if they cared, they still can’t buy the book! Maybe it’s just me, but as a reader, when I see the cover of a book that’s not going to be out for over a month, I dismiss it instantly from my memory banks. I’m not particularly interested in a book if I can’t actually read it. I won’t store that information for weeks, because like the name of the neighbour down the road who I have no interaction with, if I need to know later, someone will tell me. Clearly, the plotlines of “Nashville” are far more important and take up the space otherwise allocated to such unnecessary things like books I can’t read and names.

So new book, new attempt at marketing. I’m not going to bother with a cover reveal, I’m just going to put it on my website. I hope you like it! “The Ragged People” should be out around April.

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Book Marketing – I love it!

thXEPP0EADYes, that was sarcastic. I’m in my yearly period of hell, otherwise know as “book marketing time”. It the time of year when I question why and dive into a vat of wine while eating my body weight in cake or chocolate and sometimes cake and chocolate . Given the rapid expansion of my waistline, it feels like I’m about to reach terminal velocity and literally explode, Monty Python style, from a mere wafer. My trainer just laughs at me now and makes me come for an extra session.

I’m feeling a distinct lack of sympathy for my angst.

I starting off this post writing a whinge on how I find marketing terrifying, but I’ve bored even myself. Instead, I’m going to put in two links: the first to win the amazing black pearl earrings from Stylerocks and secondly to the Goodreads giveaway of signed copies of “Superstition”. Enjoy!

When Authors Struggle – A Call to Arms

Even doing what you love, there are times when you have to question the sanity of it all. So few writers make it big, but like the majority of the actors, chefs, film makers and all gamblers out there, you mostly try not to think about it and keep going, hoping the next one will be the big one. Everyone faces rejection and disappointment, its part of being human, but there’s never a time when its easy.

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Giving away books for free doesn’t bother me much. I just hope people like it and are potentially interested in purchasing more from me. I see it in a similar way to the pirating sites that I appear on. At least they care enough to rip off one of my novels (but not the other one – what’s with that?) What doesn’t feel good is when you do a KDP promotion and while sometimes you get huge amounts of downloads, other times you only get a few. There is nothing worse that the feeling you can’t even give away work that took years of your life.

Publishers you expect to be quite impersonal in their rejections. We all know about it and have for years. The new development is that they now don’t even respond with a rejection. If you don’t hear anything, then the answer is no. This is the equivalent of calling someone to arrange a date and having them block your calls before you’ve even been for coffee.  You have not the first idea what you did wrong.

I’m not alone in wondering sometimes whether anyone wants to read my work and if I should still write. I struggled with this, on and off, until I read something written by the head of a large international literary agency. It got me so irate that I wanted to write just to spite them, if nothing else. The quote is “In all of this, only one thing is guaranteed: there are more and more people writing. I’d like to hope that this trend will be reversed sometime soon, and that only the very best and most talented people write, and the rest of us read, read and read some more!” I get that this was to publishers at a conference and that the speech was tailored to the audience, but what I took from this was basically that any writer who was self-published was rubbish and all those authors should go back to their day jobs and leave it to the agents and publishers to decide what we can read. Oh and that they should just buy lots of books in future to keep profits going, instead of making pitiful attempts at writing their own. It’s a few years on and now that same agency is all about assisting the self-publishing authors, for a fee of course.

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What this tells me is that neither publishers nor agents are in the business about caring for authors. But then again, neither is Amazon. Because they are businesses and their aim is to make money. So where does this leave the author, without whom none of this would happen? Do we give up and stop writing because all the social media requirements are driving us nuts? Or do we persevere, hoping that either we make it big or the situation improves? I think everyone walks the line, hoping that the difficulty of the publishing side is never so bad that it outweighs the joy you get from writing. No matter if you’re successful or …not so successful. And there’s usually someone out there who thinks you’re a genius, even if it’s just your Gran.

Minions Required

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Fuck me, I need a drink. And a minion. Maybe a host of minions (is that the collective noun? No idea but I’m going to go with it.) If I had a host of minions, there’d be one just to get me a drink and another look up the collective nouns for things. The rest would be hard at work, doing all the shit that I either don’t have time for or the necessary fucks to give one away willy-nilly. I might even dedicate one to swearing for me, as it’s unladylike and my mother always thought it important that I be a lady, not that I think that’s been overly successful.

I like writing. I enjoy it and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction. What I am quickly coming to not enjoy so much is the other stuff that you have to do. I’m sure it’s been raised by other people, but if you’re responding to facebook and twitter constantly, when exactly are you supposed to write? What about joining groups? Start up a conversation, with witting sayings inserted in appropriate places, until everyone is madly in love with your writing style and will instantly download your book. Excellent strategy, except everyone else is doing that too and once everyone does it, the forums quickly becoming extraordinarily boring with everyone trying to market to each other. There really is nothing more desperate that writers trying to get other writers to buy their stuff.

Host an event! Invite people to attend and they will invite their friends and soon you’ll be famous! Another excellent strategy except I have no idea how to do that. The only parties I’ve held successfully have involved darkened rooms and lots of alcohol. How can I be witty and exciting when, being on the other side of the world, it’s the early hours of the morning and I can’t see anyone’s face? Hmmm… actually maybe that does have some possibilities. If no one knows what I look like, I can be Batman!

Rant over, I do need to knuckle down and listen to my lovely PR person, who is only trying to help. The market is saturated at the moment, so I’m given to understand, and it’s hard to stand out. And dressing like Batman really won’t be enough. Damn it!

 

When does marketing become cheating?

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Being a less than successful author leaves you open to a whole lot of helpful hints on how to make your book sell better. Given than none of the people offering advice have been in publishing, and I know almost nothing about marketing (what the f**k is a hashtag anyway?) these conversations tend to go round in circles. Friends in marketing for other industries have offered some useful insights, but none that my PR retarded self has converted to actual sales.

Several times the subject of “buying” reviews from India has come up as a suggestion. My immediate reaction has been “can’t, that’s cheating”, but the reply I got today was “no, that’s marketing”. The theory is that you have to spend money “advertising” your product, which in book terms means getting reviews and your book noticed. If you have a few hundred dollars to throw at it and it’s the most effective way of getting a return on that investment, then the logical path to follow would lead to the sub-continent.

Is it morally any different from buying a cake from the supermarket and dressing it up to pass off as your own? Taking the tags off new items of clothing and pretending they’re old? Buying ad space on a website that will then give a glowing review to your product? Pretending you have the degree you nearly finished? I knew someone who did that and I don’t think they were ever pulled up on it. These are all things that go to your credibility, but are hardly going to bring about the apocalypse.

The thing is, I’ve read a few books that had lots of amazing 5 star reviews, and realised after finishing that there was nothing redeeming about it and a book with that many typos and grammatical errors, as well as leaps in logic would never on its own get such a good rap. So I know they bought the reviews and I won’t read anything by that author again. Their next book might be a huge improvement, but I’ll never know (unless one of my favourite book bloggers recommends it and everyone else is reading it, then my militant stance will be out the window).

“But your book is good!” is the next response. Thanks, but everyone thinks their book is good or they wouldn’t put it out there. Also, you like me so you’re biased.

Marketing is never going to be my thing and I have enormous respect people who do it well and come up with new and exciting ways to promote their books. People outside the industry might not get why most of us will never buy reviews for $5 a pop, but writers in there for the long haul want to build up goodwill and loyal readers. After all, who is actually doing it for the money?