Social networking is a complete waste of time and a royal pain in the ass. Unless you want to sell books. Or aluminum siding. Or lemonade. Or anything else. Or unless you want a job, a date, or tips to improve your golf swing.
Writers often forget that real people need only two things: food and shelter. Everything else is a frill. When we pay a guy ten million dollars a year to play a kid’s game or an actor fifteen million dollars to play dress-up, it’s easy to lose perspective. The truth is that nobody needs the Super Bowl or Avatar or American Idol.
And they certainly don’t need my books.
Which means I’d better make those books worth their while to read. That’s easier to do if they know who I am. It’s even easier if they like me.
Social networking—remember when we used to call it “making friends?”—has become vital for any author who plans to do more than write a journal and stick it in a trunk. I’ve started blogging—hey, you’re reading this, aren’t you?—but I can’t see myself twittering or tweeting. How can you take it seriously when the verbs evoke images of canaries on speed?
I am on Facebook and Classmates (I’ve even volunteered to help with my high school reunion this fall), and I will soon have a Web site, but my favorite forms of “social networking” involve face-to-face communication. It’s part of that Do-Something-For-Others-So-They-Will-Do-Something-For-You compact.
Every word I’ve published—not that you’re going to mistake me for Joyce Carol Oates (I’m taller)—is because someone gave me a hint or a contact. Now I’m trying to pass that generosity along. As Harlan Coben puts it, “Nobody else has to fail so that I can succeed.”
I love to run a writing workshop and watch people discover the magic in their own words. I’m starting to arrange library events (we used to call them “readings”) for my own novel because I love talking with real people—“tweeting,” my ass—and hearing their reactions and questions. I love the visceral contact of shaking hands. And if people like the way I treat them, maybe they’ll give the book a chance.
I joined the Guppies for critiques and info groups because if I want feedback, I should give it, too. The best part was actually meeting two dozen members at Crime Bake last fall and putting faces and voices to the e-mail addresses on my monitor. I volunteer for Crime Bake. I contribute—far too rarely—to other blogs. I wrote a study guide for a book Hallie Ephron cited in 1001 Books For Every Mood. We used to call all this stuff “sharing,” and it was a big deal when I was growing up.
Now I’ve started research for a new novel, interviewing a man and woman last Saturday night. I met them at a Roller Derby match, and their combined age probably totals 2/3 of mine (Remember why you hated word problems in math?). I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun. Well, I do, but that’s between me and my parole officer.
My daughter, who also does Roller Derby and is designing that Web site I mentioned above, is giving me the names of a referee and three players from other teams so I can interview them, too.
Social networking? Nah. It’s making friends.