Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A writer's step-by-step plan for using social media

Social media is so confusing. Writers know it's important, but where do you start? Twitter? A blog? Facebook? What do you post? How often? And how does it help you sell your book?

I've read several wonderful books on the topic. Here's a rundown of their top tips:


Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents

Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman
The main thing I learned from Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents is that a writer needs a platform. It doesn't matter if you write nonfiction or fiction, it's all about your platform. So what's a platform? There are actually two kinds (three if you consider that Facebook or Twitter are also platforms, but this refers to a writer's platform).

The first kind of platform is how readers think of you when they think of you. For example, Isaac Asimov will always be known as a science fiction writer, even though he wrote many books that weren't science fiction. J.K. Rowling will forever be identified with Harry Potter. J.R.R. Tolkien will always be remembered for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Maybe in the future, I'll be known as the writer of Toren the Teller or Gilbert the Fixer. But for now, my platform is that I'm a funny writer, a Geek Goddess, and the author of humorous fiction, fantasy and science fiction for kids and teens. I also have a reputation for helping other writers out.

The second kind of platform is made up of the number of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, blog subscribers, and so on that you have. If you want an agent in today's publishing environment, you're going to need this kind of platform--but how do you get it? That part wasn't so clear, so I kept looking.

Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author

Smart Self--Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters
Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author is chock full of information and useful advice, both for self-publishers and traditionally published authors. While the author writes about the things that worked for her, she does acknowledge that other authors have succeeded with things that didn't, and you may succeed with them too. This sets this book apart from almost every other book I've read on self-publishing, which have gone on and on about why you should e-publish and how much success the author had as an indie publisher.

You'll learn why you need a newsletter, where you can create one, and what you should and shouldn't put in yours; working out a marketing schedule and a marketing plat; why you need to set both short-term and long-term goals, and what those goals can be; self-editing, critique groups, and hiring a freelance editor; what kind of prizes lead to more sales (and what kind don't); and all aspects of marketing, from social networking, blogs and blog hopping to marketing with video and paid advertising when you've earned enough to afford it.

This is one of the most helpful books I've read on self-publishing, and I highly recommend it.

Still, even though it talked a lot about the importance of blogging for writers, I still didn't feel I had enough of a grasp on the details. Yes, it mentioned that it's a good idea to post several times a week, but what good is that if no one is checking out your blog? How do you get people to give your blog a glance? And then a second glance? And then maybe subscribe? So I went looking for another book on the details, and I found a great one.
ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garret
Although it's not writer specific, I found ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income invaluable for the depth of information it contains about successful blogging.

There are two ways to make money blogging: either by selling advertising space, or by using your blog to promote your work, for example, as a freelance writer or editor. I went through the book with a highlighter, and I ended up highlighting something on every other page.

I even put stars near some things I found particular helpful. For example, there's a list of question to ask yourself to help you better understand your target audience. There's also a section on useful blog properties, and another wish suggestions for how you can create useful blog content. It was great.

We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media

We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb
 Of course, at this point, I had learned so much I felt like my head might explode. I needed one book to help me tie it all together, and luckily I found it in We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media.

This book is awesome! And in my next blog post, I'll tell you why.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about social media for writers, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below. I'll do my best to answer them if I can.       

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