Howdy, Maine crime folk! Chris Holm here. I’m glad I got all that awkward introductory stuff out of the way in my first post as a Maine Crime Writers regular, because that clears the decks for me to talk turkey (and, apparently, mix metaphors) today.
At this year’s Maine Crime Wave, I was lucky enough to participate in a fantastic business-of-writing panel alongside MCW’s own Kate Flora and Barbara Ross, as well as agent Ann Collette and bookseller Barbara Kelly. And predictably, the conversation turned to social media and networking.
As writers, we’re told we need to be on Twitter, and Facebook, and KikSnap, and Tumblr, and Friendroid, and Tubesville, and okay fine I made a few of those up, although there’s still a chance your writing career is suffering because you’re not on them. But while our cup overfloweth with advice about how not to behave (most of which boils down to DON’T BE A HUMAN SPAMBOT—advice that too often goes ignored), nobody really tells us what we should be doing.
The best advice that I could give you about networking is STOP TRYING TO NETWORK. If the goal is to connect with people who like the sorts of things you like, just go be you and it’ll happen.
“But Chris,” you might reply, “that sounds kinda hippie-dippie, and doesn’t address the fact that WHAT I REALLY WANT IS THESE PEOPLE TO DO MY BIDDING MWAHAHAHAHA!” Well, Somewhat Maniacal Hypothetical Objector, I respectfully disagree; I think my advice actually is the best way to get folks on social media to do your bidding. And because my brain’s been warped by nearly four decades of obsessive pop-culture consumption, allow me to use an obscure fifteen-year-old indie rom-com to explain why.
In The Tao of Steve, Donal Logue plays a schlubby, pot-smoking underachiever named Dex who, surprisingly, has quite an active love life (read: he’s a pick-up artist with a knack for dating above his station). He owes his success to a philosophy he calls the Tao of Steve, which he gleaned from the holy trinity of Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man), Steve McGarrett (Hawaii Five-O), and, above all, Steve McQueen. As Dex claims, “Steve is the prototypical cool American male… He has his own code of honor, his own code of ethics, his own rules of living, man. He never, ever tries to impress the women but he always gets the girl.”
His Tao of Steve strikes me as a good way to approach social media. It breaks down into three simple steps:
1) Be desireless. Dex insists potential partners “can smell an agenda like shit on a shoe.” So it is with fellow writers, agents, and editors on social media. The default assumption when someone friends or follows is that they want something. Prove that assumption wrong in the near term, and you’re already ahead of the pack.
2) Be excellent. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Do something awesome in your new social media friend’s presence. That could mean hyping his or her books, or simply saying how much you enjoyed them. It could mean sharing links to cool stories, or posting adorable pics of your teacup pig. Interpret widely, and have fun with it. But—and this is important—be mindful to never not be excellent. Don’t whine, spam, or talk smack. People notice. Try to keep your neurotic meltdowns (we all have ’em) offline.
3) Be gone. As Dex says, “We pursue that which retreats from us.” Make your interactions meaningful, engaging, and brief. If someone’s responsive to your overtures on social media, try not to inundate them with @ messages and Facebook tags. And if you find yourself wondering how much is too much, see points one and two. If you’re failing at either, you’re probably overdoing it.
You’ll note none of the above steps involve asking for anything. What they do is help foster relationships whereby people might be inclined to boost the signal when you do (sparingly) engage in self-promotion, or to say yes should you (eventually, politely) ask a favor.
It’s worth noting that, because The Tao of Steve is a romantic comedy, Dex (warning: fifteen-year-old spoilers follow) ultimately learns the error of his shallow pick-up-artist ways, and winds up ditching his schtick in an attempt to build a meaningful relationship. Ideally, we’d all do the same on social media. But if the number of auto-DMs (don’t do that) and unsolicited newsletters (double-don’t do that) I receive every week are any indication, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Chris Holm’s latest, THE KILLING KIND (coming in September from Mulholland Books), is a thriller about a hitman who only hits other hitmen. David Baldacci called it “a story of rare, compelling brilliance.” If you follow Chris on Twitter, or like his page on Facebook, he might remind you of that a time or two, but he promises he won’t auto-message you or anything.