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.
Decide What You Want To Get Out Of Social Media
Surprise!: not every author is going to blow up on Twitter. If you think your links and witty tweets are going to get you half a million followers or likes I’m sorry to say you are sadly mistaken. So what is social media good for? CONNECTING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE. You are going to slowly gain followers based on your personality and the tone and value of what you tweet. Get your expectations in check and use it as a tool, not a megaphone.
Why Do Agents and Editors Care About Twitter, Anyway?
The reason I like to look at a writer’s Twitter feed before signing them up is to see what their voice is like outside of their novel. If you can write a novel and interesting 140 character tweets then I’m intrigued. If you have an account but never use it, or have a blog and never post on it I get the impression you’re not as serious about writing than other people whose work I’m looking at.
Lastly — The writerly rule of social media: only begin what you think you can continue on a regular basis. If you don’t want to blog at least once a week then it’s not for you. If Facebook feels more natural then don’t feel obligated to join Twitter.
Q: What are your biggest concerns about being a writer on social media?