Sunday, 23 October 2011

Guest blog – Social Media: a double-edged sword.

By R. B. Wood

(Richard Wood is a friend whose first novel, The Prodigal’s Foole, has just been published by Pfoxmoor. As part of his blog tour to celebrate its launch, I’ve invited him to give us some observations on writing today. Here's what he thinks.)

The twenty-first century for writers is a marvelous time to be in the business.

The big six are trying to figure out what to do with the ebook revolution while Amazon nips at their heels to eliminate the middlemen (namely agents and other publishers).

Small indie presses are popping out of the ground like daisies and the self-publishing market is exploding.

What does all of this have to do with social media and said internet tools being a double-edged sword?
Let an old man get to the point in his own way.

Never since the introduction of the printing press (“Gutenberg!” you all shout – no… it was introduced much earlier. But that’s for another post), has there been such a revolution in the writing/publication industry as that which we are witnessing today. The small and self-publishing market alone has expanded dramatically and shows no sign of slowing down.

Both Bill Kirton and I are proud to be listed with other fine authors of the Pfoxpub group, under the hardworking leadership of Ms. Diane Nelson. Pfoxpub, which encompasses both the Pfoxmoor and more adult leaning Pfoxchase imprints, is one such small press that has arrived on the scene to embrace the new publishing model.

But along with being in the literary company of a small cadre of excellent authors, editors, and artists there comes a problem. See, the marketing budgets of the ‘Big Six’ are significantly larger than our budget. So how do we compensate for this disparity?

Well, the internet and social media of course. Told you I’d get there eventually.

Tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are used with some success in advertising our wares. We’ve done other internet-based marketing as well, from blog tours to online trailers and from Writer websites to Facebook Fan pages and participation in online forums. Social media has been a big part of “getting the word out there.”

But it is a double-edged sword for two reasons.

TIME – All of these activities take time away from the actual writing. Websites need to be maintained. Twitter posts need to be consistent and conversational. And don’t get me started on Facebook, which in my opinion is the digital equivalent of the rabbit hole poor Alice fell into. The Social Media campaign takes time, planning and in some instances as much creativity as was poured into the stories we want to sell in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve found loads of advice online for an “indie writer” such as myself. I’ve made fantastic friendships (I’m proud to count Bill as one such friend), found amazing critic partners and all have generally improved my writing significantly.

Which leads me to the other part of our imaginary blade:

90% of those I’m connected with are writers. This is fantastic when you are just starting out. But make no mistake about it, most of the folks you end up connecting with in the writing world are trying to sell their own stories. And think about how many of your 2500 Twitter friends’ books you’ve purchased in the past year. A dozen? Half-a-dozen?

So even in this new world of ebooks and social media, we writers are left with the age old dilemma. Finding the READERS to go with all those writers whose company you enjoy online.

Social media will get the new millennium writer started. And you’ll be amazed at the number of writers out there who will want to connect to you as well. But remember two things about this new world we all are struggling with: limit/plan your time on social media; and make sure you connect with readers of your genre as well as those dear writer friends.

Links for Richard:
Podcast (The Word Count)

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  1. Interesting post. I agree, it's so important for writers to know who their readers are or at least where to find them - and as much as we love our fellow writer's support and encouragement - we must remember they are not our target readership.

  2. Thanks Janice. You (and Richard) are dead right about this. We all spend lots of time schmoozing with other writers while readers are lurking somewhere in the undergrowth. Mind you, you've been pretty good at finding readers yourself - my guess is that specific targeting and lots of hard work are the answers - or part of them, at least.

  3. What a timely and very interesting post, Richard - thanks for putting a lot of my thoughts into words. I completely agree about limiting our time on social media (I'm still trying to get the balance right). And I was just thinking about that very problem - how to reach the readers. Still working that one out.

  4. Rosemary- It's something we're ALL trying to figure out...a bit frustrating at times.


  5. Very interesting. Having just, after quite a lot of reluctance, dipped a toe into Twitter, I can see how addictive it could become. It's like being let loose in a sweet shop.

    Think you're absolutely right about the need to protect our writing - and thinking - time. I also agree about the need to connect with readers of our own particular genre. This whole ebook adventure ain't gonna work otherwise, I feel.

  6. I've been thinking along these lines myself but with an addition. The writer/publisher/conference/workshop/book buying cycle has always seemed to me to be somewhat of a self-perpetuating animal. We've all heard the second most common advice we get behind "Writers write". It's "Writers read." Ergo, we are also readers. Since the advent of Twitter and FB (I hate it) I'm now finding myself purchasing more of my fellow writers' books, I think - or maybe I'm just connecting with them personally. Did that make sense?

  7. I find I'm doing the same thing, Marley - not on an 'I'll buy yours if you buy mine' basis, but because the books sound interesting. It's also meant I've read outside my normal 'preferred genres' range and been pleasantly surprised as a result. The down side is that I still buy the books I would have anyway so my to be read list just keeps growing.

  8. I'm looking forward to the next (guest)blogpost about 'how to connect with readers'
    Sometimes I get the impression that since everybody is focussing on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc) nobody remembers the older marketing strategies anymore.
    How about advertising through e-mail or snail mail, offering extra's on your website (stories, a chapter of your book)? And even if your book is an e-book, your readers aren't made of bits and bytes. Apart from connecting with them through the Internet, you could go to a local library and have a chat about e-reading, your book, a subject related to your book and so on.
    I'd love to hear about other people's experiences, from the past and the present.

  9. There's that magic word, Anneke - READERS - real people. As one accumulates 'friends' and/or 'followers' through the social media, one gets the impression that the world is populated by writers, all with books to flog. It's a false impression, of course. Reading is still popular and the numbers of books bought keeps on increasing. The resources of the major publishers make it easier for them to get their titles noticed but you're right, those of us who aren't in their stables need to be active in the real, practical world as well as the virtual one.

    My own experience of giving library talks and workshops is that there's a genuine interest in writers and the processes of writing, and individuals do buy my books as a result. But that doesn't translate into huge sales and I don't know the secret of how it might.