Things were different during the golden days of publishing. A book project began with an idea, and the idea evolved into a manuscript. Then, the author sent the work to a literary agent, who, depending on the perceived merits of the manuscript, might or might not pitch the book to a publisher. If the publishing company liked what they saw, they’d offer a hefty advance. Once published, books that really sparked their enthusiasm might receive a full page ad in the New York Times. To further promote the book, generous publishers sent the author on a book tour across the country.
The rise of social media changed all that. Nowadays, authors choose between traditional, independent or self publishing. Whatever route they take, the author’s skill at creating engaging prose, combined with a savvy ability to market the work, determines the book’s success. Here are 10 reasons why social media participation helps both processes.
1. Social Media Enriches the Writing Process
Social media “provides a never-ending source of ideas and inspiration,” notes author Caitlin Seida. “People are more than happy to share their thoughts as you interact on a variety of subjects and it can change your thinking (and thus your writing) – not a bad thing if you’re stuck in a rut and don’t know which way to go.” Caitlin sometimes posts news items, and notes the reactions of different readers. This is particularly helpful when you need to develop a character whose social and political ideas differ from your own. Communicating with them on social media is probably far less stressful than conversing with them in a real life situation.
2. A Cure for Lonely Writer Syndrome
Author Mary Glickman agrees that social media involvement exposes her to new ideas and trends. She first got involved because her publisher considered it her “authorly responsibility,” but soon made new friends from her network. “Writing is such an isolating activity which is an irony when you consider that writers see the job as creating a vision of the society around us, of the very people we isolate ourselves from. Social media cuts through that irony. Or spices it,” says Glickman.
3. Connects You With Long Lost Friends
Susan Joyce and Cherie Magnus both published intriguing memoirs. Susan tells the story of her life in Cyprus during war time. She now lives in Uruguay. Cherie survived breast cancer and romantic heartbreak. She eventually surpassed most of her emotional traumas when she moved to Buenos Aires and became a tango teacher. Not only do these two women enjoy sharing writing ideas on Facebook, they were both able to find old friends, who knew them during the key points of their stories. That’s a built in audience.
4. Spark an Interest
Traditional publishers often ignore books that don’t fit into a specific mode. That does not necessarily mean that they aren’t fantastic stories. Although many readers once snubbed the works of self-published or indie-published authors, the stigma is gradually fading. Consider the success of Nanowrimo, the one month book writing project, which, every November, takes the social networks by storm. When you share your ideas — and possibly, your Nanowrimo progress — on your social media pages, you might connect with readers who were looking for a story that transported them outside of the boxes belonging to traditional publishers.
When readers connect with you on social media websites, they often become friends in the true sense of the word. Although some people can’t be bothered with writing reviews for an author they do not know, others may feel compelled to review and share the work of their social media friends.
6. Connect with Readers
Answering questions and knowing what readers liked about your book will help you build your readership, while sparking ideas for your next book project.
As more people read the news, and engage in social interactions on social media networks, actual newspapers are losing their status. Therefore, many people will not even see that expensive, full page ad in the New York Times. In contrast, your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google + will become aware that hey, you’ve written a book. That’s worth four separate ads. After all, it certainly worked for Amanda Hocking. For extra credit, credit a book trailer feature it on YouTube, and share it with your social networks.
8. Establish Authority and Create a Name for Yourself
Admit it. When you meet someone, you often Google. That’s what literary agents do, says Chuck Sambuchino of The Write Life. When he interviewed a series of agents, all of them said that definitely research a person’s online presence. This is particularly important for non-fiction writers, who need to establish a sense of authority about their subject matter. Consider the case of Chelsea Hoffman. True crime stories always fascinated her, as evidenced by her Case to Case page, and her robust social media presence. Her musings about the Hannah Anderson case lead to a book deal on the subject.
9. Search Engine Optimization
Ah, SEO. It once implied the repetitive use of keywords, but that’s so early 21st century. Social media presence is the new form of keyword stuffing, only it’s classier, and works much better. Every time you make a post that draws lots of attention, it improves your rankings on the search engine pages. A higher ranking makes it easier to discover your book.
10. Connects You With Other Authors
Most social media websites have specific pages for authors. Establish healthy relationships with these online colleagues, and you might make some useful connections. Some writers might be willing to introduce you to their agent of publisher. Other might give you a chance to guest blog on their website.