Being anti-Social (Media) - 3 Things A Writer Should Use to Promote Their Work


The last week or so have been particularly tough, especially where my mental health is concerned. Things began to pile up, stress grew and finally on Friday I had a very bad anxiety attack. I'm going to take a look at the causes of this latest episode, the steps I'm taking to move forward, and the three things I think every writer should focus on to help get the word out about their work.


I was diagnosed as a sufferer of anxiety and depression back in 2016 and have been able to manage the anxiety attacks at first through medication and then by recognising the signs and adapting my behaviour accordingly.


Until Friday, I hadn't needed to take my tablets for about a year, they had become an "in case of emergency" option. Friday that emergency came, but it hit totally out of left field. I didn't see it coming. I'd actually had a good day - spent some time in Derby Courts researching aspects for my next book, I'd started a new outline, and I was looking forward to my birthday coming up next week.


But then I fell down the rabbit hole of news, and what with the cost-of-living crisis, the mini-budget that was supposed to help (if you are a wealthy banker or just rich in general), the war in Ukraine looking like it is going to escalate very badly and all the comments and arguments online that accompanied these headlines, and my stress levels suddenly dialled up to 11.


Everything was too much and too little all at the same time. The walls pressed in tight around me, but I could also see the landscape ahead and it seemed too vast to navigate. My first two books were out, doing okay by all accounts and my third was with the editor. I have a plan that will take me writing all the way through 2025, so plenty to keep me occupied, and as the books get released my backlist grows and, fingers crossed, our income grows as well.


The warning signs had started flickering but I had either ignored them, or felt I needed to push on because of how things were (more about this below). Either way, my anxiety was starting to grow.


But we'd just spent hundreds on an unexpected vet bill, our food budget has dropped from £100 a week to £60 a week. Luckily, our new vegan lifestyle means this isn't as bad as it sounds as fresh veg and fruit are not as expensive; neither are the beans, lentils and nuts we use in cooking. We've cancelled our phones, cancelled Netflix, negotiated a better deal with our broadband provider (we're keeping Disney+ - I need my Star Wars and Marvel to keep me sane!) Like millions across the country we're finding what we need and where we can cut back.


But it is stressful. And when you have a history of anxiety, the smallest things can be a trigger.


So what has this to do with Social Media?


As I mentioned above, the warning signs had been flickering. As a new author, literally no-one knows who I am or what I write. The automatic response is: Use social media. Promote yourself. Push yourself. Tell people about your book, what you're doing. Tweet it, post it, make a video. And I did that. I did that to such an extent, Twitter started blocking my links.

















This was the first warning sign that something wasn't right. I don't spam; my links were all perfectly safe, but my worry about not being seen, not being "active" over-rode my better judgment and so every morning while enjoying my first coffee of the day I would create new promotional images, and then schedule about eight or nine tweets to go out through the day. Copy-Paste a bit of text from one of the eighty or so "posts" I'd created in a special document, add in the links and, hey-presto! Twitter won for the day!


I would then jump on throughout the day, retweet a few people, follow a couple, read the news headlines. Same with Facebook, same with Tik-Tok (although I use that in the evening to watch videos of cats).


But I thought I was doing what needed to be done. Getting the word out. All I was doing was probably pissing off people who just saw the same continuous tweets every day. Looking at the click-throughs, not many were following the links anyway. So why was I stressing myself out (unknowingly until Friday night when I just blew up and broke down all at the same time? More importantly, what should I do instead?


S.O.D.A is the way


In my store management days, I would S.O.D.A everything. If you're not familiar with this planning technique here's a very brief overview.


With a particular topic in mind, sit down with a sheet of paper and put these four headings:

  • Situation Now - what's happening? What are you specifically concerned about?

  • Outcome Desired - what do you want to happen?

  • Deadlines - when are you going to achieve this by?

  • Action Steps - what are you going to do, to achieve your outcome?

It works for everything and really helps get things clear in your mind. So that's what I did, with the concern of promotion and marketing at the forefront. This helped bring focus back and showed me what I needed to concentrate on. Another famous acronym is K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) and my new plan was that. I had narrowed down my focus from a wide beam to a pinpoint. I read several articles online about the benefits and weaknesses of all the major social networks in relation to being an author, and I identified the three areas I would now focus on.


1. WEBSITE


As you're here, you have seen the new website. Gone is the blogger version, which was good to begin with, but I needed a more professional looking site. One where I could post the details of my books, the events I would be attending (see point 3.) and contact details. With KISS in mind, I designed this minimalist site so that it wouldn't need much in terms of maintenance. My time should be spent writing the next book, not dicking around with code (or Tweeting, or Facebooking).


Everything a reader might like to know is here. Where to buy my books, where I'm going to be; there's even this blog (under the heading News) where each week I can write lengthy posts like this one to give you, the reader, a deeper insight into my work, my process and a bit about me in general. There may even be some snippets from my current WIP if you're good.


2. NEWSLETTER


The next point I will be focusing on is a monthly newsletter, sent out on the last Sunday of every month. I did have one before with quite a following, but I had to stop doing it due to the rising costs of running it. Well, that was a stupid mistake. My wife warned me against it and I chose to ignore that advice (she won't be reading this, so I'm safe to admit she was right, I was wrong).


My plan here is to release a short story each month in the newsletter, giving you an incentive to join, and amongst that will be links to my books, as well as the books of other authors I am reading, plus details of upcoming author events and, if I can arrange it with my publisher, first looks at new covers.


I'm only going to be sending out once a month. There won't be a lot of things to talk about every month, some months there may be lots. But this also gives me time to write a brand new short story.


3. AUTHOR EVENTS


The last point I will be focusing on is finding more chances for author events. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to read at Bloody Scotland (see the video reading here), and in November I will be appearing at Horbury and Long Eaton libraries. I'm now actively looking at attending as many festivals as possible, as well as bookstores and libraries - initially my plan is for one a month starting in October.


This is why I think an in-store appearance is much more important than a tweet. Out of my 580 "followers" on Twitter, only 10% may see any given tweet due to algorithms and such. Of those 58 people, 5 may click a link, and of those 1 or 2 may purchase/sign up. That's a 0.344% success rate.


Now let's look at an instore appearance. Say 5 people turn up to hear what this unknown writer has to say. At the end I ask if they want to sign up to my newsletter or even better, buy a copy of Cut And Shut (book 3, out in January folks!) and 2 people do. That's a 40% success rate.


A more important factor to consider is this: an in-store/library/festival event is an active action. People have to make the conscious decision to travel from home to the event, whereas reading a tweet is a passive action. The tweet just happens to scroll along their timeline (over which I have no control).


In 2023 I'm already going to the UK Crime Book Club event in Leeds and Crime Fest in Bristol in May and I'm hoping to attend Bloody Scotland in person. A couple more festivals are being considered.


In Summary




It is all too easy to get caught up in social media. I have fallen foul of that too many times. I'll still be posting links to things like this article, my amazon author page and retweets of my fellow Hobeckian authors when they have a new book out or an appearance of their own. What I won't be doing is trawling through it each day, falling down rabbit holes of news cycles, or reading threads about corrupt, treasonous, politicians or incompetent leaders who want to line their own pockets and those of their wealthy friends at the expense of everyday folk (see; I'm already winding myself up again!)


Don't get me wrong: I think social media has its place, it's just not for me. Not the way it used to be.

Instead, I will be writing new content for the website each week (hopefully you found this informative and worth coming back for), releasing a newsletter each month with a brand-new short story attached and finding new places to physically attend and speak directly to readers.


More importantly, I will be writing the next book.


If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining the site where you will be informed when a new post goes live. Alternatively, please consider joining my newsletter. The first one comes out at the end of October and will include a short story entitled The Trick and the Treat, just in time for Halloween.