Writers must learn to curb the time they spend on social media before the days slip by and nothing of significance is added to their screenplay, murder mystery, historic novel, or whatever is the current project. It’s so easy for a writer to get caught up in the whole business of communicating; we feel that as long as we’re writing, we must be doing something useful. Alas, not so.
It didn’t take me more than a few weeks to write my first book, and then I spent months editing and rewriting it, and then editing it and rewriting it again, and then…but let’s not get into that right now. It also didn’t take very long to produce an outline and a first (bad) draft for the sequel for which my publisher would be clamoring if the first book turned out to be a blockbuster, assuming anyone did publish it. Then, I heard all about the importance of social media, plunged in, and my writing productivity dropped, and dropped some more, and then dropped again.
Publishers Want Writers to be Active on Social Media
Publishers are hurting today compared to 20 years ago—and even 10 years ago. The Internet has made a laughing stock of the traditional publication business, of the work of songwriters and musicians, and, in fact, the whole arts and entertainment field. For awhile, filming your breakthrough performance in your bedroom on YouTube was more likely to bring you success than working your way up through the ranks of songwriting and performing. Now, even that solution isn’t working very well with thousands of people recording and posting on the Internet. It’s easy to get lost.
I remember looking at the guidelines for submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher (small press) about eight years ago, and there it was—the request that the author include a plan for the distribution of the book if accepted for publication. The what? I was supposed to have a distribution plan? I know it’s hard to believe that this was astonishing news only ten years ago, but it truly was. I had no idea of how to respond and I remember hastily cobbling something together that included “I’m planning to set up a website this year.” Naturally, that was the end of our correspondence.
It Devours Precious Time
So, into the social media pond I waded and I actually do have a website now, but everything I learned to do created new tasks, took time, and then more time, and more and more, until there was very little of it left to write anything I really cared about. I write blogs for my website, and I post on Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google+, and LinkedIn. I tweet and retweet and read and “like” and “share”; I send out a monthly newsletter, review books, and have two e-mail addresses that have to be checked regularly.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but what I’m doing isn’t enough—I’m told that I should also have a google alert set up for myself, should figure out how to track the sales of my books, should write some guest posts, should take that Pinterest course for which I’ve already paid, and I should check out some of the other courses and webinars that promise me success in getting my books and screenplays published, noticed, and making money. Which is all very well but nothing will work if I don’t have time to write the books and the screenplays.
When a manuscript is returned to me, I feel really terrible—not because it’s been rejected but because of the time it will take me to track down another appropriate publisher, research what they prefer and learn the best way to approach them. I don’t have time for this: I have a blog to write and another newsletter to upload, Twitter and Facebook comments to make, freelance writing and editing assignments each week, a family, friends, and a life.
But It’s Fun!
Yes, social media is fun. Writers love to write and social media is all about writing—naturally, we love it. I’ve made a few resolutions and I’m trying hard to stick to them:
- I allow myself a half hour in the morning and another in the evening to use Twitter and Facebook and answer e-mails from my friends.
• I check out e-mails during the day in case I need to respond to something right away but don’t allow myself to read anything not requiring an immediate answer.
• I read all the jokes but delete most of the beautiful photos without looking at them.
- I write book reviews on Friday only, and no more than one a week, and I’m planning to reduce that number. I check out Pinterest on the weekend for a half hour.
- There is so much to learn about writing and marketing and nothing is more useful than the discussions on LinkedIn but I allow myself to read them only once a day and steel myself to ignore the rest.
- My second e-mail address and Google + are checked on Thursdays and I update and respond as much as I can in the half hour allotted.
Is my social media involvement under control? No, it’s not. And the small steps I’ve taken mean having to ignore many interesting and useful articles, beautiful ideas, quotes, and photos. But give it up? I can’t do that. Social media helps sell books and all publishers know it and want their writers involved. It’s all a matter of exerting a little self-control.
Fortunately, I have hung on to my dumb phone on which I can talk and text but can’t get e-mails or check info from the Internet. Writers must beware of smart phones—they lead to social media madness because you can never escape. I have a timer on my desk that rings (shrieks) when my time is up for indulging in each social media task. I hate the damn thing.
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