Please Don’t Bother to Like Me

October 13, 2014 § 24 Comments

letter_writi_24714_lgBack in June, I landed an agent. She sent me a questionnaire. How many Twitter followers do you have? How many Facebook friends?

The first answer was ‘zero.’ I’d never really understood Twitter. And Facebook–well, I’d like to keep saying whatever I want, so I figured it was time to make an author page. And set up a Tumblr. An Instagram. That new Ello thing. Klout. Hootsuite to organize it all. Started writing here at the Brevity blog.

Four months later, I’m at 1000 Twitter followers. I wake up every morning and squint into my phone, four inches from my un-contact-lensed-eye, send out some retweets, check in with Facebook, browse through Instagram. Sundays I set up social media for the whole week, lay down a base of 3-5 tweets a day of things I think my connections would like to know. When I’m waiting in a line (or hey, I’ll admit it, on the toilet) I send some tweets, upload a #picoftheday, like a few statuses, save up links for next week.

It’s not working.

That is, in the sense of

Plan A: Become Media Darling,

Plan B: Go Viral,

Plan C: Sell Books.

I’m pretty much an abject failure. I’m toting up a few retweets at a time, gaining followers, discovering that a Facebook Page (as opposed to profile) is basically unseen unless one pays to advertise, I don’t get Pinterest and I’m too old for Tumblr until I start writing YA.

Over at Creative Nonfiction, Stephanie Bane writes:

The reality is that successful online marketing, just like successful offline marketing, is driven by money. A social media presence with no cash behind it doesn’t do much for the average author when it comes to selling books, and squandering precious hours on building a platform that few people will ever see—hours that could otherwise be spent writing—is a mistake that can hurt your productivity and, therefore, your career.

Ms. Bane’s experience as a digital marketing specialist has taught her that the rate is about the same as any other form of direct marketing. One percent. Got a thousand followers? Ten will buy your book–if you’re doing well.

But I dig that morning Instagram time. What’s new in #travel? There’s my friend’s baby rabbits, a new way to wear a hijab, I’ll upload a picture with a recipe as a postcard to my mom. I’ve connected on Twitter with people I never thought I’d be able to talk to (Hi Emily Gould!). I finally decided my personal Facebook was public, and I don’t post anything I don’t want the world to see (my privacy bar is admittedly low).

I’ve decided to stop caring about platform. To, as Ms. Bane says, “monitor and participate in the intellectual life of the publishing community.” To affiliate myself with issues, topics and ideas that I want to write about, so that I’ll know what people care about and what’s already been said. To write blogs that encourage fellow writers. To stay connected with people whom I will one day ask, “Can you please ask three friends to come with you to my reading? Not with a retweet, but pick up the phone?”

There’s more great information on if and why to blog, tweet, and otherwise frolic through the social media playground in “Platforms” Are Overrated at Creative Nonfiction. Check it out–for anyone struggling with “platform,” it’s a relief.


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List!



§ 24 Responses to Please Don’t Bother to Like Me

  • clpauwels says:

    Reblogged this on CL Pauwels at Large and commented:
    Social media – the bane of all writers (at least the ones I know). And that dread term “platform.”

    Can’t we all just be “friends”? Share thoughts, ideas, struggles, and victories?

    As Stephanie Bane is quoted in the attached piece, “monitor and participate in the intellectual life of the publishing community”?

    Be a good literary citizen instead of a salesman?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • jerrywaxler says:

    Allison, This is one of the best anti-anti-sales jobs I’ve ever seen. You’re a genius. Anyone who doesn’t like you and follow you after reading this has a heart of stone. Oh. Wait. Was there a book I was supposed to buy? If so, it’s too late. I’ve used up my five minutes of Allison Williams time and have to move on to pay attention to the other 6,000 hits of information that have passed my view since I learned your name. 🙂 Jerry

  • I agree with your reasons for dabbling with the social media-it is not so much for marketing as it is for immersing yourself in the online writing community,share the process of and snippets of your work,share information and ideas,build some meaningful connections.
    Thank you for sharing Stephanie Bane’s post too.

  • Just what I needed to read. Thank you Allison. Am now following you…

  • Jan Wilberg says:

    I’m not selling anything so I think that makes Facebook and Twitter a little more of a fun Rubik’s Cube. I want more readers, a greater reach, and the fuel for writing more and better that comes from new, more diverse readers. For a blogger, the transition from friends and relatives to strangers is huge and I have been loving that a lot over the past year. It’s worth the investment to cultivate.

    • healthysolutionz says:

      Hey Jan. I’m new to the facebook group deal….matter of fact, this is my virgin post (so be gentle with me.) I like what you said about loving your last year, transitioning from your inner circle to the unknown outer. If you have any insights into how you build your writers platform, I’d love to hear how you are making this happen.

      Bren Shropshire

  • davidwberner2 says:

    You must find a balance. But you must still default to the real work, writing. However, if you can find an agent and better yet, a publisher who understands the new marketing paradigm, then you are golden. Yes, it is a community to nuture, but it is also a part of the marketing plan. It should be. There are far too many publishers who still work in the old models or pretend to understand the new models. Find someone who can make it work for you.

    I have a new publisher who really gets it. Dream of Things in Chicago knows this stuff. Gets the new paradigm.

    But in the meantime…do the work, WRITE!

  • Agreed! I got on all the social medias, and made some great connections on Google+. But it’s really Facebook that I keep coming back to, because it’s fun, not because it’s selling books. I’ve even lapsed a bit in my Twitter use. Also agree with the comment above: I’d rather spend the time writing quality stuff than cultivating “followers.”

  • M. J. Miller says:

    I resonated with a lot of things said here. I am still struggling with such things as: Who are my readers, What do I want to write, stratification, classification. PLATFORM! I really just want to write the things that I have listed out, ready to develop. I had become so concerned that they don’t fit together into a homogenous market approach that they’d be wasted time. Your post encouraged me to push onward.

  • mira65 says:

    Social media confuses me! It would have been great if the publicize options would get active automatically. Nice post. Do visit my blog:

  • DMartens-CWA says:

    I am not confused by social media but am resentful of the time it consumes. I started Canadian Writers Abroad because I am interested in the topic, but I battle weekly to contain the time and energy it takes so as to make room for writing fiction.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      Yeah – I have to find a balance, because I can get sucked in to the social and clicking all morning and then the writing time is gone. I’m lucky I’m living in Dubai right now, so I can do “morning” media at 5PM…

  • ryderziebarth says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh.Thanks, I needed that.

  • M. Hatzel says:

    I get the irony… that’s what I’ve done and that’s also what I’ve learned: better off using social media for things other than marketing. I like Stephanie Bane’s article–thanks for sharing it.

  • I love this. I love social media, but not because it’s helped me sell any books. I love the connection with interesting people I don’t know. Also, maybe you will like this awesome song by THE JUKEBOX ROMANTICS, with the line that runs through my head all the time, “We don’t give a f*ck about a market, or how we might saturate it. We wrote this song to play it.”

  • Jiche says:

    I love this article! Stupid me,I followed you on tweeter for quite a while now but just happened to read your blog through Jamie Lee Wallace’s weekend post on LTW-WTL.
    Am not a fan of social media for its primal use but only because I like to find good reads and amazing minds like yours. Thank you for sharing all your beautiful tthoughts.

  • John says:

    Social media has its advantages — though selling things is not one of them. I think that part of it has to do with being randomly followed by people who are simply following you because they want you to buy their product.

    I think that social media can be beneficial if you’re willing to interact with people, and not just automatically assume that someone wants to buy your book. I get a new Twitter follower every time I use certain hashtags, but never hear a “hello” from the person. Never even a retweet of my tweet. I think if you’re going to use a platform like Twitter, a little etiquette is in order — don’t just follow me then vanish into the mists of the web. (This is a two way street — I need to interact as well.) I retweet what is interesting, and try to add things of my own along the way.

    I think it is correct to say that one can while away the hours on social media, instead of writing; but, I think that one doesn’t have to be present on every platform either. Focus on one or two. (Also, the nice thing about WordPress blogs is that one can set one’s blog posts to automatically post to various social media sites.)

    Enjoyed your post (well, ok, I always enjoy your posts), and I may just have to click on that ‘follow me on Twitter’ link … just, you know… so I can up your follower count.

  • Maya Morrow says:

    YES! Thank you. God. Come on, now. How many people are actually going to become social media rock stars? Should not the emphasis be more on the content of your damned book. If the book is good, then should we not rely more on word of mouth?

    I mean, really. Social media is absolutely saturated with people screaming, “Here, over here! Look at me! Please! Like my post!” You know what? I’m not doing it. Ernest Hemingway sold plenty of books and he did NOT have a facebook profile. Social media is new. It’s not as important as people think it is, just because they’re obsessed with it.

    And another thing? Best-selling authors are social media rock stars because they sold a lot of books — not the other way around. Which came first? Success as a writer. The end.

  • sehrkhan09 says:

    I am a new blogger and discovring all thats written in this blog. And im shocked that actually u hav to pay for evrything unless no one comes to your page blog etc. its sad i thought online writing is an easy option with low fund starting but actually its not.. but the thing is i can write yess i can write whats inside my head my heart n its enough for now.. rest online made up stories earning that much n bla bla seems like a bit of rubbish now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Please Don’t Bother to Like Me at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.


%d bloggers like this: