- Some sort of Website. You need a landing page. (WordPress and About.me help you do this for free. You don’t have to break the bank.)
- A certain level of Social Media proficiency. (It doesn’t have to be everything, just showing interaction.)
- Blog posts that aren’t discussing the submission process in too much detail. Many writers lay it all out there to share the (often lonely) experience with others, but it’s really best if you can keep this to yourself.
- Positive demeanour and Professional approach in your online interactions. It’s a small world! (And editors can Google you too.) Agents choose who they work with carefully, and we like to work with nice people.
- A Personality. You don’t have to talk about books or writing online, if you’re passionate about dogs with paper hats then let your freak flag fly. Don’t be afraid to be memorable.
So many writers are on Twitter and Facebook chatting with other people in the same position. Everything from sharing common experiences, information about who to query, and joining critique groups are part of the wonderful things social media can offer. There are a number of things not to share on social media and ways that social media interferes with your goal of getting published.
Many agents, including myself, look for writers on Twitter once we’re wowed by your query or writing samples. What we’re looking for is daily posts, something funny or intriguing and a voice that we want to get to know. Twitter is only 140 characters, but that’s ample room to show your chops as a writer and get your unique voice out there.
However, there are many cases where social media isn’t helping you:
1. You are over-sharing
I mentioned above some things we like to see in Twitter. Here is something we don’t like to see: confessions about your writing that raise some red flags. Such as you’re not sure you have another book in you, you’re not sure what genre you fit into, you don’t actually read at all or see why writers need to read. Believe me, I’ve seen this all on Twitter before. Think about what is appropriate to share and if a potential agent or editor was watching, what voice would you want to project?
2. You are sharing information that is actually private
Submission lists, number of agents you’ve queried, full manuscript requests, phone calls and meetings with agents–are all things that you need to keep to yourself for your best interest. You want to be a hot project and you want to keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t give everything away on platforms that are public. Agent Sarah LaPolla tweeted this sentiment last week and it caused lots of discussion!
3. You are wasting time instead of creating time to achieve your goal
We’ve all had days where we’d rather check Facebook and Twitter than work, but it’s important to know when it’s social media time and when it’s writing time. If you think that fiction authors need to build their platform more than they need to perfect their craft you’re wrong. Writers need to write in order to get better and in order to accomplish your goals. Finishing a 80k word novel isn’t easy. It takes great time management skills, and social media management skills.
4. You are building a platform in the wrong direction
If you are a non fiction author you should be targeting your social media towards your market and your potential consumers, not fellow writers. Find your niche and engage in social media within it. Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Add people to your Twitter Lists.
5. You are creating an online identity that isn’t desirable
Negativity, over-sharing, spilling details that are private are all social media habits that are not desirable for a business partnership. Yes, Twitter is a place to vent and share common anxiety in the publishing process, but you should be thinking about the end goal. Fake it ’til you make it. Be the persona on social media today that you want to be when your book publishes.
6. You aren’t engaging with all that social media can do
One of the wonderful things about social media and blogs is that agents and editors share their likes and dislikes, what they’re looking for and what doesn’t work for them. Engage with the platforms, comment on blog posts, get your name out there in a positive way and pay it forward. Find the social media platform that best suits you and dig out all the useful information.
This is the question on most writers’ minds when they think about the intersection of the book business and social media.
The simple answer is for non fiction authors it’s a MUST and for fiction authors it doesn’t matter at the time of querying.
Debut Fiction Writers: Focus on your Writing
Agents repeat over and over again: it’s the writing that matters. Don’t spend energy on social media that could be spent towards finishing your first draft, brainstorming your next novel, or going through copy edits. Your commodity as a writer is your craft. No editor ever signed up a serious debut fiction author based on their 140 character tweets. Yes, we look at your Twitter feed, if you have one, but it does not make or break you.
The Value of Twitter for Fiction Authors
So what is Twitter good for then if not wasting time? Twitter is a place for authors–who live a very solitary existence–to engage with other writers going through the same experience, follow industry veterans, follow writers they admire, and learn about how the book business works. It can be a black hole that sucks all your time and energy, or it can be a tool that makes writers feel less alone and help them feel like they have control about the outcome of their career based on research (i.e. following agents and editors).
Why You’ll Need Social Media AFTER A Book Deal
Yes, your publicity team will want you to be on Facebook or Twitter to let your network know you have a book out. If you have a mailing list from your blog or newsletter, they’ll want to know you can send out a blast when the book comes out. But if you don’t write a terrific book to begin with then your network won’t be helpful in spreading the news word of mouth. Normally, from book deal to publication is about a year. That’s 12 months to build your platform. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough followers when you submit your novel to agents. Let us know that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make the book a success and that you’ve started.