Nobody ever told me when I got into this writing business that I’d have to peel off time for social media. Honestly, back in 2011, I barely knew what that was.
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I recall one conversation with the guys I work with not long before my first novel came out. I made one of those declarations that came back to bite me. “I’ll never have one of those MyFace pages. I don’t intend to waste my time on it. And I don’t understand this tweeting thing. It makes no sense.”
Lesson learned. Never say never.
Social media still doesn’t make sense in many ways. It’s a time-suck that takes that wastes hours, and pulls us away from real life and what we should be doing. Like writing.
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But when I got my first contract, there was a paragraph insisting on a social media presence. So I got myself a Facebook personal page (I soon learned that My Space and Face book were two different things) and an author page, and a Twitter profile.
I knew nothing about those platforms, and didn’t want to do it in the first place. (Buy my book) I’m still not sure what to do with social media, but I’m working on it. Years ago John Gilstrap and I attended a panel on using Twitter at some conference and picked up a few things. We downloaded an app and soon had about 20,000 “followers” each.
I’ve since learned about half were bots (which I still don’t understand), and suddenly found myself following people I didn’t know or care about.
The problem is that I’m an old guy playing with new technology. Young people are natives in this world of electronic relationships and I’m an immigrant lost in a mysterious world I don’t understand. It’s a wonder I haven’t triggered some nuclear device and melted down the entire internet, if not the world.
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Then one day I noticed that when I posted on Facebook with an accompanying photo, more people were interested. Hummm…so I made it a point to include some kind of image or art. That gained a few more followers, but nothing to write home about.
I still needed interaction. I talked to a few successful authors with substantial herds of “fans” hanging on their every posted idea and asked what they did to interest people.
Most shrugged. “I don’t know. I was interviewed on this blog and people started finding my page.”
“I post pictures of my dog (puppies, kittens, cat, fish, squirrel, monkey) and people got interested.”
“I tell people I wrote a book and to buy it, but I’m not getting far with it.”
“A writer friend suggested on their page that people should take a look at my page.”
“Beats me. Stephen King mentioned one of my books and now I have about a bazillion followers. You think that’s a coincidence?”
All this is as mind numbing as the first suggestion I ever heard from an editor on a panel at my first writers conference in 2011. “We’re through with vampires and the living dead. Those books as passe. Don’t send us anything else like that.”
I’m not sure any of us know what works in this writing world, only what works for us. It’s the same in utilizing social media.
In my case, it was my youngest daughter who helped me gain Facebook followers. I told her one day in the truck that the Bride nearly had a rigor when she saw a snake in the back yard, and young Meg frowned. “What does that mean?”
I had to explain that old-timey saying. “It’s a running fit.”
We disappeared down a rabbit hole, and I had to explain how the “old folks” talked when I was growing up. The old folks who were then younger than my current age.
I talked while my then-thirteen year old daughter pretended not to listen. “For example, when we say someone let the gate down, it means that traffic is heavy and it’s hard to get on the road. That comes from the old days when let the gate down on a pasture or a corral, and the cows ran out. It referred to those old floppy wire gates we had to drag out of the way and lay on the ground.”
She looked out the truck’s window as if I was driving Miss Daisy. Used to such adolescent behavior from my years as a teacher and dad, I continued to inform and annoy. “Or if someone had a “falling out,” it was a disagreement that usually resulted in the silent treatment at the worst, or little or no communication for a long period of time.
“Then there are words few people use these days. Like ‘hob’ which is a flat metal circle on top of an old wood burning stove. It’s where people would put the pans to cook and eventually became burners on gas and electric stoves. Then there’s the word ‘tote’ to carry something, or ‘dykes’ for wire cutters…”
She finally looked at me from the corners of her eyes to see if I was telling the truth, then went back to her examination of the passing landscape, or maybe silently asking the Lord why she was saddled with a daddy who droned on and on about nothing.
“Or ‘sashay’ or ‘mosey’ or phrases, like ‘well, dog my cats’ or ‘tuckered out.’”
“You’re still talking, aren’t you. And you’re breathing my air to do it.”
“Just explaining what I grew up with.”
“Why don’t you put those on your Facebook pages? I bet older people might be interested. It’s better than talking about your books all the time and asking people to buy them.”
With that backhanded slap and suggestion, I started posting Old Timey Words and Old Timey Phrases, which are likely the most popular posts I make.
As I said, I am no expert at this, but I can tell you one thing, if authors using any social platform post nothing but reviews and information about their books…
…Buy my books! Buy my book! I have a new book coming out. It’s a doozy. Buy my book! Here’s a link where you can buy my book…
…they’ll drive followers away in droves. Folks today want to be entertained (hence the photos that accompany my posts), and require fairly short posts so they can read them quickly and move on to the next and the next and the next.
Followers love to hear about your writing life, what you’re doing, or how you’re doing it. They seek advice on how to get published, but don’t want pages of info. Think sound bites. But they don’t want you to post every day about buying your books.
I also get a lot of comments on photos and discussions about my grand-critters. Followers love it when I share my oldest daughters’ life with her seven and nine-year-olds in Conversations on the Couch.
Daugther, addressing seven-year-old Parker: Did I hear you say you want to go to Ohio? Why?
Or Conversations in the Car.
Daughter: What was Captain Hook’s name before Hook?
Nine-year-old Riley: Captain Hand.
Readers want to know about how you write, what makes you tick, your favorite movie/book/television program/author/actor or Life its ownself. You can mention your writing space, what you’re working on, what you’re reading, and on occasion, announce the release of your upcoming book, or reviews, or blurbs for said novel. Fans like to see covers, and read flap copy.
I heard a speaker estimate posts about life vs. books at 20 to 1. Personally, I think over 90% of my posts are things other than selling books.
Being on social platforms is like making soup. Throw in all the ingredients that personalize your own delicious creation, but don’t add too much of any one spice or ingredient. And don’t tell folks about it every time you boil up a pot (buy my book), because they’ll soon tire of it and drift on to other pages and platforms.
Well said, Rev. I’ve long advocated a 90/10 rule for social media, and keep the 90 positive and entertaining.
So many folks don’t do that. I’m bombarded with FB requests from authors and acquaintances who say, “Buy my book!” Thanks for your input!
Thanks, Rev. Some great advice. There’s gold in them there hills.
Being from Ohio, I would be curious why Parker wanted to go to Ohio.
Thank you sir. You never know what’s in the mind of a seven year old. Maybe he just likes to say it….
Remember it’s SOCIAL media. That’s where the emphasis belongs.
Maybe with one addendum. Pleasant or courteous social media.
I like to think that SOCIAL implies courtesy. But today — who knows?
I said goodbye to Twitter. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t ‘good’ at it. I believe it’s important to focus on one or two social media platforms. The one (two) that is the most comfortable for you. I like to take pictures, so Instagram makes sense. And yes, people love cute animals and babies more than books.
Instagram is kinda fun, and my FB posts go directly there. I can’t remember when I last posted on Twitter, and really don’t care. So much of it was, and maybe still is, hate posts.
Captain Hand???? Hilarious! You got some smart grandcritters, Rev.
To me, SM doesn’t mean “social media” but rather “sado-masochism”. I don’t want to get beat up and I don’t want to beat anyone up. I keep trying with Twitter but my heart isn’t in it.
Blogs are so 20th century but they continue to be my preference for online interaction.
Conversations here at TKZ are far more enjoyable, interesting, and educational. I always learn something new from reader comments and count quite a few people as actual friends, not just “like” clicks.
I would have hit the thumbs-up 10 times if it were allowed.
I’m like you. I prefer pleasant and informative interaction. Kinda like sitting around at a writers conference, talking with good friends.
Yeah, I learned the “add a photo” trick early on. But then I’m a visual kinda guy. Don’t have any monkeys but plenty of squirrels about. May replace the slingshot with the camera for them.
I’m not a big fan of social media though I have used FB. I tried Twitter years ago but just couldn’t get into it. Was using FB until several months ago when they got too pushy in dictating to me, essentially about lowering the security settings of my computer to suit them. I went and joined MEWE (much like FB) but they have had a really hard time migrating people over from places like FB so it’s not much use. I still hold out hope it will catch on as an alternate to the obnoxious FB.
I do not yet market books, but when I do, a place like FB is likely going to be where my readers are (I don’t tend to write for the Tik Tok generation).
But yes, engagement is key. The “buy my book!” stuff is an absolute turnoff. But engage and interest me with your posts & I’m much more likely to check out your books.
Also, it drives me nuts when I sign up to receive author emails and they incessantly bombard you. MOST authors don’t fall into this trap, but some do. Even if you’re sending engaging emails throughout the week and not just “buy my book” emails, it’s still annoying. For crying out loud, I work and chore full-time and don’t have time for much ‘engagement’. Hearing from an author once a month (unless there are very compelling reasons to do it slightly more) is more than enough. Keep your name in front of me, but don’t cause me to unsubscribe due to obnoxious frequency.
As someone mentioned in a comment above, when the time comes for me to market, I’m going to stick to 1 or 2 platforms. I just don’t have the bandwidth for more.
Great post! Kept me chuckling through out, but also resonated with my writer heart at just the right time. And I just may have to “buy your book” LOL… but either way I did start following you on Facebook. Looking forward to more such insight and wisdom.
I like the 90/10 rule also. I like to post quotes from famous (and not so famous) people about writing, running, time, life, or just about anything that has a good meaning.
I also believe blogs are the most effective means of building relationships with readers and writers.
Buy my book. Haha. Enjoyed your post.
Social media still doesn’t make sense in many ways