When I first became a published writer, all I needed to bother about was to produce a novel that was the best I could make it. Today it seems that we writers need to spend almost as much time promoting ourselves as getting words on the page. And that means being internet savvy.
I confess that I’m technically inept. I know my way around Microsoft Word and I’m quite a dab hand at PowerPoint but beyond that, I’m something of a technophobe. My excuse is that I see no point in having a dog and barking yourself. Not that I’m calling my lovely husband a dog but as an electrical engineer who has spent a lifetime in the semi-conductor industry, I leave anything technical to him and have never bothered to learn myself.
Yesterday proved that such a philosophy can have catastrophic consequences. My lack of basic skills let me down big time. I was all set to give a talk using PowerPoint to a local group but it was a catalogue of disasters.
Two weeks ago my husband upgraded my PC and my laptop to Windows 10 and yesterday was the first time I’d used my laptop outside the house. I switched on and entered my password as usual but instead of letting me straight in, a message came up beneath my email address saying I needed to put in my password. I had no idea what my Outlook password was. So I picked up my mobile and phoned home.
As soon as I tried to dial home, it told me my pay-as-you-go phone needed a top up. It gave me a number to tap in but my mobile is one with a full screen so I had no visible numbers. I hadn’t taken a credit card with me anyway so I couldn’t have competed the transaction even if I’d had the technical nouse to do so.
I borrowed a phone and went outside to get away from the noise but our new phone system demands to know who is calling before it will accept calls from numbers it doesn’t recognise. (Great for fending off those nuisance ‘selling’ calls) But I could get through anyway.
So back I went to get the phone’s owner to put in my husband’s mobile number (Luckily that I could get off my mobile.) The only time I use my mobile to phone someone is when I’m away from home on a course. I don’t like any phones at the best of times and the complexities of mobiles are a closed book to me.
Eventually I did get through and hubby talked me through getting on to the laptop. All it needed was for me to enter the same password again! Why didn’t I just try that? Panic probably. Apparently the problem was caused because my laptop was trying to find a wireless connection which the hall didn’t have but of course it always has when I’m home.
Now I had my laptop working, I tried to switch on my digital projector. Nothing! I checked it was switched on at the wall and on the machine. I changed the socket. Still no joy. I could only assume that transporting the projector from home had resulted in me managing to blow the bulb somehow. (When I got home, I discovered that the lead wasn’t pushed fully into the machine. Something I hadn’t checked as I’d taken the projector with all the leads still in so I knew where they all went.)
By this time, I was 10 minutes late starting. I couldn’t wait any longer.
I’ve given talks on my writing for years – long before groups started to expect people to have PowerPoint presentations so I was able to wing it without any problems.
Luckily when I’m on board ship on a lecturing cruise, my faithful tech guy is always with me so thankfully he can sort me out if the Presenter view doesn’t come up straight away when I connect to the ship’s system but it’s time I learnt to do these things for myself.
I’ve been having problems with my website for some time now. WordPress no longer automatically emails my readers with each new blog post like it used to. I’ve tried to sort it out but I’m going to have to make more effort.
I love the personal side of promotion – giving talks, book signings and the like. Cruise lecturing is ideal for me. But the industry has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Now it’s all about social media. Today’s writers cannot afford not to spend time on reaching out to readers and growing a tribe. (Even the word fills me with horror!) For years now, I’ve been promising myself to learn how to tweet. Surely it can’t be that hard but it terrifies me. The last three months have been silly busy – my Facebook author page and Goodreads involvement have declined to a trickle. I have another Port Lecturing cruise coming up at the end of the month so researching and presenting that will leave no spare time for anything else BUT come May, my technical education will be a priority.