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Social Media Presence: Does It Really Matter?

Especially for those of us as yet unpublished.

This is something I think about constantly. Most of us work some kind of day job outside of writing. Some of us have kids, spouses, significant others. Time is like gold. No, more like platinum. (If someone could figure out how to add more hours to a day, they would be an instant bazillionaire.)

So my question for you guys: Is it really worth spending hours of your day, precious hours where you could be writing, on Twitter or Facebook or Google+? Do you think that the “need” to be visible on social media sites takes away from the very thing you are trying to do? Write a good story.

I don’t know the answer.

Writing is a solitary endeavor by nature. When you picture a writer, you see someone hunched over a desk, in a dimly lit room, clacking away on a typewriter. (I like to imagine the scene in Funny Farm where Chevy Chase is staring outside at the happily chirping bird, then by day four, throws his typewriter at it. Heh.)

The internet has allowed writers from around the world to come together, be there for support and brainstorming and beta reading. Friendships form and suddenly, you’re not that lonely writer anymore. But does it come at a price?

Do you write less and spend more time reading about the industry, chatting with friends, checking every deal on PM, Tweeting what you had for lunch, or friending a hundred people you don’t even know on Facebook? Do you get caught up in discussions on the industry, or arguing with someone about a book they trashed? Do you jump on the bandwagon of Twitter trends when someone does something reprehensible, then read every single comment posted while commenting back?

I’m really interested in what you guys have to say about this. It’s obvious the internet isn’t going anywhere ;) and if anything, more things like Google+ will pop up and create even more distractions, so how to you balance it all?

Has talking about writing a book taken priority over actually sitting down and doing it? Do we need to be available 24/7 to everyone? What do you think?
Lee Bross

Lee lives her happily ever after on the coast of Maine where she has written Tangled Webs, her historical YA debut, and fantasy YA books Fates and Chaos under pen name Lanie Bross. She also writes contemporary books for New Adult under the name L.E. Bross, debuting with Right Where You Are.

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20 comments:

  1. I think the best propaganda is to write a good book, then another. But, to be known or found or spread the word, social media is a big helper.

    I can honestly say that I'm addicted to the internet ... My mornings are usually to answer emails, check twitter, read post about writing/publishing, comment and things like that. During the afternoon, I write ... Though, again I'll be honest, I have to turn the net off if I want to really write ... otherwise, every new paragraph, I'll go over twitter or Facebook and waste a few couple of minutes.

    I try using FocusBooster (and I know Google has an addon like that) to keep me out of the net ...

    And it's true, more social media will emerge and we'll feel like we should be in all of them to reach readers and fellow writers ...

    For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to impose less time on the web to myself, and more time writing ...

    I think readers will understand if you're not available all the time, cause you'll be writing the next book they will read =P

    Now, off the web! Happy writing all!

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  2. Allow me to bask in your presence momentarily, YA Highway, as I take a break from editing ^_^

    Maybe you don't need a "presence". I certainly didn't start my blog for that reason. I just like to interact with others. If that means I've got a presence, well then, that's just fine. Who doesn't love to share their passions with an equally interested audience?

    The internet is a terrible distraction though, which is why I ban myself from it by taking myself off to places where it cannot be accessed.

    ...I should probably cut myself off now. Off I go! Manuscript to edit, cupcake waiting as a reward for reaching today's target :D

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  3. Great question. I think as writers we have to learn to use social media effectively with the least amount of time. B/c nothing promotes your name better than a good book and several more!

    I think it helps. Most books I buy are from buzz online and word of mouth from writer friends. I just think we can't get caught up in the newest flare up and trend.

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  4. Yes, your last long paragraph mentions things that are annoying about the internet. But some debates are worthwhile. Sometimes it's worth it to read every single comment and learn a little something. Sometimes you post what you had for breakfast and bond with your new best friend that also things cinnamon Life is the bomb.

    What you put into social media is what you get out of it. If you're not experiencing the benefits, it's easy to dismiss what other find valuable.

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  5. Sure, there's always the precious time one could have spent writing. But unless social networking starts to become a problem for a writer, to the point where they are incapable of finishing a book or otherwise being productive, then I don't see it as a problem.

    It's become a large part of the business. I've been into social networking eight years. I have 2 blogs, a website, a Twitter, 2 Facebook accounts, an account on Deviantart, and now Google+. All of them are frequently updated and none of them have ever slowed me down. They didn't stop me from writing numerous practice books or my current manuscript. I'm still as productive as ever. If anything, having those connections has improved my work flow. I find constant sources of inspiration.

    It's just a matter of keeping it separate from my "Work Time."

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  6. I just took a couple weeks away from blogging/facebook to finish my draft. I think blogging helps me connect with other writers and that is pretty important.
    I think these things keep me on track as a writer. Having a blog about writing means I have to write. Otherwise I'd be lying to my readers. I also feel like the people who follow my blog want me to succeed as a writer because that is how I feel about other writers I follow.

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  7. Limiting my time on the internet is SOOO hard. One, because I love it, and two, it's necessary.

    We unpublished writers do need to find the right mix of time spent between the different activities that are necessary to the overall goal of getting published. I have no idea how to do that though. I just know a certain level of guilt creeps in when I spend too much or not enough time on some aspect of the process.

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  8. Limiting my time on the internet is SOOO hard. One, because I love it, and two, it's necessary.

    We unpublished writers do need to find the right mix of time spent between the different activities that are necessary to the overall goal of getting published. I have no idea how to do that though. I just know a certain level of guilt creeps in when I spend too much or not enough time on some aspect of the process.

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  9. My book doesn't come out for FOURTEEN MONTHS. That's an incredibly long time, and while I'm definitely working on something else right now, engaging in social media has helped me get connected and stay connected while I'm in that awful waiting period. I've built up some great friendships, people who will cheer with me when I reach those little milestones (finishing revisions, getting a release date, etc).

    Sure, I plug my book in social media, but the main reason I'm involved is to get and stay connected. Maybe that'll help me come October 9, 2012 when Meant to Be Finally releases, but even if it doesn't it's been time well spent!

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  10. I do feel like having a 'presence' online can be an extremely positive thing, but I also feel like the best online presences are the ones that kind of naturally formed, instead of the ones that a person specifically tried to build.

    When it comes to my own activity on social media websites, I definitely go in waves. While I'm working on a draft, I tend to stay away, comment less, or lurk more often than not. But when the draft gets turned in, I can easier focus in on my blog and having light conversations on Twitter and stuff.

    As far as time-sucking goes, this situation, along with most others in life, would be the most beneficial to the writer if they practice balance.

    Great question, Lee!

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  11. Interesting thoughts, and great comments here too.

    All I have to add is that I'm fairly certain that back in the dark days pre-Internet, writers had other methods of distracting themselves. If Twitter isn't going to distract me from writing another chapter, the cooking magazine that just arrived in the mail will. Or the souffle I suddenly decide to try baking will. Hell, even the dirty dishes afterward will distract me from writing, if I let it.

    As far as "is it worth it," especially if you're unpublished - I think it is, if you do it right. "Right" meaning establishing meaningful relationships and a solid presence online prior to your book deal. Attempting to establish those relationships and that presence after the deal would be a challenge, and possibly not as effective in the long run. At the very least, you'll get a different kind of support from people were there with you from the beginning.

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  12. I think a smart writer is one who is informed about the industry and being connected with writers, agents, and publishers is one of the best ways to do that. I've got writer friends who don't blog, tweet, or make any effort to use cyber networking and I'm sometimes surprised by how clueless they are. I've learned so much since I started my blog and I'm positive that my writing is stronger and my chances of publication better.

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  13. The Internet is a tool and a trap. For anyone, but especially for those of us who work on our computers. I've been working to set up my online presence the past few weeks and I can say, my writing time has suffered. I've been reading blogs nonstop and thinking of post ideas for my blog. It's 90% of what I've focused on lately. Not good! This post was a good reminder to slow down.
    I think the most important thing IS to write, but marketing is important too. That goes with all companies. They may have a brilliant product, but unless they tell someone about it, their chances of success are slim. Our first responsbility is to write the best story we can. Our second is to spread the word. Spreading the word is fun, but you gotta have self-control.

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  14. Awesome post because I battle constantly with finding the balance. I've learned to keep most of my blogging to three days a week and that's something I try to do in the wee hours of the morning. I keep up with twitter when I'm standing in line. And google+...I can see that as my next major distraction. But I try to make sure I schedule secluded writing time each day, even if it can only be an hour. Then there's the day job. And my poor family.

    But scheduling is important. And sometimes something has to give, but a schedule really helps me not to feel so overwhelmed.

    Good luck on finding the balance. I will never perfect it, but I'm better than I used to be!

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  15. I've stopped focusing on my online presence because, while I think it can be valuable, I just don't think it's that important. It doesn't mean that much to me. Time is precious, and I have more than enough on my plate with the things I have to do now (and more to arrive soon/later) to focus on what's going online.

    I'd care more if there was a guarantee that having an online presence would get me a publishing contract or get my book written. But it doesn't. Plenty of people who have great online presences don't succeed in the way they (not necessarily them) say you could, and plenty of those who don't have an (active) online presence succeed. It's up in the air, and until then, I'm going to do it my way: the way that works for me.

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  16. I think that the internet has taken over a lot of peoples worlds in many different aspects. I feel like the internet and social networking sites and what not are very good ways to get feedback/ideas on what you've written. However, I myself have a very hard time focusing on anything but Facebook, or something similar when my computer is within reach. I will find myself saying, "Okay, in 10 minutes I'm going to stop sitting on the internet and go read and/or write." But, 10 minutes, 20, 30 minutes go by, and I am STILL sitting there on the internet. So, to answer your question, I do feel like the internet and social networking sites and what not do get in the way. But, as I said, they're also good to use for feed back and ideas. I guess it's a Catch 22.

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  17. I find the internet to be an amazing time suck. I've become addicted to Twitter. Not that interested in Facebook. Blogging and visiting blogs (like this one!)can eat up incredible amounts of time.

    I agree with Juliana. I want to peruse the net after writing every paragraph. It's terrible! I had to take a Twitter holiday.

    I often think of Stephanie Myers. Now her case is not common, but remember, there was a time Stephanie was not THE Stephanie. You don't find her on any social media except her own site and I don't even think she writes that herself anymore. It's lost it's personal touch and seems to be upkept by an assistant or media professional now.

    In the end, I guess it's about writing an awesome story that people want to read. If your book sucks, it won't make any difference how many sites you engage with.

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  18. This has weighed heavily on my mind the past few months, so this is such a timely topic. One of my best friends is HUGE into social media presence, heavily using both Facebook and Twitter for himself and the journals he works with. And I think it's great--he's a huge proponent of it and a way to get into the indie lit world.

    However, I've backed off my blog and Facebook because I was getting no writing done, and I was inspired to do this by a panel of YA authors who all admitted that they didn't work very hard on their internet presence. One pointed out that if he spent an hour on the internet a day, well, that's five hours that could be spent with his characters.

    (Of course, if you would be otherwise using those 5 hours watching Real Housewives or iCarly on TV, maybe it's better spent building your platform on social media :)

    I think there's excessive pressure to use social media for platform building. Social media is great, but not to the point that you're sacrificing writing time (like I was) to do it. With three kids and teaching full time, I need to use any free time I have to write. But if you have the time to market yourself through Twitter/Facebook/blogging (especially if you have a book coming out!) I say go for it!

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  19. I meant to comment on this days ago! What Kate said is really, well, basically word for word how I feel. Especially "what you put into social media is what you get out of it."

    For me, it's one of the pieces of what I've chosen to do. If I were writing just to write, then that would be one thing, but I write with the idea that I would like to be published, which makes it not a hobby, but a career. I want to understand the industry, get to know the people. Maybe not everyone cares about this piece, and that's fine, but it's definitely something to consider--even before you're published.

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Item Reviewed: Social Media Presence: Does It Really Matter? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lee Bross