Why do Authors Need Social Media?

Why Do Authors Need Social Media?

Last week, I confessed that I was fairly socially awkward in public situations where there are a lot of people. I have had panic attacks over the thought of being in public with too many people that I didn’t know. I have met authors who feel the same about social media.

Most authors have legitimate concerns. They don’t want to open up their personal Facebook page to people who might be fans of their writing, because they have kids or they don’t want Aunt Mabel knowing that they write erotica. They don’t know how much to share about their personal lives on Twitter. They don’t want to open up their Instagram account to followers who aren’t family because someone could see their house or where they work.

BooksThose are all valid points. As the series progresses, we’re going to address them all. I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong or that your feelings are invalid because you feel differently than I do on social media. What I am going to tell you is that I have, at times, addressed each of those concerns in creating my own social media presence, so I totally know where you’re coming from. I’m going to show you ways that you can, if you choose, work around most of those issues, and create a social media presence that is beneficial to you.

The question that I want to talk about today is why authors need social media. I know that many of you reading this fall into three categories:

  • You’re querying agents, waiting to be chosen, as you polish a manuscript or two for submission to one of the Big Publishing Houses
  • You’re polishing a manuscript for submission to a smaller publishing house.
  • You’re polishing a manuscript for self publishing.

I don’t care which category you fall into. Your journey, my sweet, is your journey, and which ever way you choose to walk it is up to you. But I am going to tell you that no matter which category you fall into, you’re going to need to have a good grasp of social media somewhere along the line.

Let’s say that you fall into the first category. You’ve dreams of huge success, like J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. You know that the manuscript that you’re working on is that manuscript, and you’re willing to be patient and query, query, query. That’s fantastic. However, unless you do turn out to be Rowling or Meyer, you should know that even a big five publishing company probably won’t do a lot of promotion for you. Becky Wicks has written five books; three were published with Harper-Collins and the other two were self published. She discusses the reasons that she left Harper-Collins in this blog post, and a huge part of that is that H-C didn’t do much for her in terms of marketing her book. Becky went on to enjoy larger success with her self published books, once she learned how to market. A big part of any author’s marketing plan should include social media.

So if you’re thinking that getting signed by a big house is going to lead to a giant marketing budget for your book, you’re likely to be disappointed. Becky’s post was a major contributor to my decision to self publish. I feel like as a new author, any contract that I get from a major house is going to include the stipulation that I market myself. If that’s the case, I would rather independently publish what I want, on my time frame, rather than having to stick with the publishing house’s timeline.

If you’re polishing a manuscript for submission to a smaller publishing house, there’s no reason that you can’t be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, but it’s still important that you learn how to do social media. When I was actively searching for a publisher, I did a lot of research about several smaller houses. While looking at manuscript submission guidelines, I saw more than one smaller house that suggested (or even mandated) that aspiring authors should submit a marketing plan for the manuscript they were submitting. Some smaller publishing houses will invest in advertising for releases, even for promising debut authors, and will generally approve a larger budget for proven writers. But in many cases, you will be contractually obligated to do a good bit of the marketing yourself. And, again, part of that marketing should include social media.

If you’re polishing your manuscript for self-publishing, then every bit of the marketing is on you. You have no publishing house, and no one who is going to hold your hand through the marketing process. Additionally, after paying for editing, and a cover design, and maybe formatting, you may not have much of a marketing budget. Social media is free. Without the support of a publishing house at least putting your books in bookstores, or a smaller publishing house at least including your book on their website, you’re going to have to have a great marketing plan. And, again, part of that marketing plan should include social media.

The bottom line is this. Social media is where you are the most likely, for the least amount of money, going to find readers. Let me reassure you that in almost every genre, on almost every social media platform, there is an existing community that is eagerly awaiting word of your latest release. If you could walk into a room full of readers who wanted to look at your author page, read a synopsis of your book, and connect with you, without you having to spend a dime, you would do it, right? That’s exactly what being active on social media will do for you. Quite simply, social media is where your readers are.

The following parts of this series will break down different social media platforms, and how best to develop your presence there. You won’t need to be on every platform that’s out there, but it’s a good idea to at least be familiar with them, because at some point, they may come in handy for you. For example, as a freelance writer, I’m decently active on LinkedIn, but I don’t really do much there on the author side of things. On Twitter, there’s a lot more crossover, because that’s not specifically a business community like LinkedIn is. But where you are the most active depends on which genre you write in, as well.

6 comments on “Why do Authors Need Social Media?

  1. This is one of the biggest things I did not consider when I decided to become a writer. I had avoided social media like the plague and now I find myself working in it and learning to love using it. Begrudgingly!

    1. Anna,

      A big part of why I did this series is because I find a lot of authors are using it begrudgingly-you don’t really want to do it but you can see the value. Hopefully, as authors learn about how to leverage your SM presence to better sell books, you’ll embrace it-at least a bit more! And if not, you’ll learn a few tips along the way to make it easier, too.

  2. I’m interested to see what you have to say about how to keep personal info and writing separate. The thing is, my writing name is very close to my real name, so my debate is it ever really worth it to try? Granted, my writing name was my choice, I wish I had chosen something else now, but with one book out, it’s a little late for that. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

    1. Ashlyn,

      I actually advocate a mixture of the personal and the writing side. I have been doing social media for years, including for my personal fun stuff, for my work stuff, for my own author side of things, and for clients. I think that most potential customers, including readers, enjoy a mixture. My favorite author is Diana Gabaldon, and a few weeks ago she posted pics on her FB page of a trip she took. It wasn’t a “Hey look I can afford to travel post,” but, rather, the kind you see from your friends on your personal FB feed. “Hey, look, we went to this really cool place and I thought you might like to see some pics.” Not only did I love it, but that post had hundreds of comments. Now, I realize, that with a big name author you’re going to see higher engagement anyway, but still. Those kinds of posts let you connect on a different level with your readers, and in this day and age, ALL sales, including book sales, are at least partially relationship driven.

      That being said, you should never cross a line that only you can define. I don’t mention my kids often (anymore) on Twitter. I do on my personal FB but not on my author page. When I decided to kind of merge things, I took most of the pics of my kids off of my Instagram account, and instead I upload those separately to my personal FB so their exposure is less. I still use IG a lot, I just don’t post pics of my kids there anymore. That’s my line. Each of us will have a separate one. Sending pics of what you had for dinner or where you were LAST weekend to a public feed isn’t such a big deal. Sending pics of your house may be.

      Thanks for raising such a great question, Ashlyn! I’ll be discussing it a bit more in depth in a future post, and I look forward to reading your feedback!

      1. Is your personal FB page, associated with your fan page? Not sure I’m explaining myself well. Here’s the thing…unless I haven’t figured it out, I can’t send personal messages with my fan page, but can with my real name, personal FB. Which kinda defeats the purpose all together. I do talk about my kids, but I have nicknames for them, not real ones.

        Another thing…I write hot. My first was erotic. Another reason I ask. I’m thinking I need to create a different FB page all together with a fan page there.

        Any thoughts?

        1. Ashlynn,

          Those are valid concerns. You should be able to post as your page to answer messages that get sent to your page. You can reach me at @_WordMistress on Twitter and I can try to talk you through it.

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