Writers and the dilemma of social media

parrotLast week’s blog ‘The responsibilities of the self-published author‘ seems to have resonated with many people.  One of the things I touched on briefly was social media if only in that you still see people on twitter doing the ‘buy my book, buy my book, buy my book’ thing, which always perplexes me because the more I see that the less likely I am to buy the book.  That’s not to say that I think you shouldn’t advertise your book on twitter or other social media sites, its more how you do that and what else you do with social media (if anything I think I don’t advertise my books enough).

I guess I’m still unsure how to get the best out of social media, or unsure which social media vehicles to choose.  Perhaps it’s because unlike the current generation I haven’t grown up with it.  I really only started using it a couple of years ago and maybe I’m still bit suspicious of it?

I first dipped into it when I was close to self-publishing my first two books and had to start thinking about how I got my message out there.  Everything I read (and I read a lot) told me I needed an author website and if possible a blog, but again then you need to advertise that and for the self-publishing author that means attacking social media, but what and how?  I started with twitter by following other authors and bloggers and was pleasantly surprised when they followed me back.  I was even more surprised when people followed me first (yes I was that naive).  I then set up an author facebook page, mainly again because that was most people were advising.  I also have a pinterest account.

I quickly got into twitter and discovered, like most people I guess, that it can devour vast amounts of time.  I read several ‘how to’ books, which to me seemed to use many thousands of words to give a few simple pieces of advice.  I suspect the people who sell most books through twitter are those telling you how to use it.   I have read that you should be very selective who you follow, but to be honest if they seem genuine I tend to follow them back.  Also as I mainly follow other authors and writery people, that’s who tend to follow me.  I admit there are also people I follow and people I ‘really follow’ (you can’t keep track of hundreds or thousands of people).  One thing I don’t do is buy followers, why would anyone do that?  Some simple advice I would give is:

1)  Have fun with it, it’s not all about selling books.  In fact if you think it’s going to sell you loads of books you’ll be disappointed.  I do use it to advertise my blog, but there I’m giving something (hopefully useful/entertaining) for free.  And that does work if judging by the number of regular retweeters and twitter referrals I have is anything to go by.

2) If you haven’t already found it or something similar, use Hootesuite to organise your twitter life.  I have running lists for authors, blogs, publishing, people I’m interested in, friends etc. which I can review.  It does make my twitter life a lot easier

3)  Do start conversations.  I was reticent at first, thinking, why would anyone want to hear from me.  But people do, especially if you have something to add/share or even just a witty comment.  There are now people out there who I regularly exchange tweets with.

4)  Do get to know your #hashtags.  It took me a while to understand the power of the #.  These are great for targeting the right people.

Which way?As for facebook I don’t think I’m using that well, although I am building more connections with other writers and writers groups (mainly through ‘BooksGoSocial.com’ which I recommend).  I’m on Pinterest, which I enjoy and for me is another ‘window’ to my work.  Google+ also seems to have some useful sites and I regularly post my own blog and look at others there.

All in all I suppose I regard social media as more PR than selling.  I’m not constantly doing the ‘buy my book, buy my book,’ thing.  What I am trying to do is build a presence as a writer, show people what I have to offer, add value and then hopefully they will remember and consider me seriously enough to buy my books at some point.  Oh, and one final piece of advice for all social media which I try to live by and have drummed into my sons – ‘Don’t put anything out there (also applies to e-mail) that you wouldn’t want read back to you in a court of law’.

As always, opinions, and this case advice and help are welcomed.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

4 thoughts on “Writers and the dilemma of social media”

    1. Glad you found it useful. I’m a member of BooksGoSocial.com. I recommend taking a look. Laurence O’Bryan who runs it has just updated his guide to social media which is free for members. Joanna Penn also has an excellent author site which has some good information on using social media in her free download.

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