Monday, May 22, 2017

On Approved Social Media Behavior

So, if you've been living in a cave for the past thirty years, there's this thing called the "Internet." On it, you can look up just about anything (not always such a great thing). On the Internet, there's this thing called "social media." Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Reddit, Ello, Goodreads, Tumblr....the list goes on. You know the drill. You "add" people and enter into/build a community in which you share just about everything: ups and downs in your life, books you're reading, what you're eating, cat memes....just about everything and anything (again, not always such a good thing).

Creative folks jumped right on social media, especially those of the younger generation. It's become, in many ways, the go-to way to spread work about whatever creative work a person is engaged with. If you're a writer, or a fan of writers, you know this drill, also. Authors have websites, they have Facebook Fan Pages, Group Pages, some still have personal pages, they use Twitter, Goodreads, Tumblr, name it.

Just recently, my publisher asked for whatever pictures I had of me at conventions, signing books or doing "writerly things" for their Instagram account. Yesterday, I interacted with a fellow author's Facebook thread about the importance/effectiveness of Twitter, and how big publishers are very concerned/focused on what social media platforms potential authors utilize. Even more interesting, I was invited to a book-signing at our local Barnes & Noble, and had to fill out a questionnaire, and one of the questions asked about my social media platform, how many followers I had, etc. 

It's all a little mind-boggling. I'm part of this "younger generation" of writers, I guess, (which sounds weird saying at age 43), and I've no problem sharing my work on social media, understanding that an active web presence is important in growing a reader base. However, what often gets frustrating is all the "noise" about how one is supposed to best use social media to grow your reader base, all the 'do's' and 'don'ts'. I remember one article, in particular, with a title reading something like this (I'm paraphrasing from memory): Stop Posting About Your Book Because No One Cares and It Doesn't Help Sales Anyway. Basically, the whole point of the article was that if you're an author and want readers and sales, don't dare post reviews or links to your book, or anything remotely related to your book. Post cat memes and foodies or whatever, and that's all.

Okay, snark aside: there's was some good logic to that article. Basically, your social media presence probably shouldn't be one big "buy my books" stream. Be a real person, basically. Share your interests. Likes and dislikes. The movie you just watched. But it did kinda go hardcore about how sharing your book or reviews doesn't matter, that it was something you shouldn't do.

I see well-regarded, excellent writers posting excerpts of their work. Then I see well-regarded, respected writers mocking those who post excerpts of their work. This is the nature of the social media beast for writers: there are rules, I suppose, but they don't necessarily apply to everyone, yet the folks who have developed these rules for themselves and have been successful following them think we should all abide by them, too.

Facebook Fan Page to avoid stalkers and such, or just use a Facebook personal profile? Should I have created a private Facebook for friends and family, and a separate one for my writing? And who has time to manage all this and still write, especially when I work full time, have a family I'd like to actually be a part of, a wife who needs me, and a special needs son to consider?

Am I supposed to post reviews of my books? I mean, is it okay to get excited when someone likes your work, and share that? I will say I only share the substantial reviews these days, and pass on sharing the one line "Best book evah!" reviews. But even so - do they matter? Do they generate sales? Does it annoy people and make them delete me? I mean, it shouldn't. It says "writer" on my bio. Stands to reason if you add a "writer" you'll get posts about writing, occassionally. And should I care if someone doesn't like it when I post reviews? Wring my hands over potential lost Facebook friends? Who's got the energy or time for that?

And do big publishers and agents care about how I act on social media? I mean, I don't ever talk much about politics on Facebook, because it's too easy for folks to retreat behind their avatars and not enter into an actual discussion, (conservative, liberal, libertarians alike), and I only share the personal elements of my faith (another blog for another time). I don't get into heavy religious matters because, again, FB makes it too easy for folks to shout at each other. Also, I'm not a dogmatic, argumentative person by nature. I have no desire to prove anything to anyone (except that I'm at least an "okay" writer), nor do I have any desire to prove anyone "wrong" or "win" an argument. 

So, I'm not likely to be a scandal risk for big publishers on social media. But do I act "professional" enough? "Authorly" enough? My Dad is on my Facebook ( Hi, Dad!) and on my page he posts pictures of us as kids, or pictures of my Mom (she passed last year), or race car modeling pages. I think it's totally cool. But is it too personal for someone who wants to write in the big time? Maybe publishers won't take me seriously with that stuff on my Facebook page? Is it even worth worrying about it? Maybe it would be, if I got offered a contract? (It should be noted:  I have a Facebook Author Page. If I was asked to use it more by a big publisher who was considering my work, I would.)

And here's the thing: the more energy I spend on these questions, the less energy I have to write. Who wants to write while considering all these things? Who has the time to write something good while creating a huge social media presence? Maybe my reluctance to grapple with these things is just more proof the world of Big Boy Publishing isn't for me (this is, again, assuming I'm good enough to write at that level to begin with).

What's my answer?

I don't know. Basically, I figure, like I said before: it says "writer" on my Facebook bio. So if you add me, I'll talk about writing some. But, I'm a dad, and a husband, a Christian, and a high school English teacher, a rabid reader, someone who tinkers with modeling in the winter, a basketball fan (of my daughter, mostly) a former athlete, an amateur gardener,  a lover of all things genre, (did I mention rabid reader?), and a very random person. You add me on social media, you get all that. You get me, for better or for worse, and I've got just about enough energy for that, and my family, and my job, and my writing. So for now...that'll have to do.