How authors use social media
Compiled by Leah Eggleston Krygowski
It’s hard not to notice these days how social media drives all things deemed newsworthy. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr or Pinterest, it seems you can’t have a conversation without someone mentioning something that was trending, posted or tweeted out to the universe. In an effort to understand social media’s impact on writers, publishing and books, we asked several authors about their preferences and experiences with social media. ♥
For me social media is an important way for me to talk to my readers in real time and on a personal level. I work very hard at making my participation 95% social and only 5% media. No one wants to see an endless series of tweets or Facebook posts trying to sell them stuff. Writing is a very isolating and solitary work, so having the ability to reach out and connect in meaningful ways with people is terrific. I have different social media outlets that I use, mostly for different audiences with some overlap. I have a personal Facebook page that is mostly for friends and family, but I also have an Author Fan Page where I’m able to keep people updated on appearances and book news. My blog, The Polymath Chronicles, is where I write for my foodie and home improvement audiences, posting recipes or updates on my home renovations, sprinkled with the occasional rant about something that is irking me or a funny anecdote. Twitter is my most consistent connection to the broadest range of people and is the place I try to focus on the humor side of my brand, posting mostly things I think are funny, participating in humorous hashtags, or live-tweeting events like the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. Pinterest at the moment is exclusively for my fans who are interested in home improvement, and allows them to see what I am being inspired by as I undertake my massive home renovation.
I think the best thing that I do with my social media presence is to connect to other writers and promote their work. Knowing that I have a community to reach out to for support is a godsend especially if I am struggling, and being able to help them in even a small way to find their audience or share them with mine is both a blessing and, I think, a sacred responsibility as a writer. I’m far more likely to buy a book on the recommendation of someone whose work I appreciate than I am to buy a book from someone who says “BUY MY BOOK!” Which is why I try to refrain as much as possible from posting “BUY MY BOOK!” on any and all of my social media outlets. But I’m awfully appreciative when someone else recommends me on theirs!
While keeping up with the social media requirements of my job can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, mostly I have found it to be rewarding and unexpectedly enriching.
Marilyn Brant (author of A Summer in Europe and According to Jane)
When I first started becoming involved in various social media sites as an author, it was right after I’d gotten the call that I was an RWA Golden Heart Finalist in the spring of 2007. Individual and group blogs were all the rage back then, so I started my own blog and joined up with friends online as a way of interacting with readers and other writers. The following year, my first novel, According to Jane, sold to Kensington and my literary agent at the time strongly suggested that I join Facebook. I’d like to say it was “love at first sight,” but it was more like “confusion at first site” (pun intended, LOL). It took me a while to figure out how the profile updating, tagging, and friending worked on my page, and I never quite got the hang of the gifting and the gaming sides of FB, but it turned out that I really liked chatting with friends there, whether I’d met them before in real life or just knew them from around the Web. The interaction with a growing readership became addictive and pure FUN for me — lots of talk about things I loved, like music, TV/movies, hot actors, delicious food ideas and, of course, novels!
Despite FB being a virtual world, the conversations we were having together could still be quite authentic, and they often led to additional communication elsewhere — either on blog comments, Twitter posts, email exchanges, and sometimes even in-person events. Of course, not everyone who’s an FB pal wants to chat on a regular basis, and I can really only spend a little time there every day. But even so, there are readers and book reviewers that I got to know first on FB who soon became real-life friends, and I had the pleasure of meeting several of them at conferences or book signings. So, for me, that’s been one of the greatest gifts of social media — FB in particular — because it provided a way for me to be introduced to some truly wonderful people with whom I share a range of interests (from Jane Austen to “Sherlock” to cute cupcakes!), and the circle of new friendships just keeps expanding. As far as promoting my novels, I’ve found that getting to post my book release, special sale announcements, cover reveals or really great reviews is just a lot more exciting on Facebook because of those genuine relationships and the mutual enthusiasm we have for each other news. I enjoy Twitter and I adore Pinterest, but Facebook been a part of my life for over five years now, and I’ll always love the community there!
Christina George (author of The Publicist and Shelf Life)
On social media I would have to say that it depends on the book. Meaning that if it’s non-fiction, your social presence will look a lot different than if it’s fiction.
If you’ve marketed fiction, I would really suggest that you look at creating visual content to use on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Readers are super visual, they want to connect with the author and images help bring them in. Also, studies show that engagement on social sites jumps by like 80% if you have images.
We use images for everything. So, we’ll use them in blog posts but I’ll also create images for Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest that lead back to blog posts or other things we’re doing around the book. We use images to highlight great reviews, funny blog posts and future book announcements.
If authors are really stuck, I would say start with Facebook and Twitter and grow out from there. Engagement on Facebook has dropped and become sort of complicated. Meaning that you don’t get as many fans seeing your stuff, but stay with it because at some point, these engagement issues on FB will level out.
My first venture into social media was Facebook. I friended family, friends, authors who were friends, as well as authors and readers I didn’t know. I used Facebook not only to talk about books – mine and others – but also my kids and idiotic things I’d been doing – basically whatever amused me.
A couple of years ago, I realised I needed to have more separation between my personal and professional life which is why I set up my Facebook author page. On the author page, I stick to status updates about books, articles related to books, author events, workshops, etc, including my own.
I still have a lot of people I don’t know in real life on my personal Facebook page but it doesn’t worry me. I am who I am, so if I post a silly cartoon, me with green hair, or a cat falling off a chair, and they get offended, they can unfriend me.
I am also on Twitter but I find it harder to connect on Twitter because the exchanges are immediate and I need to be logged on in real time to have a meaningful conversation with others as opposed to a tweet every couple of days, which is what I tend to do. And then of course, I feel guilty when I get notifications from other tweeters that I only see several days later. I still use Twitter but sporadically.
I am not on any other social media sites because I don’t have the time to invest in them and make real connections with people. I have a website and post the occasional blog … and that’s about it.
So the short answer (after my long-winded paragraph) is I am Team Facebook. I find it easy to navigate. I can keep up with the conversations and add a comment in my own time … I just like it. Facebook suits me!
I love social media – and though I find Facebook very useful, my heart lies with Twitter. Facebook can get flooded with tripe – people writing long essays about what they had for dinner, but short tweets make sure that every word counts – and I’ve made some great connections with other authors via Twitter. I use it for fun, advertising and business. I’ve found that if you complain via Twitter, your grievance is picked up much faster than if you were to contact a firm via a website. I love the wit that abounds on Twitter – though, alas the trolls are many. But it’s great fun and there are an army of helpful people who retweet any book news I have and spread it across the globe. I always try to RT others as much as they RT me, it’s only fair. It’s both a great tool and a great toy and I don’t know how I ever managed without it. And the trending lets me know what’s going on in the world often before I see it on the news. Just love it!
Susan McBride (author of The Truth About Love and Lightning and Little Black Dress)
Though I married a software engineer who embraces technology, I’m pretty much a Luddite. I still prefer a landline to a cell phone. I work on a desktop. And even though I got an Android tablet for Mother’s Day, I’m a diehard print book reader.
Suffice it to say, I’m not the most plugged-in person when it comes to social media. In fact, it took arm-twisting from the folks at HarperCollins to even get me on Facebook. There was a time after my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2006 and 2007 when I basically dropped off the Web entirely except for email. Eventually — and briefly — I returned to blogging as part of two different groups but ended up leaving both. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of my family and maintain any type of writing schedule. Do I worry about not having enough internet presence? Sometimes. But I’ve seen a lot of authors through the years —um, yes, including me — spend way too much time worrying about publicity and marketing. Promotion takes up a lot of hours and energy, and often the results aren’t quite what we’d dreamed.
The stars created by social media are few and far between, and those folks put A LOT of time and effort into making things happen. I have come to enjoy being on Facebook because it allows me to connect with readers and friends in a way I couldn’t otherwise. I created two FB pages, which has worked out well. I have a Susan McBride Books page for readers who just want to hear about books and writing, and I’ve got a Susan McBride page that’s more about my real life (with lots of photos of Emily!). Between them both, I have about 3500 followers and friends. I also have about 1500 e-newsletter subscribers through my website. So while my reach isn’t vast, I do feel like I keep my most loyal peeps up-to-speed on my life and career.
My feeling about social media is this: do it because you enjoy it and get something out of it. Don’t do it with the sole intent of selling books. You will never sell as many as you’d hoped. When I hit the USA Today bestsellers list this year, it wasn’t because of anything I did. It was because my publisher engaged in some astute marketing that reeled in a bunch of new readers. After 15 years in the business — and doing all sorts of marketing and promo — I’ve acknowledged that I can only affect so much where sales are concerned. What I can control is my writing, and I figure that’s the most important ingredient anyway. So if you’re having a blast with social media and promotion, do it! If you hate it, minimize it, write great books, and don’t feel guilty for backing off.
At this point I basically restrict my social media to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. They each have their place, but I find that fans appreciated being kept up to date with my writing, appearances, etc., on Facebook. Efforts at pithy comments are generally reserved for Twitter. And on Goodreads I run a book club which is a fun way to interact with others as a reader rather than an author. As to how much that all relates to in terms of getting the word out about me and my books? Who knows. But it does provide a level of instant feedback from readers that is great.
Social media for authors comes down to two important questions: 1) How can I make my breathtakingly boring life spent in front of a computer seem at all interesting? And 2) how can I keep my own personality out of the way of people enjoying my books? Each platform offers its own unique interaction with readers. To me, Facebook feels like a small town while Twitter feels like the Big City and I govern myself accordingly. I am new to Instagram, so at the moment it is mocking me and my own unremarkable daily routine. Another picture of my laptop it is! Pinterest terrifies me and Tumblr utterly confounds me.
Social media absolutely helps to promote my books. Why? Because I understand that social media is about the books and not me. Referring back to Question #2 above, one’s social media stream shouldn’t infect a reader’s experience with the book, it should enhance it.
I love social media in general. For me, there’s nothing like dashing over to Twitter or Facebook after a hard writing stint and chatting with readers, bloggers, other authors, and occasionally random folks I’ve never before crossed paths with. My favorite form of social media is still Facebook because I find it’s easier to carry on long conversations in a FB thread. Things get lost quickly in the buzz of Twitter, whereas on Facebook, posts tend to linger. It’s amazing how many connections I’ve forged on Facebook. People quickly go from being strangers to being acquaintances to being real friends. While I was on book tour in May, at every single stop, someone in the audience said they attended because we’re connected on FB. And because of FB, I recognized them and knew a bit about their lives! If you’re on FB, you’re probably a friend I haven’t met yet – so come find me there!
Talli Roland (author of The No-Kids Club and The Pollyanna Plan)
If you’d asked me my favourite social medium a few years ago, I would have said blogging. Back then, it seemed everyone was blogging, and if you didn’t have a blog, well . . . you didn’t exist. Rumours abounded that agents would Google potential clients and offers would be made – or not! – partly on the strength of their blog. Now, though, times have changed. Blogs have given way to other outlets where you can scan one site to access friends’ news. It may be less in-depth than blogging, but I’ve grown to love Facebook and the ease of communicating there. No pesky word verification, lots of pretty pictures, and a wonderfully supportive community of readers and writers. I’m conscious of doing too much promotion there, so I tend to only post novel news when I have a book out or a price drop, etc. I think it’s important to build and maintain relationships first, then do promo as an add-on. If you have good connections with people, they’ll be very happy to help spread the word.
Leah Eggleston Krygowski is an avid reader, writer and book reviewer for www.chicklitclub.com and its sister sites, www.connect.chicklitclub.com and www.weheartwriting.com. When she isn’t reading, Leah enjoys yoga, shopping and spending time with her husband and two dogs at their new home in New Hampshire. Leah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.