Social media is not a monster. No, listen, keep reading, hear me out. I know you’re an introverted writer. I know that we’ll use any excuse to stay indoors (ok, but I’m in Melbourne and lockdown 4 does suck but so does covid so be safe). But if you are going to be a writer, readers need a way to find you, and that’s why your author brand is so important.
When agents and publishers ask for this information, what they’re looking for is whether you are active and want to engage with readers. Think about some of your favourite authors and what they do. Go looking for them. Some of them may do very little social media (maybe none at all), or they may be rather prolific.
But most of them are one thing: Using platforms they are comfortable with, posting content they are comfortable with, at times that work for them. Social media shouldn’t be a chore, but if you don’t like it, it can feel that way. However, there are a lot of ways out there to reach readers, and lots of programs to help you put out a social media presence. Hootsuite allows you to post at chosen times of peak engagement. Canva allows you to create engaging images without having to take selfies, or even book promo material.
Find where your readers are, and look to other authors and how they are engaging their reader base. Here is a list of the most common, but by no means only social media platforms, with a short snippet on my experiences with them.
Content: Words, pictures, and videos.
Timing Guide: Once a week – Once a day
This social media platform has the bonus of creating different kinds of accounts depending on your level of comfort with social media. You can just use a personal page but with family and friends there may be people you want to connect with that aren’t about your writer’s life and so it becomes secondary to the purpose of using that social media. You can create a Facebook page, or even a group for your author profile. A page allows you to post what you want, and people can interact with it. A group tends to be more involved because you’ll need to grant members permission to post things that may not always be about you as an author and does require more interaction.
Content: Blog like posts with images and videos
Timing Guide: Once a month to once a week
BONUS: Patreon requires that followers pay a fee of your choosing to follow you
This requires possibly the most amount of attention. The followers of Patreon are expecting regular exclusive content and building a loyal dedicated fan base is about your dedication to those willing to pay a small amount of money for the content you provide. Many authors with excellent reputations use this to subsidize their author income. I follow Gareth Powell, who posts about his work and paintings, but also interactive posts about writing tips, and asking if he can help writers. It requires regular posting monthly if not more often, but it does allow exclusive content to loyal fans.
Content: Pictures and videos, word limit of 280 characters
Timing: Once every day or so – multiple times a day
I’ll be completely biased; this is my home ground. As someone who is ND, I initially found twitter overwhelming. There are SO many conversations, topics, hashtags, trends. But do you know what else there is? A very big and vibrant writing community. From indie to trad, self-pub to vanity, writers of all kinds abound. I found the best way to handle it was follow and learn from authors I admire, find other authors at my level. Follow editors and agents for great tips and connect with people. I have agents who’ve rejected me that now follow me back. I owe my contract to Literary Wanderlust because during a pitch event Sharon Salonen liked my tweet (an invitation to submit to the publishing company where she is an editor). If you don’t know what these things are, or you find them confusing, just ask. Twitter is incredibly friendly to newcomers and there are many who are happy to help explain. To be considered reasonably active, you’d post here twice a day or so at peak times, or once every second day at least, but I find engaging with tweets the best way to network.
Timing: Once a week – multiple times a day
A platform that allows you to put a short video up. Which to the technologically challenged can be very intimidating (me; it intimidates me). But it does allow for a lot of clear vocal communication about topics that matter to writers. Book launches, snippets, new book box openings. The uses are limitless. I’ve seen people do mock videos of writer situations with their spouse, re-enactments of their books. The only limit is your imagination. And no; you do not have to be a “pretty” person to use this social media. As long as what you are saying is contextually specific to your author brand, that’s all that matters. So – I guess I’ll be shortly posting writer tips with the dog chewing my hair because that’s the only way I can film myself.
Content: Videos & animated pictures
Timing: daily – multiple times a day (snapchat deletes images after 24 hours)
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I do not know a lot about this social media platform except that it appears many of its users have moved on to Tiktok or stayed on Instagram. This platform has its dedicated presence and like any platform its about connecting to your fan base/readership group. The downside here is that the images disappear after 24 hours so you do need to be posting and often.
Timing: Once a week – Once a month
YouTube is where I go for music and to find “how to” videos and explain stuff that Wikipedia isn’t articulating correctly for me. But its also an excellent source of writer’s articles and you can contribute! There are a lot of great writing channels, booktubers who do reviews and a host of informative information about tropes, cliches, and… criticism. Like any social media platform, YouTube has its fair share of those who will happily criticize writing, and like all social media platforms, it’s a good idea to do some research as to what you watch for advice, and how experienced that person is in their field.
Content: Pictures and videos
Timing: Once a week – daily
There are many who are moving from other platforms (Twitter), to Instagram for more engagement with a younger reader base, but there is a lot of scrutiny on physical appearance which is what intimidates me, but here is the thing; you don’t have to post selfies. There are many users who post pictures of food, books, coffee and tea, and other things. We’re writers, not models, and we shouldn’t be intimidated by physical appearances because in the end that’s not what we do; we’re writers. Post who you are, become familiar with your brand, and notice all the other writers doing the same. One great advantage of Instagram is the ability to post the same text and the link to the Instagram picture onto your Facebook and Twitter account.
Content: pictures, videos, posts, blogs
Timing: Once every few days – once every few months
This I have to stress is the MOST important thing you can do. Even if its just a static page, something you host on a free website with a premade template. Why? Lemme tell you about the time I first started investigating social media and all you found when you looked up E J Dawson was a basketballer. I didn’t even make the first page. Now I’m the first thing that turns up (or maybe that’s googles algorithms). Either way there is a lot that turns up for both of us now, and I’m hoping the sports guy keeps going because he looks dedicated as hell, just like I plan to be. But make it easy for a reader to find you. To find your other work. Because if they love it enough to look you up they want more, and they can use your website to sign up to newsletters and find out more about the writing you love and about you.
There are a host of other platforms; Tumbler, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, but the most important thing about any of them is two things; find out where your demographic is and be comfortable using that platform. You may be surprised where your readers actually spends their time, and the best thing you can do is be where it is, as long as you be yourself. That’s what your author brand is, and that’s what you should focus on. Don’t be scared to look up other authors, check out what they are posting and how, find something that fits you. You want to be sincere on social media to further your engagement, and the best person to be is yourself.
An excellent, jargon-free summary. Thanks!