No, You Don’t Have to Have 5,000 Twitter Followers to be a Successful Writer

Hey readers! I’ve been quiet for several months and my poor little blog has sat here neglected because I’ve got so many projects going at one time it’s like juggling chainsaws. I wanted to pop in and write about something that’s been on my mind before I return to the editing cave where I live now. Recently, #WriterCommunity began its rounds on writer Twitter and from it came an explosion of new writers to follow and new books to get excited about. Twitter has opened doors and contributed to the growth of my craft. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with different people all over the world and it’s made a sometimes isolating thing feel less lonely. I’ve learned more on that silly website than I ever expected to. The digital community is warm and welcoming and most everyone is ready to lend a helping hand. But with that exposure and connection breeds more insidious problems.

Social media puts a magnifying glass in every hand and a megaphone over every mouth. It amplifies every persistent concern creative people hold: I’m not good enough, someone will steal my idea before I finish, I’ll never be as successful as others I see, everyone is working faster than I am, I’m making huge mistakes. And the worst one of all: everyone is going to hate this. These fears are all real and valid, but the internet gives everyone a PhD in bullshit, and some “advice” I’ve seen making the rounds, especially in regards to social media, is really, really bad.

First, having high follower count does not mean you’re going to be successful in getting an agent or a book deal or readership. Publishing a project and getting it in front of an audience is a hustle. It is work. It is a small business that requires attention and time and energy. Those with enormous audiences will reach more people, but they didn’t get there by accident. They got there by putting in the hours and the labor through careful planning and interaction. Agents have different preferences in regards to social media and some insist their authors have a large platform–particularly if you publish non-fiction–but most don’t require a certain follower count to decide whether to take on a client. You know what they’re looking for first? If your work is something they want to represent. Having 10,000 Twitter followers is no guarantee of success.

Second, you do not need to use all the social media that exists in the world to have a solid platform. I recently read a panicked tweet from an author who wondered if they should create an Instagram account because they’d heard it was important for authors to be on all the platforms. In business, you’re advised to use social media that is most relatable to your target audience and best fits your brand and business model. If you’re using a platform your audience isn’t engaging with, they won’t find you there. Social media is also a time suck. If you’re trying to be everywhere at once you will burn yourself out. Do what you like, find your people, cultivate a following, and nurture the platforms that make the most sense to you. You don’t have to have an Instagram if you don’t take pictures regularly. You don’t have to have a YouTube channel if you hate the sound of your own voice like I do if you’re not interested in video. I have an Instagram page where I mainly put up pictures of my dog, but Twitter is where you will find my writing on full blast. And I’m cool with that.

Finally, and most importantly, you will not fail as a writer or creator if you aren’t present on these sites all the time. I hate to be the one to say this, but tweeting isn’t writing. It’s great for collaboration, sharing ideas, getting feedback, connecting, and sending hilarious GIFs, but it’s not writing. I spend far too much of my time on Twitter. In fact, it’s often so distracting I have to put every device as far away from me as possible and keep it off my browser if I have writing to do. It’s distracting and, I’ll admit, addicting. I can lose hours of valuable time scrolling through a feed that doesn’t have a bottom and always has fresh content. Sometimes, I need to unplug and disconnect when I notice my social media consumption is taking a toll on my productivity and my mental health. I have to remind myself that social media is the forward-facing self. The wins. The achievements. The milestones. Rarely do you see the work, the frustration, the rejections, the bad reviews, the failures. It can become isolating and frustrating if you let it.

Social media is important for writers seeking connections and an audience, but it isn’t everything. There’s no magic formula for success. Find a balance. Enjoy life. Read a book. Go outside. Pull your eyes away from your screen. I promise it’ll be there when you get back.

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