Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Social Media Quandary

When I sold my first mystery, back in the early 1990s, not a lot was expected of me in terms of promotion. But I had a good friend who thought arranging a book tour might be fun, and she did so, lining up newspaper and radio interviews, bookstore visits, writers’ workshops, and more. It was a fabulous experience, not to be repeated.

Now, when a new book is launched, I, like many other writers, am expected to set up blog tours, FB giveaways, and newsletters. I might be given 20 or 40 ARCs (advance review copies) to send out to reviewers already known or perhaps new to me. I might find some through Goodreads or LibraryThing, or perhaps WattPad or The Reading Room. At the end of these reader contests, I get to carry piles of books down to the post office and mail them off. The goal is reviews posted on GR or Amazon and, we hope, advance orders.

This part takes work and planning. But through all of this I might never meet a reader face to face, or hear any of her opinions. Readers aren’t always inclined to post reviews. They might be happy enough to tell a friend or family member about the book they just enjoyed reading. I think this is sad. I want to know what my readers are thinking, what they liked or enjoyed or were surprised at. Further, watching someone talk, and listening to the voice and observing body language, is infinitely more engaging that reading something typed on FB or Goodreads. The choice of doing book events in brick and mortar bookstores, of course, is still available, but no longer an automatic first choice.

I’m pondering this situation now because this past week I read several posts about the most effective use of—of what? Should writers focus on their blogs? Should we get off FB and write? Should writers develop an interactive website? What about Instagram? And is anyone still using Pinterest? What bout Tumblr? What about newsletters? And what about Goodreads? What bout Twitter?

More than ten years ago I listened to a young editor explain why blogs were passe. I’ve forgotten his reasons but I didn’t even have a blog then. I do now. I’m not as faithful with it as some other writers in the mystery community, but I’m mostly faithful to a weekly post. And to my surprise, I enjoyed doing blog tours to promote the Anita Ray mysteries.

My web maven died almost a year ago and I finally built a website on my own. It seems to work—people have contacted me through it, which I take as a good sign. I post reviews on Goodreads, and play around with Pinterest. And yes, I show up on FB regularly. I occasionally do book talks, but mostly I stay home and write.

As I look back over the many options I’ve listed (and more I barely know about), I still don’t know which ones I as a writer should use and which I should skip. And, further, I no longer think that’s the question. As a writer I have options today that didn’t exist when I started out. None of us (outside of the IT world) could have anticipated what was coming. And I never thought the new online world would come close to replacing the face-to-face hand selling of books.

The sheer number of options means we have to make choices. I don’t think the answer is for all of us in the writing community to give up blogs and focus solely on a website; or drop Pinterest and only use Instagram.

I think the answer is for each of us to pick the options we enjoy and are most comfortable with, the ones we think of first when we have news to share or an idea to explore. But most importantly, I think no one, myself included, should become attached to any one approach, not with the now constant change in the cyberworld. I’ll enjoy what I can while I can, and then I’ll try something new.



Susan Oleksiw @susanoleksiw





  1. You're right about the face-to-face contacts with readers. It rarely happens anymore. I still do a few readings, when I can find them, and it is always a pleasure to chat with potential and regular readers. It's good for the ego, and it lets me know what "exactly" readers like, and on several occasions, what they didn't like. Very helpful.

  2. I know you and I are not the only ones who miss that personal contact with readers. But the pendulum swings and I'm hoping it will swing back in this direction. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I consider promotion a necessary evil LOL! Something I love and hate almost simultaneously with equal passion.

    Good luck and God's blessings

    1. Pam, I'm glad to hear there's someone who loves this stuff. You're way ahead of me, but that's probably why you have a better handle on it. Thanks for adding your perspective.

  4. Oh, boy, I hear you regarding social media. I do Facebook and a monthly blog, but that's about all I can manage. Since I live in Roswell, NM, I never actually meet people who read my books, Roswell not precisely being on the way to anywhere else, and who'd visit Roswell on purpose? Oh, well. I don't think we're alone at not liking to self-promote, but I'd sure like to be more savvy. Oh, well...

  5. I think what bothers me most is the number of choices and the way different editors/publishers push different media. There are too many choices. And, yes, there's that whole question of learning all these new skills. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Hi Susan,

    I ponder the same problems. I also blog, do giveaways, use Twitter, FB, Goodreads. However, I think the only thing that really works is having a first-rate agent who sets you up with one of the big five publishers who then gets you well-reviewed in the major pubs. Not exactly easy!

    1. As you point out, Jacquie, for all the talk about how much more accessible the publishing world is, it's just as hard as it ever was, just more complicated. Thanks for adding that perspective.

  7. I don't try to be everywhere, but I do try to be fairly active on the sites I like: Facebook and Twitter. I also do a blog but am lazy about it this year. I need to ramp it up a bit in advance of a December book release. We can't do everything, and with my current painful sciatica, I'm not inclined to run around doing book signings and presentations. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

  8. I agree, Patricia. Take what you like and leave the rest. I don't think there's any one formula for all of us. Thanks for sharing your perspective (and I hope the sciatica eases up).