Saturday, April 18, 2015

Query Question: I can't use social media, am I doomed?

Last summer, you covered a question about whether or not someone should bother writing when they have terrible social anxiety. When you closed out your answer, you added, "And if her writing requires her to have a public presence, well, we'll solve that problem when we get there." That's where my question comes in.

What suggestions would you have for someone who does not want (feel free to add capitals and emphatic full stops between words there) to use Twitter and Facebook and those kinds of tools? My reasons are personal -- a sociopath who worked a long, twelve year con on me and my family, something along the lines of a Janna St James situation -- and have soured me on dealing with the internet, even if it means having to work harder other ways. I was a private person before, but now, it's taking a big leap just to ask this question. Thanks to words like "friending", people tend to see even people they've never met on the other end of Facebook and Twitter discussions as friends. Details shared even in comments here make people feel like they're friends. It's oddly public and intimate at the same time and something, after what I went through, I can't open myself up to again.

How would you help someone work around an internet presence to still be a worthwhile business relationship for you?

Your question comes at an interesting time. I'm having ongoing discussions with my publicist and with my clients about the utility of social media.

More and more I'm thinking that the old-fashioned tools, the ones we thought we wouldn't use again, are more effective.

And by old-fashioned tools I mean shoe leather.  Visiting bookstores in person, writing a newsletter for fans, going to bookstore events to support other writers.

I think many of us were willing to discard those tools because then (as now) we weren't ever sure how effective they were.  In fact, there's almost no reliable method to predict the effectiveness of publicity efforts (one of the things that drove me out of the field.)

Being unwilling or unable to do social media isn't a deal breaker, but you're going to have to be willing to do SOMETHING. If I love your book, I'll be willing to help you figure out what that something is.

Thus, the first step here is to write a really great book. I have to love it with the passion of a thousand suns cause there's going to be some heavy lifting here.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

During a job interview years ago, I was asked the typical (loaded) question, what is your greatest strength and what is your greatest weakness. My answer to both questions, procrastination. Because I know I put everything off I am quick to jump on that which needs to be done immediately. The negative became a huge positive. I got the job.

Now, regarding a writing career, age is my greatest negative. How long a career do you have when you are on the other side of the hill everybody says you are over? I could not and cannot write what I write without the lifetime of experiences I have had. Again, a negative turned positive.

Poster, your fear is justified. If your book is good and I mean really, really good, like best seller good, then you will become the writer behind the curtain. There is publicity in the mysterious, in the blacked out image of a person on 60 minutes talking with an altered voice. Seeking success from behind a curtain is a conundrum but I believe there is protection in notoriety.
You could change you name to Betty (with 2T’s) Butttonweazer, it worked for me.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just read about Janna St James. Catfishing, the creepy word of the day.

Unknown said...

I sympathize with this writer. Social media is not something I enjoyed when I first started my website three years ago, and I can't say I love it even now, but I have met some wonderful people, both readers and writers that I wouldn't have met otherwise. So, mixed feelings.

I don't know anything about this Janna St. James, though I will very shortly, but it must be horrible to have one psycho damage your life to the extent this writer is suffering. To be afraid to reach out to people must be isolating.

I also agree with 2NNs. Love the idea of a mystique. Bottom line, it all depends on the writing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amanda, during the process of writing my first comment I wanted to use the word "mystique". But I didn't know how to spell it so I searched and searched, kept entering every combination I could come up with, no luck. I felt like such a dork. So I altered my sentence. And then, there you are using MY word. Of course that's how you spell it. Perfect in this situation.
Sometimes I feel like such a first grader.

Colin Smith said...

There's a difference between avoiding social media out of ignorance (and that's not a bad word, folks), and avoiding it out of negative experience. The first can be fixed, the second can be accommodated, as Janet said. There are plenty of published, well-known writers whose only online presence is a website. Not even a blog. They might use Twitter, but sporadically. As QOTKU said, if you've written a book she simply HAS to represent, she (and any other agent) will jump hoops and walk through burning buildings to make things work for you. I recall some time ago, a similar question was asked by someone who was facially disfigured and would, therefore, feel very uncomfortable appearing in public. For them, the opposite of what Janet suggested here is true: lean on social media and other means of promotion.

Like Janet said, the novel's the thing. Everything else can be worked around.

Colin Smith said...

Susan: Congratulations for making it to the top of the blog. Next stop: FPLM-Paradise! ;)

Flowers McGrath said...

Inwardly, I am just shouting, "Me! Me!" Shoe leather, zines, bookstores!

I certainly have not had this questioners experience, but I just think the interenet is over saturated. No one has time or brain cells enough to keep up with all that is available to them. Serendipity is all but entirely lost. When I see a pay phone however derelict it might be, i swoon for a pocketful of change and the number of someone special i have memorized. I love Recieving mail and looking at celluloid photos and reading and smelling books. It's not old fashioned. It's just realer. And I think isn't that what marketers want? For there to be a visceral connection. The internets speed and absurd accumulation of everything makes it a desensitizer. It's the opposite of what it should be for sales. It Ho- hums everything. No matter how good the product may be, you can't feel anything for it. And that includes blogs and other peoples writing, I think.

I'm with you janet! It's the intelligent solution. It's "novel" now to be in person, to receive a magazine or newsletter, to get a letter. But it's smart, because I think we all are reaching our outer limits for the lonely facade of community and help the Internet professes to offer us. We all are wanting to at least selectively put back into place some of the old ways. It's not nostalgia, it's intellegent business.

Colin Smith said...

Just to share a thought: I think we are seeing, and will continue to see, a balance correction. Over the last 20 years, it's all been digital, digital, online this, social media that, insta-friends, etc. But I think a certain nostalgia, and a certain longing for the physical, the material, the real is setting in. People are still buying vinyl, but I believe there has been an uptick in the demand for LPs (there's even a rack of vinyl albums in our B&N!). Seeing and talking to people IRL holds great meaning and significance. And I don't think it'll be long before we hear the post office celebrating a rise in the amount of snail mail sent. Not that digital and online will die out, but I think there will continue to be some kick back, and a recognition that as human beings we need the physical as well as the virtual.

That's what I think, anyway.

. said...

use a pen name. stock photo picture. fake address. be anyone you want.

Flowers McGrath said...

I agree Colin! I'm considering going back to school for horticulture and they have therapy for veterans and ptsd sufferers with plants.
Anyhoo, what does this have to do with the subject? Well, I think science/medicine is going to "discover" that the intangibles of Internet experience have a negative effect on the human brain and systems, producing anxiety and social disorders. We think we remedy social anxiety through Internet but in fact which came first?
I think so many kids have these very weird social disorders now because of screen time and how they are viewing life not literally but sort of figuratively first in TV and then in video games and computers. There certainly are benefits and I don't want to go backwards but I am positive there will be a realization through brain imaging or some other system that this has to be remedied by more tangible or real experiences. Real sunlight. Real paper held in hands getting motor and tactile experiences. Talking in person for facial recognition and social cues. Listening to the sounds that are not amplified or recorded. Stuff like this. I think the human body is not wired for this kind of extreme devotion to screen time and so a kind of everpresent sensation of being off, something being wrong is playing around in the systems of the body...which means hormones behaving oddly etc.

But to me you know to regain balance when the scale is tipped so awkwardly in one direction, will mean a big weighting on the other side and you can't tip a scale with feathers and well wishes...anyway, those are my many cents on that subject. I could go on clearly.

Unknown said...

I so sympathize with this writer, and my first thought would be please write under a pen name, even slightly different than your own. You don't want that kind of crazy coming to a signing of yours or bad mouthing you in bookstores, etc. That way you can use social media too.

Flowers McGrath said...

I have so many thoughts on alternate ways to market. My sons write for a free youth journal that is printed four times a year. It is paid by local business's advertisements but all the content is youth created. Besides it being very cool, we started it while living in woodstock ny. When we moved to brooklyn the kids kept writing and she ships us copies that we place in coffee shops and what not here. They also go to camp in newhampshire so we are sending the camp magazines as well.
I think it would be very clever for writers to get together and create their own journals and perhaps use the fact that we all can be in various locations to pepper our local areas with the free journal. Possibly the advertising would not be for local businesses but instead... Why couldn't we tell publishers they can buy advertising in our journal for their books? I mean it's a weird idea but we all write tons and how much of our stuff is getting out into the hands of people? It would be a neat marriage of Internet and physical publishing without technically self publishing our books. A neat work around of grassroots marketing and that could lead to something bigger. Sometimes gaining fans, I think, is about giving away a lot of goodies for free. And journals don't have to be all fiction there could be all sorts of stuff.
Pie in the sky or cool? Idk but this is how my mind works.

Unknown said...

I joined social media because I have two teens and I wanted to speak their language. I ended up loving Twitter to connect with other writers and Facebook to see what all my high school friends are up to. So for me, it's great but it isn't for everyone and don't worry if it's not for you, because, as Janet said:

"And by old-fashioned tools I mean shoe leather. Visiting bookstores in person, writing a newsletter for fans, going to bookstore events to support other writers."

As a former Indie bookseller, these are the sort of words that bring tears to my eyes. Make yourself known at your local bookstore and you will help your writing career tremendously. Booksellers can put your books into the hands of readers and say "Trust me. This is great."

As Janet said, go to events and support other writers. Even if you write cozy mysteries and only read cozy mysteries, go hear an author speak on her new work of literary fiction. Go hear a YA writer - you will not be the only adult in the audience. Listen to writers speak about their memoirs and professors talk about their WWI tomes. You will not only learn a bit about WWI, but you will hear about the publishing process because during Q&A people always ask things like "How did you find your publisher?". Ask questions yourself, if you feel comfortable. These people want to talk about writing and publishing!

After an event I always seek out the store's owner and say "Thank you for bringing Felix Buttonweezer to town. This was a great event." Yes, it's good to make yourself known as a supporter of the store so the store will support you when it's your turn, but really, go to events for the love of the written word.

Best of luck. I'm so sorry for your terrible experience and don't blame you at all for staying away from social media.

Dena Pawling said...

I think one relevant question is – if you take away the reason you do NOT want to do social media / internet stuff, do you think you'd enjoy it? If you wouldn't, then don't do it. I think all you really need is an author website and you can create that once you have a book coming out. But if you think you would enjoy it [minus the taint of the past experience], then make a pen name or just use a nonsense handle, and try ONE thing. I hate Facebook so unless someone twists my arm, you won't find me there. [I do have a personal Facebook account but I never post there and I only use it to stalk other people's accounts.]

For example, here's one site you might be familiar with, to give you an idea of an incognito internet persona
The twitter handle is @TheEvilEditor

Check out the IDs of the people who comment here. Some are obviously made-up handles. Others are partial names. Others are full names. Some are full names but are not real names, which you wouldn't know unless you asked or they said. My real name is NOT Dena Pawling, which I don't mind saying because if you looked up that name on the CA bar website, you wouldn't find it. The name has some significance in my family, so my husband has a chuckle every time he sees it. Yes, when I'm published, I'm sure some folks will be able to search me out, but I'd prefer it to take a bit of work. If you search my real name on google, you will find my work address/phone number [required by the state bar] and several sites where prior owners of foreclosed homes rant about how heartless I am. I was once served a subpoena by an aggressive defense firm, AT MY HOME ON A SATURDAY. His client was still evicted lol

A partial list of benefits I've found for internet/social media [I have a blog and am on Twitter]:
1. Having a blog has helped me practice and improve my writing. You can use an avatar on your blog, or a stock photo, or anything else. You don't need a picture, or you can do like me and have an old photo when I was young and beautiful [ha!] that I muddied with a pattern in front of it. Your “about” page doesn't have to give any specifics. And you can reply to those who leave comments with non-committal remarks like “That's really interesting. Thanks for stopping by.” I do this a LOT.
2. Twitter is good for following people you want to learn about, like agents. There are some agents I removed from my “list of agents to consider” because of things they've tweeted, specifically they think that people who disagree with them are not just folks who have a different opinion, but they are folks who are idiots. I don't want to work with someone who disrespects those who have different opinions, especially because my opinions tend to be ... ahem ... not mainstream.
3. Twitter is also good for learning more about craft, books coming out, industry trends, etc.
4. I've discovered benefits and “friendships” with the people who comment here. There are several whose sites I've linked on my site and I follow them on Twitter. I've posted comments on their blogs and I even sent one an email. Different points of view make for great story ideas too. You don't have to comment with anything personal, maybe just your opinion, or agreement with someone else's opinion, or even just a comment every once in a while about Felix Buttonweezer. YOU control how much and what you say/type, if anything.

You've already taken a step by reading here and I assume you have email to ask this question. Take baby steps. Whatever you decide, I wish you good luck.

Donnaeve said...

I am only *here* and I only know *you* because a few years ago, I thought social media was simply part of the to do checklist every writer had.

And now, all I can think about is Donna Tartt. A book about every ten years. Very limited interviews. Reclusive Donna Tartt. Pulitzer Prize winner.

If I had a nickel for every time Ms. Janet has said, "write a really good book."

All this other stuff? We can quit worrying about it. Nothing is as important as writing the book.

Unknown said...

2NNs, I'm right there in first grade with you. I wanted to put a comment on FB about a singer who did a song acapello. I could not get that word right no matter in what sequence I put the letters. On-line dictionary suggested Capella. That didn't sound right. Had to ask my husband (last resort, believe me). Turns out the 'a' is separate. How the hell would I know that? I'll never hear the end of it.

Susan Bonifant said...

I know, Colin, right?

I was out yesterday but just now, I opened the blog page and had a weird, split-second feeling that I was inside the television: "Wait, that's me in there." Thank you for the mention Janet Reid!

Before I started finding homes for my non-fiction, I would get emails like this: "doesn't work sorry"

I wondered, if a rejection was that clipped, would the editor be as terse once I got picked up? The answer is that every editor I've dealt with on published work has been a dream to work with and does a LOT more than answer pitch emails all day.

The Q and A in this post is a nice reminder that there is more to the writer-agent relationship than we probably imagine while we are waiting for not-no. When you glimpse an example of the "heavy lifting" involved on an agent's part, it's easy to see why they don't just throw the word "yes" around.

Christina Seine said...

The thing is, you are totally able to control the level of interaction you have. Your web presence can consist (as others have mentioned) of a personal website and maybe an attached blog that you update regularly (book signings, great reviews, what have you). It is also possible to have a presence on Twitter without interacting with anybody. You can even schedule posts relevant to your book that will post throughout the week. You can ask a trusted friend to respond to comments like, "Oh my gosh, your book is awesome!" with a line you've decided on ahead of time ("Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it!").

A coworker of mine from back when I worked full time at a newspaper went on to write what I'll just say was a wildly successful book. As in, nominated for a Very, Very Super Important Major Award kind of book. Obviously I've followed her online presence with interest. We chat (a line or two on Twitter) occasionally. Generally, from what I have seen, this author doesn't interact a whole lot with fans, but seems to tweet occasionally, and is very good about posting a simple thank-you whenever she can.

Like you said, the internet is a tool. For me, living where I do, a gun is a tool but a very necessary one. If a bear attacks my kids, it's the only tool I want to use to defend us. However, there are Alaskans who despise guns, which I totally understand, and those people use other tools (pepper spray, etc) to ward off bears. Pepper spray is not nearly as effective at stopping bears as a shotgun, but for many people it's an acceptable alternative because of their strongly held beliefs. It might prevent them from utilizing certain trails or bike paths at certain times of the year, but overall it's an acceptable trade-off for them. Of course, bears are not a perfect metaphor for social media because the one will tear you to shreds and eat you alive, whereas bears generally just smack you around a little.

Colin Smith said...

Amanda: Just FYI, a capella is Latin, and literally means "from the chapel" in the sense of "in the style of the chapel" which would be unaccompanied.

What can I say? I took Latin in school. :) So next time hubby ribs you about that, ask him "OK, Mr. Smartypants, where does the term originate?" And if he knows, just slap him. ;)

jack welling said...

Shake hands, smile, thank the person for their time. Tell them you enjoyed talking to them because you did.

It is amazing in the e-social what these genuine touches can accomplish.

I'm back from DC on and issue. Stopped by nine senator's offices to speak unscheduled to the aids in charge of the topic. Saw seven and met six of their senators without money or its promise. Remember, I didn't have appointment. I knew some people they knew but that's it.

I imitated my most generous and friendly uncle.

You can bet I was shocked. It isn't even a sexy issue.

I'm sure shoe leather, a decent haircut, and my best Saturday night smile did Al it could by just being a decent human being.

People like people. Now, more than ever.

Anonymous said...

I find this conversation just flat out fascinating. Half the problem of the internet is how quickly it changes. For instance, the moment you can find an article or a blog post that says "These are the 10 ways to build a better twitter/blog following," that article already doesn't work.

It's outdated the moment it gets posted because it either works and everyone else is doing it already (because the idea didn't originate with the poster), or it doesn't work at all and the post is irrelevant.

They say a car loses value the moment it drives off a lot. Well, internet advice loses value the moment you hit publish. Maybe not entirely, but you get my point. By the time the meta-data hits the top of the search engine charts, the advice is 3 years old. So when it matters, it isn't widely read, and when it doesn't, everyone knows it.

So really the only way to ride the cusp of the wave is to anticipate a trend that is not yet trending and make it your own... or the better way is to just do whatever you would normally do and ignore the trend. Look at the John Green example - he didn't start his Vlog video series as a ploy to gain followers... he did it because he felt like it. Because it was interesting to him. Because it was a part of him.

To the OP, let me just add to the redundant chorus -- don't do anything you don't want to do. Write an amazing book instead.

As to Janet, coming from "that demographic", I see a shift towards aesthetic but not in the way or for the reasons everyone is assuming. Honestly, going to a bookstore or a Best Buy to buy a cd is an experience. We're literally paying 10 bucks for that experience. Sometimes I end up having an e-book copy of the dang book anyways and I'm alternating reading it on my nook or kindle and then in paper form if I remember to bring it. Heck, I've been known to read on my iPhone when desperate.

The point is not aesthetic. The point is options. I can assure you, if a physical book came with a "license" to download an ebook copy as well, I would own every ebook in physical form. This is where I see the crest of the wave heading. Not towards physical, but towards balance and multi-option licencing.

It makes sense. Why does Itunes keep your download history? Because when you buy a new laptop, you want your songs back. And the fact is, you're probably not going to pay another dollar a song to recapture your music library. Maybe a few favorites, but not anywhere near 100%. Hybridization means balance, not shifting to purely aesthetic.

Or at least that's one silly millenial's opinion. :)

Susan Bonifant said...

Dena, excellent point about the yes/no of internet-ing. If one were free to be social without consequences, would they want to be? Keeping a presence on social media if you hate that sort of thing is like remembering two or three times a week that you have a dentist appointment tomorrow.

"His client was still evicted lol"

That lol at the end was the best.

LynnRodz said...

Flowers, I couldn't agree more. I spent a whole afternoon in Hong Kong searching for postcards to send to family and friends and none were to be found anywhere. I couldn't believe a city the size of HK (where you can find just about anything) postcards are a rarity. I asked around and everyone said, "Just take a selfie and send." I kept saying, "No, I'd like to write a card, put a stamp on it, and send it in the mail. The reaction was always the same, "Why do you want to go through all that trouble?"

An ex-pat finally took me down a little alleyway to a small souvenir shop and they had postcards in the back of the store.

I agree with the others, if the writing is great there are ways to work around whatever problems come up.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You know boys and girls, when we're gone - the ones who remember phone booths, phones on the kitchen wall, when cable was a sweater and you didn't walk on vinyl, you gently placed a needle on it played music - the ones who saw the new order and were dragged into by our kids - the ones who thought microwaves were science fiction - well when we're gone, and our kids are gone - when their kids pick up the baton and run with it, nostalgia will be looked upon as an era of clean water, fresh air and Ben and Jerry's in a bowl not a bottle or a can.
I do not think we will ever go back unless a Solar Storm fries half the satellites and we are thrown back into the dark ages of pencil, paper and growing your own crops.
Sounds like I'm standing on a street corner with a sandwich board shouting, "The End Is Near".
But as my 33 1/3 runs down I'm trying to look more forward than back. But sometimes it's just too damn hard.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

LynnRodz, your postcards are a perfect example.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I understand the OP's issue on a personal level.

I've had a website since 1995 then started blogging through a travel website.

At some point after very ugly hate mails and other uncomfortable experiences I realized that my web presence is only mine.

Never do I talk about my family or friends, never about where I've been or what hotel I stayed in or anything where someone could walk up to me and say, hey you were there, I remember the dress you wore.

Sure, I'm findable but I treat social media as a business presence.

I've used psydos to sign my paintings but in the end just decided to use my real name.

In my profession it is expected to have at least a website. No gallery would take me seriously without one.

Use a pen name.

Even with shoe leather and a mass mailing of Christmas cards or any marketing material you will have to have a name. A book by Anonymous Author might work but it also might stir up curiosity as to why you need to hide from Conman.

Captcha just made me select all photos of bread.

Jenz said...

Angie said: "Captcha just made me select all photos of bread."

Please tell me at least one of them was a cat breading pic.

Shoot, I'm just getting "I'm not a robot" in my captcha.

Colin Smith said...

brian: If I recall correctly, John Green's vlog started out as a challenge to his brother. For a whole year they wouldn't write or call each other. Instead they would send video messages to each other via YouTube. Each brother had a designated day of the week on which they had to post, and the videos couldn't be longer than 4 minutes. They had such fun with it after the first year, they kept on doing it... and gaining a following. What's interesting is not just what this vlogging experiment/challenge became, but that it accidentally documents John Green's writing career.

Just be yourself. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

Instead of focusing on what you aren't willing to do (Twitter, FB, the internet in general), turn it around and think about what you are willing to do. Get that clear in your mind. Signings? Visiting bookstores? The aforementioned newsletters and so on? Think hard about what sort of interaction you feel capable of with strangers/potential fans. Then, when the problem arises with an agent, you'll be ready with your own solution to your so-called social media issue. Get out in front of it, is my advice.

And did I hear that I have an applicant for FPLM-Paradise? It's about time. Susan, when you are ready for your interview, just click your heels together three times and say: "There's no place like Paradise." I'll meet you down on the beach.

D. B. Bates said...

I would much rather visit bookstores and write newsletters than try to build a fan base on Twitter.

Thank you for making me more comfortable with my half-hearted, begrudging attempts at tweeting.

Also, thank you for giving me a justification for purchasing a haunted mimeograph machine from an estate sale. I can feel my popularity exploding like a 53-year-old bottle of purple ink.

...wait, you weren't talking about hand-mimeographed newsletters? Fine, I'll figure out how to "e-blast" people in a non-Snapchat context.

InkStainedWench said...

Christina Seine, I lol'd at your bear joke.

Unknown said...

I love to find my favourite authors on Twitter and on their blogs.


Some of them are not at all prolific (well, would you rather them be writing tweets, or writing books?) but that doesn't stop them from being my favourite authors.

And there is nothing worse than an author twitter account simply saturated with 'buy my book' and 'FIVE STAR REVIEW' and random miscellaneous retweets.

You work with what you've got, and if you write a great book I'm gonna read it anyway. I'll be sad that I can't catch up with you any other way, but I'm still gonna be reading your books.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Flowers and Colin, I totally agree with your posts and love them. This world has become too technological - so many try to capture moments on their digital devices instead of experiencing them. Facebook and Twitter are worthwhile for some things, but there's so much news about "nothing." You have to find a balance.

@ Jenny - always enjoy reading your "tidbits" about your experience working at a bookstore and how it helps us.

GillyB said...

I agree with the commenters who say that the book is the most important aspect, and I really, honestly sympathize with the asker. Social media can be a BRUTE when it goes wrong. And though I'm one of those people whose social anxiety is actually HELPED by a very active online presence, I totally see where you're coming from, and you should never feel actively forced to participate in a medium you don't want to be part of. For instance, I'm on Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/Pinterest, but wild horses can't get me on Facebook. I have no interest in the marital statuses of my high school classmates, thanks.

HOWEVER--and I say this as someone who is a YA book blogger who completely adores social media and its ability to connect people, and who follows hundreds of YA writers, readers, and other bloggers on various platforms--if you want to write YA, I'd REALLY recommend social media. In particular, Twitter.

It's really rare for a YA writer not to have some kind of online presence, but Twitter is really key. It's where YA readers are. It's how YA imprints build buzz and hold chats. Obviously, not all writers WANT to tweet all the time (or ever), and they shouldn't force themselves. Some YA authors are Twitter Queens who tweet every few hours about every hilarious if mundane happening; some only tweet about their events/releases/sales. But for YA, I think whichever social media format you like best (I recommend Tumblr, personally, a quiet blog you can control yourself, or even Pinterest) is the one you should use.

But this is YA. I'd imagine the world of adult fiction would be very, very different (I assume?), and social media wouldn't be as significant. And then again, there are always exceptions, like Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, and Kristin Cashore, none of whom have a twitter presence at all (but who also don't need one, because they're, you know, famous). But the point is, you can control the level of interaction you have, I think, and if you don't want to be a "Instragram my morning coffee" kind of person, then nobody should force you to be.

Phoenixwaller said...

Ok, this is probably going to be a long comment (long enough blogger is making me cut it into 2, LOL), but please bear with me. In no way do I consider myself an expert, but I do have some experience.

First, I understand your wariness regarding social media after a bad experience, and I'll echo what some of the other commenters have said regarding use of a pseudonym, but not necessarily a pen name (unless you already wanted one). It might sound scary, but I have several friends on social media who have been the victims of stalking and other situations similar to yours. Only their closest relatives know their real identities, the rest of us just call them by whatever their screen name is. This has allowed them to socialize without nearly as much fear of their harassers barging in. If you want to write under this same name, there might be other benefits (which I'll touch on later) but early on it could act as exposure therapy to help prepare you for promotional social media later.

I will issue one caution regarding pseudonyms: Make it sound like a real name. This is especially important on Facebook where they periodically mass delete "fake names" and sometimes cause problems for people who have unusual real names. (I have a friend named Gandalf, no joke, he says they ask him to prove that's his real name 1-2 times per year)

Now onto the meat of my comment.

The issue of social media effectiveness for authors has actually been a popular topic recently. Delilah S. Dawson wrote a fantastic blog entry about it just within the past couple weeks I believe. One thing I will say from having watched it for the past several years is that there is a lot of noise out there. Let me repeat: A LOT OF NOISE! I follow authors on Twitter and Facebook mostly, and there is a constant stream of advertising messages. I myself have been guilty of this in the past, but usually when I'm aggressively running a promo. The problem is that when everybody is screaming "BUY MY BOOK" your voice gets lost in the crowd rather quickly.

So what do you do? Personally I say build your circle. Your circle is bigger than your readership. Readers are important as an author, but people who will pass along your message and tell their friends are critical in social media. Even if you write cozy mysteries and a person only reads science fiction, they probably KNOW somebody who reads cozies. If you connect with the science fiction reader outside of a marketing message then you might have somebody who will talk to their friends and spread your name. These aren't people who are seeing your advertisements every day, these are people you interact with.

A real life example of the power of the circle comes from my own experience. In March 2012 I released a self-pub. I had no marketing budget, I hadn't done any buildup either, but I had a healthy presence on social media. I released it for free for the first few days to jumpstart reviews and such, but even in 2012 the power of "free" was already starting to wane. I posted several times that first day, and simply asked my social media friends to share the message. I knew not all of them would read or even "buy" the book, but they probably knew people who would be interested. By the end of the day I had moved over 300 copies, when 40-50 were good averages on free days when I did no social promotion at all back then. It might not sound like a lot considering the price, but the promo days are another space where there is a lot of noise. Since 2012 I've watched their effectiveness decline to where I only move about 20 copies if I do no social promotion.

The moral of that story is that mass advertisements are iffy at best, but word of mouth is still an invaluable tool for selling books, even free ones online. ;)

Phoenixwaller said...

Long COmment Part 2 :D

Now I'm going to take off my author hat and put on my social media marketer hat (hey, I'm allowed. It's been my day job for the past several years)

You may not know this, but you don't have to "friend" anybody, even on Facebook. You can keep a solid separation between your personal life and your author image. Enter the 'business' page. Fans simply 'like' your page and subscribe to your message, but you don't see their posts back. Even better is that if you are using a pseudonym for everyday interactions your author page can still have whatever name you're published under. The public cannot see the admins of a page, so if you are using a different name they can't follow you back to your personal profile. However, remember way at the top of this rambling post I said that there might be benefits of your pseudonym online being the same as your pen name? One of those benefits is that you already have an established circle come release time. You won't have to scramble for those first likes and follows, you can just ask them to like your page. But if privacy is a concern then best to keep them different. I've had several people find my personal profile by searching my name and ask to be friends. I keep it public and allow followers so it's not an issue for me, but for anybody who wants to keep up a wall for family and friends, and a place for fans, either mark as private or use a pseudonym.

This is getting long enough so I'm going to close with just some advice. Don't feel like you have to be everywhere. If you do venture into social media then the best way to start is to pick a service, and get comfortable using it. If you feel you have the time or energy for another then go for it. But spreading yourself too thin will only wear on you. Social media is NOT advertising, it is a social interaction. Find a place you enjoy online and make it your home. You can post occasionally to other services, or heck you can even hire social media firms to post on your behalf.

TL;DR version:
Use a pseudonym, but make it sound like a real name. Use as many as you like, one for family and friends, another as a pen name.
There is a LOT of noise from authors marketing via social media. Be smart about it. don't put out an ad and call it a day. Make connections and form a circle of followers.
For self-pubbers, you probably already know this, but there is a lot of noise in the free promo day field now as well.
You can manage your social media to keep private and personal aspects of your life separate.
Don't overwhelm yourself trying to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr, etc etc. Pick a service, get comfy, gain friends and followers. If you feel able branch out later.

Anonymous said...

I just watched a crime show last night about a stalker who tracked women who posted everything on social media. "I'm eating mini scones at Bruno's! mmmm!"

Then you know, he films them, kills them and freezes their bodies so he can keep them with him for all eternity. Makes me want to post every moment of my life on twitter.

I've been the stalker darling bit for 18 months in a former life and while I do the social media bit, I am not stupid about it.

Agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg went through a harrowing experience with a disgruntled author who attacked her by following her social media. That square whatever that announces where you are, isn't really that wonderful.

I'll do whatever I can to be pleasant and promote my books should there ever be any published, but I'm going to be cognizant of the real world.

b-Nye said...

I am working on that first tome and my biggest fear is time. The hill is in my rear view also, still I like the idea of face to face promotion to actual see the folks who might be my audience. It's dilema when your career start in the sunset of time. Being the writer behind the curtain may be practical if you are by then a vision of your years. Sigh.

Craig F said...

There are a lot of BookFests and Festivals of Reading. Many, such as the Times Festival of Reading have been around for a long time. They would be a good place to start.

I think I had the shortest posting of a header yet and I don't even recall saying something stoopid.

b-Nye said...

I am working on that first tome and my biggest fear is time. The hill is in my rear view also, still I like the idea of face to face promotion to actual see the folks who might be my audience. It's dilema when your career start in the sunset of time. Being the writer behind the curtain may be practical if you are by then a vision of your years. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Twelve YEARS?! That is some serious WTF-ery. I can understand why this person is leery of social media. But there is an abundance of con artists and people who will try to take advantage in real life as well as online. Never trusting a stranger, ever again, seems like a very lonely way to live.

As others have said, if this person does have a change of heart, it's pretty easy to control how much of "yourself" you share online. And there are a lot of tools these days to help preserve anonymity. Do a simple google search. No guarantees against determined hacker types or the government, but enough to stop most mischief-makers.

One thing this person definitely has to their advantage, if they ever do decide to venture forth online--- all traces of naiveté or gullibility have no doubt been squashed. I imagine their BS meter is extremely sensitive by now, leaving a significantly diminished chance of future deception.

Unknown said...

On a weird-connection; anyone read D. Egger's "Circle?" It's like social media gone insane. I have wondered by what metric social media is judged by those in the publishing industry. It's not (really) a tangible thing--like units sold.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I second Phoenixwaller idea of pseudonym.

Start with the the email. Use this name to become incorporated. Incorporating allows you to protect your personal property,separate from your business= writer. Lots of artists do this in the US.

The question that Janet could answer is if you did write under a pseudo would your agent need to know your real name and at what stage would you have to tell them.

If you had a pseudo with incorporated status, you could have a social media presence for your 'business'.