Friday, May 15, 2009

Do Writers Need Social Media?

Yes, writers need social media.

There's been quite a few posts and articles on the web abut social media and the publishing industry. Here's a good one from the NY Observer.

While it sounds grand in the vast scheme of things, how does it work in the real world?
Meaning yours.

I discovered Diaryland early 2002 and used it as an online diary. "Hey, here's what's going on with me." I was writing, but not yet published.

Then came Xanga through the youth at church. I joined to keep up with them and to journal. By then the term "blog" was becoming vogue.

I moved to MySpace when the kids abandoned Xanga for a new cyber hangout. My first book release with Thomas Nelson was about to hit the stores and I thought, "What if I use MySpace to get the word out?"

I spent free time making friends, even bought a program to add friends.

Little by little, other authors were joining MySpace.

Meanwhile, I'd put up a web site and blogged there because I enjoy blogging. And one of the things I love about reading is discovering the life behind the author. I don't want to know their favorite breakfast jam, but I discovering how they wrote the book and why fascinated me. Still does.

We live in a voyeuristic society. People are used to looking behind the "camera" to discover more about the people they enjoy.

Plus, I was a new author swimming in a really big ocean of authors. How could I appeal to readers who have a lot of great books to choose from?

As I discovered more social media sites, I joined. Shoutlife. MyCCM, Facebook, Tumblr, BeenUp2, and my all time fav, Twitter.

As a member of a writer's community, I've been in several discussions about "to blog or not to blog," or "to Twitter or not to Twitter."

Between the thoughts of Thomas Nelson CEO, Michael Hyatt, and other editors and publishing marketers, the real answer is simple: Do it.

One of the questions asked is, "Isn't my time spent better writing a great book?" Yes, please, write a great book. But in today's cyber climate where 19-year-old fantasy writers are blowing away the publishing world, the competition is stiff.

You're going to have to dig deep, find the part of yourself you can share with the cyber world and join this social and media phenomenon. There'll be a day when we can't remember NOT being on the web.

I've gained readers due to my efforts with Twittering and Facebook.

So, here's some practical advice to building a social media network.

1. Start slow. If you do too much at once, you'll get overwhelmed. One of my Weight Watcher's instructors says she lost ninety lbs five lbs at a time. To this day if someone says, "How much weight did you lose, she says, "Five pounds."

The idea of losing ninty seemed impossible. So she worked with smaller, more managable goals. Use the same approach for social meida.

2. Decide what you can do first. Choose the most effective tools. But start with a web site and blog.

Brainstorm with your family, editor, agent, writing buddies on how to blog. What is the part of you that fits well for others to discover? I personally love to share insights from the Lord or my day-to-day life. My blog is eclectic. It works for me. Do what works for you.

3. Join Twitter and have your updates write to Facebook. There are tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetlater that allows you to set up tweets in advance and to follow favorite friends so you don't feel overwhelmed.

Spend a few minutes every day adding friends. If you have teens... ;) Hear what I'm whispering on that one.

4. As you have time, add other sites like MySpace and Shoutlife. I do highly recommend Shoutlife for the CBA author.

5. Choose a day a month or so to look for new social media outlets. Update your sites -- add and change information.

Your publisher has limited $$ to spend on promotion and marketing. And they have to spread that over many authors. The more you do to help spread the word about you and your work, the more you'll succeed.

On Twitter for example, a "friend" will post to me, "@rachelhauck, Loved your book. I'm a fan!" Now my friends as well as theirs see this endorsement. Wouldn't you be curious about an author who inticed your friend? I would.

Remember the shampoo commericial from the '70s? "They'll tell two friends and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on."

That's the core concept of social media. Look, we can all hope for a spot on Oprah, but really, do we want to give so much power to one woman? I hope not.

So dip your toe in the social media pool. The water is just fine!

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