I’m months away from self-publishing my first romance novel and I have no idea what I’m doing. Talk about overwhelmed. But what made the process even more cumbersome was creating a social media presence as a new romance author.
Everyone says that authors must be on social media. They must be on social media, and they must create an email list. I mean, these are things you have to do, right? Well, I haven’t created an email list, but I merged onto Instagram like one does the 101 in Los Angeles: full speed ahead. I must note, I had taken a significant amount of time off from Instagram because of the toll it took on my mental health; when I returned, things seemed different.
Didn’t matter. If I wanted book sales then I had to be on Insta and if I had to be on Insta, it was imperative that I created Reels. So that’s what I did. I started posting Reels every day; in the beginning, the process was fun. Exciting. My first Reel had a significant number of views and likes. Oh, this is easy, I foolishly thought to myself. That is until I posted my second Reel and received almost no views.
In an attempt to find readers, I began following Bookstagrammers—zealous readers who critique books with pithy Reels. I also followed fellow Black romance authors in an attempt to create a community. Soon after, I realized a few things: Bookstagrammers are frightening, and following authors wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be.
Despite my discomfort, I continued on. Soon, I learned that in order to find success on Instagram, I had to feed the algorithm. Think Little Shop of Horrors. If I didn’t feed it Reels based on trends and lots of them, then I could expect to be hidden from view—tucked away in back while the popular kids took center stage. I found myself worrying more and more about what I wasn’t doing right instead of having fun doing something new. I worried about views, likes, saves. Engagement. New followers. I began worrying that my book would debut and the Bookstagrammers would turn up their noses in disdain, calling it trash or a huge disappointment.
But did I stop? No. Instead of pulling back, I went even further and created a TikTok account. Think louder, faster, and even more intimidating. Nevertheless, I swiped and swiped in an attempt to find a community. Didn’t find one, but I did stumble across Booktokers who lambasted authors for petty grievances. It didn’t matter what the author did, somehow they failed because the critic wasn’t happy. Tropes. Dialogue. Genre. Couples. Race. Story structure. Anything.
Day by day, I felt smaller and smaller. I felt like I was a failing author even though my book had yet to be released. When I researched the steps of self-publishing, I became overwhelmed because, according to social media, I wasn’t moving fast enough. No, scratch that, I wasn’t fucking good enough. Then, when I found time to start my second novel, I was exhausted and hopeless, thinking what was the point? The book wouldn’t be good anyway. When it came time to post Reels, I thought what was the point? No one was going to see the video anyway.
The downward spiral was swift, and I was powerless to stop it.
Last night, I woke from a nightmare then spent the rest of the night scrolling TikTok, feeling worse and worse about myself as a person and writer. I felt like I was drowning—pulling in gulps of social media noise that did nothing but pull me further into the darkness. I couldn’t find perspective on anything. TikTok was yelling about the state of the world or shitty romance novels and Instagram stories were saddled with outrage from the latest school shooting.
All of it became too loud and too much.
Social media wasn’t helping me connect to readers, it was making me feel unworthy. So much so that I was convinced I couldn’t keep up and was willing to chuck my budding writing career because what was the fucking point? As I sat on my mom’s bedroom floor and told her my dilemma our conversation led to one inevitable conclusion: I had to get off social media, immediately!
So that’s what I did. When I tell you the relief I felt when I suspended my two accounts. Whew! All of a sudden things became manageable. Perfect? No, but definitely manageable. My overall anxiety eased up about ten minutes after removing the apps from my home screen. Walking through the self-publishing shadow of darkness felt less intimidating. My writing ability felt less threatened.
I understand the role social media plays in everyone’s future but there was a world before social media and those who were out there pursing their dreams got along just fine. Will I return once I have a physical copy of my book and have uploaded the eBook? I’m not sure. Is there a chance I’m missing out on an audience because I’m not posting a reel every day and begging for someone’s email so that I can bombard them with newsletters? Perhaps. But I know there was no way I’d be able to write my second novel and work through the self-publishing process if I spent hours on Instagram and TikTok feeling like a loser.
I guess I’m going to have to wing it. Take a chance. Figure something out. There’s a quote that says, “If it costs you your peace, then it’s too expensive.” Right now, this is how I feel about social media. I couldn’t sacrifice my self-worth and desire to write just because someone said I had to spend all day on two apps that made me feel shitty no matter how hard I tried to remain unbothered.
I’m here to say that I know there are ways it should be done. Roads we have to take but if these ways and roads constantly chip at who we are, then I say fuck ‘em.
There’s gotta be another way.