I want to be clear: there is writing … which is art and craft. Gift and mystery. Work. And then there is the “business of writing” that involves, well, everything else—from MFA programs to agents and publishers and deals and walls of how-to books, magazines, conferences and whatever else some eager entrepreneur might dream up. Writing is not the noise that surrounds it. Nor is it entirely a thing apart. Because … while none of the industry could exist without the work, the work in isolation is just that. And with tens of thousands of titles published every year in this country alone, the competition for the reader’s time and money is fierce. As a writer, I want to connect with my reader. The core of that connection happens on the page, when someone reads my work. But how do readers find me in the first place? The answer, in part, lies with social media.
I’m certainly no expert on social media, but I’ve been learning about it … ramping up, which is an approach I recommend. It’s important to understand how these tools—and that’s all they are—can be a positive force for disseminating information that has value for those I connect with. As a writer, I “pity the poor reader.” That means that I try to write my very best work. I know my reader has a thousand demands on his or her time. And I want the time and energy and money he/she invests in me to be well spent. Just because twitter is a mere 140 characters, doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile to share details about my breakfast, or dusting the living room. Nor does it mean I get a free pass to be a non-stop infomercial about me, “the brand.” Whether I’m comfortable thinking of myself as “a brand” is beside the point: the fact is that all writers need some way to get noticed. And social media offers some very potent (and relatively inexpensive) ways to help that along. I attended a presentation today about “the big four” (websites, blogs, facebook and twitter) for book promotion. The panelists made some terrific points that I’d like to share.
First, when you’re thinking connectivity, think links: that means that if you have social media accounts (and yes, you should) make sure they’re linked so that when you post a blog, notification appears on twitter and on facebook. It’s a quick way to get the word out…and it’s likely that your facebook, blog and twitter communities include different people. And don’t overlook the vlog (video blog). You can post a (three-minute or less) video blog on YouTube, link it to your other media and enhance your web presence. And by making your website (or blog) the hub of your web information, you offer a “home base” for readers to connect with you.
And remember: web presence isn’t all about what you generate. Comment on blogs that others write. Post “likes.” Re-tweet. Thank those who follow your tweets. Include links and follow individuals and groups that interest you. It’s a great way to build and refine connections.
And don’t forget tags on posts and tweets. These are the key words that show up in search engines and help guide new people to your content.
There are an amazing number of tools to help you make your web presence more effective: tools that will link to reviews about your work; or that make it easy for readers to share your posts. There are even some powerful analytics programs that help you know which of your posts is the most popular.
Social media offers great opportunities to engage in conversation with readers, to keep people updated on your work and to share information they may find useful. And in case you’re still not sure you want to commit (and it is a commitment) to the big four, try this: search out five of your favorite writers. My guess is that you’ll find they’re already using social media to communicate with readers. If they’re not, maybe it’s an opportunity for you to start a fan page (but that’s an entirely separate blog!)