Unless you are an established writer or have made inroads into a niche, you need social media.
Agent queries need to include information about your writing platform. They want to see you already possess the know-how to participate in the promotion of your work. Some even request you include a marketing plan.
“I don’t need a writing platform, I’m going to ePublish on Amazon.” Unless you are happy selling a handful of books to friends and family, you need to build a platform to promote your work because I guarantee you no one else is going to do it.
Your writing platform can be as simple as a Facebook page and Twitter account or as complex as your own domain with message boards.
The purpose of this article is to provide some general information about various social media platforms. Future articles will go more in-depth with each platform. I am not an expert on social media but am savvy on many platforms. These are the practices that have worked for me.
In this post I will briefly cover: Blogging–WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, SquareSpace; Social Media–Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Disqus, YourTube, Pinterest, Google Plus.
A writer today needs a blog. It acts as a portfolio and demonstrates you can maintain consistency and meet deadlines. A consistent blog shows you are a serious, involved writer who knows the ropes.
I have tried several blogging sites both paid and free; most notably Blogger, SquareSpace, and Tumblr. More on those in a minute.
I initially started on WordPress but found it confusing. My first sustained blog was on Blogger because I was able to get it up and running in an hour.
My first sustained blog:
The article in Writer’s Digest Magazine, “Your Author Website 101” by Jane Friedman Feb 2015, made a good case for using WordPress as opposed to what I was using at that time, Tumblr.
If you use Facebook or Tumblr as your platform hub, your sales, promotions and interactions with your audience are controlled by an entity that does not have your best interests in mind.
Many writers, agencies and even the New York Times use WordPress to power their sites. I started a free blog and, more importantly, signed up for Blogging 101. By the end of the first week, it was clear WordPress was a very powerful platform and the right one for my plans. I purchased a self-hosted site with the domain FranklyWrite.com at about $150 per year. It is a great deal.
WordPress has a bit of a learning curve. With Blogger, publishing in a few hours is possible. Not so with WordPress. However, once the basics of WordPress are learned, the platform will grow with you. Off-the-charts success will not force you to move and risk losing followers.
WordPress has excellent instructional programs; from online classes to YouTube videos, the information is available when it is needed; it is easy to locate and to understand. The learn-by-doing classes are an excellent way to start and build a blog.
Taking a WordPress class launches you into the blogosphere, you may not know what I mean by that now, but one class with WordPress and you will. It is crucial when building an audience that you plug into the blogosphere.
Do not pay to take blogging classes, WordPress gives you the same information for free!
Blogger is an entirely free blogging site powered by Google. It works seamlessly with all things Google. (And most things not Google)
Initially, Blogger is easy to use. Once the basics are mastered, however, information about refining your blog is hard to access. It’s there, but you have to dig for it and weed through a lot of technical stuff. You can take a WordPress blogging class if you have a Blogger blog, but must figure out the tasks on your own or with the help of fellow bloggers.
Your blog address will have blogspot in it. My blog is Rubecook.blogspot.com.
I loved my SquareSpace Site. It looked good and was easy to create and maintain. Monetizing on SquareSpace is easy-peazy.
If you are looking to set-up a quick, virtual storefront, SquareSpace is your site. You can get a free trail, but SquareSpace is not free. When the trial period is over a subscription package must be purchased to continue using your site. You also have SquareSpace in your address. Mine was CynthiaFranks.squarespace.com. You can get a regular .com without the SquareSpace, but it will cost more money and there is some technical stuff involved.
SquareSpace is a reasonably priced hosting site and their customer service is excellent.
Tumble is a microblogging site.
For writers, Tumblr is good to know. It is a great way to see what teens all over the world are thinking and liking. Similar to Twitter, but with blog-length posts composed of photos and video memes. Tumblr can be accessed from within Tumblr and from outside Tumblr; people who don’t have a Tumblr account can read your blog.
They have a large selection of free and paid blog formats. My cross posts from WordPress look good on Tumblr, so no need to re-format and re-post.
To get familiar with Tumblr create an account and follow people you like. Many writers are on Tumblr.
Tumblr is a fresh, slick blogging site. I will admit, I have not used it much since I moved my platform to WordPress but plan to create Tumblr only content in the future. I found it easy to write a little each day on my Tumblr.
It is a good place to get inspiration.
Social Media Platforms
Having a blog is not enough. You need to cultivate social media platforms to build a following.
Agents and publishers want to see a block of potential readers.
The best way to build a following is to be active in the blogosphere and on social media. Don’t fall for those get-followers-quick schemes you see all over the place. You may get numbers, but they won’t be fans. You need to get in there and build a fan base one follower at a time. It takes time. There is no way around it.
You don’t need to be on all platforms, find the ones that work best for you and concentrate on them. Build in others as you become more proficient. Remember, baby steps.
Authentic interaction with people on social media is a must. It is the best way to let people know you are sincere and worth recommending to their followers. You cannot post blog links and expect people to click on them. You need to show an interest in what others are doing–a genuine interest. If you constantly promote your blog or your book, you will find yourself on a lot of block lists.
Goodreads is a major force in the book industry today.
If you are a writer and are not on Goodreads set-up an account TODAY!
Goodreads is a book based social media community owned by Amazon. Follow your favorite writers, Facebook friends and write reviews of your favorite books. Goodreads allows agents and publishers to see your reading habits. (Keep this in mind once you create a platform.) I’m still learning the ins and outs of this one.
You can find my Goodreads profile here.
Twitter is the ideal writer’s platform. I recommend you start with Twitter if you are not familiar with it.
I didn’t get it at first. Twitter is a one to many tool. Not as interactive as Facebook, it is a useful tool once you learn how to use it. Recent changes have made it easier to engage with followers and reach potential followers.
I spent a few evenings tweeting with a friend who is a power user and I got it. This is the best way to learn.
It takes time to build a following on Twitter, but it is worth it in the long run.
Start by following things and people you like. I find Twitter an excellent way to read news headlines and learn about agents and agencies. (They all have Twitter accounts and a few agents have followed me back.) I follow all the big houses and many small presses and libraries. I follow the agents on my query lists.
It took me a long time to reach 50 followers, but once I did things started to pick-up. Again find things you like or things you want to know about. Getting involved in Twitter events, like the Twitter Fiction Festival or live tweeting your favorite show, are good ways to build a following and become comfortable with tweeting.
BIG events like the Oscars or Grammys aren’t as productive for engaging an audience, but can lead to some interesting blog post ideas.
The hashtag # is king on Twitter. Learn how to use it. Twitter has great help documents; take the time to read them. You can find the Twitter Help Center here.
Be true to yourself and follow the things you like. If those things correspond to your blog topics—bully for you!
You can follow me on Twitter here
Facebook is a free service where users create pages and friend people they know. It gives you the option to follow people you don’t know as opposed to friending them. I try not to friend people I have not met in real life.
Sharing photos, videos, documents, news articles, and funny memes; is extremely easy on Facebook. It provides many ways to promote your work. Some can get expensive.
There are personal accounts, business accounts, pages, and groups. I’ll get into this in the upcoming Facebook for Writers articles.
This is how I use it. I have a personal account. Many of my friends are writers, so they don’t mind my posts about writing and will keep me honest about it. My non-writing friends don’t mind my blog post updates because I don’t get crazy with it and I interact authentically with people. This is key.
Facebook generates 75% of my blog traffic. The key is Facebook groups. If you go to the groups tab on Facebook and type in writer, you will get a long list. I recommend joining groups dedicated to your interests. I’ll cover this in more depth in my Facebook for Writers post. Make sure you know how to manage notification settings before joining groups.
I set-up an Author Page on Facebook for the purpose of this article. I found it difficult to interact with people authentically with a Page. You need to spend money to make an author page useful. People who have done it have not been happy with the results.
If you have an author page or have paid to promote your page on Facebook, I would like to hear from you. Please use the Contact form here and tell me about your experience.
Join the Facebook group for this blog here.
Follow my Author Page
This is a new one for me. I’m not very active on it yet. Essentially, it is a picture based social media site. You upload photos and write a bit about them. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I think it can be a useful site. Currently, my writing and blog posts do not lend themselves to this format. I can see how it may work for some writers. If the book you are promoting is set at the zoo, chronicling your trip to the zoo on Instagram can be useful.
Here is my Instagram Profile.
I used a photo of my poodle, Charming, when I set-up the test account and cannot figure out how to change it!
I recently discovered this site by commenting on the blog, “The Write Practice.” My local paper uses it for comments so I already had an account. It is a site devoted to conversations. I’m not sure if it fits into my gestalt yet, but did get a guest blogging invite from it.
I would love to hear from frequent users.
Here is my Disqus profile.
I did not consider this a platform for my work and maybe it’s not. But the article “Success Stories in Self-Promotion,” Writer’s Digest Feb 2015 caused me to investigate further.
David Kazzie used the viral success of a video he created to promote his first book, The Jackpot. The video is below.
Being a scriptwriter, I could kick myself for not thinking of this!
There is more content on YouTube for writers than I would have dreamed. The book trailer trend is worth a deeper look. Below is a playlist of book trailers from Epic Reads. Watch a few.
The most effective videos, though, are not about writing. I’ll be focusing on YouTube over the next few months.
I would appreciate any input.
I saved the best for last. Remember that cork board you had in your bedroom or dorm room that was for sharing relevant information, but was really a collection of your favorite things? That’s Pinterest. You can create a board for each interest and pin images from anywhere on the internet. It is great for trading recipes!
At first, I used it for research and brainstorming–the search feature is great for both. Then I saw a pin from, “The Write Practice” blog. The photo had the post title written on it. I started creating photo titles for all of my blog posts and pinning them to a FranklyWrite board. Pinterest is now my number three referrer.
Pinterest is a slow roll. This is a good thing. All of a sudden an old post will get a blip in views because someone re-pinned and all their followers see it.
Here is my Pinterest profile.
Below are boards for different projects (Can you guess where and when The Ridgeback Gang series will be set?):
Dirt: A novel
The Ridgeback Gang
This is Google’s version of Facebook. To be honest, it is better than Facebook. It has an elegant easy to navigate interface. It’s cool. The problem is Facebook got there first.
For writers, the posts, look great. There is a vibrant writing community on g+ that tends to be more international than Facebook. I like it. I don’t get many views from it.
My Google+ profile.
There are other social media sites and I will keep looking into them. Don’t feel you must be on all of them.
You are more likely to interact authentically with a social media platform if you enjoy it. If you find Instagram fun, then make it your primary social media site regardless of what others tell you. Give each a try, but stick with what you like.
If you have a social media tip or experience to share, please post it in the comments or use the Contact form if it is longer. I’m planning in-depth articles on each of these platforms and would appreciate any input.
Do you use Reddit, Path, Biosphere, Snap Chat, or any other service I’ve not covered? I’d love the hear from you.