There is something very strange about the notion of having to market yourself. It feels so… cheap.
As authors, we really have no choice, though, right? Especially in this day and age, where, thanks to print-on-demand and the Internet being a thing, pretty much anyone can become an author if they want to. So there are wayyy more books out there than there were when I was growing up, and as a consumer, choices abound. From a basic supply and demand standpoint, if you want to stand out in the crowd, you can’t just write something great, you also have to back it up with “reader accessibility” – that is to say, you need to put pieces of your personal life out there for the world to see so that readers who like your work feel like they can get to know you personally.
It’s a shitty dichotomy; typically, writers are introverts. And so here we are, wishing for solitude and a place to pen our creative musings, but the world needs insight into who we are as people and social media is the way in.
I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy individual, or at the very least, a smart enough human to know when it’s time to research stuff. So I knew what I was getting into when I decided to take my manuscripts and put them out there in the world. In September 2021, after signing with my agent, I did the website thing. I had legit nothing to put on this website except for a picture of myself and a cute quote from Mindy Kaling, both of which are still there. I tried to mitigate the stress of renting my little corner of cyberspace and figuring out how to design it and make it look like me, because after all, this would become my brand.
I kept telling myself: It’s fine. You’re fine, Nobody is going to even see it, right? Who really cares that you’re writing a book. Like, maybe three people! So if you screw up the website, it’s no big deal.
Then, after much deliberation with my at-the-time-brand-new agent, we picked a social media outlet for me to sign up for. God bless Elizabeth Copps, you guys, for real. She understood the fact that I was scared of social media. Truly afraid. I liken it to driving. When I was 16 and all my friends were learning how to drive, my parents were busy getting a divorce so nobody was thinking about sending me to driver’s ed. Plus, we lived in Queens, so driving wasn’t an absolute necessity. Anyway, I didn’t end up learning how to do it until I was 21, and by then, the anxiety of the fact that everyone I knew could do this one thing that I couldn’t do made learning how to do the thing extremely frightening.
But I learned. And I’m a good driver, if I do say so myself.
So it’s like that with the social media thing. For one thing, I did and still do consider it to be a time suck. I get it – it’s fun to see what people out there in the world are doing, whether it’s people you know or used to know, or people you may never have the chance to meet IRL. But talk about a rabbit hole. It’s really easy to spend hours on there! Also, as a tech-fearing person, I have a cell phone that is like 13 generations old. No joke. It’s a smart phone, but it’s a Samsung, and I think it’s one of those models that people were afraid might blow up in your ear – or possibly even an older model than those phones. And there’s like no memory on it for apps. So when I got Twitter, I figured I would do the tweeting thing on my laptop so that I could limit the screen time and also not have it clog up my cell phone like a hairball in the bathtub.
Of course I would choose the one platform destined to spiral into a dumpster fire of chaos a year later. After working super hard to amass over 8,000 followers on Twitter and to interact with folks and genuinely try to embrace the positive benefits of social media, Elon Musk comes in and sets the forest ablaze, leaving many of my author friends running to Hive, or I-don’t-know-what-other-platforms-are-out-there-but-something-equally-horrific.
And so, there I stood, just staring at the inferno, utterly transfixed by a year’s worth of work going up in smoke.
Meanwhile, I’m a year closer to publication. In fact, I’m only six months out – so ‘tis the season for me to be booking events, putting together a calendar, filling my website with pre-order links and Goodreads links and actual information. This is the time when all this hard work is supposed to pay off!
I’ve been fortunate to have a developed a few really lovely relationships with some authors online. One of them, a very cool girl named Lauren H. Mae (check her out here) and I have been trying to book some events together – because that way, at least if no one shows up to them, we’ll have each other, lol. So, recently she was like, “Hey, girl, let’s do an IG Live with this Bookstagrammer I know!” which in my mind translated to “Hey girl, yadda yadda gobbledygook let’s hang out!” And I’m like, “Of course! I’m down for whatever!”
Which is basically like 16-year-old me saying I’m down to be the designated driver at your high-school-drinking party. I can’t do that shit! We’ll all die!
But, alas. I need to build this brand.
After eagerly agreeing to the IG Live, I asked Lauren, “Um, hey, just wondering, do I need to have an Instagram account in order to do an IG Live?”
You already know the answer, so spare me the humiliation of having to share the tumultuous stomach drop that ensued.
The IG Live is in January, so not only do I need to be on Instagram, but it would be really helpful to the other authors there – not to mention, to society as a whole – if anyone gave a shit that I was on IG. Loosely translated, don’t show up with 3 followers.
So, this is me, back at square one with a new platform, only way worse than Twitter, because this one relies on visual stuff. Have I mentioned that my phone is from like ten years ago? If I use the zoom feature on my camera, that shit’s all pixelated! And what even is a filter? People are putting puppy dog ears on their faces as if this is a thing? Am I supposed to do that? WILL PUPPY DOG EARS EQUATE TO BOOK SALES?
Okay, let’s all just calm the fuck down. This blog post, much like my life, is clearly going awry.
It’s like driving. I can learn it. There are lots of signs: the yield sign means something different than the downhill truck sign. A post is different than a reel is different than a story. I’ll practice. I’ll go slow. I’ll take a few circles around a parking lot before going out into the actual street. I’ll put a bumper sticker on the car that says “Student Driver” so other people can pass me with sympathetic – or possibly annoyed – looks on their faces.
Eventually, I’ll figure this out. And hey, if we’re being real? Watching me struggle through some public shit like this is 100% my brand.