As social media gained popularity, publishers and agents began expecting writers to come with their own platforms and share themselves and their lives online in service of building a customer base. At The Dread Machine, we don’t. We want our writers to enjoy writing. We want them to be happy, healthy, and creative individuals, and we recognize that most writers aren’t extroverts or bottomless wells of energy. The Dread Machine has an implicit social contract with its writers: because we publish your writing, we will promote you. You’re not alone in marketing your work, and you shouldn’t have to be.
People aren’t meant to be packaged. Nobody should be forced to become a public figure. Some people have a talent for creating an engaging public persona, but many do not. It’s exhausting, invasive, and exploitative. The stress and anxiety it causes can lead to burnout and creative blocks.
Consider the opportunity cost. What more productive things could a writer do with the time they spend on social media marketing when many aren’t well-trained to perform such duties? If publishers wrangle marketing for their writers, this frees up authors to create new stories or to take courses to improve or expand their skills, which could, in turn, result in more sales for the publisher as writing quality improves.
Compared to publishers, individuals have limited time and resources. As publishers, it’s wise for us to remember what our job is and always has been: to publish writers’ creations and to advertise our publications. Expecting writers to build their own social media brands can, through many lenses, be interpreted as a publisher’s abdication of their own responsibilities.
A writer’s social media platforms should be considered a nice supplement to a publisher’s marketing efforts, not a requirement. Rather than expecting our writers to carry our weight, The Dread Machine invests the time and money into building a brand and a community that resonates with readers. We serve as advocates for our writers and work to protect their mental health and their privacy.
We do not, and will never, expect writers to become a “brand,” nor will we demand they participate in social media. As publishers, we have the ability to build our own brands and communities online independent of the writers whose work we publish. Isn’t this a basic expectation of a good publisher? If selling our publications isn’t one of our core responsibilities, what incentive does a writer have to sign with us at all? No wonder self-publishing has become so popular. If writers are expected to bear the brunt of the social media legwork necessary to promote their titles, what incentives do they have to share their revenue with publishers?
Writers are entitled to have control over their public presences. If you need to be a private person for your creative juices to flow, then, by all means, be that person! Your editors, your publishers, and your readers must understand that your mental health is essential to your success. After all, if you can’t set boundaries and take care of yourself, how can they expect you to hit the deadlines for edits or your next manuscript?