Friday, September 4, 2009

Exposed!

Friday, September 4, 2009
I’m only comfortable with allowing the public to see so much of my body. I’m not even all that comfortable in a bathing suit. Yes, I feel self-conscious about my almost fifty body. But it’s more than that. Being nearly naked—in an age that focuses on physical perfection—makes me feel exposed. To comments, observations, and judgment. I don’t want to be judged, liked or disliked, on my body, the package—whether it’s too skinny or too saggy. I want people to focus on what’s inside. What makes me tick and what I have to offer.

Now let's apply that train of thought to my profession.

There used to be a time when writers wrote. Period. They poured their time and energy into writing the best story they could and the publisher took it from there. These days a publisher not only wants a great story, a publisher wants to know what you, yes, you—the creative artist—is going to do to market your book.

For now, let’s bypass the time and money spent on conventional promo avenues (bookmarks, print ads, mailing lists, etc.) and focus on the Internet. Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure it’s expected that you participate in social networking—the more the better. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are the big ones. Then there’s Good Reads, Library Thing, Red Room, Amazon Connect … Oh, and blogs. Not only should you have your own, but you should comment on others. Maybe your publisher also has a special place on their website where you can interact with readers.

All in all, that’s a lot of interacting. That’s a boat load of time mingling when you could/should be writing. For awhile I tried to do it all. I wanted to please my publisher. Even more so, I wanted to sell as many of my books as possible. Not because I wanted to make a lot of money (although that would be nice), but because I wanted to cultivate a lot of readers. Spreading joy brings me joy. The more, the better.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who can ‘do it all’ for long periods of time. I started sweating deadlines. Big time. There were others factors, such as the day job, and family obligations/needs. There simply wasn’t/isn’t enough time in the day. But that excuse doesn’t fly far. Bottom line: Missing deadlines is bad.

Something had to go.

The day job is financially necessary. Family is vital. Spinning stories is my passion. That left ‘social networking’. I cut back a little. Then a lot. Whether or not this was wise in the career scheme of things is unclear. I think there are authors who benefit greatly and see a lift in sales because they are incredibly active in the social media circles. Then again, there are authors who seem to be enjoying moderate to great success who I never see participating in any of these Internet venues.

Truth told, aside from a time issue, I’m just not that inspired to blog everyday or to Tweet every five minutes. I’m not all that interesting folks. Also, I’m not comfortable blurting everything and everything that crosses my mind. I don’t want readers to buy and read my books based on ‘me and my life’. I want readers to escape real life and to enjoy the tales that bloomed from my imagination.

A few months ago, when I tried to convince a friend/author to join Twitter, he said to me, “But don’t you ever feel like you’re giving too much of yourself?”

It took me a month or so to comprehend the full meaning of that question. “Don’t you feel too exposed?” Today, my answer would be yes. I don’t want ‘the world’ (and folks, once you put it on the Internet, it is world-wide fodder) to know my every thought. Some things are private. Some things are for my husband only. Or my closest friends only. Or me only.

I suddenly feel very old fashioned. I worry I’m not going to cultivate as many readers as I’d like. At least, not as quickly as I’d like. I worry I’m copping out . . . but at the same time, I’m being true to myself. I’m devoting precious time to writing the stories of my heart rather than rambling on about whatever. I’m protecting my personal life, honoring my personal life, and trusting (hoping and praying) that I will build a vast readership and impressive sales based on my storytelling period. It may take me longer to get to where I want to be, but at least I’ll be content along the way.

Where do you stand on artist exposure? Are you more inclined to ‘support’ the artist’s works if you’re privy to his/her personal life/likes/beliefs? Or are you more interested in the story itself? Do you ever feel authors (actors/musicians--celebs) are over exposed? Does it ever discourage you from investing time and money into their latest project?

Where do you stand on author (actor/musician--celeb) Internet exposure... or overexposure?



SIS Beth

21 comments:

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Great post and something that weighs heavily on my mind.

I have chosen to use a pen name for this reason alone. I don't want to feel exposed. I want to keep my private life private.

I do blog hop and update my status on Facebook. I don't twitter (I don't get it) and I don't MySPace. So, I guess, once again, I fall somewhere right in the middle.

I have read a couple of articles about how much marketing is required/expected of the authors now and I'll admit, it's a tad overwhelming. Not overwhelming enough that I won't go for it but enough to make me determined to learn better time management skills.

So, when I update status or blog hop, it's always about my writing or something within the writing/entertainment realm. I don't share personal life, family life with the outside world, except on occasion with our friends here at SIS. SIS is special and I enjoy learning about the lives of everyone I've met here and I don't mind sharing a bit of me with them. We're all family here!

SIS Barb

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Great topic!

I try to go on and have fun with social networking sites. I don't feel pressure to share things that I shouldn't or don't want to. I consider those part of my professional persona, and I wouldn't share certain things that are meant for family only.

Also, I don't feel I have to go on every day to social network sites. I don't blog daily. But I do try to keep a conversation going and reach out to people and be real. To me, if you're forcing yourself to do something that doesn't feel right, you shouldn't be doing it.

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga said...

Ironic that I stumble across this blog by way of a follower on Twitter who is re-tweeting from someone else...yes, it gets very complicated. :-) And I also do singing and writing. Small world. At any rate, for social media every author should only do what is comfortable for her. No one should feel pressured to do everything. Prioritization and good time management are key.

Lara Zielin said...

Wonderful post! Which I discovered via Twitter. I definitely feel spread thin between my website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I am spending more time on that now than writing...for sure.

I think you hit on the solution to it all in your post, which is balance. You can't do it all, but a little might be worthwhile, as long as the content is within your comfort zone.

Will look forward to reading more comments to see what others have to say. Thanks again for the thoughtful post.

Taylor said...

Wow Beth what an excellent post!! You certainly do have a struggle here being an author, but there was one thing I kept thinking of when reading through this blog: all the work you put into your publishing is paying off. You yourself have said before that you get emails from fans all over the world, which I think is something impressive and heartwarming in itself. All I know is that I'm a fan and you're books are exactly what you describe them as: escapist fun with lots of imagination. I don't know who wouldn't want to read that.

I've seen you do the work - you do have FB, twitter, a blog, all that. And I think you updated them normally - people who update them a million times a day are getting a little obsessive. So you're doing good on your part - now it's time for your publisher's PR department to pick up their end!! I mean, they gotta do something!

jonnyskov said...

Great post!

As a reader, I'm way more engaged in an author's work if I feel connected to them via some online thingie (i.e. Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, etc). That's also where I find out about new authors. From writers I trust.

As a writer, I'm feeling you though! Gaiman and Ellis don't have day jobs! They also have assistants and stuff! And their children are either grown up or at least old enough to make a sandwich for themselves if necessary. And when they did have day jobs and small children, they weren't mucking about with Twitter, they were just writing.

I don't know how to reconcile this conflict. I think it is possible to be successful without a gajillion web homes. China Mieville comes to mind. He doesn't even had a static website. But today's reading crowd is not the crowd of 20 years ago. For better or worse, if you want a lot of readers, it does make a difference to reach out. I just try to do the ones that I actually like (yes Twitter and Blog, no Facebook and MySpace) and try to come up with a system that is streamlined enough that it doesn't get in my way.

Tori Lennox said...

Great post, Beth!

I have a blog and I'm on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. But I rarely go on MySpace except to read other people's posts. Frankly, I really don't like MySpace. It seems clunky and takes forever to load some pages even with high speed Internet service. I rarely use Twitter because I find it too confusing and busy. I can't keep up! Though I suppose that's my fault for following too many people.

But Facebook? Facebook is the love of my social networking life. You can usually find me there all day, every day. But I'm there under my real name and will remain so unless they nuke my current account for mysterious unknown reasons. But I've met cousins I didn't even know existed a few months ago and reconnected with people I knew from high school. It's fun!

And I blog every single day even when I have nothing to say. *g* So I have hopes that all this will stand me in good stead once I'm actually published. Notice I didn't say IF. :)

Sisters-in-Sync said...

WOW! Just checking in quickly from work. Welcome first timers and 'hey there' regulars. I very much enjoyed your thoughts and actually want to comment to each of you. You made some great points and observations. Will respond when I get home from work. Please check back!

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Barb--

I think you're doing a reasonable and effective amount of social networking. I try to remind myself that quality outshines quanity. Hard to give your best when you're spread too thin. Your input here on SIS and on FB is always thought provoking, inspiring and/or entertaining. And I'm sure you're participation as a commenter on other blogs is appreciated. Stay the course, little sister!

As for sharing a few personal/family things here at SIS... I think that's only natural. I would guess that part of the allure of this blog is that we are not only following like dreams, but that we are family. (Oy, now that song's in my head.)

At any rate, I, for one, am very impressed by how wonderfully you are networking. No worries!

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Rhonda,

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. It sounds like you have a healthy attitude about social networking. I like your style. Mind if I borrow it? *g*

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Wendy,

You're a sing and a writer, too? Then you're a kindred soul! Please do stop back by time to time.

Re: Twitter... although it may have sounded like I took a swipe at Twitter, I actually find that social networking center most effective--from a time managment perspctive. I like that I have very few 'characters' to share my thoughts. Short and to the point. The best part is that Twitter offers widgets that you can upload to your MySpace and Facebook page as well as your website and blog. When I sign on to Twitter and post, that post automatically goes to MySpace, FB, my website and personal blog. So in one visit and click, new content goes to every site. One-stop posting. Gotta love that. I tweet mostly once a day--usually with an alert and link to visit here for the day's topic. Or... sometimes I Tweet about something crazy one of my pets has done... or about reaching a goal--but that's about as personal as I get!

Thanks you for sharing your thoughts!

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi, Lara,

Thanks for stopping by! I agree. Social networking is worthwhile. You visiting here today is a prime example. As you said, the key is balance. I'll let you know when I find it. :)

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Taylor--as always I so enjoy your input! I'm glad you think I'm doing a decent job of social networking. I have to admit I lurk more than participate. I especially enjoy keeping up on the lives of friends, family and biz associates via FaceBook!

But enough about me. Are you loving your new apartment or what?

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

jonnyskov,

I'm a fan of Gaiman's journal, too. Pretty darn awesome. I'll have to check out Ellis's.

You have a good point. Many well-earning authors don't have day jobs and many do have assistants. That certainly opens up a bit more time for social networking. If they truly enjoy the interaction then I say more power to them!

I also agree that the reading audience of today is not the reading audience of 20 years ago. Times have absolutely changed. I work at my local library. Yesterday I had to take a course to learn about new services we're offering patrons. They don't even have to come into the library. They can download audio books and ebooks to their PC, Mac, Sony Readers, and MP3 players for a specified 'loan' period. There were other options as well. Also, as a way of reaching out to teens and young moms, we're now offering updates and alerts vis texting! Yup. It's a new world. In order to thrive, it's not wise to ignore the new technological advances and venues. I guess it's all about finding your comfort zone.

Thank you for the wise input.

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Tori, I'm with you. Facebook is an amazing place to hook up with friends and family. I, too, have connected with relatives I hadn't seen or heard from in years. It would be very easy for me to spend several hours there a day. Must. resist. *g*

As for MySpace, I was very active when I first signed on, but, I never felt totally comfortable there. Also, I didn't see any evidence of it boosting my readership in any way, so, although I maintain the site, I only update via my Twitter widget and before a book release.

As for Twitter, skim, woman, skim! :) There's no way I can keep up with all the posts, however I do skim and often find interesting industry news and links to great articles. Also, it's a keen way to keep up with some of your friend's lives. Although you do that via FB.

As for you and your blog... your blog is awesome! Keep on keepin' on!

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Wow! This is great. I love all this feedback today. It's great to hear others thoughts on this topic. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments and hope each of you will drop by again.

SIS Barb

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Beth,

I loved this post! It is a topic I have thought of often. Every day, I wonder how people do it. How do they have the time to participate in all the different social networking sites AND have any life at all. After working a full time job, getting kids from school, getting them to and from after-school activities, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, homework, the SIS blog...you get the idea. It's been weeks since I've commented on my Facebook. Yet I see people who comment several times a day. I absolutely understand how keeping up with MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. would drastically take away from your writing time.

As to whether or not knowing personal things about an artist would influence me to support their work, the answer is a big NO. I buy books and read them because I want to be entertained. The only thing I need to know about an author is whether or not they can help me escape into another world for an hour or two a day.

Great post!
SIS Bren

~Sia McKye~ said...

Beth, I'm doubly honored you did blog with me and hope you will again.

I hear you on time. Realistically, one must set priorities. You've done that. I do that. I don't have the time to comment on the fifty blogs I follow for every post. I do try to hit them all once a week, and then read a few during the week, usually my favorites. I have to schedule time for that, and time set aside for my blog, which I do love. But my family has to come first, then my writing. The rest has to fall somewhere after that.

While I take care what I do say and how I say it online, I'm also a very private person. May not seem that way but people learn what I don't mind handing out and it's seems open but there's a definite wall behind that smile. lol! Private things stay that way.

Yes, I think some celebrities and authors are way to overexposed. Definitely too many TMI moments.

What draws me to an author...

Good writing and storytelling abilities. Yes, knowing a bit about them draws me. The personality behind the books. Sometimes it's the personality that helps me find a new author to read or try a book I wouldn't normally pick out to read. So I personally think it's an important part of writing/promotion to interact with readers or do some blogging or the occasional updates on facebook. No one says one must tell all but two or three updates a week are not too much IMO.

Bottom line, promotion by authors are a way of life these days. Building a readerbase is vital to be successful and that combines both being a good writer and a bit of a personality.

I like knowing a bit about the person behind the books but that can be a social personality. I don't need to know the personal and no one does. Are they warm and friendly? Do they care enough about their readers to respond to their comments or questions. Are they willing to share a BIT of themselves. That draws me. I also realize some are intensely private and that's fine. I don't believe in prying.

I've worked so long with confidentiality that it's automatic with me now. I've learned many things as blog hostess that I would NEVER share with the public. Loyalty is very important to me.

Enjoyed your thoughts Beth.

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Sia,

You're gonna kill me. I just went to FB and requested your friendship! I couldn't resist. Have a great and hopefully slightly less hectic day!

SIS Barb

~Sia McKye~ said...

Fine by me. :-) Saw it and confirmed it.

Olga said...

Great post, Beth! I've thought about the pressure on the writer not just write but promote any way possible. Your networking skills are great, but that said, I understand why you needed to cut back. I think there should be some middle ground where networking is fun and useful but not, so to say, "into your face."

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