As an author, it’s really important to have a so-called platform. What does that mean? Sometimes I’m not really sure but it sounds slightly politically with a mix of marketing thrown in. It means that when your name is out there in the public that it should be recognizable. So people can say, “Oh, I know that author. She’s the one who writes about gardening and does lots of public awareness about the value of earthworms.” Or that other author, “she’s that train person.” Or, “she’s the princess one” etc. Another words, we’re supposed to be a branded imprint like Dr. Pepper or Juicy Jeans. My immediate reaction is—Ugh! That sounds so strategic and pigeonhole-y. Like once I’m known as that middle grade author who writes about trains, that’s where I should stay, lest there is market confusion. But on the other hand, it’s not a bad thing to be known, is it? In fact, it helps our work find readers.
But what I really want to talk about how this relates to social media. Why? Because social media is a part of an author platform and it’s a good thing because it allows you to respond to important people such as your readers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, and other authors. You can create networking opportunities and provides another medium in which to express yourself.
But it can also take away from the time that you, you know, write, which is how I’m told you create books.
I’m a fan of social media. But it can be easily get a little obsessive. You can start to worry when nobody retweets your tweet or you get no likes. And then, maybe, you can start to compose a post based on what others will like. Yes, sometimes this happens to me. As a middle grade author, I want to be liked. But also as a person, I want to be liked. I actually have a new book coming out in the spring about a tween (who is obsessed with the number of likes she gets) whose parents shut down her social media and she’s got to figure out what she actually likes.
So here I am writing a story for tween girls about learning to like yourself and not to write or do stuff so you get a lot of kudos and yet what do I? I check and re-check a Facebook post to see how many likes trickle on in. A couple of times a day, I check Twitter to see how many new followers that I’ve gotten.
In other words, I am just as bad as Karma Cooper, the 12 year-old protagonist in Queen of Likes. And I should know better, much better. So recently, I’ve taken a new pledge to not obsessively check in on responses to what I post. Look, there is nothing wrong with checking, but not every fifteen minutes throughout your day! I value my writing time, but when it’s continually interrupted, it takes me far too long to re-engage with my work. So that’s why my New Year’s pledge is to use my new App, Self-Control, which allows me to determine how long I want to turn off my internet and email so I can completely focus on writing. That means, if I set if for two hours, let’s say, I can then go check my Facebook or Twitter and then use my Self-Control to get back to writing. Self-Control https://selfcontrolapp.comis a free app for Mac OS X that blocks access to distracts. There are other apps out there, as well. And PC users might want to try Freedom (I used to have it but my new Mac doesn’t work well with it).
So ultimately, this post is about time management, isn’t it? Social media is another way to communicate, a wonderful to connect to a larger community. But it also can become a distraction, no matter your profession.
I’m looking forward to continue to be active in social media but to do it more wisely, and to not let my popularity (or lack thereof) consume me, instead I want to concentrate on authentically communicating and creating community.
Hillary Homzie is the author of the forthcoming Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page.