I say to a friend, “I wonder what Sarah is up to. I haven’t heard from her since we were in that writers’ group three years ago.”
Friend: “I haven’t heard from her either. I googled her once, but she doesn’t have a website, and she’s not on Facebook.”
Me: “I wonder if she’s still working on that novel. She’s such a good writer.”
Friend, shrugging: “Who knows. It doesn’t seem like anyone from the group has heard from her.”
Fast forward one year and I get a friend request from Sarah. And I get an email from Sarah. And Sarah follows me on Twitter. And Sarah sends me a LinkedIn request. And every single message from Sarah says, “Hey guys! My book is out! Please spread the word!”
Am I going to rush out to buy Sarah’s book, to attend her readings, to “spread the word”? Mmm, probably not. Sarah has made no effort to keep in touch with me until she needed something, so by advertising Sarah’s new book for her, I’m going to feel a little … used.
BUT, you may argue, Sarah has been busy writing and revising and perfecting her book instead of wasting all her time on social media. Doesn’t she deserve some credit for that? Sure, if she’s willing to rely on traditional media to get the word out about her book. If radio interviews and book reviews and ads in the New Yorker are all she needs, more power to her. But if she wants the help of her friends through social media, then she needs to be a friend, and she needs to be social.
That doesn’t mean that she has to spend all her time Instagramming and building her blog instead of working on her book, but it does mean that she should make some effort—even just by friending people on Facebook and posting pictures of her dog now and then—to keep in touch with people if she expects them to help her out when she needs it.
Be a friend, and your friends will want to support you when your book comes out. But if you wait until your book comes out to get in touch with people, that will make them feel icky. And no one likes feeling icky.