Mr. Bennet treated the matter differently. “So, Lizzy,” said he one day, “your sister is crossed in love I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love a little now and then. It is something to think of, and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions. When is your turn to come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Now is your time. Here are officers enough at Meryton to disappoint all the young ladies in the country. Let Wickham be your man. He is a pleasant fellow, and would jilt you creditably.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
I had planned on sharing the news with you today of my first publication, a flash fiction story about two people who meet in a diner near a college campus. “The Diner” was due to be published this morning in The Saturday Night Reader, an online and print magazine that specializes in stories under 1,000 words.
Instead, I must share with you the sad news of the end of The Saturday Night Reader, as I received notice this past weekend that they closed their doors for good on Sunday.
Well, okay then.
It is far worse news for them than it is for me, of course, but I must admit to a deep disappointment. After so many years of writing privately, it was a great relief to have a story sell so quickly after I started submitting. To finally be able to call myself a published author was a validation that all of this time and effort actually was leading me somewhere. I know that I will get there again, but I need to grieve a little first.
So there. That’s the grieving done.
One piece of writing advice that you hear over and over again is that you need to have a social media platform to have any chance of success with traditional publishers. This is because the publishing industry is struggling enough (thanks, Amazon!) that taking financial risks on unknown authors is harder to do. Having a successful social media platform tells a publisher how many fans the author already has, which lets the publisher make a guess at how much money they might make off that author. It’s just business, baby.
Other than this blog, I had held off on spending time developing any of this, because it felt like I was wasting time that would be better spent writing. But with a publication pending, I finally set up a Twitter feed and set myself to learning about marketing. It…has been an interesting learning curve. After nearly a month of “interactions,” I still haven’t figured out how to get meaningful conversation and contacts out of it, even though I gain new followers daily.
My greatest puzzlement has been my followers — the first of which found me before I had posted any content. I quickly discovered the game of Twitter, as it applies to the writing community, which is to follow lots of other writers so that they will follow you back. We all win from this — we all appear to be very popular. But does it translate to book sales? And, when you follow thousands of people, how do you get any meaningful content out of the Twitter feeds that you read?
I admit it. Social media does this introvert’s head in. Won’t you be my friend/reader/mutual followee anyway?
So here’s a serious question for you Twitterers and writers. What tactics do you use to make social media worth your time? How do you turn the constant chatter (or the loudest-chirp contest) into something that works for you? Did playing the follower game translate into professional success?
While I puzzle over the mystery that is the modern world, I’m back to working on polishing some more short fiction for submission. Stephen King gave a piece of advice in his book On Writing that I have kept close to my heart over the last few months. If you have enough work submitted, then it doesn’t matter when the rejections come — you still have hope for the fate of the submissions that you’ve yet to hear back on.
So, cheers, Stephen King. I’ll clink this glass to yours as each rejection comes in — after all, I’m one of your 971,000 nearest and dearest “friends.”