Thursday, May 5, 2011

On promoting yourself.

Jessica (hi, Jessica!) asked in the comments about how writers can best use social media (Twitter, blogs, etc.). The unstated part of the question, I think, was how to use those tools to further your writing career-- and by extension your book sales.

Agents and editors talk a lot about "platform," but what we really mean is: when your book is finally available for sale, who can you tell about it? And will they buy it? Or ask their library to do so?

The social media stuff is all newer than we often think about, so ingrained has it become in our worldview. The oldest blogs out there, like Kottke, are still less than fifteen years old. These resources just weren't available two decades ago, and it feels like it's changing all the time. The good news is, anyone can build a platform on the Internet. The bad news is that it takes a lot of time and effort to do it well.

I am fairly new to Twitter myself (@millercallihan, should you care to follow) and by no means an expert. Holly Tucker (also an SJGA client! her book is fantastic and now available) gave me some great Twitter advice, though, which I haven't followed as closely as I should: that is, you should pick a sort of Twitter identity. Do you mostly RT other people's posts? Do you post interesting links that you find? Do you post personal updates, a sort of mini-blog? I have taken a hybrid approach, myself, but it works for me. I am obsessed with Community, so that probably makes more than its fair share of appearances in my Twitter feed.

The standard advice for both Twitter and for blogs is that as a non-celebrity (or future celebrity, if you prefer), it's critical to engage with other people. Seek out kindred spirits. Take the time to read other people's posts or tweets, and write back! No one likes to feel that they're speaking into a vaccuum. The idea behind all social media is that you're creating a community. That takes time, so if you're reading this before your book is published, or even before you have a book deal or an agent, start now.

But when it comes down to what you should actually WRITE on your Twitter feed or your blog or whatever, the thing I keep coming back to is something Neil Gaiman said last year. This is great advice and deserves its own paragraph.

“Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t ‘network’ or ‘promote.’ Just talk.” (source)

So along those lines, let's talk. Anybody reading this who started a blog before, say, this past Tuesday, has more experience with blogging than I do. What works for you? What else should I have said? What advice do you have for newbie blogger me?


Jessica Brockmole said...

Good advice! Thank you! I like Holly's suggestion of sticking to a kind of tweet. Actually, if I keep that in mind, it takes off some of the pressure. I can find what works for me and stick to that, without having to worry about tweeting it all.

I'm a naturally shy person and I've found that I have to push myself to comment on a blog or a tweet. Then I'm surprised when I get a reply on my comment. But you're exactly right, Courtney. The other person is probably sitting at their computer, wondering who's listening. And you never know when a little connection could turn into something bigger.

Allison said...

Great post! One thing I really like about Twitter is how easy it is to jump into the conversation- it's so immediate, and there's no need to be shy. As a librarian, I love connecting with authors and publicists on Twitter, so I totally agree with your point about using it as a way to engage with other people.

As for blogging advice, I've only been blogging for a few months, so I'm still figuring it out myself! Your posts are great so far, and I look forward to reading more.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

All good advice!
One way to stay active on the various social networks is to make sure your RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds dump into each other. For instance, when I post to my blog, it shows up in twitter and on my facebook page. I can make sure I'm not missing any conversations by using (input your name and any traffic in the social media universe will come up). Also, on blogging, pick an activity that makes you post at least once a week. For instance, I have Coloring Page Tuesdays. Vicky has Friday Funnies. Consistency is very important in the blogosphere.
I'm looking forward to following! :) e