Being a (published) author is a lot like being arrested.
Stay with me on this one. And, no, I haven’t been recently arrested and that’s why I’m drawing this particular metaphor. We don’t need rhymes for our reasons here on the Dark Side. As a matter of fact, keep all your rhymes to yourself. They’re contagious.
Everything you say can and will be used against you. Cop-speak for ‘shut the hell up before you dig yourself a deeper shit pit.’ Author-speak for ‘readers (and other writers) are ruthless.’ Used to be, they were ruthless behind closed doors; their sputum-soaked vile whispered into the ears of friends, neighbors, and unfortunate bar patrons. Now, thanks to social media, the world has a platform, and fuck me they’re going to use it.
Social media, however, is an unavoidable monster. Any author who wants to claw their way out of the primordial ooze of obscurity relies on social media platforms.
We do this with two purposes in mind.
First: To sell books. Obviously. Writing for passion is great; Writing for passion and lunch money is better. The reading world is bigger than it was in Dickens’ day, but thanks to social media, easier to reach. Posting links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit… God, the list is endless. Every day there’s a new app or new “community” to join and announce your wares. It’s like a goddamn smorgasbord of readers right? They’re all going to buy your book and you’re going to be rich, right?
The general consensus is that it takes a person seeing a product (your book) mentioned at least five times before it registers in their over-stimulated minds as a Thing That Exists. But don’t you dare go throwing out those links willy-nilly. That’s spam, darlings, and the social-media scrollers will not hesitate to let you know, either by unfollowing (insert hand-on-heart Dowager Countess gasp here), or by taking to their own platform to denounce you, your mother, and your parakeet, Buttons.
So maybe you only post a link a week. That’s not too much, right? But maybe your entire Twitter feed is links and retweets. Are you alive? Do you have thoughts and feelings? ARE YOU EVEN A PERSON?
This brings me to the second reason authors have social media accounts: to prove we are, in fact, people with thoughts and (sometimes) feelings, and stupid cat pictures we desperately need to share with the world. But as in real life, some people aren’t going to like you. Or they’ll like you too much and insist you stop being yourself for five minutes and get your ass back to work on that book.
Author Christopher Moore spends a fair amount of time on Twitter. He engages readers, makes us laugh, and paints the portrait of a generally likable guy. Everyone was happy, birds chirped and did laundry… Until Moore got it in his head that his online personality liked sports—specifically, the San Francisco Giants. He’d live-tweet games, talk shop with other fans. And then the trolls rolled in. How dare Moore enjoy himself? Didn’t he have a book to write? What a time waster! The comments got to be so bad and so frequent, he started a separate Twitter account for sports talk.
Scared you yet? Okay—here’s another.
Chuck Wendig is what you call a hybrid author—he both traditionally and self-publishes his work to a pretty wide audience. While banging out two to three novels a year, he keeps up a regular blog called Terrible Minds. In it, he talks about political shit, novel-writing, marmosets, and anything else that pops in his head. In a post from October 2014 called Who I Am and Why I Write this Blog, Wendig quotes author Hugh Howey (that’s right—it was another author) as saying, “If he dropped the weird bad-boy schtick and just wrote his thoughts, he’d be one of the more important thinkers in publishing.”
Whatever the reason, it seems an author can’t be himself without being accused of faking it. (And, baby, we promise we never fake it with you.)
Don’t think I don’t hear you. You’re saying, “But Katrina, what’s a little name-calling between friends, eh? It’s not like we’ll get impaled on the forked lance of their insults.”
Literally, no. But we’re writers. We deal in metaphor, which is much, much worse.
George R.R. Martin. His name alone jiggles loose a cacophony of opinion. Most, on the positive side. That is, until it was announced he’d missed the deadline on his latest Game of Thrones novel, and now the television series will surpass the novels’ timeline.
Grab your torches and pitchforks.
Social media blew up. Comments sections were awash with teeth-gnashing and knuckle-dragging. How dare he? What was he doing instead of writing? Eating? Sleeping? The unmitigated gall. One particular commenter (we’ll call her Chagrin von StupidButts) said, “If he was a lawyer, he wouldn’t be able to shrug on the 1st day of the trial and say he hadn’t finished preparing. I don’t even watch the show, but I think it’s crappy he didn’t meet the deadline. No sympathy.”
Von StupidButts doesn’t know Jon Snow from Jamie Lannister , but she has thoughts and opinions because social media allows her to. It’s people like her, the social media monsters, that make maintaining a social media presence like throwing up your wrists and saying, “Go ahead! Do it! Arrest me!”
So go forth with caution. Be everyone and be no one. Don’t talk about sports unless they’re made up and everyone can play. Don’t miss deadlines. But occasionally miss them to make yourself more relatable—no one likes an overachiever. Love all the things, but hate them when the crowd says to. Don’t spam, but make sure everyone knows when your book goes on sale. Eat while writing. Never sleep.
Katrina Monroe and the Dark Side of Fiction
Social Media Monsters
Katrina Monroe is an author, mother, and professional haterologist. Her favorite things to hate include socks that fall down, grape-flavored anything, and the color 'salmon.' Grab her books here.