Bill Arnott’s Beat: Sociable Media: Face-to-Face v Facebook (Part 1 of 2)

Something happened when I hit middle age. A knock at the door, someone holding a clipboard, explaining I was required to start using social media – Facebook being a necessity along with nighttime peeing and early suppers. (Not that a clipboard-toting official actually came to call, but I did have a friend strong-arm me into using Facebook. He even got me fifty new friends. I had no idea I was so popular!) Facebook is not the only platform that is popular to use, there are so many others that have come out too with ways for people to gain a following and build on their brand, whether it be personal or professional, for example, did you know that you can buy Tiktok likes and Facebook followers? Social media is adapting, and I guess I needed to get on board.

My first nonfiction book hit bestseller status, not through social media. Yes, I had a website. We used email. But we weren’t using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads or Amazon. I spoke to people. I arranged readings. I had books with me wherever I went, getting to the first five thousand in sales one and two copies at a time. Partial proceeds went to a national charity. This helped. People in part bought books for a greater good – another copy for a friend, a few for gifts – a sense of community.

I’m a proponent of social media, now, in all its time-consuming wonder. But my books still sell predominantly through personal interactions: readings, bookstore signings, writing groups and literary events. In other words, doing all the things we as writers hate doing – going out in public, interacting with people. Like most authors I’m an introvert, although I hide it well. Yet every time I force myself out of my comfort zone, I’m amazed at the good things that come about as a result. Most people are the same. Given a choice between mingling with strangers or pajamas and Netflix, the decision’s easy.

I don’t go to events expressly to sell books. I do it for the same reason I exercise. I know it’s good for me and when it’s done I’m pleased I did it. When I go out, I make real connections, actual friends as a result. My brand gets built and I often sell some books, books people buy because they know me. Trust’s been established. We see this with fiction and nonfiction alike. Readers want to know their authors. You can be as honest or deceitful as your writing. I’m a proponent of sincerity. I’ll fib to make someone feel better. I’ll embellish to enhance a punchline. But I won’t lie. That comes through in writing as it does in person and your social media presence. Readers might be tricked into buying a writer’s book, but it won’t happen more than once (pseudonyms aside).

When using social media, I look for ways to showcase others, building up fellow artists and colleagues wherever possible. I don’t believe anyone gets a bigger piece of the pie. I simply see ingredients for more pie. Ringo Starr – a hero of mine, is a fine example, a talented individual capable of writing great singalong tunes, who continues to surround himself with more talented people. (An interviewer once asked John and Paul if Ringo was the best drummer in the world to which they answered, “Ringo isn’t the best drummer in the Beatles!”)

Part 2 to follow …

Originally published by Authors Publish Magazine and Federation of BC Writers.


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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.