Surviving the Social Media Time Suck

By Kerry Schafer

When I first started dallying with Social Media it was all about fun and moral support. I didn't know you were "supposed to" have a blog, or a Twitter feed, and I wasn't on Facebook at all. I didn't have any finished manuscripts, let alone an agent or a publishing contract or any of those professional writing career things. My whole goal for my internet time was to find a writing community. In those early days, I wasn't even me – I was Uppington Smythe, and I loved the freedom that came from knowing real world people wouldn't ever know who I was.

Somewhere along the line one of my blogger friends dropped this casual little bomb onto my screen:

"Join us on Twitter dear, it only takes a few minutes."

Cool, I thought. And I did. It was a good move, joining Twitter, and one I don't regret. The connections I made and the things I learned led in turn to an agent and a contract and what is beginning to feel like a real career as a writer.

But it also sucked up a hell of a lot more than a few minutes a day. The more people I met online, the more I learned, the closer I got to publication, the more complicated my online world became. I realized that for the sake of "platform building" I needed to stop being Uppington and be Kerry Schafer, so that when I met people at conferences or submitted query letters to agents maybe they'd actually know who I was. I joined Facebook, because, you know, one Social Media account is not enough. And then, when my Between books were acquired, the need for an online presence exploded.

There was the mandatory Author Website, on which I must blog regularly. A Facebook Author Page, on which I must post regularly. Pinterest Account! LinkedIn. Instagram. Goodreads Author Page. Amazon Author Page. Oh, and let's not forget the Fascinating and Value Added Newsletter, so full of exciting goodies that all of my readers will haunt their computers waiting for it to drop into their inboxes!

Right. I have a newsletter. I also have great intentions of running monthly drawings, sending out free short stories, writing book reviews, and making other wonderful contributions to the lives of my subscribers. The truth is, I send that puppy out when I've got something exciting to say, like a new contract or a book release. I blog once in a blue moon, when I have news or am sufficiently driven by guilt. I enjoy Twitter and Facebook, so those are pretty easy maintenance except for the Facebook Author Page, which seems pointless since Facebook has decided not to show those pages to anybody anymore unless money changes hands. But still, it's there, and I feel responsible for it, sort of like it's a sad little flower in my garden that I keep forgetting to water.

And now, as if this isn't all enough, I have a new contract for my first novel of Women's Fiction, and since I'm new to the genre and the publisher doesn't want to confuse my fantasy readers, I now have the pseudonym of Kerry Anne King. I'm excited about all of this. But it means a new Twitter account, a new Facebook page, and there should probably be another dedicated author website. I haven't even considered the new Goodreads and Amazon pages.

Don't get me wrong. I'm over the moon excited to be moving forward with my writing career. But there's always a fly in the ointment, as the old saying goes. I want to WRITE ALL THE BOOKS. And how am I to do this and work at my day job if I'm also supposed to be cultivating all of the mandated Social Media Sites?

If you came to this post hoping I had the Magic Bullet Answer to this writer problem, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. In truth, I'm hoping maybe some of you have ideas to share. All I've got to offer is a firm conviction that the writing must come first. If there is no writing there are no books, and if there are no books then there's no point in pursuing Social Media beyond the point of fun and entertainment.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions, so speak up and tell me how you're handling the platform building.

Kerry Schafer
Kerry Schafer writes fantasy with its teeth sunk into reality, mystery that delves into the paranormal, and (as Kerry Anne King) women’s fiction that explores the nooks and crannies of family and forgiveness. More about Kerry on her website.

5 thoughts on “Surviving the Social Media Time Suck

  1. I did a couple of blog posts about this awhile back when I was trying to figure out the social media landscape, and I was also on a panel discussion about Writers and Social Media for a Writers’ Union of Canada conference. My conclusion? It’s a bit like the “pick your battles” advice for raising kids. Pick a few things you can do well and hopefully enjoy; don’t give in to the pressure to do EVERYTHING on social media. Particularly with fiction writers, it’s debating how much influence your social media presence has on sales, and if you’re doing things you don’t enjoy because you feel it has to be part of your “platform,” I think the resentment and sense of obligation comes through in what you post. I enjoy following writers who have a fun and engaging presence on social media – but in almost every case, I follow them because I’ve already read and loved their books.

    • I have always gone with the “pick your battles” approach, myself. And I still find myself getting into overwhelm territory. But Trudy, you’ve hit the important nail on the head, I think. I doubt that many new readers pick up books because of something the author said online. We follow authors because we already like them. And we read books because somebody we know and trust recommends them. Or because, as Patricia says, they’re on the bestseller list. Which then raises the question of how DO we find new readers?

  2. I agree with Trudy’s “pick your battles” approach. I also limit the time I can spend on each site I like — yes, it’s fun to be there, but other than drawing readers to my blog posts and those of RMFW, I’m not sure it’s all that useful to writers. I’m a heavy reader, and I’m most likely to pick my next good read from the writers I already know, from review/guest/interview blogs, or from personal recommendations and the bestseller list.

  3. I’ve just started trying to build a social media presence and I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that it’s a good way to avoid writing. The internet is distracting enough, but when you add social media (entertaining, but even more distracting) the “time suck” as you so aptly dub it can become a huge roar that drowns out everything else.

    I know I’m going to have to be more focused than I have been and muster the discipline to limit my social media wanderings. And I will. Soon. No, really.

    • LOL. I hear you on that soon. Really. I’m working on actual time allowances for Social Media these days. I get fifteen minutes, say, if I’m busy, and when it’s up I’m done whether I feel done or not. And then I actually close all of the apps and tabs that are not writing related and focus on writing. So far it seems to be helpful

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