Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Author: You Can't Afford to Be a Social Media Illiterate

I used to hate Twitter and often vowed to remain Twitterless. Now, I have well over 1,000 Twitter Followers and am a fairly big Twitter fan. A few other things happened since then. I have purchased an SEO friendly web template, embedded social media widgets below every blog post, joined LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest and Instagram, developed an RSS feed, and expanded my Facebook presence.

So what happened? How did I go from being generally resistant to social media, to jumping on the bandwagon?

Well, basically, I just got serious about my writing career.

Call me a sellout or a shill, but I came to realize what most experts are saying: The market is changing and authors need to adapt. Because of the decreased investment of publishers, platform development has become a necessity for the aspiring author. Nowadays, publishers want to know that authors are working the system, using all the tools at their disposal. And really, the market was wide open.

The only real obstacle was me.

Once this sunk in, I realized I could either rage against the machine or get in line. I chose the latter. And it’s paid off. But not everyone is so easily swayed.

I spoke via email to an author recently about ways to increase their web traffic and expand their web presence. They did not know basic HTML, were not interested in optimizing their website, did not Tweet, retained a rather small circle of Facebook friends (and liked that), and generally viewed social media with disdain. When I pressed this author about expanding their use of social media, they fell back on four common objections: 

  • I don’t have the time for social media. 
  • I’m not computer savvy. 
  • Social media takes away from actually writing. 
  • Social media requires marketing skills, which I don’t have. 

Okay, if you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, perhaps I can understand using these excuses. Apparently, social media is a luxury for some best-selling novelists. But if you’re a new, midlist, or unpublished novelist, believing the above excuses are self-sabotage. And let me be clear: These ARE excuses. But I’m NOT computer savvy, you object. I’m NOT a marketer, and I really DON’T have time for Tweeting and Facebooking and blogging. I can’t be a writer AND be a social media expert.

Maybe that’s part of the problem: We think we have to be experts, as if only savants can master social media.

Listen, I can sympathize with these objections… if they were leveled by your 92 year-old grandmother. However, managing a blog, Tweeting regularly, learning basic HTML or web design, and building your own platform, doesn’t require some unique, high-level skill set. Yes, it involves time. Yes, it involves a certain acumen. But this is not gene research, people. I’ve been married for 33 years and I can assure you, understanding HTML is a lot easier than deciphering female communication. So when I hear authors go on about computer illiteracy and reasons they avoid social networking, all I tend to hear is blah, blah, blah.

Several of my Facebook friends happen to be children of people I know. Not long ago, one of those kids (a 20-something) began posting some risque pictures and saying some naughty things. Hey, she’s an adult. However, I happened to speak to the parent about this and they shrugged. “How am I supposed to monitor her when I can barely check my own email?” As if ignorance is a reasonable rejoinder. Memo to parents: If your child is computer literate (especially a teen living under your roof) and you are not monitoring them on the grounds that you are a computer illiterate, please check yourself. Parents CANNOT afford to be computer illiterates nowadays.

Well, the same is true of authors. Authors cannot afford to be social media illiterates.

If you choose to remain Twitterless, blog irregularly, shrug off platform building, and disavow social media, you forfeit the right to bitch about your writing career.

Of course, these things are no guarantee of increased sales or a bigger fan base. In fact, the author who is shrill, one-dimensional, insecure, and uncreative, will only amplify their issues with social media (which may be one reason why writers subconsciously avoid social networking). Nevertheless, there are very few legitimate reasons why an aspiring author should not be growing in social networking.

Part of the beauty and power of social media is that it is accessible to the average person. You don’t need a degree, a diploma, a brand name, or tons of money. Yes, it takes time. It takes persistence. It takes creative energy. And I’m guessing you have those things. Everything else is just an excuse.

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Mike Duran is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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