My new weekly literary romance serial Happiness: How to Find It has started on Curiosity Quills. My post-apocalyptic deconstruction on faith, Paradise Earth, has been shipped off to the editor. A super secret comic script is in the hands of an amazing artist. With my writing work-log momentarily cleared out, I was blessed with a two-second lull where I contemplated which project to tackle next. I have other writing projects to (re)start, but my time has been consumed by boning up on my social media presence. The bane of the published author is that you’ll need to spend your time marketing as well as working on your next masterpiece. If you are an introverted writer hunched over a typewriter in your dimly lit Fortress of Solitude, I’ve got some bad news to share: social media has become absolutely crucial to getting word out about your works. (We do want readers, right?) If you are a published author you’ll be doing much of your own marketing, even if you managed to score a deal with one the big six publishers. If you are self-published you’re even more on your own.
As the final week of the Buccaneer blogfest sets sail, we’ll start by talking about what social media means to writers. Since this subject is so massive, I’m going to focus on what I personally use, how I use it, and my impressions on it. If you want a more in depth treatment I highly recommend reading Sell More Books! Book Marketing and Publishing for Low Profile and Debut Authors: Rethinking Book Publicity after the Digital Revolutions. (It’s full of awesome pro-tips like, make sure the title of your book is a mile long with every important buzz word for whatever subject you are writing about so that it can be easily found by people who are searching for certain topics on Amazon.)
I’m starting out with Google+ because it simply does get not enough love. At the onset it was derisively considered a me-too Facebook clone that no one asked for. Since then G+ has evolved into a different kind of social network, one based on shared interests. Whereas Facebook tends to be a social network for people you know (no matter how tenuously), G+ is for people you’d like to know. As a writer, I enjoy hearing from other people that enjoy writing a whole lot more than my distant aunt’s constant cries for someone to water her Farmville crops. G+ allows you to arrange and share circles (groups of contacts). I prefer to create topical circles like: writers, comic professionals, and amazing people. One of the best things about Google+ are the hangouts. Think of it like a multi-party audio/video chat session. I have a Google+ circle called “Silent Writing Hangout”, which is a group of writers that get together to work on projects in silence. It sounds weird and strains the term chat room, but it is actually a great way to be productive, especially when you screen share your word processor window to keep on task.
I have to admit that I don’t get Twitter. I seldom have anything to say that I can fit into 140 characters, or at least something interesting to say. (I’m a wordy mother–shut your mouth.) Some authors confuse continual “Hey Buy My Book!” tweets with something interesting. It’s not and it is a sure way to get unfollowed by me. On my feed I offer pithy quips about life, quotes that I like, and other things I find amusing. Tonight I took some time to bash NBC for their vindictive treatment of a journalist who dared to tweet criticisms of their Olympic coverage. Is it interesting? Eh, I guess that depends. Once you become a famous, even your lunch becomes breaking news to Twitter celeb-stalkers. I’ve got a long way to go.
For me Facebook is a necessary evil. I despise the site, but if you want to connect with most people this is the only place on the Internet where your batty aunt co-mingles with your high school graduating class, for better or worse. I have an author page, but most people insist on connecting to my personal page. I’ve given up trying to separate the two and simply fall back on the idea that privacy on the Internet is a fool’s goal. (Pro-tip: If you maintain more than one page on Facebook it can be confusing knowing which you are logged into. Elizabeth Donald gave me a cool tip about using a black and white profile pic for your author page and a color pic for your personal page to keep them straight at a glance.) I also have a page for Happiness: How to Find It which I co-maintain with the publisher, where we provide updates when new chapters are released and other cool happenings happen.
Google+, Twitter, and Facebook are arguably the big three, but there are many other social networks. LinkedIn is a decent place for professional hook-ups. As a writer they do have a few different groups to join for discussion, but I haven’t found them too interesting. I’ve been enjoying Goodreads, where writers and readers get together to discuss books. I plan on using it more, especially when I get set-up on there as bona fide author. (Many of the features are not unlocked until you are ‘published’.) The venerable Internet discussion forum, the original social media, is still a great place to connect with those that share similar interests. I’m active on the Jehovahs Witness Discussion Forum, which works out well because my current novels have a base there to build on. However, make sure you get established on a forum instead of simply doing a drive by spam assault.
With so many different Internet outlets out there, having a central nest for the social media spider is really useful. For many writers the personal website or blog serves this purpose nicely. Honestly it doesn’t have to be elaborate and many writers take advantage of the free blog hosting offered by Blogger and WordPress. Wordpress provides the backbone of this blog and does everything I need it to do and more. My blog has continually evolved over the years. I graduated from keeping an online diary (that got me in trouble with my work) to writing about topics about the Christian faith (which got me in trouble with my religion). With the release of my new novel Happiness, I’m using it more as an author portal (trouble forthcoming no doubt). Because my blog posts tend to run essay length I’m not able to update as often as others, but I am glad to have some good writing examples here whenever someone graces me with a Google search. (By the way, if you are looking for the Anthony Mathenia who is a missionary in Africa and are thoroughly confused … eh, that’s me … yeah that’s the ticket … uh … check out my new novel … heh, heh.)
As an author there are many options on the Internet for social interaction with other writers and readers. It can be overwhelming, so it helps to just pick a few you are comfortable with and focus on. Which ones do you use? Please share!