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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The 20 Percent Solution

I have a novel that is very nearly ready for the big time – the Big Time being self-publishing online. I even have a cover for said novel, and am attempting to convert the insides to a format the web will accept.

The next step (well, once it’s ready to launch), is getting the word out.

However, you can hear me whining from across the room. “I’m a writer, why do I have to sell? Shouldn’t I be writing?”

Yes, I should, but I’ve come to believe taking your work to the next level is really not that difficult. Even if you’re picked up by an agent, they’ll expect you to do some of the work. Anyone pitching a book (and a few other things I can think of) will need two things – a passion and a plan.

The passion part is easy. I really, really love my book. I like how I took a tiny piece of my Real Life, folded in a ridiculous premise, stirred gently with some over-the-top characters, added a few unlikely situations, and voila! VIRTUALLY YOURS  was born. I must have the passion. I’ve entered VY into contests and placed. When asked about my hobbies, I mention, “Oh, yes, I write novels in my spare time.” (!!! What spare time???) I go full bore into the story line, which isn’t hard to do. I’ve been elevator pitching anyone with ears since I wrote the last two words “The End.” The positive feedback is that I’m often asked when it will be coming out or could they read it.

But I know my passion isn’t going to see me through. It’s going to take some work, hard work, the kind of hard work I am loathe to do.  The kind that starts with an “S”.

Selling. Ugh. Do I really, really have to?

In a word, YES.

I had lunch last week with my MR ED, who is really excited about my book. No, really, almost as excited as I am, if that’s even possible. I wimped and whined about selling… There’s such a used car salesman stigma to selling your work. After all, in their heart of hearts, any artist believes that the work is so uniquely special it should sell itself.

Right.

There is also the “pushy” factor. No one wants to be known as that person. It appears gauche to pepper the Twittersphere with “Buy My Book” pleas, or to toot your horn (too loudly) on Facebook. If the recipients are anything like me, with too many blasts, they’ll drop you like a red hot tater and buy something else.

This is not to say I have never purchased a book from a friend or writing ally. The difference in the pitch is the delivery.

But let’s face it, now that you’re releasing your book to the masses (hopefully more than those dozen people who are related to you), you are now departing the world of the arts for the world of commercial enterprise. There is a fine line between tacky and thorough.

As for TIME (which is all important), Mr. ED came up with a boffo solution: The 20% solution. It’s a fabulous plan.

The best part is that it’s painfully easy. Take 80% of your time and work on the creative. Write to your heart’s content, or discontent. I would consider such items as classes or workshops in this category. Stretch your brain when you hit a writer’s block.

The remaining 20% is for the those tasks no writer wants to think about. The first thing that comes to mind is the technical aspects, like maintaining a blog, trying to convert your novel, or the dreaded selling your book.

It’s actually a pretty good solution for a common problem. Compartmentalizing your tasks might also help you stay on task, which is my biggest issue. I don’t need huge, nebulous deadlines, I need small, easy-to-reach deadlines.

I’ll give it a go and let you know.