QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Social Media Basket

by Stina Lindenblatt @stinall

Unlike in the past, authors are now expected to take an active role in marketing their books. This becomes even more critical if you’re not a bestselling author with a publicist at your beck and call. Social networking plays a key role in achieving success. Through it, we find our critique partners, beta readers, and writer friends. When it comes time to promote your book, they are the ones who will be talking about it with their friends, reviewing it on their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. They might have industry connections that will benefit you. For example, they might know authors who would be happy to blurb your book or have contacts with major book blogs. Never underestimate the power of the connections you can make through social networking.

With the vast array of social media sites available, how do you decide which ones are worthwhile? All take time to do. All come with pros and cons. Choices are good, but before you decide, here are some tips to consider:

There Are Only 24 Hours In A Day

During that twenty-four hour period, you are supposed to sleep (yes, that isn’t optional), work, look after the kids, help them with their homework, do chores, exercise, oh, and write your next story (or non-fiction piece). Most mere mortals can’t do all this and spend several hours a day using every form of social media available with glowing results. You need to limit what you use and the time spent on it. Maximize your efforts to get the best results.

Fashions Change

Who here remembers the poodle skirt (or remembers seeing it in the movie Grease)? Who here still wears one? I thought so. Like fashion, the popularity of the different social media sites wavers over time, or the popularity of a given site might change for a certain target market. For example, Facebook used to be popularity with teens. Now, more and more are drifting to other sites such as Pinterest and Youtube (among others). This doesn’t mean they have abandoned Facebook entirely. There are plenty of teens who still use it. But with its growing popularity with adults, Facebook is losing teen appeal. This is why it’s important to know your target market. If you’re focusing on the wrong market, you’ll miss the mark by chasing after the wrong social media sites. 

And Then It Exploded

Last week, something happened to my blog that left me in a major panic. For some reason, my blog post didn’t show up in my subscribers’ inboxes. It took me a long time to discover the problem. Turns out, my RSS feed was no longer updating when I posted. Without the updates, my posts weren’t showing up in email inboxes, Blogger Dashboard, Google Reader, blog rolls, Tweeter, Facebook. You get the picture? Unless you visited my site directly, you wouldn’t have known I was still actively posting. I tried many things, and at one point I verified my blog according to Google instructions. It passed, but not without a long list of things I should change. And this came with a warning not to do anything if you don’t understand coding. I thought my blog was doomed and I would have to start all over ago. Not exactly comforting after all the years of hard work I’ve put into my blog. Fortunately, someone at the Google Help Forum was able to solve the problem*. But if I hadn’t been able to solve it, can you imagine how I would have felt if the only social networking I did was blog? I would have lost everything, including my followers. Fortunately, since I also use Twitter and Facebook, my social network was not doomed.

It’s Social Networking Not Promotional Networking

Some writers treat social networking as a one way street. They post on their personal blogs, but rarely take the time to comment back on the commenter’s blog. Yes, if you get a large number of comments, it does take time. In this case, you might want to blog less often, or at least make an effort to comment on some of the regular commenter’s posts once a week. If you only get a few comments, then take the time and read the commenters’ latest posts (you might learn something) and comment. It shows you care and are willing to give and not just take. 

With Twitter, you can auto schedule your tweets. The problem with this is it comes off as promotional, because you’re skipping on the social part of social media and that turns people off. Remember, when you give and take, it’s social media. When you take take take, it’s promotional. And when it’s solely promotional, you won’t gain the support of those who can help boost your writing career.

How many forms of social media do you actively use? Is there one you prefer over the others?

*if you have a Blogger account and it’s linked to Feedburner, check out this link. Everyone is susceptible for the same thing happening to their blog. It’s an easy fix, and it will save you time and a lot of heartache.  

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog.  


Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome post Stina. So agree that you have to choose what you do because there is only so much time in the day. That's an understatement. And it is important to comment back on blogs if you want to keep followers or reciprocate on other social media networks.

For now I blog and do some Facebook though not as much as I used to. I know I should go on Twitter, but it feels like there's no time for that too.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I agree with your points about time management and about how the blogging is a conversation, not a place where you share your thoughts and see how people rejoice in them while you say nothing back. Yes, it can be time consuming, but quite manageable if we don't feel the need to blog every hour of the day.

Thanks for the link. I posted a very long post the other day and didn't know why no one got it. You just solved the issue for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Social networking is a challenge for me -- not because I don't enjoy it, but because of the massive amount of time it can take. I feel like the only writer who doesn't have a Facebook page or Twitter account. Hopefully that doesn't hurt me in the long run, but I feel like if I did "all three", I'd never have time to write.

R.E. McDermott said...

Hi Stina,

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of social media. As far as blogging goes, I do have my blog tied to both GR and my FB page, as well as my Author page on Amazon. The problem is, I blog very infrequently. I initially intended to blog regularly, but I find it a horrible chore. Likewise, Twitter and FB. I really enjoy talking to folks as individuals, but I'm not keen at all on group discussions. Never have been. Don't know why.

My marketing plan to date has been to fully and individually engage the readers that email me. So far that seems to be working. Sales are healthy and growing steadily, and my 'fan list' has built to close to 400, most enthusiasts. So it is working, though it takes a lot of energy.

The social media thing seems much more impersonal to me, for all the fact that I know you're engaging readers directly. It just doesn't have the intimacy of a private message. I know the time is coming when I can no longer engage each reader personally and privately (in fact, it may already be here). When it becomes impossible, I may have to resort to the social media as the 'second best approach.' However, I'm resisting that as long as possible.

Another thing that I've noticed (and please don't take this the wrong way) is that successful writer/bloggers seem to spend a lot of time engaging other writers. The old canard, of course, is that 'writers are readers.' That may be true, but I think more often than not they don't seem to be 'buyers.'

My experience is that the old retired navy guys with no literary aspirations help me sell a lot more books than the indie writers that engage me out of the blue and want marketing advice. I come from a business background, and I'm pretty much about selling books. I enjoy discussions with other writers, but really try to limit them them as they are an incredible time suck. There are perhaps a half dozen writers I engage on a semi-regular basis.

Anyway, that's probably more than you wanted to know about my feelings in regard to social media. My basic approach is doing only those things I enjoy, because I think I do those fairly well. Conversely I tried Kindle Boards and various forums and rapidly learned I suck at it.

The takeaway, at least for me, is that you don't have to be a star at social media to establish and interact with your readers.

Mart Ramirez said...

Oh yes, so many people don't take the time to visit your blog after you have visited. I always try my best. And it is such a great surprise when someone actually does it.

I usually keep up on Facebook and Twitter the most. And I think I post a little more on FB :-)

Great post, Stina!

Andrea Mack said...

I find it hard to make time for social media on somedays. Like Natalie, I think I should get on Twitter, but I don't feel like I have the time. You make some great points though, about "not putting your eggs all in one basket" in case something goes wrong.

Yolanda Renée said...

I'm still trying to figure out FB and Twitter. I enjoy blogging, and conversing with other writers to learn, share, vent, and find inspiration. But agree with Mr. McDermott that marketing to readers is the goal, but sharing our success and new releases with each other opens the possibility new readers will be found. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool.