Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Social Media and the Modern Author

I received an email from my publishers the other day that began by chatting about what they're planning to do to promote Why Kings Confess, but then quickly progressed to what they want me to do. And what they want me to do, of course, is have more of a presence on social media. Not nearly enough people "like" me.

It's times like this that I wish I were a Victorian-era author.

I can't do Twitter. I just can't. It would be wonderful if I could, but my brain simply doesn't think in clever little sound bites. Fortunately, they're okay with that (some publishers actually put in their contracts that authors are required to Tweet!). But that still leaves Facebook and Goodreads. And I am not nearly as active as I "should" be on either.

I'm supposed to post on Facebook at least once a day. But I'm only supposed to mention my books every 4-5 posts because we wouldn't want people to think that I'm actually, you know, doing this solely to promote my books.

I'm also supposed to post new info on Goodreads every couple of days, but even that isn't enough; I need more of a Presence. Evidently Presence requires going to at least one other author's page a day and posting a comment while casually identifying myself as the author of, ahem, that series that I don't want to look like I'm trying to promote even though of course everyone knows that's exactly what I'm doing. Seriously?

So, be warned: I will be putting up blog posts much more frequently. I apologize in advance if it becomes annoying. I will also be posting on my Facebook page at least once a day. If I can think of anything to say. Suggestions for what to post are welcomed (earnestly intreated...begged on hands and knees....) But I won't be commenting on other authors' Goodreads pages simply as a way to promote myself. Call me an old-fashioned girl.

Oh, and please "like" me at Get your friends to like me. Your mom. Your cousins. Your book club. Your sewing group. Your fellow prison inmates. Whatever.


Anonymous said...

c- first. did you get snow? i heard about Atlanta and people abandoning their cars on the highway. my parents are in myrtle beach. they got snow. i think its a first.
now - i feel your pain. i mean seriously feel it. i don't have a Facebook page - i was badgered into going on linked-in. and when people talk about twitter - i just burst out laughing. i should have been born in the middle ages. my kindle is my only concession to the 21st century. but i have liked you on Goodreads if that's what its called there. and i will ask friends who do have facebook to like you.
and i love your posts. so that works for me. i also go on to amazon and put in reviews and such. does that help? i will do my best to get the word out. but i really feel sorry for you. its enough to make an author reach for a quill and parchment.

JustWingingIt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JustWingingIt said...

I know it seems like an annoying bother, especially when you have your hands full with sick kitties. There are ways to link your accounts so that when you post to your blog, it also sends it to Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. I see many authors who do that. While it does seem like a chore, social media is, for better or worse, a very good way to get out there and interact with the fans. And it gives your fans who are active in social media a way to spread your work by simply "sharing" or "retweeting" or whathaveyou. Think of it as having an army of people happily marketing for you for free! :)

I know, for example, that Kim Harrison, has been hosting a series re-read on Goodreads in anticipation of the release of her next book and it's gotten a great response, with lots of fans joining in to discuss the books as we all re-read them together.

And this is just me being greedy, but I won't mind more blog posts at all. I especially love the peeks into the writing process.

In any event, your fans will still be here regardless of what you do...or don't do. Hopefully the new marketing world isn't too much of a pain for you. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I rather enjoy blogging but most of the rest of this is just so painful.

cs harris said...

Ali, we had a little bit of snow and ice, but I've seen much worse since I've been here. They closed all of the schools and everything from factories to banks and courts, so we avoided a lot of the traffic problems other, less wise municipalities had. Our big issue is that we are surrounded by water and those bridges get treacherous, so it was wise to close everything.

And I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one cranky about social media! I truly envy those comfortable with it. And thank you so much for all you do. It makes me nervous to realize my publishers are eyeing my "likes" and review tallies and tut-tutting.

JustWingingIt, you're right, it does help, and I just wish I were more comfortable with it all. One of my big problems is that a year or two ago, NAL had us create URLs for our author pages, but we screwed up and it went on my personal page instead. So now everything is a royal ^&%$, with an author page and a personal page that looks like an author page. I've just renewed my plea to them to find someone in house who can help me straighten it out, since I am clueless. And I'm glad to hear you won't be annoyed by more blog posts!

Charles, I enjoy my blog, too. And I was appalled that "Blogging" wasn't even on the list they sent me. I guess it's soooo yesterday. I'm waiting for Twitter to be yesterday. Those who do it well are brilliant, but...

Beth said...

Why would it be annoying to me if you put up blog posts more often? I have lots of blog posts I ignore regularly. So far, I read all of yours with interest, but if that changes, they are easy to ignore.

That probably doesn't make you feel better -- my only point is that you hardly need to hesitate to post to your blog. :-)

I'm looking forwards to the new book.


Helena said...

Doesn't it show how the world has changed? It used to be the job of publishers to organise promotion for authors; now, not only do they not do it but they turn it right around and criticise authors for not doing enough!

I've been to your Facebook page and "liked" it. I agree with you that it's bad form to go to another author's Goodreads page and push your own books. Indeed, as a Goodreads user I find it most annoying when authors push their books anywhere i.e. I think it's counterproductive. The exception is if the author has her own group - but that's too much of a commitment, I think; it's worse to have a group which you don't maintain than to not have one at all.

I agree with JustWingIt that the most effective use of your time is to ensure that one piece of work is reflected everywhere you have a social media presence. This is the sort of thing on which your publisher should be able to offer practical and technical advice. But the minimum you should do, even without automatic linking, is make sure that every time you put up a blog post you also post a link to it on Facebook, with a sentence summarising or introducing it to encourage people to click through.

Also - you have cats! Putting photos of cats up on Facebook always get attention and "likes"! And photos of Louisiana with ice & snow would also catch attention. You already know how to put photos on Facebook - just do it more frequently! Seriously, you don't have to spend time writing long posts on Facebook. People seem to like short and sweet there, and they like photos even more...

jenniferk66 said...

I will 'like' you on facebook.

It's strange-- when authors don't post to their blogs, I assume, you know, that they're busy writing!

cs harris said...

Beth, LOL! That's good to hear. I guess I worry because I'm "friends" with some authors who post so much I find myself thinking, "Oh, God; again?"

Helena, thanks. And I'm glad to hear my instincts were right in telling them, No, I'm not going to do that. They've found someone who is supposed to call me on Friday or Monday and try to help me sort through some of my problems. Hopefully the more I do this, the easier it will get. I guess I need to start taking more cat pictures!

Jennifer, thanks! And you nailed it--all this stuff takes TIME.

Anonymous said...

The time commitment is one factor, but the other thing I find slightly disturbing is the underlying assumption that an author (or celebrity or whatever) must have a public persona in order to be successful. It seems naïve/unprofessional to have an expectation or even desire for privacy, and this is... sad and troubling, I think, for so many reasons.

Anonymous said...

c- so i went onto the goodreads site to make sure i was up to date on my reviews. looks like there is something called (Goodreads First Reads Program)and people have read and reviewed the new book. you might find them interesting....sounds like you won some new fans!
best ali

Liz said...

I started a blog because the magazine I publish with wanted me to. It turns out I love blogging and it definitely attracts business. However, I've resisted Facebook and Twitter so far because I have some privacy concerns with the former and both take time away from my design activity. Being creative takes time and a certain amount of reflection and it's hard to get on with that business if you're having to deal with the constant distractions of social media. (I write this now, knowing it's probably only a matter of time before the pressure to join in becomes overwhelming.)

Jerri said...

I love to read your blog and will enjoy more posts. I just hope all this extra blogging and posting doesn't take away from writing your books. (I love the books and want more of them faster)

Suzi Love said...

Thanks so much for the laugh.
I'm one of your biggest fans and wait anxiously for news of the next book.
But I'm also an author and can feel you pain. So much to do and so many people to please and only 24 hrs in a day.
But you're already doing a great job.

Pamela Sherwood said...

I feel your pain. I'm a pretty new historical romance writer (just two books released so far), and I find the whole social media angle overwhelming at times. I try to blog at least once a week (or two weeks, if I'm pressed for time--as I am now), but it took me a long time to get used to Facebook or to find what worked for me on it. (Pictures go over well, I've found.) I'm on Twitter, but almost never use it unless I'm linking to something else from it. I hope whatever following I have will be tolerant of my Luddite tendencies and understand that my position that the best gift I can give them is another book, as soon as humanly possible.

cs harris said...

Anon, I so agree with you.

Ali, thanks, that's good to know, but I'm going to go look! Because if I see 110 good reviews and one bad one, it's the bad one I remember and obsess over.

Liz, I discovered I like blogging, too, which is why I've been doing it for EIGHT years now. Maybe I'll find I like Facebook more. Maybe?

Jerri, that's the thing that gets me about all this: at the time publishers want authors to do more self promotion, they're also pressing everyone to write faster! Something's gotta give, and it's usually quality and our sanity.

Suzi, thank you! You live in Queensland?

Pamela, I think you're right, that readers understand. It's publishers who don't. Although the dirty little secret is that most really big, bestselling authors HIRE someone to be their presence on the Web.

Katie said...

Being required to post to Facebook once a day seems excessive if you don't like doing the social media stuff. I agree with others that the easiest way is to link blog posts to Facebook. Although blogging every day is way too time pictures are always a hit. Or you could share links (other books you think your readers might like, interesting websites to do with historical topics). Personally, I'm always interested in the research that goes into historical fiction, and if you need a topic for blog/Facebook posts, that would give you lots of material to draw from.

LOgalinOR said...

As Sebastian St. Cyr would say, "bloody hell!" to all these manipulations and machinations. As Ali said, it's certainly enough to make an author want to go back to 'quill and parchment'. Life was so much simpler and less complex then.....sigh.
Social media today is a force to be reckoned with---the good, the bad, and the not so nice. It takes time, effort and creativity, and for authors, such as yourself, can take away from the creative process time for writing. I read somewhere, that some celebrities, from all walks of life, hire people (of course secretly) to do their tweets, Facebook updates and the like--is that what the general public really wants? What purpose does that serve, and to what end?
I do enjoy your blog and would not mind more frequent posts at all. We readers love you and all your books and will do whatever it takes to satisfy the powers that be. But sorry Candice, I can't 'like' you as I don't have a Facebook page. I could ask my 81 year old, mother-in-law, Barbara Jean to 'like' you. She's a 'people person', church minister, always upbeat and positive, and always on the go. My kids' friends always ask them, who's 'Barb' on their Facebook comments page. They tell them that it's their 81 year old grandma. (Picture this-her photo is a close up with big eye glasses) LOL

Suzanne said...

I agree with Helena. I always thought that the whole idea of having a publisher was that they did marketing. When do they imagine that you would find the time to actually write? Self publishing is beginning to look better and better.

I would also imagine that the people who would go looking for you on facebook etc would already be your readers. I certainly would never think to look for new authors who write the sort of books I like reading in social media. That is what Amazon and Google are for.

I also share your reluctance to use social media. There has been a lot of bad publicity about it here. Numerous teenage girls committing suicide after being horribly bullied on facebook and twitter.

If you have no choice though and are looking for things to write about, it would be really good to hear more about the things you do for research, writing and the pre-publication process. For instance, I keep hearing words like copy edits and arcs on my favourite authors websites but I have no idea what they actually are. I would find all of that fascinating.

lmhess said...

Facebook? Ugh! Twitter? Bleh! I'm on your side and agree with others - neither is appealing to me and I always wonder why everyone who uses these media feels the need to reveal all about themselves. I have heard horror stories about people being "unfriended" (stupid..) and saying unkind things in their posts. No thanks. I'll be Victorian with you, Candy. And more blog is okay because I have you on my favorites list and check in regularly. What your publisher really wants is a younger demographic - because they are essentially the ones who use social media.

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

I'm with LOgalinOR and her comment about Sebastian saying "Bloody hell!" I love your blog and however you choose to do it is fine with me. Your books are so good because you take the time to write them well and that's what we here appreciate.

cs harris said...

Katie, I'm thinking one of the things I could post on Facebook is links to some of the various historical/archaeological articles I tend to read when I'm taking a break. Since my readers like historical mysteries, they might find some of them interesting?

LOgalinOR, you're right--to do it well takes CREATIVITY, and that has to detract from doing what writers are supposed to be doing, apart from the time sink. And, yes, most celebrities and big name authors hire people to be their presence on social media, which is rather creepy to think about. That's funny your mom is on and you're not! Steve is always complaining that he can't see photos, etc, that people post on Facebook, but he's never been driven to get on it himself!

Suzanne, the thing is, self-pubbed authors have to do a TON of self-promotion. I don't know when they find the time to write. And my thinking has always been like yours--that the people who "Like" my Facebook page or read my blog are already readers, so how does that help? But supposedly it does. We shall see.

Imhess, you may be right, that it has more of an impact with a younger demographic.

Barbara, thank you.

paz said...

I like you very much, but I am not on facebook. What can I say but that "1984" made a huge impression in my youthful soul, and find the whole facebook thing utterly sinister. It did not help that when my husband first joined, he was immediately mobbed by people from his high school who "had been looking for him for years" (and that the looking was seriously not mutual). Twitter, with its snappy one liners, I can very much enjoy though I do not do it myself. I would certainly resent it if I was forced to do it

If posting is what they want, perhaps the thing to do is to create one or two recurring themes/threads. Your pictures are always wonderful; perhaps this "need" can nurture a new/longtime hobby? Or, inspired by LOgalinOR, maybe something just like "What would Sebastian/Hero say?" to different events, captions, phrases, etc. and invite readers to participate in the responses. Personally, a "What would Jarvis say?" about daily foibles within our political classes would be awesome, but probably not what your publishers have in mind LOL.

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cs harris said...

Paz, I love the "What would Jarvis say?" idea! If only I could!

Josie said...

i'm sure you don't need any advice from a non-writer, non-blogger, non-tweeter, but you might want to check out jon katz, he's an author who's really forging ahead with social media and he's kinda enjoying it. he has a blog, facebook, pinterest, etc and he just did a Ted Talk.

he frequently mentions how the publishing world has changed so dramatically in the last bunch of years and how the author is expected to do more marketing than ever. he didn't tour hardly at all with his last book but did social media events instead and it worked out pretty well for him.

at the same time, i get the idea he's had to work very hard at it and it took time for him to reconcile to it.

having said all that, i'll switch to FB and "like" you!


cs harris said...

Josie, I hadn't heard of him, but went and looked at his blog and Facebook page. It occurs to me that if I'd set my series in New Orleans, or lived in London, life would be much easier.

total12 said...

Fortunately, they're okay with that (some publishers actually put in their contracts that authors are required to Tweet!). twitter backgrounds

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