Sunday, January 11, 2015

How NOT to Handle Trolls

Part of the fun of writing—and I hope, readingOwn the Scrawny and My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain is delving deep into the mind of Alexander. His predicaments aren't so much a result of what happens to him, but his skewed perception of reality.

In Food Chain, he's convinced that he's prey in a sea of predators, living his life in constant fear until he decides to confront an innocent boy he imagines is the greatest bully of all.


In Own the Scrawny, Alexander's the unwilling star of an embarrassing viral video. Worse yet, he discovers that he's the target of online trolls, whose incessant ridicule in the video's comments section fills him with self-doubt. Instead of ignoring them, he decides that he needs to prove them wrong, and sets in motion a series of events that makes things much worse. He tries acting differently (fail); he tries dressing differently (fail); and even tries avoiding everyone and everything (fail again!).

Trolls insult, demean, destruct and degrade others through their comments, often hiding behind anonymous profiles. They don't often know their targets, and in fact may simply be reposting the same words over and over again. Instead of ignoring them (usually a good first step), Alexander cares about what they say.

The internet is filled with anti-troll strategies - I've collected some of them here on Pinterest. They generally suggest a few basic points:
  1. The first line of defense is simply to ignore the troll. Don’t argue with them, or respond in any way.
  2. If it’s in your power, delete their offending comment.
  3. If you must respond, logic and friendliness in the face of viciousness is a great tactic.
  4. Forget about them. Focus on those who support you; forget those who don’t.
  5. Simply respond, “Haters gotta hate!”

Alexander takes a few detours before getting there, but eventually learns, as we all do, to keep the troll where he belongs, hidden and forgotten under the bridge.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Trolling: What's in the comments?



In my new book, Own the Scrawny, thirteen year-old Alexander becomes the target of online trolls after a brief, embarrassing moment in school becomes a viral video.

Suddenly, millions can view his humiliation, and thousands are posting their ridicule, Some say he's weird, odd, or a loser; others are more threatening, and wonder if he can possibly be real.  With so many people saying such horrible things, Alexander's sure of just one thing: he’s got to prove them wrong.

Wikipedia describes a troll as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.” While cyber-bullying has come to represent the extension of traditional bullying into every aspect of a victim’s life, trolls can be anyone and anywhere.

Own the Scrawny is all about perspective. Alexander faces adversity just as he did in My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain - with absolute panic. He becomes obsessed with the opinions of strangers, and tries desperately to transform himself to please people he doesn’t know. He forgets, at first, that the people closest to him—friends and family—accept him as-is. Trolls aren’t worth a second thought.

Twelve year old YouTuber DrewDudeTv (for privacy reasons, we won’t use his real name), who portrays Alexander on the cover of Own the Scrawny, shares that “I’ve had a couple of people tell me to go kill myself” simply for making funny videos, and repeatedly taunting him by asking, “Why haven’t you killed yourself yet?”  Thankfully, Drew has strong family support, tech savvy parents, and older brothers with YouTube experience, so he knows not to believe the haters. Some kids don't have that advantage.

DrewDudeTV’s sixteen year old brother, known on YouTube as Fur, has faced his own trolls, and found “if you actually go to their channel, you see that they literally just copy and paste that same exact comment on a hundred different videos. They don’t even watch your video, so you can’t even take it personally. These people just generically go around spreading hate, that’s just what they do.”

In my next blog, we'll look at some of the popular approaches to dealing with Trolls. In the meantime, you might want to check out my "What's Trolling?" board on Pinterest:


Follow Rich Samuels's board What's Trolling? on Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of the Year Update!

Here's my end of the year update...the official campaign starts tomorrow!

Happy New Year!

Just a few words...

First of all, thanks to all of you who have either supported my work, or inspired me with your own dedication and commitment to your creative path. Choosing to create - whether writing, composing, or creating visual media - isn't easy. Bringing your work to the larger world is an even greater challenge.

I've never been one to write "holiday update" letters, and I promise this won't be filled with the dreaded TMI (too much information). However, one of my objectives for the year ahead is to be a better "authorpreneur" (author-entreprenuer) so I wanted to share a little bit of what I'm doing to connect with an audience as an independentcontent creator in 2015. 

As of January 1st, I'm officially launching Own the Scrawny, my second novel (and a follow-up to My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, which I published in 2013).  Aimed at an early teen/pre-teen readership, it's the story of a Alexander, a boy overwhelmed by a legion of online trolls (the anonymous comment-posters that torment anyone who dares to create or appear in content online). It's great fun, I think, and a fitting follow-up to the first book.

I also hope it gives kids a better perspective on an unfortunate fact of online life. In fact, the boy who portrays my protagonist on the cover of my books, a twelve year-old whose YouTube channel is DrewDudeTV, has been invited to kill himself by commentors  on his channel simply for creating funny videos. Thankfully, he has strong family support and older brothers with YouTube experience, so he has a healthy perspective. Some kids don't have that advantage.

Now that the book is out in paperback and ebook at Amazon and all of the familiar online retail destinations, I face the challenge of creating grass-roots awareness. In addition to the tradtional routes (press and limited advertising to targeted audiences), I'm working on a campaign encompassing social media elements including Twitter,Facebook, blogs and, yes, YouTube to get the word out to kids, parents, teachers and homeschoolers. I'm also hoping to expand opportunities to introduce my books directly through various events. This coming month, I'll be interviewed on The Twirl, a cool, rock-oriented radio program in Sacramento, and appearing at an event here in the Santa Clarita Valley saluting local authors. I'm open to school visits, too.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested. Support from friends, colleagues and supporters as I launched the first book was phenomenal - it's the very heart of building grass-roots awareness.

Wishing you all the best on your own creative endeavors in the year ahead,

Rich


Upcoming Events:

January 10, 2015, 4:00 pm "Twirl Radio" - Host Mike Lidskin and I will talk about "Own the Scrawny." Available on the air in Sacramento, streamable from the link.

January 17, 2015, 10 am - 3 pm Santa Clarita Public Library  / Celebration of Local Authors. I'm be at the event all day, and appearing on a panel at 10:40 am.  Old Town Newhall Public Library, 24500 Main Street, Santa Clarita, CA 91321. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Goodreads Book Giveaway!

I've launched the Giveaway for "Own the Scrawny" on Goodreads - Take a look and enter to win a signed copy - Thanks for your support!



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Own the Scrawny by Rich Samuels

Own the Scrawny

by Rich Samuels

Giveaway ends December 20, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, November 30, 2014

High Anxiety: Closer to Publication

It's been a busy month...

As I write this, proofs of the paperback editions of both Own the Scrawny and the new edition of My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain are on their way. I'll review, make any necessary changes, and approve for publication - probably in the next two weeks or so. I already have a few minor changes I'll need to make to Scrawny; Food Chain should be okay.

It's an anxious time. I actually sent PDF's to several people, essentially to begin the process of revealing the book to a few interested people. I've had a great reaction so far, though limited. A number of people haven't responded as yet. Naturally, my mind rushes to a negative conclusion (shades of Alexander...), but at least one person has begged off reading the PDF because it's simply not an easy way to read a book. It's awkward on an e-reader, and uncomfortable reading on a desktop, so I'll need to be patient a week or two until I can provide more traditional editions. Then, I can wait anxiously even longer for more people to finish reading the book.

I've started the process of recording the audio version of Scrawny; Food Chain is already available. I'm hoping that the Scrawny audiobook will be available on January 1st, the official release date of the book.

In a few days, I'll be starting a giveaway on Goodreads.com, getting the book into the hands of readers just before Christmas. Most other promotional efforts will wait until after the holiday.

I'm hoping to create promotional materials and a teacher's guide for Own the Scrawny, exploring the idea of online trolling. In Scrawny, Alexander takes the negative comments about him too seriously, until old and new friends lend him a better perspective For anyone—child or adult—creating online, it's important to keep that healthy perspective in face of all the negativity.

I'm also hoping to generate more of a presence for Own the Scrawny. More reviews on the retail sites and Goodreads are essential to making this effort work. If you read the book, I hope you're consider writing one (I don't require five stars!).  I also hope to encourage more YouTube review videos and interviews (and whatever else you can think of) - they would be especially helpful in getting the word out.

As usual, I'm open to your thoughts—if you do read the book, I'd be very interesting in hearing any ideas you might have to develop my marketing plan.

And yes, review copies will be available shortly...



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Did you HEAR? Updates On My Publishing Empire!

Progress is being made - although it all feels like it's moving at a snail's pace, as far as I'm concerned.

In my last entry, I listed six tasks related to my upcoming and existing books. Most have already been accomplished, though I had a minor setback when the hard drive on my iMac died and some work was frozen. Luckily, once a new drive was installed and I restored the system, everything was there, just like I left it, and I was able to continue without backtracking.

The audiobook for "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" is now available at Amazon.comAudible.com, and iTunes. At around $6.00,  it's a fun, affordable way to pass a few hours on the way to grandma's for Thanksgiving!  I'll be starting work next week on the audiobook for "Own the Scrawny," which I'm hoping to have available at the same time as the book on January 1.

This week, I'll be submitting "Own the Scrawny" to begin the manufacturing process for both the paperback and ebook. Edits have been completed. We're all ready.

At the moment, I'm waiting anxiously for more of my "beta readers" to respond. So far, only one has. While I realize it takes time for people to find the time to sit down and read a book, my less logical side is driving me crazy - I'm nearly as neurotic as my main character!

One of my hopes this time around is that I can build some presence for "Own the Scrawny" even before the official publication.

If you're on Goodreads.com, I'd appreciate the favor of adding "Own the Scrawny" to your "Want to Read" list (press the green button). Between the beta readers and upcoming giveaways, I'm also hoping that there will be more than just a few reviews posted by January.

Once the manufacturing process is underway, I'm going to begin efforts to begin promoting the book, especially how it relates to the growing issue of online trolling. I'm hoping to conduct a series of interviews on the subject, so if you have a story to tell about your own experiences related to your creative work as a YouTuber, blogger or other online content creator, please let me know.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alex Tasks: What's Next with "Own the Scrawny"

Now that I've finished writing Own the Scrawny, I'm focusing on a long list of what I'm calling "Alex Tasks," (after our main character) a long to-do list that I need to complete before we actually publish the book. I just finished reading the book aloud as a final review, which forced me to concentrate more closely on the manuscript than I could otherwise. For me, at least, it's otherwise easy to skim over a missing or misplaced word. It was also an excruciating experience, and tends to heighten a whole host of writing-related anxieties...

Here's just a hint of the anxieties I'm now facing:

  1. I need to finalize Own the Scrawny for publication. The paperback and the ebook require different format preparation before the hand-off.
  2. I still need to finish writing the acknowledgments for Scrawny.
  3. I need to compile and order changes to My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, including a new cover to match the boy on the Scrawny cover, about a dozen fixes to actual book content, and the addition of the "Alexander Adventure" banner and icon.
  4. I need to finalize the Food Chain audiobook, and send it for publication (it will be available on iTunes, Audible and Amazon for digital download.
  5. I need to record the Scrawny audiobook, which I'm hoping to publish simultaneously with the paperback and ebook.
  6. I need to set-up ISBN numbers for the  Scrawny paperback and ebook, and then begin to establish an online footprint—with Goodreads, for example.
There's much more to think about, not the least of which is developing a strategy for promoting the book, and putting that plan into motion.  

It's a bit nerve-wracking, especially at this particular moment when I don't know if people will even like the darn thing!