Signing your first book deal? Better get blogging.
Pretty much the first words that I heard after I’d secured that elusive book deal were – are you on social media? My muttered response was, ‘um, no.’
Three years later, and here I am with a Twitter account, a Facebook author page, and my own website. So how come I’m still finding it all a bit of a struggle? There must be reasons for my reluctance to join the rest of the world’s outpouring of Tweets, blogs and posts… Pondering those reasons gave me an ‘aha’ moment: I could write a blog about why I’m useless at social media! The ‘aha’ moment was immediately followed by a realisation: if I was going to be honest about it, this blog would reveal more about me than I’d originally intended – would, in fact, expose some embarrassing faults and weaknesses. A little like a naked Selfie. (Without taking any clothes off.)
So, taking a deep breath, here are my excuses/reasons:
- My main problem is, I come from a family that didn’t send Round Robins with the Christmas cards. In fact, it was considered rude to talk about yourself, unless asked specific questions, like ‘have you washed your hands?’ Underplaying it was more than a game, it was a way of life. Personal successes and achievements were met by other members of the family with mockery or blank stares. I remember vividly when doing my English Literature degree, phoning my mother to tell her that I’d got my first First in an essay. ‘Well done, darling!’ She exclaimed. ‘Thank you!’ I breathed, relieved that she’d taken it so well. ‘Oh, not you,’ she replied breezily. ‘I was talking to Isabel. She’s just used her potty.’ (My mother was doing a spot of babysitting for my sister’s daughter at the time.) It wasn’t that my mother didn’t love me. She was proud of me. She just never actually said the words out loud. After all, God forbid that you ever got above yourself. And that’s my first problem. Too much enforced humility = a self-promotion no-hoper.
- Fear of failure: I admit it, my first bad on-line reader review had me reeling. I’d known plenty of rejection on the path to getting published. I had agents’ and publishers’ carefully worded, or not-so-carefully-worded letters telling me that they weren’t interested. Some of them never bothered to get back to me at all. After a while I became inured to it. But sending my novel out into the word was like letting go of my child’s hand on their first day at big school. Would the other kids be cruel? Would the teachers understand them? I felt helpless, vulnerable and protective. So that first bad review was a punch in the face. It hurt. Now I’ve learnt not to avidly read every review of my work, especially not on social media sites. I’m an expert at letting my eyes glaze over as they slide across anything with less than three stars. And that same fear of failure also inhibits me from posting things on my Facebook author page – for the simple if pathetic reason that I hate the fact that I have to undergo the popularity test. I just want to post news, I don’t want to be judged for it. The truth is, that when someone presses, or doesn’t press, the ‘like’ icon, in my head, they’re liking, or not liking, ME.
- Wit – or the lack of it. I wish I were as funny as Dorothy Parker or Oscar Wilde: clever, slick, timely phrases dripping from my fingertips into my Tweets and posts. But I’m not.
- Time – and the lack of it. Some of my favourite Tweets and posts have links to brilliant articles or blogs. Occasionally I have time to read them. But not often enough. How do people have the minutes in their days to read enough stuff to actually digest it, filter it and select for their social media sites? This question wakes me up at night. It’s perplexing. But I’ve learnt to cheat at this. If I do manage to read something that I like, I re-tweet. It took me a while to work that out. Sad, I know. But like I told you, I’m not a natural at this.
- But I am learning. For example, I mentioned Oscar Wilde. As well as re-Tweeting, you can of course borrow witticisms from others. ‘I am not young enough to know everything.’ (Wilde) So I’ll find the time to read posted articles, maybe some with advice about how to be effective on social media; after all, ‘you can never be overdressed or overeducated.’