Friday, January 10, 2014

Quick & Dirty Social Media Guide for Writers, Not Intended to Make You Feel Inadequate

by Mindy McGinnis

Vine. Really? Yep, that's right. Post three second videos of random things and see if people think it's cool, funny, cute, awkward... or you can just go for the gross out if you get injured a lot like I do. Oh wait, you can't hear me because you just took your bottom lip and pulled it up over your head to avoid yet another social media thing that you feel pressured to make yourself a part of?

Unhook that lip. Nobody looks good that way.

Here's the thing about social media - it works.
Here's the other thing - it's a time suck.

So what's the key? Find what works best for you. Sure, you've heard that, and I just became the 340th person to tell you it, which makes this blog post as useless as that Vine video of a pug chasing it's tail.

Or... is it? Because people really like pugs, and a pug lover might also be a book lover. That video of your dog being a dumbass will probably get more reach than you talking about your book (again). And let's be honest, you already took the video anyway. Post the damn thing.

Honestly, this is my approach to social media. I hit myself in the leg with a sledgehammer this morning and I tweeted about it, to great applause. This has nothing to do with my book. Neither do about 3/4 of my tweets. My Instagram feed is mostly of my dog sleeping in weird positions and my cat in the Christmas tree.

The biggest drawback I hear about social media is that people claim they don't know what to say. Guess what? There are plenty of outlets where you don't even have to worry about saying anything! There truly is something out there for everyone when it comes to social media, and below you'll find a list of my own accounts and how I use them as an author.

Facebook: Yes, it's true that I'm a YA author and teens have abandoned Facebook because their parents can monitor them easily there. At the same time a huge amount of YA sales are to adults, and they are using Facebook, so I will too. What can an author do with a Facebook page? Anything you want! Host giveaways, link to your latest blog post, share fan art, your trailer, any current deals on your book. Funny memes. My posts reach anywhere from 200 to 2000 people on any given day. People are looking. Write about hitting yourself with a sledgehammer. Whatever.

Twitter: It's not hard, I promise you. 140 characters per tweet. The @ is your name, the # is a topic or thread to follow. You can post pictures, link to your blog, participate in chats and contests. More importantly, follow agents you are interested in to see what they're saying. A lot of preferences come out on Twitter - and personalities. Follow people for awhile and you'll find out who you do - and don't - want to work with. Also tweet about hitting yourself with sledgehammers.

Tumblr: If you're a YA writer, this is where the teens are right now. If you're not, this is still a good place to be. It's gif-heavy, yes, but that doesn't mean you have to be a gif-fer to play. Think of your Tumblr dashboard as your Facebook Home page and it'll all fall into place after that. Easily shared and with a wide audience, anything interesting you say (or see) here will reach who it's intended for eventually. Word to the wise - Tumblr is very image based. Text-heavy posts are more appropriate for your blog, although certainly anything can be shared here. This is a quick moving crowd that wants easily digestible bits - so provide that. Pics, cover shares, quick YouTube videos, fan art postings all have a good home here. A pic of that sledgehammer and the bruise wouldn't hurt.

Pinterest: Seriously? For writers? I thought this was all cupcakes and home decorating and fashion? Yeah, there's a lot of that. Pinterest is pictures, period. What's a writer to do? On my boards I share all my covers, pics from tours, fan art, pictures of NOT A DROP TO DRINK in the wild (which fans are happy to provide), and most importantly, pictures of the setting for my book. My boards build a tone for my readership, something you can do for your book too. A very important thing to remember with Pinterest is that you need to have the rights to post / pin said pictures. Play it safe and post pictures you've taken yourself. A great place for a sledgehammer pic.

Instagram: Yep. More pictures. I know, it's an unfair world. But guess what? You don't have to just take pictures of your book. In fact, you really shouldn't because that would be incredibly lame. Have a cat? A dog? A cool house? New shoes? Take a pic, people love it. Your social media isn't just about selling your book. Your readers want to know you, and if you show them literal snapshots of your life they'll love you for it. Sledgehammer? Def.

Google+: I know, you're all - WAIT THAT EXISTS?!? It does. It's Facebook in Google colors, and it's not quite the social media graveyard some might lead you to believe. Catch the quiet ones here, the people who don't want to go all-out and shotgun splay themselves everywhere. That's a massive generalization on my part, but there are great niche groups on G+ that you can build an audience among if you take the time, especially readers. Even better, you can maintain a nice looking page there without a lot of time on your part. As you know, Google owns the internet so your blog (if you're Blogger), YouTube channel and various other Google owned shinola can all be wired to auto-post there. All those things you said about sledgehammers? Just say it once - it'll end up here if you set it up that way.

YouTube: OK, so you're probably all, "Mindy. I'm not insane like you. I don't blow up inflatable circus clowns and make paper mache arms and read about lockjaw from the encyclopedia and videotape myself doing it." And... well, nobody should probably do that, but I'm my own type of girl. YouTube and vlogs are for the outgoing. Definitely don't make one if you're one of the "I don't know what to say," types. This is for people like me who never shut up and whose brains generally crank out vlog ideas at 3AM because they're in a manic phase. However... do you have a book trailer? If you do, here's a great place to put it and link back to. I know you're waiting for me to say that I have a vid of me hitting myself with a sledgehammer, but I don't. More's the pity.

Goodreads: Yes, there's good things. Yes, there's bad things. Roll it all together and it's just like real life. What's Goodreads best for in my opinion? Showing people what you're reading. Hey, we're trying to reach the book crowd here, and I'm guessing that all writers started out as readers. So show that side of yourself. What are you reading? People care. A lot more than you think. Set up your Goodreads account to tweet when you begin and finish a book and you'll get a ton of interaction on Twitter. Especially when you finish that one about the history of sledgehammers.

Riffle: This is a new one in the book crowd, and personally I love it. It's like Pinterest + Goodreads = Riffle. Visually heavier than Goodreads, if you've got a good-looking cover this is a nice place to make your presence known. It's a book lovers site, and one where you get the experience of being in a bookstore because you are literally browsing covers on the main page. One to keep an eye on. So you finished that sledgehammer book? Won't the cover look nice on your list of recommendations?

Vine: Yep. I mentioned this one already. Think of it like Instagram but with videos. Kind of like what MTV was for radio when MTV was you know... for music videos. What do I have to say about this? I seriously have no clue because I just set up my account. Like, two seconds ago. Come learn with me. I promise my first vid will be of the sledgehammer.

I know I said this post is not intended to make you feel inadequate, and right now your hands are buried in your hair and you're damning my name. There's no reason for that. I do everything because I like to play, and if playing isn't you thing, cool. Pick what looks like fun to you, then dabble.

The biggest thing about social media is that it takes time. I don't want you to run out and create an account on every one of these platforms and then acquire a massive five followers (two of them probably bots) and make yourself insane trying to keep up, all the while screaming, "Mindy said this works and all my followers are the same people! And one of them is my MOM!"

Relax. Like I said, it takes time. I first started using Twitter two years ago and after a week was convinced it was a waste of my time and a passing fad. Er... bad call on my part. But I stuck with it and now I have a solid fan base there that I can reach out to at opportune times- like my upcoming cover reveal for IN A HANDFUL OF DUST.

In the end, social media can be magic if you make it work for you. The keys are knowing your own preferences and limits, and having the patience to stick with whatever platforms you choose long enough to let the network grow.

Also, sledgehammers are dangerous. Take note.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. The companion novel IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases September 23, 2014. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and has serious social media problem. You can find her on TwitterTumblrFacebook, Instagram, and Pinterest


thequeryfaerie said...

I think I will just turn into a computer. Things will be easier that way. And besides, I've always wanted to be an android.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Or you can half-ass it and just get a chip implanted.

Susan said...

...there is way more social media out there than I was prepared for. I'm just finally getting this Twitter thing down, and even that has a long way to go. But Vine? Pinterest?

Ugh. I'm too young to feel this old.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Susan - getting the hang of Twitter is a huge step. And the only one you have to take if that's all you're interested in. This is a huge amount of social media, and VERY few people participate in all of them. I'm just kind of a social media whore.

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