Don’t get me wrong: I love singing in choirs, and I’m all about the mutual back-scratching that group support implies. In terms of publishing and social media, this means retweeting, following back, posting comments, inviting guests to contribute to blogs, or simply clicking the ol’ LIKE button. At the high end of the scale, this list includes downloading freebies or purchasing books, reading and posting reviews on Amazon.
♥ Sign on for my excellent GIVEAWAY throughout April 2015: WIN $50 in books from Powell’s Independent Bookstore! Click for details! ♥
Over the past year, I’ve done all these things as often as I honestly could without lapsing into obsession. Well, okay, I admit I did become obsessed with socmed for several months—bewitched by its alleged potential for launching my self-published books beyond the circle of personal acquaintance. I craved a wider readership of people who’d never heard of me before. I wanted to launch off the ground, if not into the stratosphere.
If tweeting and posting could help me achieve that, then I was more than willing to try. I gave it my all.
At one point, Twitter suspended me for seeking new followers “too aggressively.” Even then, I made an effort to exchange individual messages and welcome every new follower who joined my flock. For weeks on end, I issued 30 tweets a day or more on an array of topics aimed to engage a diverse range of folks, many of whom were (Surely!) just waiting to “convert” into readers of my books.
There were rules to follow: I never tweeted promos more often than 3:1, the magic formula. And I kept it up in spite of a growing sense of nausea as I struggled to devise clever ways of saying, “Check out this great read!” In fewer than 140 characters, of course.
I had consulted a PR guru. Social marketing was the tsunami of the future: the quickest, cheapest, and most surefire way to establish my reputation as a writer and promote my books throughout the virtual universe. Expectations were high since I got onto Twitter not long after Bella Andre and others made their big splash. Everyone was hoping a reliable strategy had emerged—”Grow your online tribe!” Sales and readers were sure to follow.
Once the euphoria began to wane, it was important to remember that success still depends on genre, luck, and elusive factors like one’s affinity for self-promotion.
No doubt it’s obvious that this account of my socmed career entails a trek down the stony path of disappointment. Did all those tweets and posts sell books? In a 14-month period, between two titles, I sold just under 300 copies. Scarcely a handful of those sales can be credited to socmed activity of any kind. Instead, my family-wide email campaign generated numbers, as did face-to-face events like festivals and signings.
And yes, I tried an online giveaway.
Really, I don’t mean to whine. I am grateful for every purchase, every comment, every review. Still, fellow writers may want to realize that I fell far short of my dream: the great majority of my customers are folks who already knew me, or knew of me through secondhand acquaintance. Ongoing word-of-mouth did not take off, however, and my work remains earthbound.
Basically, a failure to launch.
“Indie authors” are supposed to be entrepreneurs, dividing our time between creativity and marketing. For me that balance has become precarious. Call me old-fashioned, but tweeting and posting are incompatible with writing as I once knew it. While thousands of us send out the same plea, day after day—”Buy me! Read me! Ditto all your friends!”—socmed has recruited precious few readers to my cause. So I hereby announce an extended vacation. The air waves will be a tiny bit less crowded with @anesam98 no longer adding to the clamor.
This blog has been great fun and will still enjoy a future. Please feel free to weigh in below with comments, disagreement, or personal experience. I love to host debate in these pages.
Disappointment means nothing when I recall the wonderful people I’ve met online. In the course of my socmed career, I enjoyed these encounters more than I ever expected. Connection has brought me delight and a sense of genuine, if intangible, success. Sincere thanks to all, especially—
The generous and brilliant writers who contributed posts to this blog and made my website a far more interesting place than it could have been otherwise. These include @jbchicoine @BradParker @thesuzettebrown @dumbbumcomics and @PMCoomer
Thoughtful and compassionate commenters who made my day, time and again, creating a priceless sense of engagement: @KVaselopulos @hectorhoraciova @Micsova @AyersEdits @PinchinLane @TerryTyler4 @PoeticFlow310 @Karenlsullivan9 @JacqueeT @medarlinv @TreeTop Orchid @mikeydbii @markvanderpool and, of course, the intrepid @FredWebster10
Tweeps who reached out to me across continents, from entirely different walks of life, with humor, fellow-feeling, and encouragement. The list would quickly cover this page, so forgive me if I mention just a few shining examples: @Corkytp @TamieDearen @ALittleMissie @tomkohlt @KlaraCharlton @MarkTheShaw @seams16 @Kindlemojo @JAEL488 and @Billward10Bill