If you've been following along on my posts since I joined Criminal Minds, you've probably realized by now that I'm a huge nerd. But what you may not realize is that I'm so nerdy, I turned pro.
See, in my day job (yes, I have one, and unless your favorite author's name is King or Rowling, odds are they have one too), I'm a research scientist. And as such, I tend to scoff at anecdotal evidence. You know the kind I mean. "Our breakthrough program helped Tom here buy a beach house, drop three pant-sizes, and marry the prom queen, all by only eating foods that start with the letter Q*! (*Results not typical.)" So, when tackling a question near and dear to my heart, namely "Is social media a worthwhile tool?" I thought it best to look at the data.
DISCLAIMER THE FIRST
I'm a big believer in the notion that the best way to network is to stop trying to network. So although this post is not about how to use social media, but rather whether or not it can prove worthwhile to an author, let me take a sec to throw in my two cents about the how: Don't be a carnival barker, constantly hawking your wares. Relax. Make friends. Have fun. Be yourself. (Unless you're an actual, honest-to-God carnival barker. Nobody likes a carnival barker.)
DISCLAIMER THE SECOND
It should be noted that my sample size for this study is one author; i.e. me. But I'm far too lazy to poll others just for a blog post, so n=1 will have to do.
A QUICK ASSUMPTION
When I was shopping for an agent, one of my key selling points was that I was an established short story writer. And I frequently hear from folks who tell me they picked up my debut novel because they read a short of mine. (How many folks? Again, I'm far too lazy to count 'em up. "But without hard numbers," you ask, "isn't this claim anecdotal?" To which I say: "Shut up.") So I'm going to lay down a basic premise that, as far as exposure is concerned, short story publications are a VERY GOOD THING. Settled? Okay, then. Let's continue.
AND NOW... THE DATA
To date, I've had 21 short stories accepted for publication. Of those, 9 were over-the-transom (meaning, for those unfamiliar with the antiquated term, that they were submitted unsolicited.) Which means (watch this fast math!)... 12 were submitted upon invitation. 5 to print anthologies. 2 to print magazines. 2 to ebook anthologies. And 3 to online magazines. Oh, and there was a by-invite reprint of an over-the-transom tale I neglected to add to the total, so that I wouldn't count the story in two columns.
Most of those 12 were paid. A couple were favors to friends. The reprint was for charity. One of the unpaid ones went on to garner an Anthony nomination and an inclusion in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, the latter of which wound up paying more than all my other short fiction combined, and introduced my work to a whole new audience of readers. And here's the kicker: every single one of those 12 invites - the majority of my 21 total accepted stories - came about due directly to relationships forged on social media. (Twitter's my addiction of choice, by the way, though I'm on the dreaded Facebook as well. Feel free to pop by either and validate my existence.) And that doesn't even count more nebulous (dare I say anecdotal?) benefits such as connecting with fans and secretly hanging out with cool people via your smart phone whilst in line at the bank. (Really, writer-boy? The bank? You haven't set foot inside a bank in a decade.)(True enough, snarky parenthetical, but that's not the point.)
Now, obviously, your mileage may vary. And note that the benefit of social media for me was a byproduct of actually, you know, socializing. No one wants to hang out with a human spambot, so please please please don't use my post as an excuse to annoy the crap out of friends and strangers with blatant self-promotion. But if you're asking yourself whether social media is worth it, well... these data don't lie.
Speaking of blatant self-promotion, we're officially less than one month out from the release of the second novel in my Collector series, THE WRONG GOODBYE. The Collector series, for those who don't know, recasts the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp. If you'd like to learn more about it, or fingers-crossed even order a copy, click here. (Blatant self-promotion over.)