Did some of you cringe at the title of this post? Social media is something that seems to come naturally to some people and sends others running in the other direction. Most of you probably know what I mean when I say social media, but if you don’t, this is a group all term for blogging, twitter, websites, facebook, myspace (well, maybe not anymore–lol), google+, youtube, flicker, etc. Basically anything that puts you out there on the internet for other people to find. You might have noticed, that was a big long list. Let’s face it, we can’t do all of it–keeping up with every possible (and ever changing) social media outlet on the web would be a full time job.
So as novelists, which of these do we really need and how can we use them to our best advantage? **As always, the common disclaimer here–this is just my experience and what I’ve picked up over the years.**
The Pre-Published writer:
If you are in the pre-published stage, in particular still working on your first book and are not yet to the querying stage, my advice to you is to not worry about social media. You don’t need to try to keep updating content on a blog or worry over what to say on facebook or twitter–spend that time writing instead. You might want to go ahead and purchase the domain for the name you intend to publish under (though be aware that your publisher may decide not to use the name you pick–even if it is your own name. My first name is actually Kalayna-Nicole so I own kalaynanicoleprice.com but my publisher immediately decided the name was too long to look nice on a cover. Good thing I also own kalaynaprice.com and kalayna.com–all of which lead to the same landing site). If you do purchase the domain, don’t feel too pressured to put more than a space holder up yet.
You might be tempted here to say, but I could be building an audience! Yes, that is possible. But an audience for what? You have no release dates, and no guarantee that your current project will be the one to sell. In my opinion, your time is better spent honing your craft and getting the book finished and polished. Which leads to the next stage.
The Querying Writer:
You have a polished manuscript now and are actively on a quest to find an agent/editor. Now you probably do want a website, but keep it simple. (This next bit some people will highly disagree with but . . . ) Don’t put samples of your writing on the website. Why? Because some publishers have very strict rules about what can be released word count and content-wise. Putting stuff up on the web can actually count as first publication, so you have to be careful.
If you want, you can go ahead and start blogging and tweeting, but keep it professional. You’re still not building an audience at this point, you are just proving that you have initiative and are willing to self-promote if the target of your query googles you. Here’s a hint: don’t blog about how many rejections you’ve received, or bemoan or badmouth the industry or industry professionals–that will not impress. Also, don’t expect a website/blog/facebook to attract an agent or editor to you. They have thousands of query letters hitting their desk. They don’t have to go out searching the web looking for talent.
The Contracted Writer:
Congratulations, you’ve now sold your first work. Yes, it’s going to take a year or more to hit shelves, but you sold! Now is the time to start social networking in earnest. This is when you definitely want a blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads–where ever you can get your name out there so people have the highest possibility of running across you and your upcoming book. Remember, still keep is professional and get permission from your publisher before you release cover art, excerpts, ect.
The Published Writer:
Your work is now out there for all the world. You had flurry of activity in social media before the release, but don’t think you can drop off now that the book is out. You want people coming back, checking in, and remembering your name so they know when your next book is going to be out. Blog regularly or at least on a set schedule (and this is one of those “do as I say not as I do” things, as my blog is terribly neglected at the moment) try to tweet at least a couple times a week and make sure you respond to friends and comments on twitter/facebook–wherever. But don’t let it consume your life. Writing the next book is still the most important thing. You might have to block into your schedule times you will devote to social media, and when that time is up, step away. It is too easy to get caught up in it and lose valuable writing time. My best advice is to link as much as it as possible. As in, have facebook automatically pull your tweets so you only have to actively post in one place. Also port your blog to other sites automatically, again so you only have to write one blog that ends up in multiple places. Yes, some of your readers will overlap and see the same material, but you are still widening your net.
All of that said, the very most important thing when it comes to social media boils down to three things: Be personable, be professional, and be able to turn it off and get back to work.
Happy Thursday everyone!