Are you wasting your time on social media?

The onslaught of online information is endless. Is the time thirsty sponge of social media just wasting your time?

GUEST POST : Sadie Greening is an aspiring crime author, creative writing student and mother – follow her on Twitter @octaviagrey

If it is then you are not alone. I’m new to the social media side of the Internet. I’ve had a Facebook profile for a few years now but then again, so has my dad. I dabbled a bit with updating my status and checking in with friends I haven’t heard about since school, but Twitter, Kickstarter, Pinterest? It was like people were speaking Swahili when they talked of tweets, ‘following’ people (I heard ‘stalking’) and crowd funding.

It almost became a pride thing for me to say, “Nah, not my bag that,” whenever people spoke of social media. Well, they do say pride comes before a fall. And fall I did because as I set off on my path to achieve literary fulfilment with a writing career, I realised my error. These media platforms are an integral part of the networking process for a new writer. They are the way people communicate in this field. I need them.

I set up a WordPress site for my blog. Well, okay, I got a friend who’s a real techy genius to set it up for me, but I populated it! It looks great and you can check it out at http://www.octaviagrey.com. I started to blog. The previously forsaken Twitter account was activated and I set up not just a Facebook profile but a Facebook page. With a huge pat on my own back I congratulated myself in having nailed it.

It wasn’t long before I grasped the sheer weight of effort necessary to make these platforms work and almost gave up. In the online ether people don’t look for you – you have to go out and get them. And that requires time. Lots of time. Time to research the blogs that relate to your area of interest, find them, read them, comment on them, stalk, sorry follow, the writers themselves, tweet them and build a rapport. You need to invite them to come to your blog as a guest post, you return the favour, you book review everything you can; tread the fine line between saying what you mean and not alienating someone you might either meet, or worse, come to rely on later down the line. The list is endless.

This activity sucks you in. You need to do it so you do, to the expense of, in my case, university assignments, housework, cooking, washing and on some days, sleep. Keeping a day job whilst being a full time student means life is full on as it is. Add in the mix the black hole of social media surfing and the only thing that can give is sleep.

One recent blog post I uploaded was on the very subject of how people find the time to blog when they’re working too. One writer commented on the blog and her opinion of how people juggle both sides of the coin was:

‘Basically, you don’t! I launched my first eBook in Aug (11 previous novels publ by mainstream publishers, but dried up in recession). BEFORE doing this, I started a blog in May. Then joined Twitter in Aug. New book? Put on back burner for 7 months while I built my profile. Good bits: making some money at last!! Meeting some great people who are now friends. Less good bits: having to be away from the WIP. From what I gather, and your blog confirms it, mainstream publishers now expect writers to do a large part of the publicity themselves. I actually quite like it, but I shudder to think what the ‘shy, retiring’ author is going to do. Get remaindered pretty fast, me thinks!’

She makes an interesting point. Publishers are increasingly relying on authors to publicise themselves. With success stories such as Fifty Shades of Grey, which started life as internet based fan fiction for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, the self-published, self-publicised novel is no longer spurned as it once was. Publishers are realising that their publishing budgets will go further if the authors are doing the majority of leg work during those crucial early stages. With less of an initial outlay, publishers can wait for the reaction of the masses prior to shelling out. In the age of austerity that’s an attractive prospect.

So it equates then that an author with an established platform and fan base, or following, will be a more enticing prospect that one without. Salt Publishing, the UK indie publishers of Booker Prize shortlisted novel The Lighthouse by Alison Moore actively state on their website that they will look at an author’s online platform before making a decision to take them on. They urge would-be authors to follow their listed authors on Twitter, get involved with them and engage in their publicity machine. It’s genius – free publicity for them! But what the rest of us get, as we struggle to follow their suggestions because we desperately want to be the next Booker prize nominee, is another few hours in the day devouring darkness of the online onslaught.

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4 thoughts on “Are you wasting your time on social media?”

  1. One of the first things my literary agent told me when she took me on was to get on Twitter. I already had the (sparsely populated and often ignored) blog, but the Twitter was new. And to my surprise, I like it. I constantly find new sites, new interests and new people. That said, it can be a time sink.

    Yet, as you pointed out, that’s what authors are expected to do these days. Thankfully, I spent two decades as a journalist and, later, corporate communicator before working up enough hubris to write a novel. So much of this comes naturally.

    In the end, I see social media as the price I pay to get my name and my work out into the public space. I don’t see it as particularly onerous, just a fact of life in 21st century publishing.

    For the record, I plan on maintaining my complete abstention from Facebook. There are only so many hours in the day.

  2. Fascinating article…shows the modern struggle that exists for any artist…our ‘talent’ can’t speak for itself nowadays! We can’t be that shy and retiring creator anymore- if we want our art to be recognised. We have to proclaim it from the rooftops and the airwaves…not very modest, or British! Especially ironic is the fact that social media is turning us into antisocial, nocturnal, non-verbal beasts!

  3. the problem with social media is balancing the ‘social’ against the ‘media’ part. in order to make most effective use of social platforms you need to engage with the people who follow you, and turn your readers into friends. that’s great fun in itself but it does tend to cut into your writing time, especially after the seven-hundredth hashtag joke in a row.

    although having said that, i would probably have even fewer readers if i didn’t ‘invest’ my time this way.

    social media’s just another distraction, in the end, and a familiar pitfall every writer has to negotiate: stop procrastinating and write.

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