When I conduct writing workshops (see Writing From Scratch), writers often ask about social media. They want to know how much time should they invest in social media and the impact social media has on sales. Although a writer’s participation in Web 2.0 outreach to readers and followers is essential, my inclination is toward the old school perspective that says focus on your work . . . always on the work. Without a finished product (i.e. a novel or two) none of these other things matter much.
What I find is that all too often, writers who haven’t even crossed the threshold of “the sagging middle” (more on the sagging middle in a future post) are caught up in thoughts about promotion (including websites and business cards) before they have something to promote. The energy you spend fretting over which social media you want to use--and how much time you’re going to spend doing it as well as how to balance social media time with writing time--to me is moot until you’ve proven to yourself that you can actually finish a book.
Now, I’m well aware that an online presence is vital these days. Publishers want to make deals with writers who come with a ready-made readership. But what good is that ready-made readership if this readership has nothing to read?
My suggestion in this area is always work on your book. Finish your book. Make it the best book you can possibly write. If you’ve finished one book, start another (as you wait for responses from agents and editors). Have a solid and engaging idea of where you want your writing career to go. Have a plan to get there. When you have a product and a plan, the way in which social media supports your book and fits into your plan becomes evident. Then, you can focus on your viral presence and make it as magnificent as the work you’ve produced.
Like the proverbial chicken and egg, we’re entering a era where writers are asking “What comes first, the book or the blog?” Maybe it doesn’t matter as long as you have both.