Social Media Isn’t Free
October 27, 2014 § 16 Comments
There is a literary magazine I love. (Yes, this one of course, but right now I’m talking about another magazine.) One whose issues I devour, grabbing random friends and saying, “wait, you have to hear this!”
This magazine contained the paragraph that I believe to be the most beautiful lines I have ever read in the English language, and some days when I want to write better, I read that paragraph over and over again, hoping it will osmose into my head and my heart and my fingers and homeopathically tinge my own work.
I love that this magazine releases all their issues by pdf, which makes them both free and also delightful to print out and carry around (I get carsick if I read off a screen in a vehicle). Their new issue is out, I saw on Twitter.
I didn’t retweet it.
I started to. I started to type “Another fab issue of @…” and dig through for a good quote to make a quality tweet instead of just a RT, and then I stopped. Because I remembered that I’d submitted to them–after reading many issues, carefully choosing what to send, polishing it for hours, formatting, tracking down where to send it (not as easy as many mags)–and gotten no response.
Well, not entirely true–they responded the same day to my cover letter that said how much I loved the magazine, to ask if I’d be a Reader of the Week. I took a photo of myself reading the magazine in an interesting setting, sent it in, then when they sent it out I happily spread it all over my social media, linking to their site. But my actual submission? Not a word.
I’m sure they have ninety gazillion submissions and their primary business is putting out a magazine and their staff is small and overworked…
They’re on Twitter. They want social media, the godsend of free advertising! Getting the word out! Going viral! They hope their readers will engage with them. And most of the time, I’m delighted to. But not after a year of hoping they might send a “not quite for us but try again,” or a “this doesn’t seem ready what were you thinking please never write anything again,” or even “thanks no thanks” as clearly copy-pasted by an intern who has been promised pizza in exchange for forty hours of labor in the keyboard mines.
You want my 30 seconds to retweet, multiplied by a couple of tweets a month, twelve months a year? You want my positive word of mouth, my recycling printed copies by shoving them into the hands of strangers in airports reading literary fiction? You want to engage in social media?
Well media costs money, so the key word here is social. And social isn’t “free,” it costs time. You buy my time with your time. The bigger the institution, the more their time is worth proportionate to my time–compared to their literary might, maybe my submission-prep time and my support-the-magazine time and my share-your-tweets time is worth very little, but it’s probably worth a 30-second thanks-no-thanks.
I’m glad that Brevity responds to every submission, and tries to reward the time of interviewees and essayists and authors (who are paid, but no magazine pays enough) with our time promoting their work. And Reader, if you’re promoting something right now you’ve worked hard on, that could use a little attention? Tweet me @GuerillaMemoir. I can’t promise we-the-magazine will RT them all, but I-the-writer will.
I’d like to bank some time.
Allison Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor.