Social Media and the Author
By Liz Johnson
I’ve spent the last five years working in marketing and publicity in the Christian publishing industry, and I still find myself overwhelmed by the ever-changing social media platforms that all of us authors are supposed to be using to promote not only our books but also ourselves as brands. There’s twitter and Facebook. YouTube and vimeo. Ning and blogs. And is anyone still using MySpace?
Let’s face it. I’ve just skimmed the surface of what’s out there. It can be downright overwhelming, so where’s an author to start?
Your publisher may have targeted directions for you, and I definitely advise following the personal plans laid out for you and your books. But if you’re currently on your own, let’s dispel a few myths about social media and discover how social media might help you.
Myth #1: Social media is a time-suck that only keeps you from writing important things.
Social media is at its most basic an opportunity for you to connect with your readers. It is a chance to build relationships with people who genuinely care about what you write. And it’s an opportunity to engage readers who may not have read your books (maybe even because they haven’t been published yet). These relationships can become what we call influencers—readers who love what you’re writing and tell the world about it. It’s a grassroots way to spread the word about your new book.
But there is certainly the possibility of spending too much time on social media. If you spend all your time updating your Facebook status but haven’t worked on your manuscript in months, then you should probably evaluate your priorities. As in most things in life, balance is key.
Myth #2: All of your updates should be significant works of literature.
What I wouldn’t give for every single one of my blog posts to be brilliant and thought-provoking to the point that WordPress (my blog host of choice) crashed due to the number of comments flooding in. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I don’t want WordPress to crash for any reason. But I do wish that I wrote brilliance all the time. Since this is clearly not the case, I was encouraged by the words of Robin Jones Gunn at a recent conference. She said that an author’s social media should feel like an extension of that author’s books.
Take comedic author Jenny B. Jones as an example. Her blog is like a window into the kooky—but real—world that produces the hilarity of her books. It’s witty and real, just like the words on the pages of her books.
Or think about Jon Acuff, the Stuff Christians Like guy. His book and blog offer humorous commentary on modern church culture. And his twitter updates are bite-sized punch lines of the same.
Jenny and Jon have it figured out. Their social media platforms are simply extensions of their books, and readers who like their books will like their updates. Moreover, readers who like their updates will probably like their books. They’ve figured out what works best for them in the way they communicate and what tools they use, which leads us to our final myth.
Myth #3: You should have a presence in every available social media outlet.
If what you share through social media is an extension of your books, how you share is an extension of how you communicate. Do you write in pithy one-liners that others quote and share? Twitter might be just the thing for you. Are you more apt to weave lengthy paragraphs of poetic prose? Blogging might be just your thing. Do you shine in front of the camera, a natural star? Your personal videos on YouTube might be the perfect way to connect with readers.
Maybe you hate blogging but love the personal connection on Facebook. Maybe tweeting about the video you just posted on YouTube is the highlight of your day. There are as many ways to connect with readers as there are authors, so try a few things until you find what works well for you. And then do it.
Liz Johnson grew up reading Christian fiction, and always dreamed of being part of the publishing industry. After graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, she set out to fulfill her dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream-becoming an author. Along the way to having her novels published, she completed the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course and wrote articles for several magazines.
Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys theater, exploring the local music scene, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her two nephews and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings. Keep up with Liz’s adventures in writing .