Social Media for Writers: The Cart before the Horse

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A graph of this blog’s hits. How many hits? Not enough to matter!

Day 5 of my Social Media Fast.

So, this article isn’t about indypub, or ‘self-publishing’ as it is referred to generally by people who dislike it, vs traditional publishing, or trad, as it is called by people who generally dislike it.

It isn’t about how useful social media can be for selling books. Google up those articles if you want; there are forty kabillion of them. Yes. A billion twitter followers are handy for selling books. Who knew.

This is about how social media, your blog, your brand, your twitter, only matter after your writing is worth giving two shits about.

Because chances are, it isn’t, and working on the thing itself, your actual work, is much more important than conversational typing and twitter-sized Dorothy Parkerisms.

I mean, if you are good at that kind of thing, if your social media presence just grows and grows organically, if your conversational typing gets tweeted and retweeted and blows up and goes viral, then, Jesus, good for you. That could be useful for marketing a book. A good book. A great book.

After you write one.

Mostly, though, social media is about scratching the itch, the itch to write and be read, the itch to matter to other people, the desire to a part of people’s lives, through writing.

And it is totally the wrong way to go about doing this.

It’s like being an insecure person who has sex with strangers for friendship and respect, who finds they get neither.

How do I know this?

Because I have wasted literally decades of my life with conversational typing; I did it before the web was invented, on  USENET. I did it before blogging software was invented, when I published op-ed with a piece of software I bought and paid for, a CMS called Article Manager.

I did it with podcasts, before they were called podcasts, recording audio files of stories I gave away on usenet. I did it with actual podcasts, too. I did it with yahoo-groups. I did it with email lists. I did it with regular old email to small groups of friends.

I did it with blogs. I did it with Facebook.

I like writing. I like having people read what I write. I like instant gratification. Who doesn’t?

I’m doing it right now.

So let me say it, right here, right now, this isn’t the thing itself. The thing I should do is write fiction. This is bullshit I do when I’m not writing fiction. This is bullshit I’ve done much too much of!

How much should I do of this, to support the fiction writing? I don’t know because honestly, a dozen pro sales in, my career hasn’t even fucking started yet. 

The only thing I know for sure, is I need a lot more stories, and a lot less conversational typing.

I have to learn how to control the urge for instant gratification. I can write an essay and share it with my 500 FB friends and get 10, or 20, or 30 likes and a dozen shares, and a few hundred views in a period of hours.

Or I can I can write and workshop a short story; spend a year marketing it, wait a year for it to appear in print or on the web and be paid, and get… a few people who review it and send me ‘likes’ in the form of fan mail.

Is it any wonder that people find themselves so seduced by the former that they seldom get around to getting good enough to matter with the latter?

Facebook is a cigarette. Facebook is a bottle of booze. Facebook is sad drunken sexual encounter you will be ashamed of tomorrow. Facebook is a huge bag of Doritos eaten in a single sitting; a liter of soda guzzled triggering explosive belches and farting. Facebook is a binge-watched sitcom on Netflix. One you watched on network TV when you were a kid. Facebook wants you, it wants all of you, all the time, it loves you, even when you’re not lovable, it tells you you matter, even when you don’t.

Facebook is a fake economy, which you enter with a magic printing press that prints money in the form of likes, and you can like as much as you like, and the more you like the greater the chance that someone will like your stuff too. 

Facebook is like the gambling games for kids they have at Chuckee Cheeses, where you plunk in tokens, like a slot machine, into a skill-free activity which pumps out tickets, which you use to buy useless crap at a 1000 percent markup.

Social media is party that never ends, a bar that never closes. It is the glint of love in the eye of a stranger, even if it’s only Sveltlana, who wants to get to you know you, because she likes your profile pic.

She likes balding portly middle aged men.


And of course, Svetlana isn’t real.

But then, neither is social media. Not by itself, anyway.

It isn’t the thing itself.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

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