The Business of Being an Author: Thoughts on Social Media 4

I AM NOT an expert on social media or social media marketing. Far from it, though I’ve certainly received a lot of advice that social media engagement is a must for any successful author.

In fact, if you Google “social media for authors” (use the quotes to find results with that exact phrase) you’ll get over 165,000 results. It’s that important — or so most marketing experts claim.

In her book, The Business of Being a Writer, Jane Friedman, a publishing industry and media expert who I follow and greatly respect, tells us, “It is difficult, if not impossible, to be a writer in the digital era without maintaining some level of involvement in the online world — starting with a strong website.”

I feel that I have developed a strong website over these last nine years, with hundreds of blog posts (I prefer to call them articles) on topics ranging from journaling and memoir writing to productivity and tech tools for writers. I’ve developed several online courses, authored six books (two memoirs and four nonfiction), and edited two anthologies — which all have information and sales pages.

WritingThroughLife has had moderate success, typically attracting more than 6,000 unique visitors each month. I can and will continue to improve my site, offering more classes, more resources for writers, and (hopefully) increasing number of readers in the process.

But I’ve struggled with the social media part of developing a digital platform. And I know I’m not alone in this regard.

Though I have 480 friends on Facebook, many who are fellow writers, I find it difficult to get engaged on my personal page and tend to neglect my professional Writing Through Life page, which has over 4,300 Likes (about 10% of these followers will see my posts in their feed) and post only sporadically. There have been times I’ve been more engaged and more disciplined about my activity, but I’ve fallen off recently. Much of this due to the fact that my time is so limited and I’d rather do other things.

image depicting social media overwhelm

I’ve always disliked Twitter, which seems to me like a big, dark room into which thousands of people are shouting, “Me, me, me!” For about a year, due to my impression that having a vital presence on Twitter was essential to my success, I even hired a surrogate to tweet for me. That person managed, over the course of that year, to bring in over 40k legitimate followers (as opposed to fake ones, which you do have to watch out for if you hire someone). But I never could figure out what to do with all those followers or how to engage with them on any authentic level.

I tried Pinterest for a while, but lost interest. LinkedIn seems promising, but it’s really geared toward professional relationships, and I haven’t managed to find the time to fully develop my profile and connect with other members.

I’ve never even tried Instagram, WhatsApp, or Snapchat.

Friedman, responding in a blog post to the question of what to do if you’re an author without a social media presence, says: “One of the greatest gifts of the digital age is the ability to connect with people we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to reach in person. Social media can offer immediate access to people who will actually respond and notice you. Don’t forget, though—the consideration you would put into real-life interactions is also needed online. Taking the time to engage on social media is exactly like taking time to attend readings, community events, and parties where you can meet influencers or established authors.”

And maybe that’s the thing. I’m not a very social person. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy socializing with people once in a while. I do. I just don’t go looking for it often, and when I do socialize I prefer to interact with a few close friends rather than attending a party with a large group of people I barely know.

Social media is like that big party. And if I want to get noticed in that room I have to learn how act in ways that don’t come natural to me. I’d rather sit back and observe or chat with just a few people that I already know.

Friedman also says that if you’re the type of person who hates or dreads social media, you don’t have to use it. There are other ways to market your work, including guest posts, podcasts, online classes, and in-person events.

These words comfort me, because in truth I would rather write and edit my own or others’ writing than spend time on social media. I would rather spend time creating resources, such as my online classes, to share with and help other writers.

And this is why I’m sharing my personal author-business journey with you — to help you consider different perspectives and alternatives as you travel your own journey.

I do think it’s important to have some social media presence, and I know that I’ll get back online and attempt connecting in more authentic ways.

I have realized that building a social media platform is really about building healthy communities, not about marketing strategy. And with that intention in mind, even though I may not spend a lot of time online, perhaps my connections made through social media will be truer, deeper, and more rewarding for everyone involved.

How about you? What’s your relationship with social media like?


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4 thoughts on “The Business of Being an Author: Thoughts on Social Media

  • Linda Sievers

    Thank you for this post. I’m in my early 70’s and from a different generation than social media. I’ve also got arthritic fingers so typing quickly is not always an option. I appreciate your honesty regarding your issues with social media and promoting your work.

    Just because I don’t pursue S.Media right at the moment does not mean (and I’m sure you weren’t saying, nor was Jane), that I am not serious about my writing. I also have a husband who has health issues, so my time is squeezed quite often. Is there, that you know of, a writing site that is held together by several writers where other writers can feed in as we can, but that no one person has to carry the burden of sustaining the site, or blog, or whatever, ALL the time, or by themselves. I may be asking a question that would appear obvious, but, what the hay, I’m curious IF there is such a site, if it works, and how to access it. Or ‘nudge’ it into being.


  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    social media is one way I can quickly stay in touch with family and friends who live faraway. However, I don’t want my involvement to be distracting. Nor do I want to dedicate a lot of daily time to social media. So, for a lot of reasons I limit my time and am careful whom I choose to “friend.” I don’t need toxic banter, negative comments, etc. If someone who’s a friend is too toxic, I either unfollow or unfriend.

  • Tammy

    Hi Amber,

    Thank you for being honest with your thoughts on social media. I’ve started looking into what it takes to have an “author’s presence” online so feel this is right on time!