Disclaimer: I am not a professional writer by any stretch of the imagination. I am merely an amateur with a passion for the craft. My observations here are very much from an outsider’s opinion.
My social media game is weak. Extremely weak. I am not good at engaging with others, have trouble keeping up with trends, am not able to post on any sort of consistent basis, et cetera.
This isn’t a knock against having a social media presence. I understand how important it is in these interconnected times for an author market themselves in order to stand out in an increasingly crowded literary scene. In fact, this brings me to the first observation I have made in the last year upon reinserting myself into the social media world as an aspiring author: There are a lot of writers out there.
It is equal parts overwhelming, empowering, and disheartening to see that the desire for fiction is still alive and well. The disheartened part comes from the realization of just how saturated the market is right now and how it seems simultaneously easier and harder than ever to get one’s book out into the world, or rather, read.
Writing the damn thing is not half the battle, it might not even be a quarter of it.
My second observation: Self-publishing no longer carries with it the stigma it once did in years gone past. It may not carry with it the same respect that being published by a major publishing house does, but it is a viable option for the undiscovered, unconnected writer wanting to break into the business. And with companies such as Amazon and Smashwords, it is easy enough for any writer to publish a book themselves provided they put up a little bit of upfront cash for professional editing, formatting, and ideally, a well-done cover.
Note: As far as I can tell, vanity publishers are still a thing and are, as they have always been, a scam. One that I nearly fell for many years ago. That is not what I am referring to here.
Self-publishing in this way can potentially provide a relatively high return of profit on every book sold…assuming the author can get anyone to buy their book.
And so we come back to social media. Without the weight of a traditional publisher to widely market and distribute one’s book, this task falls solely upon the author. And a task it is. Marketing is a skill and it is a skill I do not possess. On Twitter, I see many an author who seem reasonably okay at marketing themselves though I do not know how successful they are. However, their accounts have tens of thousands of followers and their tweets get hundreds to thousands of likes. How much of that translates to sales, I have not a clue, but it is impressive all the same. It also seems like an exhaustive amount of work goes into it.
Observation the third: Being good at social media is time consuming. The writers who are the best at Twitter post a lot. Several times a day, several times an hour, sometimes short quips, sometimes expansive threads. Add to that regular blog posting (as I am attempting now), Instagram pics/stories, Tumblr posts, and even Facebook cross-promoting, and it seems like there isn’t much time left for the business of writing and editing. Let alone life and work.
I understand that for many writers, writing is their work, their sole or main source of income. That is, of course, the dream for amateurs like myself or those still attempting to jump start their professional writing careers. But even if I had all the time in the world, I don’t know that I would have the energy to be posting all the time. I’m not a very social person, online or off. All that time spent thinking up interesting or witty things to post, I would much rather spend writing.
But again, is there a point to writing if no one will read what is written? Well, yes, of course. We write because we need to, because it is our art. But it is nice to be read as well.
One final observation: Even professional authors who are traditionally published seem encouraged or perhaps even required to maintain a social media presence. Not a bad thing necessarily but a sign of the times. Are the days of being a well-known, successful author who lives a secluded and private life all but over? I have no idea. It is overwhelming to me though that there is so much more to this business (and it is very much a business) than simply writing a good book.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I have a long way to go toward achieving my dream of being a published author. The pathway before me is no longer as clear-cut as I once believed it to be. But, though it is discouraging, I am not ready to give up on my dreams just yet.
Maybe I am bad at social media, but truthfully, I don’t really put forth the effort I should. I don’t write as much as I should. I make excuses for myself, reasons why I don’t have time or energy. I do work a full-time job but I also spend probably too much of my free time playing video games. Perhaps a topic for another post down the road…
Anyway, here’s to writing more, editing more, posting more, and making myself be heard, one way or another, as a writer.