Do Fiction Writers REALLY Need a Social Media Platform?
Platform, platform, platform. As a writer, you’ve heard it a hundred times. You need to have a website and a blog, be active on social media—at least Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, build your list to market to, and network in the community. But what if you hate—I mean, really hate—social media?
Kristin, a WOW subscriber, emailed me the other day with this very question. She is actively trying to find an agent and simultaneously looking for a indie publisher. She had posted a few of her manuscripts on Authors.me, a somewhat questionable site according to literary agent Janet Reid, that “connects writers, agents and publishers to find manuscripts,” and received a bite from an indie publisher who was interested in her work but required her to take a class on social media before she signed with them. She declined. She said that if she had to participate in social media then she might as well give up on her dream of publishing and just write for her own pleasure. She hates social media that much.
So, do fiction writers really need to be active on social media? Here’s the short answer: No, you don’t have to participate in social media as a fiction writer.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a recent example:
The Girls by Emma Cline. Twelve publishing houses got into a bidding war over this novel and it ended up selling for seven figures to Random House as part of a three-book deal. Emma, a debut novelist with no social media accounts (rare for a twenty-something millennial), reportedly received a two-million-dollar advance for this novel. Emma had no twitter account, no blog, not even a website at the time she garnered an agent and sold her novel (she now has a website and Facebook fan page, which was most likely, built by her publicist). She didn’t have very many publishing credits either, but the two she had were good ones: a meditation on Greenland in Tin House and a tween girl’s scary coming of age in The Paris Review. So how did she land this jaw-dropping book deal with no social media platform and little publishing experience? She’s a darn good writer with a unique voice and is dedicated to her craft. I personally think her prose is so different from what’s out there right now—it’s really descriptive, poetic, and flowery in a good way—it’s what sold the book.
There are plenty more—Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, for example, has a website and a Facebook page, but has never been active on social media. Looking at her Facebook page now, it hasn’t been updated in five months, and she has no blog and no twitter account. In an interview with HuffPo, Gillian’s literary agent, Stephanie Rostan, answers the question of whether authors should invest their time in social media: “For fiction authors, trying to ‘sell’ their personality may not be as useful for getting someone to read their book for the first time—this isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about the reading experience. I do think readers like to form relationships with authors whose books they love, but that comes AFTER they’ve read the book.”
This is a new trend I’m seeing, where debut authors are creating a website and a social media profile near the time that their first novel publishes—probably because their publicist has done so for them. But even then, connecting with readers on social media has its downfalls. Consider this post by The Muffin’s Cathy C. Hall, where she reports that Amazon is deleting book reviews from reviewers who are connected with the author on Facebook.
Okay, great, you may be thinking, but what if I want to go with a small indie publisher or self-publish my novels and I don’t have a publicist? The answer is still the same. You don’t NEED a social media account to sell your novels. In fact, if you’re constantly plugging your book, your followers are going to get sick of the barrage of promotion. If you’re using social media, then it should be to connect with readers on a personal level.
I’m not saying that you should completely neglect all social media. I’m just saying that if you hate it, then don’t give up your career as a novelist because you think you need it to succeed. Instead, focus on your writing and be the best writer you can be. Garner more publishing credits in literary magazines. Enter reputable contests. Keep querying agents and publishers. Or if you’re self-publishing, consider putting your first book, novella, or collection of short stories up for perma-free on Amazon. Focus on finding early reviewers with sites like NetGalley or within your writing community. Consider a book giveaway on GoodReads for publicity. Make use of book discovery sites to attract new readers. Produce more content. The point is, there are many things you can do besides spend your time on social media.
What do you think? Do you still need a social media platform as a fiction writer? Is it an effective marketing tool for you or a time suck? Weigh in!
As publisher of WOW! Women On Writing, Angela Mackintosh knows that social media is an integral part of the WOW community and helps writers connect and share resources. Personally though, she doesn't like Facebook and only uses it to stalk her friends periodically, but appreciates LinkedIn.