Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Social Media: There's No Such Thing as Too Early

Author friends and casual acquaintances often express to me a reluctance to wade into the Bloggy Facebooky Twittery waters. I hear many reasons, but the top one is usually:

"But shouldn't I wait for when I need to promote something/when my book comes out/when my book is popular/when I already have a following/some arbitrary point in the distant future?"

Nope, nope and nope. There's no such thing as too early.

Seth Godin famously said (the things Seth Godin says usually become famous) that for authors, the best time to start your promotional efforts is three years before your book comes out.

Why? Because it takes "three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you'll need later."

If you start when your book comes out you're way, way too late.

Promotion vs. Social

Seth's bit of (famous) advice is often applied to social media. It's great advice, and even Seth's explanation has a social component, but note that Seth is talking about promotional efforts. Not social media as a whole, which to me has no timeline at all. You should just start now.

Because if you're using social media solely to promote, well, chances are you're doing it wrong.

My new favorite catch phrase, which I have trademarked, patented, and have paid to have etched into the moon, is this: Social media is social.

It's not about promotion, it's not about broadcasting, it's not about you you you. It's about connecting with people.

Do you need to be famous to connect with people? Do you need to have a book to connect with people? No! You just need an Internet connection, dedication, an open-mind, and a willingness to reach out.

It takes time to build up those connections, and eventually, if you're providing good content or a good experience, those one-to-one connections transition into a following.

But make no mistake: It's still about making a personal connection with your audience and being a part of real lives. It's still social.

Whuffie

In our hyper-connected time, social media is not only increasingly how word of mouth spreads and how we connect with one another, it's almost becoming a new kind of currency.

In Cory Doctorow's uber-prescient novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, money has been replaced with "whuffie," a reputation-based currency that rises and falls based on what people think of you. Basically, if people like you you're rich and you can get all the best tables in restaurants. If they don't like you, an unfortunate scandal can send you to the poor house.

We're obviously not there yet (and thank goodness), but just look at the measures of "influencers" (social media buzz word for someone with a high following) that are cropping up right and left. Sites like Klout and Peer Index are hard at work trying to quantify online popularity and influence, and the idea of offering special perks to people with high influence scores is starting to percolate. The Sacramento Kings, for instance, invited 25 fans and business leaders with top Klout scores for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Now, the idea that you're going to be objectively judged someday on your Twitter presence may well send a chill down your spine, but I wouldn't read that much into it. It's more of a sign of the omnipresence and future of social media and how the ability to broadcast is a kind of currency.

Blogs and Twitter and Facebook... those are just the tools. What we're building is a network. And what was once ephemeral (reputation) can now be sort of kinda quantified.

Whuffie has basically become real.

What are you waiting for?

But aside from all that buzz about influencers and reputational analysis, let's not forget that whole social is social thing. And the thing about being social is that it's fun!

Sure, you may be an introvert like me, but you can pick and choose your experiences. You can make reach out to people, and soon enough those virtual friends may become your real friends. This is increasingly how we connect with like-minded people, and the best part is that it works.

It's really fun to do, and you can make the experience whatever you want. If you like Twitter, do that. If you like blogging, do that. If you are a Facebook maven, go for it. There's no right or wrong way to go about it and you can invent your own way if it doesn't exist.

But what it all comes down to is this: Social media is the future, and the time to start is now.






119 comments:

Joanne Sher said...

Only one word. YES!

Lisa Kilian said...

This makes me feel so much better! I've been building a presence ... basically just for shits and giggles. I hardly had a book started when I started my blog, and that was two books ago.

But the times I've had with my blog, connecting on Twitter, and getting guest post spots has been extremely fun. Glad I've accidentally gone in the right direction.

G.P. Ching said...

I completely agree. I have social media to thank for my readership and have seen my following grow exponentially over the last year. Connections I've made via social networking have resulted in some great opportunities.

L.G.Smith said...

I've only been blogging about six weeks. I don't even have two whuffies to rub together, but I'm getting to know the coolest people. Learning a lot too.

Munk said...

Look-a-me! Look-a-Me! Look-a-me!

Munk said...

I'm not kidding here folks, look-a-me!

M.A.Leslie said...

L.G., if we take my two and your two and rub them together, maybe we can start a fire to keep warm.

Loree Huebner said...

I agree and believe building a platform is extremely important and it doen't happen overnight. I recently waded into the blogosphere. Twitter is next. The hard part is managing my time...family, work, writing, networking. I find myself spending much more time online.

It's fun...no doubt about it. I've met some really great writers.

Neil Vogler said...

"Social networking is social" -- that's good. Can I also suggest "social networking is networking" and also "social networking: is".

I kid, of course. Good stuff as ever.

anvil said...

Nathan, I agree with everything you've said (I usually do, that's because I have excellent taste). But really, you expect me to believe that you're an introvert? I just don't see it.

Will be looking out for the moon-message tonight.

Megg Jensen said...

I've made some really great friends through social media outlets. I don't know if any of them bought my book or not, but their friendship is more important to me. :D

CMR Prindle said...

I totally agree about social media being social. Heck, I just made the author Facebook page (solely based on your earlier advice, Nathan). My problem is I'm awful at keeping up with it. I also have a personal livejournal blog which I have been sucktacular with, lately, but here's to hoping that my Big Life Change will help with that. *fingers crossed*

Jen P said...

I've also learned an awful lot social networking by sitting back and listening. It doesn't have to be all about me, all of the time.

What scares me a little on social networking is that the Internet 'whuffie' is more heavily weighted to the immediate here and now, vs long term 'real life' reputation. And you can blow both in a mere moment of careless comment or criticism which spreads around the 'whuffie' world like wildfire.

Social media is a big yes for me, but I use with caution, trying to communicate within its own bounds which are right for me, learning the norms, etiquette and hazards, just like relations beyond the ether.

Melanie said...

Great advice, as usual! I've recently set up a "professional" Facebook account, and have 6 fans so far (woohoo!)

Melissa Romo said...

Always informative, thanks Nathan. I'm working on a novel (about to query) and I liken the entire project, including social media, to the formation of a planet. It takes time to form a center if gravity that will start attracting sizable enough chunks of dirt to form anything of a meaningful size.

Melissa Romo said...

I also should add that my book lover friends in the blogosphere are my biggest motivators and take much of the loneliness out of writing for me. One of my blog friends even volunteered to be one of my beta readers, and her input was fantastic.

K. C. Blake said...

I heard that advice a few years ago and I wish I'd listened. Now I have a book coming out in June and I am running around (in cyber-space) like a chicken with its head cut off. It takes a long time to build connections. I have a blog but not many followers. I have joined groups at various writing forums, but I've only met a few people this way. Thank God I've been doing Facebook for a long time and I know people on there who love the kind of books I write. :)

Mr. D said...

I started my blog almost a year ago. It's a helpful reflection of the writing process, and I have connected with some great people.

What amazes me is how some of these bloggers here have hundreds, and even thousands of followers. Wow!

D.G. Hudson said...

That was like a motivation session, Nathan, highlighting the benefits of being social. Thanks, Coach!

I'm comfortable blogging, because I like to share information, and writing is a lifelong passion since I discovered my grandmother's old Remington.

But. . .

I've not done Facebook for several reasons up to this point, and I'm an introvert like you, so I drag my feet at jumping in. Convincing arguments like yours, Nathan, are encouraging me to step outside MY comfort zone -- in the near future.

Question: For a writer using a pen name, what name should be used on Facebook? If the reason for using a pen name is security from harassment, that seems to be the only solution. Wouldn't the Facebook identity need to be the name you want to get known? I know you've covered pen names & writing, but can't remember if you answered that already in the context of Facebook.

Cathy Yardley said...

Fantastic post. I've been calling it "tribe building" instead of platform building on my writing blog, because 1) it helps us introverts and 2) it is more about connecting with your right readers in a genuine way than "pushing" for a one-sale stand. Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz.com even had a hashtag, #MSMS, meaning "Make Social Media Socia." Definitely an idea that needs spreading! :)

Maureen said...

I think social media is one of those bandwagons that anyone in business or even remotely contemplating a business needs to jump onto. Or if you're not comfortable with that -- ease slowly onto.

Remaining flexible and adapting to change will be a key factor in success. Way too often, I hear lame excuses like, "I don't do technology". My answer is always channel your inner 10 year old there is nothing to fear.

Since I am in this beginning phase myself, I like to imagine a familiar social situation -- a coffee klatch or cocktail party -- pour myself a figurative cup of coffee or a glass of red wine and begin the conversation.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've got blogging and Facebook down, but I'm still a bit of a Twitter noob. I did have a blast last night with #zombieproverbs, though.

M.A.Leslie said...

We finally set up a facebook page for the book and already have 30 fans. www.facebook.com/tristenmagicshop

The writer's fan page is still a work in progress. Anybody who ever said that writing is a get rich quick thing was nuts. I say its a lose your mind and get grey hair thing, but meet cool people and do what you love.

David said...

How do you do this if you use a pseudonym? Do you network as your pseudonym (something Facebook doesn't allow)?

Hillsy said...

It's a bit like nuclear weapons then? You may not agree with them, but you need one if you're going to be taken seriously.

Of all the career dreams I wanted, I picked one where being an introverted misanthrope is about to become a death sentance. Damn! I suppose I'll have to become a Traffic Warden like the rest of us.

Matthew MacNish said...

Also: So you're saying no time is too early to start making friends? Good. that makes perfect sense.

SierraMcConnell said...

The real thing about social media is that you have to say something that isn't the same as everyone else. And that's what holds the intelligent people back.

It's why my blog has remained empty and my LJ is full of silly pictures and a few close friends.

Because unless you have something intelligent to say, you really shouldn't say anything at all. Because you're just saying the same thing over and over again.

Felicity said...

This is great advice. I think there is also the element of community that could really help future promotions. If I've been following a particular blog for awhile and the author suddenly gets a book deal, I feel connected to that success. I'm more likely to promote for this author because I feel like I knew her when! : ) I'm happy to let others know about something I feel like I sort of discovered on my own. Build community now and it can only help you later. In fact, even if you never actually get a book deal, you will have made some new friends. That's probably a better gift anyway.

Heidi said...

What are your thoughts on branding? I've heard a lot that we should all be building a presence on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and whatever else we can squeeze in, and that we should make sure these all look the same so that people readily identify them as "ours." But that seems to require some knowledge of the technicalities of HTML and CSS.

Munk said...

Hey! Who just cleaned out my Whuffie account?

Adrienne said...

I can see how this is an important component, but I'm really, truly an introvert. "Social media is social"--yes, and that's why I haven't done facebook, twitter, a blog. I don't even comment very often on blogs.
As a voracious reader, I supposed that the best way to ease into this whole thing would be to focus on books.
But I do see that having a social media presence is important in this environment. I'd like to see more discussion on the subject, particularly "social media for the anti-social". :)

Hillsy said...

@Adrienne

"I remember the days when all you had to do to get published was to write a brilliant book" - Kevin J Anderson

It's not like all of us anti-social types can get together and form a club.........

Terry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terrylecompte said...

Agreed. Though I like to replace "network" with "community". Sounds more social. I'm using social media to build Community Stages, Inc.

Laur said...

"Social media is social"

^ Absolutely love that comment. It's getting a little old to follow a twitter account or a facebook page only to get endless waves of promotional crap sent my way. I followed you ("you" in the general sense) because you're an interesting person, not because I want to know that Blah Blah Blah comes out in exactly 5 months, 2 days, and 13 hours. Now be interesting!

E. Elle said...

It's been said a million times but the blogging community is fantastic. There's no experience like it to help one connect with other writers and enjoy their encouragement and support and friendship. At least, not for me. :)

Sonia M said...

Wise words! I recently joined the blogosphere and more recently joined the Twitterverse. It's beena little scary but wonderful overall. There are a lot of knowledgable, supportive folk out there. And I really like the concept of builiding a community by serving and encouraging others. Building a social media presence doesn't have to be self-serving. I think it can transform us in a positive way.

Mercy Loomis said...

Honestly the who social media thing scares me. Not because it's technology or anything, but because from what I can tell, in order for the social media to be worth much to you promotion or brand-wise you have to spend a LOT of time doing it. And I'm already struggling just to make time to write.

I don't have a lot of free time. I have a full-time day job, I volunteer twice a week, I have a husband and a dog, I have to keep up with reading and the industry, and, of course, I have to write! Now I'm supposed to find time to Tweet and stay connected on my Facebook page?

I've been blogging for over a year (almost two now, yikes!), but I have few followers because I don't have the time to put into promoting it. I have 70 people on my Facebook page, but most of them are people I know IRL. (Not all, which is super cool!) But I can't afford a smart phone with a data plan, and I'm not going to do Twitter from my work computer (bad enough I'm checking your blog on work time!) so is there really a point to a Twitter account right now?

I'd love to know how you and other professionals manage to balance the social media time with all your other time commitments.

BECKY said...

Agree! That's why I started blogging over 2 years ago. I was reluctant at first, but writer friends convinced me it was the right thing to do. I'm writing my memoir and already have many friends, followers, etc who have said they will buy it as soon as it's published. And BTW, I have quite a few blog/writer friends who are introverted! You wouldn't know it by their blogs, but in person...oh yeah!

abc said...

Introverts unite! (but in separate rooms).

Leila said...

What a refreshing take on the whole social media spectrum! If I liken social media to playing music, it's kind of like shifting from only playing classical music to trying some jazz, r&b and a bit of the blues. It's still about communication, it's just the form and shape of it shifts to allow greater diversity, enjoyment and opportunity.

Essentially, I'm finding it takes an open mind, a brave heart and a willingness to see and experience the world in different ways.
Technology is always going to continue to evolve, and it has direct and indirect effects on the way we communicate, build relationships, network, stay current with, well, everything, and connect to the world. That's a given. And it is a bit scary at times, but only in the sense of how we limit ourselves from taking up the wide range of technological opportunities available.

But the key is, as you so aptly point out, Nathan, the word 'social'. Regardless of the social media platform, we as human beings exist through relationships of all different kinds; personal, professional etc. The only difference now is how we choose to experience those relationships.

If you are genuine about your intention for participating in any aspect of the social media spectrum, your experience will be as rewarding as the effort you put in, and draw people to you.

Marsha Sigman said...

Blogging is my main thing and Facebook is more family and old drunken high school friends.

I did get started on Twitter because of other writers recommending it...but mainly because of Daniel Tosh(Tosh.O). He kills me.

So I think I have the social part down.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@9:27-

That's kind of my point though. It's not about promotion. It can help, but it's more about the personal connections you make.

FourDoorHeathan said...

I'm a new blogger, so this post was really encouraging. I started blogging a little while ago to build an online presence and educate myself about the publishing world. For a while I was really hesitant about having something so permanent and personal on the web, but now it seems like an increasingly good idea.

Slowly but surly building up my whuffie!
-Brit

Rose Red said...

Loved this blog! Makes me feel better. I keep thing I'm jumping the gun but your points calmed my fears!

Kristin Laughtin said...

You get whuffie points from me for mentioning whuffie.

Anyways, agreed. Even if you have nothing to promote, it's better to form connections early and will help you later when you *do* have something to promote. I know there are areas I can improve in this, but I can't deny the inherent wisdom of the strategy.

Sean said...

I started my blog in November and just got my tenth follower yesterday. It's not 550 followers like some bloggers have but pretty cool just the same. The best part is my online friends don't drink all my beers when they stop by. And I'm pretty sure they are the main reason I've been fortunate enough to sell two copies of my first ebook. Now I have to go pick out what kind of candy bar I'm going to buy when the royalty check rolls in. I'm leaning towards a Mars Bar, but not entirely sure yet. Will keep you posted.

Sommer Leigh said...

There's another aspect to this that I push on my College of Blogging Series - start early even if you're not *ready* or you don't think you have any thing to say because you need time to figure out what you are doing and to build your blogging voice. Go back and look at the first few months of anyone's blogs and you'll see we were all just terrible. It takes a while to hit your stride. You're like a new tv show! And while you're figuring it out, before you get a hundred followers, you can spend more time responding to the few comments you do get and bopping around the blogosphere meeting other bloggers.

When you do get lots of followers and you become a very busy, popular person, you'll miss those days when you had the time to respond personally to everyone.

You'll really miss the days when only 5 people noticed your mistakes.

Dara said...

I love social media :)It took me a good year or more to really start connecting with people through blogging/commenting and using Twitter (and the latter I could STILL improve upon). I still need to work on it too since I'm not as "connected" as I like just yet. But at least I've gone through the door--I just have to make it through the room and introduce myself to more people.

Kaitlyne said...

I still feel like the majority of people who say this are leaving out a major factor: most blogs aren't very good. I've visited blogs by fellow unpublished authors and those of friends, and they're almost invariably things I'd never read on a regular basis (at least without the obligation of "because my friend wrote it").

That sounds rude, but I don't intend for it to. My point is simply that many people don't say anything interesting. Most author blogs I've seen rehash the same things without offering anything new at best, or at worst are a rehash of the writing process or little "day in the life" vignettes that, truth be told, are only interesting if you have a really unusual life or a really great voice and sense of humor.

Blogs require constant content, and more than that require constant *interesting* content. Most I've seen don't do this well. So what do those of us without anything interesting to say do? I don't want to talk about politics or issues that are important to me for obvious reasons, and my daily life is not exactly replete with things other people would actually be interested in knowing (though my dog is rather adorable).

Of course I understand that having a big following is good, but how realistic is it for anyone to really have that kind of following? Writing a novel and writing regular articles without a solid frame of reference (which I don't see myself having unless I've got a book to pitch) are two very different skills.

There are two things that I would really, really like to know before I go into something like this. The first is how many books are really sold because of blogs. I wonder what percentage of books sold are sold because readers heard about it on the author's blog, and I wonder how often people are more likely to take advice from another reader than from the author. Because if the latter is really a bigger factor (it is for me), that's important to know.

I also want to know if there are *negative* effects from having a bad blog. I saw a survey once online that actually asked this question, and many people said that they had intentionally not bought a book because of a blog. I know I've fallen into this category. I'm absolutely certain a great blog can lead to an increase in fans, but can a bad blog hurt? I have a feeling it can, but no one ever seems to ask this question, and I think it's an important one, especially when you consider the number of people out there you're competing with on the internet.

Which brings me to my final point--right now this is what everyone does. I'm all for having a website and I even imagine I would blog, but I can think of a dozen different, atypical things that I could do online to help get the word out to people, and then the hope is just that a few of those people keep on passing the word.

Would authors be better served by looking outside of the box? Particularly if you are someone like me who is uncertain of her ability to keep an audience through Facebook? Do authors get sucked into the idea that they have to follow this formula, which may or may not be a way for the average Joe to find success, and in the process overlook other methods that might be more creative and better reach the intended audience?

Sorry for the long post, but I find it a little frustrating because I see the same advice everywhere, but I also feel like this advice doesn't necessarily address all the aspects of the situation. And someone like me wants to make darn sure I don't go and shoot myself in the foot, and considering the staying power of anything posted on the internet, it seems a possibility.

Anonymous said...

"Because if you're using social media solely to promote, well, chances are you're doing it wrong."

Especially if you're posting photos of your well done prime rib roast on facebook. Argh! I swear I just saw this.

Nick Hight said...

Wow, great post. I learned how important social media is when I found a writer called Kaleb Nation on YouTube, who has built up a following of over 60 000 people (kids and teens). You can check out my blog at www.ellipsisstation.blogspot.com

Michael G-G said...

So you're the introverted genius who tagged the moon?! (Did you pay in "whuffie"?)

sumanje said...

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sumanje visit your blog today...

Dee said...

This advice is often given, but I think there's very little actual proof that it's effective, or if it is, which types of social media is most effective at selling books. I think it's pretty clear that blog don't sell books. I mean, how many here are actually going to buy Jacob Wonderbar? Not many. Why? We're not the audience.

Konrath might sell a few books because of his blog, but he's selling because of all the word of mouth he's getting from it, and not because people are saying his stuff is great, and that everyone has to read it--but his name's out there. He screams "look how rich I'm getting with my books!" and people say "Hmmm, people are buying his book, so maybe I should too."

I think most people shouldn't blog, because they don't have anything interesting to say. Not that they aren't fantastic writers, but I agree that having a blog that hasn't been updated in a while is worse than having no blog. I have never visited the blog of my favorite authors (if they have any), or facebook page, or looked them up on twitter. I don't think anybody does.

You hear about a book from someone, or read a review, or Amazon says "others who bought this book also bought...," or you're searching for something else and cool cover catches your eye--that's how people buy books.

Anne R. Allen said...

I always learn something here. I'd never heard of Klout and Peer-whatsis, but I've just signed up. I seem to have a whole lot more Klout than Peer-whatsis, but I guess I'll learn. I find it all fascinating. Social media is really about forming tribes--groups of like-minded people. No geographical, socio-economic, or age barriers. Just people with shared interests. Love that.

P A Wilson said...

I find sometimes it's difficult to think of something to say/tweet/update. What works best for me is to have a plan and make sure I consistently do something every day.
When I'm doing that, it's easier to come up with content. So, flex that social media muscle.

Ashley Graham said...

Well said. AND informative. Just checked out Klout and Peer Index, neither of which I've ever heard of until now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The sad part about this in regard to writers is that, on many chatty sites, the most intelligent writers are often ignored, while less skilled writers get published based primarily on their online social connections. Even here, you tend to respond to every comment about sports, but rarely respond to many of your followers who have been contributing lengthy, well-thought-out comments for years. Since this has been a writing site for years, I always wondered why so many of those regular commenters have been mostly ignored. It reminds me of middle school where the smart, nerdy kids aren't invited to eat lunch with the cool kids. And this isn't a personal issue for me, by the way. I ate lunch with both the nerdy kids and the cool kids. :) It's just an observation.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

It's impossible to respond to every intelligent comment (which, btw, is the vast majority of comments). That's why I spotlight my favorites in This Week in Books.

And no one gets published primarily because of their social media presence, excepting SH*T MY DAD SAYS and other blog-specific books. As other people have pointed out, the jury is still out on whether social media even sells books.

Was that bait? I guess I took it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan,

I agree with what Mercy and Kaitlyne said.

I had a blog but I quit because it was turning into a full time job. It wasn't just about the writing-which I loved-it was SO much more than that. It was a designing, editing, tweeting, updating, picture finding; comment responding; stat recording; subscription managing; post promoting; monetizing mess!

That's a ton of free work that may or may not pay off three years down the line.

And it's SO true about the content. The bar has been raised craaaaazy high for new authors, almost impossibly high, because the blogger is required to be brilliant, witty and/or fresh with every post/tweet/update (honestly, Nathan I don’t know how you do it). Essentially "the industry" asks bloggers to do in one day what published authors do over several months.

I have also seen good writers go bad on their blogs. Good writing turns into posts about ailing ficus tress or slide shows about their kids/cats/iPads. Or worse, weekly giveaways for the soul purpose of boosting stats. These blogs have turned into that awful guy who nobody likes but everyone puts up with because he buys the first round of drinks at the bar.

I read over 40 books a year and I've never chosen a book because I had a social-networking relationship with the author.

There has got to be a better way.

Sincerely,
Frustrated

Anna said...

Off topic: No pressure, Rick Barnes, but the only consolation I will have after picking such a silly first round is if Texas goes all the way.

On topic: Thanks for the pointing out that it takes 3 years to become established. It makes me feel better about my blog rankings (even if I'm still sad about Penn State's loss).

Polenth said...

D.G. Hudson said:
Question: For a writer using a pen name, what name should be used on Facebook?

Only Facebook accounts have to be a real name. Fan pages have different rules, so it's fine to start a fan page for a pen name. Your real name account will be an admin of your fan page, but that information can be hidden (it is by default, as I recall).

Once you have a fan page, you can use your fan page persona instead of your main account (for liking things, commenting, etc). There's a link on the fan page to switch between your main Facebook account and your fan page persona.

Separate names would actually make it a bit easier. My pen name is my real name, so I have to triple check whether I'm using my account or my fan page.

Marilyn Peake said...

I love the internet! Here’s how other people’s social networks recently helped me. I read about Amanda Hocking’s success through an article mentioned on Twitter, a post on your blog, and another post on Alan Rinzler’s blog. So then I went to check out Amanda Hocking’s website/blog. She does a lot of her own book cover artwork, but she mentioned getting artwork from another website. I checked out that website, www.phatpuppyart.com, and the artist’s work is so exquisite, I’m now working with her to have book covers designed for some of the works I’m about to publish for 99 cents on Kindle. Annnnd, come to think of it, I also learned about the big boom in 99-cent Kindle books through the same sources where I found out about Amanda Hocking. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's difficult to go into the online world expecting to build a huge fan base and either get a publishing contract or sell a lot of books. And I've seen people get frustrated because they start a blog or a Facebook page, and when that kind of fame doesn't descend on them, they wonder what it's all for.

That isn't what it's all for.

Some people do get attention and monetary rewards from being online, but overwhelmingly, they seem to me to be people who genuinely LIKE being online. They have fun with their blog or their vlogs or their Twitter account, and people respond to that.

I've heard people sneer that blogging writers are "only talking to other writers." My answer to that is: Other writers are very good people to connect with. Pre-internet, I longed for other writers to connect with, because I didn't know a single other person who was seriously trying to write a book. The amount of professional collegiality and mentoring I've found online has been incredible. I have also gotten book signings and conference-panel slots and discovered new publishing markets and, yes, sold books from the connections I've made online, but that isn't my top reason for being here.

I also get most of my new-book news and book recommendations online. I still read only what looks good to me, but I have definitely bought books because an online friend blogged about them or someone tweeted a synopsis that sounded interesting.

Anonymous said...

disagree. there is something to be said for, "Less is more." What this set of suggestions doesn't address is the risk of being perceived as pandering, and / or boring your audience / readers.

S'G's position as media guru is wholly self-serving and - what you leave out - based on non-fiction. His timing makes sense if you're trying to network your way into speaking at business conventions, but fiction? People are not interested in being sold in such a hard core way. Yes, putting yourself out there is important however, Facebook/twitter have been around for a while, and are not the panacea's they were even a year ago. Too many newsfeeds, too much information, it's all easy to ignore.

Look at Amanda Hocking: she balances her hawking of books with other blog topics. Although I don't read that genre, I have read her blog, and found her voice to be open yet not too personal. I think part of her success has been striking a balance between "knowing" her, the fact that she's selling books, and non-related topics.

In contrast, S.G's approach is akin to the post-gym -tour battery of phone calls one receives (before taking the tour.) There's something to his attempt to translate his self-obsession into other's reality ... it's narcissism squared by the net. Where is his service? What is he giving back? In an increasingly shrunken world, where resources are being sucked by the few at the expense of the many, an approach that's disconnected from even a little bit of giving back is .. nauseating.

One reason I refer back to your blog is because you actually engage people. Curiously, I find your presence in other social media less accessible or visible. I'm not sure how being an agent now tech advisor and YA author is going to pan out, but it will be a real time test of these theories. If anyone has a following, you do.

Liesl said...

True, social media is important and it is the future. I wouldn't be commenting here if that weren't true. I've made some great connections through blogging.

BUT I think some writers, and society in general, seriously underestimate the value of in-person face time. There is no substitute for that. Sometimes meeting one person IN person, can do a lot more for you than "meeting" a hundred online. Let's not forget to be physically present.

Marilyn Peake said...

Anon @4:04 PM,

I agree with many of your points. It’s extremely easy to open up a publishing company or sell books about how to sell books to writers right now. Every time I see that an author has made it big-time selling books about writing to the throngs of desperate writers all struggling to sell their own books, I discount their success as being even remotely relevant to a fiction writer with no connections to the publishing industry. And I noticed the same thing you did about Amanda Hocking – her blog has a quiet mood, lots of blog conversation about things other than books, no hawking of her products, and a kindness through which she actually promotes other people’s work. I know I’m drawn to writers' and artists' websites where there’s a sense of quiet thoughtfulness and daydreaming, two important ingredients in the creation of art.

Whirlochre said...

If only all those artistic cavemen had foreseen the advent of vegtarianism.

kdrausin said...

Great post, Nathan! Thank you.

kdrausin said...

Great post, Nathan. Thank you. Who knows when my book will be out but my blog has sure grown over the past two years.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Spot on Nathan, esp your point about being "social". I can't tell you how many authors that plug their book on Facebook & Twitter 24x7. And that's all they do. Too much!

This will not get me to buy you're book--and I buy a ton of 'em :-) it seems like such common sense.

I'm much more likely to buy a book if you engage with me, not try to sell me something.

DEMETRA BRODSKY said...

I'm doing all the right things; so maybe you can take me on as a client, Nathan. Oh Darn, too late. You've flown the coop! ; )

Tana Adams said...

Well said. It's a great way to meet fellow writers and learn the tricks of the trade. If you wait any longer, you might just get left behind.

Anonymous said...

It seems crass to me when people in publishing hawk products to writers, even if they do it in a friendly kind of way. Writers gravitate toward publishing people because they think they will help them to succeed. When those people turn around and take advantage by selling them things, that seems kind of yucky. :( I've actually seen writers who tried to make it as fiction writers, failed to sell enough copies of their books, then went on to make a lot of money by selling books and other services that supposedly teach writers how to market their books. Something isn't right about that.

wendy said...

I like social media when it comes to visiting the sites of others but not when it comes to attracting people to my own. I don't have the confidence, really. I do have a blog presence and a Twitter and Facebook, but I'm not using them correctly. I appreciate the information I get through your blog, Nathan.

Just Some Guy said...

Did you know that no one sold any books before the internet came and revolutionized everything? If only "social media" had come along earlier, little Stevie King might've had a chance at a career. Might've written and sold a book or two. Well, when he wasn't facebooking, Goodreading, kindleboarding, tweeting, twatting, twerping ....

If you write books people want to read, they will find you. If you don't, no amount of social media cred is gonna help you.

D.G. Hudson said...

@Polenth - Thanks for that information about pen names. Your explanation was clear and answered all the questions I have for the present. I'm glad someone heard the little question in the dark . . . much appreciated.

The Lemonade Stand said...

hmmm...I'm not entirely certain where I stand in the social networking, unless you are counting Farmville. :) I've had a blog for a few years, but just 'outed' myself as a writer on there recently. So if I have a blog, but it's not always about writing/reading/publishing, then I suppose that means I'm behind schedule, right?

Kristi Helvig said...

I was a reluctant joiner of Facebook and now I don't know what I'd do without it. Matthew Rush couldn't write NCAA updates on my wall, and Rick Daley couldn't leave sarcastic comments on my updates. I seriously love FB, which says a lot coming from a total introvert!

Thanks for the info on Klout and the other one...I've got to check them out. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Yes, yes, and yes. More please (blogs like this!). You continue to rock! :)

Mira said...

Thank you for saying social networking is social! Yes! Very true, and very clear.

I wrote a whole long post, but it got lost in cyberspace, so I'm assuming it wasn't meant to be.

But I will say that I appreciate the discussion. I have some mixed feelings about social networking,for myself, for a variety of reason, but all in all, how can I be anything but for it? I would never have come to this wonderful blog! And I have so much fun here and learn so much!

McKenzie McCann said...

3 years! If I'd starting blogging three years ago, I would have been 12 years old!! Yikes. Well, that's not exactly good news.

Anonymous said...

Nathan said: "And no one gets published primarily because of their social media presence, excepting SH*T MY DAD SAYS and other blog-specific books. As other people have pointed out, the jury is still out on whether social media even sells books./Was that bait? I guess I took it."

No, I didn't mean that as bait. Here's what I was basing my comments on ... Several authors, myself included, were actually TOLD by well-known agents that they weren't interested in representing their novels, since they weren't in a popular genre and we only had thousands of followers on our blogs, but they would be much more interested if we developed a larger following. So, that tells me very directly that people do indeed get published because of their online presence. Same thing happens with sales for self-published books. Amanda Hocking got rejected by both agents and publishing houses until she sold over a million copies of her self-published books. Right after that, she got one of the best agents in the business and a three-movie deal.

And I didn't mean to say that the commenters you reply to don't make intelligent comments. I meant that, since most people who spend years posting what amounts to hundreds of well-thought-out comments are mostly ignored, saying that blogs are "social" isn't exactly true for everyone. It's a false type of social for most people. There have been articles written about this recently - the lack of a real social experience within social networks.

- Anon at 3:08 PM, March 17

Anonymous said...

great, a world in which networking means everything even more than content. This world needs to become less of a schmooze-ocracy than it already is, not more

Kaitlyne said...

I just wanted to hit on something Anon said. My biggest problem with social networking is that it feels so insincere. I'm not an old fart who isn't technologically compatible--I'm great with computers, love the internet, and I'm in the demographic that should be embracing this.

I've been involved enough to know that it leaves me longing for the days when people would email and carry on meaningful conversations. I frequent message boards, but the only people I consider "friends" on there are those I've started emailing and talking to on the phone.

The lack of personalized attention and sincerity has always been one of the big negatives for me. I hear other people saying that it's a great way to get to know people and stay in touch, but every time I've tried, it's felt very...false.

Maybe that's just me.

Nathan Bransford said...

Well, I think a possible misconception may be that it's true, you're not really going to be able to interact with everyone who stops by your blog on a personal level. So on the one hand it could feel insincere if you're judging it on that basis.

But you can make those connections. I've made really good real life friends with people I met through other blogs and through this blog. So from that standpoint it really does work. And Kaitlyne, it sounds like it's worked that way for you too, right?

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

I'm glad that all worked out for you. :) I don't think that's the same type of experience most people have, though.

- Anon at 3:08 PM, March 17

Libby said...

I started my blog now, I'm not even on chapter one of my novel. But I do also send out a lot of short stories and plays and I wanted somewhere potential theatres/publishers could go to see my work which I post every Friday. I don't plan to build a readership quickly, but I do hope to have one some day...

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Anon 11:53. Agents and the like have 'great' relationships with their readers because the reader is hoping to make a business connection. Regular Joes aren't going to have the same following because they can't offer the coveted keys to publishing.

sofiaromualdo said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the possibilities that social media offers, specially if you're an introvert (as I am too!). This post is a good reminder of what's really important: the people and the connections we build.

Alison Barber said...

Maven... good word.

Mark Cecil said...

i don't know if i really agree with what's being suggested here. i mean, sure, now is the time to start blogging. also, now is the time to get in shape. and now is also the time to start eating right. and furthermore, now is the time to call your parents because you haven't in a while. and now is the time to take that trip to africa. and now is also the time to really push yourself at your job. and now is also the time to read those classics you haven't read, which you will do later tonight, because now is the time to pick up the kids. and now is also the time to start leaning japanese, remember that? so you will definitely learn japanese soon, but now, precisely now, is the time to do your laundry, right after you read a blog post, and then comment on it, which is what you have to do right, RIGHT now. and...so on.
from what i can gather, if you're going to be a writer, write a great book. no one disagrees on that. NO ONE. write the best possible book you can, and make that number one two and three on your list of three things to do. for those of us with full time jobs, with kids, with wives, with friends, with all sorts of time constraints, you simply have to prioritize.
i'm not saying social media is a waste of time. i'm not saying it can't help. i'm just saying amid the great and endless clamoring of life's demands you have to prioritize. For some, it's about getting known, getting an interview, being considered an authority on this or that, gaining Klout, passing a thousand twitter followers. For others, there is something majestic and sacred in the pursuit of great writing. If you believe in that majestic pursuit, as i do, and you do what that belief requires of you, then the rest of must and will take care of itself.
but ah....i could have been working on my book the whole time i was writing this post....

Anonymous said...

Amen Mark, AMEN!

GhostFolk.com said...

Nathna, Nathan, Nathan...

The real question is whether the person you are on f/b or twitter is really you. Most people think it is when they're doing it. But most pyschologists will beg to differ.

THIS IS NOT REAL. NONE OF IT.

Understanding the above is the future. Social media is yesterday. I'd rather go to lunch.

GhostFolk.com said...

Oh, I hope that didn't sound rude. I only meant to differ. :-)

As for too early, I would say in most cases you are right. But there is a too-early if you are trying to create and/or build "brand" through social media. Your personal and professional "brand" may change radically from the time you begin using social media to become an online known entity.

A wrong brand could actually be damaging. Better no brand at all.

Say, you spend a few years branding yourself as an erotic novelist. And, say lots and lots of people interact with you through social media as the same, while you work to make professional and social connections to get your first book published by one of the Big Six.

Then, say an editor offers you $50K to take out the naughty parts and focus on the thriller aspects of your most recent work.

You know what happened to Saul could happen to you. You might want to run for the state senate next year. How often can you change your name?

Lance C. said...

Social is fun...only if you're social.

There are people who are good at social media. They were the popular kids at school. They're the ones in the middle of the crowd at every party, the ones who can make friends standing in line at the ATM. They're the ones who know everyone who works at their company -- all 20,000 of them. They're good at social media because they've been doing it all their lives. They're wired that way.

For a lot of us, social is at best hard work and at worst a form of torture. Like painters and sculptors, we engage in a solitary artform because it fits our personalities and our strengths. After all, if we could sparkling conversationalists who could maintain networks of hundreds or thousands of people, we'd be agents, not writers.

It's not like we can even be ourselves in the social-media universe. We have to be interesting, witty, original and engaging in order to draw strangers to our blogs/Twitter feeds/websites. We have to be a character we've made up, and be able to "make friends" with characters other people have made up. As Jen P. noted, God forbid you should ever slip out of character. That's a lot of sweaty hard work for many of us. And it pays not one dime.

I'm not a technophobe, I'm an unrecovered introvert. I view social media the way I did dances in high school -- yet another way to feel awkward and uncomfortable and inadequate, the ultimate revenge of the popular kids. It's going to be hard to change at this late stage of my life.

Kaitlyne said...

Nathan--

In response to the question, I'd have to say I don't know. I follow several industry blogs and one that's just for fun, but I couldn't call any of those people friends. The online friends I've made were through message boards with PM systems in place and then, after a few private conversations we'd exchange email addresses and what not.

Your blog is one of my two favorites. I've learned a ton from it and it even helped me land an agent. You're funny and clever and I often share things you with my boyfriend just because I know he'll get a kick out of it. But I still wouldn't expect you to know who I was other than perhaps recognizing my name as a result of the comments I leave, and I've been here for more than a year. Even if you remembered something specific, it's not the same as knowing me. I have a bit of insight into you because I read your blog daily, but you don't have the same levels of insight into me.

The more followers one has, the more that's going to be true. When it's just a few, you can easily develop relationships, but if you have a hundred thousand people following you, it's going to be impossible to develop that with everyone. I feel that social media gives the illusion of relationships more than the ability to follow through. It's very one-sided. And maybe that's okay. Maybe that's what people are looking for.

I admit, I might be very off the mark with this.

Kaitlyne said...

I think Lance has a good point. On one hand, I'm more comfortable online than I am in a crowd of people (I'm rather shy in person), but the interesting thing you said is that we have to be a character rather than our true selves.

I'm not sure I would have said it that way, but I will say that I'm much more comfortable with the idea of actually being a character than with being myself. I'm a private person and I am cautious with details that I share. On the other hand, I think creating a Facebook page for a character from my book would be hilarious and fun. My favorite author does this sort of thing, and I've always thought it was a blast.

I'd do that in a heartbeat. That's kind of what I meant earlier when I referred to thinking outside of the box, though. I'd like to have fun with this sort of thing, and I'd have a lot more fun with goofy things like that than with maintaining a page about myself.

Nathan Bransford said...

I definitely agree that blogs can transition from a very one-to-one relationship into more of a broadcasting relationship. After a point it just becomes impossible to maintain those one on one conenctions. That part I definitely can agree with. I'd still say it's about making a connection with people, but the nature of that connection can be, as you say, a bit one sided.

But wow, I really disagree both with the idea that people who use social media were all the popular kids in high school or that you have to be some sort of hybrid character. The Internet can smell a lack of authenticity a mile away. The best bloggers are themselves. It may be a somewhat censored version of themselves or people may invent a bit of a character, but that's true of any public face we put on, whether on the Internet or "real" life. At the core I think you really can get a sense of the "real" personality of the best bloggers.

Kaitlyne said...

I don't think the qualities that make a good blogger are necessarily the same qualities that make a person popular. Don't get me wrong. I think Lance had an interesting point concerning the concept of the person who we are online is a bit of a face, and expanding on that.

I'm not particularly comfortable in groups of people, but I have no problem interacting online. I think having a bit of separation and time to plan and think about responses actually makes it *easier* for people who are socially awkward to communicate online. I also think that in order to have a good blog, etc., you need to be someone who writes well, and that has nothing to do with popularity.

I definitely agree with you on that one.

Kaitlyne said...

I also wanted to say that maybe something worth adding to the list of encouraging a good following is being gracious in the face of dissenting opinions.

One of the things that I love about this blog is the way you discuss issues with people who disagree. It's professional, non-confrontational, and never alienates. I always feel kind of bad disagreeing because you're such a nice guy, but I also know that you won't get upset or argue (in the negative sense of the word) and that's pretty awesome. It's a place where we can have actual discussions about complex issues.

I was just thinking about this because of a link I saw on another blog recently to a woman who was in hot water for arguing with her followers after making some rather contentious remarks. You are a great example, and I really think creating the kind of atmosphere you've created here goes a long way. Just wanted to add that. :)

R.D. Allen said...

But if you don't have a book to talk about, and you're not a published writer, then what do you have to link people to you? What could possibly set you apart from the millions of wanna-be authors out there?

Personally, I think an author trying to network before they have anything to offer is a little ridiculous. That's why I'm not more active on Facebook/Blog/Twitter.

Nathan Bransford said...

Hey thanks, Kaitlyne! I honestly think a lot of that is that I've been very lucky to have regular commenters who set a great tone for the discussion, and I'm very thankful for that.

Kaitlyne said...

I feel like we should totally have a group hug now lol.

Edward A. Kelly-Summers said...

Once the realization sets in that Social Media is not something to fear(my own personal past issue), the info is great advice. Thanks as always for great info. And is the Twitter something you call or a type of messenger bird service and I can't find this Facebook at B&N.

marion said...

Wow! This got everyone talking!
1. What's whuffle?
2. Dee, I want to buy Jason Wunderbar--thanks solely to the blog, which shows that Nathan is certifiable! Crazy kid books are about my speed, these days.
3. Abc--love the comment about "Introverts unite, but in separate rooms." LOL!
4. I've been on Facebook, just for my friends, for several months. Just started my blog a week ago. Trying to find the focus--or maybe the blog doesn't need a focus.
5. Nathan, can we please have a session where you & your bloggie friends share what they did to get a blog following?

marion said...

Y'all, ignore my comment #1. Since whuffie was defined in the blog post. Duh! I can read, and I can spell--sort of!

J. T. Shea said...

NO! DON'T LOOK AT MUNK! LOOK AT ME! J. T. SHEA! Oh wait... I don't have a picture... blast... must get better looking picture than Munk's, with bigger hat...

Anonymous 3:08 pm, you're right! How DARE Nathan be so interested in sports! Particularly games involving balls. If they gave every player his or her own ball it would stop all the arguing and fighting.

I mean, Nathan behaves as if the whole damn blog belongs to him! Oh, wait...

Edward said...

Agree with the board that there is great benefit to all things SN&Blog. Still gaining info, and hope to put it to use soon. Thank you to all for the great info & yes, I agree it general rudeness to comment as if the only one in the room. Apologies and, I am grateful for each and every helpful tidbit shared by all.

Edward said...

*forgive the comma placement in above post.

marion said...

Me again. One step behind as usual. Found Nathan's Nov. blog post: Seven Tips on How to Build a Following Online. Very helpful.
How do you connect with writers in the blogosaphere? I sent an e-mail to my writer friends. I put links on my Facebook page, but most of my FB friends aren't writers. Anything else?

Jamie said...

Great post. I'm forwarding it to my husband who's just getting into social media to promote his law-related business. Thanks.

Edward said...

I have a question about blog vs. website. I am wondering if anyone could give me advice which of the two is the better route. I know the blog provides more interaction, but if a person cannot update frequently, on a blog, would a website be a better option? Along with an SN presence as a sort of bonus, if needed. Thank you, and sorry to be so late to the conversation.

Meghan Ward said...

So glad you wrote this post, Nathan! I felt a little uncomfortable creating a Facebook "Page" not having a book yet published, but I think it's important for writers to get over those fears and just put themselves out there. It's the way of the future. And Doctorow's book sounds great. I'll have to add it to my (long) list of books to read.

Ray Anderson said...

Do what's fun and what you're good at. But If you are trying to avoid social media, you better be writng the greatest book ever.

clarionj said...

Thank you for this reminder. I know I should have started years ago, and knowing this, I should definitely get on the ball now! I agree it's about socializing, interacting. Word of mouth goes a long way!

Ishta Mercurio said...

"Whuffle" sounds a lot like the stock market.

Also: (and I haven't finished reading the post yet, so I might eat my words in a few minutes) I think a lot of writers feel good about waiting to start building that presence because blogging, facebooking, and tweeting take up time. And when you're working a job, raising a family, managing a household, and trying to write, polish, and submit a novel (which involves hours and hours of research on top of the writing, revising, critique group participation, etc.), the thought of losing even half an hour a day of precious writing time is just scary. What's the point of social networking (in order to build those connections to make it easier to market your book, etc.) if you never finish your book?

Now back to reading the post.

Anonymous said...

With any luck I won't ever have to jump aboard the "socialist mediocrity" bandwagon. Now, I may be way too young (~18 yrs) to be so cynical about this, but as an aspiring author myself, I simply don't see the point of blogging, twitting, AIMing, whatever, about completely unrelated topics or stream-of-consciousness rambling when what you want (or should want) readers to be interested in is the content/quality of what you've written in print.

I would also wonder if a publisher or even an agent, while they are people too, might even totally reject a writer based on public credibility (or liability, as the case may be) regardless of the quality of his/her submitted work -- the same way top-notch colleges are checking out applicants' social networking pages and weeding out the beer-pong/Girls Gone Wild group from the college-worthy caliber. Publishers and agents probably check these sites in a similar way as campus recruiters to make sure the next War & Peace they've got in their hands isn't by a real-life fanfic freak in a skimpy Sailor Moon outfit...named Bluto. :-O

The writer needs to be the writer, to concentrate on his/her book, and not try to cover all bases as the blogger/BoobTuber/Twitbooker/networker/tinker/tailor/soldier/spy, but "all your bases are not belong to you" (deliberate use of bad grammar in reference to a meme). Otherwise we wouldn't have a need for PR firms, ghost writers, marketing experts, etc. The sad catch-22 is that new writers by and large can't afford these amenities and are all but obligated to put their hearts and souls (and hours a day) into these "personality platforms," but when it's all said and done, the writer gets bought and sold while the book doesn't earn back a dime. :-(

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