So recently I went to a writer’s conference on breaking into the publishing world and how to cultivate success as a self-publisher.
What, I’m sure you’re asking, was the big take away? Well, I’ve got two words for you: Social. Media. And coming in at a close third—in what basically amounts to a buzzword photo-finish—was platform. A trifecta of trendy slogans, which sorta ruffle all my writerly feathers in all the wrong ways.
Did we talk about writing good—nay, great—books? Sure, a little.
But not nearly so much as we talked about platform building, online presence, and your social media footprint. You need Twitter! The gurus demand. And Facebook—egads, we can’t forget Facebook. Plus, Instagram and Tumbler and Snapchat and Pokemon Go! Basically, if you want to succeed as an author, you better damn-well own the internet—the whole thing—because how in the nine hells are people going to know about your books, unless you Twitter-vomit all over them every thirty-seconds? Here’s an actual* Twitter conversation I’ve seen:
@EveryoneEverywhere Hey, did you know I wrote a book? I did. It’s awesome. Buy it.
@EveryoneEverywhere But seriously, why haven’t you picked up a copy? It’s the best part of every book, ever written all blundered and mashed into one awesome book. Buy it. Buy it now.
@EveryoneEverywhere Just buy my shit already! Buy my shit! Buy my shit!
@AnnoyingSpamBotAuthor What are you doing?! Is that a digital gun in your hand!?!?!?
@EveryoneEverywhere You’re damn right. This is a Twitter mugging. Just take out your wallet, head over to my Amazon page, and buy my book, Billionaire Unicorn Sexy-Time Adventure**, and no one gets hurt.
Now, in all seriousness, having an online presence is important—I have a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. But the way some of these “insiders” sell it, if you don’t already have a thousand-million followers on Twitter you might as well just give up on the book business, because no one is gonna be interested in little ol’ you. But that’s a bunch of horsecrap, especially when it comes to fiction (though admittedly in non-fiction circles, platform can be more important. For example, trying to write a Celebrity Weight-Loss Self-Help book only works if you’re a celebrity).
I started off with no online presence and my online footprint is still pretty small, but I’m making my living as a full-time inkslinger. Yes, Facebook and other social media platforms can help you sell a few books, though, conversely, those platforms can also cost you sales if you go around spamming people constantly with your Twitter feed. I unfollow writers who constantly blast me with “buy my shit” links. Sure a little self-promotion once in a while is fine, but mostly use your social media outlets to be … well, social. Be cool. Be yourself. Find something worthwhile to say.
And if you can’t?
If the idea of being a blogger/social media ninja creates a swell of claustrophobic anxiety in your chest?
Then DON’T DO IT.
In my experience, social media can turn into a sinkhole, eating up your time and effort without providing a lot in return. Yes, as an author, you should have a website to direct readers to, but it can be as little as a landing page with some very basic info. You should also create a mailing list—that’s a worthwhile investment, folks—but the best thing you can do with your time is write. Write awesome-freaking-books that people want to read. And keep writing those books, because the best marketing, the best advertising is your next book.
*Actual = nope, completely made up.
** Not a real book, but I bet there’s some weird niche market for it …
What are your thoughts? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?