Social Media and the Time Management (What Time?) of the Antisocial Writer

This is about selling, this is about social media, and of course, time management.

Even though I’m a writer, and writers are notoriously introverted, it doesn’t mean we’re anti-social.

Well, it does. It’s the nature of the beast. We sit in dark rooms in the middle of the night, or in coffee shops nursing a double venti for six hours, alone with our thoughts and the characters who populate our imaginary worlds. However, in order to sell books, we have to resort to becoming salesmen. It’s really not that icky of a proposition, even though sometimes I feel like a used car salesman peddling a Yugo. (Let me insert here that my book is NOT a Yugo! It’s more like a Scion.) Selling means a modicum of social activity must occur. You can’t sit in your basement and hope and pray that someone is going to buy your work, because it doesn’t happen that way

Writers can improve their socialness in many ways: Going to conferences helps; smiling, introducing yourself to random strangers – including those in the position of power like agents and editors – that’s a scary exercise, but it must be done. But in the modern world, writers must also sell online.

Whee, the Internet! That’s where it’s happening. It’s so easy to be a social butterfly if no one can see your face! or your middle-aged spare tire, or your ugly shoes. You can even socialize in your unmentionables – hell, even in the nude. But wait! The Internet is fraught with sinkholes. That’s because the Internet, that shiny beautiful thing full of information and networks and contacts, is an incredible time sucking m-a-c-h-i-n-e.

And let’s face it, if your time has been sucked, there is no time left for writing.

Here are my strategies (both in time and otherwise) and reviews of the major social networks:

LINKEDIN:

I belong, but I don’t get it. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dinosaur, or maybe because I’m not very “professional” in the strictest sense of the word. I see LinkedIn as a place for… well, salesmen. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel comfortable there. Every once in a while, I’ll get an email notification that I have pending whatever and whoos-it to approve and will dive in and look around for a hot minute. But honestly, LinkedIn does nothing for me.

MYSPACE:

Good for musicians, not so for writers. And of course, it is so totally un-cool. I have a MySpace account, but haven’t been in in forever. I spend zero time there.

FACEBOOK:

At one time, I was enamored of the Book of Face. Let’s see, it was right after the Powers of Face decided to allow more than college students to participate. I joined right away, at the suggestion of my then college-aged son. Facebook was snarky and new, a bright bauble of online fun. I could easily connect to not only my family, but to agents and editors and authors.

While the bloom is off the rose, thanks to many upgrades, and the fact that everyone on the planet (even my Boston terrier, Gracie Boo) has a Facebook page, Facebook still kinda-sorta fun. However, there’s a lot of drama going on. Politics, sniping, dumb shit. I don’t have time to get sucked into one side or the other. The jury is out as to whether or not posting links to your book generates more sales. You hope more than just your friends and relatives will buy your work, but I’m not a pushy salesman, so I don’t know. If I were a better salesman, I would conduct a survey. But I’m not, so there.

My strategy: Go in, spend no more than 15 minutes updating my page with a writer’s quote or a blog post, check out a few friends, and get the hell out. Push my book once a month.

TWITTER:

My new favorite social network. What I love about Twitter is that I can keep the feed open and not have to worry about people IM’ing me. Not that I don’t want to talk to my friends, but I don’t have sound on my work computer, and so I never hear the Facebook IMs. Not answering a Facebook IM makes me look antisocial, not deaf.

Twitter is very much like being at a cocktail party. You can eavesdrop on conversations, insert a witty comment here and there, or just plain stalk (and I mean that in the nicest way) people.

On Twitter, I can narrow who I follow. With a few exceptions, I follow agents, editors, and authors. The writing community on Twitter is a HUGE resource, even though I keep who I follow to under 200. Monday’s are great, so many links to so many great articles, it’s hard to choose what to read first. (I open up a browser just for these links, so it’s not on the same page as my Real Life work links.) Even if you don’t have any time, you can *favorite* the tweet and go back to it later.

I have no idea whether or not I’ve sold any books via Twitter. Ever the non-salesman, I just want to observe, learn, and keep my nose clean. I want people to see I’m not some sort of flake, that I’m serious about writing, even with the pitfalls I stumble into along the way. (I did experience one brief WHEE! TWITTER moment when an agent once tweeted out that she was looking for serious, literary fiction, I answered, and she tweeted back that once I was finished editing, I should query her. Update: I haven’t yet.)

My Twitter strategy is to leave the page open. For me, it’s the most bang for the social media buck.

The key thing for writers to remember is this: being a social is nice, but if you haven’t written anything, you’re a butterfly without a book.

🙂

And here’s where you can find me.

Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Virtually Yours, now on Amazon

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A Rant Unrelated to Writing… Or Maybe It Is

I love social media.

Usually.

It’s fast, it’s easy. I can keep track of my friends and relatives without calling them. I can laugh at jokes and eCards, view photos and videos from all over the world, and shop for bargains. I can monitor world events, see what’s hot and what’s not, and find large bits of useful and useless information, both meaningful and dumb. I gave up my newspaper subscription, because 1. the Detroit News is a shadow of its former self, 2. news is readily available online, and 3. my bird died.

I especially love social media because I write. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads (social media for writers), and Instagram – writers tend to use these forums to dispense information. I can check out my favorite authors’ new releases; I can research people and places; I can stalk agents (discreetly) and find out what they really think about us poor, helpless writer-schlubs. I can learn about upcoming contests quickly, thus freeing me from blog hopping all over the information superhighway. Saves both time and aspirin.

But social media isn’t all about ONE THING. It’s…well, social, meaning that what happens in the world spills over with some of these personalities. Believe me, I have narrowed my follows to people I really know or like, or authors, writers, agents, and/or others in the business. While I tend to shy away from the troll types, I engage with people who, quite frankly, I don’t agree with on many issues.

I’m not a pithy Tweeter, and I try to stay away from Facebook as much as possible. I love to be sociable, but these Internet water cooler-coffee klatch-parties are a time suck, my friends. My plate overfloweth. I run a business, a household, and I’m trying to write in between many crushing Real Life commitments.

That being said, while I like a nicely executed verbal exchange of ideas, there are things I do not like. One, I don’t care for a constant battering of positions which inevitably winds up some hapless soul being virtually lynched. I (and others) can have our opinions without being called stupid or worse.

Recently, I’ve noticed the online tone changing from an exchange of ideas to a pity party, where people tend to play the victim card with every revelation or change in government. I don’t care if you’re white, black, red or purple, I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman, straight or gay, born here or (like me) not, if you had perfect loving parents or were abused, I don’t even care if you’re a Donkey or an Elephant. Honest to God, when I look at people, I see none of this.

What irks me more than any or all of these distinctions is that people tend to claim victimhood as a valid argument for any position.

I suppose it’s because I’ve had my craw full this week. Not only do I see this online, I see this in offline relationships. If your mother was a child abuser, if your skin is a certain color, if your spouse cheated, if your boss is a bitch – all these are reasons to justify bad behavior. WHAT? (That sound you heard was my head hitting a brick wall.) First of all, why give the other side that much power? Secondly, if you’re over 18, why not own your situation and carry on? If you have brains and strength and chutzpah, figure out your problems and devise a workable solution.

I am a woman, I am of mixed race, I am old, I have issues. I’m flawed BIG TIME. A physically and emotionally abusive mother raised me. Never once in the last 57 years have I blamed any of my shortcomings on my external environment, that the “man” was keeping me down as a woman or anything else. That’s because I control my life and my destiny, and the parts I can’t control I deal with the best I can.

After ruminating on this revelation and my subsequent annoyance for a few hours (after shutting down Twitter, because I couldn’t stand it anymore), I realized that the victim card is played by aspiring authors too. I’ve been to plenty of writers conferences where there are a few disgruntled and unhappy attendees. They see other writers as enemies or rivals, and agents as tyrants. Perhaps their manuscripts aren‘t the next Harry Potter and need more work. Instead of taking control of their work and their destiny, they choose to play the blame game.

It’s so much easier, right?

Grow and let go.

Rant over.

Queries and Agents

Now that the novel is finished (I think…if I can keep my hands off it, finally), I’ve spent the first week of the new year adjusting my query letter. I actually sent one off too! My goal for this year is to send one out each week. However, the entire process of querying agents is often overlooked by fledgling published author-wannabes, who send out mass email blasts to every literary agent from coast to coast.

That’s right, querying agents is not so easy.

In fact, I spent a couple of days researching agents before I sent off my first letter.

Before that, I spent a year following agents around online. This is easily done on Twitter and Facebook. OK, so it’s professional cyber-stalking, but it’s a necessary task before the clueless writer sends the work off to the great beyond. This because there is a protocol, and God forbid if Clueless Writer does something totally tacky. You can gain a lot of insight by reading the pet peeves of various agents. They are sometimes funny, sometimes informative, and sometimes downright scary, as in you don’t want to mess with this person kind of scary.

Twitter is a wonderful resource, because you can eavesdrop on agents as they talk to each other. The agent web appears to be quite huge. After a while, you get to know them by their responses. I know you don’t really know them, but it gives you a feel for their personalities.

As luck would have it, I happened to see this online yesterday – talk about timely. This article is a must-read for anyone who is contemplating sending out a query letter. It’s long, but there is so much information packed into the post that I have bookmarked it for later use.

I use the Query Tracker website (if you do not, you should check it out), where you can search for agents according to genre. This, my friends, is a very good thing to do. Agents who only represent non-fiction are loathe to answer a letter from a romance novelist, and there is probably similar annoyance going the other way.

But it’s not only finding the agent to fit your needs, you must find the right agent for the genre, for the type of book you have written. For example, in the world of romance, there are many sub-genres. Agents who represent historical romance usually stick to that sub-genre. It’s the same with chick-lit, steamy traditional romance, Christian romance, alternative romance, etc. I can imagine an agent of Christian romance opening up a query letter from someone who has written erotica. Oops doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I also took some time to research where my favorite authors are represented. Yes, it’s painstaking. I know a few authors (some by name only and others more personally) but I would never think to ask them who their agent is. I could be wrong, but that shouts TACKY in 120 decibels. Besides, a good Internet sleuth can find the information with a little perseverance. Take copious notes, because if you’re like me, you could lose your place among the hundreds of agencies you are looking at.

Query letters are business letters, and aspiring authors should remember that. In my Day Job, I write business letters all day long, so I realize the need to be concise. It’s just a little different with a query letter, in that you are trying to sell your work using as few words as possible. There has to be a hook, something that will keep the agent reading. Be pleasant, be respectful, and try not be cliche. Agents are looking for a spark of creativity. You’re a writer, right?

Be prepared to have a synopsis in your back pocket as well. I have a huge, detailed query letter for those agents not asking for a synopsis, and a shorter one for those who do. (A confession: I am not good at writing synopsis. I know. I should take a class.)

I may not be an expert, but I know how to follow those who do.