Working alone in a shed at the far corner of a boatyard provides me plenty of time to think, and curling up in the forward cabin with my laptop, well beyond any internet signals, leaves me hours of distraction-free time to write. But it doesn’t sell books. These days, if you want to sell books, social networking is the way to go. And while I spend my days working on the boat, in every sense of the word, my fellow authors are actively working online, posting to Facebook, Tweeting, and commenting, as well as utilizing numerous other social network platforms I’ve yet to explore.
True, I’ve blogged for years, though originally my blog wasn’t even a blog, but simply a web page documenting a previous boat restoration. When I began, it gave me a way to easily share pictures and stories with a small circle of friends. The content has since branched into other areas and attracted more readers, and I’ve linked it (sort of — there’s still some kinks) to Facebook, yet this blog remains my main online presence. But these days, new platforms are emerging at an accelerating rate, and I realize as an author, it would serve me well to learn and use these latest ways of reaching out to a wider audience.
Instead, I continue to split my time between my family, an old boat, and writing. And the other day, while I cut my way through yards of fiberglass, I found myself wondering: is this what I should be doing if I ever hope to achieve greatness. Okay. Just kidding. I’ll settle for reasonable mid-list-ish-ness. But seriously, if some of the ‘great’ authors of days gone by were alive today, how would they spend their time? Would they be out, living life and writing about it, or would they be hunkered down in the glow of their computer monitors, chained to their WiFi signals like dogs by an invisible fence as they delved into the many layers of social media and networked with their fellow authors and readers?
Would John Steinbeck be sharing on Tumblr?
Would Mark Twain ask readers to ‘like’ him on Facebook?
Would Edgar Allen Poe attend Thrillerfest?
Would Emily Dickinson post her Pintrests?
Would Jane Austen frequent Reddit?
Would Jules Verne be updating his Author Page?
Would Agatha Christie be Linkedin?
Would Ernest Hemingway Tweet?
I know this social networking thing works, and I’ve seen how the authors most adept at it have a distinct advantage when it comes to reaching and connecting with readers. Don’t construe that I’m knocking social networking – if anything, I wish it came more naturally to me. I’m simply wondering how authors of the past, the ones who rose to iconic status, would deal with social networking. If they ignored it, would they still have risen to the heights that they did? And if they embraced it, would they still have had time to write on a level that made them the authors we know today?
And on that note, I’m posting this and unplugging my computer. I have much work to do.