On Having An Online Presence

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
7,883
I do get the sense that traditional jobs and career searches are rapidly evolving under the new tech catalysed by social media.

As a freelance teacher specialising in challenging behaviour and SEND most of my work is via word of mouth and repeat business and I’ve found upping my Linked In game to be quite surprising in terms of networking.

From my discussions with N Americans since 2001/2 I know this kind of hustle is far more normalised for them (the concept of networking let alone linked in) and someone I’ve been dating has been getting interviews for lucrative jobs on Linked In. But he’s an attorney…

Thing is, with a globalist hyper-connected world (tautologies ahoy!) these people may as well be the folks you’re going up against in an ‘interview’. We can’t moan about it or we’ll end up extinct. We have to engage.

I put my website up as a place for all my flash fiction that gets posted here and then disappears into the cybyss. It seemed a waste. But putting the site up gave me perspective and a brand inasmuch as I love gothic and dickens-y feel stuff, aesthetically, and as I’m stimulated by novelty, finding that interest, that theme, was what made the website a joy to devise and publish. The thing is the links when viewed on a mobile are incorrect. They work on a pc but not smartphones (very annoying to be sent to the wrong page when you click a link) and I wonder how much missed interest or audience I’ve had because I can’t find out how the links are bad. So I’d advise you get your files in order etc!

I have IG, FB, Bluesky, Mastodon, TikTok and Twitter accounts but never use FB, and since that muppet took over, Twitter’s more or less unusable. I used to get content from authors and publishers — and they used to see mine — but now Twitter is just a buffet of anger, memes, or other fatuous gif-trains. And platforming poorly disguised as engagement.

TikTok’s booktok crowd/hashtag seems to be the biggest impact I’ve had on audiences. I will have between about 700 - 3K clicks on a post there, who stay for 30% of the ‘video’ and from them about three will ‘save’ my story to favourites 1 or 2 will ‘follow’ and 10+ will click ‘like’.

So you can see the numbers you need are pretty massive if you’re unpublished or just starting out.

Nowadays we’re inventing very specific careers which is why social media and branding has become imperative
 
Its a lot more than books. Besides authors, it also puts musicians and the critics in the same sinking boat.
Its going to get worse. Everyone is standing in the same line, some people are just farther back in line. Worst possible case, imagine having to sell your doctor on the idea that you need medical treatment, which is already happening to some people. Some people have to sell their insurance company on the idea that they need treatment when the insurance company's algorithm says no.

You go through all the effort and work and its all for nothing if the algorithm doesn't put a tiny light on your work. But it's not just artists, those pesky algorithms are everywhere affecting everyone. Again it's the same line.

Making yourself into a commodity, hawking your presence right on schedule, perhaps embellishing the facts, such a polite way of selling yourself as a piece of meat. Perhaps even Pavlov's dogs could contribute to the discussion.

At the end of the article it veers off the road and runs into a big rut. It mentions artists forming unions so that things like healthcare, childcare, job security become easily accessible. Another example of wide angle tunnel vision. Everyone short on unlimited funds needs affordable healthcare, childcare, decent shelter and sanitation.
 
A further brief plug for Shepherd - Explore, discover, read! - which I've been enjoying as a reader, and it looks promising for helping authors find new readers.
You can read a lot about what they offer, and what they are still developing, here:

As an author you'd write a list of other people's books on a theme of your choice, and you get an advert for yours at the top. Readers wander through from list to list, finding more "books like this one". So you engage as a reader, with other readers, and once your list is up, that is it. No further input possible from you. (Except another list.) As in it is not like social media, you don't have to keep on putting in input.
 
The Shepherd site idea looks really good idea. It will be probably be okay until there are millions and millions of authors using it. I'm looking but I don't see where to make a list of books.
 
Shepherd sounds intriguing. As Robert says, it will probably work better before millions and millions of authors start using it, but for those who have books out now, or about to be out, it may turn out to be an excellent resource. As with most methods of promoting a book, timing is everything.
 
Apparently there are only 10,000 authors signed up so far. You contact them to get info on making your book list.
 
One of the many miserable things in that article is the idea that, to succeed on social media, an author must dress up as a "writer" and be seen doing cartoon author things. I am a dull, non-photogenic middle aged man whose idea of writing is typing at a laptop. It's like that Monty Python sketch where a crowd excitedly watches Thomas Hardy writing a novel: nothing happens. I remember a "writer" on instagram whose ridiculously micro-managed photos included pictures of her wandering around a forest in a nightie. Because that's what writers do. I find this strangely sad, as if to do a job you've got to turn yourself into a silly caricature.
 
The Shepherd site is not keen on using social media. Their explanations for how the Shepherd site works are a condensed version of the original VOX article, "Everyone’s a sellout now."
 
I looked at Shepherd briefly and it looks interesting. I don't mean to rubbish it, but my main question would be how many readers - as opposed to writers - get to see it. I've seen a lot of "authors helping each other" groups that don't seem to reach a wider reading audience. However, that doesn't mean that Shepherd won't work. It sounds like a good idea.
 
That Vox site is not only begging for money but it tried to attack me with a malware. Clearly, things can't be working out for them financially!

Sure, if you advertise products on Instagram then you need to keep your account sharp, but as for those over-inflated Linked-In profiles (ever watched The Apprentice business plans episodes?) and the broken system of Book Reviews (does anyone really think that paying for them and begging relatives to give 5 stars means it is at all accurate?)
 
I remember a "writer" on instagram whose ridiculously micro-managed photos included pictures of her wandering around a forest in a nightie. Because that's what writers do. I find this strangely sad, as if to do a job you've got to turn yourself into a silly caricature.
But lest we be too judgmental, let's remember that writers are just as likely to number among them as many eccentric individuals as any other group of people.

Forty years or so ago, I can totally see myself wandering through a forest in the sort of long, flowing dress that some people might have identified as a nightgown. The only part of that image that doesn't fit, is that there wouldn't have been any photos, because I have always hated having my picture taken.

Which is unfortunate, in a way, because I was engaged in enough eccentric activities* to yield (had I permitted it) plenty of photos to brand myself now as a colorful personality, if that is what it takes to gain the attention of readers and sell books. But it wasn't a pose, and it had nothing to do with my fledgling hopes as a writer; it was just me being myself.

I would imagine that most (or all) of us here had some interesting moments at some point in our lives that, had we a friend with a camera on hand, and perceived the need to publicize ourselves in that way, might have provided excellent fodder for social media.

_____
Be it noted that aside from the long dresses, and the Tarot cards, and all the rest of it, I was really rather mousy. But maybe the overall image would have played well on Tik-Tok or Instagram? If these things do really matter.
 
That Vox site is not only begging for money but it tried to attack me with a malware. Clearly, things can't be working out for them financially!

Sure, if you advertise products on Instagram then you need to keep your account sharp, but as for those over-inflated Linked-In profiles (ever watched The Apprentice business plans episodes?) and the broken system of Book Reviews (does anyone really think that paying for them and begging relatives to give 5 stars means it is at all accurate?)
Do you know what/who The Vox is?? A news site aimed at making (often complex) news stories understandable for those who struggle to engage or understand the news. And The Guardian does exactly the same re asking for money.

But lest we be too judgmental, let's remember that writers are just as likely to number among them as many eccentric individuals as any other group of people.
Agree.

And if I can hop on the tails of what you’re saying and add: the amount of generational tech-illiteracy/fear shown in this thread is staggering. You’d think the sky is falling down!!

You needn’t do the whole artist-as-a-brand thing — certainly it won’t affect your writing and enjoyment — but the hand-wringing!! Please.
 
But lest we be too judgmental, let's remember that writers are just as likely to number among them as many eccentric individuals as any other group of people.

Fair point, but we shouldn't be in a situation where eccentric personality, real, fake or exaggerated, is the main selling point of someone's career, or where people see that as vital (or especially necessary?) to their success. It should be perfectly possible to be a complete recluse (which I'm not, by the way) and a successful writer. Given the current interest in different psychological and personality types, that kind of carefully-managed public persona feels quite "one size fits all".
 
Given the current interest in different psychological and personality types, that kind of carefully-managed public persona feels quite "one size fits all".
It may be as you say. I have not seen the pictures and I know nothing about the writer in question, so I have no way of knowing whether you are wrong or not. What I am saying, though, is that we shouldn't be too swift to condemn as false and "carefully-managed" what may, in fact, be personal and heartfelt. The woman in the photos may be acting out one of her own private fantasies. Does that relate to her writing? Well, it might. It might tell us something about the kind of book she writes. Those pictures might be saying to readers on behalf of the author, "If you are like me, the kind of girl who dreams of running through a night forest in a long white gown, you might like my books." She might even—who knows?—be enacting a scene from one of her own books.

What I am trying to say is that people who are successful at that sort of thing may be able to put the most interesting parts of their authentic selves into pictures and images, and so attract readers who mark the writer down as a kindred spirit, the kind of person who will be able to deliver the kind of story that appeals to them. Someone who shares their dreams and inmost fantasies, but unlike them is able to translate those into words and put them on the page.

For some of us, exposing ourselves in such a personal way may be a horrifying thought. Many writers are intensely private people. And some are so accustomed to being misunderstood and labeled as weird by others, the image they try to present to the world (when they are willing to present an image of themselves to the world at all) may be one of studied conventionality. "Look," any picture of themselves they deign to share may be saying, "I am an ordinary person, perfectly normal. See me in my t-shirt and jeans, just like any other regular guy (or gal)."

Being shy myself, I understand that sometimes people need their armor, they need their protective coloration. But what I ask now is, "Does that sell books?" Would it not be better to present another side, equally genuine, of themselves? (And if it would be better, is it even possible to steel ourselves to do so?)

Take someone like me. Back when my first books were being published (and supposing that the internet was even invented, if social media was even a concept in those bygone days, along with all its new opportunities for self-promotion) would "ordinary suburban housewife raising four children, who also writes books" be the right image to promote, or would it be something that proclaimed what is equally true, "I may live an ordinary sort of life most of the time, but I have Imagination, dammit."

Or take your own books, Toby. I have seen author photos of you dating from the time when you were producing all those Space Captain Smith books. You look quite jolly. You are laughing right into the camera. It's a great image for the man who writes humorous books. (Utterly impossible for some of us to copy, since we are too stiff and self-conscious to laugh, or even smile, or even smirk, when a camera points our way. But on you it looks good, it looks natural.) But the guy who is writing the Dark Renaissance books? Maybe you need some pictures portraying that side of your personality.

Or not. I am simply letting my vaunted imagination ramble where it will, making guesses and suppositions as it goes. I really don't know much about self-promotion.
 
That means lots of good books might never see the light of day . :(

Yet we are absolutely innundated with new books. I think its 5m a year. The bar to publishing has never been lower. It is impossible for one person to keep up with everything going on with a genre.

Does the current system put some people off, make it harder for some people to be heard? Yes. But what system doesn't?

I'm not a great fan of a lot of how modern publishing works, but particularly harmful to readers it isn't.

Fair point, but we shouldn't be in a situation where eccentric personality, real, fake or exaggerated, is the main selling point of someone's career, or where people see that as vital (or especially necessary?) to their success. It should be perfectly possible to be a complete recluse (which I'm not, by the way) and a successful writer. Given the current interest in different psychological and personality types, that kind of carefully-managed public persona feels quite "one size fits all".

Personality has been a major selling point of people's careers in most industries forever. It's probably been one in writing for a while if we're honest. How many writers have made their career from having a mate in the business, or from hitting up cons to build their presence?

I would also point out that actually looking at the social media profiles of authors and prospective authors reveals a very different reality to the one portrayed in the article. There's plenty of authors with perfectly normal or even minimal social media profiles. I'm not saying that article is all wrong, but it's portrayal of the situation of far more "one size fits all" than what goes on. The author at the top where the publishers are really worrying about profile? Non-fic and fic are different. All the booktok authors doing lots of posing stuff? That's for genres with a booktok presence like YA/romance/romantasy. If your target audience isn't on tiktok, chasing there doesn't make sense.
 

Back
Top