Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Social Media’s Taking over…

RWA National’s and the Thrillerfest workshop grids were amazing this year. So much variety, you couldn’t keep up. Amazing depth. Still, on nearly every panel one topic reigned. Social Media. Almost like it’s more important now than the writing and the books. How do publishers use it? How do they want their authors to use it? How do wannabe authors and publishers need to use it? You don’t use it??? What’s WRONG WITH YOU!


And no, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not just talking about the panels focusing specifically on the use of social medial for book promotion, though Shelia Clover English’s panel at Thrillerfestwas absolutely the best of the bunch. Check her out. Download her talk, whenever they make the audio available on the TFest website. Get on board the train to your future…

When I say social media’s taking over, what I mean is that everyone was talking about it, in practically every workshop, panel, and meeting I attended the last two weeks. As I said yesterday, no one knows for sure what’s happening to the publishing industry, but EVERYone seems to think that the old way of promoting and reaching readers is evolving into something else, no one’s really sure what, involving social media.

Several times a day, I had folks come up in the middle of hotel lobbies, once even walking around NY, to talk about how I do what little I do out here reaching out to readers and writers and fans of the kind of fantasy stuff I like to read and write. Seems I do more online than the average bear, even as I look around me on Twitter and Facebook and see others doing tons more than I have time to indulge in.

Every publisher panel began and ended with,“Find us on FB here,” or “Check out our daily promotion specials on Twitter here,” or “We’re looking for savvy authors who are plugged in with their reader base and engaging with book buyers and bloggers and promoters here, here and here…”

Each meeting I was in, whether with other authors, editors or agents, was interrupted from time to time by emails or texts or whatever from the next meeting, or ended up talking about the craziness of how much time gets eaten up by online commitments each day.

And the workshops themselves were not immune to the frenzy. None of them. Everyone has to do something online these days to seem viable, but everyone’s finding the experience, with rare exception, exhausting and they’re conflicted. How much is too much? Which options are affective and which are self-indulgent wastes of time? Are we all just fooling ourselves, because all readers really want is giveaways and discounted books?

My “After The Show” workshop at RWA about how to continue your conference conversation once you get back home, how to make the most of what you learn and experience and expand the benefits of your time and financial conference investment into the next year, was the same. It started as a blog post out here and has become this amazing, inspirational workshop, even if I do say so myself, where I challenge attendees (mostly unpublished authors this time around, since I was chosen as a RWA PRO pick, which was an amazing boost to my attendance, so thanks RWA for believing in me!) to stay focused and organized on their business long after they return to their normal lives.

My interactive talk of course includes some social media suggestions and goals–but that’s only a portion of my recommendation that conference attendees make a list of the follow-up tasks I talk about and a schedule of how they will implement each task and, of course, first on that list is WRITING the books and proposals they just pitched to publishers and agents. Nevertheless, guess what consumed most of the workshop once folks got comfortable enough to ask questions.

Social Media.

How do I do the newsletters that I release daily on Twitter? What is #weWRITE search tag about, and the How We Write Wednesday blog posts I do with Jenn Talty, and this PIFS series, and my Dream Theories and Psychic Realm posts… Who has time for all that? Why do I do it? Is it helping sales? Even basics like TweetDeck and the portable apps I use to keep up with everything on the road (which I didn’t these last two weeks, you’ll notice, partly because the hotels give awful 3G reception and I wasn’t paying for Wifi and partly because I just needed a break from the exhaustion of keeping up with what I was encouraging everyone else to keep up with, so I could soak in the in-person content I’d come to take part in).

Yes, Social Media’s taking over for now, but don’t get lost in the flood of questions and sort-of definitive answers. Because, as with publishing, no one knows for sure what’s working now, let alone what will work tomorrow.

My social media advice to workshop attendees and anyone who asked in between isn’t all that new or different than any of the other active authors I respect.Be yourself. Be consistent. Be engaged in others more than you are yourself and your own promotion. Be aware of what you do and don’t do well, and don’t force a bad position/situation–readers and other writers are too savvy these days to be duped into believing you’re an expert in something you’re just starting to figure out or an active member of a group when you only show up around your book releases, etc. Be a WRITER first.

writing girl

That’s what I see social media taking over too often, the writing, and that’s sad. And bad for business. Yes, I fell off the grid the last two weeks while I travelled. I needed to be in the moment I was experiencing, and now that I’m back I’ll share what I didn’t pull myself away from people to share while I travelled. And I haven’t been as active the last month or so as I was earlier in the year, because I’m heads-down into new proposals and needed to find my writing rhythm. Now that I have, I’ll be peaking out a little more.  Until I need to focus on the writer part of me more than the “social writer” part of me again, in which case, you’ll once more notice me becoming a little scarce.

Because as social as we all are being told we need to be in a world where chatter is so prevalent, can anyone really hear a word we say?, we need to be writers first.It’s what these conferences were supposed to be about, and the more closely I listened the more really good stuff I found beneath the social media buzz. We are in a solitary profession that no amount of “extrovert” necessity is going to change. We work alone, we work with what’s inside us, and we work to express that to a world that can’t fully understand us or what we create until it’s finished and they experience the words we paint onto the page. Not on Twitter or Facebook or blogs. On the written, completed, page.

Until we have a story  to share (or the next story, for those of us already published), social media is more distraction than business savvy. Until we have a schedule for getting our inner worlds fully realized in our outward reality, we have no business spending large portions of our days (or our write conference experiences) talking about how to connect with the readers wanting to know us better. It’s ridiculous, really, when you think of it that way. So many social media experts will tell you to get your online content up first, get your platform established, THEN worry about finishing and finding a home for you writing. It’s the only way for things to happen as fast as they need to for a writer to be successful these days. Readers want quick and immediate and now, and they’re not going to wait for you to figure out what you’re really trying to say before you say it.


Yes, social media’s taking over, but it’s a choice we’re making, not a forgone conclusion. And I think at times we’re selling ourselves and our gifts short. We write. We create. We say what others want to hear. We’re writers. We’re not PR experts or salesmen, at least not most of us. We’re thinkers and dreamers and feelers who share our deepest selves when we write and rewrite and craft story that doesn’t play out in 144 characters or a hasty blog post that’s like too many other blog posts in an endless sea of chatter no one really stops to connect with anymore.

Write. Write well. Write every day, as much as you can every day. And, yes, while you’re at it, keep your eyes online and try to figure out who might be interested in what you’re saying and how best to reach them. Take care of your business, of course. That’s what my After the Show workshop is all about. But your business is story and character and taking readers on a journey they’ll never forget. One that doesn’t begin and end with an entertaining tweet or FB status update.

Be yourself. Be consistent. Be engaged. In your writing first. The rest will be there for you to plug into once you’re grooving on your craft. But it’s all about the writing.

Social media can’t take that over. It can only get in your way.

Don’t let it.

Write on!

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2 Responses to “Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Social Media’s Taking over…”

  1. Melba says:

    Anna, so good of you to give us your view of how social media is influencing the publishing industry. You are right of course, our first job is to write and write well.


  2. Kathy Holmes says:

    Exactly! Everybody’s being told the same thing and when everybody does it, it loses its power. We’re all shouting to each other. Sheesh! Now I really must get back to writing. :)

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