|Dreaming of a white Christmas - or maybe not.|
Over the past year, I've attended a few professional Zoom meetings with my fellow writers, and the subject of social media comes up fairly regularly. Some of us are happy to wade in and engage with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, and others aren't. Some think that Facebook is the work of the devil. It may be, and you will need a long spoon to sup with it. It is also a huge time suck. A veritable sink hole of time suckery.
But it's still a useful tool for writers. And there are some very nice people on there. I've made contact with many old 'friends in real life' as well as making some new ones.
The truth is that, much like real life, all these sites are a mixture of the good, the bad, and the truly ugly, but if you want to sell books, or help your publisher to sell your books, (as well as keeping sane during a pandemic) you are going to have to learn how to do a little interacting and Facebook is probably the easiest place to start.
What surprises me is how many writers still claim to know nothing at all about using social media and are quite nervous about it in general.
So here are a few pointers about Facebook in particular. And since I don't claim to be an expert, do feel free to add your own comments and recommendations below. This is an ever changing world, so if you are reading this in some hypothetical future, it may all be very different!
1 Practical matters. There is no point in my reinventing the wheel, so if you want to set up a Facebook profile, go to the site, press the buttons, and follow the instructions. They make it pretty clear and I'm not going to be able to add very much that's useful to it.
There are a couple of provisos though. When you are setting up your Facebook profile, you can search for - or Facebook will show you - potential friends. You can send friend requests. Don't send too many at once, (the Facebook Gods don't like it) and begin with people who are friends in real life. People will also send you friend requests. You don't need to click on them all at once. Or at all. You're in charge. Gradually, you will build up a circle of people who know you, on and offline. Or people with mutual friends. You will even meet some lovely, interesting new people.
Look at the tab marked 'Privacy'. You can make your account quite private. For example, I don't let anyone else post stuff on my pages. By which I mean that they can comment on my posts all they like, but I don't want them dumping unwanted stuff straight on my page. It's why I have comment moderation on my blog. You might be surprised by how much spam crops up on here, but never makes it onto the blog, because I just report it and delete it. I relax my privacy settings in time for my birthday though! You can post things only to your friends, or you can make them public. Facebook explains all this much more clearly than I can, so again, do read the instructions.
2 Once you have a Facebook account, you can also set up a dedicated author page. Or you can just focus on that, if you want to. Again, Facebook will tell you how and give you options for the kind of page you want. I'll come clean here. I use my private Facebook profile - with some privacy settings tweaked - far more than I use my author page. But I do still use it. I post links to blog posts such as this one, and other professional news, and information about the book I may be working on at any given time. That also links in to Goodreads, which I find a difficult site to 'work' so at least it keeps my profile current on there as well. It also gives me the facility to set up details of events. In a normal year I would probably use it more than in a Covid year.
3 Groups are where it's at with Facebook - increasingly so. If your books are set in ancient Rome or 19th century London, you can be sure to find a group of like minded individuals - not writers, but just people who are interested in that time and place. Join them. Join in. There are many writers' groups out there as well but remember that you are more likely to find your readers in special interest groups. Writers read a lot, it's true - but they also work a lot, and find themselves reading for work. I for one don't read very much new fiction when I'm deep into a book, although I often reread old, much loved fiction, Dickens and the like, mostly as a means of escape from the intensity of my own work.
4 Probably the most important point of this whole post - be generous. Much like in the real world, you have to interact with other people. One thing that stands out to me is how many beginners will join a Facebook group and instantly dump a 'buy my book' post on there. No interaction, no chat, no likes, no sympathy, nothing. I attended a professional Zoom meeting earlier this year and while the speaker was speaking, there were people in the chat facility posting 'buy my book' links. Not sure if they would have got any takers, but for most of us, it's a bit irritating. Some groups don't allow it. There are people on Facebook who I never see or hear of from from one year's end to the next, unless they have a book to sell. Then it's 'oh, look, here's my book, you have to buy it.' No. No I don't.
There is, to be fair, a whole spectrum of engagement. I'm on there a lot - too much probably. But I blog a lot as well. And I'm interested in what other people are doing and thinking and saying, whether it's online or out in the real world.
In summary, Facebook can be good for writers. But if you put very little in, you'll get very little out. Much like computers, it's a case of garbage in, garbage out. We've all been to those parties where you meet somebody and try to talk to them, only to find them peering over your shoulder, in case somebody more interesting or useful comes along. Social media is much the same. You don't have to like everyone, but you do have to be interested in human nature in all its many manifestations.
After all, isn't that what being a writer is all about?