"Fake it till you make it"
Thoughts on social media, self promo, and existing in online spaces as an author
The age of social media is ending. Or at the very least, it’s beginning to shift in big ways. I have no clue what a new “social” landscape might look like, but there is a part of me that’s very excited to see things evolve.
I’m sad, too, because I have made many wonderful connections on social media. Some of my strongest writer friendships started online, and I’ve interacted with many, many readers in digital spaces. And while we can argue till we’re blue in the face if social media actually sells books (I maintain it doesn’t really move the needle except in rare, gone-viral instances), social media does undoubtable help with visibility and word-of-mouth.
Social media is a place to share, discuss, and connect. If all platforms were to suddenly crumble, I’d probably feel a deep, aching loss.
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But the thought of that slowly happening and something new rising from the ashes also makes me hopeful, because existing online as an author (or aspiring writer) isn’t a very comfortable experience. Not only are you very readily accessible in these spaces (setting boundaries can be hard), but some users think you owe them things (from your identity to your time to a certain ending in your books). And there’s also my least favorite part of social media: the fact that a huge chunk of your time in these digital spaces is spent “faking it until you make it.”
But Erin, you’re a published author, you might think. You have made it.
To which I say, very few authors have actually “made it.” Living comfortably as a writer—having a dependable salary and knowing that your next book will sell—is extremely rare. I think it only exists for the biggest of household names, and even then I’m probably wrong. No one stays on top forever.
For the vast majority of authors, having published one book (or ten) does not guarantee more book deals. Every author I know is constantly trying to “make it.” We are always chasing the next career milestone, attempting to ascend a rung on the Ladder of Success.1 A big part of reaching that next rung comes down to selling yourself and/or your book to a third party.
When you are aspiring, you’re trying to sell yourself to an agent via a query. Then your agent attempts to sell you to an editor via the submission process. Later in the journey, self-promo and marketing efforts are used as sales tools to target readers.
The goal, always, is to make a positive impression. Make yourself (the author) and/or your book sound so interesting/impressive/irresistible, that readers take note.
While some of these pitches happen in a semi-private format (such as email), once you’ve landed your first book contract, the bulk of it moves to public digital spaces—to social media. Being on social media as an author can feel like being in constant sales mode.
Preorder my next novel! Check out my newest cover! Don’t forget X title is now available in paperback! Catch me at this or that festival! Don’t miss the e-book deal happening now!
Self promo is part of the job
Most authors I know are very proud of the books they put into the world, so self promo, while awkward at times, is just part of the job. We gladly do it in the months leading up to launch. But once a book releases into the world and has been available for a few weeks, it can be hard to keep promoting ourselves. It can start to feel like a desperate plea. Look at me! Pick up my book! I’m fancy and important! You are missing out if you don’t buy my novel! Remember me? Don’t forget about me!!
I struggle to constantly talk up my novels. Especially right now, nineteen months after my most recent release.
Part of this may come down to the fact that social media algorithms seem to really love a good flex. Posts that share milestone successes, triumphs after rejections, incredible sales numbers, starred reviews, awards lists, movie deals, and so on, perform well. Even if it’s a relatively “small” achievement, I always say an author should own it and put it out there! The more good stuff you can share, the more successful you look, and the more chances you have of earning new readers. Fake it until you make it! When I have good news like this, I always, always share it.
But when you don’t have things happening… What do you do then?