By Sarah J. Maas
So, it’s been nearly a year since I found out QUEEN OF GLASS will be published, and a bit longer than that since I started this crazy journey towards publication. So I think it’s been long enough that I can look back and give some advice about the things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out…or even just at any point during this journey.
There are a lot of Unsaid Things in the industry. Rules that no one ever tells you, lines that you didn’t really know existed until some poor soul has the misfortune of crossing one of them, and everyone gossips about it, and you think “Holy crap, I almost did the same thing! That could have been ME they’re gossiping about!”
Don’t get me wrong—this is a wonderful, wonderful industry, and the YA community is absolutely fantastic. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. But there are some things that writers (regardless of what genre you work in) should be aware of. I actually started writing this post intending for it to be a list, but my first point warped into an entire article, so I think I might just do a series on this over the next few months…
So, without further ado…Twitter.
Sometimes, Twitter can feel a lot like high school. This was probably the most shocking thing for me to learn, because I didn’t really HAVE a typical high school experience. I never bothered to cozy up to the popular kids (in fact, I think I spent my time rolling my eyes at them), there weren’t really cliques to navigate, and I certainly didn’t give a crap about what people thought of me.
But Twitter sometimes feels like you’re in the middle of a giant high school cafeteria, looking for anyone you can sit with, wondering who will sneer at you if you dare approach their table, and contemplating if eating in the bathroom by yourself, or just skipping lunch all together, is the best option. When I first joined Twitter, I didn’t know who I was allowed to talk to, who would respond to me, who to even APPROACH. When I first joined, barely a blip on the radar, I kinda felt like I was standing in a field of landmines.
While the YA community is super-welcoming as a whole, there are definitely people who will not speak to you just because You Are A Nobody. Of course they won’t ever admit it, but there are people who won’t talk to you or follow you until you have an agent, or a book deal, or until you wind up on the NYTimes Bestseller list.
It took me a while to get used to that, to realize that some people do not consider all writers to be created equal—and truth be told, sometimes those distinctions are a good way to weed out the random spammers. But the best bit of advice I can give you is this: 1) If someone won’t acknowledge you because you aren’t agented/pubbed/a bestselling author, then perhaps they aren’t worth your effort, anyway and 2) it doesn’t reflect on YOU—it reflects on THEM. Don’t let it get to you.
There are cliques, too. I’m a fairly outgoing person in real life, but online, I sometimes feel like I come across as SUCH a creeper if I randomly say hi to someone, especially if they’re a part of a tight-knit group of besties who spend all their time on twitter just talking exclusively to each other. I used to be afraid of crossing into the BFFers-Only Zone—but at some point, perhaps after getting some confidence thanks to landing an agent and a book deal, I stopped caring if I dared breach clique lines. And you know that? I think a lot of my previous hesitation was all in my head. Most of the people (and groups) I’ve approached have been incredibly warm and kind.
Sometimes, people only talk to their friends just because they’re shy, and don’t really know how to branch out. It’s kinda intimidating to just say hi to a stranger and strike up a conversation, especially on a public forum like Twitter! But I always forget how great it feels to be approached by another writer—to know that another writer is interested in talking to ME! And you know what? I’ve made a bunch of fantastic friends thanks to Twitter—thanks to those random conversations where I bit the bullet and just replied to a tweet of theirs.
Despite that, Twitter isn’t for everyone. Every other week, there’s a study out that either says Twitter doesn’t sell books, or that Twitter is an invaluable marketing tool. Some authors HAVE had success thanks to Twitter, but some authors have had it without using Twitter at all (I’m looking at you, Suzanne Collins). Ultimately, I think you have to decide what you are the most comfortable with.
I know authors who have left Twitter because the (occasional) high school atmosphere got to them. They didn’t like the public ass kissing, or the cliques, or they got upset because some Big Author didn’t follow them back. I know authors who have never once felt like it was a high school cafeteria, and who think Twitter is the best thing ever. Twitter’s different for everyone.
I personally use it for making connections—for chatting with friends and readers, meeting new people, and just getting play-by-play updates on what’s happening in publishing. I do a little self-promotion, but not much, and I honestly get really turned off by authors who self-promote all the time and just RT every bit of praise they get.
Twitter is time-consuming, and definitely isn’t for the faint of heart (not that it’s a horrible, soul-crushing machine, but I think it definitely makes you get out of your shell, which is kinda good for us writers). And sometimes it can be frustrating. And, yes, if you get into a fight on twitter or start badmouthing someone, it WILL get around, and people WILL talk. Everyone loves to gossip, so don’t think you’re flying under the radar, even if you consider yourself to be a “nobody.”
Use your judgment when tweeting (Drunk tweeting? Not the best idea), because even if you have 12 followers or 1200, someone is probably watching. Things never disappear forever on the internet.
And, okay, this post has become way more intense and scary-sounding than I intended. Twitter is awesome—it really is, but I think the point of this post is that it is OKAY if you’re not comfortable joining, and don’t have a Twitter account. You won’t make or break your career with or without Twitter. Twitter really is what you make of it—and while it can feel like high school, it can also feel like you’re hanging out with the coolest people you’ll ever meet. But, if you’re still on the fence…get a Twitter account—be brave. You’ll never know unless you try.
And who knows? That clique of writers that you’re afraid to approach? That awesome author whose debut novel you absolutely adored? They might wind up becoming your best friends.
Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in fall 2012. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.