How I wish I could go back to the carefree days of my social media celibacy. I was perfectly alright without a platform, thank you very much. I don’t even like platform shoes.
But it got to a point where I was missing important work announcements by not having an account, so I joined up to Facebook and Twitter. I was still adamant though, that I wasn’t going to start posting pictures of the leftovers I was having for tea, or the pizza topping I’d rearranged to represent my mood. Sometimes the dog does a standing up poo. I don’t me she stands up; I mean the poo. Statue-poos I call them. It’s quite a sight to behold, but I don’t feel the need to take a photo of it and post it online.
Two years ago, I published my first novel. I’d invested nearly a grand in the process, and whether I would see a return on this would be down to marketing. So, I gave in; I started to ‘engage’.
I had the internet at my disposal. Why hadn’t I done this years ago? I went all out: paid a South African guy on Fivrr to design book covers for me and built myself a website to showcase my titles; paid Love Reading to give me a review, which I shared on my socials; along with hundreds of desperate posts, using hashtags to target dog lovers, cyclists, fans of Wuthering Heights, caravan dwellers, allergy sufferers, Sikhs, the LGBT+ community. I tried every angle going. I filmed a trailer using terrible hand drawn pictures, like some demented Take Hart fanatic. I filmed myself planting the book in a prominent place in the local library. Except, it wasn’t actually the local library, because they wouldn’t let me film in there. Yes – I actually asked permission to make a prank video. Anyway, it’s irrelevant because no one watched it.
Over the two years I’ve been posting on Twitter / X / whatever it’s calling itself now, I have built up a staggering count of 61 ‘followers’. My timeline is awash with the ‘writing community’ bemoaning their inability to get published. So now, I don’t have to feel alone in my rejection anymore. I can ‘share’ the misery of others.
Then there’s the writers who post endless writing related questions: do you write diverse MCs? Does your WIP have a WT? Do you use semi-colons? Do I need an editor before I start sending out my MS? Do you write with a reader in mind or just for yourself? How do you deal with WB?
I’ll tell you how to deal with writers’ block – get off fucking Twitter and read some decent fiction, watch a film, go for a walk, get on a bus or train and listen to the conversations of strangers. You sure as shit aren’t going to find inspiration here, my ‘friend’.
Then you’ve got the ‘reading community’ (I’m sure there’s a venn diagram meme somewhere that illustrates the correlation between these 2 communities). Readers of Twitter fall into 3 main categories: the Establishment (reading groups and libraries, who typically want to know “what are you reading this weekend”?), the Campaign For Indie Books, and the Readical Extremists. This group make no secret of their book addiction. Some have reading piles in the hundreds. That’s not a to-read pile; it’s a stock-pile. The Indie-lovers’ raison d’etre is to support author’s who don’t have a big publisher behind them. They invite us to post links to our books. Which are then shared with their followers - writers so desperate for publicity they can’t see this for the empty void it truly is. Disclaimer: kindness doesn’t sell books.
Moving up the chain, you then have agents and small publishers. They love to tell us when they’re open for submissions. Many now use Manuscript Wishlist to outline exactly what it is they’re looking for. This is supposed to ensure that if you do your homework you ‘match’ with the right agent. Like Tinder for writers. It’s every bit as shallow, and even more likely to end in disappointment and reduced self-esteem.
My Facebook timeline is clogged with writing related ads: either promising me a lucrative career as a freelance writer (I can double my salary, apparently); or telling me that with their help, my book will miraculously find an audience and make money. The slushpile has become a lucrative feeding ground for SEO agencies and Creative Writing ‘experts’. The actual publishers and agents can no longer manage the amount of submissions they receive; self-publishing and hybrid companies mop up some of the overspill; and then there’s sharing platforms like Reedsy, Novellea, Wattpad. It’s no longer a pile, it’s a landfill site, and the marketing scavengers are getting fat.
Basically I’m stranded on an island filling bottles with scribbled messages while the rest of the world parties on the mainland. Can I get a #Writers’Lift?