THOUGHTS ON MARKETING

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I'm in the dreaded days between turning the last revision into the editor and waiting for the acceptance so I can get paid. How do I fill my time? By working on the next book, of course, and, no, I don't do NaNo. I find it stressful, and a way to focus more on how many words I'm writing than the quality of the work on the pages. But I also catch up on my correspondence and turn to marketing. A dreaded word, but something that's necessary if you want to sell books.

"What, you want specifics?"

Rogue Women Writers blog

Take Social Media, please.
We all know what we're supposed to do—Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. In my case, I Facebook some; I Tweet some; and I write on two group blogs: RMFW and the Rogue Women Writers. Sharing the blogging breaks up the workload (which I appreciate), and I think it keeps the blog pages interesting.

But here's the truth. I hate Goodreads. Okay, okay, I dislike Goodreads.

I know, I know, it's a problem. Goodreads is where a lot of readers hang out. Unfortunately, because of the set up I must have two separate pages for my two separate series, and that means twice the work. I was just out there today—first time since August—and I had invites to accept and comments to respond to, on both pages. In order to look active, I have to sign in on both pages, post something, post up books I'm reading, books I've read, rate books.... It's not fun. It's work. Facebook is fun. Twitter is fun. I like writing the blogs. But I may just stop doing Goodreads altogether, except...it's where readers hang out.

Tip: Focus on what you like and have a venue that doesn't appeal to you send notices when someone posts a comment, asks a question, etc. That way you're not ignoring someone by default. It's saved my bacon a time or two.

At the Tattered Cover with Susan Spann (2015 WOTY), Mark Stevens, me, Carol Berg, Lisa Manifold, Nathan Lowell and Sue Duff.

Factor in Signings
If you think just because the book is out and has been out for a while that you won't do any more signings and/or events, think again. This week alone I've gotten calls to sign at a bookstore for Indies First (a movement to support our Independent Bookstores) and to appear at the Boulder County Audubon's Annual Holiday Sale. I said yes to both, but sometimes I don't. Sometimes I strategically say no.

"Why?" you ask.

Because you want exposure, but you don't want to be overexposed. I run that risk. I get around. (Get your minds out of the gutter.) It's a good problem to have, but it can also be a negative. In the past year, I've had two books out. Since mid-April, that's meant nine Front Range signings—three of them at the Tattered Cover and two at the Denver Book Bar. Granted, three were because I was fortunate enough to be nominated for several awards and the WOTY, but that means I had to make six others worthwhile for both myself and the bookseller.

Don't believe for a minute that a signing is about selling books. That has little to do with it. You can't sell enough books at a signing to make it worthwhile financially. What you can achieve is meeting booksellers and creating rapport so they hand-sell your book and want you to back again. It's also about introducing yourself to a few people who might not otherwise have heard about your book.

Tip: Set up signings in different venues that reach different groups of people. Go for one or two bookstores, book clubs and group events. For instance, my book that came out in May has a birdwatching theme, so I'm signing at the Boulder County Audubon's Holiday Event coming up November 22nd. Find creative places to find new readers who would be interested in your work.

Eyes on the Future—Conferences and Workshops

This is where it gets harder. What's coming? There are a myriad of conferences and events that seem worthwhile and tug at you, but what's to your best advantage? This is where you have to get serious, look at your income, look at your costs, weigh the benefits and be brutal with choices. Look at when your books are coming out, so you can plan based on what give you the biggest bang for the buck.

At ThrillerFest with Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, Francine Mathews, K.J. Howe and S. Lee Manning

I live in the mystery/thriller world. My next book is coming out June 13, 2017, so what are a few of my considerations, ThrillerFest (July in NYC, 2017), Bouchercon (October in Toronto, 2017) and Left Coast Crime (March in Reno, 2018). These are the ones that I should do, if possible. This year I'm skipping LCC. It's in Hawaii, and I will have just married off a daughter on Kauai the month before. Two trips to Hawaii in two months seems excessive. But these are all "FAN" conventions. They draw more readers than writers, and play to building readership. They fit with my genre and connect me with people who are the most interested in reading what I write.

Of course, this list multiplies if you add in Killer Nashville, Magna Cum Murder, Malice Domestic, etc., etc. The thing to remember is—you have to approximate spending $1K for every con you attend out-of-state—$2K for NYC. Pick the winning combination.

And what about Colorado Gold, Pikes Peak Writers, SleuthFest and any number of other conferences held across the country? RMFW is a must for me because I see my old friends, it's my hometown conference and I have only missed two (maybe) in the past 30+ years. The rest are teaching conferences, so if I'm not teaching, I'm not going. It's just that simple.

Tip: Look at your publishing schedule, then at the coming year. Figure out what you can afford to spend on travel to promote your books, and then choose accordingly. Maybe it's better to go to the Southwest Book Festival, or Tucson Festival of Books or on a book tour vs. a convention. Maybe you can combine a tour with a convention—for example, ThrillerFest comes closer to my pub date than Bouchercon, and with added benefit of face time with my agent and editor.

Once you've made a schedule, commit to it and move on to promoting it via Social Media.

Most importantly, write. Everyday! Write on that new book. All the marketing in the world won't do you any good if you don't have something to sell.

This is NOT a Twitter How-To Blog

Copied verbatim from a recent email exchange:

How did you get so many followers on Twitter?

Well, it’s not that many—not really. I mean, it’s good to have followers but I see tons and tons of writers out there on Twitter with five times, ten times more than me. Tons!

But how did you get them?

Um, they followed me and I followed them back (if they were accounts I wanted to follow that is. Not spammy-jerky-salesy folks).

But isn’t Twitter just a big mess?

Not if you use lists.

What the hell are lists?

2016-10-27-twitter-pic-listsClick under your profile pic on Twitter and you’ll see the ‘lists’ option, then click on “Create New List.”  (It’s a button on the right-hand side of the page.) As Twitter says, “A list is a curated group of Twitter users and a great way to organize your interests.” If you’re ever out there reading tweets and it looks like someone has a cool feed, you can right-click on that little wheel next to their ‘Follow’ button and you’ll see the option to add or remove from a list…

So you, say, make a list of Twitter uses who write mysteries, say?

Exactly!

Or friends?

Yes!

Or good, high-quality, reliable tweeters?

But of course.

And you can subscribe to other people’s lists, too?

I love looking for other cool lists to subscribe to. These Twitter folks have already curated the Twitterverse down to something manageable. They’ve done the work for you.

2016-10-27-twitter-pic-subscribersYou can see other people’s lists?

Easy. And you can see who is subscribing to their lists.  These are Twitter users who have taken the time to ‘subscribe’ to a good source’s list. They are usually folks who produce good Twitter content (and who might follow you back. So, well, you might want to follow them.)

But how did you get so many followers?

I follow people back. I look at their accounts and if they have a pinned tweet, I re-tweet that as a “hello.” Not always, but sometimes.  A pinned tweet is something the account holder likes to have re-tweeted. Why else would they pin it? Or I re-tweet something they recently put out there that looks relevant or interesting. Oh, and make sure you check your followers regularly. Have I mentioned that it’s a good idea to ‘follow back?’ Don’t leave the good ones hanging.

Do you sell books on Twitter?

Yes, I’m sure I do. But I really have no idea. And I don’t care—not really. I don’t go to a party looking to sell books. It might happen, but that’s not why I go to the party. The heavy self-promoters are easy to spot.

What kinds of stuff do you tweet?

Anything relevant to me, as a person. To my community. I tweet topical stuff related to some of my clients—shared bicycling, ocean health, education, and some of the topics that my mysteries are engaged with. That list includes immigration, climate change, for-profit prisons, fracking, anything to do with Glenwood Springs or the Flat Tops Wilderness, etc.  I also tweet out things I write, like book reviews. And columns. I’ll probably tweet out this column when it’s posted on the RMFW blog. I’m sure I will.

But how did you get so many followers? Twitter won’t let me follow any more people.  

Yeah, Twitter has limits. You need to unfollow people who aren’t following you back. There are services out there that will help you figure out who isn’t following you back.  I use one called Manage Flitter. There are others. Don’t worry about unfollowing people—especially accounts that don’t tweet on a regular basis. They aren’t doing you any good. Unfollow.

And then?

And then follow more people. And say “hello.”

But isn’t it work? Don’t I have to do this every day? And how much time a day do you spend on Twitter?

Have to? If you think of it that way, it’s probably not your cup of social media tea. But Twitter is a great place to pick up on the news (WOW is it fast!) and also when a good topic gets rolling around about reading or writing or book prizes or anything along those lines, jump into the conversation and see what you can contribute. I know area bookstores love it when you tweet about events coming up or while you're there. You just never know. How much time? I don’t know. Some days more than others. A half-hour total?  Maybe three or four check-ins a day? I don’t know, it’s fun. At least, I think so. The #fridayreads hashtag alone will lead you to some good folks.

Ack, hashtags. We haven't even touched on hashtags. What do you use?

Again, depends on what you're into. Here's a list to start with. #NaNoWriMo is coming right up (write up) and that will be going strong no doubt. And don't forget the ever-popular #RMFWBlog. (You could focus just on @RMFWriters (4,200+ followers) by the way, and have ample fodder for following and re-tweeting, etc. And how many Colorado writer groups are there? It's endless out there, I tell you.)

Okay, then. Can I follow you?

Sure. @writerstevens

And while you’re at it, follow my good friend The Asphalt Warrior @Asphalt_Warrior

See you in the Twittersphere.

The New(ish) Medium for Sharing Ideas … is Medium

“Welcome to Medium, a place where great ideas come from anywhere, and quality is what matters.”

If you haven't heard of Medium (that's http://medium.com) , you might want to check it out just because it's there. The site is more than just a collection of diverse blog posts and essays, but I won't go into a lot of detail here because it's very easy to cruise through the "About" section of this site and get all the information you need to build a reading list and to post  your own essays on almost any topic you can imagine...if you decide it's worth your time and effort.

First you sign up.

Then you identify your interests.

Pick a few familiar names to follow.

And wait while Medium builds your reading list.

This can take a long time if you click on as many interests as I did, so you might want to start with a tiny sampling. You can follow more authors as you  read recommended posts. You can also unfollow authors and topic tags as you become more familiar with the site. Most of the people whose posts I read were unknown to me, but that didn't make them any less interesting.

Once you figure out how it all works, including the responses, cross-linking with followers, and highlighting (to recommend), you might decide to write your own story. Click on the "Write a Story" link at the top of the Medium page you're on, and go. But remember, this is not a closed venue where you're just chatting with a few folks. When you post here, you're posting to the whole wide world.

“Medium is a free and open platform where anyone can come to express themselves. We’ve built a world-class editor up to the task: simple, clean and beautiful. Writing has never been this fun.

Medium is the easiest, fastest way to create a beautiful story with seamless integration of photos, audio, and video. You can share from anywhere.”

I will caution you to be selective in who you follow and the topics you choose. Like any other social network, there are participants who have more fun trolling for victims to insult and shame than engaging in intelligent discussions. But as with other venues, there are rules. I'll hang around Medium for a while just to read articles and responses. I'm not sure I'll ever use the venue for publishing essays or articles. We'll see how it goes.

Please note: This is not a recommendation for you to sign up and jump into the Medium pool. I haven't been exploring the site long enough to do that. Exploring the site, however, has been fun so far, and I did post my photo and a short bio. As I wandered through the recommended articles, I found  Ted Talks, the Washington Post, and PBS NewsHour. There were some good humor articles, including a tongue-in-cheek post on the snarky article one must write upon leaving Medium. I got the impression leaving Medium is relatively common. And I discovered a lot of folks had signed up on Medium but rarely or never posted articles. I even found a couple of folks who are RMFW members, so I hope they'll leave a comment with their own impression of the site and whether it serves any useful purpose to us writers.

We can't jump willy-nilly onto every new social or info-sharing site that pops up on the Web, but it's good for us to know what's there, what's working, and what has been a dismal failure for those who tried the site out. I don't know which of these applies to Medium yet, but if anyone else knows, please share in the comments below.

Tweetleedee, Tweetleedum: Give Us Your Twitter Link

Twitter logoHere's the chance for all you Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers to share the link to your Twitter ID (and we'll hope everyone who visits this blog post follows the link to your page and follows you on Twitter).

First share your name and @ ID -- as in:

Patricia Stoltey  @PStoltey

Then sign in to Twitter, go to your profile page, and give us the real url to your Twitter page -- as in:

https://twitter.com/PStoltey

That's all there is to it!

Tweet, tweet!!

It’s All About the Blog, ’bout the Blog…

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog is a labor of love for those volunteers who spend a year or two here as regular monthly contributors and those who write guestposts  from time to time. The goal is to provide an extra source of information about programs; to educate, motivate, and inspire; and to offer opportunities for RMFW members to share their specialized knowledge.

The blog would also be a good way to introduce more of our members to each other. The organization is growing every year, and there are way too many new members we don't get a chance to meet unless we run into them at a workshop or at Colorado Gold.

Co-editor Julie Kazimer and I have discussed doing a monthly (or twice monthly when we have enough open spots) RMFW member Q&A series, similar to what we do now with our Spotlight series on board members. At the most, however, we would only introduce 24 members in a year. That's not a huge percentage of our membership. Still, there are ways to increase member participation. Perhaps a "Three Members, Three Questions" series? Other ideas are welcome.

I'm going to get things rolling with a simpler series inviting members to share the link to one of their social media sites.

Today it's all about the blog.

Your blog, that is. Do you have one?

If yes, please leave your name and/or pseudonym and your blog's url in the comments below. Also tell us what you write about on your blog (your writing life, writing tips, writing instruction, book reviews, guest authors, etc.).

And then I encourage all readers to drop by and visit your fellow members' blogs. Read a post (or two, if you have time). If possible, leave a comment. Comments make a blogger's day so much better.

 

I Have a Strong Opinion – Now What?

Politics.

The Viking happened to be looking over my shoulder when I wrote that word, and immediately told me, "Don't go there."

He's wise, of course. If, as a writer, you venture to spout your political beliefs on the internet, you're going to get yourself in trouble. You'll alienate readers. You'll invite trolls. You might get into arguments with other writers. Most agents and marketing and PR people advise their writer clients to button up and stay out of the fray.

So far in my writing career I haven't had much trouble keeping my mouth shut. I'm busy. I hate conflict. And since I'm Canadian and living in the United States, I can't vote and don't really feel I have a say in anything that happens here. As for Canada, I've been gone long enough to feel detached and like I don't really understand the issues. So I keep my mouth shut and write my books and let the world fall as it may.

But I've been having thoughts about this of late. Not little, fleeting thoughts, but big, cumbersome, slow moving THOUGHTS that are insisting I pay some attention.

There is so much ugly out there. Thanks to social media, even if I don't watch the news (which I avoid like the plague) all of that ugly is brought regularly to my attention. Rape. Police brutality. Racial injustice. Suffering refugees. Sexual inequality. War and rumors of war. A constant, overwhelming, deluge of hate.

I have opinions on all of these things. Sometimes I have vehement opinions. Still, knowing that anything I put out there on Twitter or Facebook or even a blog post will be out there FOREVER, I mostly just bite my tongue, sit on my hands, and keep my thoughts to myself.

Over the last year I've been pushed to the point where I question my own silence. Things are happening out there that move beyond politics. They are moral and ethical issues involving people. Other living, breathing, human souls who are being hurt.

If a Syrian refugee child showed up starving and homeless on my doorstep would I feed and shelter her? Of course I would.

If a woman knocked at my door late at night looking for refuge from some horror of a human being who has raped her, would I take her in, get her to safety, do everything in my power to help her bring the assaulter to justice? You bet I would.

If I see racial injustice happen in front of me, will I speak up? Yes. I have. I do.

But there's this thing that happens, I think, when we're inundated by horrific images from all over the globe. Before the age of technology, people only needed to focus on what happened in their own corner of the world. Now, everywhere you look, there's somebody suffering. Every minute of every hour of every day. And, as human beings, we have a limited capacity to absorb horror and trauma and fear before we begin to suffer our own traumatic response. When we reach a certain threshold our defense mechanisms kick in, numbing our response, making it easier to see some things as "far away" and therefore not a danger or grief we need to attend to. At some point, even those things close to home can seem less relevant.

Defense mechanisms are healthy, to a point. Just as keeping our mouths shut in public is healthy to a point.

But it's also important to act, to make a difference, to be an instrument of change. As writers, we are adept at using words to share ideas and provoke emotions. I think it's important to develop an awareness of how we are using, or not using, our influence. Action, even in small ways, makes a difference, even if we are never able to see it.

Social Media isn't the only place we can express our opinions, our outrage, and our grief. I've always admired Dickens for his ability to tell a good story while condemning social injustices. Pratchett did this brilliantly, as well, so a writer doesn't have to be focused on literary fiction in order to write stories that make a difference.

To be clear, I'm not advocating that any of us get preachy. Tales told from a moral high horse seldom make for good reading. And I don't have answers for the question of how much we should share our beliefs in the public arena. But I do think some serious soul searching is in order. Knowing what we believe, having a moral compass, and allowing that to find its way into our work is an important step.

I'll be working on that. What about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Finding Your People

The Viking says I need a new travel agent. This business of flying into Spokane at 11 pm and then traveling home over dark, deserted highways filled with suicidal deer has got to change. I tell him if it is the price I must pay to engage in a conference like Colorado Gold, then I am willing, even if it does leave me shuffling around for days like a zombie with a big, red, "recharge battery NOW" sign blinking where my brain should be.

This year, as usual, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers crew put on a fabulous conference: great classes, wonderful speakers, along with opportunities to talk to industry professionals and get books signed by awesome authors.

But for me, what made the conference spectacularly awesome was hanging out with other writers. I skipped interesting and informative classes to talk to writers. I stayed up way past my bedtime and functioned on minimal sleep in order to spend time hanging out with writers. I even skipped coffee once or twice in order to talk to writers.

I'm a full on introvert, and this is not my usual modus operandi. My forays into social events tend to be infrequent and brief. Not because I'm shy, but because I usually find gatherings of people draining and exhausting. Besides, my life is bursting at the seams with writing and other things I need to get done.

I tell myself I don't have time for anybody outside of my immediate family.

This is a comforting little lie that allows me to feel like a better human.

The truth is, I don't have time to hang out with people who want to talk about shoes and clothes and kitchens and the latest reality show on TV. And I don't really care which movie star is cheating on his spouse or which singer just got pregnant. Sometimes at a party I'll catch my eyes glazing over as I realize that I'm terribly, horribly, bored.

But give me people who want to talk philosophy, writing, personality typing, how to get things done, book ideas, character development, publishing industry news - and I light up like a prairie sunrise.

Where I'm going with all of this, I guess, is that it's important to find our people. Even those of us who are hard core introverts need a tribe – or a herd, as Susan Spann so eloquently put it during her Writer of the Year speech at Colorado Gold. We need people to spark new ideas for us, to believe in us, to support us. We need people to encourage us when the publishing industry looks like a Sharknado, or when the book we're writing sucks so bad we can't bear to even look at the page.

And we need the experience of being the person who offers support and encouragement, along with the understanding that even our seemingly boring little lives can be a catalyst and inspiration to somebody else.

Fortunately, we don't have to wait for conferences to be a part of this experience. Check your social media feeds and find the writers who are interesting and supportive. Or, for that matter, non-writers with whom you share interests. And remember that you have the power to shape your own social media world – you can let in the members of your tribe and lock out the others. Life's too short to spend it either bored or alone.

The Perils of Social Media

Under Contract by Jeffe KennedyBy Jeffe Kennedy

My newest sexy romance comes out July 13th! More information and preorder links here.

It's a funny thing, being an author and doing the whole social media thing to promote books. This counts - doing my monthly posts here at RMFW - talking about thoughts and my life. Occasionally mentioning a book release, as above.

But there's a pitfall to social media I never anticipated.

No, not the time-suck. Not the trolls or the haters. Though those are all real things. It's how doing this has affected my friendships.

The plus side is that I have a whole bunch of online relationships who seriously light up my life. Some of them I know in person, some I've met in person after meeting online. Others I've never met in real life (IRL). Then there's another set of people, IRL friends, some I've known for years - like my high school boyfriend - who I rarely see or talk to. But they keep up with me online.

This came to kind of a head for me over the weekend, when my old boyfriend made a snarky comment on Facebook about how I had been in Denver and it would have been nice if I'd mentioned to old friends who would've liked to see me. The thing was, I nearly had mentioned to him - my husband even suggested it - but I was feeling miffed. We'd had an email exchange, which I initiated, where I asked how he was because I hadn't heard from him in so long. I felt like he was terse with me, and then he didn't ask how I was.

So I was kind of hurt and didn't tell him I was in town.

When he made this snarky comment, I emailed again and explained - and we sorted it out. But he also said this to me:

I do care about you and what's going on in your life, but I feel like have a pretty good window into that, following all of your online breadcrumb trails.

Which, I can understand. Except I don't know about it! I suspect this happens with a quite a few of my old IRL friends. It's easy to find me online. When I do see them, I'm often surprised at how much they know about what I've been doing. Of course they do! And it's lovely that they keep tabs on me. It can be lonely-making for me, however, because I can't feel that they're out there.

Also, while I'm pretty forthcoming about myself online - after all, I started out as a writer of personal essays - I'm also pretty aware of my author brand. That is, I do present a particular face of myself on social media. It's an authentic face, but I don't share EVERYTHING. I don't think people should. The upshot is, if my friends follow my life online, they'll think that I'm happily rolling along. For the most part, that's true.

But, if I'm not, if something isn't going well in my life, I'm very unlikely to say so online.

I suppose the solution is to do what I did with my old boyfriend and be sure to reach out. Definitely more productive than sulking!

We'll be having brunch in a couple of weeks, when I pass through Denver again.

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.

The Sane Writer: Social Media Containment

By Kerry Schafer

Social Media is a wonderful thing. It allows us to connect with others of like mind who live at a distance. It can foster creativity, spur us on to reach our goals, provide both education and entertainment.

It's also chock full of emotional land mines.

The infamous Facebook experiment is a case in point. If you managed to miss the news on this one, Facebook deliberately controlled the positive and negative posts on the feeds of some randomly selected users for a week, as an experiment. This is what happened:

"The researchers found that moods were contagious. The people who saw more positive posts responded by writing more positive posts. Similarly, seeing more negative content prompted the viewers to be more negative in their own posts."

You can read more about it here if you wish.

Really, the results of this experiment aren't surprising. For some reason, we seem to forget that the Internet isn't artificial intelligence. It's created by human beings. And social media, in whatever form, is human beings - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Most of us are pretty aware that if we're hanging out with negative, toxic people we're going to feel the emotional effects of that. If we hang out with supportive, enthusiastic people we're likely to feel better. But for some reason we're surprised that social media can influence our emotions.

And what influences our emotions is going to have an impact on our writing. Maybe it will inspire us, lift us up, increase our creative flow and help us be better writers. Or, maybe, it will make us feel depressed, hopeless, jealous, and all of those other negative things that get between us and our keyboards.

The good news is that it's much easier to control Social Media than the social aspects of our real life worlds. If you've got a co-worker who perpetually rubs your fur the wrong way and makes you wish you could flame like a dragon, chances are you're just going to have to deal with that unless you want to find another job. And family members, unless they are so toxic that you need to take the radical step of severing ties, are there for life.

But social media is a different story. Some virtual friends really are friends in all the ways that matter. But be honest now - how many people on your Twitter and Facebook feeds are you truly connected to? If there is somebody who makes you feel sad, angry, disturbed, or even uncomfortable, is that a person you really need to have in your virtual world?

Most of us don't want to hurt anybody. And we worry about how somebody will feel if we cut them out. I'm not advocating suddenly unfriending somebody you've been virtual friends with for years just because they're going through a bad patch. But that person on your Twitter feed that you never talk to who is irritating you? I believe that any reasonably adjusted adult will be able to weather an unfriending from a stranger.

You have the control. Mute, unfriend, block, whatever you need to do. Life throws enough ugly our way that we have to deal with. What good is served by wading through irritation and negativity when we don't have to? If you are of the persuasion that you want ALL the followers on the chance that maybe some of them will buy your book, you don't have to look at all of their posts. Use Tweetdeck or another app and make lists of the people you do want to see every day.

Even if you carefully control your online environment to include only the people you choose to have in your world, there are still going to be hard times. Because, again, we're all human beings. Every one of us is going to have bad days. We're going to rant. People and pets are going to die. Jobs will be lost. Agents will turn out to be a bad idea, book contracts will go sour. Bad things will happen. Really good things will happen too, and some days it can start to seem like every writer in the world is luckier than you.

And I want to make it clear that I think posting about these things is good and important. I love my online support community and I'm not in any way saying we should try to create a sterile climate that's all sunshine and lollypops.

It's important to support and be supported, to engage in the give and take that makes us compassionate human beings. But there will be days where all of this is just too much. Maybe you have your own grief and just can't shoulder anybody else's right now. Or maybe you're in despair about your own writing and watching a bunch of other writers shouting with glee about the new agent, the new contract, the award nomination, the bestseller ranking or even their latest soaring word count makes you want to take to the streets with a bottle in a brown paper wrapper.

Sometimes a media vacation is in order. It's okay to step away from the internet. We also have control over this with the click of a mouse. If you spend a lot of time online a day or two away might seem daunting at first. You'll be afraid you're going to miss something. And you will, but nothing earth shattering. Anybody really important in your world will know how to find you.

Or, if you really feel the need to check your feeds every day, consider writing before you log on. Meditate first. Journal first. Pet the dog, go for a run, listen to music. Do something to set your mind and your mood before letting all of the other outside influences in.

Experiment and find out what works for you. The best part of the whole social media experience is that you have the control.