Getting Personal

June 20, 2019 § 14 Comments

The biggest misconception about social media for writers is that it’s free.

Sure, we don’t pay to subscribe to Twitter, there’s no cost-per-click to view our friends’ news on Facebook. But there’s still a price, and what we’re paying is time and privacy.

What do we get in return? Genuine connection. Relationships with people we’ve met briefly but who share our interests. Family news that needn’t be shared one paper letter at a time. And as writers, we build our readership and promote our work.

That’s not free.

I’ve seen several writers wondering if they should start a Facebook author page, because their book is coming out next week. How can they keep their profile private and get everyone to like their author page instead?

Let’s break that down: I’m not going to share my real self with you, but I’d like you to view and share my advertising as often as possible.

Because that’s what an author page is. A commercial. Yes, we share book news and promote our friends and link free articles. But fundamentally, an author page’s purpose is to entice people to enjoy our words enough to shell out $12.99 to read more.

That’s not free either.

Even when someone likes and follows your page, Facebook doesn’t automatically deliver your news. Only 10-15% of your followers will see each post. You’ve heard of “the algorithm”? Fancy math weighing a person’s popularity and their topic’s interest to the general public. Social media companies’ number-one priority is keeping people online. If you’re interesting and fun and have lots of followers, Twitter ranks your tweets more highly. Instagram puts you on the Explore page. Facebook drops your announcements into your friends’ newsfeeds. You’re paying for eyeballs by donating your popularity. Algorithms make famous people more famous and viral news more viral. But math doesn’t discriminate on quality or worth (sorry, America!), so if you want people to see your book news from your author page, you will have to purchase advertising.

Facebook and Instagram advertising do actually work. (Presumably also Twitter, but I haven’t bought any ads there.) Ads take time and care to make attractive visuals and reach your intended demographic, but they aren’t that expensive. I’ve gained followers, event guests, and course attendees because they saw a promoted post. I’ve never spent more than $20 to run an ad for a couple of days, as a final push after I’ve been talking about my event for several weeks. Most of the people who attended Instagram For Writers already knew me, in person or online, but about 25% clicked through an ad that reminded them they meant to sign up.

Separating your personal and professional life online costs more time. Maintaining two accounts per platform is a drag when you want—need!—to focus on writing. I find it challenging enough to write “real” micro-essays on Instagram, clever/helpful writing tips on Twitter, and check in with my cousins on Facebook, plus remembering to text my mom. Administrating an author page is a little more difficult than updating a personal profile.

If you’re dead set on keeping literary and personal separate, that doesn’t have to mean two accounts. If something is truly private, don’t put it on the internet. And our privacy is far more valuable to us than violating it is to anyone else, until we become famous enough to hire bodyguards, and then we can also hire a social media manager.

Using your personal profile as your professional page lets you include your work among the genuine moments shared with your friends. “Look, Rashid’s walking!” “So excited about my new cover!” and “I had a great hike last week!” are far more engaging than “Buy my book,” “Review my book,” “Tell your friends about my book.” Instead of asking friends to watch a commercial, your work sits amidst the many things you mutually find interesting.

If a separate author page is still best for you, ease your way:

  • Set up an automatic feed to post to your Facebook page whenever you write something new on Instagram/Twitter/your blog (I use IFTTT, it’s free).
  • Share non-private posts from your personal profile to your page, so your fans see some of the personal you.
  • Use a feed planner like Preview or A Color Story to set up your Instagram pipeline, and a hashtag through IFTTT to selectively post Instagrams to your author page. (Yes, we’re behind on the Brevity Instagram, good stuff coming in July!)

Promoting a book and guarding one’s privacy are not 100% exclusive, but it’s worth keeping in mind that if you’re writing nonfiction, you will at some point lose control of how much you’re willing to share. Someone’s going to walk up to you at a family event and strongly disagree with how you described a scene from your own truth. Don’t negotiate or pacify—just smile and say, “I can understand how your view would be different. I hope you write that story someday.”

Not engaging with a troll in person? Now that’s protecting your privacy.


Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Manager. Why yes, she’s on Instagram.

§ 14 Responses to Getting Personal

  • Excellent advice, thoughtfully and economically presented, as always. (Yes, I know I should.)

  • stacyeholden says:

    I was ruminating on this issue just this week, since I have a separate FB page for my work-in-progress. Timely post. Thanks so much.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      If you do have a separate page, it’s often worth making it about you rather than the book…because you’re gonna write another book 🙂

  • Joanne says:

    What Jan said 🙂

  • Good post. I have to say… it takes enormous amount of time to use as many Soc platforms as possible to promote your book. I think 2 is enough otherwise no time left for writing ✍️🤪

    • Allison K Williams says:

      I agree 100%! I primarily use FB to interact with other writers, I tweet a little and I’ve been enjoying Instagram, but they tend to fade in and out when I’m busy 🙂

  • Maddie Lock says:

    Allison, perfect and badly needed info for a lot of us!
    And it is time consuming to keep up with all our electronic obligations…self imposed but real nontheless!

    • Allison K Williams says:

      Glad it’s useful! And I agree, I think that’s why it’s so important to try to use media as writing practice and relaxation rather than getting hyped about numbers 🙂

  • Laura Rink says:

    How timely! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your well-earned knowledge. I have a better understanding and a better attitude now toward social media.

  • Margaret says:

    Thanks from me as well. I don’t have separate FB accounts but I do have two blogs. One is where I talk more honestly about my own endeavours (and failures) and one is kind of G rated, suitable for work colleagues and family. Lately I’ve been thinking about combining them but that would take courage. If you, or any of your lovely readers have any advice on this dilemma, please let me know. I
    t’s not a matter of saying ‘just do it’ as there are a few things to consider in much the same way that other people worry about what they write in their memoirs. The saving grace is that I have barely any subscribers so no-one other than me really cares that much.

  • […] via Getting Personal — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]

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