Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Writing advice part 5: Social media

So, social media.  I use my blog, Facebook and Twitter to have a bit of a laugh, link to published work and if I have any new stuff upcoming, I mention it there. When it comes to Twitter and Facebook, I think there are two really important things to remember. First off it’s social media. I’ve lost track of how many writers I see on Twitter who use it as nothing but an advertising medium. Their tweets are about nothing, literally nothing, but their books. And it’s usually the same half a dozen tweets posted throughout the day. They usually follow thousands of people in the hope most if not all will follow them back. I hate this. Other writers I’ve spoken to, professional writers, hate it. Agents hate it. And most importantly, readers hate it. Twitter isn’t a writer’s free advertising space. Posting non-stop about our books and not showing any interest in anyone else is rude and unprofessional. It’s the same as those spam emails we all get and delete without opening or when someone phones you at half past eight on a Monday night to talk about your windows.
So then the question becomes how do we let people know about our stuff without bombarding them with tweet after tweet? If we don’t have a big publishing and marketing department behind us, we’re the only people who are going to tell readers about our books, right? Wrong. The best people to tell readers about our books are readers. I know it’s a bit of a circular thing, but it’s true. Word of mouth from readers will do more to help you publicity-wise than anything else. And that word of mouth, these days, comes from social media. Of course, you need readers to know your book is out there to start with before they’re talking about it. That’s where interaction comes from. If you don’t already have any of them, I’d advise you to get on Twitter or Facebook and blog about your writing. You can get a free site from blogger or wordpress, and if you want to, you can buy a site name for literally a few pounds a year. That means your site will still be one from blogger, for example, like mine is, but I bought the name lukewalkerwriter.com. I can post about writing, put photos of the book covers on there, have people comment on what I say, and the whole site is free. It’s just the name that cost me about ten quid for a year. Now say you sell a short story. You blog about it. You link to that blog post on twitter so all your followers see it and there’s a chance someone you follow will retweet your tweet, meaning everyone who follows them sees it. And so on.
I know it’ll sound a bit naff and obvious, but connecting with people online is just the same as connecting with people in the flesh. Be interesting. Be nice. Talk to people. You don’t have to be hilarious or a genius. It’s just a case of being approachable and getting involved. Say there was something on TV last night that a lot of people are talking about. If you’ve got something to say about it, get involved. Or something happening in the news and you’ve got a view on it. You share that view. Someone agrees with you, or disagrees. You get into a discussion on it. You’re talking to people you haven’t met but who share your interests. They can check out your profile and maybe like the sound of your books or stories. They might not, of course, but it’s all about interaction and being social, not hammering people over the head with your book.
Just a brief thing. Social media isn’t only Facebook or Twitter. If you know people who write in the same genre, see if you can do an interview with them and have it posted on their blog. You’ll be reaching new people and that means new readers.
The second point I wanted to bring up was the time involved with having an online presence. It’s really easy to find after you’ve updated your blog and checked Facebook and then waded through a few hours worth of tweets that you don’t have any time left to write. Remember I said about turning off the net while you write? That’s definitely a good move. Writing time is writing time. With all the related stuff, writing is the most important issue. If you’re able to have dedicated days and hours to writing, you might want to narrow down a particular time to being online, to updating your blog. It’s up to you when you do that or how often. There’s no right time. It’s what’s right for you as long as you’re writing, getting your work done. Some people find taking ten minutes after finishing writing to go on Facebook or tweet is a good way of winding down. Others save it up for an hour or so at the end of the week. It’s up to you, but definitely don’t have the sites open in the background while you write. You’ll get nothing done. Always remember writing is the most important issue here.
That’s about it for my writing advice. Hopefully newbie writers found something useful in here. To sum it all up, if you want to write, then you write. Don’t just talk about it. Tell your stories.

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