The world of writing has undergone, and continues to undergo, massive shifts – from the way books are published and presented to readers to new media and social media opportunities for authors and publishers to the role authors play in promoting their own books.
The Willamette Writers Conference sessions reflected those changes. One of the major trends I witnessed was a greater recognition of the key role Social Media and websites play in book promotion and writing careers, not only after a book is published, but before you have completed it or have an agent or publisher. It’s key for self-published and mainstream-published authors. More than ever, this author platform helps you develop an audience and attract agents and publishers.
This trend, essential for nonfiction writers, has made inroads into the world of fiction as well. Introverts or not, writers can no longer afford to be reclusive and “just write.”
Tips and Successes from Writers Using Social Media
Here are some highlights of what the presenters, social media successes and/or authors making a living through self-publishing, had to say about social media in an e-publishing panel:
“With tools like e-publishing, self-publishing and social media, the power has shifted towards the writers, said R.S. Gompertz, author of the novel, No Roads Lead to Rome. “What’s happening in music is happening in writing.”
If you have a dream to go with a major publisher and have an agent, great, he says. But if you self-publish, think of yourself as an Indie rock band, selling on iTunes and doing concerts. “If you can sell 10,000 books a year and have two or three books, you can make a living independent of the publishing industry.”
Gompertz uses Twitter to market his novels and has found it helpful. He adds a cautionary note. “Remember that Twitter and all social media are public. Persistent. Forever. Measure twice. Cut once. Think through what you have said before you hit send.”
Find R.S. Gompertz at @NoRoadsToRome, www.noroadsleadtorome.com
A year ago, Suzy Vitello, who writes novels, short stories and essays, decided to write a book about Princess Sisi, Empress of Austria. At the same time, she had the unique idea to create a blog in the voice of Princess Sisi as well as a Twitter handle. She posted on the blog once a week. (Sisi become a guest blogger, too.)
“In the process, I attracted the interest of an agent, who now represents the book,” said Suzy. “What I did worked for me because it was fun and driven by my passion and interest.”
Her tip on how and when to do your social media? Save your highest energy, most creative part of your day for your creative writing. For her, that’s the morning. Do social media later in the day. Check out what Sisi has to say at http://empresschronicles.wordpress.com/ and @SisiTheEmpress.
Not All Social Media is Created Equal
Not all successful, self-published authors promote their books on Facebook or Twitter. And whatever you do, “If you’re not enjoying yourself, please stop,” said Jane Friedman, panel moderator, eMedia expert and former Writer’s Digest publisher. [@JaneFriedman, www.janefriedman.com].
“Always do social media for a good reason, not because you ‘should,’” said Peter Browerman, author of the Well-Fed Writer titles. “Think about the why.”
His most effective tool for connecting with his audience is a newsletter offering high quality content. He’s not a fan of Facebook or Twitter.
He also blogs. But when he did his first blog post, he got 71 comments, because he was ready with a loyal audience of 6500 newsletter subscribers.
What is his number one most powerful marketing strategy? “Write a really good book,” he said. “Then, you unleash the unofficial sales people who will do all your social media for you by writing about it.” To learn more: http://www.wellfedwriter.com/
“Do what works for you,” recommends Julie Fast, e-book publisher and bipolar expert, who was recently hired to blog for Dr. Oz/Oprah’s blog.
She doesn’t do Twitter and finds Facebook overwhelming. Like Peter, her biggest value comes from her newsletters. She also blogs daily and ends each blog post with 3 or 4 questions to encourage commenting, which can continue for 10 days or more after her original post.
Julie, who is developing e-book apps, sees e-publishing and eMedia as continuing to play major roles in the future of publishing. Remember the scratchy sound of vinyl records? Yes, they may still be around, but the main music market today is MP3s. To explore Julie’s e-book and mainstream offerings: www.juliefast.com/
Revolutionary Reporting of #wwcon11, a.k.a., the Willamette Writer’s Conference
Nowhere was the social media for writer’s trend more evident than in the way the Willamette Writers conference itself was reported. Writers/journalists offered real time coverage via live-text/Twitter and blogs. [Note: This is a trend at all writing and media conferences now and offers you a way to “dip” into any conference – whether or not you attend “live.” The hashtag for the conference in case you want to look at what was tweeted about it is #wwcon11.
One highlight of the conference for me was watching Porter Anderson, @Porter_Anderson, a reporter, tweet session after session. He offered great insights and high quality in his tweets, each in 140 characters or less. His reportage not only offered useful information, but was also a crash course in Twitter for writers. I still learn from how he does it daily.
Here are a couple links of sites that compiled his conference coverage:
(a) 12 sessions of conference coverage via Porter’s tweets. Jason LaPier @jlapier compiled Porter’s tweets from the 12 sessions Porter attended –into one document. Porter says, “Pack a lunch.” http://openbookfiction.com/assets/wwcon11_tweet_coverage.html
(b) Cover It Live captured seven sessions that Porter covered. They are at: http://www.porterandersonmedia.com/ They include the other tweets with the conference hashtag given during the session, not just Porter’s.
When is the best time to start thinking about your online presence and how to do social media for your book or other writing projects? Now.
Yes, writing is what is most important. And if that is all you can handle now, so be it.
But making plans for how you want to position it and yourself to build an audience for this precious gift you offer the reading public is key – and becomes more so daily as both mainstream and self-publishing venues embrace online media.
What are your thoughts on social media for writers? Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter? Do you have a blog? What do you love about social media — and what challenges have you faced? Leave your comments below.