The 10 Commandments of Social Networking for Writers
- Do It Thyself: don’t hire outside marketing firms or let your publisher maintain your Facebook and Twitter pages. Readers want–and expect–up close interactions with their favorite authors. They don’t want to interact with someone their favorite author hired to preserve the illusion of interaction. And yes, they can tell the difference.
- Be Not a Used Car Salesman: it is expected that writers will promote their books via social networking, but if you devote all your posts to your books and Blatant Self Promotion (‘Here’s a link to buy my book’, ‘Here’s a great review of my book’, ‘my book is out, please RT this to all your followers’) people will tune out. We watch television expecting a certain amount of commercials, but don’t make your feed a never-ending commercial. Besides, if you’re interesting enough online, people will buy your book without you having to ask.
- Make Thyself Present: it’s not enough to have social networking pages–you have to use them. Get involved in conversations. Answer questions from readers. Give interesting insights or facts about one of your works. Link to your favorite videos, songs and websites. Offer irreverent asides and observations. Promote other writers and books you’ve enjoyed. The best feeds are a reflection of their creators’ personalities.
- Thou Shalt Think Before Thy Posteth: While Twitter and Facebook give writers a chance to have their thoughts seen by thousands of people…they also give writers a chance to have their thoughts seen by thousands of people. Look at bestselling author Alice Hoffman, who angrily posted the phone number of a reviewer. The resulting backlash cost her credibility, and likely fans as well. We want to know what you think–but be smart about what you say.
- Thou Shalt Limit Thy Number of Invites: nothing gets you defriended or unfollowed faster than spamming people with an inconsiderate number of invites to your fan page or entering them into groups without asking. If we’re a fan, we’ll respond the first time. If we’re not, convert us. But don’t stand on a corner handing out leaflets.
- Thou Shalt Get Personal (If Appropriate): you can divulge as much or as little about your personal life as you choose. If you’re writing a book in which your experiences are the backbone of the material, some personal anecdotes will offer insight into your mind and processes. But see Commandment 4: thousands of people might see your post. If you’re cool with that, we’re cool with that. But you might want to make sure your inhibitions (and family members) are too.
- Thy Networking Shall Support Thy Writing, Not the Other Way Around: social networking is a great way to raise awareness of yourself and your work. But it should never take precedence over your work. You’ll have many opportunities to post thoughts OUTSIDE of your work times. How much time do you spend in a given day waiting on line? On hold? Commuting? Use your down time to post. And never ever post while driving or operating heavy machinery, or the lord might actually smite thee.
- Act Thy Age: if you’re a fifty year old writer of literary fiction, and your posts are filled with OMGs and TTYLs, you’re going to have a hard time being taken seriously. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a sense of humor, but irony can be lost in 140 characters. Don’t take yourself too seriously–but do have respect for yourself and your audience.
- Thou Shall Not Engage in Flame Wars: the moment you put your words into the public arena, there are going to be people who dislike what you have to say. If you’re going to have a career as a writer, having a thick skin is a necessity. This means the high road is always the writer’s best friend. Deal with hateful/mean tweets and posts like a professional. If you want to respond, respond. Keep in mind, though, you’ll be doing it in public. And remember the adage: Never wrestle in mud with a pig–you’ll just get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.
- Thou Shalt Have Fun: the best writers who use social networking clearly enjoy it. And if you use it right, you will too. It combines the best aspects of a blog, a panel, a conference, reader email, promotion and irreverence. It gives you access to unlimited readers, and them to you. If it’s a chore for you to stay active, people will see that. If you enjoy it, post regularly, interact with your readers and offer them some insights into your life and work, they will support you, promote you, and your following will grow. Like any endeavor it will take time to build a following, but like any endeavor, the work will be well worth it.
Jason Pinter is a literary agent with the Waxman Agency, and the bestselling author of the Henry Parker thriller series, as well as the upcoming Zeke Bartholomew series for Middle Grade readers and the Great Divide trilogy for Young Adults. You can follow him on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/jasonpinter
Filed under: Jason Pinter, Social Networking | 35 Comments