A writer who examines the new landscape of social media will encounter a whole internet full of advice, most of it “expert”, much of it contradicting itself.
You must blog.
Blogging doesn’t increase sales for most writers.
You must go on blog tours.
Or not, depending.
You must be on Facebook. Twitter. Digg. Reddit. LinkedIn. Google+.
Unless it doesn’t make any difference, we’re not really sure.
The only thing we know for certain is that writers should, probably, have some sort of online presence. And despite the naysayers, we know social media works for some writers. It also has the advantage of being, you know, there. It’s mostly free, it’s accessible, and it’s something a writer can actually do on their own behalf in the ever-shifting quicksand of the publishing industry.
In order to shut out all the sound and fury and try to find my calm, I focused on two maxims for life:
Nobody knows anything.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
Screenwriter William Goldman popularized the first piece of wisdom in his books on Hollywood; no matter how many times Hollywood thought they had the formula down for movie success, something would come along and blow it up. If nobody knows anything … hey, I’m nobody! I’m not as far behind as I think.
So if how you do anything is how you do everything, how do I do ‘anything?’
I knew two things about myself:
I’m technologically tragic.
I gotta be me.
Luckily, I have the best luck with friends and strangers who help me along the way and that’s made all this technonoise bearable. And I decided early on I wouldn’t do anything I really didn’t want to do but would go towards what I’m interested in and what I enjoy. A great quote:
NPR says one key to a social media strategy is being “authentic.” I’d say one key to being authentic is avoiding a social media strategy.
Merlin Mann on twitter.
Here’s what I’ve done so far. Disclaimer; Not a blueprint for anybody else’s career. This is only what I’m doing, and it might only be relevant to today, right this moment, and for me. Not responsible should anyone follow in my e-footprint and end up in tears or in jail.
I now agree with a lot of agents and editors: writers should at least have a page up about themselves. If I can’t search a writer whose book I’m reading or thinking of reading, I wonder what’s wrong with them. Me, I like blogging. It’s basically spouting off about what I think, and hey, I do that all the time anyway. I did do one thing to keep from boring myself: I made mine a pop culture blog instead of just a blog about writing. This way I can do posts about The Best Head Explosions Ever. And my most searched post ever? The Abs of Summer, specifically Ryan Reynolds.
Goals: Get regular on blogging. Study podcasting.
A good example of a writer’s website: Writer N.R. Williams and her jam-packed website.
Technorati’s recent report on the state of the blogosphere.
I had succumbed to the Facebook kool-aid last year so I could look at my friends’ babies’ pictures. Hey, it’s the social contract. I like Facebook, as it allows me to keep up with a lot of friends I’d lost touch with. There are a lot of concerns lately about privacy and Facebook and some people have jumped ship to other services. But I figure it’s worth the risk.
Goals: Look into getting one of those separate fan pages. Contemplate the importance of the separate Like button.
This is the one I feared the most. Everyone who’s anyone is on twitter, which made me kind of hate it like high school. I even wrote a blog post about the language of twitter and how I couldn’t see myself saying “tweet me,” like, ever. But I finally jumped in the stream a few weeks ago and … I don’t hate it. It’s not as communal as Facebook; I miss being able to see comments on my friends’ posts and follow a conversation that way. But I’ve met some supercool people there (I just can’t call them tweeps–please don’t make me.) And information does seem to reach twitter first.
Goals: Decipher the frickin’ hashtag thing. Explore tweetdeck to try to organize the chaos. Ponder how those who follow 1,000 people ever get any sleep.
Info about getting started on twitter from the supercool Jenny Hansen.
An excellent how-to guide from writer Jessica Hische: Mom, this is how twitter works.
Book Review Sites
So far, I’ve fumbled my way onto Goodreads and survived their ‘rate these 100 books’ test. I started out connecting to people I know, mostly writers. And I joined a group for adult readers of YA. (Slogan: Fuck this shit; I’m going to Narnia.)
Goals: Read more books. Write more reviews. Figure out the blogging function. Download the free Kindle and actually read an e-book, you Luddite.
There are always more marketing options out there. So far, these are the ones that have called to me with their special e-song. I’m spending hours a day on this stuff and I don’t know if that’s good or bad yet. But I am enjoying it and I’m definitely more connected to people outside of my terrific circle than I’ve ever been. The only advice I’ll give you: Try not to panic and try to have fun.
Some recent buzz about new media:
- This post from writer Janice Hardy has a great overview of current social marketing ideas.
- PubMission, on building an author platform using Google.
- Writer Jennifer Weiner on using twitter to generate interest.
- Writer Susan Bischoff on blog ennui.
- Writing coach Kristen Lamb on Beware the One-Size-Fits-All Social Media snuggie.
- Hot off the presses (however you perceive them), this iconoclastic post from The Red Pen of Doom that doesn’t just slaughter some sacred cows about new media but cuts them up into little pieces, stomps on them and buries them in a black hole the size of Calcutta: The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books.
- Love this shambling, profane and occasionally brilliant post on blogging and tweeting as art by Amanda Palmer, musician and incidentally, wife of Neil Gaiman.
Next up on Devlin’s blog: My response to the Red Pen of Doom guy and how, upon reflection, I don’t think he’s as good at math as he appears on first blush.