This wasn't the blog topic I had planned to cover this month, but the discourse has been making the rounds on social media this week, and I have opinions so let's get into them!
I think if you have spent any time at all in online spaces with writers, artists, or creative people of any kind you have probably heard some version of the line, "I'm a creative, not a content creator!"
And the thing is, I get it! I fully understand the frustration of feeling like you have only so much time and creative energy to give, and now so much of it has to go to creating content for social media.
That's why writers hate that word. Content. So do artists. They hate what it represents, the reduction of so much---all their years of practice and their talents and their creative spirit---to a 60 second TikTok video or a 240 character Tweet (get fucked Elon).
There is so much anger at the idea that something that took them weeks, months, hell sometimes even years to create, is just fodder for the algorithms. Like I said, I totally get it!
But here's the thing, for me I consider myself to be a writer and a content creator. Nothing about shaking my ass on TikTok to sell books will make me less of an author. I hope, sincerely, that once a reader picks up my book, they will stay because they enjoy my skills as a writer.
But first, I have to get them to pick up my book and give me a chance. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, these days one of the best ways to do that is by mastering social media. That seems to go for pretty much everyone. It doesn't matter if you publish with the Big Five, a small press, or go it alone with the self-pub route. You are going to have to do some of your own marketing, and most of us are going to have to do most or even all of our own marketing.
That requirement means you have to be a content creator. It's a second, separate job. Learning to make content is hard, especially because the people complaining that their book or their art isn't content are 100% correct. The book is not content. The videos you make about the book are content. The posts you make talking about your writing process are content. The pictures of your morning coffee in a funny author's mug are content.
Those things, the hundreds of other little things that allow you to showcase your work and build a relationship with your audience, those things are content, and it takes time and dedication to learn how to create it.
If you want to use social media to sell your work, you must be willing to out in the effort to learn that skill. You don't have to use social media to sell books, but if you do, you can't resent it. You have to be willing to sharpen your skills and have fun with the process.
Now, I hear what you're thinking! You hate TikTok and Twitter and you just want to write! Now what?
There are other ways to sell books if you really hate content creation. Paid ads. Author newsletters. Word of mouth. It's not easy, but it can be done.
But if you're curious about content creation, or you really think you just need to power through your dislike (which by the way is what I did, especially in the beginning) there are some things that can be done.
First, you do not have to be on every single app. You can pick just your favorites, the ones that you like and are most familiar with, and focus your efforts there. If you hate TikTok, then don't go to TikTok. Go to Instagram instead or Facebook or whatever suits you and your personality the best.
Then, when you get there, remember you do not have to make any certain kind of content. If you don't want to show your face, that's okay! If you don't want to write long posts, that's okay! If you don't want to spend a lot of time sharing your process, that's okay, too!
Look at other writers or artists around you and see what they are doing that you are comfortable with, and then...Practice, practice, and practice some more. Take your time and be patient with yourself. Your writing skills were not formed overnight and your content creation skills will not be sharpened overnight, either.
It takes time to do it well. It takes time to build an audience. It is about embracing that role as a content creator and being consistent with your efforts.
I'm still very much in the process of learning all of this. Before I got involved in publishing I had very little social media presence and the few places where I did spend time online, I was mostly a lurker. I was not the kind of person who liked being the center of attention. So, I do understand the struggle, but I also know that it can be overcome if that's something you're interested in doing!