Virtual Everything

by Pari

A few years ago ebooks and self-publishing scared me.  I handled my confusion and fear by rejecting them all in the name of “quality” and the benefits of “traditional” publishing. I felt superior somehow; that crazy, new-fangled technology had to be fringe. By gum, it was just too kooky to really take hold.

Boy was I wrong.

And I’ve completely changed my mind. Now I want to learn how to format my own works so that I can bypass traditional publishing completely. Yep. That’s a dramatic pendulum swing. I suspect I’ll come back a bit by the time I settle down and really start publishing again.

Ah, technology. Gotta love it.

However, for those of us  — of a certain age — a battle continues to wage. We’re unwilling Luddites, too intimidated by many new technologies to embrace them and too embarrassed to know where to seek help. I don’t know how many of you have seen the Saturday Night Live mock commercial about the middle-aged guy who walks into a Verizon store

. . . well, it’s painfully accurate.

I doubt I’d have a cell phone if my work didn’t pay for it. I have a Twitter account that I never use b/c I keep expecting something newer, faster, etc etc to come out any second. I’ve signed up for virtual bill paying for some of my utilities, but still end up paying almost everything by a check in the mail. I think I have a PayPal account, but am not entirely sure I do. And so it goes . . .

The worst part of all, I can’t help but feel that the entire world is leaving me behind in the virtual dust of my ignorance.  I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but I don’t have any idea how to pull myself out without stripping off all of the bark  or breaking.

So I need your help.

First a couple of questions:

  1. What percentage of your  total bill paying, marketing etc do you do online?
  2. What convinced you to do that much (or little)?

And now for your advice:

  1. Where would be a good place for me to start becoming more tech-literate?
  2. Which would you start with first:
    1.  virtual bill-paying
    2. e-baying
    3.  self-publishing?
    4. Can you recommend a blog or source where I can get info that doesn’t sink into jargon after the second sentence?

I may be away from the computer a lot today and tomorrow, but I’ll respond to comments by Wed afternoon at the latest.


10 thoughts on “Virtual Everything

  1. Jake Nantz

    Hey Pari! My wife handles the bills each month, with me helping her sort the paper ones, but we pay almost all of them online. Wells Fargo has a lot of features on their web site that are secure (never had money go the wrong place or anything) and let you figure what your expenditures are each month if you're on a tight budget, like we usually are. I'd probably start there.

    Also, I don't tweet either, but I use twitter on my smart phone to follow others and just get a feel for what's going on in the world around me when I don't have time to watch the news one night or something. You can also do that from your computer. Maybe that would be less intimidating? Just a thought.

    As for where to go to get tech savvy, I have no idea, but if you find a spot be sure to post it. I'd kinda like to catch up a little myself.

  2. Ed Marrow

    Disclaimer: I am a geek, so your mileage may vary.

    We do 99.5% of all bills online. The sewer people won't let you. My wife and I have been doing it for years with not one problem. She does them from the iPad. The only reason we even have a desktop computer is that the printer doesnt like ipads.

    My recommendation with tech is to look at your Twitter. Think of it like a river you can watch go by. Trying to be up to date on Twitter is madness. Pick some people to follow and expand from there. The tech stuff will come. It'll be easier if you dont think of it like work.

    I don't do much ebay, but I do self pub. I think I made a mistake of pubbing before I had a good Twitter presence. I am not traditionally pubbed, so I have no built in audience (except my wife πŸ™‚ ) Most of my marketing is Twitter and FB.

    I'd be happy to answer any questions I can.

  3. Alaina

    I'm one of the technology generation and don't know much. (Yes, it happens.) Here's the main bit of advice: do one thing at a time. Once twitter, say, becomes a habit and you're used to it, go on to something else.

    Now, I don't do any marketing (yet) but I do bill-paying, mainly because it's an easy way to build up my credit score. Paypal has 'bill me later' which is, essentially, a credit card; I get one purchase on that a month, always something I can afford, and pay it off. I would recommend getting/remembering paypal accounts, even without the credit score, though. It is a generally-accepted way not to be spreading credit info around online.

    My next question is, do you do bills by mail because you like the paper trail, or just because it's habit? Because I would not recommend you start self-publishing without knowing how the money is getting to and from your bank account, and with self-publishing (or e-publishing), it may be all direct deposit and e-mailed statements. Why not try choosing one bill to pay online? Most websites have 'receipt' pages you print out after. Then more as you get comfortable.

  4. lil Gluckstern

    I am suffering from computer overload. I got a new iMac this spring, and I'm convinced it could prepare my dinner if i knew how to work it. Then I replaced my 19 year old Honda with a little Ford Fiesta which is really cute, but has buttons for everything. I feel like I'm in a commercial. I have been studying the manual as if it was a SAT Manual, and, oh yes, I'm a technophobe at the best of times. My solution is to rely on friends, and that ever-loving manual πŸ™‚ (Applecare is also useful-and no they didn't pay me to say that).

  5. Allison Davis


    I do my bills on line but via my bank and don't let the payee have access to my checking. That way I can control it. I set them all up on auto pay so I don't miss a bill and adjust the amount when I get the bill and get back on line. I have B of A to do this, but every bank does it now. I even have the app on my smart phone and can transfer funds in an instant. It'll make your life so much easier, save you money on stamps and checks.

    Stay away from E-bay for now, you don't need more stuff. If you want to sell things, check out Etsy.

    Facebook is a time suck but follow Alafair Burke or David Corbett as they have it down (although Alafair does post a lot). I really love Twitter and have been on since March 2009…it's easy and fun and I've met some great writers via that medium.

    Use dropbox and some of the other tools that Alex and others have posted about for writing and you'll feel smart. But limit the time you spend floating around the internet as it is a huge time suck.

  6. mary lynn

    My sympathies, Pari. I, too, have become a tecno-luddite and I spent 35 years working as a systems consultant. My son gave me a new computer for Christmas and it took me 2 months to decide to move my stuff from the old, dying computer to the new one.

    I pay 98% of our bills on-line, especially the recurring ones. I'm terrible about sitting down and writing the checks and then getting them mailed. Paying online takes just minutes. We use BofA and have for at least 8 or 10 years. If you have problems or questions they have lots of help available.

    My recommendation for help/and learning some of the more elementary online stuff is to find a young person, mildly geeky, and buy/barter some one-on-one assistance.

  7. Barbie

    Pari, e-bay is like, soooo last century… Seriously, today is all about Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Foursquare and OhMyGosh Instagram!

    I don't pay bills online because, really, a) I don't trust it, and b) my mom pays the bills anyway.

    But I'm all into the social media thing. I have a profile for everything. I like Twitter the best. I have like 24,500 tweets of pure… NOTHING. That's the point of tweeting, you tweet about whatever you're thinking, about nothing of importance at all. About how you're stuck in traffic, about how a certain song reminded you of someone, about how you feel like eating whatever. Of course, I'm not an author, so, I don't have responsibilities with anyone. But, really, the few authors I follow pretty much tweets things like that + about writing. I tweet about writing, too. Except less, since I write less. I'd start social networking with tweeting because it's SO MUCH fun! But most people like Facebook better, because all their family and friends are in it and they can talk to them and interact! πŸ™‚

    But, then, I'm a bored 24 year old. I'm a social networking PITA πŸ˜›

  8. David Corbett


    I find Allison's conviction that I have FB down rather amusing, because I get at best a handful of people commenting on anything I post — thought I got an overwhelming response to my birthday. I'm always envious of the writers who get 50-100+ fans trundling after their every word. Putzes.

    Ahem, as to your Q's:

    What percentage of your total bill paying, marketing etc do you do online?
    about 80-90%

    What convinced you to do that much (or little)?
    Convenience. Fewer trips to post office.

    And now for your advice:

    Where would be a good place for me to start becoming more tech-literate?
    The moon. (Seriously, there is no place, you just have to be willing to fiddle around and screw up. There's way too much out there, so be selective, get comfortable, and then venture out of your comfort zone once in a while. Next thing you know, you'll have a Ukrainian bride. Or a hard drive full of viruses.)

    Which would you start with first:
    virtual bill-paying YES
    e-baying NO
    self-publishing? WHEN YOU'RE READY

    Can you recommend a blog or source where I can get info that doesn’t sink into jargon after the second sentence?

    Seriously, as has often been said here, for epublishing the last word is always the first place to go: Jake Konrath's blog. From there you'll find links to most other sites and blogs worth checking out.

  9. Lisa Alber

    I've been thinking a lot about technology lately, because I'm FINALLY going to get a smartphone (iPhone). I feel like having a Facebook app, and a Twitter app (I need to get going on Twitter too), and whatever apps are out there will help me become quicker and more agile with all this social media stuff…

    Do you have a smartphone? (I'm sure you do–I'm a luddite when it comes to phones.) That might be the way to start actually. That way, anywhere you are, you can post a FB status, respond to someone, tweet, etcetera…

    I don't pay bills online. I'm stll leery about privacy stuff. Actually, truth be told, I don't mind doing that stuff by hand. Believe it or not, I actually reconcile my bank statement with my check/debit register each month! I find it relaxing for some reason…(geek alert!)

  10. Stephen D. Rogers

    Hey Pari,

    You're away from the computer. What does that mean? πŸ™‚

    The whole point of this whole smartphone thing is that you are never away from your computer, just as the whole point of the internet is that you are never away from answers, and the whole point of social networking tools is that you are never away from your peeps. It's all in your face, 24×7.

    As soon as you come to terms with that and embrace the end of personal space and time, the technology is relatively easy.


Comments are closed.