Authors are constantly told that we must have a “Facebook presence” — it’s as necessary as a website.
But we can’t go on Facebook only to promote our books. Readers find that borrrring. They want to get to know us, to chat with us about personal things that have nothing to do with our books. If they find us interesting as people, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll be moved to take a look at our books.
Some writers have revolted and dropped off Facebook or refused to join in the first place. Others do the forbidden: they have only professional author pages, not personal pages, and they post about nothing but books, usually their own and sometimes upcoming books from other writers on their publishers’ lists. And some find genuine friends, old and new, on Facebook and enjoy chatting with them about myriad topics.
I’ve been in that last group, but I’m increasingly tempted to join the first and abandon Facebook altogether. That it’s a time-waster is undeniable. And if you care at all about the world around you, it’s not good for your blood pressure and peace of mind. Scrolling through the newsfeed brings up countless posts about politics, guns, and all manner of horrific happenings in every part of the world. It’s worse than 24-hour news. If you’re female, you also have to contend with the obnoxious trolls who send out private messages to women (dozens at a time, apparently) in the hope of starting some sort of relationship.
When I started my personal Facebook page, I “friended” the writers and other people I already knew, such as the panda fanciers, then I pretty much stopped soliciting friends. But I approved almost everyone who sent me a friend request, and I’ve ended up close to the limit of 5,000. Some of those people, I’ve discovered to my regret, have nothing to say that I am interested in hearing. Their politics appall me, their rants on social issues disgust me, their lack of compassion and kindness toward the less fortunate saddens me. I see these people’s posts because, for whatever reason, they sent me friend requests and I allowed them onto my friends list. I have generally refrained from commenting on their posts because I know better than to jump into a pool full of sharks. But if I post something political on my own page, such as a positive statement about the president, I can count on people I’ve never interacted with before popping out of the cyber woodwork to denounce me. I unfriend them and wonder why I bother with Facebook.
I’ve been online, in various groups of writers and readers, for many years, but I’ve never experienced anything like Facebook before. Every day I see the ramblings and rants of a multitude of strangers, mixed in with posts from people I like and want to stay in contact with. There’s a panda group I do not want to give up, and personal friends whose posts and photos I would miss terribly if I left. I’ve tightened my settings to allow only people on my friends list to see my personal page, and lately I’ve started culling that list, but I’ll admit the newsfeed drives me crazy.
Have I sold any books by being on Facebook? Some, I’m sure. A few people have told me they learned about my books on Facebook. But I’ve probably offended plenty of people too by letting my liberal political leanings show.
What’s a writer to do? We’re expected to be on Facebook to promote our books, but we’re not supposed to spend our Facebook time relentlessly promoting our books. We’re supposed to let our personal selves come through, but when we do we’re just as likely to make enemies as friends. And that could (gasp!) hurt book sales.
Writers in the pre-internet age had no idea how fortunate they were.