Liberate Yourself With the Unfriend Button

Today, a toxic, now ex-friend, pushed me into writing my first blog in ages. The past two years have been consumed with moving and adapting to living as an expat in the Middle East, being a stay at home mom, making up for my pre-expat lack of traveling and writing when I get a chance. (This is also why I haven’t published a book in a while. Don’t worry – I am writing, albeit at my own pace.) I nearly didn’t write this blog. Then I realized how many people deal with toxic social network relationships and how many don’t speak up. So, here goes…

We all have that friend. Whether it is someone you’ve met on social networking or someone you’ve worked with – the kind that pretends to be a liberal philosopher but who is actually sanctimonious and judgmental.

I got into a debate turned nasty with such a friend this morning and try as I might to diffuse the situation, he just kept on coming back with veiled insults and cleverly worded judgments. I attempted to reason with him by acknowledging his point of view and offering different ways of seeing mine. In the end, nothing mattered. Not only would he doggedly stand his point of view (which I’m actually okay with because ‘agreeing to disagree’ can be a powerful act), he would insult me in every single comment he made. He would, for example, admit that he was being judgmental and follow it with a ‘but’ or another statement with snarky comments – a verbal slap. That’s when I thought that a direct approach would possibly work better than a diplomatic one. No, that was like pouring oil on a fire. It blew up. In the end, he was openly insulting and purposefully hurtful whilst saying, “I respect you, but…” or “With all due respect…”

Why do people do that? Do they think we’re stupid? When people say that we all KNOW they’re going to follow it with something negative. I mean, really!

I’ve seen a few friends have such experiences too. Before social networking they would have been referred to as ‘email wars’. Now, it is cyber stupidity. Every Tom, Dick and Jane think they have an opinion and that their opinion should, in fact, be everyone else’s. I get it. Believe me. I too have strong opinions. Push a button or get me onto a topic I’m passionate about and I can debate for days. There is, however, a difference between debate and personal attack. If someone is really going to upset you, you have a right to ignore them, unfollow them or unfriend them. There is actually no need to be mean.

In the end, I had actually had enough of this guy today.

blog pic reality and opinion

That’s when I came across a saying, “Your Opinion is Not My Reality”. The fates threw that one into my lap. Of that, I’m sure. I had to ask myself whether my life would be better with or without him in it. The answer was that the only impact he had made on my life thus far had been a negative one on social media.

My lesson learnt for today – Cut Toxic Friends Out. Liberate yourself with the unfriend button. (And if you’re a writer, write them into a book and transform them. 😉 )

Does Bling Bring the Swagger to Book Sales?

Facebook, Twitter and every social network are inundated with ‘ebook and swag giveaways’. They started off with more affordable prizes such as bookmarks and postcards then progressed to bling in the form of necklaces, jeweled bookmarks and bracelets. Now the recent trend seems to be the amazing prize of a Kindle or Nook giveaway – with the Kindle Fire being the biggest draw card.

I resisted going the swag route – not because I’m adverse to it but simply because as a new indie writer, just starting out with absolutely no budget, every ebook I gave away ate into my personal bank account. So, you can imagine that swag seemed like a dream.

To Swag or Not to Swag?

I first gave into the lure of getting my own swag when I observed the huge interest it drew and to be honest, my sales went from looking hugely promising to despondently dwindling. Another thing happened – I got a bit of disposable income, which meant that I could carve out some of that for swag. The thing with being an indie is that you cannot discount that indie writers mostly have day jobs, family responsibilities and thus also financial responsibilities with the majority of their income coming from outside of the sales of their books. But, because I was worried about my sales and I needed to create some form of hype around my work, I bit the bullet.

 Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

What Swag To Choose?

The first thing I do before embarking on any venture related to indie writing is Google. Google is the most informative and amazing resource any writer has access to and Google gave me information on swag. My search led me to a blog by Curiosity Quills. What resonated the most was that the swag being given away should be functional as well as decorative and promotional. And even better, Curiosity Quills provided the website address of an international printing company called Vistaprint (

I then spent hours poring over the contents of a variety of websites and settled on Vistaprint, who was affordable even with taking shipping into consideration. Having said that – if any indie writers are reading this blog and mosey over to Vistaprint or any other site – note that affordable is a relative term because what I paid still made me grimace.

In the end I settled for calendars, notebooks, postcards, tote bags, etc. The great thing is that you can build an online portfolio and order as little or as much as you want whenever you want to. So, I may not have a stock room full of swag – I have a small box – but I do have access to an on-site, personal portfolio for future use.

The Price of Swag?

Buying swag is one thing, shipping the swag from the vendor to your home is another. But the hidden cost that is not always taken into consideration pertains to shipping. Do not discount this because the indie writing and social literary networks are internationally spread and when you do a giveaway, what you send will be weighed and measured by your postal service or couriers.

Some authors are limiting giveaways to their home country. I can respect and understand why but what bothers me about this is that the literary community is an international one and by limiting a giveaway to a country, you exclude many from participating.

So now, I basically sit with a box of swag in the cupboard while I save money towards the shipping! (LOL – I’ve got to laugh at the irony of the situation.)

Has it Worked?

I’ve only recently started giving away the swag. Has it helped sales? Absolutely not (*grinning again*). But what it has done, which is why I’m a swag believer, is assist me in promoting me as a writer. The number of Author Page likes for Aneesa Price – Sugary, Spicy Reads has increased, so have the number of friend requests I receive and I’ve also been experiencing renewed interests from reviewers to host my work on their blogs and to provide me with honest reviews.

So, yes – it does work. I believe that Swag fits into the category of ‘short term (financial) pain for long term (sales and promotional) gain’.

The Future of Swag?

At the moment it seems to be flooding the literary social networks and to be honest, there’s a feeling of ‘you snooze, you lose’ if you don’t get onto the swag bandwagon. So my recommendation to other indie authors is to get out there and do the swag thing (but save up first – do not put yourself personally out of pocket).

What will swag look like in future and will I reap the benefits in the form of reader reach? Well I don’t know the answer right now but I’ll be watching.

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Swag made by a friend and street team member