Blogs. Facebook. Twitter.
SEO, metadata, keywords.
Platform, branding, marketing.
All writers, we’re told repeatedly, are responsible for promoting their books to the public. Whole blogs and books have grown around this subject. The Internet has made it easier than ever for writers to find readers, and for readers to connect with writers. Yet, being a visible online presence takes a lot of time and work. Most of us aren’t fulltime writers. We have to squeeze our writing in between our jobs and our families. Often, I have to give the dregs of my day to writing–you know, between the hours of nine and eleven at night, after the kids are in bed and before I should be getting there myself.
And I have to do social media on top of that?
How much of that stuff is actually useful, anyway?
I recently had this website redesigned, committed to blogging three times a week, and joined Twitter. Author branding has been on my mind a lot recently. How do I connect with the readers who would enjoy my work? How can I keep my tweets from being about as exciting as a bite-by-bite replay of my lunch? And how to be part of this big wonderful community of writers, readers, publishers, editors and artists without losing my mind?
One huge thing is setting limits. Limits on the time I spend on social media, limits on how many times a day I check Facebook/Twitter, and limits on how many places I go online. I skim my RSS feed and Twitter stream–I no longer feel the need to read everything. I participate in only one forum. I evaluate my Internet time sucks regularly and take steps to deal with them (don’t ask about the time I read every single horror story on Etiquette Hell–it’s a dark dark chapter in my life).
And when I am on Twitter or Facebook, my goal is to connect with, engage and encourage other people. A lot of that can be so simple–a retweet, a Like, a simple message like “Congrats!” or “Good Luck” but those things are the building blocks of relationships. I have a definite warm spot for the people who Like my Facebook status updates–and really, I always come up with cute and entertaining ones, so why would they not? *wink* I value those outlets for the way they create communities.
However, I spend the bulk of my time and effort on this site–my home base, so to speak. Brainstorming, drafting and polishing the more thoughtful posts is a long process. I enjoy blogging, and it exercises my writer-ly muscles in ways that fiction doesn’t, but I’m not a natural blogger. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I’m terribly self-conscious about putting myself out there… er, here. I’m happy to chatter away in a small group, but blogging is like being up on stage in an auditorium–even if it is mostly empty. There’s just something about hearing my own voice from the speakers (do I really sound like that?), and the echo, and the stares of that many pairs of eyes… *shiver*. But this is the place which is all me, this is where you get undiluted Rabia Gale–contains no additives beyond the occasional guest post. I make it a point to reply to comments and engage my readers as much as possible. To all of you faithful subscribers, thanks! You’re a great group and I love your thoughtful responses.
So, now that I have this shiny made-over blog, what do I put on it? Well, it’s really really easy for writers to blog about writing. However, there are TONS of great writing blogs out there which are doing a fabulous job in that already crowded niche. Ditto with industry blogs–I have neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with the latest news; I just follow the blogs of others who do. And I’d rather cast my net wider for non-writing readers.
What do readers want from a blog by a fantasy writer?
I put my reader hat back on and considered why I love the genre I write in. I love it for the wonder that imbues it. I love it for the intricate worldbuilding, for its life-and-death scenarios, for the way it stretches characters to their limits, and for its sense of purpose and possibility. I’m fascinated by science and history and the way they feed my imagination. I seek out stories in other forms of entertainment: in games, movies and TV shows (hence all those posts about Avatar–*grin*). I want to be intrigued and uplifted. I like to speculate, and make connections, and wonder “what if?” and “why?”.
That’s the sort of reader I am, and that’s the sort of reader I want to blog for.
What about you? Do you have a plan or strategy for dealing with social media? What do you choose to focus your energies on?
Tia Nevitt says
I struggled with this as well since I stopped being a debut news blog. I have not discovered a new niche for myself other than being a niche of me. That’s small, right? 🙂 And so I write about stuff I like – reviews, research, guests and writing. It’ll have to do until I am at leisure to think of something better.
I do find that twitter and Facebook send lots of links to my site. However, I am a power user of neither.
I did book reviews for a while, but that became a chore rather quickly. I just don’t like focusing on one thing so narrowly. I appreciate book bloggers, though, because that’s how I find books I want to read. I stumbled on your old blog when I did a search for “debut fantasy books”–I had these grand plans of reading recent debuts, trying to figure out what they did right and to apply it to my own writing. 🙂
Jo Anderton says
“I put my reader hat back on and considered why I love the genre I write in. I love it for the wonder that imbues it. I love it for the intricate worldbuilding, for its life-and-death scenarios, for the way it stretches characters to their limits, and for its sense of purpose and possibility. I’m fascinated by science and history and the way they feed my imagination … I want to be intrigued and uplifted. I like to speculate, and make connections, and wonder “what if?” and “why?”.”
I love this, it totally speaks to me. This is what we love! What we’re obsessed about. What we’re good at. Our blogs, and our online personalities in general, should be a way of sharing this! A natural extension of ourselves and what we do, rather than a chore…
Exactly! Now I’m still trying to work out what that looks like, but I do have a structure of sorts. Mondays are my analysis days–I analyze movies, TV shows, books, cover art… just looking at other art and taking away lessons from it. And Wednesdays are my long, thoughtful posts–just me opining. And Fridays are my fun/goofy/off-the-wall posts.
But that’s not a rigid structure. Sometimes, some things are too good not too share right away. 🙂
I’m also trying to keep my Twitter content separate from my blog content.
Rabia, this post right here is one that has stayed with me ever since you wrote it. Dangit, I just really want to know more about Kai. As a nonwriter, but an avid reader, I will say that I’d love to see more teasers/excerpts/whatever you want to call them.
They leave me speculating, and wondering “what if?” and “WHY?” 🙂
Funny I was thinking about Kai last night and wondering where and how I went so wrong with her book. And wondering if it was worth it to untangle the mess. After reading your comment, I think, yes, it is worth it.
I’ll second that!
Two people interested in Kai. Hmmmm, I guess she’s more popular than I thought. 🙂
I keep remaking my strategies because I just don’t like to blog about writing beyond, I’m writing such and such and it’s giving me a time. I don’t write for writers so why should I blog for them? Figuring out who I am and what I really have to say that I’m interested enough to say is tough. I read Tribal Writer a lot, and it points me in the right direction, but I just haven’t figured out yet where I want to go.
Though as a reader of fantasy, I usually like to find out more about the worlds, more stories, more recommendations, more of that good readerly kind of stuff. (Despite feeling this way as a reader, I keep seeming to think it arrogant to think that’s what my [currently very, very few] readers will want. Hmm…)
I don’t write for writers so why should I blog for them?
Yes, that. Though, of course, writers are a vocal, voracious subset of readers. I just don’t like to blog about the craft and business of writing all the time.
I’ll have to check out Tribal Writer.
Perhaps you could post something relating to your stories once a week? Whether it’s a map, or an excerpt, or some behind-the-scenes comment? Or you could talk about where your research has led. I know you’re into linguistics–maybe a write about lingusitics-related topics once in a while, too?
Yep, I’ve asked the same questions.
I find Twitter unsatisfying and only followed a few people but there were so many tweets it was difficult to separate the useful from the banal. I pulled out – except for following Anne Lyle’s character, Mal.
Facebook I just don’t get. It’s visually confusing and again, unsatisfying. I don’t go there. There are authors, successful ones, who don’t tweet and don’t go on Facebook. But they all have good websites. If I do anything else, it will be to get a better website when I need one.
I enjoy reading your blog. It says things which connect with me. It tells me something about you and the world you live in. I hope to read more about that fascinating character Kai that you gave a glimpse of with a short excerpt from your novel some time ago.
I follow a few others because I’ve got to ‘know’ them on a forum and their blogs are also good places to be; entertaining, useful, fun and more. There are often short stories to read. I visit regularly perhaps 4 at most plus a handful of others every couple of weeks.
Then there are writers’ blogs. All that fascinating, useful inforamtion on how to write romance/whodunnits/fantasy and how to market myself and how to…a great many more things which sound useful. It takes me away from writing. So…
I spend most of my precious time writing; writing my fiction and learning the craft by doing it. When it comes to publishing, I’ll dip into blogs and pick up the information I need – a quick in and out and thank you very much.
Until then, I’ve settled down to something that works so I’ll stay with that for a while. At least I’ll get some writing done and stay sane 🙂
I appreciate you dropping by here as regularly as you do! I enjoy your comments a lot.
Twitter, Facebook, and blogging aren’t essential to being an author. One big thing about this kind of social interaction is to do what you enjoy. If it’s a big chore and you can’t see any benefit to doing it… well, there are better things to expend your energies on. You just have to figure out a way to interact that is uniquely yours. 🙂
Thanks Rabia 🙂
And yes, I’m all for a bit of fun. Life’s too short to do boring things in ‘free’ time!