Social media vs. work/life balance

Social media coalfaceIt is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a book must be in want of social media. Okay. that’s corny, but it’s true. But how hard should we pursue out courtship of social media and should we toss our head, be defiant and stick up for our principles, yet concede that old fashioned prejudice is out of place in a modern publishing relationship?

Leaving aside dodgy metaphors, how should we reassess this, given the ubiquity of social media. Be honest, who doesn’t stretch out their hand for their smartphone first thing in the morning? Apparently the majority do within 5 seconds of waking. I can’t quote the source as I was only half listening to Radio 4 as I was checking Facebook.

I’ll come clean. I LOVE social media: I’ve used Twitter since July 2009; I’m a keen Facebooker; I love blogging; I’ve even given talks to authors on using it. I could spend all day (and night) on it, making and talking to friends on five continents. That’s what human beings do, communicate, isn’t it?

Here’s the ‘but’.

Note the word ‘continent’. This is what we aren’t. It’s the fatal trap of doing it because we can. Twitter lures us, blogs seduce us, Facebook entraps us. And what Google+ and Pinterest do belongs in Fifty Shades.

Authors now have the privilege and the fun of interacting with each other and even better with their readers. Information (properly sifted and checked, obvs) is at their fingertips. Opportunities, events, connections are many and rich. You can read journals, newspapers, academic research at the click of a mouse. You can also do daft quizzes and rant at will.

choc2I can’t keep away from SM in the same way I can’t stop eating chocolate. But I could manage it better. Turning it off completely is a nonsense, but to get any work done I’ve found setting limits is sensible. Of course, it’s not that simple.

My first task in the morning (after checking my phone) is to write a ‘to do’ list for the day. Yes, despite my electronic calendar, I use a pen or pencil on paper because the physical act makes the list stick in my brain. Then I set my day’s goals in priority order; today writing this blog post is first task. Next will be my column for The Deux-Sèvres Monthly, then another post for this pre-launch week. (My fifth book, INSURRECTIO, is published and launched at the London Book Fair next week on the 12th – eek!) Normally, I’d be working on my next book, but this is the modern world of publishing so it’s almost wall-to-wall social media this week.

After each piece of ‘proper’ work is completed, I reward myself with a quick peek at social media. But now, I keep a firm eye on the clock. I post a review, comment on other posts, announce something like a cover reveal, repost an interesting or provocative article and have a chat with one or two people. Then it’s back to work.

Social media is part of today’s world and for any author, mainstream or indie, an absolute given. This is where your colleagues are, the readers are, the world is. Ignoring it is like shutting the door on people. But everybody has to work, eat and talk walks. Balance is the trick and like everything else, you have to work at it.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth in the series, INSURRECTIO, will be published on 12 April 2016.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…

15 comments to Social media vs. work/life balance

  • How disciplined you are, I admire that. Good luck with the book launch.

  • ingridbanwell

    Thanks Alison, I love your posts and very much appreciate all your sage advice. In the wild west of digital publishing, indie authorship and that essential but sometimes overwhelming quagmire of social media; a good strong, level-headed and encouraging voice is just what we need! Best of luck with your launch. Your success is well deserved.

    • Alison Morton

      Thank you, Ingrid. Yes, it has to be an exercise in iron will to keep away from it. And thank you for the launch wishes. This time next week, I shall be at Olympia at the London Book Fair, pacing the ground waiting for 4.30!

  • I differ from you, Alison, in that I only use my smart phone for calls and texts and leave the wifi on it switched to ‘off’. Checking FB and responding to what it throws up takes a good 60-90 minutes a day. But then I go to work on my old computer which is not hooked up to the internet, and that’s the only way I can write without distraction. Like you, I have to-do lists, both weekly and daily. Without a handwritten list, I spiral into full-blown panic!

    • Alison Morton

      Gosh I’m not as disciplined as you about working on a non-connected machine. Sometimes I need to quickly check etymology or a Latin ending or a quick fact and it’s done in a second or two. That’s the glory of the Internet. The FB sings her siren song. That’s the danger!

  • I agree with your assessment of blogging. I’ts a year since I started my blog, and I can’t imagine life without it! I also love blogs others write, and comment a lot (as I’m doing now). I’m a Facebook fan, but find it difficult to do as much as I’d like. And Twitter, so far, had eluded me! So much to do, and, as they say, so little time. My next step is to begin writing for print media—a big block, since I think they are stuck in familiar territory, and have little time for new writers!

  • You are so skilled at managing your social media accounts whilst still producing book after book, Alison! Look forward to seeing you at the London Book Fair tomorrow, and to your launch for INSURRECTIO!

    • Alison Morton

      Thank you, Anita. That’s a real compliment coming from an expert like you! Yes, looking forward to the launch and catching up with everybody.

  • Good system, Alison. Like you, I’m a big fan of social media. I’m amazed at the opportunities it’s brought me and the good friends I’ve acquired through it. But it has to be seen as part of the job. Incorporating it into the working routine is a good way.

    For me, it’s social media first thing, then head into my to-do list. I make a list over a week rather than a day. Sometimes the tasks are things that allow me to hop back to see what’s going on at FB or Twitter. Sometimes I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that I forget to check what everyone else is up to!

    • Alison Morton

      You’re right, Roz, Sometimes, you need to break up a ‘heavy’ task with the relief of a dip into social media. I sat for two solid hours yesterday and wrote new parts of my next book. Exhilarating! Then I peeked at Facebook and found 54 comments. Eek! But they were all lovely comments. 😉

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