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?