7 Ways To Build a Platform Through Your Online Community

Social MediaI wrote a bit about platform last week. It’s not the end of the world for fiction writers if you don’t have one. (What is platform? Let Jane Friedman tell you.) However, it’s great if you do by the time your book is on the market. Not necessarily at the time of querying your book, but coming up to the publication of your book. Once you have your publication date, something you can work towards to build momentum is your platform which in turn will be your readership.

1. Be sure to follow lots of people. The chances of them following you back are high. It seems like a simple tip, but if you want to get more followers, extend a hand and follow more people. No need to be a perfectionist about being online; it’s called social media for a reason. The best way to find followers that you might like is to go to the account of a writer you enjoy, and is active online, and look at their lists.

2. Once you start following someone on Twitter or Facebook, @-reply to something they say within the first 3-5 days. It’s a simple gesture that says, “I’m not a spambot. I think we have a lot in common.” That starts the dialogue early and increases your chance of people following you back as well as recognizing your image and name.

3. Started a blog, but not sure what to write about? This is NOT to say that you must blog. It’s certainly not. But many writers start their online identity with a blog and then run out of steam. Here’s a handy guide of 52 (!!) blogging ideas based on your book’s content. Now you can’t say you don’t have things to write about. The most important thing about a blog isn’t always the content (it should be good) but the consistency. Make sure people know when they will receive things from you or can check in: weekly? bi-weekly? daily? There is no right answer. It’s about what works for you.

4. Don’t be afraid of hashtags. Yes, too many are confusing, but just one can make all the difference. Do you post to your blog on Mondays? Use #MondayBlogs. Do you engage with other writers? Use #WriterWednesdays. On Instagram they are essential so use #amreading #booksofinstagram or others that relate to your topic. That’s how people find you. You can make up your own hashtags but you have to use them frequently enough for them to gain traction. For general posts, you’re best to join in with another hashtag that already exists and people recognize. Here are 100 Twitter Hashtags Writers Should Know. And a scientific guide about when to use those hashtags.

5. When you talk about your book–leading up to publication–you must use a hashtag that captures the title. There are no excuses on this one. If you want to connect your readers to you and each other, you must be providing a link of communication. A hashtag of your title is that link. Readers want to socially engage with each other. They want to share quotes, reviews, and more. Give them that opportunity by leading with example. It’s not cocky to give your book a hashtag, it’s a reality of social media.

6. Once you have built a community, it’s not the time to spew links. You did the hardest thing, you build a nest egg following! Now, in order to keep them, you have to keep the promotional link spewing to a considerate amount. The point was to lead up to your publication date, right? Well, now that you have their trust you also have to respect their feed. Things like Goodreads copy giveaways and quote graphics are two good ways to keep things aesthetically pleasing. Think about it: what’s in it for them? Marketing is a call to action. A barrage of links isn’t what people want, but a free copy or story told in GIFs is! If you build it, they will come. i.e. If you have succeeded in creating good relationships they will support you when the book comes out because they like you not your links. Invite people to engage, don’t threaten them with spam.

7. Be memorable. What is it about your online persona that will keep people coming back? Are you an authority on something? Have a hobby other that writing? The best way to be memorable is to be you. If you feel like you’re putting on a hat when you do it then it’s not coming from an authentic place. Growing a following is a slow process, so it has to come from a place that you know. And that’s usually yourself and your writing.

Q: What are some surprising ways that you’ve connected with like-minded people online?

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6 Tips for Author Self Promotion You Can Start Today

Quote3Self promotion has a sense of over-confidence about it. Only people who think super highly of themselves can promote themselves unabashedly, right?

Wrong. Self promotion has two sides to it: you and people who receive it. If you build a community online (whether it’s social media, a blog, or a website) self promotion is how to reach that audience. And if that audience is following you, they want to know what’s going on with you and celebrate with you.

6 Tips for Author Self Promotion You Can Start Today

1. Comment on blogs/websites, @-reply or ‘like’ equal to twice as much as you post original content. Shouting into the void doesn’t bring more people to your cause. If you engage with others in a way that doesn’t directly benefit you, other than that personal connection, you’ll find people will do the same for you.

2. Get visual. Have any graphic design skills? (If not, there’s an app for that.) Try putting text over images to create visual interest. Have a popular or new recipe or quote? Put it on an image. This is great for Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. See Taylor Jenkins Reid’s graphic for her novel AFTER I DO in this post. We’re a culture with short attention span. Capitalize on that.

3. Combine forces. You don’t have to do it alone! Do a Twitter chat with another author. Start a hashtag conversation. Guest post on another person’s blog. Have them guest post on yours. Bring new readership.

4. We are creatures of habit. Start a schedule. A posting or tweeting schedule is important to your sanity and creates reader expectation and anticipation.

5. Internalize a brand or message. Who do you want to be online? The informational resource people can come to? The funny, jokey person that loves to banter? The person that brings insight to causes? The person that shares their personal journey? You can be a mix, certainly, but think about the persona you are and the message you want to share. Start living that message today.

6. Collect email addresses. On your website or blog make sure there’s a place that people can subscribe. Don’t ignore this simple way to collect information for future use like an e-newsletter.

Ready to reach your audience?

Yes, Agents Google Writers

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This is the social media elephant in the room.

You don’t query in a vacuum. If you write a query letter and an agent is intrigued (congratulations!) the next thing an agent does is Google you or click on the links in your signature to see where it takes us.

A writer’s virtual footprint is their resume at that point.

Here are my ‘online guidelines’ for writers:

  • Make sure you have a landing page. It could be Tumblr, WordPress, About.me or a website. You only need one, but make sure you have one that has good SEO–Wordpress or a domain name is best for that.
  • Make sure you’re not a digital ghost. If we Google you and nothing comes up it makes us think 1) you don’t take this seriously and 2) that you don’t understand social media and the importance of an online presence and that worries us. It’s a red flag, because when it comes time to promote your book you should already have these things sorted.
  • Social media isn’t for spamming your following, it’s for community engagement. How do you sell books through social media? Indirectly. When you have a following that likes you for what you post when it comes time to promote your book they’ll be happy to spread the word.
  • Align yourself with conferences and organizations like SCBWI, WFWA, RWA etc.
  • Agents have changed their mind about an author after searching them online. Yikes! How do you avoid that? Making sure you don’t have websites or blogs that are ghost towns. Post regularly. And regularly can mean whatever works for you (once per week or once a day, but no less than a couple times a month!).
  • Being active on Twitter and Facebook means posting at least once per day, on average.

Don’t know what social media is right for you?

Tumblr: Ideal for images and short text. It’s a microblog.

Twitter: Great for short thoughts and sharing links.

Facebook: Perfect for integrating family and friends with your work, and sharing links that you have lengthy opinions about.

Pinterest: Works for behind the scenes thinks like character sketches, world building imagery, and visual content. Also, writing advice that’s image heavy like Tumblr.

Do you know the optimal times to post to social media?

Tumblr: Weekday evenings after 7pm-1am. Don’t post before 4pm. 

Twitter: 9am-4pm weekdays. Peak time: Thursday and Friday at lunch and early afternoon. Don’t post 8pm-8am or Friday after 3pm. 

Facebook: 6am-8am, Thursday and Friday at lunch, and weekends. Peak time: Sunday and Thursday. Don’t post 10pm-6am weekday or weekends after 8pm. 

Pinterest: Weekend mornings and weekdays 2-5pm. Peak time: Saturday morning and Wednesday at lunch. Don’t post 5pm-7pm.

There’s your checklist!

[Info via Hubspot.com, PR Daily, Track Maven, AddThis.com,  Social Media Week, Entrepreneur.com, Media Bistro, Fast Company.]

6 Ways Social Media Doesn’t Help You Get Published

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 5.33.11 PMDoes social media help or hinder the creative process?

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!

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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.