When Social Media Feels Downright Unsociable

I lay awake at three a.m. with lyrics going through my head from one of my favorite musicals, 1776:

Is anybody there?

Does anybody care?

For years, I’ve been hearing about the importance of social media for authors. For years, I’ve been touting the importance of social media for editors through The Christian PEN’s online courses. Whenever I hear a new idea or a fresh perspective, I’ve tried to incorporate it into my own social media.

A few years ago, I realized I didn’t have time to do all that social media myself and still keep up with my editing and fulfill my other responsibilities (both work and personal). So I hired a virtual assistant to help me. While I provided the content, she made sure it got “out there.”

When I signed a four-book contract for a series of Fiction Lover’s Devotionals, I was ecstatic! And confident that my already well-established social media presence, added to the social media efforts of all my contributing authors in these compilations, would surely guarantee wildly successful sales figures.

Not that huge royalties were my main goal for these books. I passionately believe in this project, and I’m beyond excited to hear about how the Holy Spirit is going to speak to readers’ hearts through the stories God led me to include in each book.

Over the years, I’ve heard countless ideas for how to promote books—mainly through some kind of social media. I followed most of the advice, strategically planning different types of posts for different days of the week, always striving to provide strong “take-aways” that would benefit people rather than simply tooting my own horn or constantly promoting my own books.

Not wanting to waste my time, or my assistant’s time, I thought it might be helpful to evaluate my efforts. So I sent out a Facebook post recently, asking my many friends, fans, and followers what types of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts they valued most, what they wanted to see more of and whether there was anything they wanted to see less of. I even asked for feedback on whether my social media came across as overly self-promotional.

And then I waited. Because I understand that people are busy and it takes time to get responses.

When I checked that post several days later, I could almost hear crickets chirping.

I received a whopping three responses. One from a dear friend who said she wanted to see more posts about my coming to Texas. A wonderfully sweet sentiment. But not really what I was looking for. One colleague posted a response that was so short and cryptic I didn’t even understand what it meant. Another dear friend wrote, “All of the above!” Which made me feel good—maybe I was on the right track after all. But really? Only three responses? Did no one else even see my post? Or did they see it and not care enough to respond?

Is anybody there?

Does anybody care?

Taking my sense of martyrdom to the extreme, I felt a bit like John the Baptist, crying out in the wilderness, and wondering if anyone was even listening.

These thoughts kept me awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. Disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated, I began to consider taking a complete social media sabbatical. If no one was reading my posts, why was I making myself (and my assistant) crazy coming up with something to write about every week? What’s the point?

The next morning, I read Cindy Woodsmall’s interview on Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog. (Both of these amazing best-selling novelists are contributing authors in my Fiction Lover’s Devotional series.) One of Lena’s questions was “What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?” One of Cindy’s answers really struck home:

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you sow. (Robert Louis Stevenson said that.) The most important thing we can do is remain faithful. That alone will reap quite a harvest because someone is always watching us, and faithfulness to ourselves and our dreams is impacting our friends and family. When others hit a rough patch in their lives and are tempted to give up, they may recall our faithfulness and find the needed strength for themselves.

My breath caught in my throat as I heard God speak to my heart. Don’t judge your social media by how many friends/fans/followers you have, or by their responses to your posts (or lack thereof). Don’t judge your promotional efforts by how many books you’ve sold. Simply be faithful with what I’ve called you to do. Then you will have a testimony that will encourage others to be faithful as well. People are watching … even if they don’t let you know about it.

That afternoon, I checked BookScan and saw that I’d reached the benchmark of 2,000 print copies sold on the first two books in the devo series. While that number may not be considered “wildly successful” in the publishing industry, I found it encouraging. So I e-mailed my virtual assistant and told her about it. She responded:

Think about those 2,000 people (and more!) who are being touched by this book!!! When you dreamed this idea, you promised God you would do it to touch people’s lives, right? YOU ARE. Right now. RIGHT NOW! This is it. Enjoy the moment.

Boy, did I ever need that reminder!

I then read one of the Amazon reviews for 21 Days of Christmas. The reviewer said it was a “great way to start discussions with kids about Jesus and faith. The stories even started me reflecting on my own faith and beliefs.”

I tell aspiring writers at conferences all the time to consider God’s definition of “success” with their writing. Sure, publishers need to make sure they’re selling enough copies to cover their costs and make a profit, or they can’t stay in business. But for an author, success isn’t just about sales figures. It’s about what those figures represent.

I probably won’t hear about all the ways the Holy Spirit uses these stories to touch hearts and change lives … not this side of heaven anyway. But whether I get responses or not, I’m going to keep doing what I sense God leading me to do, one day at a time, and trust Him with the results.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

(Psalm 30:5 NLT)