Social Media: Brave New World or Dystopian Wasteland?

The fact that I’m here writing this blog post tells you a lot about how I feel about social media. It’s a no brainer, right? I see a lot of benefits of getting myself out there in a way that I’m most comfortable: writing.

Writers write. Writers interact with others through words, so using platforms that allow us, from the comfort of our homes—wearing pajamas, if so desired—to interact pretty much one on one with our friends/fans/networks, is amazing.  To be able to post essays and even one-liners about writing or how we got our book deals or what we had for lunch is not only fun and cathartic (at least for me), but is a great way for potential readers to get to know me. Let’s face it, it’s a very crowded market these days and authors face uphill battles to get their books noticed.  It’s hard to sell a book to a publisher, yes, but it’s even harder to sell a book to a reader.  Especially when that reader doesn’t know you exist.

So my reasons for using social media are basically twofold:

1. I’m making friends (and finding old ones – Hi Carrie!). Seriously. I’m not the most outwardly social creature, so to be able to use my computer to meet people and share in-the-trenches stories is great for me. I’ve met some of my best friends online, and am very thankful for my online network, which, of course, includes my fellow Debs.

2. I’m networking to help find an audience for my book.  I do hope I’m not too promoty, because like I said, I’m out there making friends, too. But the fact is, I need to get the word out about my book.  I just hope I can do it in a non-snake-oil-salesman type way.  If I can make you laugh and convince you that I’m a funny, decent human being (which my mom will tell you I am), then maybe you’ll take a chance on me and my book (which, I should remind you, is now available for pre-order).

But it’s a double-edged sword—there’s a darker side to social media.  A scary side, that comes from a sense of familiarity and entitlement, because of this brave new world where technology has made it SO easy to contact authors. It’s as simple as finding their e-mail on their website or friending them on Facebook or Twitter (or maybe LinkedIn, although I’m the first to admit I have no idea what LinkedIn is for), and sending them a note asking them whatever.  If you want a real eye-opener of what some authors have had to deal with, and surely still do as we get deeper and deeper entrenched in social media, have a look at this illuminating post by Lenore Appelhans , book blogger and author. I’ll wait here while you go read it (the comments are great, too, if you have some time).

Yowza, right?

This doesn’t even talk about the horror that Goodreads can be.  Sure, on the surface it seems like a lovely, friendly place where people talk about books, and most times it is.  But there are times when the reviews can be…er…not so nice.  And I’m not talking critical reviews like one might see in the book pages of your newspaper; I’m talking full-out catty nastiness, accusing authors of not being able to string sentences together and other hateful, awful things that would tear out the heart of even the most thick-skinned author.

I’ve been warned against Goodreads by other authors and have seen some of the nastiness out there, but since my book is not available as an ARC yet (despite being available for pre-order), I have, so far, not been subject to such reviews.  I’m a bit of a masochist, so I figure I’ll stick around unless it gets really awful.  Stay tuned—I expect ARCs to start going out in the new year. Yikes.

And then sometimes, even if it’s not about bad reviews, it just gets awkward for authors. How much is too much interaction? Do you respond to everything or nothing? Do people get upset if you were responsive, but due to becoming busy, just don’t have the time? When is it okay to respond and when is it weird?  Kristin Hubbard posted about this very recently on YA Highway, and I think it’s worth a read as well.  Yup, I’ll wait.

Scary stuff, huh?  Makes you really think, doesn’t it?

I could go on and on about social media and its pros and cons, but I think you get the idea that it’s a wonderful, but scary world out there for us authors.  There are so many amazing tools at our fingertips, but with each new tool, comes a potentially negative side.  The art is finding the balance and doing what you’re comfortable with and no more.  Because I think at the crux of it, we need to be writers first and if we’re spending all of our time and energy on the media stuff, when does the writing get done?

That said, I’m going to take this opportunity to thank you for being here, because you’re proving that social media does work and can be a great way to meet people.  So feel free to comment with your thoughts on social media and if you have links to YOUR blog, Goodreads page, Facebook page, Twitter account, feel free to include those, also.  You can include your LinkedIn, too, although someone needs to explain it to me before I’m going to start adding people over there.