Experimenting is a fun part of life, right? It’s also a necessary part of life when embarking on new adventures. Publishing has required some necessary experimentation on my part. Last year I dabbled in social media. I met some very smart, articulate, well-read, kind, and successful people on a couple of platforms. I tried to create content for this audience and… I couldn’t find my voice.
You know that scene from Only Murders in the Building, the one where Selena Gomez forbids Steve Martin and Martin Short from using TikTok? I love that scene. She might as well have been talking to me. My out-of-touch millennial was showing every time I opened my TikTok. Yikes did I feel old on that app. Closing shop there was a no brainer.
I tried harder on Instagram, but when the most exciting part of your week is baking cookies on Friday… that doesn’t exactly an audience make. Plus what do cookies have to do with my books, my writing, my stories? A lot if you only knew how many of them I eat when I’m in a revision/edit cycle.
But the point is the content I was painstakingly making (because I’m not a video editor or a photographer but am a writer and love to obsess over my words even if I fail to catch the typos) was fairly random and led the casual observer to believe I was writing a cookie cookbook and not fairy tale retellings or cosplay rom-coms… not that those two genres feel cohesive… at all.
People who have more experience and knowledge regarding social media platforms talk a lot about branding. When I asked why I wasn’t growing my audience, I was told, “Cookies are not your author brand. You are your author brand!”
But I don’t want to be a brand. I want to be me. But also, I don’t want to be me on social media. Because I like my privacy. But more to the point, being authentically me requires a lot of vulnerability and trust. I’m a real woman, a wife and mom. I have a perfectly pleasant face, but this face includes both wrinkles and acne… I don’t want to put it out there with the baby-faced GenZers or the rich/famous who have better bone structure and can afford botox. I don’t want to feel like my face is competing with other faces for attention. How did this even become about my face? I just want to share the stories I love and write more books.
By now in my social media experiment, I had met some unsavory characters on IG and had noticed that I was indeed susceptible to the mind games that we endlessly warn our young people about. I was comparing all my failures to the triumphs of all those other IG authors. In my attempts to chase growth and apply all the branding best practices I’d learned, I was attaching more and more of my face to my brand with nothing tangible to show for it. Maybe if I was prettier, younger, thinner, or funnier I’d be successful like those other authors? Maybe if I was more confident in front of the camera, more authentic, more articulate or poised I’d be able to launch my books successfully? Meanwhile less and less of what I enjoy (crafting stories) was getting done. I was neglecting both my blog and my newsletter, which other branding experts promise is the real secret sauce to marketing. Whatever. I really just want to write and share the stories I love.
Maybe I could just post about that?
Nope. No. Nooooo. Because someone is always writing faster. Someone is always having a better time getting the words in. Muses play favorites. BTW no one cares if you are writing a sequel to either of your first two books. You’re an imposter who eats too many cookies. Keep scrolling, poser.
I was in a weird place. I didn’t want to post about my lack of writing, lack of reviews… So I wondered if I should pivot. What if I just reviewed books on my social media? I’ve been reduced to tears because other authors and readers left kind reviews on my books. But people want starred reviews. Uh-oh. That’s not going to work. I don’t rate books the same as other people. I can’t make myself give a book five stars if the writing didn’t sparkle, characters didn’t feel real, and ending didn’t satisfy. But I can find the good parts in every effort. This is about growth, and I am here for that. But wait… Is it ethical to review books, if I’m also in the business of writing books? Do I need to put a disclaimer in every one of my reviews. Will I get canceled if I get this wrong?
Maybe I can just post pics of my TBR. But what if I DNF the book after I post a picture? Also… I don’t read fast enough to generate enough content. If I’m writing/revising/editing I average less than one book a month. That’s not going to make for much content.
And why was I spending so much time thinking about content strategies when this all started because I liked writing stories?
This is where my mind was flailing when my mom got sick. Then her socials got hacked (and not in a casual way). My dad got sick. My son–you know what, let’s just say the medical stuff got complicated.
So I quit IG, knowing that I had a 30 day window to change my mind. The thirty days came and went. Real life was too extra for me to question that choice. And now that life has slowed down I wondered if I had made a mistake–all that time and effort trying to engage, making content, capturing so many pretty pictures of cookies–it’s all gone.
Of course cold-turkeying IG has left more time for going back to school, reading more of the books on my nightstand, baking cookies, and revising/editing. Speaking of editing. I have 111 edits left to make on my current project. Wish me luck.