If you want to reliably see what I’m up to on the Book of Faces, Jay Kristoff has the good oil on how to do it. My Facebook page is here!
So I’m not sure if you beautiful folks are aware of this, but I thought I’d share since Facebook isn’t all that great at spreading the word about its own functionality.
The facey lair of Lord Zuckerberg has been shrouded in dank shrouds of dank, shroudy mystery for a while now, and most authors I know don’t really bother with it as a social media platform anymore. Not only does the Tome of Face-ishness seem oh so very Naughties, but it’s just not all that great for getting the word out about your warez, as opposed to Twitter or Tumblr or Tinder (omg all these T words) or whatever it is the cool kids are using this week.
One of the reasons companies and content creators are fleeing like virginal 16 year old protagonists in the presence of hockey-mask-wearing mass-murderers is that the Grimoire of Facery actually doesn’t…
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The days of authors being able to isolate themselves from their readers and concentrate on their craft are well and truly gone. There may be some fabulously rich bestsellers that don’t need to bother with social media, but they are few and far between. Even successful authors have a Facebook page, or Twitter, or a blog—or all of the above. (I know, because I follow some of them.) Apparently “word of mouth” is the newest craze in book marketing. That’s code for “the author maintains a social media presence”. It has the benefit of being cheaper than paid advertisements.
And it works too. I only discovered about Jacqueline Carey’s new urban fantasy, Dark Currents, via her Facebook page. I then went on to buy it—in hardcover, no less—and loved it. (And now I’m blogging about it. I should be on retainer!)
And if it’s important for them—the ones that have made it past the gauntlet of interns, agents, acquiring editors and whatever other publishing industry professionals exist (hey, I don’t know; I’ve never dealt with them!)—how much more important is it for self-published indie authors? And wannabes like me? Many agents say that if they are interested in a writer’s work, they will look them up on social media. I expect it’s mostly to determine whether the writer is crazy, arrogant or otherwise likely to be hard to work with, but part of it is also to see whether the author has a significant platform, like thousands of followers on Twitter or a crazy-popular blog.
All of these are reasons to engage with social media, whether you want to or not. But there are others.
I’ve been a Facebook person for years now: a personal profile only accessible to family and friends. I mostly post photos and cute updates about my son (as I was drafting this he asked me if I was king of our house; damn straight!). I haven’t actually created a public profile for my writing … mostly because it feels strange to create a regular Facebook account for it (one where I become Facebook friends with people), and to create a “fan” page when I have nothing for anyone to be a “fan” of feels like tempting fate.
But in November I decided to join Twitter. I’m sending my first book out to agents, and thought it was time I gave the social-media-as-writer thing a whirl. I had no idea what I was doing, but it’s easy to get the hang of. I’ve had non-Twitter friends ask me what I tweet about, and I tell them the truth: mostly I just chat to people. It’s not about posting the cleverest or most insightful thing (at least, not for me—I’m not that clever and am definitely not insightful!). It’s just about being friendly. Sometimes I’m funny but it’s usually by accident.
I got lucky, too—within a few weeks one of the people I was following tweeted about a contest called Pitchwars. Even better, I heard about it in time to actually enter. I chose three mentors to submit my query letter and the first few pages of my manuscript to, and sat back to wait. I also befriended other entrants and a few of the mentors; the competition had a super-supportive atmosphere that I found surprising, but also a huge relief. I don’t deal well with overly hostile alpha types.
I didn’t win, or even get picked for the final three by my mentors—although apparently I made some shortlists. It turned out that my query letter—which I’d already sent to a dozen or so agents by then—blew chunks. Several kinds, in new and interesting colours. Disheartening, much? I did get some lovely compliments back on my writing, though, as well as some specific and constructive feedback on the query and opening pages. The query in particular is, oh, a thousand times better now. If I ever meet the agents who got the original version, I plan to studiously avoid eye contact.
I also got invited to collaborate on a new blog (more on that next month)—which consequently encouraged me to start my own, personal blog (hi!). And I found myself a new beta reader for my book (the aforementioned Chynna-Blue). AND I’ve started following the tweets of a bunch of agents and agent interns, which is educational and occasionally alarming.
All this in less than two months.
So what’s my point?
I got onto Twitter with the misguided notion that it might be a good idea to build up some sort of following so that when I published my book (either traditionally or as an indie author) more people would know about it than my boyfriend and my mother. But I’ve found a brilliant, supportive community of writers who share opportunities, provide feedback and are a willing cheer squad. And many of them comment about the fact they’re writing, which I for one find an excellent motivator.
If you’re a writer trying to decide whether to bother with Twitter—if you can’t imagine what worth there could be in 140 characters—then DO IT! Be friendly and polite, and see how far it gets you.
Also, you never know. Maybe when that agent googles you they’ll like what they see.
There are a ton of good blog posts out there about how to promote yourself on Twitter. I read them out of interest—I don’t have anything to promote yet but one day I will: either a traditionally published book (a girl can dream!) or an indie book. So I know how to spot bad advice when I see it.
I tend to follow back on Twitter. For those of you that don’t participate in the twitosphere, that is when if someone follows you, you follow them back. That’s one of the ways people use to build their following. Some of them, the naughty sods, will then go on to unfollow you and hope you don’t notice. (I always notice; I check Just Unfollow a few times a week.)
By the way, Twitter and Facebook have a lot to answer for: the words “unfollow” and “unfriend” are two of them…
Anyway, yesterday a new writer followed me. I quickly checked their tweets to see if they were a real person, and then followed them back. And this morning when I was checking my timeline, I saw somewhere between ten and fifteen tweets by this person, commenting with link after to link to good reviews of their book. Not only that, but they’d put all the hashtags in #ALLCAPS so it was like being stabbed in the eye. I hadn’t even had my coffee yet!
I’m happy that they got good reviews. I am. But pick your favourites and just tweet those! Or maybe use something like Tweetdeck so you can schedule those posts over the space of a day, instead of all at once. I know marketing sites recommend tweeting good reviews, but show a little restraint!
So anyway, I unfollowed this person. First thing in the morning is too early for eye-stabbing.
But the real kicker was that after I did it, I saw that they’d also tweeted this helpful advice: “Writers, don’t be afraid to tweet good news about your book. Your followers want to know all about you!”
Maybe that’s true. But be a little classy about it. Nobody likes spammy, overt self-promotion.
Here endeth the lesson. 😉
Edit: If you don’t want the lesson to end here—if you’re all, no, we need more lesson!—then check out this blog post from Bad Redhead Media.
I’ve always been a bit cagey about my writing. When I’m drafting something, I don’t let anyone read my work, mostly because all first drafts suck. At least, this is what other writers tell me, and I’m clinging to it as a basic fact of the universe. Like atoms and dark matter and the fact you can’t get a car park at the mall two days before Christmas.
At first I wouldn’t even talk to my loved ones about my novel, so sure was I the whole thing was going to be an abject failure—although I’m starting to get over that now. Several of my nearest and dearest have now read my (edited) manuscript and given me excellent feedback. And recently—because you should never trust your nearest and dearest to be honest with you, even though I think (hope!) mine were—I also sent it to a lovely girl named Blue, who I met on Twitter. She’s giving it a beta read for me. (If you have Twitter, you should follow her: @jordonchynna).
All this feedback—especially from people who don’t love you—is important for a healthy manuscript that doesn’t make you want to throw up into your mouth. But remember, I’m a secret writer. I only gave myself permission to call myself a writer after I’d finished my first manuscript. Before that I was just a girl with a weird, reclusive habit that her boyfriend was kind enough to support.
So what is the point of this ramble? When I created my blog and put up that first post, I went to link it on my personal Facebook page, so that all my friends could read it if they wanted to. It’s the sensible thing to do, right? I’ve read marketing blogs and stuff; it was reading Bad Redhead Media that got me onto Twitter in the first place. It’s all about the non-spammy promotion and cross-promotion, and blahblahblah.
So I dutifully pasted the link onto my Facebook status, and wrote some words to go with it … and then I fiddled with the privacy settings so that only those who already know I’ve been writing could see it. I chickened out. Feel free to make clucking chicken noises at me.
Ok, you can stop now…
Sharing that I’ve written a novel with all those old friends and colleagues feels a bit like the idea of a high school reunion: the only way I want to go to that badly decorated function hall and eat lukewarm buffet food is if I can hold my head high and show everyone what a massive success I am. With my fancy car and diamonds on the souls of my shoes or whatever. Except that in this case I have no excuse because the people I’m friends with on Facebook are not the bitchy girls that picked on me in school.
It could be because I am an introvert, or it could just be that I’ve always been a secret writer and old habits die hard. I know I need to get over it. It’s on my list of things to do. Maybe as a new year’s resolution. At the end of 2013. Maybe.
Are you a secret writer or is your writing something you’re open about? And if you’re a secret writer but got over it, how did you do it?