While it’s true that no author is an island (it takes a sizable village to get a book to press, whether you’re an indie or traditionally published), being an author can be pretty dang lonely. I wrote most of my debut novel, Baby Grand, in the middle of the night while the rest of my family was sleeping. Night after night, it was just me and the four walls and the chorus of voices in my head. And night after night, I struggled with self-doubt and wondered, Why am I doing this? Is anyone going to care?
In December 2018, I had gotten an idea to connect authors around the world through social media. I imagined that there were lots of people out there, like me, working in solitude. I thought, Wouldn’t it be great if all of us were connected so that we could cheer each other on and offer advice or share best practices? Back in 2009, when I was writing Baby Grand, there was a night when I couldn’t get a scene just right. It was a murder scene (I write thrillers) and it was turning out like every other murder scene I’d ever read. I put a call out on Twitter asking for advice and immediately got a comment from a fellow writer from across the world. His suggestion inspired me, and I was able to finish that scene in 15 minutes. He saved the day.
I had already seen some follow loops on Instagram and had tried to join a few of the mommy blogger ones (I am a mom, too, after all). However, I found that a lot of the accounts were interested only in growing their numbers, not making connections. No sooner had 20 mommies followed me than they unfollowed me. There’s a widespread mindset on social media that it’s cool to increase the disparity between followers and following. I never quite understood it. That’s not networking. That’s preening. These folks are missing the point of social media—and also the power of it.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own loop, an Author Follow Loop. I created a graphic using Canva and came up with some instructions, a variation of what I’d seen done on some of the other follow loops. I gave it a holiday theme, since it was December, and decided to use the punny hashtag #awritechristmas. Then I threw it up on Instagram with absolutely no expectations.
If I remember correctly, after a few hours or so (I think I may have posted it right before I went to bed), I had a few likes and follows. Nothing to write home about.
But then something happened. I don’t know how, I don’t know when—as is usually the case with all things Internet—but the loop started to take off. Authors started finding one another. My follower count went up and up with authors from Europe and Asia and Australia, and I was following back and commenting like a mad woman. For days and weeks, my eyes were getting red from staring at my phone and trying to keep up with all my new connections. (Note: This frantic activity landed me in IG jail for a short period. Instagram may temporarily ban your account if it sees suspicious activity, such as mass following and mass liking. I have since learned to slow down my likes and vary my commenting.) People were reposting the follow loop graphic and instructions again and again. If you look up the original #awritechristmas author follow loop on IG, the hashtag has been used more than 5,000 times.
Throughout 2019, I got to know a lot of these authors, and we touted each others’ news—book signings, cover reveals, release days. Was there any dropoff? Sure, there will always be some people on social media who don’t really want to connect and are looking to boost their numbers, but those followers were few and far between. Authors are a pretty cool and generous bunch, and we don’t compete with one another in the way other industries do. There’s a very good chance that a book sale for one may be a book sale for another, and we celebrate that.
I had been getting requests to do the loop again at the end of 2019 and decided to do it on the one-year anniversary of the first: Dec. 7. I created a new graphic, posted it with similar instructions, and waited to see what would happen. Could there be even more authors out there? The follows started pretty quickly. As I write this blog post, it has been weeks since I first posted about the #awritechristmas2019 follow loop, and people are still joining in droves. The new hashtag has already been shared more than 1,000 times.
What really makes me happy about all this is not my growing follower count. It’s the excitement, which is palpable. Aspiring authors, veteran authors, authors of all genres, indie authors, traditionally published authors—they’re joining and introducing themselves and developing dialogues with one another. Many reach out to me to thank me for starting #awritechristmas. They tell me how they are making long-lasting connections, friends for life, how they’re meeting up in the “real world” and feeling less alone. One author asked if she could replicate the loop for Spanish-speaking authors: #escritoresennavidad2019. I’d like to think that what began as a little experiment from an author who lives on an island in New York has—in a small but meaningful way—helped bring people together. And I thought writing a book was cool. J
If you’re an author and you’re reading this, it’s not too late to join the loop. Head on over to Instagram and climb aboard! There’s a community of authors waiting to say hello.
(c) Dina Santorelli
About In the Red:
When Kirk Stryker, a respected certified public accountant, is brutally murdered in his office in the Long Island village of Gardenia, all eyes are on rival Marty Benning, the handsome newcomer whose high-tech firm has been stealing Stryker’s business and attention. Muriel Adams, a middle-aged mom who has given up on love, falls head over heels for the charming yet enigmatic Benning, despite the warnings of friends and family, and when Benning is arrested for Stryker’s murder, she is the only one to believe in his innocence. Is Muriel blinded by love? Or is Benning playing her for a fool? In the Red is an emotionally charged contemporary thriller that follows the police investigation, media coverage, and political and economic fallout surrounding this high-profile crime, and, ultimately, uncovers a dark underbelly that reveals the dangerous places the heart can lead.
Order your copy online here.