Social Media – A Writer’s Curse

I quite often find myself entering into discussions with other authors about that ubiquitous thing that we call “Social Media”. Most of the people I speak to bemoan the fact that they are required to devote so much sof their precious time to interacting on Social Media. The most common comment I hear is; “When am I supposed to write? I’m spending so many hours trying to market and promote my book(s) on social media.”
So, is Social Media the modern writer’s curse? I would have to answer that question with a qualified NO!
There are certainly times when I wonder to myself how my life would be if all I had to do was write. I think about the writers of the past, who sat, alone, in their often smoke-filled rooms, sipping their whisky (or whatever was their current libation) and pounding away furiously at the typewriter to produce their manuscripts. When it was finished all they had to do was pack it into the envelope, send it off to their editor/publisher, take another drink, and start on their next miraculous creation.Ah…..to dream! Still, would that be a better life than that which I already have? I wonder.

Bringing myself back to reality with a loud thump, I realize and understand that the writing and publishing game has changed forever, and in my opinion, mostly for the better. There are an ever-decreasing number of authors who have the opportunity of being published via the traditional publishing route. Even those authors now find themselves forced to spend time marketing their own books – something that would be unheard of just a few short years ago. With the advent of self-publishing, the market has become incredibly crowded in recent years and an unknown or independentFinal Cover author has to make a supreme effort just to be heard above the clamor of the masses.

I certainly don’t view the changing marketplace as a bad thing – after all it is that very marketplace that allowed my first book, The Second Coming, to be published. Without self-publishing, or in my case, crowd-funding publishing, I doubt my book would ever have seen the light of day. Today’s author is focused on “creating a platform”, building a fan-base and author branding”.Without the option of having your book on bookshop shelves, the only, real way to do this is through social media and word of mouth. Social Media has become the independent author’s greatest but also one of their most time consuming tools.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Bingbing, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google+…..etc, etc, etc. The list is endless and although I’m not on all of them, I am on most. When my book was first published, they told me I had to be active on Social Media if I wanted to get sales. Being a good little soldier I made sure that not only was I on social media, I was very active on it.

Did it increase my sales? The short answer is yes…but the long answer is…not by much. The reality is I haven’t sold a hell of a lot of books yet, full-stop! so although some of those sales can be directly attributed to social media, the question needs to be asked; has my investment in time and effort on social media been worthwhile and will I continue to spend so many hours trying to promote my book(s) on this medium.

There is no qualification to this answer – it is a big, fat YES!

I will make a bold statement here and proclaim that social media does not sell many books; but it does two wonderful things for an author:

1/ It takes him/her out of themselves and stops them from becoming that lonely, tortured, solitary figure, that we all picture the authors of old to be. (The Ernest Hemingway’s, the Truman Capote’s and the F.Scott Fitzgerald’s et al). There is much truth to the notion that writing is a solo occupation. It isn’t something that can be done with others. Left to their own devices writers can easily become totally self-absorbed, in the worlds they create on the page, and allow their personal relationships and connections to suffer as a result.

When I first realized that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I threw myself into the process wholeheartedly. It soon became apparent that my obsession with writing and my passion was not something that was shared quite so enthusiastically by my nearest and dearest. It also became fairly obvious that although my family was loving and supportive of my writing, they didn’t get or understand the passion and the vision for my writing that drove me.

I found those like-minded people through social media. Now, I don’t know most of them from Adam; I don’t know who they are, what their lives are like, who their family is – all I know is that, like me, they love what they do and they love to talk about it. Social media has given me the opportunity to meet and share with some amazing fellow authors.

I’ve had the opportunity to read many of their works and marveled at the skill and flair of their writing. It has opened up a whole new world of books to me that I would never have even found before and here is the clincher: It has improved my own writing no end!

A message just the other day from an experienced author – giving me tips about what I could do better to improve my first book was absolutely invaluable. I have taken those tips on-board and hopefully have incorporated some of them in my editing of Rise of the AntiChrist. Already I am a far better author, for having met these people through social media.

Regular readers of my articles will know that one of the things I emphasize in creating a happy and purpose-filled life is to surround yourself with positive like-minded people. Remember, you are the average of your five closest friends. This is particularly true of social media “friends”. Find people to connect with who lift you up,  who don’t complain and criticize constantly. Selling your books is a damn hard job and it is easy to allow the lack of success to grind you down. Fortunately I have already found some great people on social media who lift me up and can make me laugh – even as I watch my Kindle ranking head lower and lower toward sales oblivion.

Fellow authors actually get what you feel, because they’ve invariably been there themselves. I’ve heard a lot about author bitchiness over the past two years, but truthfully I haven’t seen it. The people I’ve connected with are anything but bitchy and almost, to a person, are incredibly supportive.

2/ As I intimated before what sells books is word of mouth, reviews, and people talking about your book. The reality is that authors read a lot. It’s just who we are.

The most likely people to read your book, write a review, and rave it about it to others, are fellow authors. That’s why social media is so critical – it connects you to, and allows you to interact with, other authors. That is its real benefit and for me; its real purpose. That is why I will continue to use it regularly and consistently – because there is a long-term gain to be had here.

View social media from a long-term perspective and it is a truly awesome and wonderful creation.

Okay, I hear you say, all well and good, but where am I supposed to find the time to fit all this social media stuff around my writing and the other aspects of my incredibly busy lives? I hear you!

When I first decided that writing was the thing I wanted to do, more than anything, I had visions of this carefree existence – doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and basically churning out best-seller after best-seller every couple of months.

Reality is always far harsher than our fantasies, and once I came down to earth with a giant thump, I knew I had to change something. I now have an even more structured “work day” than probably at any time of my life. The big difference now though is; I ABSOLUTELY LOVE WHAT I DO!

Every day, except Sunday (Even God rested on a Sunday) I allocate three to four hours (yes that’s all!) for writing, or editing. I find that those hours, properly utilized, allow me to write as much as I need to in any given day. For me, this time is in the morning, but it will be different for each writer.

I also allocate two to three hours for social media – interacting, promoting, whatever. Those hours are not a single block however, and I will return to Facebook or Twitter several times a day to update myself on the happenings. The one thing I will not allow, despite the ever present temptation, is for this time to lap over into my writing time.

When I’m not writing or interacting on social media, I’m reading. I now consider reading to be an integral part of my “job”.

For anyone who is contemplating a full-time writing career, I have only one piece of advice. If it’s your passion, if it’s your bliss – then follow your dreams my friend.

We were not put on this earth to celebrate mediocrity, to slave away at mindless tasks every day – seeking what little pleasures we can get in the few hours of each weekend. We were put on this earth to be happy, to reach for the stars, and to be heroes.

If you are quavering at the precipice of a change in career and lifestyle – just this once – let your heart rule our head. You won’t be sorry you tried something new, but if you end your life wondering what if? Then I guarantee you, you will be sorry!

Don’t die with the music still inside you!

This article is an abridged version of a much more expansive article on the topic. The full text of the original article can be found here: Grant Leishman – My Blog

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Grant Leishman
I am an expatriate New Zealander living in Manila, The Philippines, with my wife and two step-daughters. At age 55, after careers in Finance and Journalism, I have finally discovered my true passion in life - writing, and I am now "living the dream", writing full-time.

My first novel is a romantic fantasy about the return of Jesus Christ to modern day Manila to try and sort out the problems of the world - yet again! My second novel "Just a Drop in the Ocean" is completed and should be published in 2015.

The sequel to "The Second Coming" - "The Rise of the AntiChrist" is my current project, about 75% complete. .

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