How to Avoid the “Extra” Work of Social Media

social media

by webtreats / via Flickr

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at a one-day publishing event hosted by Blurb in Brooklyn, NY. My topic was the art & business of building a platform, which included about 5-10 minutes of commentary on social media (out of a full hour).

As often happens, most audience questions were about social media, and my one-on-one conversations with authors afterward focused on social media. They confided that they aren’t interested in social media nor do they see the benefit of the extra work presented by it.

While I don’t think social media use is mandatory, you can set up an significant challenge for yourself if you exclude it from your arsenal of tools. Many think they’re excluding it from their arsenal of marketing tools (or just declining to engage in self-promotion). Perhaps. But shift your perspective just a bit, and it turns out you’re excluding it from your arsenal of creative writing and publishing tools.

Social media is a form of content, and can be seen as micro-publishing. Each post is sharing a tiny bit of your story, message or perspective—possibly something informative or inspiring. The posts might end up being part of a larger work. They might be daily creativity experiments. And they might offer you insight into how your audience thinks and engages with your work.

Consider:

  • Nonfiction writers who author blog posts (part of the social media universe, in my view) compile and edit them into a larger publication.
  • Artists or illustrators who post quick images on Pinterest or Instagram and later publish a high-quality print book collection that includes some of those images.
  • Fiction writers who post about their research and inspiration for a novel, giving readers a sneak peek of what’s to come.

Or, think of it like this: You’re micro-publishing and sharing things you’re happy to give away, and that reach a very wide number of people, because they can spread freely. These things are your “cheese cubes”—but they’re part of a much bigger cheese you have in store. The people who become invested in your work and your message will buy the premium cheese basket: the final, polished, very intentional work with the highest value.

Some author examples to consider:

  • Debbie Ohi posts a daily doodle on social media; it’s part of her creative practice.
  • Jeanne Bowerman started a Sunday night Twitter #scriptchat to learn about scriptwriting, and ended up becoming an expert herself in the topic she set out to study.
  • Robert Brewer issues a poem-a-day challenge to get himself and his community producing poetry.
  • I post publishing and media infographics on Pinterest to keep tabs on industry change, and use them as reference points in my talks, and also to benefit others.

Are these things “extra” work? Not really; in the cases above, they’re the very heart of the creative work. They are digitally native forms that usually involve sharing the work before it’s part of something final or cohesive. This is often rocket fuel for your art; see Austin Kleon in his recent release, Show Your Work. Social media doesn’t have to feel like a drag on your time when it’s not separate or devised in isolation from your “real work.”

I’ll leave you with the words of Richard Nash, who I recently interviewed. We talked about writers who say (basically), “I just want to write,” and would rather not be distracted by non-writing activities. He says:

No one wants to just sit and write! Not even Beckett didn’t want to just sit and write—seriously! If Beckett can’t abide just sitting down and writing, then any writer can find emotional and cultural stimulation by engaging with society. The two are not mutually exclusive. 

Whatever time limitations you face or whatever artistic goals you have, I believe the really meaningful (platform-building) social media activity draws on the same creativity and imagination that’s part of your “serious” work.

Posted in Marketing & Promotion, Social Media.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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38 Comments on "How to Avoid the “Extra” Work of Social Media"

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Shirley Showalter
We have a lot of power in life when we choose to shift the focus slightly, redefining our reality. What a great example you’ve given here. I don’t have as many qualms as many writers to about social media, largely because blogging became my first experience, then FB, then Twitter, then Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. (For some reason FB is easiest for me, combined with blogging. I only visit the other places occasionally.) I am hoping to make the connection even stronger between blogging and publishing now that my memoir is one year old and readers have asked for a… Read more »
Mary Burns

I think of my blog, In the Works, http://www.burnsmar@blogspot.ca, as a form of discipline and practice, of thinking “out loud” about whatever happens to be on my mind. I have come to like it and to appreciate the unique form that is the blog. Once a week is enough, though.

Orit

Great examples.

I think sometimes writers write-off social media because of the overwhelm that they see in it + the disconnect that technology can create. Another factor is that many writers are introverts and are having a hard time interacting on a platform that emphasizes, and even calls for, qualities they don’t always have or appreciate.

Which is why I think examples like these are good, because they show that it can be done in a professional, creative way that doesn’t require taking pictures of every meal you have…

Amy

I had never thought of it as micro-publishing! After closing a business that grew rapidly with the help of social media (and hours a day working on social media) I felt done, done, done. Now, you have me ready to take another look- this time with moderation.

William Ash
My biggest hurdle was what was it for and how it relates to me? I think this is true for many. Like most thing I start, I let it lead me. A few tentative posts here, a few tentative posts there. Blogging turn out to be something very different that I imagined it. We blog five days a week and spend one, maybe two evenings setting up the weeks blog. My wife just started a new idea on our blog this week. But we have found a positive feedback to our work. We only blog a few hundred words a… Read more »
William Ash

Sorry for the typos–autocorrect and the iPad will doom this civilization.

emptyque
” If you are a perfectionist, it can be scary. Sometimes it seems what you are putting out is not that great, but then you go back to it after a while and it turns out it was not that bad. The great thing about starting is that no one sees it anyway, but over time your audience grows.” True, true. I just started a blog recently and I am trying to turn my anxiety over the quality of my post into brainstorming ways to make future post better. And actually, I don’t think my post are poorly written, just… Read more »
Franssss

I guess maybe it just seems overwhelming to those writers because writing a book is already a tremendous undertaking, and now you have to be the one to take charge of your marketing and fan interactions. They’re probably used to the idea that writers just lock themselves up in a hole and write, and the publisher does the rest.

Lexa Cain

Very interesting points of view. Thanks! 🙂

Marcy Mason McKay

Terrific, Jane. I think the key to social media is to a shift in mindset. Rather than pushing your BOOK! BLOG! WHATEVER! — that’s like a sleazy salesman. Social media is about being a part of community and giving. Share someone’s post that you love, cool tips, etc. Don’t make it all about you.

I also think it’s important to only engage to the Social Media you enjoy. I love Facebook. I absolutely do NOT get Pinterest. I may be missing the boat, but that’s okay. It’s all about choices….

Susan Raber

I’ve been flopping around like a landed trout trying to find a balance with social media, but I’m getting there, and this article gives me another nudge in the right direction.

Susan G. Weidener
I have always felt that my blog was an extension of my creative work. I get over 4,000 views a month, which is gratifying, like having my own mini-magazine. The posts I write often help me stay focused on where I’ve been and where I’m going with my writing and my writing projects. Featuring other writers is also a pleasure and I hope illuminating to my readers, who certainly don’t want to hear just from me every week. My blog is crucial in launching my next book. I pretty much don’t get Twitter or Pinterest. I like Facebook and Google+.… Read more »
Kathy Meis

Jane, you’re such a gift! Your post is a marvelous reminder of what social is all about. It is those authors who truly celebrate the human connection of social, the sharing of their art — rather than the broadcasting of it — who actually benefit from and enjoy the experience. I wrote on the same topic in 2012: http://www.siriuspress.com/studio/2012/03/the-art-of-book-promotion/ Thanks for all you do for authors. 🙂 Kathy

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James Kendley

Fantastic. I realized just this morning that short, process-oriented posts could keep me in the game while working on the second novel of a two-book deal. Thanks for the refocus!

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Marjorie Turner
I was encouraged to create a facebook page to market my local walking trails book, and discovered that by sharing additional trails I’ve visiting, I not only am continuing to market me original book, but I’m putting together information that will become the second in the series. Who knew? The best photos I’m posting on my website marjorieturner.com, (with a link to my book) and posting them on pinterest. Getting the hang of this format, but don’t spend tons of time with it, just when I’ve got something new to post. Better than sitting home waiting for folks to find… Read more »
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Jake Parent

I know I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of thinking my social media is productive time when it wasn’t. These are great tips. Obviously, social media can be powerful when it’s done with a purpose.

Sherrey Meyer

I like the perspective twist you’ve put on social media here. Food for thought for many and at times, even for Self. Thanks!

Pat Roa-Perez

I still consider myself new to SM, even though I started a year ago when I began my writing career. It can be overwhelming, especially early on when one’s learning. I’m at a point now where I find it necessary to create a strategy around it to reduce the time spent and maximize the benefits of the various SM platforms. Your post has come at the right time. It’s given me some new ideas to think about.

Thanks for this great post!

Julie Roberts

This was very helpful, thank you Jane. When I met my future now-husband a few years ago, that first day he told me how skeptical he was about Social Media for his own business. Three years later, he is now a monthly blogger, watches the analytics like a hawk, and is thrilled with the effect and the results. That’s been fun to see. Dipping the toe in slowly was key.

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