Nothing excites this former literary agent more than seeing new, confident and enterprising authors capture their audience by being savvy about how to use social media. Not only are they attracting readers, they're connecting with other writers and publishing industry professionals who inevitably bring more awareness and opportunity their way.
Yet there are those writers who are reluctant to dip their toe into the vast social media waters. The idea of spending time online, twittering and updating status (stati?) bars, connecting with others, pimping their novel/blog/website/services seems self-centered, conceited or disingenuous.
Writers, to sell books, to make a living with this writing thing you've got going on, you MUST connect by any means necessary. The good news is, using the most basic social media is free and totally effective, depending how you use it. If the act of writing is about self-expression, let the act of telling the world about it (and making lots of friends along the way) be an extension of your expression and passion behind what you do! All you have to do is create a profile and start connecting.
I asked Robert Lee Brewer, blogger, poet and Senior Content Editor for The Writer's Digest Writing Community, to share his thoughts on the importance of social media in a writer's life. Here's what he submitted.
"Writing is the most important thing a writer can be doing. After all, writing is what makes a writer a writer, right? But let’s forget about the whole writing side of things for a moment, because many writers also long to share their writing and/or make some form of income from their writing eventually.
One of the most cost effective ways to find an audience now is through the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, etc. After giving my own social media strategy some thought, I’ve realized that it can best be summed up as a “connect and collect” strategy.
Social media sites make connecting with other people online easier than ever. In literally seconds, I can “friend” other writers on Facebook and “follow” other people on Twitter. This is a connection, but it’s not a strong one, which is why I advise communicating with people on these sites.
There are many ways to communicate. Update your status on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, make a new post on your blog. However, the more personal your communication the more meaningful it is to your audience.
Of course, there may come a point when you have to balance your quantity of connections with your quality of connections. This post by Jane Friedman helps illustrate the price of popularity.
Of course, popularity is the name of the game when you’re trying to develop a readership. If your writing is great, then popularity should follow, right? Well, yes, if you have advocates pushing others to read your work. The smart use of social media strategies can help you find these “grassroots” readers who will spread the word when you do something great—like publish a book or speak at an event.
In a way, you’ll be collecting these people as friends and followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, you should be collecting valuable information from these followers and those who you follow. In other words, social media isn’t a one-way street and shouldn’t be approached as if it is.
I doubt many think of it as collecting—even I didn’t before I sat down to write this guest post, and it still kind of sounds icky—but that’s exactly what we’re doing. At the same time, we are being collected by others. If our tweets and blog posts are interesting and insightful, our information will also be collected by our readership and distributed to their friends and followers.
If you’re able to collect information such as e-mail addresses and/or physical addresses, you’ll have an even stronger platform for reaching these potential readers when you have really big news to report.
So which comes first?
Do you collect friends and followers first, and then connect? Or do you connect first? Actually, you should be doing both at the same time—always.
If you’re collecting friends and followers, many will not be advocates for your work if you don’t make meaningful connections with them—either personally or through the information you provide (and no, an automated message when they first follow you on Twitter does not count as a meaningful connection). If you’re connecting with people but not collecting them as friends or followers, how are you going to let them know that you just released your novel?
By collecting and connecting, you should be able to build a solid foundation for your social media platform that also gives you time to do what’s most important. Ahem, the actual writing!"
Robert touches on a feeling I know many of you have - feeling "icky" about marketing your work, essentially. Let's finally put an end to this brand of thinking. Consider collecting data in these terms: when you submit your novel or nonfiction proposal to an agent or editor, especially in these times, where the volume of your pre-pub audience plays a major role in their decision making, they want to see numbers. Sure, an agent or editor wants the work to be GREAT, but they want to be assured you have the platform, the audience to support the sale of your book and the stamina to keep it up after the book pubs. Even if you were to self-publish, you'll still need to connect and collect to sell your book. I cannot underscore this message enough, writers.
That said, connecting and collecting should come into balance with your writing life. If your writing isn't there, the chances of you getting published are pretty close to zero. If you decide to self-pub, the chances of you selling your book are just as slim.
So, keep it in balance, folks.
Your Action: Check out the sites Robert suggests and consider which are best suited for you. Write, connect, collect, repeat. Embrace it!
For those of you already connecting and collecting, is your writing life in balance or do you need to spend a little time on the craft?
Here's to a productive week!
About the Contributor:
Robert Lee Brewer is a Senior Content Editor for the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, focusing mainly on Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market, and WritersMarket.com. He also maintains the Poetic Asides (http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides) and My Name Is Not Bob (http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com/) blogs. He is married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their four boys. Robert welcomes contacts via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @robertleebrewer (http://twitter.com/robertleebrewer).