Andromeda: Pinterest, Social Media, and Writers

Not another thing to do. Oh yes. Maybe. Maybe not. Help!

Do we writers need to stay up on the latest social media, like Pinterest, the “fastest-growing standalone website in history” according to this very thorough blogpost. Pinterest, if you’re a slow-adopter like me, is a sort of online visual bulletin board social media site that is especially popular with women– and at 10 million monthly pageviews, is also simply, outrageously popular. Flash-in-the-pan? Needless distraction? The antithesis of literary focus? A great way to build interest in advance of a book’s publicaton, especially if that book has a visual hook?

It seems to me that we at least have to know what these things are.

Here is one agent blogger explaining why it’s a shame we have to use every new social media platform to sell things — like our books.

And here is another blogger who has pointed out a lot of things that a writer might like about Pinterest — including using it simply to assemble visual inspiration. But beware all of the thorny copyright issues. (And if you’re really interested, read the gobs of comments. Lots of tips and cautions there.)

And if you’d like to hear a real person live in the flesh explain Pinterest and other post-Facebook, post-Twitter up-and-coming trends, Alaska’s own Aliza Sherman is giving a talk on the subject Wednesday, August 15, 11:30-1 (rsvp by Monday, Aug. 13; there is a fee), at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Anchorage. If I have that lunch hour free, I may attend and would enjoy seeing some of my fellow writers there.  

And maybe most of us can ignore Pinterest. But what about the fast-growing Google+? My own husband, in a Master’s of Education program, was learning his way around Google+ better as part of a school assignment just last night; point being, if you don’t know how to use these tools and your students do, how will you guide them? As authors, we risk losing touch with how our readers discover their passions. Sometimes, we need to go where they are. (But feel free to disagree. I love when contrarians leave their comments. I’m feeling like a contrarian about all of this right now, and I would be the first to leave a snarky comment if I hadn’t just spent part of the morning researching and writing this.)

It’s tough keeping up with the culture when you’re also trying to keep up on the parts of culture that are sorely neglected: like reading. Classics. Simple reflection. Quiet.

And it’s equally hard to stay up on these social media tools and use them well, not just jump on board when we’re trying to sell-sell-sell, or say “look at me! look at me!” (The advice givers tell us we should simply share interests and not flaunt our wares, but that’s a tricky one, isn’t it?)

But at the very least, let me end with this. I’ve been in several public settings this summer — numerous, varied settings — where the question was repeatedly posed, “Do I need to get a website?” The answer is simple: yes. If you are published or planning to publish, you absolutely do need to get a website, which can actually be a simple, updateable blog that looks like a website. If you already have lots of essays, stories, and so on published somewhere–even online–surely you want to share those links and give readers a chance to find your writings. Why wouldn’t you?

I gave my blog/website a facelift about 6 months ago and due to some little format glitches, I’m still not happy with it, but I plan to improve it again within the year. It will mean a week of tinkering, but it’s absolutely necessary, and I know it every time an interviewer or reader-emailer refers to something they read on my website. This is how people find us! Best foot forward! (I’m shouting at myself here, not at you, patient blog reader. If you can tell, I’m feeling a little sheepish that I haven’t fixed up my website lately.)

“And do I,” asks the writer or author, “also need to use Facebook?” Well, I’d say probably. At least a little. At least know how it works and what it is. Then you can reject it. But be ready: publicists can only do so much for you if you’re not willing to post, to share, to push those little messages and repost those good reviews down the road. And the best advice for any of this platform stuff: Be yourself. Be authentic. That’s really all that anyone expects. 

Whenever this stuff makes me crazy, I just imagine life in literary London or Boston a century ago. I can hear the voice of a Virginia Woolf or an E.M. Forster or a Henry James. “Oh goodness, do I really have to answer all these letters? Do I really have to go to that party? Do I have to put on a tie again? Do I have to?”

Yes, you probably have to.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is the author of The Spanish Bow and The Detour, and is working on her next novel, The Expert, about the life of a 1920s psychologist whose career was interrupted by scandal. None of her characters lived in the age of the Internet, but they still found plenty of ways to waste time and get in trouble. 

5 thoughts on “Andromeda: Pinterest, Social Media, and Writers”

  1. Merde – I don't want to do any of that but I know it's reality. Here's my current debate with myself: If I really think my book is good, and I want it out there but I'm not willing to do the social networking, do I self publish or simply forget about the book. I'm not earning a living with writing so I'm not so compelled by the business end. So – I wonder if I have any business even querying.
    I've read that this is a childish notion – being unwilling to devote mega time to social media. For myself I consider it to the contrary; my time on earth is limited and the reader will have gotten a ton of it already in the form of a book if it ever goes out. I'm not giving up my home time for anybody. But then, I guess that's why I'm not a professional writer, and that's OK with me.

  2. Good question. The thing is, aside from the questions you raised, there is the consideration of time. All of these things take a tremendous amount of time. I know one writer who blogs for 6 hours per day. Facebook is another 3 hours per day. In a way, I'd rather pay someone to do it for me. 🙂

  3. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Oh lord — not 6 or 9 hours a day. How about a half-day or less a week? That seems a bit more sane. And Anonymous, self-publishing doesn't solve the issue, because the need to get the word out is even more of a challenge without publishing house staff helping.

    I agree that one's time is limited. And I agree that what we offer as writers is our own individual take on the world, and if that means being the curmudgeon who refuses to have ANYTHING to do with new technologies, that's an important cultural role to serve as well. Still, I figure my own role is to know just a little and to share the links — and the questions — with other writers equally struggling to balance living, observing, writing, and being part of the larger connected culture

  4. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Good link, Deb — this reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's ideas and terminology about how ideas (and books) reach tipping points. For Alaskans, one would argue, social media is even more important, because it gives another not-in-person chance to meet those influences — other writers, reviewers, eager readers who get the word of mouth going. Only a great book really earns continued word of mouth, so one could still argue that you just write your absolute best and believe it will catch on. But a little help in spreading the word at the beginning surely helps.

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