There are thousands of eBooks released every single week by indie authors and sometimes they feel a need to stand out in the crowd. Most turn to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or participate in the Goodreads community. Some people think that authors are spending too much time on social self-promotion at the expense of honing their craft.
In a recent BBC interview, author Jonathan Franzen lamented, “What I find particularly alarming, again, from the point of view I care about, American fiction, is that it’s a coercive development. Agents will now tell young writers: ‘I won’t even look at your manuscript if you don’t have followers on Twitter’. I see people who ought to be spending their time developing their craft and people who used to be able to make their living as freelance writers. I see them making nothing, and I see them feeling absolutely coerced into this constant self-promotion.”
In a recent article in The Guardian, Nesrine Mailk said, “A distinguished British author and historian recently told me in a private conversation that his publisher had forced him to go on Twitter in order to promote his latest book. Having joined just for this purpose, his timeline was an unbroken litany of self-advertisement. He soon realized that the constant promotion was backfiring, and that his ‘brand’ was being tarnished as followers were beginning to snipe at his hitherto exalted status. Indeed, the whole exercise was creating the impression that he was a pompous bore whose brash self-promotion did not match the profundity of his work – but he did not know how to rectify that.”
Barbra Freethy recommends to avoid social media distractions altogether, and just to write the next book. “I’ve seen writers waste too much time planning Facebook parties and posting on Twitter. All of that is important, but the best thing you can do for yourself and your growing fan base is to write the next book. It’s much easier to sell the third, fourth, fifth, sixth book, then the first or second. I try to limit marketing to no more than an hour a day and the rest is spent on writing. You have to prepare for the long haul. You don’t have to sell all your books in a week or a month. You’re going to be selling your books for years, so spend time making them really good, and the readership will grow!”
The only thing that can be counted on to enhance your visibility as a writer is to interact with readers in a real, honest, and generous way. If you are dead bent on using social media, focus all of your energies on a singular platform. Hugh Howey said he focused on the readers he already had instead of trolling the universe for more. When you create the kind of goodwill and loyal fan base he has, word of mouth spreads about your books. That way, you get those “1000 true fans” instead of amassing pointless lists of numbers.
Instead of focusing all of your marketing efforts on Twitter and Facebook it is important to establish your brand. You simply cannot do this from scratch and I recommend to join RedRoom, SheWrites, Wattpad, or myWANA—sites where both readers and writers congregate and foster meaningful dialogue.
Failing that, you can take the advice of Bret Easton Ellis‘s friend, who reportedly told him at the Vanity Fair Oscars’ party: “You need to get off Twitter. People think you’re crazy.”