This post was originally posted on the website of A. B. Funkhauser. This was an article written about my Free Writing Events endeavors, which resulted in my having a significant Twitter follower base.
24,000 Followers: Was It Worth It?
The History of Free Writing Events
I started Free Writing Events in August 2016, after attending a conference that insisted I needed a platform to be a successful writer. The arguments were sound, and so I hopped onto Twitter and got started. At another conference, I received great advice from author Chuck Sambuchino: if you want to build an audience, then appeal to that audience. Writing a book isn’t enough. You have to provide something.
Well, after cruising through the Twitter writing community, I made a discovery: there were tons of writing games, but no definitive place to find all the day’s themes in one place. Some people might have lists, but they were always out of date (I’m guilty of this sometimes too), and no one was very consistent about posting or tracking themes. Yet these games were popular—so I saw an opportunity. And my theme list, and theme posts, were born.
From there, I expanded to cover free contests (this mostly came from the excitement, demand, and general confusion surrounding pitch events like #PitMad)—and today, I’ve got over 24,000 non-bot author/reader followers on Twitter, and a newsletter with about 2,100 people on it. I’m a little bit of a household name in the Twitter writing community, and I’m proud of that.
But was it worth it?
Pro: It Got My Business Off The Ground
I am staunchly against spamming, and I post about my own books and services only twice a day or less. While it has had only mild impact on my book sales, it is the only place where I have ever advertised my editing services. And it got my editorial business off the ground, ultimately providing me a way to make a living off editing (albeit at about a half or a third of my husband’s income). Having followers in the tens of thousands is the only reason this worked. Now, however, my clients are coming in from referrals and repeats, and I don’t really need @writevent for advertising my services any longer.
Pro: It Put My Finger on the Pulse.
I’ve made over $2,000 from winning some of the contests I’ve posted about. Searching the contests each month led to my first traditional publication, and to winning the biggest award of my life: Writers of the Future. I would have never met Orson Scott Card (and many other big names) in person, or walked a red carpet, or created Elusive Press, if I hadn’t created @writevent first. The connections I have made as an editor, author, and social media “maven” have created crazy opportunities for me.
Pro: It’s Been So Gratifying
Being a freelance editor has been a true honor. Seeing my clients succeed, and cheering for them—having a client success shelf, with my name in so many Acknowledgments—I wouldn’t trade that for the world. And being @writevent has made me feel so useful, which is great for someone with anxiety. You can really find a tribe and a purpose on social media. However….
Con: It Saps You
I used to enjoy Twitter on my personal account. Now, I never really play Twitter games, or scroll the feeds, or get involved with my friends and build meaningful relationships outside just being “that person who does theme lists.” I’ve made Twitter into a chore for myself. Every day, posting the themes—and every month, compiling events—it is so draining. When you make a job out of something you love, and don’t actually get paid for doing that job, it can sap all the fun out of it. I had to stop running #FriDare because of this, and the thought of ever doing #Write4Life again makes me want to cry. I want the enjoyment back—but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Con: It Distracts You
What is my life goal? To have 30,000 followers and a successful editing business? Nope. My goal is to be an author, making a living off my words. And the three years I’ve spent on @writevent has only really distracted from that goal. Yes, I made so many connections that will be vital to me (I wouldn’t trade my journey for the world), but the whole idea of “needing a platform” is dangerous. Would your time be better spent honing your craft and producing loads and loads of work—or by getting more followers? Consider the trade-off you could be making.
Con: The ROI Is Not Great
My advice: if you are building an audience, build one with a newsletter, in your genre and age category. I may have 24,000 followers, but my theme posts still only get 35 retweets each day; and I may have 2,100 newsletter subscribers, but when I asked them to subscribe to my press’s newsletter, guess how many did it? Ten. This happened because I cast too wide a net, and I have all authors as my followers—not just fantasy authors or readers (this is my genre). Of course, I got the wide net of followers because of my subject matter (free contests), and that’s what got me all the other stuff I mentioned (as an editor, knowing a wide range of authors was a boon). In short: you’d be very surprised at how few followers/subscribers actually turn into buyers when they are not a specialized audience. And I don’t recommend ever having high hopes for a Patreon, Ko-Fi, Kickstarter, or similar things. They sound too good to be true because they are.
What I mean to say with all this, is that there is always a trade-off. Never lose sight of your TRUE goal, whatever that may be. It needs to come first. Social media and “platforms” are nebulous and fickle, and your own time (especially your writing time) is valuable. Don’t get sucked into anything that you can’t see having a return. But even if you do, you’ll get value out of it. Mine was ultimately worth it. Will yours be?