Thursday, April 10, 2014

How I Got a Million Facebook Likes

by Samantha Wilde
Think about it: when, as an author, you're invited to speak to a group or a book club or at a bookstore, people, obviously, want you. Someone has some interest in what you have to say and someone thinks more than a handful of other people will spend an hour listening to it. Do these people like you? In essence, you don't have to ask. You are pre-liked by virtue of the invitation to talk.

Am I speaking or chewing on something?!
But Facebook. Now that is a different story.

Currently Facebook has this to say to me every time I open my author page:

In the real world, that would be like being invited to do a talk at the library and upon arrival having the director give you a list of every other author giving a library talk that evening all across the United States with the number of people attending those author's talks--a number, invariably, greater than your own.

But not just that, then the director of the library would let you know that you could not sit and talk about your novel or writing (one brief mention is okay), but that you would need to spend your time showing the audience funny pictures of unrelated cuteness. "You'll do best," she would say, "If you include some images of rainbows, animals doing unusual or adorable things, and as many candid photos of yourself as possible from childhood or engaging in an interesting activity. Also, pictures of yummy food."

WHAT! Do I write books or am I a photographer? Am I an author or a chef? Is writing now a competitive sport?

When you leave, every person who attended the talk will come up to you and let you know whether or not they "like" you. You will eventually learn not to take this personally. Not everyone can like you. Even people who actually like you may not have the time to like you, or they may not want your cute photos cluttering their Facebook-feed, in which case they will flatly refuse your invitation to like you (although, of course, they really do like you).

I am an extrovert. I have engaged in performance and public speaking for the entire duration of my life, acting on stage, preaching in front of large groups, leading yoga classes, and speaking publicly about writing. I love to talk and have been known to tend towards the confessional, particularly if telling a good private story of mine will garner a laugh.

But the level of exposure on Facebook makes me feel completely Amish. You know how the Amish feel about photography, right? I am a failed social media-ist because I don't want to reveal myself in that way. I might have become a good blogger if I'd been willing to write about personal struggles--but it felt wrong and anonymous in ways talking to a good friend never does. It's possible I could get more "likes" on my author site if I posted more super-cute pictures of my children, but I hate the idea of using their precious faces to sell (or try to sell, or with even the implication of selling) my novels. 

Yes, I am a social media introvert. Which means, of course, that in the virtual reality, I am a big zero.

Don't misunderstand me. I like people. I even like the people I've encountered on Facebook, but not every writer is meant to communicate in that kind of medium. Imagine if Jane Austen had a Facebook account! Oscar Wilde might have a field day but Emily Dickinson? If her fame depended on her ability to keep a good poet-Facebook site, absolutely no one would know her name now!

What is an author judged for? What is an author judged by? Does a good writer need to be quick with the camera and clever in the kitchen? Must she be pretty and take thrilling vacations? Does she need a MBA to figure out how to market herself to the masses? Must she have the skin of an armadillo to handle the truth that even some, even many, of her so-called Facebook "friends" will not bother to "like" her as an author?

And you're right, maybe if I had 100,000 Facebook "likes" I would feel differently about this whole venture, but there really is no strong evidence of the connection between Facebook "likes" and direct book sales. A writer wants three things, in this order: someone to read her books, someone to buy her books, and someone to love her books. I've written because I hoped my words on the page could mean something to someone else, make someone else laugh, offer that healing escape from the stress of the world, tell a story that mattered in a world moving so fast it can barely stop long enough to listen. 

Do I want you to like me? Of course. That's pretty much the human condition. But wouldn't any writer rather a reader simply liked her books? 

Besides, those "likes" don't reflect the truth. I'm sure more people would like me if they actually knew me. Spiritual teacher Byron Katie likes to say, "Everyone loves me. They just don't know it yet." Which gives me a great idea. Yes, a brilliant idea! An idea that will turn me from a writer into a social media savant. I will tweak my Facebook site with a wee-editorial change. Now, instead of reading "577 likes" it will read: 1,000,000 Likes--most of which haven't happened...YET.

Chocolate cake, books AND flowers!
Samantha Wilde is the author of I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS and THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, both humorous, honest tales of life as a mother and a friend in the modern world. She is also the author of STRANGE GIFTS, SOME WRITINGS ON LOVE, a collection of her essays and sermons written since her ordination as a minister twelve years ago. A yoga teacher by training and calling, her real job is taking care of her three children who daily remind her that liking and loving are complicated, rewarding and real-time events played out in conversations, hugs, mistakes and mayhem. You can find her on Facebook and even like her--if you dare--at authorSamanthaWilde.


  1. Samantha, I really loved your post. And you had me at Emily Dickenson. I am not only a social media introvert, but I also play one in real life. I think using FB to sell feels a little Amway-ish. But perhaps that's because I'm not fabulous at it. Anyway, well written and thoughtful questions about why we're in this business and how we must find our own way through it.

    1. Thanks, Sheila. I have many friends who are introverts in real life and extroverts in the virtual realm. It's surprised me how much I retreat in this space being so out-going in real life. Interesting that you are a consistent introvert!

  2. Facebook has changed everything, but you are the first author that I know of who was brave enough to share her fears about being judged by the numbers. I agree with everything you said and totally enjoyed this post!

    1. Thank you for thinking me brave. I feel I'm very soft spoken in the online medium. It's good to be brave!

  3. I chat on Facebook the same way I chat with new acquaintances at a party. I've got plenty of amusing, interesting, superficial stuff to talk about. Revealing my soul is an activity reserved only for close friends. But...I can be charming at parties, and I can be charming on FB.

  4. You said it, sister! I have a separate personal FB page and an author page. More people like me on my personal page than my author page. C'est la vie. There is SO much social media, and like you, I can't keep up. I do not want to keep up. I don't know if it makes anyone read my books. I don't know if they are even connected. Think back to the good ol' days--when writers were expected to hide in dank basements, chain smoking and drinking scotch. :-) Thanks for sharing. Great post.

  5. And now I will tweet it! lol But seriously.

  6. Sometimes I'm so busy being social on social media, I don't have time to be social in real life. Now, if the "Like" button would click on a link to buy our that might be something...

  7. amen sistah!!! You're so right on!

  8. I know I'm late to the like party, but you articulated this so well. It all gets to be too much and I confess I have no idea how people can manage all this social media and still write