Social (media) Anxiety

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Part 2 of 3

So. . . you do have a compelling website, right? One that changes often and stays fresh? Have you decided to incorporate an online store? And you are blogging, are you not? You can connect your blog to your website so the content changes often. It’s important that you experiment with vBlogging as well. It’s strategic, of course, that you also use Twitter to help point people to your blogs and website. The nice thing is, you can have your Twitter update automatically to your Facebook page. But be sure to post photos and other relevant information to Facebook as well. Be personable. Strike that perfect balance between friendly and professional. And be sure to retweet and repost interesting articles to Facebook so you are giving as much as you are taking. Speaking of professional, you are on LinkedIn, aren’t you? It’s a great place to connect with colleagues and, well, if you are ever seeking a job, it’s invaluable. If you can create a YouTube channel even better. Be sure to experiment with Google+, especially the Hang-Out feature which lets you connect a group by video chat. Of course there is Skype. Don’t be the last one to know about the newest craze, Pinterest.

Anyone else breaking out in hives yet?

That’s nothing. We’re now reading that it’s not enough to do all of the above. Just a few days ago, Thomas Umstattd guest blogged on agent Steve Laube’s blog, Seven Ways Agents Measure Social Media.ย Umstattd says you also have to be able to quantify your following. You need to have numbers, followers, commenters and an impressive KLOUT score.


I’m not disagreeing with Umstattd but if you really need to do all that, how in the world are you going to write the book that makes us go weak in the knees?

I believe in social media but I’m here to say don’t believe everything you hear. I listen to writers worrying endlessly over what they “should be” doing. Granted, used well, social media can be a centerpiece to your own tribe-building, but the key is balance. At Books & Such, we are working hard to stay on top of social media. We’re committed to exploring all the possibilities so we can recommend media strategies to our clients. We are in the process of beta testing some exciting new social media opportunities right now. We want to be on the cutting edge. We want our clients to be early adopters of those media that fit them and their audience. But the important thing is that we are the ones testing all the new social media because we know our clients cannot write the kinds of books they write and still do all of the above.

Anyway, let me just give you a few random tips:

  • Not every medium should be considered a vehicle for book promotion. Don’t you want to scream “give it a rest” sometimes? That day I come across an article titled “How to Use Angry Birds to Market Your Books,” I warn you, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.
  • Let’s face it, you’re not going to be able to do it all. Not if you have a family, a life and plan to write books. Find the vehicles that work for you and become adept at using them. The perfect one will be fun and feel almost effortless.
  • Find a unique angle and do it as only you can do it.
  • Keep your goal in mind. If you want to build readership, don’t create a blog aimed at writers. That’s preaching to the choir. Find something that will connect with your readers– your target audience.
  • Once you’ve found your perfect fit you need to be disciplined enough to limit your social media time.
  • Then stop obsessing over what you are not doing. There are enough people out there wagging a finger in your face, saying “shame on you” for all the things they think you are missing. My friend Robin Jones Gunn has a cure for that. She’ll look you straight in the eye, flick her hands and say, “Shame off you.” I love it.

We are all looking for permission to just say no. Consider this permission granted. We need dispensation because the truth is, we cannot do it all. In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford, Steve Jobs gave some wonderful advice: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Your turn. What works for you? What doesn’t? Would you care to share your social media end goal and tell us how you’re making it happen? Or do you just want to tell us what makes you crazy about this brave new world?

44 Responses

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  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    What a refreshing post, Wendy. It’s nice to hear that not all agents expect us to spend an inordinate (and unrealistic) amount of time on social media and to stress about our stats, scores, and so on–all while producing awesome stories. Writers are amazing people, true, but we have the same number of hours in the day as anyone else and have to spend them wisely.

    Sometimes it seems like the ones telling us how much time and money we need to invest in marketing ourselves and making connections via social media are the ones who are making their money designing websites, Facebook group welcome pages, blog banners, etc. While I understand the need for a web presence and an attractive cyber home, I don’t think every writer needs to begin with a Ferrari approach when we’re earning Ford advances.

  2. Such a sane perspective. With six books in the pipeline, I need to listen to a voice that affirms my own intuition. Yes, social media is a reality, but the book–each book–is what matters. And above that, I matter. Am I keeping myself well and whole on the journey?

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Of course with you, Olivia, no dispensation. You need to get your book out there on social media because The Pursuit of Lucy Banning has my favorite cover of all time. ๐Ÿ™‚ It deserves all the attention it can get.

  3. I follow a strategy called “1000 True Fans.”

    The idea is that if I have just one thousand people who are “true fans” then I don’t need to worry about anything else. Those people will buy my work as fast as I can put it out. They’ll talk to their friends about my work.

    They’ll be my ambassadors to the Court of Word-of-Mouth.

    I used a “big frog, small pond” strategy to start building my fan base. Rather than producing text based work, I started podcasting my novels and giving them away for free on a website that had a small, but hungry, clientele. I wrote a lot, and got noticed for all the right things — compelling stories, good production values, and rapid creation.

    Not everybody liked my work, of course. Some hated it. That’s okay, too.

    I connected with the people who liked my work on my blog, on the website’s blog, and on twitter. I attended the convention that many of my peers and fans attended. I interacted with them as people, so I know who knits and who’s a cook. I know who likes coffee, and who thinks my work is shallow and stupid. I made connections on a level that mass media can’t hope to get, and in the process built up the number of true fans.

    I did it one or two at a time at first. Those people did what true fans do. They recruited more true fans. I connect with all of them. While the number is so large now, I really don’t know them as well as I might, the net effect is I have a lot of fans — something over 20,000 world wide.

    When I put out a new work, it does pretty well just on the basis of a single blog post, and maybe a tweet or two. (My last major release sold over 3000 units in the first ten days.)

    Here’s the thing that folks like Umstattd miss when they’re counting “Likes” and “Friends” and “Followers.” It’s what Klout does when it calculates the score. They are assuming that if you have a lot of followers, your influence with them is high. They’re conflating two terms — influence and reach.

    Reach is how many people will hear any given message you send. Influence is the percentage of people that will respond to it. Reach is easy to measure. Influence is not and direct measurement requires a lot of work.

    In social media marketers often count things like “how often do you get re-tweeted.” They see that as an indicator that your reach actually has influence. This is a false assumption as many people develop an echo chamber where the message gets echoed regardless of whether or not the echo is a response to influence.

    The practice is so widespread in writers’ circles that groups have formed to coordinate follows and re-tweets in a kind of marketing campaign. The sole purpose of this practice is to extend reach in the hopes that some small portion of the larger audience will see the message and a) repeat it again, or b) “buy my book.” Preferably, both.

    It also makes you look like you have more influence than you actually do because it bumps up the numbers that people like Umstattd look at. It’s endemic with groups dedicated to building twitter follower counts, like-me-like-you groups, and even tagging clubs where you tag each others’ work on Amazon — just to help out and to get your work tagged back.

    The problem is that it’s just an echo. The retweets are not really influence. The Likes don’t mean anybody likes you.

    What’s happening is that others merely parrot back the message and spread it out. These are not people who have great influence, even though they may have great reach. What they have is a flock of parrots.

    And parrots don’t buy crackers.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Nathan, your comment here is so thought-provoking. I think you are on the right track. Debbie Macomber, NY Times #1 author, says the same thing. She made her readers one reader at a time. And she works for the relationship you talked about.

      Bless you for taking the time to share. (I’m clipping this to Evernote where I collect brilliant stuff.)

      • Thanks. I’ve been studying online social phenomenon since the 80s, even wrote my doctoral dissertation about how people relate online. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.

        Most social media advice is based on the broadcast model. It’s not wrong, per se, but it ignores the realities of what’s actually possible in the social media sphere by applying old media techniques to new media situations.

  4. This post makes me giddy. Seriously. Every time a new social site pops up, my stomach knots. I use the few I like best, the ones that have really connected me with people. The others I leave alone because they do nothing but suck my time and frustrate me. I like what Robin says. “Shame off you.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Wow, I feel twenty pounds lighter. Thank you, Wendy! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is exactly what I needed to hear.

    A writer friend and I were just chatting last night about our social media platforms and whether to venture into another popular avenue. Every time I’ve leaned that way, something has held me back. So I’ll keep listening to that voice and stick with what I’m already doing.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Sarah, if you are referring to Pinterest, the newest, watch for Rachelle’s blog on March 5th or 6th. I think she’s going to be addressing it. I’ve started using it and I think it’s pure fun– a diversion. I could be wrong but I don’t see it as a marketing tool. (I’ll wait to read Rachelle and see if I change my mind.)

  6. Wow, I’m with Sarah! I think I’ll have to buy a new outfit today for the weight I just shed.

    Thanks, Wendy!

  7. I think I might print out this post and hang it next to my computer. When Pinterest came out I was ready to scream. I love it, but gee, how many places can you be at once? Not only that, these sites are either addicting or just steal your writing time when you feel you must use them.

    Right now I use blogging, Facebook and Twitter–more Twitter than FB. I find it easier to retweet than to like and comment on things on FB. The one thing I don’t do enough is engage people in conversation. I guess that’s my hermit side showing through.

    Thanks for a great post.

  8. Oh, bless you for that!

    My personal life is so mundane, I couldn’t possibly think up anything to say all the time.

    And, yes, “Buy my book!” gets old very quickly.

    But when I have actual news, I’ll be sure and spread it around. ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Amanda Dykes says:

    Wendy, your posts the past 2 days have been such an encouragement! Thank you for that.

    “Donโ€™t create a blog aimed at writers. Thatโ€™s preaching to the choir. Find something that will connect with your readersโ€“ your target audience.” –This is something I’m working on with my blog; trying to keep it connectable for who I think my audience will be.

    My author site connects to my blog, but my blog doesn’t connect to my author site right now, since not everyone knows I’m pursuing publication. I’ve been waiting to mention anything over there until I have news to share; does anyone have input on that decision? One friend already “found me out” when she Google’d me to find my blog and came across my author site instead, hehe.

    On the flipside, on Twitter I’m mostly connected to writers and people in the publishing business. I find it such an amazing tool for the stage I’m in right now, but I do want to start to connect there with who I think my future readers will be, too.

    • Amanda, just another word of encouragement. I know it’s a bit scary to put ourselves “out there,” but for others to take us seriously as writers, we must first slip on our own professional writing cape. I bet your friend was thrilled to see what you’d been up to! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Amanda Dykes says:

        Cynthia, thank you for your encouragement. I feel a little presumptuous making an “author page” before I’m published or on the road to publication, but you and Melissa Norris have both given me some good food for thought that’s changing my perspective. Thanks so much!

  10. Jill Kemerer says:

    Thank you, Wendy! I was so depressed after reading that article the other day. I do my best, but it never seems good enough. When I don’t focus on numbers, I am happy with what I’m doing.

    Social media and I work well together. My brain is like a Nascar track, so I enjoy finding new sites and new ways to connect. I’ve always enjoyed blogging, but the posts I aim for “everyday” people get so many less hits than the ones I aim at writers.

    Enter vlogging. I must be an attention hog, because I love it! My first vlog went live on Monday, and it spurred an idea for a monthly series. My goal is to get new followers based on my target audience–women 18 years or older. I’m just being me and sharing a slice of life each time.

    Thank you for this “real” look at social media!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You can tell how much I have to learn. I used the term vblogging instead of blogging.

      Keep up what you are doing, Jill. Your name is so familiar online because you are always entering into the conversation. I see you many of the places I go. an interesting strategy in itself.

      • Jill Kemerer says:

        See, Wendy, I have WAY too much time on my hands this week! Ha! I’m back again. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Thank you. I’m just really enjoying the conversation here. Everyone is chiming in with such interesting comments AND I found a new FB page to “Like” (thanks Melissa Norris!). See, I guess that’s why you see my name around. I DO enjoy it!

        Have a wonderful night! And keep these inspiring posts coming!

  11. Wendy,
    The effectiveness of Klout, which is promoted in Umstadtt’s post, is a hotly debated topic among marketing and social engagement experts.

    Many trusted marketing experts have deleted their Klout profiles, and encouraged all their followers to do the same.

    Here’s a link to just one of these expert’s rants about Klout’s ineffectiveness:

    With all the tools mentioned in his list, and all the many (many!) others available, I recommend that authors:

    1.) Measure this tool in light of who you are: will using this tool compliment or crush your heart? Uplift you? Or just smother your calling in BUSY?

    2.) Ask yourself WHY you’re considering the tool: is your use of the tool fear based? Or love based? Driven by courage and a passion to reach your readers? Or a fear that compels you to add one more thing to your plate because someone else said you had to?

    3.) Analyze whether this tool is an effective method to reach your audience. The ones God has called you to encourage and bless. If not? DITCH IT.

    4.) Pursue trusted counsel. Seek advice from trusted leaders (Like Wendy and the Books & Such team), before being tossed about on the waves of everyone’s opinion. These days, opinions about what authors “should” be doing are a penny a dozen. Don’t let them drive you schizophrenic. Develop a team of trusted advisers around you, and rely on them in these stormy seas.

    5.) Listen to the coach in your heart. Your time is His. Your calling? His. Your career, His. Be teachable, yes. Be open to growth and new technology, yes. But first and foremost, be fierce about obeying the Coach. He knows what you can sustain over time. He knows what your audience needs.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Good insight, Kelli! And when you say listen to the Coach in your heart, you practice what you preach.

    • I signed up for Klout a few weeks ago because a program I’m involved in for reviewing books is going to start using a Klout score to determine who gets what books, etc. I was surprised to see that President Obama’s score is 91 and mine is around 40-something. So I guess I’m halfway there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I love this, Wendy! And I’ve learned this the hard way. When my agent was shopping my book around, a number of editors said no to that one but asked to see anything else I’d written because they liked my style.

    But I’d been busy “marketing.” Didn’t have another book ready. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

    I still hear so many people talking about doing a lot of these things because they think they have to. But it doesn’t do any good if we don’t have a product to promote to publishers. The writing has to come first.

    And second, third, and probably fourth.

    I still hear of debut novelists who had no online presence when their first book sold. Wasn’t Laura Frantz that way? And Elizabeth Camden? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You are right, Sally. We do lose sight of first things.

      There are a number of people who have emerged from the writing cave with a glorious book and when that happens platform doesn’t matter even in this skittish writing climate. It’s a rare thing and not often replicated (think: To Kill a Mockingbird) but when it happens it’s such fun.

  13. Janet Grant says:

    What great insights. Thanks for sharing, everyone. Nathan, I appreciated your comparing/contrasting reach and influence. You’re so right. And thanks, Kelli, for enumerating ways to decide what social media works for each of us.

  14. Kate says:

    Hallelujah and pass the biscuits…wait, I think it’s Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits…anyway…thank you, thank you for a touch of reality!

    I wish there was a “LIKE” button…I’d like all the above comments.

    My Amish friends in the Ozarks (and I think most Amish communities) make decisions as a community about what they allow into their lives…accepting some changes, but within boundaries.


    Thanks for permission to set some perimeters.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I didn’t know that about an Amish community. How interesting.

      BTW, I thought it was Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

  15. Laura Frantz says:

    Wonderful, wise words, Wendy. After 4 years of publishing, I’ve found that blogging works best for me and helps me connect with my readers in a personal way. A little Facebook can be fun and then the amazing Pinterest is something I’ve just started. The latter feeds my spirit. I killed my Twitter account some time ago as it just isn’t me. Love your words about the writing the books that make one weak-kneed:) Amen to that!

  16. Donna says:

    A breath of fresh air, Wendy! There is a balance and I’m still trying to find mine. I’m much more active on social media when I’m not writing toward a deadline. You’re right – as writers, writing comes first. If we don’t have a project to tweet about, then what’s the point? Great post!

  17. Sarah Thomas says:

    Hallelujah! Amen! This IS a load off. I’ve been blogging for a while now and really enjoy it. Facebook is fine and Pinterest is a hoot. but I can’t bring myself to Twitter. Like Laura, it just isn’t “me.” Thanks for the permission to embrace that.

  18. Great advice. We have to find what works for us. I enjoy chatting with people, I’m a friendly person, and combine it with my love of good books. Oh, my. So a fellow author (we met on Twitter) and I decided to form an online Christian Fiction Book Club. March’s read is Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer. We set up a FB page (social media & a twitter hashtag #Christianbookclub) so if anyone would like to join the fun here’s the FB page.!/pages/Christian-Fiction-Book-Club/306491796078851

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Melissa, I like that you identified what it is about you (your friendliness and willingness to promote other books) before choosing your vehicle for social networking. That’s what we all need to do.

  19. This is SO encouraging, and the comments are helpful, too.

  20. Peter DeHaan says:

    I carve out the time between 5 PM (when my day job is theoretically over) and dinner to read blogs and respond. This has worked extremely well.

    I try to write my blogs Saturday morning, which worked nice for a season but not so much now.

    I still haven’t figured out when to invest in Facebook, Linked, and Google+, while I’m yet to figure out a use for Pinterest.

    As far as my KLOUT score, it is what it is!

  21. Right now my goal is to reach people for God. I have two blogs – one is the wordpress that is linked if you click on my name – it covers healing from abuse – my WIP is a memoir on that subject. I am hoping that I will have established a helpful blog for people and down the road (a long time from now) when my memoir comes out I can mention it and people will buy.
    My other blog is a Xanga blog – and it is notes from Bible studies I attend. I have surpassed 101,000 hits and it is being read by people around the world – that goal is to share the good teachings I sit under so people who don’t have access to teachers have a chance to learn what I’m privileged to learn. that link is www dot xanga dot com/wondering04

    I am not trying to sell other things or make mega bucks. For me the joy is helping others.

  22. Very helpful. What are your thoughts on Triberr? I’ve been trying to figure it out. Heard lots of good stuff as to how to expand a readership.

  23. Wendy,

    Thank you for your counterpoint to Thomas’s post.

    Far too many authors get caught in the “popularity” trap, assuming that having zillions of followers/friends/connections is the key to selling books.

    While having a large following can be helpful, I think we spend too much time obsessing about our visitor statistics. We should be focusing on knowing our ideal reader, crafting a message for that reader, and sharing our message consistently, over time.

    Social media marketing, at its most effective, emulates real-life relationships. Relationships take time to build. They thrive on give-and-take (mostly give).

    In the large scheme of life, no one cares how many Twitter followers you have or what your Klout score is.

    As I participate in social networks, I focus on giving of myself without expecting anything in return. I am always pleasantly surprised at the results.

  24. Lenore Buth says:

    Oh, Wendy, thank you! You’re so right, NO ONE has time for all this along with a husband and family. (Not to mention, um, writing.)

    Thanks for helping us keep sane. God bless.

  25. I love this. And I hope Rachelle gives me permission to kill my Pinterest account. In Christian love.

  26. Sarah Sundin says:

    Just what I needed to hear. Social media sucks more and more time out of each day, and there’s always something new! Just a month or two ago I hadn’t even heard of Pinterest, now I’m suddenly in danger because I’m not on it! Yikes! I see the appeal, and I’m already imagining what I could do there, but honestly, what will have to be sacrificed to do that? My blog? Nope, I need that – although I’ve scaled down this year. Facebook? Nope, my single favorite way to connect with readers. Twitter? I hate it, but I’ve found some great WWII sources there and am gaining a little community. Writing? Absolutely not! That’s what I’m getting paid for! Family and friends? Nope – why God put me here in the first place.

    So…until more hours open up in my day, or my agent makes me (please don’t, Rachel!), I’ll hold off.

  27. Have I told you I love you ;o). Thank you, thank you, thank you. I read that article you referred to and yes, it overwhelmed me. I just kept thinking, “All I wanted to do is write a book.” I hate pushing myself on others. However, I do understand the need to “put myself out there.” But I want to do it with authenticity!!! I am experimenting with Pinterest right now and wondering how that will work. Still don’t know yet, but have provided lots of links to my blog. God bless you.

  28. Robin Patchen says:

    Well said and thank you! Social media is one of those guilt-inducing things we can’t escape these days. If you do it, you feel guilty for wasting time. If you don’t, you feel guilty because you’re not building your platform. So thank you for the breather!

  29. Kristi Holl says:

    You had me laughing before I got through the first long paragraph. I’m certainly going to pass along all three of your “anxiety” posts. Thanks for defusing some of the self-induced angst we’ve developed lately.

  30. I’m late to this discussion because I’ve put my blog reading on hold for the weekends or at night so I can concentrate on writing and the social media on the weekdays.

    Amen to every comment! And, yes, I broke out in hives just reading the first paragraph.

    I read Thomas Umstattd’s post and, while it was helpful, I was already feeling the pressure to have the “numbers” that will impress an editor. But your advice to find what comes effortlessly was so freeing, Wendy.

    My blog is aimed at readers of Christian fiction, but I’m feeling the need to find a more definitive niche, which I will be working on.

    I just started Facebook after putting it off for as long as possible. ๐Ÿ™‚ It seems to be the place where I’m connecting with more than other authors, though, which is important.

    I like Twitter, but it’s become such an advertising outlet (guilty, too) that it’s hard to sort through the endless number of posts for conversation or retweeting.

    Then there’s G+ and Goodreads. Although I enjoy interacting on these sites, as you said, we can’t do it all and do it well.

    Okay, no more obsessing. Must get back to writing. This was very encouraging, Wendy. Thank you!