Friday, August 12, 2011

Social Networking and Writing...

Social networking is a tool that a savvy writer can use to his or her advantage. The two main avenues that most are familiar with are Facebook and Twitter. Another form that rarely gets tagged as social networking are the email loops. Let's talk about all three today. Some writers don't do anything on the first two because they think it's self-promotion. They don't want to seem forward.

Guess what? It IS self-promotion and publishers expect you to do it. You are your own best publicity. Unless you can afford a publicist, you need to do it yourself. A good publicist can cost you anywhere from $1,000 - $5,000 a month. That's right. A month. So if you can afford $12,000 to $60,000 a year for someone else to promote your work, you can skip this post. If your budget doesn’t allow for that, then let’s talk about Facebook, Twitter and email loops.

Facebook (aka MySpace killer) offers a way to interact with your readers by utilizing a fan page. In fact, Facebook doesn’t like promotion on a “personal” page and might deactivate your account if you use your personal page for promotion. Set up a Fan Page or Author Page instead. First thing you need to do is fill out your profile. If you are published, put up some book covers, share some excerpts and put up a link to your publisher.

Keep in mind that if you’re sharing excerpts you need to be careful about what you put up there and what settings you have if you’re writing “adult” scenes. Link your page and your blog and your Twitter account to this Fan Page. Then tell your friends and family about it. Ask them to let folks know. Don't ask them more than once every 8-12 weeks though. Don't send "like me" notes every week. Consider how you feel when you get hit with those all the time.

Things to consider if you have a Facebook page:

1. Content rules. Even if you just put up a Character Fact Of the Day, change that status 3-5 times a week. People will get used to visiting. They will eventually leave comments. Think of your fans as feral cats. They aren't going to leap in at first. You need to keep leaving things for them. Trust me. They will start to talk to you.

2. Social means just that. You need to interact with others. Say hello to new fans as you can. Pick 3-5 people each day and visit their page. Like one of their statements or, better yet, comment on it. When someone sends a “Friend” request, don’t just accept that request, leave a comment with your acceptance.

3. “Like” other pages. It's helpful to say hello to another author that you admire or know. That does two things. You are showing that you give a fig about someone else's career and their fans may come see who you are. Maybe they will like you too.

Come like our fan page

In order not to bite too much into your writing time, I recommend allowing 10-20 minutes three times a week for Facebook.

Twitter has proven to be extremely useful for the Arwen half of Marilu Mann as a Tarot consultant. Arwen says: I've built up my Tarot businesses by using Twitter. Many people do not like Twitter because of the 140 character limitation. It is challenging. You have to learn how to do 'net shorthand. Personally, I used to loathe NetSpeak. Now? I've lrnd 2 lv it.

Arwen does promote both her Tarot business and Marilu’s books on Twitter, but feels that Twitter is more about shaking hands and kissing babies and laughing with friends. Where Facebook is a conference workshop, Twitter is a cocktail party. You can float in and out of various conversations at will.

A mini book club started on Twitter with three people discussing Changing Times: Lusting Wild 1 on Twitter. Since then that group has read the other two books in that series as well and tweeted about them.

Things to consider if you Tweet:

1. How much do you retweet others? It should be 30% or better. This is about SOCIAL networking not being your own obnoxious stage mother.

2. How much do you tweet about just mundane stuff without any real meaning? People want to feel connected. No, they don't want to know what you are having for lunch. They might want to know that your sister called and made you laugh, especially if you share the joke. They want to see you as human.

3. When you do tweet your books/signings/contests/workshops/readings, make it fun. Give something back for those who retweet. Enter them in a contest. Tell them you'll send them some swag. Arwen occasionally does free one-card readings for folks who retweet for her.

4. Don't start and then stop. Having a 5-10 minute a day Twitter fest is perfect. If you have the ability, put Twitter on your phone so you can text quick notes and retweet using your favorite Tweeting application.

Don’t obsess about followers – either who’s following you or who you’re following. But you might be surprised by the connections you make. Cai follows Jeff Probst and had a very interesting Twitter conversation with Jeff and Barbara Vey (Publisher’s Weekly) during last season’s Survivor. Many celebrities have Twitter accounts and though they rarely respond to people they don’t already know, you can sometimes get “inside scoop” on things by following them.

You can follow us if you like. (main) or (usually only <20 Tweets on Sunday.)

We don’t have a Twitter account for Marilu Mann mainly because neither of us truly has the time to maintain that and we don’t want it to be something stagnant.

Again, in order not to take too much time away from your writing or waste too much time otherwise, we recommend 10-20 minutes a day during the week for Twitter.

The last part of this post deals with the email loops. These are trickier because they can be a huge time-suck. They are valuable because you have access to a captive audience. If you position your posts well, you can gain exposure. You need to join a variety of lists. Our publisher has a chat loop that is open to readers. It can be a crazy, free-for-all where the posts fly fast and furious. We have List Mom days that feature one or two authors who share excerpts from their upcoming books as well as excerpts from others. Kate Hill is List Mom Extraordinaire in my book.

So look for lists that are not just other authors. Promoting your work to other authors can become a bit annoying. Yes, you want them to read your books, because authors are primarily readers, too, but you really want to reach a broader audience than just other authors. It's great to chat about the craft, but if you want the real pulse of the reading world, join a readers loop that focuses on your genre. Mind your manners though. Agents, editors and publishers also lurk there.

Things to consider if you join reader email loops:

1. Comment on other people's posts. Reply to them without inserting "my next book" in every response. Have a presence. Try to post to that list at least 3 times a week as a response to what someone else says. One great way to interact is when you respond to someone's "what should I read next" with books by other authors. Again, you are showing yourself to be the nice human you really are and not the READ ME READ ME READ ME NOW author that some come across as.

2. Have a signature line. This is a very simple way of guiding people to you. Common netiquette is to keep it under four lines. More than that and you risk people not reading any of it. They want short and sweet not "War and Peace". Some loops even limit the number of lines you can have in your signature line – and don’t put your book covers in there. Book covers don’t belong on your signature line. They belong on your Facebook account and your website.

3. When you post promotion, try to make it less about the book and more about something else. You can run contests that ask people to like you on Facebook and retweet your book title for a chance to win a $10 gift card to Amazon. That's far cheaper than that publicist.
A reasonable recommendation for email loops is 20 minutes three times a week. Put the busier ones on digest and filter them into a folder rather than having them go straight to your inbox. It might put you a little bit behind in replying to some messages, but you also don’t waste time reading posts that aren’t of interest or concern to you.

If you do it right, you can spend less than 4 hours a week doing easy self-promotion. If you are working a 40 hour week, that leaves 90% of your week to devote to writing.

Final words of advice? All ways chek yur spellin. Otherwise you may lose more readers than you gain. Second, keep the personal opinions to yourself unless asked for them. Though you might think of yourself as a “font of all knowledge,” chances are others won’t. Maintain your professionalism at all times because you just never know when your post might go viral and be seen by editors, agents, and other professionals in the publishing industry. You don’t want to be “that” author.


Jill James said...

Somewhere I saw a study. Twitter is best used between 2-5pm (ET) for the heaviest traffic time. I thought it was funny to pick a time, but hey! maybe it works.

Cai said...

Hi Jill,

I know that I tend to be more active on Twitter in the evening, so there might be something to that.

Thanks for stopping by! :)

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Josie said...

I am not all good with all this social networking. It seems like it takes away so much writing time, but I guess it depends on how organized you are.