Around Girl Friday HQ, I am affectionately known as the Blog Mistress because I occasionally have to crack the whip on my brilliant, uber-busy colleagues. Between their hectic jobs, spouses, children, dogs, volunteer obligations, et cetera, it can be hard to squeeze in the time to pen eight hundred words of blogy goodness.
Likewise, when I’m helping my author clients put together social media strategies, I sometimes feel like a personal trainer faced with a client who really wants buff biceps, so long as he doesn’t have to do any push-ups, pull-ups, or arm curls. Building your social media platform takes hard work and discipline. You got excuses? I’ve heard (and made) ’em all, friend! Perhaps you’re publishing your books for the sheer delight of it and have no interest in attracting readers. Then, go with God, you magical, egoless soul; you’re probably not reading this post anyway. Or maybe you are Elmore Leonard, who is also not reading this post because he does not own a computer. But if you don’t fit into either of those categories (magical, egoless soul or Elmore Leonard), then let’s get to busting!
I Don’t Have Time
This is one of the most common excuses I hear. This is, of course, an all-purpose excuse used for all manner of activities from going to the aforementioned gym to cleaning out the shed. Something strange has happened in our culture over the past couple decades: we seem to have collectively decided that always being busy has some intrinsic value. But you know what? If you’re too busy to do the things that really matter (and if you’re an author, trying to get readers should really matter) then you’re just not prioritizing well. Cut something else out, maybe that’s an hour of sleep or an hour of TV for a couple months. Make the room. If you need further ideas and butt-kicking on the subject of time management, go ask Penelope Trunk.
I Don’t Know What to Say
Social media can be easier for nonfiction authors, as they are usually subject-matter experts of some kind and can blog and tweet about their areas of knowledge—whether it be DIY fashion, salmon fishing in Alaska, or Civil War lore. At first blush, it can be a little less obvious for fiction authors, but this is often because they frame the task the wrong way, taking a What can I blog about that relates to my book approach rather than a What will the potential readers of my book also want to read about tack. Maybe it’s dating, or eighteenth-century history, or the physics related to time travel. What do you geek out about that your readers might also geek out about? Maybe it’s just other books! Guess what? There’s an entire social media platform called Goodreads that is entirely devoted to talking about books and only books.
I’m Very Private
Hey, so am I! I spend a lot of time on social media without oversharing about my personal life. Even when I was writing about my own life for a column on a women’s website, I didn’t tell any stories that I wouldn’t have told at a dinner party. The etiquette is similar for social media; most of it is banter. If you are one of those brave souls who wants to bare all, have at it. But it’s possible to share plenty with folks online without divulging your family’s dirty laundry, the names of your exes, your salary, or your Social Security number. Determine your boundaries and stick to them.
I Don’t Know How
So learn! Hire someone like me or this gal to help you, go to classes, look up online tutorials, read books (Trust Agents and APE are both fun reads and are packed with good info). There are jillions of resources—from beginner to advanced, from involved to DIY. Go get ’em!
It’s Just a Distraction from my Real Writing
Yes, it can be a distraction from your writing. So can your dog, your children, the laundry, and that spice rack that suddenly needs alphabetizing the moment you sit down to write. Presumably you are not going to stop engaging with those other things. Learning to curb distractions is elemental to being a writer. I recognize that social media can be especially tempting (it’s right there all the time!), so if you’re struggling with impulse control, predetermine a time to write blog posts and tweets and then schedule them out so that you aren’t constantly logging on and getting distracted.
But . . . I Don’t Wanna!
A lot of people initially approach social media like it’s a huge chore. I advise you to treat it like exercise (there are oh so many parallels!). You know you need to do it, but you hate the gym. Totally valid. So, go to yoga, take a dance class, go cycling, do something that you do like. The Internet abounds with options for social media: from Twitter to Facebook to Pinterest to Goodreads. All of which regular, busy folks like yourself willingly devote their time to. Chances are you’ll find something that floats your boat. And if you use one platform regularly and consistently with verve you can give all the others a pass.
So . . . what’s your excuse?