A couple of great questions came in the other day:
"How important is your internet presence? How has it changed over the years? [How important do you think it is] to new writers?"
Oh, man. This requires one of those "on the one hand, on the other hand, on the third hand" answers.
The first version of my web site (complete with static black-and-white line illustrations!) went live in 1998. I only had a dial-up connection. Social media hadn't been invented yet. Authors were still sending post cards to announce the publication of new books. I was a couple years away from getting a cell phone.
(I KNOW! Dark Ages, right?)
I kind of miss those days.
For one thing, I had more time to, you know, write. And read books. And let my mind drift, spin, and wander, picking up words and ideas along the way.
For another thing, the ignorance of the other ten bazillion authors out there and how they were spending their time was rather comforting. I knew authors because of the books they wrote. I barely knew about Amazon and had no clue about relative sales rankings of books. BookScan hadn't been invented yet.
It was a simpler time.
But not necessarily better.
A couple of years ago I invested a lot of time and some money into creating a robust, information-packed website that offered readers everything they needed to know about my books and probably more than they wanted to know about me.
I found my way to social media, too, which I love because it allows for real-time, direct communication with readers. For the record, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
(Whew! Exhausting just to link to all of those!)
Each platform has a slightly different audience. Some months I post a lot. Other months, not so much. If you wanted to pin me down to real numbers, I guess I spend less than an hour a day on social media. More during those periods when I am blogging daily, like WFMAD, or on booktour, or for special events, like raising money for RAINN. Less when I'm feeling burnt out.
Now to your question: how much time and energy should YOU be investing in social media and your Internet presence?
Answer: Less than you think.
If you are not yet published, but actively submitting, I can see the point in having a website that gives information about you so a curious editor can look you up. I don't understand why people post details about their unpublished manuscripts online. It's not like editors and agents have thousands of minions combing the Internet in search of your story.
Social media should be fun and rewarding. If you are tweeting or blogging only in the hopes of building an audience, that is going to come across loud and clear and make you seem crass. If you connect with other soon-to-be-published authors and you have fun promoting each other's books, that's awesome.
I suspect that a lot of new writers put energy into their internet presence because it feels like a constructive thing to do and it is much easier than working on their book. Because writing books is hard. Writing books is so hard that it dredges up all of our anxieties and insecurities and it makes us feel small and scared and lonely.
(This does not change, by the way, after you get published. In fact, it gets worse.)
Want a recommendation?
Cut the amount of time you spent on social media and reading blogs about writing and getting published by 75%. Yep. If you spent 10 hours a week on that stuff, then from now on, spend 2.5 hours. Use the time that you get back for writing your novel and for reading great books. That will make your chances of getting published much stronger than any Facebook post ever will.
Non-fiction prompt – What kinds of things on the Internet make you a better writer? Be specific – how do they help? What kinds of things make you anxious and fretful about your work or your position in the Universe of Creative People? Do you have the courage to take a three-month hiatus from social media and devote all of that time to reading and writing? What are the steps you'd need to take to make that happen?
Fiction prompt – Your character is an 11-year-old boy, kicking a soccer ball to himself against the wall of an abandoned building. What happens next?
Fifteen minutes spent writing today could change your life.
scribble… scribble… scribble…