When I read this post on the Futurebook blog recommending all authors get the social media habit, it simply confirmed my own beliefs that an aspiring novelist really has to get out there. It came up again at a writers’ evening where a friend who has just signed a deal for a genre novel told us that she is expected to maintain a blog and website of her own, despite benefitting from the marketing guns of a major publisher.
As a blog convert, my own reaction is ‘why not?’ It’s easy enough to set up a basic blog, and even if it does eat into other writing time (note I don’t just say ‘writing time’, because a blog, and even Twitter, in case you haven’t noticed, does involve writing), there’s a lot of enjoyment to be obtained on all kinds of levels from joining online communities, not to mention the networking opportunities they throw up.
So, imagine my surprise when I picked up a Tweet about a blog post entitled You Don’t Have to Blog, Tweet, or Be on Facebook. Since my reaction to this is ‘oh yes you do’ I decided to have a look, and whichever side of the fence you are on, you should have a look too.
What Jane Friedman says, in effect, is that there is no need to follow one particular mode of online interraction, or to see the exercise as purely about self-promotion. The important thing is to use whichever medium you choose in the way that you want to, and to make connections with like-minded souls. But the message also comes across from both the post itself and the comments, that you should be doing something to create and foster such connections. Because as soon as you do, you also create an audience, in other words a readership. These are people who already like your ‘voice’ (whatever form it takes), who will give you support when they can , and from whom you will also pick up information, tips, and inspiration. Come the day when you sign that deal and your baby hits the shelves, they may even buy a copy. They will certainly tell their own friends and followers about it, who will tell their friends …
So what can you do if you’re a blog/twitter refusenik? Jane Friedman comes up with some novel alternatives (of which several are actually blogs!) I certainly know of bloggers who communicate almost solely in pictures, using a blog or a Flickr photostream. It’s also common to blog on a topic only partly linked to your work as an author. It’s still a showcase for you.What matters is that you want to do it. While writing this post I discovered that local writer Nina Milton has set up a new blog in the persona of her latest heroine, an excellent way of honing the voice and getting in character. And of course there are those whose blogs (fictional or otherwise) have the potential to make it in the world of print or e-books. Harper Collins (under the imprint of The Friday Project) is one publisher actively looking for such material, and if you want to know what has happened to John Pinnock’s Mrs. Darcy versus The Aliens blog, look here if you dare.
So to all you social media refuseniks, the question isn’t about what you don’t want to do, but what you are going to do instead.