Once upon a time, when a group of writers got together, they would talk about their WIPs (works in progress), or the difficulties with their publisher/not having a publisher, or how good the coffee was. Nowadays, apparently inevitably, the conversation always seems to end up on social media. What’s the best one? What gets the best sales? How do you manage having so many different ones? How often should you blog? And so on.
In the discussions I’ve had with various writers, many feel social media is necessary but a pain. Necessary, because we all want to be noticed in the sea of writers out there. A pain, because they’d rather be writing. As far as I can see, that means there are two challenges to social media:
- how to get noticed
- how not to give your life over to it
There are lots of posts and training courses out there offering advice on point 1, so I’m not going to answer those questions. Instead I’m going to look at:
How NOT to get stuck on the social media roundabout.
First of all – keep in mind the WHY, not just the HOW. Why are you on social media? It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in all those questions I mentioned, like finding the best platform, how often to post, trying to turn posts into sales etc. Yes, we need to be able to be found, but the reason for that is because we want people to read our writing. If you keep this in mind, it will help you stay motivated to keep your writing as your number one priority, and to make social media a lower priority. Of course, if your aim is to be a social media personality, not a writer, then you can stop reading this post right now.
Next, take an honest look at time versus outcome. How many sales do you actually get from spending hours on Twitter? How many of your followers are actually buying your books? Each platform has ways you can measure this, such as ‘click throughs’ and other analytics. Work out how to use these! It’s nice to get warm, fuzzy feelings from having lots of followers, but if this isn’t translating into genuine interest in your books then either you’re wasting your time, or you might need a different message. This may mean tweaking what you post, or it may actually mean focusing your energy elsewhere.
Also, find a time management tool that works for you. I use an ap called Writeometer to focus on my writing without distraction. It turns my phone into a timer for 25 minutes. If I try to exit to check social media it asks me sternly if I really need to break my writing time. There are other aps that will lock your access to social media for a set amount of time. Look, social media is addictive. It’s designed to be that way. Which is one of the reasons writers feel it is a pain – because they know it takes away from writing time but they can’t always help themselves. At the end of your life, do you want your Wikipedia entry to have 12 books on it, or 5? Is it worth sacrificing all those unwritten novels to flick through funny cat pictures? Seriously? So if you’re addicted to scrolling, don’t be ashamed to use electronic tools to help break the cycle!
Finally, and most importantly, write good books, or, as Neil Gaiman says, ‘make good art’. There is no magic formula for getting noticed – some of it is luck, some of it is perserverance, but some of it is being good at what you do. You may spend ten hours a week crafting a huge social media presence, but if your writing doesn’t sing, if your story doesn’t excite, you won’t sell books. Ok, I can think of a couple of exceptions to this (terribly written books that have sold very well) but bestselling authors are usually at the top because they are VERY good at what they do, which is write compelling books.
While you’re sitting on the social media roundabout, spinning endlessly, you could be improving your writing craft. You could be catching the fireflies of inspiration, listening to the whispers of stories waiting to be told, crafting characters that want to be in the world. Thanks for reading. Now go write!