I wasn't popular in school. I don't recall ever wanting to be. As far as I could see, it didn't do the popular kids any good. If anything, they just had more expectations to live up to. My main concern in school was--no, not getting good grades--telling stories. I spent hours and hours of class time working on book ideas, which didn't do much for my grades. Most of my teachers liked me despite that and a few even encouraged me when they found out I was writing books instead of notes (yes, I was in school in the dark ages between texting on cell phones and etching on stone tablets).
When I started college, I took a different approach because then I was actually investing my own money in those classes. Funny how motivating that can be. I still didn't engage much with my fellow students. I had school and a job to focus on and somewhere in there, I had to make time for my writing. Popular wasn't going to get me good grades or the money to pay for the next term and it sure wasn't going to satisfy all the characters in my head.
Somewhere in the last few years, I got the harebrained idea to take my writing addiction and try to make a go at being an author. Only now, it looks like being successful as a new author has become a popularity contest. How many Twitter followers do you have? How many people follow your blog? How many fans do you have on Facebook? What is your Klout score?
I thought going into this that being a successful author was about writing well and telling a great story. I never wanted to be popular and I still don't really. I love the people I've met online, but I have little enough time for my friends and family and my writing as it is. Getting published isn't about me. It is about the enjoyment people get out of reading my work. As far as I'm concerned, if someone likes my writing, that's even better than them liking me.
Don't take me wrong. I do believe that an author should put effort into marketing their books to help with sales in today's environment and I honestly love the idea of being able to connect with my readers (once I have published work to offer them). What I don't get is how that turned into having to market ourselves to even get looked at by an agent.
We aren't our books. It isn't our charming smile and great hairdo that makes someone want to read what we write. Sure, that might lure a few people in, but what will keep them is good writing and good stories. Writing a good blog, doesn't mean you can write a good fiction novel. It means you can write a good blog. Conversely, writing a good book doesn't mean you're automatically a great blogger.
I honestly think the agents and publishers are putting a little too much emphasis on the social media aspect right now. That said, it is what they seem to want, so I am doing my part to step out there and wave my own flag (I just wish it had a skull, crossed katana and perhaps a bottle of rum on it).
If you want to play the game in the current market, you have to jump in the sandbox with the other kids and try not to be voted out. Can you build the best sandcastle? More importantly, does it matter how beautiful that sandcastle is if you open the doors and its empty inside?
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Actually, if that's your sandcastle, you may not need anything inside. :)
I would love to hear your thoughts about the current emphasis on social media for unpublished authors. Can a good social media presence transcend bad writing? Does a poor social media presence mean disaster even if you have an amazing debut novel? Should your social media presence be a major factor for agents and editors considering your work?