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FEATUREMINIMAL SOCIAL MEDIAWhether you’re phobic of or addicted to social media, Polly Allen explains what’s the least you can get away withTwitter should be your first choice: it’s easy to master, and a favouriteof the publishing industryPOLLY ALLEN is a freelance journalist, travel blogger and prolific reader, based in Sussex. She’s often foundbrowsing secondhand bookshops.Depending on who you listento, social media is an assetor a burden to writers; it’s either your drug of choice, or a nightmare world of technology, oversharing and instant gratification.‘On average, we now spend two hours a dayon social media, with four to five social media accounts,’ says Clare Evans, author of Time Management for Dummies. Though well aware of its time-wasting dangers, Evans uses social media herself, having found a happy medium between staying connected and staying focused. ‘Use the platforms most likely to reach your readers,’ she advises. So Twitter and Facebook are her priorities.But some authors shun online profiles altogether. Début novelist Emma Cline doesn’t own a smartphone or a social media accountand it hasn’t held her back – The Girls sparked a seven-figure bidding war. Another début novelist, Rebecca Kauffman, wrote for Publisher’s Weekly about avoiding social networks – ironically, the online version of the feature, ‘Is social media toxic to writing?’, was shared 753 times.‘I’ve worked with plenty of authors who, for various reasons, aren’t on social media,’ says Charlotte Bush, head of PR for Cornerstone at Penguin Random House. ‘Harper Lee is a good example. If need be, we can run social campaigns on their behalf.’Sally O’Connor, from the York Literary Festival, says: ‘I can certainly see how there might be downsides [to social networking]. Writers may wish to stay anonymous and just let their booksdo the talking.’ However, she can understand why readers connect to writers online. ‘If, through social media, you’ve gained a sense that the author is friendly and happy to engage, you’ll want to meet them even more.’Contrary to the accepted wisdom, a scantyor non-existent social media presence doesn’t necessarily make you less appealing to agents, publishers or literary festival organisers. Many well-known authors don’t even have a basic website listing their books and biog. So don’t feel pressured to blog or tweet unless you want to.‘An active social media presence doesn’t factor into our programming whatsoever,’ says FrancesSutton, PressManager for theEdinburgh BookFestival. She believesthat real-life interactionis the main draw: ‘There’s something special and uniquely analogue inshaking the hand ofsomeone who’s changedyour life through their writing.’Abbie Greaves of literary agency Curtis Brown agrees: ‘We stress to existing and début authors that they don’t have to commit themselves to social media unless they’re comfortable,’ but adds, ‘if you have an authentic voice and enjoy doing it, that’s great’.Enter the middle ground. On the last Fridayof every month, Curtis Brown runs #PitchCB on Twitter, where budding writers pitch their book,in 140 characters or less, for industry feedback. Crucially, it’s the pitch that matters, not your following. ‘It opens up the pitching process to everyone,’ says Greaves (reason enough for an emerging novelist to join Twitter). Laura McVeigh’s novel, Under the Almond Tree, about a refugeeAfghan family fleeing the Taliban in the 1990s (an eminently tweetable premise) is one example of a #PitchCB success.To combat an existing social media addiction, or to avoid one in the future, Clare Evans advises: ‘Limit your usage to set times of the day, andplan how to use that time’. Mindful of the needto safeguard creative writing time, she suggests: ‘Schedule technology-free time to disconnect from your social media, especially outside working hours and for two hours before bed’.To reduce mental distractions and save time, you can use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to automate posting your messages. But being too organised can be dangerous. ‘If you’re scheduling, you’re not interacting,’ warns Farhana Shaikh, Editor of The Asian Writer website (theasianwriter. co.uk). ‘Social media is a community; it has to be a two-way thing, otherwise you’re like the person at the dinner party who only talks about themselves.’Poet and journalist Bridget Minamore uses Twitter to connect with readers and performance52 Mar/Apr/May 2017 mslexiaPHOTO: ESB [RPFESSIONAL / SHUTTERSTOCK


































































































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