For this hesitant blogger over here at BlogPhobia, it may be unsurprising to discover that I don’t read blogs all that often. Most of my aversion has to do with general information overload, in addition to trying to squeeze lots of other things into my day (like yoga, exercise, meditation, writing, researching, working on my lit journal, actual paid editing work, oh, and even cooking, cleaning…). But I did take the time to read “12 Social Media Mistakes for Authors to Avoid” and delighted in its frank and helpful advice. I found myself nodding in agreement with how annoying all those faux pas can be — especially spamming someone’s Facebook wall with promotions, blogging works in progress, and thanking people for follows. The person who wrote the post clearly has more experience than I do in both blogging and tweeting, so I’m always drawn to advice of this sort.
I tend to be fearful of spamming people with my own announcements, so I hope that my natural hesitancy has allowed me to avoid some of those aforementioned faux pas. The dilemma that many writers face is that we learn quickly that we must become friends with self-promotion if we want our work to be read––not even sold to the masses, but just read. Part of the advantage of being a poet is that, at least for me, it’s engendered a sort of “purist” attitude toward self-promotion, particularly using social media for self-promotion, and particularly measuring success in the sale of books. I’m sure folks will see me as way too much of a purist to be offering any kind of useful advice, but in my own defense I was so glad that the blogger of the above mentioned post said the following:
“I think authors have probably learned their most irritating habits from ‘marketing gurus’ who tell them they’ll make more money if they’re just ‘bold’ enough to use social media ‘like an expert.’ ”
I sighed with relief when I read that statement. When I first joined Twitter and started perusing some of the advice for writers spinning around the Internet, I found the proliferation of advice on using social media for book marketing to be somewhat panic inducing. In a way, I almost think advice in that vein is meant to be alarmist in nature: as a writer, you are taught that you must take marketing into your own hands (which is true), but then you must follow all these rules, keep up with so much information, and make worrying about your use of social media part of your job. At least, that’s how I felt when I encountered such advice.
I do not like being pandered to by so-called marketing gurus. I take my advice from other gurus, and that advice usually teaches me to process information in mindful way. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t market ourselves as writers, but we should do so mindfully. And it’s not that we should be above the idea of selling books, but that we shouldn’t see ourselves as marketing machines. If I have written something that I think matters, I will try to share it with the world in the various channels available to me at this particular historical/technological moment. But that is not my agenda as a person who communicates in writing. My agenda is to put what I love out into the world, whether that is my own work or that of others (through my lit journal or promotion of writers I admire).
If I had to add my own small drop of advice to the sea, I would say a good dose of self-awareness and integrity should be a part of any marketing campaign. We are not trying to trick people into buying books, but to share what is good. I think social media can be used for that kind of good, if we remind ourselves to take our finger off the panic button, and remember why we are writing in the first place.