by Camela Thompson
The need for authors to establish a platform through social media is the source of much whining. I understand it. I lived it. I remember sitting in a seminar at a local writer's conference near tears because the jargon being spewed by the presenter was foreign and overwhelming in volume. She kept repeating the phrase, "You need to do this." Why was she repeating herself? Because she knew that most of us sitting in the crowd wanted nothing to do with it. We still wanted to believe that an agent would figure it all out for us. We'd hand in our manuscripts and be able to focus on the next book.
Now I can laugh as I type that last sentence out. The presenter was right. Social Media is important.
The reasons to avoid Social Media are numerous and often illogical. Let's look at a few of the most popular arguments:
We're introverts! We don't like talking to people!
Social media is the perfect way for introverts to market their book. I count myself in the introvert crowd. Conversations in person never go as I imagine them - and I imagine them again once they're done and I come up with the perfect comeback. If someone is staring me down, wit goes out the window. Somehow when my smart phone or laptop is between me and the people I'm interacting with, things get better. That and I can claim I didn't see the alert while I think of a better response.
Social Media gives us the perfect opportunity to use our craft to interact with the world. It's writing!
I don't have time!
Puh-leaze. If you have a smart phone, you have time. Waiting for your car to be repaired? Add pins to your storyboard on Pinterest. Getting your hair cut or dyed? Participate in a Twitter chat. Standing in a ginormous Starbucks line? Tweet about it. Impossible, you say? I have literally done all of these things. Here's a picture I posted during a recent Twitter chat - and it was a fantastic springboard for a conversation with other authors:
Photo taken by Hair by Summer in Seattle - she's awesome!
Any time you are bored enough to get out your phone and stare at it, remind yourself to tweet, post, or pin. Especially during elevator rides and your commute on public transit if only for the material that inevitably will slide your way. Hopefully not literally. Some of those bus rides are scary.
I don't want to take time away from my writing.
Sorry, this isn't valid for a few reasons. If you have a smart phone, you can be setting up your social media posts when it's not possible to write (like in line at Starbucks, waiting for your car to be fixed, getting your hair done, etc.). Even those of you who write full time cannot possibly sustain a continuous day of writing without breaks. During one of those breaks, open up Hootsuite and schedule some posts ahead of time. If you have writer's block, find pretty pictures and quotes that speak to you instead of using original content. If you have time to sit on your couch to watch television or a movie, you have time to schedule social media posts. I know, sometimes you need to have a break from anything author related. Take those breaks, but remember that thirty minutes are all it takes to schedule several posts for the week. The final reason: short posts will not leech your creativity.
Why are you really avoiding Social Media?
The arguments I've listed are the most common, but I don't think they are the root of the problem. I believe that the real hesitation to embrace social media is fear. Fear impacts us even when we don't acknowledge it.
Some of us fear technology. This is fair, but it's something that can be overcome. I believe the real hesitation for most of us is the risk that comes with putting ourselves out there. So many questions popped into my head when I first started. How much should I share? What will I talk about? Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? Beyond my fear of insignificance was a fear of being ridiculed.
Social Media is a powerful tool, and even the most well known writer can boost sales. They can destroy them too, which is a sobering thought. As we learned growing up, it's easy to say the wrong thing and be taken out of context. That doesn't mean we stopped talking. We adjusted. Apply those same lessons online. If you wouldn't say it in the office, leave it offline or accept the risk that you will start a fire.
Tips to Make Things Easier
Start with What You Know
Do you have a personal Facebook account? Start there. You already know how to use the user interface, now it's up to you to come up with content. Not sure where to start? Follow your favorite authors and watch them for a week or two. See what generates the most comments for them and what appeals to you. Remember that established writers can break the rules. If you are just starting out and write general fiction, spouting off about politics and religion will alienate some of your potential readers. You are allowed to have your opinion, but if someone doesn't agree with you, they might not buy your book because of a topic that has absolutely nothing to do with your writing. Is it worth it?
Once you're comfortable with one Social Media platform, considering adding another. Just one! Do not join them all at once. It's the quickest way to burn out.
Put Pages Under Your Name
Do not create pages for your book unless that is the only book you ever plan to write. You are a brand. Eventually people will look for what you write by your name. If it's under your name, you do not have to start over every time you publish.
What do you want to open the door to? I've seen posts about arguments with spouses, political beliefs, and disagreements with family members. I've read touching essays about loss and grief. I've seen people bare their souls when discussing past abuse and health problems. What you discuss is between you, the people in your stories, and the world. What you put online is forever and can never be taken back. This doesn't mean you shouldn't write what is hard. Just remember that coworkers will find your work as well as family members. If that makes you uncomfortable, maybe you shouldn't hit "Publish."
If you can find someone to read your post before you publish it, excellent. If not, read it out loud before publishing. Often I find that I catch more mistakes if I say the words out loud. It forces me to read each word instead of skipping over them. Scheduling posts ahead of time really helps! It gives you an opportunity to review your posts more than once before publishing.
What you put out in the world comes back to you. I truly believe it. This is a small community, even more so because of Social Media. Don't badmouth others and for God's sake, DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.
Do you love or hate Social Media? Are there other tips and tools you would suggest?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.