I shared, in a previous blog (“The Hardest Part of Being a Writer“), about the difficulty of waiting during the writing journey. Well, I’m happy to report that there is an area where you not only don’t have to wait, but you shouldn’t, and that’s building your audience through social media.
I can’t tell you how many of the proposals we’ve seen in recent weeks that say something along the lines of “When my book is contracted, I will have a professional website built” or “As soon as I receive a contract, I will establish a presence on social media to promote it.” I kind of understand this way of thinking. Some of it is about finances. I get that. And I realize that the only way to get your message out as a writer used to be having your book published. But nowadays, with the reach of the Internet–and specifically online social media–you can share your message with your readers long before you have a book to sell them. In fact, you not only can, you need to do that. Don’t wait for a contract. Start now. Today.
(One disclaimer: Please don’t hear me say “Start now!” if you haven’t done everything you can to ensure your message is as well crafted as it can be. Put in the time to refine your skill at communicating/writing, and then jump in!)
Okay, I hear you now: “Why would I do this without a contract offer, or before I’ve even put together a book proposal?” Well, if “because I said so” isn’t enough for you <grin>, here are three solid reasons:
- To help others. There are people out there now who need your message. If you really believe you have something God has given you to share, why wait to share it? The sooner you share your message, the sooner it can help them.
- To help your message. People love to react and respond when they hear something that resonates, that can change their lives or improve it. They will spread the word. And they will respond to you about the message and how it has impacted them. What better resource could you have for seeing ways that you are—and aren’t—communicating well. Let your audience help you refine your message so that it’s as effective as it can be.
- To help your proposal. Because, when you put together that proposal (following the agent’s or editor’s guidelines, of course) you will have something of substance to put under readership and marketing. You will have a platform started already, rather than saying “I plan to …” and list all the things you’ll do after you have a contract. You can say your website receives x number of hits, and that there is already a community engaged in your message and sharing it with others. What agents and editors want to see is that you’re actively engaging your audience, and that they are responding to you and your message.
So how do you do this? Well, stay tuned to next week’s blog! (And if you’d like to explore more on the why of social media before you’re contracted, do a search on this site for “social media.” You’ll find a number of great blogs from my fellow agents!)
Until then, why not share your “best practices” social media tips with each other. What have you learned that might help a fellow author?
It takes time for the process to evolve. However, it doesn’t evolve on its own. Hah! Consistency is key. Streamlining the effort is key, too. I used to be all over the place. Now I keep my blog topics clean and interrelated. And, then, once in awhile the lucky break happens. Like this week. A gentleman is tweeting quotes from my book, one per day, which has netted me a few more followers. He first noticed my social media presence after I posted a review about a book from in my genre, Christian contemplative spirituality. Then he decided to follow me on Twitter and also on my FB author page. I’m lovin’ it. The quotes highlight my writing style. Another win. Another suggestion, it helps to join a writers’ group. The connections are helpful but the added benefit is its motivational factor. I was slow to do this, but have found it quite beneficial.
All great ideas, Norma. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. And I love this: “I used to be all over the place. Now I keep my blog topics clean and interrelated.” Perfect.
Like many aspiring authors, I knew I needed to start working on my online platform, but I was too intimidated…until I received a rejection email from an agent I really hoped to connect with. She was blunt: “Don’t tell me you’re going to start an author website. Start it now.” I started it the next day, but instead of an author website, I focused on my target audience (women’s fiction readers), and started a blog, “The MOM Journey…and Confessions Along the Way.” I had no idea how to build a blog or how to blog, but with the help of Google, I figured it out. Now, four months later, I have almost 300 followers. I never wrote about the book I hoped to publish, though. I just focused on building a relationship with my followers. So when I posted a video to announce I “finally” signed with a publisher, the post had 301 shares to Facebook (and even more shares on Facebook itself), and the video had 1,409 views in the first 24 hours. Plus, I launched my author website minutes before I posted the video, so my followers were eager to check out the website and sign up to follow the website, too. — I don’t want to sound like I know what I’m doing. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. I just jumped in and am so amazed at how this whole process worked. I know 300 followers is not a lot by comparison, but for a nobody writer, it was a pretty good start. Also, I do believe my blog is part of the reason I received a publishing contract. But equally important to me, my followers are genuinely excited about my book…and that’s a pretty crazy feeling. Again, I don’t want this post to be about me. I say all this to say…I DREADED the online platform stuff…but I trudged through it…and it has made a difference…possibly “the” difference. I hope someone finds encouragement from this and jumps in, too!
“I never wrote about the book I hoped to publish, though. I just focused on building a relationship with my followers.”
Karen, this wisdom is fantastic! Yes, your readers need to be the focus. And 300 followers is a great start. So keep at it.
Great blog. Also love Norma’s comment.
I have learned to give and receive in the area of other writers. Read their posts, make comments … ENCOURAGE
It’s about Him not us … so listen, learn and promote accordingly.
Beverly, love this. You’ve discovered a real truth: focus on others, not yourself. No one wants to read commercial after commercial. But when you encourage others as you’re doing, people see your true heart and are drawn to it. And you.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Thanks for the advice, Karen. I look forward to next week’s blog so that you can share how to do this. I am clueless about setting up a blog or website and can’t wait to hear what you have to say. I have been contacting various organizations who do have a website and asking if they would consider using Suddenly Single as a possible resource. They are willing to look at my work and will include it in their organization’s list of books to read….so indirectly, that would give me a web presence (but I realize that is not enough). I will be tuning in for next week’s blog, for sure!
Sheri, hope next week’s blog helps! And that’s a great idea to contact organizations and see if they’ll use your site as a resource. That’s strategic partnering, so well done!
Thanks for this reminder. I started my blog while in the early stages of writing my book. I admit, sometimes I resented taking time away from the book to blog. With that said, it has served me to improve my writing, find my voice, test the audience and provide encouragement.
I too have been blessed by encouraging others. Now, when I grumble no one is reading my blog, I look for another blogger to engage with.
I’m not elated with the growth of my blog in number of readers, but I am more than satisfied with the intrinsic rewards.
“Now, when I grumble no one is reading my blog, I look for another blogger to engage with.”
Another great tip! You guys are a wonderful resource. Thanks for sharing, Deb.
Since I’ve wrestled a lot with why anyone would want to follow me when, as the saying goes, they have no reason to know me from Adam’s off ox or to care, I’ve decided to start with a Roman history website as my author website. That way I can share with teachers and homeschoolers and my future fans ( 😉 ) the fruit of all the research I’ve done so I could write historically accurate novels. I’ll have a blog as part of it and lots of articles and fun features on various facets of living in Roman times.
Here’s my question to those of you using WordPress for your content management at your author domain: what WordPress templates work well for authors? I look at all the options, and my eyes glaze over!
Carol, I’d recommend you take a look at the other author’s websites to evaluate which ones you like best. Then contact that author and ask if they’d be willing to tell you what template they used for the site.
As for why someone would want to follow any of us? That’s when you do exactly what you did: focus on your readers and figure out what you can do to help/bless/encourage them. 🙂 Remember, this whole God-assigned writing gig isn’t about us, it’s about how He wants to use us to bless others. That’s what we need to understand.
I’ve started that, but it’s a humongous task. Are there a few you’d especially recommend as doing it well?
This is something you need to do as it’s based on your personal tastes and your specific website needs. What I find effective may not work for you.
I love this post, Karen. While at the ACFW conference last year I heard a publishing house representative say they don’t think a blog is necessary until you are published. I never so badly wanted to stand up and disagree with a professional. I felt that was very misleading for all the new writers at the workshop. Every writer should be working on a platform now!
Karen, What timing! I was cleaning out some old files from 2009 today, and came across this comment (NOT my own), posted on the blog of a literary agent:
“I think websites, blogs, and social networking are an enormous waste of time for aspiring authors. These people should spend their time writing a really great book. Once they get a publisher for the really great book, then they can get the marketing going.”
It appears that the mindset of some aspiring authors hasn’t changed much in 7 years.
I like what you said: “…when you put together that proposal (following the agent’s or editor’s guidelines, of course) you will have something of substance to put under readership and marketing. You will have a platform started already, rather than saying “I plan to …”
As a website/blogging/social media professional, my suggestion is to think long-term. If you hope to publish your first book in the next 1.5 years, begin building your online presence now. That way, you have time to adjust to the rhythm of balancing book writing, blog post writing, and social media writing. Each is different, but all are important ways to connect with readers, both before and after your book is published.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
I knew from intensive research about publishing fiction that I needed an online following. Then an agent at a conference “loved” my last book, but told me to take 6-9 months to build an online presence, THEN contact her again–she wouldn’t even consider representing me without that. So I got a Twitter account; researched Wix, GoDaddy, WordPress, and several others., bought my domain name, ordered books about how to blog, and launched lindariggsmayfield.com on WordPress and Linda Riggs Mayfield, Author, on Facebook. I have a few regular followers, but the number hasn’t grown much. I’ve found that: (1) doing it right is like adding another part-time job to my life, (2) work, sleep. eating, church; prayer, Bible study, and husband, children and grandchildren usually trump posting, and (3) at this rate, I may never get an agent. 🙂 Looking forward to your next post!
Thank You Karen. I have searched this topic for awhile, but never jumped in with both feet. I appreciate the the bold “do it now”. Can’t argue with that.
Jane C Baker
I think my blog is all over the place, but at the same time, maybe I can pull it together. I like looking at life with my tongue in my cheek because I’m nuts, and so is everyone else. However, family has always been my focus. I remember thinking as a young girl that I wanted a home where everyone felt it was ok to kick their shoes off and be themselves. So I’m going to look at my blog in a new way. Thanks for the catalyst that got me on this train of thought.