I see so much fakery online, particularly since I started on the Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing Project. People talk about authenticity, but when authenticity includes Rihanna explaining why she did not bother to design her own shoe collection, you realise that people basically jump on linguistic bandwagons without considering what the words they use actually mean, never mind whether it means anything to anyone. I seriously offended a few Rihanna fans, when I pointed this out at the time.
Last week, I happened upon a ‘social media guru’ advising his apparently adoring fans on how to achieve – wait for it – 125 hits on your blog using twitter. He wrote an entire post on it, with largely useless and irrelevant advice, so that you too could achieve a small fraction of what I achieve with every single post, and I do that without an subscriber list or tremendous amount of effort. I am sorry to say that this guy has evidently missed the entire point of Twitter.
Likewise, people like David Wolfe put a tremendous amount of time and money into achieving massive follower lists, by hook or by crook, as investors and media alike like to be validated by looking at largely fake numbers on Twitter and Facebook. I think I have about 50 likes on the Ina Disguise page on Facebook, and I have 25,000 regular readers, and another 16,000 or so who find me in the bookshops rather than on the website.
You could say that I am stupid for not taking all the conventional advice on offer, for not bothering with vanity advertising on facebook or google, for not bothering with heavy marketing budgets or promotion, but the reality is that fake followers are worthless, that your regular readers like to dip in and out of your topics, depending on what they are, and that they do not want to commit to hanging on your every word without you providing something unique and special.
What is important is getting your work into the right hands, very easy for somebody well connected such as Nigella Lawson, who did not even have to know anything about cooking, but extremely difficult for everybody else. Matt Haig was lucky enough to be circulated amongst the ‘right people’ for his book on depression, and now he gets media coverage before he even writes the book. As he is on my friends list on facebook, I have a peep now and again, and he is an extremely unassuming guy. One of the writers on the Hunger Games also friended me for a while, and he was also very dull.
Really what I am trying to say is – you will not get your follower number on your gravestone, and it is entirely meaningless in terms of being picked up by someone who matters. It just isn’t how social media works. Spending your time and money inflating your numbers, is time and money you would be far better to invest on producing better work and thinking of ways of getting it to the right people.
The only people impressed by huge numbers, are people who seek to leech from you as much as provide you with opportunities. It is a marketing con, designed to promote flotsam over serious content, and unless you plan to produce endless flotsam at a rapid rate, it is not much use to you.
For Wolfe, I can understand it. He is interested in ignorance. Ignorance pays the bills. Ignorance lasts for a year or so, and ignorance makes money when people want a fast solution rather than acquiring any knowledge. Wolfe is in the ignorance business. He has taught me an awful lot about the difference between depth and distribution, and he is right about many things. He is right, and he is wealthy, at the expense of being respected or particularly liked long term.
Especially for writers, there is a wealth of useless vanity advertising that you could indulge yourself with, but it will not get you into the hands that help. Spending your time oiling up a crew of equally vacuous authors and hangers-on on facebook may sell a few books, but it does not demonstrate love of your craft or a development of your skill. It is up to you which you prefer, but as with most things, success does not correlate with talent or skill.
On the first day of my author’s page on facebook, I was attacked by a gaggle of genre writers who refused to believe that anybody could write in several genres for the same series, which was essential for the Best Ever and Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing series to attract people to David Wolfe. This was considered rookie madness. It has, as any raw foodist will tell you, been a very successful strategy rather than churning out yet more tiresome raw recipe books that only raw foodies will read in terms of numbers.
At the same time, another writer complained that nobody should put out free work. A year later she complained that she could only dream of the numbers I had reached, with minimal effort. She is still churning out the same Agatha Christie rip-offs and her sales number in the hundreds.
My journalist friend asked with considerable disinterest how I was doing, as she is in this ‘no free work’ school of thought. My view is – get over yourself – your first two books will be worthless, your third might be OK, and why on earth should anyone want to pay for an unknown author, any more than they would pay to hear a pop song for the first time? You have to establish yourself. Yes, an email subscription might be a good idea, but it is probably better for you, and better for your readers, if you spend your first few years establishing your name, learning your craft by putting out some free work and seeing what works for you. There is a host of options for doing this, some are covered in previous posts (see Shameless self-promotion)
Look a bit more closely at the big names you admire. Are they really any good? Rather than matching up to the numbers, look at actually being better than they are, regardless of the financial benefits. You will be a lot happier with lower financial, and higher personal expectations.