This is the fourth in a 5 part series debunking your excuses (and mine) for avoiding social media. Part 1 (But no-one’s reading it!) is here; Part 2 (But I don’t have anything of value to say!) is here and Part 3 (But I don’t have time!) is here.
4. But what’s in it for me?
We covered already how you probably don’t have loads of extra time you’re desperate to fill with 140 character witticisms. And you grudgingly agreed you could make the time if you needed to. But maybe you’re still wondering if it’s worth finding the time to do it; i.e. what do you really get out of this?
Well, I mean, first of all it’s fun. (Maybe a little too fun at times.) I’d be surprised if you didn’t get some personal value out of participating. Case in point: I had dinner with Robin Hobb this week.* Robin Hobb has been my favourite author, and total writing idol, for the better part of two decades, and my two sisters and I took her out to dinner on Tuesday – just the four of us. I’ll just sit here for a while and enjoy having been able to type that sentence. *basks* Thanks to social media I have gotten to know my favourite writer and now have an actual relationship with her (even a friendship, privileged as I am to say it). Through social media you can make new friends, learn new things, see different perspectives, enjoy new and creative ways to make fun of Christopher Pyne. There are a lot of upsides in it for you personally.
But it’s also got major upsides for you as a writer.
Ultimately, like my son’s nappy, like so much in life, what you get out of it depends what you put in. I said before social media is about communication, and it is. As an author, as I see it, this boils down to two key things social media can do for your career:**
- Connecting and building relationships with your readers
One of the greatest things about the modern age, in my view, is this amazing opportunity we have to connect with people. You like someone’s work? You can tell them, quickly, succinctly, that you like it. Maybe you can have a conversation with them. Learn more about them and their work. Worm your way into their affections by sending them cute wombat pictures. What? No, not that one.***
If you’re a writer, this works for you. You share a part of yourself on social media and it gives readers of your work a chance to build a connection with you – a relationship, of sorts – which is satisfying for them and can make really loyal fans out of your readers. A reader who has a personal connection with you is more likely to be the type of reader who will buy your books on the day they come out, review them, recommend them and lend them to friends. And – spoiler alert! – those are the very best kinds of readers to have.
- Helping you reach new readers
The other cool thing it can do for you – if you’re good at it (and that’s the subject of the next and final post) – is help you reach new readers. Another case in point: since I joined twitter and started participating in the last couple of month, I’ve found at least half a dozen new writers who are funny and/or interesting or otherwise engaging on twitter and become fans of their work. In a couple of cases I’ve bought their whole back catalogue. I found Chuck Wendig because of his awesome, hilarious and surprisingly wise blog on writing (if you don’t follow it, you should: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ unless you’re easily offended by swearing, in which case you shouldn’t, and also you should probably try to not be offended by stuff so much). I’ve read books I’ve adored in genres I don’t usually enjoy because friends have posted Goodreads reviews on FB. All in all, over the course of this year and solely because of social media, I’ve bought more new books and tried more new authors than probably the last three or four years combined. If you’re active on social media and you build relationships there, you might find yourself reaching people who would never have seen your book in a bookshelf or had a reason to pick you out of a crowd.
In summary: there’s plenty to like about social media, so stop thinking about it in terms of something you have to do because you think publishers or agents want or expect or demand it (i.e. an annoying chore) and start thinking about it as a way to better communicate and connect with other readers & writers which will help your book reach more people.
Next time (the last instalment, I promise), But I’m no good at it! In which I opine that if you put in a bit of effort, it’s not that hard to be decent at using social media, unless you have absolutely no redeeming personality traits and are incapable of faking them (in which case, maybe a job based entirely on communicating with people isn’t actually your ideal career).
* If you don’t know who Robin Hobb is, go read her immediately. IMMEDIATELY. What are you still doing here? You’ve got like 17 books to get through, minimum, and we already covered how busy you are.
** You will note that neither of these things is the ability to spam people and shove your book down their virtual throats like a foul tasting virtual book-gag that smells like socks and desperation. Don’t do that.
*** Sidebar: Just saw a tweet from an author asking that people not send her emails with pictures of their dong. I didn’t think this needed saying, but maybe it does: for fuck’s sake don’t send pictures of your dong – or your ladybits, whatever – to strangers. Even strangers who wrote books you like. Or, indeed, to anyone who hasn’t expressly asked for it. I cannot stress this enough.