Social Media –Worth It?


I was at a party the other day with a lot of writers and pub­lishing industry folks. At one point in the evening, one of the Pen­guin edi­tors paid me a really nice com­pli­ment, calling me an example to other authors of how to do social media right.

I was equal parts flat­tered and sur­prised, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it afterward.

Social media is a some­thing that writers spend a lot of time fret­ting over. Are you tweeting too much? Blog­ging enough? Are you overly self-promotional? How do you get the major players in the mar­ket­place to retweet you? Should you have a sep­a­rate author Face­book page or is your per­sonal one enough? If you aren’t social media savvy enough, will it impact your sales?

There are people who claim to know the answers to these ques­tions. Heck, there are people making a full time living pur­porting to know the answers to these ques­tions. But, you know what I think? I think nobody knows the answer. Mar­keting via social media is in its infancy, evolving so fast that its impos­sible to say there are any hard and fast rules to how it should be done. And even if social media had been in place as a mar­keting tool for a hun­dred years, it would still be more art than sci­ence, full of excep­tions that sup­pos­edly proved the rule.

The truth is this: I never actu­ally had a social media plan. It was a thing I used, aided more by a gregarious/outgoing nature than any­thing else. I am, first and fore­most, a com­mu­ni­cator, and social media is just another way to do that. The fact remains that many of the most suc­cessful authors in fan­tasy barely use social media at all. But that com­pli­ment got me thinking, and I real­ized I do have some habits. To the extent it’s helpful to people, I offer them up here:

- I try to tweet between 3–5 times a day. Some days I tweet as many as 10 times, some­times as few as twice.

- I don’t worry about the time of day that I tweet. My audi­ence is too diverse. Some folks are up and reading in the wee hours. Some folks on their lunch­break at work. Some are in the Philip­pines. Some are in Cal­i­fornia. Some live a few blocks away from me.

- I tweet to self-promote. Good reviews, good news, inter­views, guest posts, blog posts, etc … That all gets tweeted. There has never been so much of that that I don’t also tweet random thoughts, snarky humor and funny pho­tographs of stuff I see every day. If I’m lucky enough that it changes in the future, I’ll reconsider.

- I occa­sion­ally tweet inspiration/encouragement. I do this VERY occa­sion­ally and I make sure I’m tweeting to myself. I don’t want to come across as a sad sack trying to talk them­selves out of trough.

- I occa­sion­ally tweet writing advice, but only in the con­text of lessons I just fig­ured out for myself. I am nobody’s writing guru and don’t aspire to be. You will notice that the most suc­cessful writers out there rarely/never tweet writing advice. Folks who are unpub­lished and/or haven’t had real self-publishing suc­cess tweet writing advice con­stantly. That’s back­wards and irri­tating. I am nowhere near as suc­cessful as I want to be, and there­fore don’t con­sider myself to be in a posi­tion to be giving anyone advice.

- I never com­ment on political/religious issues. I want people to think of me as a writer, not as a member of X or Y social camp. There are occa­sion­ally issues that strike me so hard that I can’t help myself, but I try to steer clear.

-  My Twitter feed pipes directly to Face­book. I never update my Face­book status solely. I man­u­ally copy/paste my tweets into Google+. I still think that G+ is a ghost town, but it is a pow­erful plat­form that may get real atten­tion someday, so I feel it behooves me to take the 30 sec­onds to post there.

- I don’t get into argu­ments or take people on in the public square. If someone snipes at me on Twitter, I ignore it. Unless the insult is totally over the line, I suck it up and let it stand (including on Face­book). If it’s too egre­gious, I just delete it, or delete the whole status update/tweet (I also do this if folks hijack my com­ments thread on Face­book to get into a polit­ical argument).

- I try not to say stupid/offensive things on social media. When I inevitably make the occa­sional mis­take in this regard, I delete the offending tweet and don’t draw fur­ther atten­tion to it by issuing thirty follow tweets apol­o­gizing. Like­wise, I am careful never to tweet any­thing that is likely to be con­strued as insulting.

- I NEVER “livetweet” any­thing. Not movies, not con­certs, not games. It annoys the HELL out of me and I can’t imagine it appeals to other people either. The closest I come to this is when I go to cons, and even then it’s no more than 10 tweets or so, spread out over an entire day, talking about the cool panels I’m on/in the audi­ence for, and pic­tures of costumes.

- I try to be funny. I take time to think of what I’m tweeting.

- If I have a good idea for a tweet, but it’ll keep, and I’ve already tweeted a bunch that day, I’ll write it down and save it for later.

- I don’t have a sep­a­rate “author” Face­book page. I have one Face­book page, and it’s my per­sonal page. I accept *all* friend requests, unless they’re clearly from a p0rnbot or someone inter­ested in romance, or a lunatic, or someone who has a clear and public political/religious agenda.

- I do not fol­low­back on Twitter. I never ask others to follow me. I never ask people to retweet my tweets. I try to respond to every @ I get, but often don’t have the time.

- This isn’t really a pat­tern, but it’s worth men­tioning. When I see someone with sev­eral thou­sand fol­lowers who is also fol­lowing sev­eral thou­sand Twitter accounts, I tend to think that’s all fol­low­back sol­i­darity and not real interest in what they’re doing. When I see someone with sev­eral thou­sand fol­lowers who is only follow 100–300 or so accounts them­selves, I tend to think that’s a person with a pow­erful fan base.

- When I read social media, I scroll through my Twitter and Face­book feeds and go back no fur­ther than 1 hour. It takes me about 5–10 min­utes to skim this way and I do it a few times a day. I never check Google+.

These aren’t rules. They’re pat­terns, and I reserve the right to change them at any time. I cer­tainly don’t pre­scribe them for anyone else. I’m just trying to lay out the pat­terns in my social media pres­ence that are informing my style.

I have absolutely no idea if they are effec­tive in helping gen­erate interest in my writing and/or selling my books. I do think they help, but I have no idea how much. There have only ever been 3 Internet based events where I could imme­di­ately see a spike in sales (via my amazon sales rank and bookscan num­bers). These were:

- A blog post by a major Internet per­son­ality pop­ular in SF/F plug­ging my book.

- My blog post on the 18 Rules of Writing.

- The listing of CONTROL POINT on Wired magazine’s summer reading list.

Other than that, I have no way to mea­sure how effec­tive my social media style is.

In the end, I have to think of it much like writing itself. You do it because you love it, because there’s no guar­antee it’ll come to any­thing, even when folks call you a “suc­cess” at it.



  • Andrew Liptak


  • Andrew Liptak


  • http://twitter.com/PrinceJvstin Paul Weimer

    Thanks, Myke.

    I do wonder some­times if I am “doing it right”, social media wise.  My first and best rule is “don’t be a dick”.  But, then, the golden rule is a pretty good rule of thumb for everything…

  • Acyd3273

    Great post and I think you sum it up best with your closing lines, ‘You do it because you love it.’ which pretty much describes my writing. At 39 years old I’ve pretty much come to the con­clu­sion I won’t be pub­lished and I’m okay with that. There are numerous rea­sons why and most of them have to do with not putting the right pri­ority on it all.….yet I still write because, simply put, I love it & need it. Keep up the great work.

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