I’m not like others who give writing advice, saying others should do what I do. It’s just cathartic for me to blog about what I feel I MUST do in order to be a better writer. For me, marketing my books is the most awful part of being a writer. Several pundits of how we should write say you must spend many hours each week on many different social sites, making thousands of “friends” and talking to them about your books. Stephen King, on the other hand says we should spend half our working author time reading and the other half writing. He says nothing about spending gobs of time on social sites. I’ll go with Stephen above all the pundits of conventional wisdom.
Social sites are like crack heroin; you get hooked easily and become an addict. A similarity with hard drugs is that it’s your friends who get you hooked, saying, “Try this. I’m doing it.” So then you spend time with them on their social sites and pretty soon your trading messages with their other friends on the site and the friends of their friends and before you know it you have over a thousand “friends” on a dozen social sites. You must log into each of those sites daily and reply to all your hundreds of messages and write your own with an eye toward marketing your work. You can’t afford to ignore any of these new “friends” because they might be about to buy your book. Am I right?
Once, in the middle of writing my fourth novel, I realized I was addicted to social sites and wasn’t writing anything anymore. My fourth novel was languishing to the point where I almost forgot how the story was supposed to go. I went cold turkey and YAY! It felt so good, like when I gave up smoking many years ago. I was free! Free from a form of slavery that will suck the muse right out of you. Caution: don’t do this because I say so. Who am I to say? I haven’t written any best sellers yet.
It takes many years for a new author to build a reader base. And that’s the reason I don’t have a reader base yet. Are my novels good enough to have lots of avid readers? I think so. Judge for yourself. My first full length novel, Maginaugh, is free on Smashwords and very low cost on Amazon and all other retail sites so give it a try, it gets very good reviews and sold very well, even back when it wasn’t free. I just personally can’t find it within my somewhat antisocial self to create my reader base by messaging and posting on social sites. I’m not saying I never go to them. I do a social site, only one at a time, about twice a week, spending no more than an hour there, just keeping my hand in the game.
So if you’re still reading this post and are curious about what I mean by “scary social sites,” I’ll give you a list with reasons. I hope the site owners don’t come after me with law suits. Shh don’t tell them. Obscurity is my best safeguard.
Goodreads. They recently sent me a survey asking me, on a scale of zero to ten how likely I was to recommend Goodreads to friends and give them my reasons. I scored them a one on their survey. I would have given them a zero but occasionally I have made some very good friends there and even had Maginaugh chosen as book of the month in one of the groups once and had a nice group discussion about the book. That was a rare bit of fun in a bad place. I told Goodreads I scored them a one because it’s a scary place for readers because they get hooked on arguing with each other about books so much that I think most of the active members have no time left to actually read and are lying about how much they are currently reading. It’s one of those social lies like, “Oh I never watch TV,” meant to impress their friends.
I told Goodreads that they are an even more scary place for authors because 99% of the active member of 99% of the groups have an active hatred of writers. If you go into one of those groups they will gang rape you (metaphorically). If you tell them you’re an author they will jump on you en masse and beat you up verbally, robbing you of every shred of self-respect. Artists talk big sometimes but really they all have fragile egos. So if you’re a writer, beware of this if you go into Goodreads. I think the hatred of authors basically stems from jealousy. Almost everyone has a dream of writing a novel but few have the perspicacity to actually accomplish it.
Facebook. Have you seen the garbage people post there? I mean OMG! Before Facebook this kind of garbage was sent out to a friends list through email. Do you remember that? If you do, you might remember how your inbox was so full of “funny” cat movies, politically oriented “jokes,” frothy religious sayings, and so many other wastes of time that you had to tell your friends to stop sending such crap or you would be forced to block them, or mark them as spam. They didn’t stop of course, they were already hooked on this ridiculous “drug” and simply switched to Facebook and Twitter (harder drugs) to post their spam and read their friend’s spam, answering friends with short one-liners like “LOL, so funny!” The one line replies and “Likes” are the “high” — the reward from using the drug that gets users addicted. I know one serious author who writes damn good novels but only publishes one every three or four years. Why? Because she is so busy posting crap on Facebook every day, five or six times a day. Who has time while doing that to finish a novel? About one post in ten of hers are good and interesting but I’ve stopped looking at her posts when I went cold turkey on social media. Too much time was wasted!
Twitter. Even worse than Facebook. It’s purpose from the get-go was pimping of commercial products and politicians. For both of those commodities Twitter is the perfect medium because it limits you to one or two lines of text, perfect for commercial slogans. Many best selling authors use Twitter because it’s perfect for them too. Everybody knows their name so Twitter junkies who are also book readers will instantly know when their favorite author Tweets that she has come out with a new book. So I guess Twitter has a place and a purpose for some writers but not for me, not as a new author or as a reader. I don’t think any book that can be summarized meaningfully in a Tweet is worth my time to read it or the money to buy it.
Role playing video games. These are also social sites. Addicts spend the majority of their of time chatting with other players rather than trying to “win.” Nobody wins a a role playing video game. There is no ultimate “end” to the game, no “ultimate goal.” Most of these games are based on a fantasy world so some writers of fantasy, like myself, justify playing these games as “research” in world building and fantasy character building. Bah, I say! You want to do such research, read a book — less time will be wasted. Warning: role playing video games are VERY addictive. Many addicts spend more than 12 hours a day playing them. That will really suck up your writing time, I know from experience.
These are only a few of the more popular sites but there are many others such as Instagram and Snapchat. All of these sites have one thing in common — the main activity in the site is chatting with other members. It’s the main way today’s version of the human race converse among themselves — Internet social media. So if you want to be part of the conversation, you are almost forced to use social media. I’m in a semi-professional choir and the director almost insists that we all use Facebook so that we can chat with all our thousands of “friends” about what the choir is doing, e.g., pimping upcoming concerts. I resist doing this. It’s like an invasive weed in a beautiful garden.
Really? Is this how you really want to spend your time? If so, you’ll probably sell more books than me, other things being even. But I’ll have more time to write more books than you with solid research and lots of time spent editing them. I’ll also enjoy real life more. So I went cold turkey on all these social media things. I now communicate with only about six people on Facebook and maybe four people on Goodreads, only those who have something of substance to say but don’t want to send email. My real friends communicate with me primarily in email. Want to be one of my real friends? Write to me at email@example.com — don’t “friend” me on a social site please.