I've been doing something crazy these last few weeks. I've been cleaning up my Twitter, like, REALLY cleaning it up. If you have followed me on social media from the very beginning, you will recall that I have started out from nearly nothing, have built up quite an audience, and then have slowed down. I've been doing this for 10+ years (social media), so I know the automation tools and the various ways of "boosting" your numbers for show. I've been guilty of doing it for myself. Hey, it's so awesome watching your Twitter followers grow! And even cooler to brag about it to others, exaggerating a little, like, oh yeah, I have almost 70K followers on Twitter. Then give that nonchalant look like I don't care. So vain, ugh, I want to puke. I have even written a blog post on how to grow your Twitter numbers and what not to do on Twitter. Over time I have realized that these numbers don't do me any good. They don't exactly equal book sales. Plus, I'm not being honest with people. And being a writer is all about ripping off your skin and showing raw heart underneath.
So. I have decided.
People is what matters. In fact, let me ask you this. What would you choose, a large noisy crowd of people who might give you a few seconds of their attention, or a small tribe of die-hard fans that will read everything you write and tell all their friends about you and talk to you even when you feel down and can't entertain them?
Yes. Enter digital self-publishing age.
I'll give you a few lessons on what to do on social media and how to use it as a writer, if you promise to listen and actually do what I say. So many times people ask me for advice, then turn around and throw it in my face like I'm wrong and should know better, to which I respond, why did you ask me in the first place? Go ahead and do it your way. There is no magic pill. Success doesn't happen overnight. We all hear those huge explosive stories about so-and-so or so-and-so, but if you read about that person, you'll learn that their success was years and years in the making. Well then, are we clear about this? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and do some serious work? Good. Here is what you do.
Lesson 1: GIVE.
That's all you do. Give. Give. GIVE. Do not ask for anything. Entertain. Help. Answer questions. Lift people's mood. Offer your books for free. Too afraid to do it? Offer chapters for free. Bend over backwards for people. These are your future customers. The customer is always right, drill this into your brain. Wash your customer's dogs. Never ask for anything. I repeat, DO NOT ASK FOR ANYTHING. Do not ask people to read your book. Do not ask people to buy it. Do not ask them to review it. When you are starting out, before you can ask anyone anything, you have to build enough trust in people, to earn their time. Simply share yourself, your passion for writing, your highs and lows, and give, give, give.
Lesson 2: DELIVER ON YOUR PROMISES.
Once you have generated enough interest, you can start cranking it up by entertaining people and at the same time offering them things. Do it however suits you best. Be yourself. Are you funny? Sarcastic? Can you crack jokes? Are you sweet? Charming? Whatever your schtick is, use it, but do not to alienate people by shoving your book down their throats, instead, gently push them toward trying out your stuff. I typically use humor or reverse psychology, because it's funny. I tell people, don't read my book, it will bite you. You don't want that. Or I tell them, it's only my 2nd novel, so of course it's awful. Or I tell them, I really don't care if you read my book or not, but I will take your cash. See? I can get away with it, because even if they won't make a purchase, I made them smile. And that's huge. People will remember you as a source of happiness and weird monkey noises of excitement or piglet squeals or whatever it is you have emitted while attempting to please them. And here comes the trick: once you have promised someone something, deliver on it or publicly apologize if you have screwed up.
Lesson 3: PLEASE YOUR CRITICS.
So, this is a contradictory thing, especially for those who believe that if someone lashes out at you, you should lash out back. Well, no, you shouldn't. Yes, I understand that the world of publishing is full of trolls and envious monsters and backstabbers and whatever. The deal is, stay above it. Don't let it touch you. Watch it wash over your head. Whatever these people are telling you, is directed at themselves, not at you. I've seen fisking wars happening over opinions on the whole Amazon/Hachette thing, and I refuse to participate in them. It's a drain on my creativity, all that negative stuff flying back and forth. It's not productive and it only distracts me from doing what I love doing: writing. But. There is a but here.
Number one: this doesn't mean that you shouldn't speak up when you see some wrong being done to the world and care about it. It's your duty as a writer to speak up (and I am slowly learning this lesson and getting rid of my fear).
Number two: those who critique you, listen to them. Don't let them eat holes in your gut, but listen to them. They took time to tell you what's wrong, and they may be right. Behind all that hate might be something you need to change about yourself. Don't get sucked into drama, just give them love and move on and think about what they said, to see if there is any truth to it. Better yet, deflect their negativity and turn them into customers. I've done that, you can do it too. It's easy, if you forget your ego. And if you're in the business of self-publishing, I suggest you turn it off NOW.
Lesson 4: DON'T WAIT FOR RICHES.
Don't expect that after doing all of this for a few weeks you will have hordes of screaming fans picketing your house and showering you with chocolate ponies and sending you love letters and buying all your books. It won't happen. Your growth will be like an undulating wave: up, down, up, down. There will be slow times, there will be fast times. Fast times will coincide with book releases, just because there will be enough interest and buzz happening around something new, but it will die. Your job is to persevere. Keep going forward, no matter what. Keep writing every day, no matter what. Keep reading every day, no matter what. Don't look for approval, do your job. Work, work, work, and it will pay off. Plus, the more you write, the better you will get, it's as simple as that. How many times do I have to tell you this? If you don't believe me, read Stephen King's ON WRITING.
Lesson 5: BE PRESENT.
Okay, I have already blogged about writer's presence online, but here it is again, because some people don't seem to get this through their thick skulls. Forget about automation, all these tools that help you auto-tweet and auto-Facebook and auto-Google+ and auto-shit while you sleep. It's meaningless noise. Yes, it creates an illusion of content outpouring, but it's not doing anything for you. You might as well stand in a bucket of water and stomp with your bare feet and wonder why it doesn't turn to butter. The age of advertisement is dead. Don't be a corpse, be a real human being. A real human being can't possibly spend all waking hours online. I mean, you have books to write and read, and eat and shit and drink and sleep and feel hungover and eat cake and stare at the clouds. When are you going to do all that? If you look like a robot online, people will think you a robot. Don't try doing more than you can, it will look fake and turn people off. Be yourself. Be online. Interact. It's about talking to your readers, not about shouting at every passerby to buy your fucking book and getting angry at them for not doing so. And why would they? Do they know you? Nope. They could care less. How do you make them care? By getting to know them, letting them to get to know you. And it takes time. Sorry. IT TAKES BLOODY TIME. Be willing to spend it, and it will return back ten-fold.
Lesson 6: DON'T TRASH OTHERS.
Be nice. Like, is it that hard to be nice to other people? Have you read a book and didn't like it? Don't write a bad review and don't bitch about it on every corner. Keep it to yourself. Who are you to say that the book sucks? Someone poured their heart and sweat and blood and piss into it, and yeah, it may stink, but whoever wrote that felt elated and possibly happier after writing it than before. That means the book is awesome for THAT ONE WRITER. So, shut up, shut up, shut up. Don't judge. How can you? I'm guilty of this myself. I did give a few books 3-star reviews and bitched about how I didn't get why so many people liked them, because I didn't. I have understood my shortcomings, thank goodness, and have stopped doing it. We're all in this together. Give love to people. Help them. If you can't do it, let it go and move on. You will feel happier by spreading goodness than hate. When you hate someone or something, guess who suffers? YOU. The person you hate could give a shit. That hate eats YOU from inside out, that's why you feel so compelled to share it. Are we clear on this? No trashing other writers. Good.
Lesson 7: BE YOURSELF.
I don't know how many times I have repeated this, over and over and over again. Just be yourself, as you are to your friends, to your pets, to you mom. Your own self, sometimes shiny and giddy and exuberant, other times low and blue and drunk. We're all human, we will understand. We all do the same stuff. No matter how famous some of us are, we also pee and poop and cry ourselves to sleep and doubt, like everyone else. You got that? You got that?? Awesome. Now, be awesome. I know you are. You can write an awesome book. I know you can. Enough reading this, go do it.