I’ve raved before about my views on publishing and particularly self-published work. The bottom line of my past ranting is that those who are good are being swamped and disadvantaged by the vocal majority—who are simply poor writers and poorly supported from a polished end product point of view.
What’s more, there is no easily accessible way to reality check such unfortunate individuals.
What I want to focus on in this essay is the social network layer that is utilized (read: abused) by such individuals, as well as those who provide a ‘service’ to them.
Social Networks are SOCIAL.
This seems self-evident, but a lot of people don’t get it. To pay for many of these social networks, there’s advertising, but in most cases the advertising is self-evident—every element has its place. Many writers, and those who want to make money ‘helping’ authors, hit the social network hustings in a big way.
Why do they do it? Well, I can think of a few notable dynamics: firstly, because it is there; it is so tempting to say, ‘buy my book’, or ‘visit my interesting site because you know and I know I’m flogging my book, but you must appreciate my thin veneer of social networkese in this post/tweet.
Another reason people do this is because there is a very small fraction of people who have actually succeeded in getting some semblance of fame and/or income from using social networks to sell their products—of course, those who succeed, get more successful because they become celebrities for their archetypal standing, which feed more hopefuls who look to them, and the spiral continues to rise, but unfortunately still for those few.
I don’t, personally, disagree with advertising one’s book on Facebook, Twitter etc, and I have certainly done it as an author, as well as a publisher, but I draw a well-defined line. For me, it is more important to join a social network socially, and only announce the other stuff on a minority basis. I can guarantee you that you gain more respect from those who count more effectively, and quickly.
I will provide you with an example. There is an option in Facebook to seek ‘friendship’ with another member. What motivates you to ask a stranger to be a friend? Perhaps the litmus test is what you do once friendship is first obtained—do you say ‘hi!’ on their Wall or do you add a link to your book site? The latter is a classic example of sheer hypocrisy—there is no friendship, not even an attempt at it, only crass commercialism.
I personally increase my friendships in FB quite actively and rapidly, and I never ask my new-found friends to see my commercial/marketing web pages or the like. They can choose to do so if they wish, but I’m not even going to give them a hint. Will I get sales from this type of activity? I suspect few, but hey, are other authors the best people to market to, even if I wanted to? No. That’s probably the most ironic aspect of commercialism in the literary field in social networks because most authors are spending too much time in the wrong target areas.
I especially dislike those who have sites on how to make it in the publishing field, and how to produce the best erotic novel covers, etc etc. The majority of these people are failures themselves, or at best, are big fish in diminutive ponds. Of those who are successful to some degree or another, are simply adding social networks to their regime of blatant commercial marketing.
My advice is this, and it does in part stand on ethical high ground—as an author, use the social network if you can because it makes people aware that you exist. Don’t push your products to the max because you are in the wrong space—this is a social networking arena, not a friggin’ marketplace. Socialize, and do interesting things where no-one has to invest in them other than their time. If you have had literary successes, rave about them, along with your interesting pieces.
If you have a new product for sale or want people to know what you have got on your shelf, do it—just don’t do it a lot. I look at some of the better companies that have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, such as Simon and Schuster, and also my company, IFWG Publishing, and you will see that even they don’t hit you all the time with products. Not at all. They’re smart and ethical.
I ask you, authors out there, to challenge yourself to be smart and ethical.