Author Platform Part 2: Using Social Media
If you followed the previous article, you have a website, a Facebook Page and a Twitter account. If you followed directions, you’ve been looking at them but not posting much and thus not making enemies. Last time, I laid out a rigid train track, this time it is all about options and deciding how you want to present yourself.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go check out Part 1 in this series:
Author Platform Thus Far
Let’s expand on our understanding here. The platform is what I bring to the table. My credentials, my network of professionals who would do me a favor, my audience who would see my posts and help out.
My current platform is:
I’ve got 30 years of software development experience. That makes me an expert in computer related subjects, which might not be handy in the world of fiction
I have just over 200 followers on Twitter, of which let’s hope that 10% will respond if needed
I can reach 83 people on Facebook. Again, about 10% will be helpful
I know 2 established authors who will answer emails and give me some pointers
I know one author who has gotten on panels, which might help me get on a panel
3 people visited my web site
Notice the numbers are low, but the level of granularity I gave myself credit for. Who I know and what I know is just as important as the number of social media followers I have. Any credibility I have with you the reader right now is likely tied to my words making sense and that I’ve been in business and the tech industry to know a thing or two.
My numbers listed are after a month of setting this up and being quiet on my social media while I got things ready. You’ll note that 10% metric, that’s a good rule of thumb for how many people will have your back. Don’t sweat the small numbers, that’s what starting out looks like. In the beginning, you will post to an audience of zero.
The Author Platform Goal
Today, your goal is to get one hundred followers or active visitors to your site per month. When you reach that goal, we’ll double it, and again. We need to do this until we hit the lucky spot of getting established and audience and opportunities just come to us. It is recommended that we have ten thousand by the time we approach a literary agent or publisher.
We also want to be recognized as an expert in something because that gets you on panels. Panels gets you exposure to more writers, agents and audience. I can become panel worthy by having a helpful blog, which gets me on a panel, which introduces me to more people who may want to read my blog, and so on. That’s a goal.
There’s not a magic number on any of this that will win you a book deal. All of this is about improving your chances by being a writer that a publisher is more confident that your platform will contribute sales. The author who does not want to socialize or promote is less likely to get that book deal.
The basic strategy
I know you can’t wait so I’ll spill the beans. Here is the strategy that underlies everything we’re doing here:
“You must give before you can receive”
That’s it. This is paraphrased from Chuck Sambuchino’s book.
Posting helpful or fun to read things on my blog will attract people follow me. I need to interact with other users on reading or writing groups, offering help or ideas. Just about everything we will do to build us up involves giving away words of value. Then some of that will add up into real credibility and interest in what else we have to say as a writer.
Who do you want to be
I’ve heard the hip new thing is authenticity or being authentic. That’s baloney. Sure, you should be honest, but the reality is you should behave for the type of audience. You are not the same with your toddler as you are with your boss, or your bowling friends. So it is the same for being you as a public figure on social media.
You can decide if you want to be serious, funny or what have you. However, before you go nuts, all the prevailing wisdom is as follows:
Those traits always earn people’s respect. The person who’s always complaining wears thin. Somebody who’s ranting about politics always turns off as many as they attract.
Be the best version of you that you can be.
To Politic or Not To Politic?
Part of figuring out how you will present yourself is whether you will talk about politics. I’m from Minnesota, where it’s taboo to talk religion or politics. It helps us get along and not kill each other during deer hunting season. Contrast that to Texas where they’ll ask you what church you go to while standing in line to order BBQ. A fella could get shot…
Now the general advice is by being positive, not complaining, translates to not talking about politics, because I assure you, that’s how posts about it read. However, there’s a new trend where being hip on a political side gets you like-minded followers and audience looking for more of your ideas. It worked for Thomas Paine, but his goal was to get people to shoot at each other for a cause.
Doing all this social stuff
Notice we’re back to the big heading for this section. There’s a ton of stuff to prepare, then setup, and then maintain. The more you setup, the more you must maintain. The prep work part is mandatory, you will need it as an author and it’s useful no matter how many things you setup. So do the the prep work, read the books in my References section, they add on to what I’ve explained here with a lot of the thinking behind it.
Spend a few Saturdays setting up the accounts you decided on. Once you have social media accounts, you created another way to waste time. Don’t fall for that. Get in the habit of checking your social media only twice a day for up to fifteen minutes. Perhaps right before you start work for the day and at the end of work. Check social media while you’re stuck waiting in line.
Avoid running social media while you work. Don’t post during the work day, your boss may notice your posts showing up during business hours. This basic rule of thumb will keep you from spending all your time on social media stuff.
Plan on posting once every day or every other day. Some people post throughout the day, but that can overwhelm your audience. Make sure that less than 20% of your posts is about your books, the rest should just be of personal interest, what you’re doing, pic of the family pet, etc.
Let’s get Posting
Well, just kidding, we should do a little planning first. How often are you going to post? What themes are you going to post about? What kind of posts go on Facebook, Twitter or your blog? Where to find time for all this posting? What happens if somebody comments on my post?
The answer to the last question is that you reply to it. That’s how you build an audience.
How Often to post
We need to set a schedule that works for ourselves and keeps us from getting stale. The answer depends on what works for you, with some practical limits.
On any of these tools, posting many times in one day floods your audience. I’d say no more than 4 times a day on Twitter, only once a day on Facebook and your blog, though I might go as far to say once a week on the blog.
The Blog can post to Twitter and Facebook, so if you aren’t comfortable with the latter, keeping your blog up will help your Twitter and FB.
What Themes to post about
Figure out themes in advance to write about. For instance, I plan on doing flash fiction, writer information (like this article series), personal short stories (true stuff that happened), and bits about the universe of my books.
Knowing this, I can then slice off time each day/week to prepare an article on one of those themes for the week’s blog post. Which is how I created this article.
You’ll note this article also satisfies that “give before receive” strategy. And one day, I can use it as a guest post on somebody else’s site.
Different posts for Twitter, Blog and Facebook
There are tools for cross-posting to all your social media. The blog on Wix that I setup does this. It’s very handy. However, your best followers will follow you everywhere and notice if all your posts everywhere are the same.
This is where customizing the text the blog generates breaks the monotony. Also, if you only post on the blog once a week, you’re not flooding your channels with the same message. That means you can use Twitter to post short comments or links to things you are researching, etc. Mix it up. You’ll find one tool works better for you.
How to manage the time for all this posting
It’s all about scheduling. Let’s say you work a regular job 8-5 on Monday through Friday. We don’t want to spend too much time each day on social media. Keep it off during the actual work hours. Here’s how I break it down:
10 minutes: Before work, check social media for comments and reply to anything that needs it,
10 minutes: During lunch, think about (and/or write) your next posting
10 minutes: After work, check social media for comments and reply to anything that needs it,
15 minutes: Prepare your next posting (a blog post might take a few days to write and edit in small chunks)
10 minutes: Saturday: post your new blog post
The key is to keep it short. Check facebook when you’re waiting in line. Know what you could write before you sit down to the keyboard.
Book Reviews and Negativity
All the experienced writers I talked to advised avoiding giving bad book reviews. The simplest trick is if you read a book and it’s bad, don’t write a review at all. Writers might carry grudges. Or that literary agent you are are trying to woo may find that 2 star review you left for one of her authors.
On the flip side, if somebody writes something negative on your social media or a book review, the safest strategy is to not reply. If it violates posting rules on your site/social media, you can remove it, else report it. Otherwise, let it stand. Do not argue, offer counterpoints, make excuses. Replying almost always ends up making you look bad, and there’s few people who can do that well.
Edit Before You Post
If you write more than a sentence, you need to run through the editing process. Spell check, read it out loud. If you have tools like Grammarly, AutoCrit or ProWritingAid (I have this one), run them twice. As a writer, people expect you to have few to no mistakes. If you find a mistake later, fix it. You can do that (except on Twitter, but you’ll seldom have full sentences there).
Link and Tag your posts
At the bottom of every blog article or twitter post, I include hashtags related to the topic. For instance, this article will use #amwriting #writer @authorplatform. Use 1-4 hastags. You might need to search to see what’s trending or commonly used.
If your blog is part of a series, link to at least one other related blog post of yours. If there’s other articles you used or related blogs, link those. Authors appreciate links to their work, so guess what, you are making friends, helping them, and increasing the chances your work will appear in a search when their article is found.
Cultivate your evergreen blog articles
This author platform series will be part of my evergreen catalog. I expect to return to it, update things, add more links and keep at least the first article as a featured on my website. This helps visitors get value from my site and builds credibility for myself. That’s author platform building advice straight from Chuck.
Author platform is a work in progress. Both as an article series for me, and as something each writer has to do for themselves. My intent here is to give you a system of approaching the subject with enough specifics to get started. A blog might not work for you. But my advice on how to behave on the internet will keep you smelling like a rose. The principles on how to earn respect are solid, tested and proven.
I’m not done with Author Platform and neither are you. In the future I plan to discuss:
Search Engine Optimization - showing up in Google/Bing results
Google Analytics - finding out how much traffic you are getting
Update on posting strategies - how’s that blog working out for me…
People wrote books and articles that I read and used. I advise checking them out.
Creating your Writer Platform (Chuck Sambuchino)
Building an Author Platform (J. T. Mallory)
Mastering Twitter (not only) for Authors: expanded edition (Dmitry Selmir)
$40/year offers a ton of feedback for repeated phrases, words to avoid, etc
$30/month. Similar to ProWritingAid
Similar to AutoCrit and ProWritingAid
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