Helping Writers Through Social Media

A very smart writer friend of mine wrote something on her Facebook page today, which I think makes a lot of sense and is worth reproducing widely. Comments and feedback from writers welcome.

Here goes. The first status:

I think we’ve reached the point at which a Like doesn’t necessarily mean Liking, or endorsement, or anything besides a vital sign? But there is a place where a Like counts, and that’s publishing. Something I’ve learned from a lot of writers and editors this week is that, if you are a writer, and your friends on the FB aren’t clicking Like on your work, and you don’t have a gazillion followers on Twitter, you have even less of a future in writing than everybody else who has no future in writing. That’s not the way things should be; that’s one of the cruel corporate realities of the profession. But so long as that remains the case, there is something you CAN do: if you have friends who are writers whose work you respect–they don’t have to be me, of course–do THEM a favor and throw a couple Likes toward their work. Follow them back and repost/RT. And though it kills me to say that you don’t have to give any more of shit about their poems and stories than about a baby or a sunset or a plate of deliciousness, because we ought to care about our friends’ work, and we ought to read, and talk about ideas…even if you don’t care, you can still click Like and parlay that uncaring into something real for them: the difference between nothing, and a gig–a solicitation–a book. In case you’ve been wondering, that is why I’m increasingly shifting my own social media (more on Twitter lately than FB, but I’ll circle around again) toward promoting my friends: because I would *like* to see them going to restaurants and ordering plates of stuff to photograph, but they can’t, if they’re broke. Am I talking about the debasement of the culture, in asking people to indiscriminately click Like for the sake of marketing? Fuck yeah, because an absence of even debased interest can kill whatever glimmers of culture we’ve got. 

And then, a follow-up comment:

Of course, reading and talking and taking our friends’ work seriously is essential–and reviewing…is even more important than tweeting and FB-ing–so is the sharing of contacts and networking, which has worked out well for me in the past month. I wouldn’t want anybody to think that I don’t believe in the importance of all that, especially in how it makes a difference in my own life (those of you who’ve cheered me on and argued with me and talked books have been, and continue to be, my very favorite people in the world). And this isn’t even necessarily about me, because luckily I often do the kind of work that finds a home among people who are accustomed to small audiences.

However, marketing: it’s ugly, but it can make the difference between an annual income of $26 (mine last year) and making a living as a writer. Unfortunately, the conversations I’ve been having have revealed some pretty depressing stuff about the market. Every piece that gets published online has page view, Like, and Tweet counts. Magazine and journal editors notice that; it’s the kind of thing that can earn commissions, repeat gigs, and contributing writer and staff positions. Book editors will refer to that stuff, and, as I found out from some other writers to whom it happened, may reject a proposal or manuscript that they like, on the grounds that the author failed to build a sufficient social media platform–it’s considered not only as a marketing fail, but also a sign of irresponsibility. The editor doesn’t care if the Like is “passive.” And when the editor rejects the book because you don’t have enough Twitter followers, s/he doesn’t care if you have a fiercely passionate support group of thinkers who will console you with reminders of your high-mindedness offline. And though I’m going out on a limb here, my guess is that DP’s point about people of color and women goes double when the social media presence is being reckoned in these decisions.

This is a really easy way to make a small difference, for people who don’t, actually, care about reading or talking ideas, but do know writers they care about, whom they’d like to give a boost in some way. And of course, not all venues are subject to these pressures. But there are enough that are, and enough that are struggling, who need the social media in order to justify publishing what they want to publish in an increasingly corporate market.”

4 thoughts on “Helping Writers Through Social Media

  1. Given the topic of your (and your friend’s) post, I thought I’d better click “like” 🙂

    Seriously, though, two things. First, I always worry that I over-like things, but I’m not going to worry about that ever again. If I like something or someone, I want to say so and not miss my chance to pass that along. Second, I agree with your friend: If I don’t strongly like something, but “liking” it can make a difference for someone, why not do so? It doesn’t debase the culture. Lots of songs, movies, and books went on to success after faltering initially. Something I don’t care for that much today may grow on me over time.

    Time, in fact, is probably the best test of quality. Work that deserves an audience will find it, while undeserving work will fade from notice. I really do believe that.

  2. I have to say, if publishers only want authors who already have a proven audience … what real service do these companies still provide writers other than assuming the financial risk of production and printing paper copies? And that for 90% of net sales!

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