I have often thought of myself as the kid in The Emperor’s New Clothes. You know, the one who points out the emperor’s buck naked? I look at things that others take for granted and ask WTF. This does not aid my popularity. Most people don’t want to be pointed out as fools, no matter how the fairy story goes. I’m about to open my mouth again, so get ready for the tar-and-ruffled-feathering.
I signed on to Facebook back in December of 2010 for the sole purpose of using it to promote my writing. I had nothing published at the time, but I figured I’d require some time to adjust to social media. I adjusted, and not quite a year ago I established a page for my series, Lisen of Solsta. Dropped like a dead balloon. An initial rush of 18 likes and then nothing for many moons. I let the page languish, occasionally posted bits of news and then moved on, remaining active on my personal page.
About a month ago, after posting a comment to Anne Rice’s page, I was contacted by a wonderful man who edits books for a living and who, even after I declined his offer of editing my next book, shared my page with others and invited them to like it. I got to 30 likes within a couple of days. This opened up the world of Facebook’s analysis and various data on the activity on my page.
Over the next several weeks, I got to 49, but I’ve been stuck there for a week. Can’t get one more person to like my page to get me up to 50, and I’ve been somewhat of a pain in the butt about it. How come all these other writers are crowing about 300 likes, 400 likes, and I can’t even get to 50. Yeah, how come? I don’t know the answer, but I do know something and I’m about to dress down the emperor.
Here’s how I likely got most of likes 19 through 49. Message to my page: “Hi, just liked your page. Please like mine.” With appropriate link to get me there. Dutifully I would comply. I was networking, and this was great. Making friends with other writers. What a rush! What I didn’t know was a page cannot like a page, so all those pages liking my page didn’t count towards my quantity of likes. Nor did my like count if I got there directly from my page. (Check it out; you don’t even have to like it.)
But I digress, ever so slightly. My point is this. Anne Rice has over 700,000 likes. Her “People of the Page” are readers of her books, fans of her books, hence fans of hers. They didn’t make a deal with her that if they liked her page, she’d reciprocate by liking theirs. She earned those likes because she is a writer who has written multiple best sellers and influenced these people’s lives to the point where they wanted to share some little part of her by participating on her page.
Not so with my likes #19 through #49. I had to barter for their love. Are any of them actually interested in what I’ve written? I believe one or two have bought my book, and maybe they’ll read it one day. But the rest? A deal struck between two attention-starving artists. How can that be right?
And more. Most of these writers with their multiple hundreds of likes pound out one book, seek out little or no counsel on what they’ve written, maybe edit it once, maybe—just maybe—proofread it once, then toss it up onto Amazon for Kindle publication. Because that’s all there is to writing, right? Who cares if the grammar and punctuation suck? Who cares if the sentence structure is shit? Who cares if the formatting looks entirely unprofessional? Writing is writing, right?
Wrong. Writing is a craft, a skill honed over time. Like a blacksmith with a sword, a real writer pounds the steel once and calls it a first draft, then folds it over on itself, often many, many times, until she can offer up a weapon which in its unity is much stronger than its components (in this case, the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, the scenes and the chapters become a work of art known as a book). She allows others to beat the steel so that her weaknesses get worked out of the metal by the strengths of others. Writing is a craft, and it is work. Making up a story isn’t writing; it is merely mental masturbation. It is in the execution that mastery can shine, but only if one is willing to give over large chunks of her soul.
I know I’ve gone on long enough for a single blog, but here’s the thing. All those likes for writers (many of whom do not respect the craft) from other writers (many of whom do not respect the craft) are empty. Just a popularity contest. Yeah, the more likes you have, the more attention Facebook pays you, but they signify one thing and one thing only—how many asses you had to kiss to get them. These people aren’t your fans; they’re bartering partners. I’d rather my likes came from my fans. And if that number remains at 18, I can live with that. Because those people can’t wait to read my second book, and I don’t want to disappoint them.
Check out my web site which will connect you with, amongst other things, my Lisen of Solsta Facebook page.