Do authors have to be on social media? 

One of the frustrating things about the book business is the perceived need to be on social media. Or rather, the belief you should be on social media to promote your writing. Even if you are traditionally published, publishers expect you to be active and have a reasonable following. 

I think Facebook launched in Australia in 2006; don't quite recall. I avoided it for some time and then thought it was pretty good to use, but for the last few years, I've found it toxic and a complete waste of time. I like Instagram because it is visual, but my dogs post far more than I do! I joined Twitter in 2008 and just had my 14 year anniversary but don't tweet a lot. Twitter has become as toxic as Facebook and there's an expectation to be witty. I decided to try out TikTok in early 2022, and so far, I like it but can see it would take a lot to be "viral." TikTok is a visual Tumblr, and I simply don't have the time or enthusiasm to make videos miming to things or showing a glimpse of my daily (and fairly pedestrian) life. 

I'm a private person and feel no need for the world to know what I ate for breakfast. I would delete all my social media accounts if I could and am considering it, but there's a niggling thought - how do I promote my writing? Not that I promote it much because no one wants to see constant posts about "buy my book" or "please leave me a review." 

So, I was pondering: is social media effective anymore and are there any authors who don't use social media? This interesting article says what we probably already suspect - Facebook doesn't have the reach anymore, particularly for authors.  There used to be good organic reach, but Facebook is too noisy now and my time is better spent writing. Same with Instagram, which is essentially about aesthetics. Have pretty posts? You'll do well and bookstagram is good for reviews. Twitter? Well, who knows how that will end up now that Elon Musk has bought it but it's certainly changed over the 14 years I've been on Twitter. If you're political or controversial, sure, you might do well. TikTok is dominated by fantasy authors who all seem to be around 12 years of age. But I have to say that it's by far the most effective marketing tool.

The best advice I've read is to have an author website and keep at it by posting blog content. Get a conversation going with potential readers. On social media, no one is interested in your writing journey because everyone else is probably on their own writing journey (we all have a book in us, right?) and busy promoting their own books.

There are authors who avoid social media - Zadie Smith, Leila Slimani, non-fiction author Cal Newport, and Haruki Murakami. Others I've read about limit their social media engagement to only one hour every Sunday or a few hours per week.

I cut down my social media engagement drastically in 2021, and that's how I managed to write On Jacaranda Street as well as edit all these books.

How about you? Do you think writers must have a strong social media presence? Are you still enthused about social media?

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