Author Takes a Break from Social Media and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

You’ve seen those headlines before; they’re the lifeblood of the Internet. Click on this link! Come to our website! Read this amazing, yet mainly insubstantial, article and our site will win the Internet! Clicks and links and counters and imprints, that’s the language of today’s marketing. Half of what writers write about these days has to do with maintaining one’s digital presence, their platform and the posts are full of hyperlinks. Maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Foursquare, Google+, or expect to die a slow professional death because no one will ever read your book. Or buy your handmade tea cozy. Or support your brilliant idea for saving the world. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Where’d you go?  

I didn’t really take a break; what am I, crazy? There was about a week and a half when I went radio silent due to a family issue, but I came back and posted something on my Facebook author page. Because 189 followers hadn’t heard from me in over 8 days. Eight days! That’s an eternity on the Internet.  (By the way, go here to “Like” my page. I’m behind in “Likes”.) I know the importance of keeping my finger on the pulse of social media . . . and on my keyboard. I have several issues with this social media reality for writers and the main one is what is has always been: I’m not that great at being “social.” In real life or the virtual world. But if I want to be a Successful Author, this is what I must do.

And I suppose I can do it in some fashion. What bothers me is that so much of what I see and read on the Internet is the 21st century version of yellow journalism. Especially all of those “come-on” headlines. In addition, much of the promotion that shows up on the Internet is the result of savvy marketing teams and unrelenting publicists. They are the reason for all those “Ten Best Books for _____!!” Fill in the blank: 2015, Summer, Romances, Memoirs, Cooks, Parents and on and on. So, in addition to being Internet confident, an author has to have a team or at the very least a publicist who will place your book in front of the places people are looking. If you’re doing it yourself, like I am, you run the risk of being the subject of a blog I read recently in which the writer pleaded with authors to, “Please Shut Up!” She maintains that none of this stuff really works; people don’t go on Instagram to buy books. And yet, it is expected and required.

A writer I know is nearing the completion of her stunningly written memoir and threatens to not finish it because she will not be good at this digital platform stuff. She jokes (I hope) about this, but considering all the work that is required to promote a book, after the Herculean effort that has been exerted in writing a book, it can be daunting. It’s like Sisyphus getting that boulder up the mountain only to discover the apex is actually the base of yet another mountain. It would be a shame for her book not to see the light of day because of the requirements of self-promotion, but hopefully, the existence or absence of a digital platform will not determine the worth of good, old-fashioned brilliant writing.

Self-promotion is not my long suit. I have a Blog, a website, a personal Facebook page, a Facebook Author page, an Amazon author page, a Goodreads author page, a Twitter account, a Pinterest account, and this SheWrites blog.  I don’t maintain all of them, but every once in awhile I check in. Unfortunately, I have stumbled upon another website called Canva where you can design your own promotional materials. (Check out that Facebook page and you’ll see!) I had a conversation with another author who is equally entranced with Canva and she complained that now she has even less time for writing. And that is the cruelest outcome of all: That which is required of us keeps us from doing what we really, truly want to spend our time on.

So, when I log on to my Facebook page to survey my virtual domain and the status box encourages me to “Write something” some days, that’s exactly what I do.

 

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Comment by Nancy McMillan on January 30, 2016 at 7:48am

Cindy,

Thanks for this post.  You are spot on with the frustrations and limitations of social media and the need to keep up the numbers.  I keep wondering if there will be a backlash at some point and everyone will just stop and go back to doing it the "old-fashioned" way, connecting with "live" readers, one by one, but I'm probably dreaming.  I know that there can be value in connecting on social media, can it's also a time-suck and feels like a shot in the dark most of the time. And Grammy-day sounds like much more fun!

Comment by DelRica on January 29, 2016 at 8:19pm

As a writer, I understand it and yes it's quite overwhelming.  As a reader, I abhor it.  It comes off as a bother when I constantly see writers posting.  Some do it best, only post things about events and readings.  Your personal views can deter me from ever reading your work again.  I think it should be taken into consideration.

Comment by Irene Allison on January 27, 2016 at 11:11pm

Cindy, thank you for this! I feel the same way about the energy and time that social media absorbs, how overwhelming it can be, how it can interfere with our writing.

Everyone says that it is absolutely essential for writers to be deeply engaged in social media but I think a lot of that time is simply wasted if, as Kelly points out so well, we don't make real connections and use it in a judicious way. 

Plus I can't help thinking that there must be other, better, and different ways to connect with readers, rather than "adding to the 'noise' of our already noisy, busy world". I think it has to do with connecting, real connections, starting locally, and /or with others who hold common interests. I guess I'm just yearning for the human in all this! 

And I'm only just starting out: I posted my first ever (!) blog on this site a few weeks ago, (SWP [Behind the Book] A Mother-Daughter Book: From Challenges to Possibility). And I don't plan to do a regular blog from my website, but hope to post on other sites from time to time.

Time is so precious. Writing is precious. Connection too, real connection. Finding a balance in it all is the trick!

Thanks for the chat, everyone, I've enjoyed it! Good luck.

Comment by Kelly Hayes-Raitt on January 27, 2016 at 9:08am

I'm GRATEFUL for social media!  While I agree that all these lists of what we "should" do to promote our work can feel overwhelming.  The truth is -- in most cases -- blogs, posts, twitters, feeds don't sell books, RELATIONSHIPS do.  These social media platforms are tools for creating relationships.  ...And they take a whole lot less time than scheduling and promoting book signings and other public presentations.

My suggestion:  Pick one or two platforms you enjoy working, find where your potential readers hang out and hang out there with them.  For example, I housesit full-time and rent out my own home for income as a way of financing my writing and traveling.  I belong to 3 closed Facebook groups for housesitters.  I like hanging out there and learning new tips and providing advice from my housesitting experience and I've gained many new friends -- both FB and real-life friends.  Think they'll buy my book when it's ready?  Do they forward links of my newspaper column when I post?  You betcha!  I spend as much or as little time as my schedule allows and it took about 3 months to become a "regular."

As writers -- as humans -- our greatest asset is our time.  Focus your time and energy in a few strategic places and you'll see greater reward for time spent...

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!


 

Comment by Cindy Eastman on January 27, 2016 at 7:54am

Oh, the irony! Yesterday, when I should have been all over this post and my digital presence, I was light years away, babysitting my 4-year-old grandson for our weekly "Gramma-Day." I was able to sneak away for the quick Facebook check, but mostly I was making hot cocoa and walking to the market for some treats! I love that the 2 writers I spoke about have posted here, as well as all the other honest and open remarks about the truly shared experience of balancing our writing responsibilities with our desire to write. And there are new "Likes" on my Facebook page. :)  I don't know how I'll keep up with it all, but it's nice to know I'm not alone on this digital journey. Thanks!

Comment by Karoline Barrett on January 26, 2016 at 3:44pm

This is so true!   I do Facebook (regular and author page), About.Me, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. I think that's it! And I work full-time besides writing! Oh yes, and I have a blog, which I've neglected. So hard to think of topics!! But, it is a necessity.  I try to do 1/3 about my books, 1/3 about my personal side, and 1/3 other people! 

Comment by Iris Waichler on January 26, 2016 at 2:44pm

Thank you for you post. It was very timely for me. I was speaking to a publicist yesterday about the need for me to begin a blog site which I am not eager to do. She told me in her experience blogs do not sell books. I have to confess I was happy to hear that and willing to accept it. I don't know what is true. You so accurately outlined the dilemma we are in balancing writing what we want on our own terms and having to maintain mx social media sites hoping it will invite followers to buy and read our books. 

Comment by Roni Beth Tower on January 26, 2016 at 1:25pm

Thank you for this.  The conflicts between saying something worthwhile and selling myself (rather than my work) are keeping me up at night as I struggle through choices that face me as an old  author writing to a non-academic audience for the first time.  

Comment by Victoria Chames on January 26, 2016 at 11:49am
Arrrrggghhhhhh! You're so right. I find myself sometimes resenting all this self-advertising stuff, and other computer-required distractions. I get a knot in my stomach every time I see the clock hands advancing and the writing is not. Even commenting here - but I know I need to meet and communicate with other writers, and as a new-kid (at 70-something) starting a 3rd career, I am starting at square-1. I need to find my tribe, and make the most efficient use of time. (Suggestions welcomed and appreciated.)
Comment by Michelle Cox on January 26, 2016 at 10:53am

Great post, Cindy!  I have written about this subject, too.  And you're right, it is very much a Sisyphean (is that a word?) task to market and promote after having finally finished the book.  It would be one thing if the time spent on social media was a guaranteed ticket to book success, but it isn't necessarily.  That's the part that bites.  I checked out Delilah Dawson's blog that you mentioned above and enjoyed it very much, particularly this part:  

[I went to a panel on How to Write a Bestseller at the RWA conference and asked the two speakers what was the number one contributor to their making the jump from midlist to bestseller, and they both looked very uncomfortable and said, "We just kept on writing." They couldn't point to a single marketing-related action. They sure as hell didn't say, "We sent a lot of auto-DMs on Twitter with our book links in them." ]


So the answer seems to be (happily) keep writing - while trying not to drown.  

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