The first piece of advice most self-publishers hear is that they must be active on social media, all the time. It’s not enough for them to have their own websites and blogs – they have to be on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and Goodreads and a dozen other social media platforms. Authors have to be friendly, funny and confident while endlessly and cleverly promoting themselves and their work – at the same time, ‘being themselves’. This is despite the fact that the majority of authors are introverts, happiest when reading or writing or thinking in quiet solitude or, at their most sociable, gathering with a couple of close friends to have meaningful conversations. The whole ‘promoting yourself’ thing is not only anathema to many authors, but practically forbidden in Australia, unless you’re a white sportsman (and even then, there are limits).
I started this blog seven years ago, because a novel of mine was being published in the United States and my publishers had been a bit taken aback to learn I didn’t have a proper ‘online presence’. I was hesitant at first, but once I’d overcome the technological challenges of setting up a WordPress blog on my own site, I started to enjoy it. I could write about anything I wanted, in as much detail as I liked, whenever I felt inspired to write. And people who liked books would join in the conversation! The only limitation I placed on myself was that each blog post had to be related to books and writing – but as pretty much every topic in existence has some tangential link to books and writing, this was not much of a limitation (see, for example, my blog posts on scones, giant squid and quilting).
I was never interested in joining Facebook, because I didn’t like their privacy policies or business practices. I might have considered LiveJournal, back in the olden days – before it was taken over by Russians. Dreamwidth is touted as the new LiveJournal, but is less popular and doesn’t appear to offer any advantages over my own blog. Instagram and Tumblr seem to be for people who like looking at pictures – I just can’t see how any meaningful, language-based communication can happen on those platforms, although I’m happy to hear otherwise from people who are fans.
“a royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, list information regarding, edit, translate, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, and make derivative works of all such User Content and your name, voice, and/or likeness as contained in your User Content, in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology…”
Mind you, Twitter users have to agree to similar conditions. The difference is that I wouldn’t be posting anything substantial on Twitter, so I don’t care as much about them owning my content for eternity. Still, I’ve been a Twitter sceptic for years. How can you communicate meaningfully in 140 characters? Isn’t it just people shouting slogans at each other? What about all those women who’ve been forced off Twitter after serious harassment and abuse? True, they have cute animals on Twitter, but I can get my fix of cute animals in many other places on the internet.
On the other hand, lots of authors and writing-related organisations are on Twitter. It’s probably easier to chat with these people on Twitter than via blog comments (I say, looking meaningfully at authors who use Blogger, which refuses to let me leave any comments). Maybe Twitter will be a useful means of connecting with the writing and reading world?
So, as you have probably gathered, I’m now on Twitter. You can find me at mini_memoranda. (There were already about fifty Michelle Coopers on Twitter. The nerve of them, using their own names for their own Twitter accounts!) So far, I’ve accidentally liked one of my own tweets when I clicked on the wrong symbol, attracted one dodgy follower, and had Twitter tell me I ought to follow Tony Abbott. Please tell me you’ve had better experiences on Twitter and how to do it properly.