Trying to Be Heard Above the Facebook Noise

I’m sure it seems as if I’m obsessed with Facebook, considering all the posts I’ve been writing about the site lately, but the truth is, it confuses me. What’s the point of having thousands of friends if only a few of those “friends” show up in our news feeds, and our posts show up in only a few of theirs? Why do we have to post silly sayings and quotes by other people to attract attention to our own writing? Why are we supposed to upload colorful images and share cute pet photos? What does any of that have to do with our books? Shouldn’t the books be enough to attract attention?

I do know the answer to that last question. If you are James Patterson, mention of a book is news, but if you are Pat Bertram, it’s blatant self-promo.

There is so much noise on Facebook, with everyone screaming “Looka me, looka me,” like kids on a playground, that it’s almost impossible to hear the quiet writers who just want people to check out their books.

I thought if I posted intelligent questions, I’d attract intelligent friends, and the ones I interact with are exceedingly intelligent. The trouble is, they are in the same position I am in — looking for quiet readers in a noisy world.

I’m a writer, right? I should be able to think of witty things to say that will make people want to get to know me and my books, but my wit deserts me when it’s most needed. When I do think of something witty, it’s at three o’clock in the morning. I’m not about to wake fully, turn on the light, write down my witticism, and then lie there for hours, waiting in vain for sleep to return. (My wit centers more on puns, anyway, such as: Waiting in vein. Is that what vampires do? Well, maybe “wit” is a bit of an exaggeration.) So what passes for wit, passes with the night, and in the morning I don’t remember. (Probably just as well if “waiting in vein” is the best I can do.)

One of my favorite people on Facebook, who manages to be intelligent and witty and post cute pet photos, is Malcolm R. Campbell. (He also happens to be a darn good writer.) Malcolm once said that he’s written more to promote his books than he did to write them. (See? I told you he was witty. Or at least truthful.)

It’s kind of pathetic when you think about it — you rip out your heart and throw it into your book, and then you have to take what’s left of you and spent it on sites like Facebook. Is it worth it? I’m not sure. For a long time, I thought it was. I was having fun, and there was always the hope of hitting some sort of friending jackpot. But now? It seems like . . . noise. Something to block out.

Still, wit aside, I do have a modicum of intelligence, a bit of computer savvy, a tinge of knowledge about the workings of the human psyche, so I should be able to make my voice heard above the noise, right? But in the back of my mind is the small question, what then? My books aren’t the next erotic vampire bondage serial killer novelty, so will my being heard make any difference?

18 Responses to “Trying to Be Heard Above the Facebook Noise”

  1. Stephen Leslie France Says:

    I have wanted to post something similar to this for a while, but truthfully, I was anxious that I would be received as bitter.

    There is definitely a case to be made about the nature of response to Facebook posts, for example, if I posted something full of pessimism like “When will life get better for me?” or “Life is sooo hard,” I would probably get more “likes” than if I were to post one of my analytic pieces on psychology – something significant to everyone and more profound.

    Yep, definitely agree – it is a challenge to gain recognition over the Facebook noise!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I sometimes wonder if posts like this make me seem bitter, but I’m not — just trying to figure things out. I have a new philosophy — to poise myself for success — and so I need to know where to put myself and how to hold myself so success will come. Most of Facebook is fluff, entertainment, so of course, most people won’t be interested in more analytical pieces, and yet . . . who knows. There is a lot of intelligence being drowned out by the noise.

  2. sandy Says:

    I avoid facebook. In fact I have come to avoid this weird new world entirely. I don’t write anymore, I don’t come down from the mtns very often. I was invited recently to speak to the student chapter of the NLG at CU Law School and that was nice, glad to see that a passion for justice is alive and thriving among at least a few young law students. My daughter is working hard on a quality feature length documentary film about an iconic record store in Manhattan called The Colony that is going to have to close soon (after 64 years) and I hope she gets the recognition she deserves, but times have changed. Reality TV and you tube videos have undermined the standards that used to be valued in the film world, just as erotic vampire fiction has undermined the standards that used to be valued in classic literature. I’m resigned to the fact that my work, once admired and respected by authors I admired and respected, will be ultimately ignored and finally understand why Ita Willen, a writer I admire very very much decided to give it up years ago. Speaking of fine authors who became discouraged: I will never forget the sadness in his voice when Jack Salamanca (J.R. Salamanca author of the novel Lilith a best seller in the 60s) told me “praise from me might do you more harm than good” when I asked him for a back cover blurb for my first novel. Knopf stopped publishing his work in the mid eighties. About that same time Putnam stopped publishing the work of Helen Hudson (once “critically acclaimed” in such publications as The New Yorker, Life and Time magazines) saying at the time “no more literary fiction” . . . not enough money in it I guess. Dan Brown did market research to figure out what would sell well when he wrote Da Vinci Code. I thought that book was awful but I’m one of those old fashioned readers that looked for psychological insight into believable characters and the kind of beautiful writing that inspired all the senses and could transport the reader to other places and other times. I really don’t have anything comforting to say about the current state of affairs but you know, for whatever its worth, that I do admire your work.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sandy, after reading your comment about all the authors you admired, it was a real joy to come upon my name as one of those authors.

      The way the book world is set up today, authors who are interested in writing books that speak to their own hearts are in competition with those who write books to appeal to the masses. It’s taking me a long time to see my own path and to shut out the “noise.” The one benefit of today’s book world is that my books will always be available, so I have time to let my readership build slowly.

      And you’re right. There is definitely no money in literary fiction. Romance writers make about 180% of the median income from books, while literary authors make 20%. The thing is, I see no reason to write the books other people are writing. The world doesn’t need more “entertainment.” But perhaps someday, the world (or at least a few of the humans on the world) will need my books. Or not. I don’t know if it really matters. I wrote the books I wanted to write. Maybe that’s enough.

      • shadowoperator Says:

        Pat, I think “writing the books you wanted to write” is the most important thing, too. What’s the point of offering your readers something you wouldn’t read yourself? It means that you’re talking down to them and not really sharing something with them, but if you write what you want to write, you may eventually find that you are engaged not just in a dialogue with your writing self, but with your readers as well, and that’s always valuable.

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Yeah, with the amount of blogging I do, sometimes I feel like I’m doing more writing for promotional purposes than I am for literary purposes.

  4. Emma McCoy Says:

    Good or bad, this is the world in which we live. There are certain hoops that we are expected to jump through if we want people to pay attention. And, the thing is, it will continue to change. If we want mass readers then we have to reach them on their level. If we want fewer but higher quality readers then screw facebook and stick to other avenues.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t think anyone would mind the hoops if people paid attention. What’s heartbreaking for many authors is jumping through the hoops and still not finding the mass readers they want. But as you say, this is the world we live in. (Or it is until we turn off our computers. Then this world ceases to exist.)

    • shadowoperator Says:

      Hi, Emma! I think you are probably right about the number of hoops we’re expected to jump through, though like Pat I’m more than a little sore at the vast number of them, and especially at the ones which don’t seem to return any noticeable result. I did start your novel, though, and found it very suspenseful. I’m going to be a slow reader, but as long as you don’t mind that, I’ll be entertained at my own pace. Ladies, maybe we should put out one of those risque calendars, but instead of putting our own pictures on it, it should have the pictures of models hired to play our favorite characters from our novels! That would certainly be an attention-grabber of Facebook stature, and what’s more, it would be old school! Just joking, of course.

  5. Carrie Rubin Says:

    It appears I have a similar take on these things as you do. I think social media to promote books needs to be done up until a certain point. Beyond that point, it’s just superfluous fluff. Of course, finding that “point” is the tricky part.

  6. Blackie Noir Says:

    Hi Pat, you’re astute as usual. Couldn’t agree more on the whole ‘Facebook scene.’ After years of ignoring FB, (I didn’t get the point, still don’t) I finally tested its turbulent and muddy waters a few months back after E-publishing on Kindle. Yes, promoting my work was my primary motivator. Outside of re-connecting to quite a few old friends I’d made through various writers groups over the years, the rest was pretty much what I’d expected . . . “much ado about nothing.” However, there were a few exceptions . . . your excellent groups, events, and promotional tools (character / author interviews, excerpt exposure), and intelligent, witty, well writen posts / blogs are at the top of the list.

    I’ve pretty much taken a sabbatical from FB ( rather write my own fiction, or settle in and read someone elses), so I haven’t participated in any of your recent events / discussions, but . . . I still check in knowing that because of a handful of authors on FB (yourself included) I can find some substance amidst all the “superfluous fluff.”

    Best to you, BN.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Ah, Blackie. What lovely things you say about me and my groups! It’s good to know that I accomplished at least part of what I set out to do. I wanted a haven of sanity midst the constant bombardment of promos and inanities, and through all of Facebook’s changes, I’ve managed to keep my groups going. I’m glad you appreciate them and participate in the discussions.

      I really enjoyed your character interview. So many are flat, no personality, but Peril had personality squared.

      • Blackie Noir Says:

        Thanks, Pat. Of course if Peril ever hears that (“but Peril had personality squared”), there will be no living with her. What am I saying? There’s ALREADY no living with her. Totally impossible!

        Pat, pay no attention to Blackie the jester (as in fool). If the dude would just let go of a few bucks, pay me a living wage, I’d be a lot more compatible. Thank you for the kind words, AND the nice plug / link.
        May all good things come to you . . . Peril.

  7. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I know what you mean by ripping your heart out and putting it into a book. I definitely did that with Desk Job. There’s the first draft writing time of about a year and a half. Then there’s the editing with the help of two editors – more blood squeezed out of the heart. This book I aimed at humor as well as the darker side of the writing/reading experience. And yes. A lot of noise out there on facebook. You can only hope that you are doing yourself and those who worked with you on a writing project some good.

    Dan Brown’s books may have their problems but they are fast paced and deal with subject the public seems to want dealt with.

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