Saturday, November 22, 2014

Query Question: social media is not fungible

 I really despise facebook and twitter.  It's a personality thing I am sure.  I find it also addictive and confusing.  It feels like many of the agents and other writers and youtubers etc, they just are sort of using each other for numbers or something. Does that really work? Do numbers of followers equate to sales really? Many of the writers I followed seemed more like tweeters than real writers. I want to be joyful about my career path and it feels like facebook and twitter suck that away and un-motivate me. Could I just have my platform efforts be selective as I go along, just youtube and a blog?  Vlogging is a lot of fun.  I could do it regularly and improve at it.  Is it necessary I try to gather numbers of followers and friends?  I know you have said it doesn't matter in some ways, but I also think it seems to. There is so much referring to twitter and facebook.

It's ok to despise Facebook and Twitter. It's NOT ok to ignore them as useful tools. When  your book
is published, you'll want to be skilled in a variety of social media platforms because you want to be able to reach your readers where THEY are, not where  you are.

That said, it's totally ok to prefer one platform to another as you start out. Get good on one, learn another. If you're good at vlogging, and youtubing, build your audience there. Then learn how to promote your vlogging and youtbuing on Facebook and Twitter. You don't have to like it to utilize it.

As to whether it sells books: like all publicity methods there is no way to quantify results. I know that drives many people nuts. (Some of those people are my clients in fact.)  My philosphy as a publicist (back in the day) was "do everything you can to promote your book, and then one more thing." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I do know for an ironclad fact that people don't buy books they've never heard of.


Anonymous said...

'My philosophy as a publicist (back in the day) was "do everything you can to promote your book, and then one more thing." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.'

But, at least with this level of effort, a writer would know they'd done everything they could.

Elissa M said...

I agree with Donna. Also:

"I do know for an ironclad fact that people don't buy books they've never heard of."

Social media gives me hives. So far I haven't been able to do any more than stand on the shore and look out over the waters. Since my writing isn't ready for prime time yet, I'm not not going to push myself to dip my toes in yet. When I'm ready to query, I'll get my feet wet with one or two platforms. I'll expand my presence as I hit milestones (sign with an agent, get a book deal, etc.).

It's much less daunting if I tell myself I don't have to jump off the high dive first thing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Years ago I read quote in Reader’s Digest, of all places, by actor Will Smith, of all people. It is pinned to a small bulletin board in my office. When I am tired, frustrated or pissed because another roadblock or stumbling block has appeared, like FB or Twitter, or an agent just doesn’t seem to get me and I must move on - again - I refer to it.
“There is no greater pain than not achieving a dream when it is your fault. If God did not want you to have it, that is one thing. But if you do not get what you desire because you are lazy, there is no pain worse than that.”

Author Giora said...

I like your response: "Reach your readers where they are, not where you are."

french sojourn said...

I find I have to limit what I post on facebook....sometimes the temptation to try and educate the masses about how correct my politics are. Absolute worst thing one can post. But now I am trying to focus on a writing blog.

Twitter....I guess I have to jump in...I've been putting it off to long. Maybe I can visit a few people here.

Great post.

Colin Smith said...

Darn! Elissa beat me to the punch with that line--I was going to quote it, because that's the key to marketing. How do people hear of something unless someone tells them?

I can't say I'm really comfortable with promoting "me and my stuff"--but if I want people to read my work, there's no alternative. And there are so many options these days. As Janet says, pick the one or two you're most comfortable with and get as good as you can with them.

However, I try to use social media as more than just a way to drum up numbers and get eyes on my blog. I actually *like* people, and for all my social awkwardness, enjoy interacting with fellow human beings. So for me, Twitter is about making genuine connections with people. Which is also why I'll sometimes get a bit verbose in blog comments and post multiple comments to respond to people. :D

Colin Smith said...

@Carolynn: I read "FB" as "FBI"... and I wondered for a moment what kind of roadblocks you were talking about. You have to be careful with that Google research... people are watching...!

Of course, I have just been reading EVEN by Andrew Grant, so I have the FBI on the brain... :)

Colin Smith said...

@french sojourn: When you get on Twitter, look me up: @colin_d_smith. I know of at least a couple other QOTKU blog regulars on Twitter, too. :)

Anonymous said...

@Colin - so right about the Google research. At one point when the crowd on the blog here was discussing social media a while back, I Googled my own name and found out I was a convict.

I say this is a reason why it's good to post a pic of yourself. At least people can double check that way to find the "real" you.

Anonymous said...

I just Googled my name, since I haven't done that in a while.

I'm no longer a convict, apparently, I'm dead.

This concerns me.

Kitty said...

For what it's worth, I don't follow the writers, whom I read, on social media. This year I've read 67 books so far.

Colin Smith said...

@donna: LOL!!!

Craig said...

I most certainly hope that Agents aren't really that narrow minded. I had to cut off Facebook and refuse to try to Tweet.

I design a particular type of sporting equipment. Some of those things have been the fastest in the world. If you have ever dealt with competitors you will understand.

They have no qualms about trying to get at you at 0-dark thirty to cajole you. They think you can give them an edge when in fact training is the only thing to do that.

They always think that they have a better idea. It came to a head when the "President" of a foreign country got my phone number and called me twice a night for two weeks. The middle of the day for him is like 0330 for me. Winning was a point of national pride for them and their coach said...

I can still run a message down the line and 2500 people or so would buy a book as a means of sucking up.

Whatever happened to just marketing a better and more exciting product?

french sojourn said...

Thank you Colin, that is more than kind.
Look forward to being more of a twit-ter than I am now.

Anonymous said...

@Colin - should I be worried? :)

@Hank - look me up when you decide to be a Twit-ter'er, @wordstogobuy - catchy eh? The "buy" part is a little presumptuous at the moment.

@Craig - now THAT sounds like a story. Are you writing about this? You should!

Jed Cullan said...

I love twitter, can't get enough of it. The other social media outlets, well, not so much.

Colin Smith said...

@Donna: I don't know. Dead or a convict? Tough call. At least you have the zombie apocalypse to look forward to. :)

Craig said...

@ Donna- No, I started writing for fun and made the mistake of passing some of it around. Got mixed results, as you would expect, but then a young woman asked me to write her into a story. I started to do that and a couple of people pissed me off so I got serious.

The die was already cast and the story either congealed into or became a gestalt, different days.

It is now three thrillers that are running toward the science fiction of the four and then a new world. There are other lines in it. The rise of a company and its owner and people. There is also the fall of a terrorist handler through the first three books.

The first one looks good at the moment. Two of my five beta readers ended up reading the 97000 words in one night. I consider that a success.

Now all I need to do is get it together and settle in on a particular query line and get over the nervousness the process causes me. I tend to get stupid and then do stupid things when I get nervous.

Anonymous said...

"I tend to get stupid and then do stupid things when I get nervous."

I thought I was the only one.

Susan Bonifant said...

I enjoy both Facebook and Twitter the way kids enjoy recess. It gives me a chance to engage with all kinds of people until I go back to the serious stuff.

If you can see the fun in it, you'll develop a circle of friends in spite of your misgivings. If you see it as stupid and shallow, you still might.

But whether people think FB and Twitter are stupid/shallow or not, when you want to promote published work, and you have that circle to help you do it, you may be glad you gave it a shot. I was.

It is also essential to be FB-friendly if you need to name your kitten or puppy. I posted a picture of tiny Gus and said, "Name this kitten." The next morning I had over a hundred comments, one from former First Lady Susan Lynch ("Snowball?")

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

The time to start building a social media presence is three years before your book is published. Social media is "social," which means you build relationships, let people get to know you, be supportive of others, or at least friendly. Then when you say "I have a book coming out in six months," they're people who know you – or at least think they do. If you just show up and start saying, "Hey, buy my book!" you'll be like the slaesman on the doorstep, just one more huckster.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I have occasionally bought books I never heard of. My best example:

When I purchased my first paperback copy of Neil Gaiman's American Gods from the shelf of my college town's Waldenbooks (remember that?) I had somehow never heard Gaiman's name. Never heard of Sandman, even, much less American Gods. I bought it because the cover looked interesting and sure, I had nine bucks in my pocket. Or whatever it cost. Then we went back to the dorm and I devoured it in an evening and grudgingly lent it to friends, because I hate lending my books to anybody but they had to read this book.

DLM said...

I Google my name from time to time, and even without a kabillion Twitter followers (I *have* finally at least topped 700 twice lately), blog readers, or any FB presence at all, my blog is pretty much what you get when you look for Diane Major.

However, speaking of that FB presence - I'm sorry, but I would genuinely prefer to remain an unpublished secretary the rest of my life than give my life to Zuckerberg. I'm not even kidding. For one, the security exposures are extreme beyond any protection. For two, the content is insufferable to me, and in order to be on FB I'd have to be exposed to it. Anything less useful or appealing to me is hard to imagine. I never, ever, ever click on FB links, even those of my trusted friends or authors I admire the most. Even just as a secretary - I have spent far too many years in IT to ever risk FB membership again. Nothing, but NOTHING FB has to offer is worth it. Period

Craig said...

Are you saying that when Fritos got their own Facebook page it was time to go somewhere else?

Polenth said...

Sales are also only one part of it. I find Twitter useful in terms of hearing about things, like submission calls, people looking for guest bloggers, and just general publishing news. It's better to approach it as a platform where you can talk to people, rather than a place to post adverts.

Anonymous said...

My facebook page is closed except to friends. I need to start one that is an author page. My problem is, coming from the background I come from, I have some rough and tumble friends. My son, an Iraq vet, has an avatar that is him holding his gun. My brothers post hunting pictures with them and all their kids. My sister posts hunting pictures and I share them. I know, I'm a heathen, but you, know, when you grow up hunting what you eat....

So, I have to wonder how that will influence a potential agent who posts anti gun slogans on her twitter feed if she looks at my facebook and sees these?

It's just better to have a public face where you talk about puppies and kittens and long walks on the beach and you have no opinions, and everyone loves you.

Anonymous said...

I'm not crazy about Zuckerberg at all. If it weren't for keeping up with some writer friends and personal friends, I would probably get rid of facebook. I don't like the things that get promoted. I'd like once to see, "Did you know twenty-two veterans commit suicide every single day and have for years? That's 7,832 American veterans a year who succumb to PTSD. Here's how you can help."

That being said, I think the current uproar about his response to his gray teeshirt is stupid. The interviewer asked why he always wears gray teeshirts.

"I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life."

Now the twitter feeds are blowing up about what a sexist he is. Does this mean he also feels that men who put on suits with one of a hundred different ties each day are frivolous? I took it to mean, this is what works for him. He probably doesn't have a lot of crap in his house either. I like crap in my house. As long as he doesn't tell me how to dress or to get rid of my junk, I don't care how he dresses or what he has in his house. Of course, if he offers me a great job, he can tell me how to dress at work.

But this is what's blowing up the professional twitter feeds.

That's why I occasionally post something on twitter to look active and spend a few minutes seeing what people are doing.

Social media can be a huge time sink if you aren't careful. Once again, follow Kari Lynn Dell's lead. She does a great job. Or Joanna Bourne.

Moderation in all things.

Jenz said...

Craig: "Whatever happened to just marketing a better and more exciting product?"

It's still that way. But how are people supposed to find that product in a crowded market?

The letter writer above sounds just like the elderly who proudly proclaim that they refuse to use them new-fangled computers or smart phones. Being a newbie makes you feel stupid, so your tendency is to avoid having to learn. Then you try to give your avoidance an air of legitimacy: people on Twitter are playing a numbers game, they aren't "real" writers. No one who likes FB and Twitter is going to be impressed by those objections, they'll more likely see it for the insult that it is. Just have the courage to say you prefer a different form of social media.

G. V. Anderson said...

I've never been into Twitter, but I think if I needed to use social media to contact anyone reading my stuff I could get the hang of it okay. :) Facebook, though, that feels a bit personal so it's just family and friends.

I would love to engage with a reader, but I also value a certain amount of distance. All sorts of photos get tagged on facebook, it's a nightmare. XD

James Ticknor said...

Facebook has gone totally downhill. Only 4-5% of the audience for an Author Page can reach their people. You can boost your posts to reach more...for a price.

Facebook is on it's way out the door. When Google+ or something else gets big, what're gonna do with those 1,000 people you got to follow you? It's gonna all but disappear. I'd advise people to get a website and build their e-mail list, so you know it's not going anywhere unless you delete the site.

As for is difficult to get people to engage with and explain things in 140 characters. I've never really liked Twitter other than to follow #querytips. And the once-in-a-blue-moon log line query contest opportunities.

LynnRodz said...

"I do know for an ironclad fact that people don't buy books they've never heard of." I tend to disagree with that statement. I for one love to go to bookstores and browse. I wander around the aisles/displays and pick up books that catch my eye. More often than not, I leave with a book I've never heard of and from an author I don't know. I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that.

Laura Mary said...

I actually do read books I’ve never heard of. On purpose! Back when Waterstones regularly had 3 for 2 deals running, I’d make a point of my third book always being a wild card – a book I’d never heard of, by an author I didn’t know, based on nothing but the cover (there I go, also judging books by their covers!) Of course there would have had to be a level of promotion in the first place for the book to actually be *in* Waterstones in the first place, but you don’t need to be facebook pals with people in order to get them to read your book.
Having said that, I have bought books that normally would not have caught my eye, purely because I have chatted regularly to the author on Twitter (and not even about books - A lengthily chat about Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium lead me to try a Historical adventure I would otherwise have passed by!)
I think all you can really do is be friendly, chat to writers, chat to readers, about books, writing and cats, and find a level you are comfortable with. Hopefully you will build a good contact list of supportive colleagues who will re-tweet your book release info when the time comes (and send you ridiculously cut pictures of cats drinking tea in the meantime!)

Anonymous said...


I've actually been on twitter and facebook for years.

I weaned myself off twitter when I realized I was spending HOURS happily chatting about writing every day instead of writing. Now, I drop in to see what my friends, writer, agent editor friends are up to and occasionally post to stay active and then hobble back to my desk with my walker and get back to writing.

It's sort of like going to the coffee shop with your laptop and listening to all the people sitting around with their lattes and discussing their trials and tribulations or how great their writing is. I'd prefer to sit my @ss in my chair with my Folgers and write, but that's just me.

I save my writing discussions for the Lit Forum and a very select few blogs and tend to limit those. Well, that and the occasional writer's retreat.

Anonymous said...

I have also. I've also not bought books that I thought might be interesting because authors came off as jerks.

Mike Rowe recently posted a response to an author who kept spamming him with advertisements for his book about how can you be a Christian and a Republican. He did a great public service announcement about how to promote your book without commenting on the content of the book. I wish I had the link. It did pretty much slice and dice the guy, but he deserved it given the way Rowe was being spammed and the insulting commentary, but he did it in a very diplomatic way.

Joanna Bourne does a good job on facebook of promoting her books and herself. I'm in the process of setting up a facebook author page if facebook will cooperate. It's just not on the top of my list right now.