I’ve talked about social media a bit on the blog before, but since social media strategy isn’t a static thing, I figured we’re due for a refresh, especially after receiving this question from Cher:
I love your books and truly appreciate all of the advice you have written about for new authors. Do you have any tips as to how to get started on Social Media for aspiring authors? I’m not even sure where to start. I know where to start for writing my novel but not social media.
Okay, so first, I should be really honest that I’m probably not the best person to ask about social media. So many authors (pretty much all of them) have more robust social media presences than I do. I’m not active on Facebook (at all), I straight-up shutdown my Twitter page, and I avoid Goodreads with studious intent.
But, I didn’t ditch Facebook and Twitter until several years into my career. The way I’m doing things now, at this stage in the Lauren Layne brand, is not necessarily what I would recommend for aspiring writers, which is who this blog post is geared towards.
So if you’re a new writer, or are early enough in your career to share Cher’s wondering on “where to start” when it comes to building your social media presence as a writer, here are 5 “getting started” tips from someone who’s been there, done that.
5 Social Media Tips for Aspiring Authors:
(1) Reserve your “handle” on all of the relevant platforms.
By handle, I mean your social media username, usually beginning with the “@” symbol. Even if you’re not planning on being active on every platform, I highly recommend “reserving” a consistent handle for whatever name will be on your book covers to start establishing your platform. Imagine how much you will cringe if your first book takes off in a huge way, but the username you’ve been using on Twitter has been snagged by someone else on Instagram!
Ask yourself what you want your handle to be when you’re JK Rowling famous, and reserve that handle on all the major social media platforms you think you might use some day. It’s not the place to get cutesty and whimsical. I recommend trying to get as close to @firstnamelastname as you can (you may have to get a little creative if you have a common name!)
(2) Don’t think you have to go all-in on all the platforms.
I know I told you to create a profile (with a consistent handle) for all the platforms when you’re starting out, but that doesn’t mean you have to immediately use and excel at every single one from the get-go. I think this is one area where newbie authors are often misled. When we start out, often an agent, a publisher, or our writing network/group, some other random expert like myself (😉) will tell us that we “have to build a platform!” We don’t know what that means, so we look at our favorite authors, and get to thinking that we’ve got to be on Twitter, we need a Facebook page and group, we’ve got to be posting Instagram stories and posts. Oh, and don’t forget, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, and whatever else the cool kids are doing these days!
Here are my thoughts on that: very few people do all the platforms well. And those who do almost always have an entire team dedicated to social media platforms. My advice? Rather than trying to be a superstar at all platforms, just let yourself experiment and figure out what feels right. Some people have a natural affinity for tweeting, and it shows; their Twitter presence feels natural and authentic. For others (most others, actually), it’s Facebook. If you’re already a regular Facebook user and enjoy it, it’s quite likely going to feel like the most natural platform to you. Embrace that! It’s okay to spend most of your social media time in one place. In fact, I’d argue it’s better to do that than to spread yourself too thin trying to be on “all the places” and thus having a token presence everywhere, rather than a meaningful presence somewhere.
And again, if you’re not sure yet what your “thing” is, experiment! I didn’t realize I loved Instagram until trying to force myself to use Twitter and Facebook, and realized that those both felt painful, whereas Instagram felt joyous.
One of the glorious parts about being a new author is that you’re relatively anonymous; it’s the perfect time to discover which platforms feel natural, and which may not end up being a major part of your strategy.
(3) Start with a 50/50 approach to content
Is your problem that you have no idea what to talk about, or how much of your content should be about your books and your writing? Try making 50% of your posts about your book/work-in-progress, and 50% about your life outside of writing (pets, quirky observations, hobbies, recipes you love, etc). I say this not because it’s some magical ratio that all writers should follow forever, but because if you’re just starting out, it’s good to experiment a bit with what feels comfortable to you. When I was first starting out on social media, I didn’t know how to talk about non-writing stuff without feeling awkward. The key to easing pass the awkwardness? Good old-fashioned practice. Eventually you’ll figure out the right ratio of personal to professional sharing for you. It may be mostly book stuff, it may be mostly personal stuff, or a combination, but you won’t know what feels right until you try!
(4) Be wary of the self-identified “aspiring writer” label
There’s nothing wrong with labeling yourself as an aspiring/new/debut writer in your profile or within the contents of your posts, but eventually you’re going to want to buck up and simply call yourself a writer. And yes, that’s even if you’re not published! If you’ve written, you’re a writer. If you’re actively writing a book, you’re a writer. If you’ve finished a book, you’re definitely a writer. I know it perhaps feels presumptuous to label yourself in the same category of your multi-published role models, but I’m a big fan of the “fake it until you make it” approach. It’s sort of like that old adage of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. If you’re forever labeling yourself as aspiring/newbie/debut, how do you think other people will label you?
(5) You don’t have to just talk about the writing world to in order to be relevant in the writing world
This one ties into #3 pretty closely, but I’m going to touch on it one more time, because it’s something I keep seeing over and over again on the social media feeds of new-ish authors. Being a writer does not mean you only have to talk about writing and publishing! Don’t get me wrong, I understand the inclination. When I first launched my “writer persona” online, I had no idea what to talk about since my finished book wasn’t yet announced. Frantic to established myself as a “real writer” when I didn’t yet have a book to talk about, I found other ways to be engaged in the writing world. I blogged about my writing process, and shared the post to my 7 Facebook followers. Or I’d diligently retweet tips from industry experts. Or I’d share quotes from famous writers. And it was all good stuff, but it was a little … boring. There was very little of me coming through. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t share writing tips, or talk about your writing process! I still do that, and I always appreciate when people share my writing-related blog posts on social media! But being a writer, aspiring or published, doesn’t mean you stop being everything else! Don’t be afraid to be yourself, to talk about your interests outside of writing. Let people see what makes you interesting.
And most importantly …
I said I had five tips, but I guess I actually have six, and this last one is the most important:
Whatever you do, don’t let your time on social media eclipse the time spent on actual writing.
I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by pretending that an online presence is irrelevant in our digital age, but I do firmly believe that it doesn’t matter how amazing your social media game if you don’t have a finished manuscript. And if you’re aiming for a longterm career, you’re going to need a lot of finished manuscripts.
I don’t disregard my online presence completely (as evident by the fact that you’re reading this blog post!), but I do have one simple, unbreakable rule for my career:
Everything else, after.