Why Drink the Social Media Snake Oil?

Blue Cocktail

At nearly every writers conference you hear about these days, one of the hottest topics is “using social media.”

Wannabe indies and more-established writers alike seem to flock to that session topic like royalty-financed fifteenth century explorers seeking a new route to Asia.

I confess I intend to look for a discussion about it at the Rochester Writers Conference I’ll attend in less than two weeks.

However, unlike many, I won’t come to the lecture convinced that with the right information, I can use those new tools to promote myself into overnight writing stardom.

I already know it’s not going to happen.

Why not?
The promise seems to be, if you figure out how to use The Twitter and the Book of Face … along with all the rest of the new and ever-expanding electronic social forums … your books will magically vault into the Top 100.

The implication is you’ll quickly have tens of thousands of followers to the various electronic areas of your chosen platform and, hell, you might even develop your own lifestyle brand to be emulated by millions while making you comfortably rich.

I repeat … it probably ain’t gonna happen.

While I readily admit using (and telling my readers) that today’s social media is an integral part of an author’s platform, I know it isn’t my ticket to the stratified levels of a King or a Rowling.

How do I know? Because I’ve already lived it, and it isn’t like that at all. I’ve got the reviews to show I can write really good books, but I only sell enough to buy lunch for my beautiful bride once in a while. I’m not out shopping for mansions.

But it certainly is a nice dream, isn’t it?

Hence the Social Media Hype
For some reason, writers seem to have a particular love for quick fixes and snake oil. They always have, and indie writers are no different. What a beautiful temptation it is to imagine yourself just one hashtag away from fame and fortune.

C’mon, admit it. It’s all right. We all dream it, even if we don’t go around shouting it publicly.

Just like every other promotional fad (think blog tours and Skyping to book groups), I think there’s more chance too much focus on social media for authors will only divert you from what you should be doing … writing.

You see, whether we like it or not, writing has always been intensely competitive, and the explosion of indie authors has only made it more so. There were 391,000 new indie titles published in 2012 … and that’s only 20 percent of the market.

The sad truth is the average author will never sell more than 250 copies. That makes it highly likely you’ll always find someone selling lots more books, appearing at more venues, getting better reviews, winning more prizes and making more money than you are.

Get over it.

I know it’s hard for most to imagine having any kind of writing career without comparing yourself to other writers … but we have enough ways already to make ourselves miserable, and we’ve gotten extraordinarily good at it. Who needs more help doing it?

Don’t think for a moment that I’m telling you to ignore social media. I’m not. I’ve said it here before. Even if you’re fortunate enough to find an agent and publisher, instead of going indie, you’re going to discover … surprise, surprise … the big publishing houses expect you to have a digital platform, too.

And I strongly believe in it as a powerful marketing tool. After all, I’ve already created a web page, a media page and a blog for myself … and I participate to some extent in a lot of other social media, including the Book of Face and a place to Tweet my little heart out. I encourage you to do the same.

But keep your priorities straight.

Always Remember This
Don’t put all your effort into social media at the expense of your literary efforts. You can’t market what you don’t have.

To call yourself a writer, first, foremost and forever you need to write. Then, to call yourself a good writer, you need to write well and that, my friend, takes practice.

None of the really good things that can happen to an author occur without doing the work.

So get busy.


You can find my books as eBooks or paperback on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter. You might even decide to read my Kirkus Review.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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2 Responses to “Why Drink the Social Media Snake Oil?”

  1. Ron Herron Says:

    You made me smile, Tim. 😉


  2. T. W. Dittmer Says:

    Getting busy. 🙂


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