If you’re a writer who wants to write a great book that sells itself then the advice about how to use social media can end up being counterproductive. Good books rarely sell themselves, they need to be discovered by readers who are innervated by them and that’s the hardest part. Lately I’ve become active in Twitter’s writing community and it is a wonderfully diverse community of writers who are supportive or needing support. It’s a fantastic way to push myself out of my cave for awhile, to join discussions, to discover other writers and to get more comfortable with social media as part of my routine. But, I wouldn’t say that the best use for Twitter is as a marketing tool for writers. The format is actually rather challenging for long form writers who likely need to exceed the word count in order to express themselves. Twitter is a great platform to create intimacy with potential readers which is different than marketing your work.
Sometime during the end of my undergrad I was exploring online writing communities in an effort to be social within my field. The greatest regret of my college years is that I did not socialize more with my peers for a variety of reasons. As a result I grew to recognize the value of finding others in my field in order to not feel so isolated. This was how I found James Garside/@jamesgarside_ .
I began following his WordPress blog and on twitter. He was at a different point in his journey than me, he liked Japanese culture and unlike some of the other writers in the community he wasn’t an ego trip. As a reader I wouldn’t say that I would have sought out his writing. My go to genres are mysteries, memoir and science writing. James wasn’t a writer I would have discovered as easily if I had not been looking among writing communities. Over the years his style became more defined, he became better at creating boundaries on social media and in shouting very clearly into the void. What made me become a fan wasn’t his writing per say but rather his dedication to honing his voice. He is not a famous author nor has he gone viral but neither has he seemed to be desperate for the approval I can offer him as a reader. The intimacy he provided wasn’t as a faux friend but instead it was an invitation to watch as he worked.
It’s not clear to me how I happened onto Megan Cubed. The first time I recall seeing anything of hers was through her obsession with the series Hannibal. I wasn’t a fan of Hannibal but I was aware of the series. It will remain a mystery what link brought me to Megan but there was something about her tweets that made me stay. Not the content specifically. I admired the way she shared, something about the style of her tweets captivated me. Just like with James I wouldn’t say that I was attracted to her writing genre. I followed her out of curiosity and eventually read one of her ebooks for free when she offered it as such. It is hard to be honest online because we’re expected to love or hate anything we encounter. I enjoyed Megan’s writing but wasn’t as interested in her genre generally speaking. Megan writes what she wants to read and this enthralls me. I love that she takes a chance by making her work available where critics aren’t just harsh but can be downright dangerous. Sticking with Megan and reading what she’d shared in her current Southern Gothic series I have become a fan of her writing and grow ever more interested in her work.
Often social media and society try to remind us that we need them. We need their approval, their money, their admiration and it is them who will offer fame and success if you can just do the right things to earn them. Those toxic notions erode our ability to hear our own voice and can have a muting effect that makes us lose touch with the source of our creativity.
Reading is an incredibly niche area for entertainment. The bar for entry is higher than other entertainment. Literacy isn’t easy when you’re talking about building the stamina to read through books and being able to enjoy a story without visuals, sound or physical interaction requires a type of patience that isn’t highly selected for in our modern life. Writers tend to have all the qualities you seek in a reader, except perhaps a large budget of time or money. But, fellow writers will have an appreciation for your work that non-writing readers may not have. They also understand how challenging it is to write well and that the more effortless your writing seems, the harder you likely worked to polish it to that point.
As a writer my main goal, probably my only goal, is to connect to a reader in the way that other writers have connected to me. I would love to have that moment amplified across many readers but the truth is that if just one person feels more able to be themselves, to embrace the parts of themselves that they’ve not been able to or feels that I’ve helped them unlock the words to express something they couldn’t express before–well then, that’s the reason I want to keep screaming into the void.
As to Megan and James–I’ve grown to appreciate their work. It wasn’t their slick marketing or that they conformed to my favorite tropes. They had the courage to begin sharing their journey online and it was witnessing their work evolve that fostered an appreciation for their work. We are so lucky to have social media as an avenue to provide this kind of access to vulnerability and process. Writing has always been a relationship across great distances of time and space. Writing has always been about screaming into the void.