Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is the Blogger World, Social Media Revolution Ruining Your Dream of Being a Book Author?

Some days I go into a writing funk, not writer's block, but writer's funk, meaning I'm mad at the world about everything it takes to become a successful writer that has nothing to do with writing at all. It used to be that if you wanted to be a good writer, the first advice was to go write, write a lot, and work on your writing, and pretty much that was it. So, I guess this is a mini-rant.

1.) I'm annoyed at all the advice to build an online writing platform. That means publishers want you to expand and show you can get at least 500 regular readers of your work online before you even send your query. This aggravates me because from what I see online, the folks with the most readers are not always the best writers. What they seem to be is the same people who had the most friends in high school and college or are the best sales people in life. No, I'm not saying that if you have a mega-blog you're a bad writer.

What I'm saying is that if you have a mega-blog and you built it up from scratch, not having a radio, newspaper, or television platform already or made a name for yourself in some other sector, you probably got those readers by making the rounds to comment on the work of others. Lots and lots of commenting that takes lots and lots of time. Nothing wrong with that but ...

2.) I'm tired of everybody and her grandmama starting a group or a new social media network or making the one they already had new and improved so I must spend time reading up on how to use it. There are only 24 hours in a day, and increasingly too much of my time is being spent reviewing user notes.

3.) I'm crabby about having to be a marketing wizard. I thought that at this point in my life, I'd be able to think about writing first. But it seems as though it doesn't matter how well you write or try to write, whether you earn a living boils down to a good marketing strategy and having the time to implement it.

4.) Really, I could scream at the people who say it's always been like this, that best sellers, etc., always demanded heavy marketing work and time from the writer. Sorry, but I wasn't born yesterday. Things have changed and much more of the onus to market has been placed on the writer than used to be placed on the writer. What does the publisher do now other than pay the printer?

One stereotype of the writer used to be the not-so-social artist with head in a book. This new way to be a writer is forcing me out of my comfort zone. I'm not the social butterfly I once was, and I'd hoped to be more like Octavia Butler, who didn't bother much with people at all. Maybe that's how she got so many great books out the door. She watched people; she didn't cozy up to them.

5.) I feel guilty because I embraced blogging early, but lately I really want to give up blogging so I can get back to writing and thinking about craft, but I'm starting to feel the world is saying "Craft is dead. Long live the networks. Should you write the great American novel, no one will care or read it unless you tweet it first." If I drop blogging and focus on writing fiction, it looks like my book won't go beyond my computer hard drive unless I make time to expand my "writing platform."

Is it just me who's pressed for time to write what she would prefer to write? And after I finish this post, who's going to read it if I don't have 500 Facebook friends, 6,000 MySpace friends, and 1200 people following me on Twitter? And if I did, would they really read this post or just get distracted by a cell phone text message before they finished the the first line?


J. M. Strother said...

I've seen quite a bit of sentiment like this of late. I think a bit of backlash is welling up in a lot of writers I know. They're mad as Hell and they aren't going to take it anymore. ;)

I do think writers need to write first. Particularly fiction writers. I know I've lost lots of writing time to all the online distractions. No one to blame but myself.

As to having a platform before publishers will even look at you? I think it is true for some, but I also think the problem is overstated. Most editors know a good read when it hits them in the face.

Vérité Parlant said...

Jon, I hope you're right that there are still editors who will see good writing and not look at whether that writer has a writing platform. :-) Thank you for the visit.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Nordette,

I don't know why it is that people always emphasize a "cookie cutter approach" to being a successful author.

You know I have expressed my admiration for your talent; I do wish you success. Find what works for you. There are always alternatives. Find the approach that you believe will offer you the greatest opportunity for success as a writer.


john.bottom said...


I understand your frustration, but it sounds like the publisher getting lazy and expecting you to prove your popularity rather than using their skill to judge your potential. But you know what? They don't have the power they once had. By blogging, you are taking power away from them. Don't get me wrong though: I get frustrated too at the number of average writers who get huge reader numbers on the strength of their contacts and not their thoughts – but take heart from the fact that publishing is changing. If you write good material, it will be picked up. There are also some very discerning people out there who appreciate good writing. Eventually, they will find you.
Best of luck.

Good and plenty said...

Hi, I'm trying to leave my comment again.
I encourage you to write you book and hope you've read "This Year Your Write Your Novel" by Walter Mosley. I do think the demands of blogging can eat into having time to do daily writing. To reach certain goals, one has to devote consistent time to them and so I hope you devote the time to writing your book. I also hope you attract a publisher who is so in awe of your blogs that they offer you a book deal. That would be a dream.