social networks

A Necessary Evil For Writers: Does Social Media Make You Crazy?

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. You may find her on Facebook at

From the “Duh! Tell Us Something We Don’t Know” department: a new study has found that Facebook may drive you nuts. According to the ABC News article “Facebook May Be Making You Sad, Says New Study“, social media such as Facebook has a negative effect on our emotions.

“Everyday Facebook use leads to declines in subjective well-being, both how happy you feel moment to moment and how satisfied you feel with your life,” says Ethan Kross, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the study, told ABC News.

Kross and the other researchers analyzed the moods and habits of 82 young adults — active Facebook users with mobile phones whose average age was 20 — over the course of two weeks. They texted each participant five times a day, at random intervals, and got feedback about their feelings, worries, loneliness, Facebook usage and real-life interactions with other people.

They found that Facebook users were more connected with their friends and acquaintances than those not on Facebook,
but the more frequently people used Facebook, the worse they felt immediately afterward. Additionally, the more they used Facebook over the course of two weeks, the less satisfied and happy they were with their lives as a whole.

The social medium I use most often is Facebook. I’m on every day, and it’s an easy way for writers and readers to contact me. I have found Facebook to be irritating at times, but not depressing. I don’t feel lonely or sad from being on Facebook. Quite often, I find it boring. There are only so many updates about what’s for dinner and baby’s first poop I can take on a given day. However, I never get tired of cats. 🙂

That said, not everyone else has such fond feelings about Facebook. Writers who use social networking look at it as a necessary evil. We need to get word out about our works somehow, and that means tweeting about our latest release, updating our Facebook timelines about our backlist of novels, avoiding flame wars on Goodreads, begging for reviews on that vast wasteland that is Google+, and posting images of what our characters like on Pinterest.

I interviewed some writers on Facebook to learn if they found Facebook to be stressful.

In a word, yes.


It may not be easy for writers, who tend to be introverts, to be social in general. Facebook does offer some anonymity and distance since you’re on your computer or phone, but the stress is there.

Aaron Smith said: “As a writer, I consider Facebook to be a necessary semi-evil. I hated it when I first signed up, as it seems to go against all the instincts of an introvert like me. But I realize it’s needed for promotional purposes, especially for authors who don’t have the support of major publishers. Over time, I’ve come to enjoy it and interacting with old and new friends as well as readers of my books. But it does get annoying at times, though I can’t honestly say it’s ever made me depressed. Perhaps the most frustrating part of it is that, due to the casual nature of Facebook, a post about something trivial like a Simpsons line or a baseball game can sometimes get more attention than something we, as writers, consider incredibly important, such as the release of a new book or a good review.”

One big problem with Facebook is envy. You see others talking about their endless Silver Stars on AllRomanceEBooks, their latest five star review, their awards, and their great sales, and you – who may not be doing as well – feel the green monster creeping up your spine. The thing is, success doesn’t happen out of the blue. It takes hard work and much rejection to get there.

I’ve noticed that writers on Facebook tend to not talk about the less successful aspects of their careers. You will always hear about an acceptance, but you may not hear about the ten plus times that same writer submitted that particular story to other publishers and was rejected. Tessa Wanton said: “Sometimes we get bound up in what we see out there and especially those who are so very confident when you feel so unconfident yourself. The problem I’ve found is that some people just constantly go on about how successful and brilliant they are, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. Even if I’ve found out later that what they’re saying isn’t true, the initial feeling of inadequacy still presides.” I saw a comment, possibly at the ABC News article, stating that people who needed to constantly talk about how successful and brilliant they are are probably overcompensating for an extreme lack of confidence. Tessa agreed, saying “very true, yet even still the damage is done at that point. I would say artists in general lack confidence in what they do, seems to go with the territory I guess. Such a funny place social media, I do find I have to stand back at times, it can be utterly all consuming.”

Kathleen Bradean discussed her experiences with envy on Facebook, and it’s similar to other tales I’ve been told. “I know I’m making the huge mistake of comparing my writing career to another writer’s.  We all have our own definition of success.” She said. “So why do I make myself miserable seeing that someone sold their third short story this year when I haven’t even written one? And I guess the answer is that I’m not seeing the success I want. It doesn’t seem as if I’m making progress.”

Angelica Dawson has avoided Twitter for reasons similar to Tessa’s. “Either I feel inadequate, envious, or guilty and NONE of those help me.” She said. “I will keep my twitter account as one of the easiest ways to get a hold of me, also because I’m in a number of very busy tribes when I get back to blogging.”

Limiting time on Facebook is a popular way of dealing with being sucked in and occasionally sad.

Some have gone as far as leaving some social media sites altogether.

Taking a break often results in better writing, better sanity, and sometimes more money since you spend more time writing than hanging out.

Ashynn Monroe limits her time. “Face book makes me feel like that sometimes, that’s why I disappear for a while.”

Gemma Parkes said. “I read comments and they are not very helpful and a bit bitchy sometimes and I let it get to me, it stops me writing and that isn’t a good thing. Writers need to write.”

Tessa Wanton said: “I nuked my Twitter account for good, and concentrated on blogging a little more instead. And now, I feel a lot better and, I’ve had better results from concentrating on my website too.”

Noir writer Trent Zelazny has closed down his timeline on several occasions. He points out that some people say and do things on Facebook they would never get away with in real time: “It’s depressing. Text is not the same as speaking, and things can easily be misconstrued.” Zelazny said. “Add to that the people who love to attack others while from the safety of their home. People who would never have the brass to do it in person. An innocent statement, observation, or general feeling about the day, with one comment added, be it insensitive or simply misconstrued, can suddenly turn one’s Facebook page into an unfriendly or even hostile environment.”

Publisher Warren Lapine recently temporarily left Facebook because it was interfering with his work. “For me it comes down to the fact that I like Facebook too much. I find myself on it when I should be working.” Lapine said. “If I’m working on a particularly annoying or complicated book I spend time on Facebook avoiding the work. That needs to stop. I have a contract that calls for me to publish 400 books a year and that doesn’t when I’m online interacting with friends. I’ve tried to tell myself that it’s networking, but my income goes up whenever I get off Facebook and down when I spend too much time on it.”

Not everyone is affected by Facebook in a negative way, though. I’m one person who has never really had a problem with Facebook. I enjoy posting in the mornings, and lurking later in the day, but I suspect I don’t spend as much time on Facebook as some others do. Jacques Gerard doesn’t let Facebook get to him. Neither does Linda L. Barton. Devon Marshall “stopped giving a rodent’s behind what people thought” when he hit his 30s. Jacques Gerard doesn’t let envy ruin his enjoyment of Facebook. He enjoys seeing others succeed. “Mainly I realized my life/journey is my own and should not be compared with anybody else’s life/journey.” He said. “I’m just happy with other’s blessings and successes as well for my own. On the other hand give comfort and prayer for those who are experiencing a tough time or sickness. I learned very early in life that worrying about keeping up with others only creates unhappiness for yourself.”

Social media sites like Facebook are a mixed bag. Depending on how you choose to look at Facebook, it can be the ninth circle of Hell or a great place to network with writers, publishers, editors, and readers alike. It may even be both on occasion. The key seems to be knowing your own limits, and pulling away when you feel yourself getting sucked in. Remember above all you are a writer, and writers write. However, writers also need to make themselves available to the public in order to be seen, and that includes engaging in social media as well as attending book signings, book readings, conventions, and the like. Could the key be balance? Although social media in general and Facebook in particular may be stressful, according to that new study, it is a fairly new medium. Once you master it, it probably won’t own you any longer.


By Lisabet Sarai

Decades ago I read a science fiction
story about a planet where trends, fads and fashions would rise and
fall in a single night. The clothing styles popular at nine in the
evening might be totally different from those worn at four in the
morning. A unknown performer might become a instant celebrity, with
billions of admirers, then fade back into obscurity within twenty
four hours. Even language could evolve overnight, with new words
coined and yesterday’s favorite terms falling into disuse.

I wish I could remember the title or
author of this prophetic tale. It seemed original, almost
far-fetched, in the nineteen eighties. Now, aside from some expansion
of time frame, it quite accurately describes the reality of our
networked world, and especially the world of publishing.

Thousands of words have been devoted to
the “50 Shades of Grey phenomenon”. The popular media have
dissected the appeal of BDSM to the “mommies” who made the book
such a hit or wondered whether the book signals a precipitous decline
in morality. Erotica bloggers have rejoiced at the popular spotlight
shone on our genre or bemoaned the poor literary quality of the book
itself. Feminists have castigated the shallowness of the heroine,
questioning the consequences for the current generation of young

Everywhere I turn, people seem to be
debating the implications of E.L. James’ incredible success. On one
writers email list I subscribe to, a member asked, only
half-facetiously, whether 50 Shades of Grey might be some sort
of devious plot by the traditional publishing industry to test the
waters as to the popular acceptability of erotic fiction. Is 50
Shades of Grey
a conspiracy? A fluke? An indicator of the tyranny
of mediocrity? A harbinger of things to come?

In my view, FSOG is significant
because it demonstrates the near-random amplifying effects of the
social Internet. The book started life as a series published on a fan
fiction web board. It happened to strike a chord with the
subscribers, then gained popularity via grass-roots dissemination of
information to new readers. The buzz grew exponentially, facilitated
by the ease of tweeting, forwarding, sharing and syndication in
today’s socially-oriented Web infrastructure.

I’m not going to say anything more
about this book – partly because I believe that more than enough
has been said already. My main point in this post is that the
Internet is a huge amplifier of ideas. Under the right
circumstances, a book, a song, a video, or a news story can attract
the attention of literally millions of people within a matter of
days. However, despite what many believe, it’s extremely difficult to
predict exactly what content will “go viral”. The content itself
is not necessarily the primary determinant of popularity. It’s all in
the luck of the draw.

Nevertheless, despite the random
element in Internet amplification, everyone is trying to game the
system. Publishing has become a frantic attempt to utilize viral
nature of the Internet to gain attention for one’s books. Almost
every professional author that I know spends significant amounts of
time on blogging, tweeting, Facebook, Internet chats, and other
promotional activity. We create banners and trailers to display on
review sites. We “like” each other’s books and leave comments on
each other’s posts. The goal is to seed the Internet as densely as
possible with references to our names and our books. In this scrabble
to be part of the Next Big Thing, books themselves hardly seem to

Last year, introduced the
Kindle Select program and generated a frenzy of excitement among both
readers and authors. A book enrolled in this program is available
exclusively for the Kindle. In return for granting Amazon these
exclusive sales rights, authors or publishers receive 70% of the
sales price of their books – significantly more than most ebook
publishers offer. In addition, publishers/authors are allowed five
promotional days for each title – days when the books can be
offered for free. Judicious use of these promo days can build the
buzz for a new book. Downloads of the free book affect the ranking of
the book when it’s for sale. “Likes”, tagging, reviews, and
actual purchases also push up the book’s rank.

Since this program came into effect, a
whole ecosystem has developed around it. There are a dozen
newsletters to inform readers about the latest Kindle releases. Many
sell advertisements to authors who want to increase their visibility.
There are websites and forums, for readers and authors. Self-styled
marketing gurus blog or publish their own books on how to get your
Kindle book to the top of the charts. I wouldn’t be surprised to
discover someone had published a book on how to get rich by telling
Amazon authors how to get rich. If so, I’m sure that author
hopes to ride the crest of the Kindle Select wave to personal

Toward the end of last year, one of my
publishers decided to go exclusive on Amazon for all new titles. I
have to admit that the initial effect on my royalties was dramatic –
and I’m nowhere near the top seller for this company. Now, every day
on the authors’ email list, my colleagues discuss their rankings
(sometimes on an hourly basis), announce their free days, and beg the
other authors to like and tag their books. The publishers are
spending lots of money on newsletter ads to draw in readers. They’ve
had some success manipulating the rankings of our books; my peers are
in ecstasy.

Personally, I’m skeptical. I doubt this
approach is sustainable. If we can work the system, so can everyone
else. Furthermore, the number of titles available on the Kindle is
growing at an astronomical rate – especially in the categories of
erotica and erotic romance. A goodly number of them are shovel-ware
or even plagiarized. (See
The competition is just plain ridiculous. Even for legitimate authors
(which I define as authors who actually care about what they put
their name on), tagging, liking and other actions are eventually all
going to cancel each other out.

I’d like to believe that when the
situation levels off, the best books will be the ones with the
highest sales. But experience suggests otherwise.

Meanwhile, after an initial jump in my
royalties, they’ve begun to fall. I need another release to push them
back up. I do have a book in the pipeline; it may be a few weeks
before it’s released. But how many other Kindle titles will show up
in the meantime?

Amazon is just one example of my point.
The Internet is dynamic, constantly changing and far too complex for
any individual to grasp. Strategies for search engine optimization
become obsolete almost as soon as they’re discovered, as Google and
its competitors tweak their algorithms. Two months ago the hottest
new facility for social networking was Google+. Last month it was
Triberr. Now everyone’s talking about Pinterest. If you can catch a
viral wave, ride it for all its worth – but I don’t think it’s
possible to summon one on demand.

And yet, authors can’t afford to
completely ignore the amplifying influences of today’s ubiquitous
connectivity. Or can they? One of the most successful authors I know
doesn’t blog, or tweet, or hang out on Facebook. She has a single
email list where she communicates with her fans (more than 500 of
them) – and she writes, every day, despite being a single mother
with two young daughters. Since she was first published, a handful of
years ago, she has produced over a hundred books (mostly novella
length). The majority of her fans buy every single one. 

Meanwhile, here I am, spending hours
writing a blog post instead of my current work in progress.

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