Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Social Media

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

Today’s author is expected to do most, if not all, of her own promo and marketing. Social media plays a large part in making books visible, creating sales, and connecting with readers. Although many writers tend to be introverts and would much rather write than socialize, the days of publisher-paid book tours and advertising have faded into rarity.

So, what the options?

Author Central (part of Amazon) offers author pages. Add photos, a bio, videos, and links to Twitter, websites, blogs, and events. Track Amazon rankings, check customer reviews, and look at sales information. Authors can claim all their books so readers/buyers can find all titles in a central location on Amazon. This social media site requires little attention, only updates as needed.

Goodreads allows authors to claim their author pages and books to create a place for readers to find out information about authors and their books as well as rate and review them. While Goodreads is designed for book ratings and reviews and not reader-author interaction, authors and readers can participate in book discussion groups. Authors can also run giveaways, enter book contests, advertise, and blog on the site. Like Author Central, Goodreads can be updated only when necessary, if preferred.

Another option is Shelfari (also part of Amazon). This site has virtual bookshelves for readers and is a self-described encyclopedia for book lovers. Authors and readers can post information about books and characters, series, family trees, etc. Shelfari also offers communities, book recommendations, and reader interaction. Again, day-to-day participation isn’t necessary.

Statistics support the assertion by some that Facebook is the favorite place for readers to interact with authors. Facebook has profiles—designed for individuals—and pages—designed for public personas. Constant marketing and promo on profiles can land users in FB jail, as can posts containing nudity and other material that may be considered offensive to some users. A profile is great for staying in touch with family, friends, and even fellow authors, but buy links to books belong on a fan page. Pages allow for “likes” instead of friends and can be created for authors, their series, writing groups, reader groups, etc. Some pages permit author promotion of books, blogs, writing tips, and contests. Be sure to read the pages’ rules for what can and can’t be posted and how often. The same rule about posting artwork on websites also applies to Facebook. If it isn’t in the public domain or hasn’t been purchased, don’t post it without the owner’s permission. Also, respect other Facebook users by not posting promo on their walls without their permission. This is called spamming and most people get very angry when it’s done to them. Be prepared for un-friending, un-liking, and blocking if you choose to engage in the practice. The same can happen when authors send out mass invitations for others to “like” their page, especially if the user has had no previous interaction with the person doing the inviting. This is also spam and is a practice everyone should avoid.

Google+ is similar to Facebook but without most of the marketing rules and without the required friend confirmation. Connections can be added to “circles” designated by the user, like “friends,” “family,” “business friends,” or “classmates.” The user chooses whether the post is privately or publicly shared. Private posts can be made visible only to the “family,” “business friends,” or whatever circle is desired. Public posts are visible to all connections who have added the user to their circles and those who view the user’s page. Posts can be “+1”ed, which is the equivalent of a Facebook “like,” as well as shared. Like Facebook, Google+ has groups. These communities can be open to anyone or require approval to join. Invitations can be sent to join communities. Some allow promotion of books, blogs, etc. Follow the group’s rules or risk being removed and blocked.

For authors who like to use visual aids as they write and want to share those with readers, Pinterest can be a good choice. This site allows users to “pin” photos, recipes, craft and building project ideas, etc. to boards. The photos may relate to period wardrobes, hero/heroine inspiration, or locations in a work-in-progress. Use photos in the public domain or with permission and avoid “pinning” those that may be considered pornographic or offensive material, as Pinterest has similar rules to Facebook regarding what content is allowed and what isn’t.

Another social media many writers use is Twitter. It’s a fast-moving, 140-character way to post personal or promotional updates and interact with those with similar interests. Users can “follow” others and be “followed,” without the requisite confirmation of Facebook “friending.” While fewer readers seem to communicate with authors through Twitter, many industry professionals are very active and often offer writing, publishing, editing, and submission tips. Some editors and agents also host pitch opportunities and announce current wish lists. Although the vast majority of these publishing industry users are happy to answer writers’ questions, they don’t appreciate unsolicited pitches. Many users also will “unfollow” when spammed with direct messages asking followers to “check out my book,” “check out my website,” “check out my blog,” “like my Facebook page,” etc.

LinkedIn also allows authors to connect with other professionals. It’s considered a networking site more than a social media outlet, but it can help writers find editors, agents, cover artists, marketing specialists, etc. The site allows users to ask and answer questions in addition to endorsing other users’ skills.

YouTube can be used for book trailers, interviews, and advertisements. Some other social media outlets include Tumblr, Reddit, and Triberr. The list could go on and on, leaving authors asking… Which are the best choices? And are they all necessary?

Rather than participating in everything and coming up short in all of them, choose those with the best mix for your time and personality. A few consistently good options are better than a dozen mediocre ones.

Remember—without the next book, they’re all irrelevant anyway!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

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