Easy Come, Easy Go?

Kiera Knightly in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Kiera Knightly in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

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.”



  • eraasch

    Oh, no – what a huge disappointment! I wish you all the best in successfully navigating the social media scene – the introvert in me shudders at the though.

  • ccyager

    So sorry about the demise of that online publication before your story had a chance! Send it to a different online pub right away. Then write some more.

    As for social media, yes, I’d heard the same about having a platform. I have two blogs, am on Twitter and have two public pages on Facebook to publicize my blogs and writing. I’ve discovered that I must spend way too much time on Twitter to get the kind of response that I want. I’m considering hiring someone to do it for me. The Facebook pages have not garnered the attention for my blogs that I’d hoped. I suspect that having social media on your resume is just to reassure publishers that you’re the kind of writer that will work to market your writing. Otherwise, in my opinion, it really doesn’t do what it’s supposed to — at least if a writer is going to have the time to focus on writing.

    Twitter especially is a mystery to me. I’ve also done some work at LinkedIn, joined writer groups there, and participated in discussions. It got me other writers contacting me to buy their books and review them! I don’t think all the work I did there was of much help. My next experiment will be at Goodreads. They seem more focused on books, writing and reading than any of the other social media websites. And they have an author program.

    Good luck with your stories! I hope to read one soon.

    • Mae McDonnell

      Thanks for the input, Cinda. Twitter does seem to primarily be a marketing tool. I think it can probably be effective, if you can develop a following that is meaningful, rather than the writers only following other writers thing that happens. So, now to unlock that…

  • joey

    Bad news about the publisher, but having a finished but unpublished work means it’s always yours to resubmit!
    I’m totally jealous since I have nothing finished.

    I find Twitter refreshing compared to other social media sites. Twitter has brought me readers, yes, but very few consistent readers. What Twitter does do is remove the pretense and bring the laughter. I love to go in there a few times a day and completely crack up.
    Ironically, I also find Instagram to be refreshing for its lack of words…

    • Mae McDonnell

      I followed you on Twitter, Joey, because it sounds like you’re having way more fun than I am!

      As for finishing work, I couldn’t do it without external deadlines. I just submitted something to my local writing group…that would have languished otherwise. I am 99.9% positive of this. That’s pretty much why I have a local writing group, though the feedback is a nice perk!

  • Julie Christine

    Oh, this breaks my heart. I am so sorry about the bitter disappointment. There’s just no making sense of this or anything to say that makes it okay. Keep submitting that piece. An acceptance means another is waiting.

    Re: Author Platform. Yikes. I’m in the midst of this. Honestly, I took me a couple of years to appreciate Twitter. I joined and abandoned it for nearly a year, because it appeared worthless. Then I got hooked up with some weekly writers’ chats and my circles grew and grew. I’ve made some terrific contacts and have come to really love it, but I don’t regard it as a place to make sales. It’s been a wonderful way to meet and network with writers and time will tell if it’s a useful way to interact with readers. I need to do better about curating those I follow, to filter out the things I really don’t want to see.

    Basically, Facebook and Twitter won’t garner you or your writing attention until your work is out in the world. It’s a Catch 22- you have to have a presence to get noticed but you won’t build much of a presence until you get noticed. It just takes time.

    Goodreads is invaluable to me, but I’ve been active there since 2008– years before I became a writer, even more years before my novel became a reality. So, I have this wonderful tribe who know me as a reader and reviewer and are now embracing my book!

    Each little thing you do builds on the next. Finding writers you love as mentors is also key– most love to reach out a hand to lift you up. It’s a very giving community.

    xoxo Julie

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