Social Media: Fun or Futile? How I Decided to Get Real or Get Out

Social Media Fun or Futile 2We authors are under a massive amount of pressure to build “author platforms.” It’s all about social media, they say. Blogging. Tweeting. Facebooking. Pinteresting.

YouTube! Google Plus! Goodreads! Shelfari!

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

On top of all this, naturally, we need to allow time to write the next book, take care of our families, and have some modicum of a personal life.

It can be a bit much.

When Gift of the Phoenix first released, I was neck-deep in the One and Only Year of Homeschooling. We knew it was going to be the One and Only Year going into it, and that’s just about the One and Only Thing that kept me from Losing My Ever-Loving Mind. Bless those people who homeschool year after year; I don’t know how they do it.

I had a lot of fun with my kids that year, don’t get me wrong. I nearly majored in education instead of creative writing (thank goodness I went with my true passion there!) so I like teaching, but trying to juggle homeschooling on top of all my other demands nearly drove me to the brink.

With my very limited time that year, it was either market Gift of the Phoenix OR write the next story. I couldn’t do both. I could hardly do one. I chose writing, and Nashua’s Choice was born.

So, once my kids were back in school and it was the Holy Year of Having My Life Back, I had time (kind of) to write AND market.

Oh glory be. Just what I always wanted!

I spent several months doing my homework and trying to become more social media savvy, all with the intent of trying to build a successful “author platform.” As with so many things in my life, it goes about like this: research and think and ponder, research and think and ponder, lather, rinse, repeat until I feel I understand something thoroughly and know how I’m going to go about it.

THEN I do it. With gusto.

Same goes for this whole marketing thing. I spent countless hours consuming information on the Internet and gleaning advice from knowledgeable friends. It was overwhelming, no question, but also informative and helpful.

Here’s a little side note (it all circles back, I promise): I’m a terrible salesman. I hate being “sold to” and I hate doing that to others. I’ve never had a sales job and never, ever will. (God willing.)

For that reason, when I started doing book signings, which are technically a form of marketing and definitely a place to sell books, I made an important decision from the very get go.

I AM NOT THERE TO SELL THE BOOK.

I’m really not. I’m there to talk to people. When I made that decision for myself, I saw book signings in a whole new way.

I’m just there to talk to people. That I can do. I actually like meeting people. People are freaking interesting.

Yeah, I start by telling them about the book. But really, the book needs to sell itself. Either it’s the kind of story that’s going to interest them or it isn’t. People who are going to like my book will be drawn in by the cover, and captured by the blurb on the back or the first few pages. I have a little blurb I share that tells a bit more.

That’s it.

If they like the sound of it, I sign a book. If not, I don’t. I don’t fuss and I don’t take it personally. Look, I’m a reader too and I totally get that connecting with a book is personal. I have enough confidence in the book itself to believe that if the blurb sparks some interest, the story will deliver.

I’m not trying to make sales. I’m trying to connect with readers. I’m perfectly happy if someone borrows my book from the library or from a friend. I’d rather GIVE a book away to someone who’s going to read it than make royalties on a book that’s just going to sit on a shelf unread. If they read it and love it, that’s what matters most.

So, here’s the point. I don’t go to book signings with the mentality of a salesman. I go with the mentality of a human being.

I ask what kind of books they like to read. I ask for recommendations or give recommendations to them. At just about every signing I meet an aspiring writer, and when I do, I give tips and encouragement. (Young aspiring writers are my absolute FAVORITE!)

I’m just myself. Chatting with people. I have a blast. (As it happens, the book sells well too.)

Now, back to social media.

The obvious advice is: be yourself. It’s a conversation. An interaction with other human beings.

I’ve heard this plenty of times.

The trouble is, this advice is mixed and diluted with advice like: blog about hot topics in your subject matter, incorporate key search terms, build around a niche topic, link to as many social platforms as you can, build followers, DRIVE YOURSELF NUTS, etc, etc, etc.

Tricks and salesmanship. At least, that’s what it felt like to me.

Some people are naturally good at all those things, and so they don’t come across as fake. It’s NOT tricks for them.  They’re playing to their strengths and that completely rocks. For them.

Me? If I never had to sign on to Facebook again I’d be deliriously happy. (Though, after resisting Twitter for as long as I could, I finally signed up only to discover I love it.)

Then I had an ah-ha moment. I realized that just like I played to my strengths and decided to just be myself at book signings, I could do the same thing with my “author platform.”

I decided I was going to do what’s right for me and what’s natural for me, or I wasn’t going to do it at all.

I asked myself, what do I LIKE about all this social media stuff?

The same thing I like about book signings: meeting interesting people and talking about whatever random thing pops into my head.

One of my favorite early experiences on Twitter was a brief interaction with a man who wrote about his experiences in Jerusalem. He had some interesting pictures to share, including a picture from the top of one of the city walls.

I didn’t know you could walk right on top of the walls like that. I found that fascinating! And told him so!

I doubt he’d be interested in my book and I don’t care. HE enriched MY life by teaching me something new. That’s what people do when we let them in. Our interactions with each other can be so brief sometimes, but sometimes those brief interactions touch me enough that I remember and value them months later.

So that’s what I’ve been trying to seek out on social media. The people and things that interest me.

I’m keeping it real, or I’m not going to bother.

(The above post is a slightly modified excerpt of a post that originally appeared on my author blog. You can read the whole thing here if you want. I brought this over because I’ve been moving my writing-related posts to this here new-fangled editor’s blog, which is where such posts will appear from now on.

Here’s a little update for you: In the year since I came to this Get-Real-or-Get-Out Revelation, I’ve learned a lot about social media and my place in it. I’ve learned some things about myself and the way I like to blog. I’m still figuring things out and evolving. I’ll probably talk about that in an upcoming post, so keep an eye out.

But I hold to the underlying message. Don’t try to be a salesman. Just be yourself. )

What’s your approach to social media?

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    This is a really salient post. I’ve written a few books, none I’ve put out, but the current one I’m working on is coming out, one way or the other, so what am I doing, with my blog? Well, still struggling a little, but really, my focus is on writing about/learning things I’m interested in (that actually do relate to the stuff I write about), and engaging with anyone interested in those topics who’s willing to talk to me about them… because that’s fun, for me.

    I try to think of my blog as its own practice. The stuff I’m trying to get in the habit of doing there is stuff that I want to do, anyway – having nothing to do with my fiction writing. It (the blog) needs to stand on its own, as something I’m interested in that’s fun, or it’s not going to work.

    • 2

      Donna CookDonna Cook says

      I completely agree. Very few people can sustain a blog when the only reason for doing so is marketing. There has to be something else you’re getting out of it (or putting into it). Finding your way, and figuring out what’s going to work for you over the long haul, is half the battle.

      Good luck with your book Steven, and thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      • 3

        says

        “Finding your way, and figuring out what’s going to work for you over the long haul, is half the battle.”

        Absolutely! A good reason to blog is to figure out what that means (or doesn’t), for you!

        Thanks for the post!

  2. 4

    says

    I truly believe that people that choose to be real, and genuinely interact with others are the ones that will be successful in life. Because you want to connect, rather than sell books makes me want to go to one of your book signings and but a book!

    • 5

      Donna CookDonna Cook says

      LOL! That’s hilarious. It’s funny how sometimes the best way to sell is to not try to sell. But it’s not like I never do things to try to sell my book. That’s obviously part of the reason I go to conventions. But when someone’s standing in front of me, if all I see is a potential sale, I think that taints things. At least, for me. I’d much rather see someone for what they are: a potentially interesting person that might be fun to connect with for a while.

      Thanks for the comment!

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