"Roundheads and Ramblings"
Writing is a business, as you are about to find out. You cannot spend all your time writing. You also have to get out in the world and build yourself a reading audience. Here are some places when you can connect with readers and writers like yourself.
Are You Internet-Literate?
Do you have a Facebook account? How many friends
do you have? Are they all family and
school chums? Or have you thought about adding some writers and book publishers
to your friends list? Many writers are open and eager to add friends who are
interested in their books. And it’s easy
to connect. Pick your favorite writers and Search Facebook for their pages.
Once there, ask to be added to their Friends list. Chances are they will agree,
and you’ll soon be picking up valuable writing tips from some of the world’s
Do You have a Twitter Account? Again check on
your followers and look for new people to follow. Twitter makes it easy to
search for writers, book lovers, publishers and writing experts.
Many people avoid LinkedIn, thinking it’s just
for business. Well, writing is a business, as you are about to find out. There are several discussion groups for
writers. Check them out until you find a
companionable group of folks who are willing to share advice about writing and
Have you tried Pinterest? Creating and adding to
boards about your favorite subjects is fun and addictive. Many writers use Pinterest profitably. I have a separate board for each of my books,
and then those book boards have spawned related boards – recipes from my
stories, pictures of my characters, scenes from places in the books, and even
guides for book clubs who might want to read the book.
There are many other social media opportunities, but the ones listed above have a huge number of users. You need to be active in their circles. So start now.
As a former teacher, I always expected a standard reaction when someone asked me what I did. I got one of those just last week. A woman was doing her best to connect with me at a stand-up cocktail party. She herself was new in town, managing a small office that provided business services to other businesses. She finally quit talking about her company and asked me what I did. I told her I was a writer, and she looked puzzled. "What do you write?" she asked. "Novels," I replied. The look on her face said it all. She might as well have just stepped in a nasty sidewalk doggy mess. "Oh," she said, and then she was gone -- abruptly, without a word of transition. She had just marked me as an untouchable. OK. I guess she wasn't much of a reader. But she was also an exception.
One of the hardest things I have had to learn since I started writing was that most readers really like writers. Real readers get excited when they find out that I'm an author. They want to ready my books. They want to know how I do what I do. They want to talk about characters as if they are our mutual friends. Bu there's still a problem--a barrier to be overcome. I don't want to be the obnoxious character who walks into a room saying, "Here I am -- an author -- please come do me homage." And making those connections is even harder in social media situations.So how do you turn a stranger into an adoring fan, or at least into "someone who knows your name"? Here are a few tips I picked up at a recent writers' conference.
1. Be friendly. Show that stranger that you are interested in her, no matter how odd she is. After all, she might give you the seed from which to grow a new character.
2. Be willing to work with others who love and write books. Share your readers with other authors and help publicize their books. Mutual interests make good friends.
3. Keep your personal troubles and traumas out of your internet posts, or at least use two accounts, one for personal life, another for the business of writing. Whatever you do, don't whine!
4. But do share the fun things that happen to you--not how much money you just made, but the strange red chicken that wandered into your yard. Talk about the activities that give you pleasure, the kind deed you observed someone else do, or a particularly lovely moment. Let readers see your personality.
5. Encourage your readers to weigh in on a controversial issue, but avoid taking a stance that will alienate some part of them. I wouldn't endorse a political figure, for example, but I would speak out about the need to have a public vote on an issue that people care about. Here, we recently had a controversy over whether wine should be sold in grocery stores. Getting the question on the ballot was a tough fight, so I was comfortable urging people to sign that petition without telling them which side I would support.
6. On Twitter, try using a robot to schedule your postings. That will let
you make sure you are not saying the same old thing to the same few
people over and over again. Bookbuzzr.com is good for this because you
can see a list of your posts, and schedule them so that they do not repeat
at the same time or on the same day.
7. If you're trying to encourage people to buy your book, use your blog or
facebook post to talk about the writing process, the problems you have
had with the story, or the research you have done to make the setting
come alive. Sell yourself, not your book.
I’m slowly working my way through the 2012 edition of The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese, in the forlorn hope that I have learned enough since I wrote it to come up with a “new and improved” version. Not the final word, mind you. The world of publishing is changing too fast for that. But perhaps some important updates will help next year’s writers.
Yesterday I was looking at the chapter on using social media,and I noted that my emphasis was all on numbers — how many followers I had on various sites. Did I really believe back then that all a writer had to do was sign up followers and instant fame and fortune would follow? Egads! True, my numbers have almost doubled and sites have multiplied, — and yes, my sales figures have followed suit. But a session at this year’s Military Writers Conference reminded me that the most important factor is not numbers but name recognition.
As soon as Maria Edwards, the speaker in that session, spoke those words, I winced. Do people who wander through Facebook or Twitter really know my name? Do they see it and think, “Oh, yes, she’s the one who writes all those great Civil War biographical novels.”? Maybe a few on Facebook do. But what about my followers on Twitter? Probably not!
Why? Because I’ve committed a huge error on Twitter. I’m registered there as “Roundheadlady.” A the time, I thought I was being clever. The Roundhead Regiment was the one my Uncle James joined in Pennsylvania, and the subject of my first Civil War book, A Scratch with the Rebels. So I was the “lady who wrote about the Roundheads” but out there on Twitter, most folks are still saying, “Who?” I even compounded the error by using that name on my Pinterest account as well. A slow learner, I am.
What’s worse, it’s probably too late to correct the errors. Oh, I could go into those accounts and change my user name, but the chances are great that followers of “Roundheadlady “ would simply figure that I had died or faded away. Would they make the connection and switch to following "CarolynSchriber"? Certainly I have one Facebook friend in Missouri who affectionately calls me “Roundhead Lady.” She'd find me no matter what name I used. But for most readers, the name recognition is simply not there.
Take-away lesson: If you want people to buy your books and talk about them and recommend them to their friends, you need to make sure they know your name.
We've already talked about book marketing as part of the preparation for writing your book. Now that the book is ready to meet its public, the same social media sites will be even more important to your efforts. If you've followed this plan, you've already started to build a platform of followers and readers. Now it's time to expand your efforts.
Once you've created a publishing company and have the books ready for purchase, a website is a prime requirement. It should serve many functions -- introducing your area of expertise, talking about your book, providing a detailed biography so that readers feel they really know you, allowing readers to contact you, and making book ordering easy. Articles on how to build your website are found elsewhere. Just be sure you do it.
A word of caution about the usual social media sites may be necessary here. Readers turn to Twitter for pithy sayings, not to be told to "Go buy my book." Facebook provides enough ads as it is. Don't make it worse by using your status updates as just another ad. Your readers are probably interested in your signings, your awards, your public speeches -- but don't beat them over the head with flat demands for their money.
YouTube videos can reach huge audiences, but don't post something unless it makes you look like a professional, not a silly amateur turned loose for the first time with a cellphone. And LinkedIn audiences are even tougher. The participants there are usually serious business people. Give them information they can use, not blatant self-promotion.
A Virtual Book Tour is a wonderful device for building your following. Every time you visit the blog of someone new and post an interesting article, you get a chance to add that person's followers to your own. So look for people with interests similar to your own, read their blogs until you are sure you like them (and their audiences), and then ask politely if you can do a guest post for them. If you offer their readers some information of value. you may create a long-term relationship that works for both of you. As an example, just last week I made my second appearance on a blog managed by a woman who wrote an article for my own book launch. Our interests jibe, and we easily fill in for one another when we need a fresh voice.
The final item on this chart talks about press releases -- which sound serious and mysterious but are easy to do because there is a standard format. Everything must fit on a single page. Forget about fancy fonts, pictures, clever little sketches -- just get the facts out there, with no grammatical errors or typos.
Start with the words "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE"
Follow that with your contact information.
Write a short catchy headline. Look at your local newspaper for examples.
Write a two-sentence description of your book.
Provide a synopsis, similar to the one on the back of the book jacket.
Include a brief biography, with pertinent qualifications, other publications, and any awards.
Add a quote or two from any reviews you may have
Provide book details -- ISBN, publisher, ordering information
Repeat author contact information
Finish with that useful printers mark -- ###
Once you have a good press release, you can send it to local news media, give it to people who will be hosting your book signings, and use it to introduce yourself to potential customers. Consider it your own personal Town Crier, going out ahead of you to announce your presence.
Finally, let's add one more item: PERSEVERANCE. Success in the book publishing world does not come easily or quickly . It just seems that way when you look at it from the outside, because readers don't see the agent turndowns, the rejections from publishing houses, the low sales figures, the negative balance in your business ledger. Your book will not be an overnight phenomenon. Accept that, and keep marketing, keep talking about your interests, and keep writing. Really, which would you rather have -- a one-night stand with an Amazon "best-seller of the day" or a steady, growing relationship with your readership?
There are dozens of social media
sites on the Internet, and I am certainly no expert on all of them. The big
three—the ones most often used—are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They serve
different purposes, and I’ve been surprised to see how different their
Let’s start with Facebook, which
now advertises that it has over 500 million users. . . . On my own Facebook account I have
discovered close to 400 “friends.” They include a few family members; a
neighbor or two (although that strikes me as silly); some long-lost high school
classmates; several former students, some dating back over twenty years; and a
fairly large contingent of academics, mostly medievalists. The rest are members
of Lions Clubs or members of the Military Writers Society of America, both
locally and around the world. What can they possibly have in common? I know
them. I’d recognize them on the street. I’d probably hug most of them. They are
all people with whom I have shared both common interests and common
experiences. We’ve worked together, struggled with the same problems, and
shared our ideals and goals. I care about them and how they are doing, and I
hope they care about me.
When it comes to posting my status
on Facebook, I try not to bore my friends or irritate them unduly with efforts
to sell my latest book. But if I have had a wonderful day—or a miserable
one—these are the people with whom I can share it. I post pictures here, both
of myself, so they can watch me age, and of my current activities. It is on
Facebook that I am most open about my personal activities and opinions. What
good does that do for business, you may wonder? Many of my friends will buy my
books; even more will be tickled for me when I win an award. I receive a benefit
when they talk about me or leave a congratulatory note on my wall. Facebook
friends can form a virtual cheering section in our lives, and that’s important. . . .
My second social media outlet is
LinkedIn. As I indicated earlier, this site is much more business-like than
Facebook. I have over 300 connections on LinkedIn, and almost none of them
are cross-overs to my list of Facebook friends. I know less than half of them
personally. My LinkedIn connections are the power-brokers in my world . . . Many of my connections are members of Lions Clubs
International, but they are the leaders in that organization—former
international ofﬁcers, staff members, or CEOs of Lions-associated non-proﬁt organizations.
They are people I can turn to when I need business-type advice. The rest are
business ﬁgures with whom I have had some contact, and media and public
How can they help build my
publishing platform? Well, my ﬁnancial advisor, my lawyer, and my accountant
are on that list, along with public ﬁgures who can orchestrate newspaper or TV
coverage when I have an announcement of a new book or an award. They are the
people who can help set up book signings or public speaking engagements. They
are great contacts because they have their own contacts.
Another great advantage of
LinkedIn is that it lets people with common interests form discussion lists,
where they can connect with people who have similar interests or who are facing
similar problems. I currently participate in several writers’ groups, as well
as one that discusses fund-raising ideas for non-proﬁts.
And then there is Twitter. What can
you possibly accomplish with 140 spaces? The easy answer, of course, it that it
teaches you to cram a lot of information into the smallest possible space.
Brevity is good. But beyond that, I see Twitter as a conduit—the vital link
between me and the huge world of the Internet.
At the moment I have around 800
followers on Twitter, and I’ll be the ﬁrst to admit that I don’t know many of
them. We are strangers who have made a brief connection because of a third
party who knows us both, or because we have a common involvement. They are
simply people who have indicated an interest in what I might have to say. When
they follow me, anything I post will automatically appear on each of their
Twitter feeds. They may, or may not, ever see it. But when they do, they each
have the option of passing it on to their own followers, giving my message
access to untold numbers of readers. Twitter also has the ability to post
automatic messages for me, and to re-post my messages to my other social media
Here’s how it works. Suppose I’ve
ﬁnished a blog post announcing the publication of a new book and including a
link to the book’s order page. I send it to my 800 followers, and Twitter also
posts it on my Facebook page (+400 readers) and my LinkedIn proﬁle (+300
readers.) Then a dear fellow writer in England retweets it to her whole list
(+1000 readers), the president of a writers’ society to which I belong retweets
it to her list (+1250), and three faithful blog followers in Missouri,
California, and Colorado send it to all their followers (+1700 total). That one
personal message reaches over 5000 people within minutes. That’s the best, and
easiest, advertising I know.