Making social media matter

Stop wasting time and start building your writing career with these tried-and-true tips

Social Media

Over razzleberry smoothies a few years ago, a mega-famous author said to me: “You have 20 published books but only 20 followers on Twitter? Huh.” At the time, I thought she was just needling me. After all, any one of her books outsold all of mine combined by a 40 to 1 margin.

But some time later, I realized that this social media master/best-selling author was clueing me in: Social media is the No. 1 PR tool writers have.

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Period.

Full Stop.

Literary Amen.

Since that realization, I’ve done everything I can to jumpstart a viable social media presence. Along the way, I’ve pretty much hit every digital pothole possible, from sending overtly self-promoting tweets to having an ugly profile page to misusing hashtags to sending from the wrong account. Oof.

Here’s the best of what I learned.

Better is better

No matter the social media format, most writers inexplicably choose poorly lit selfie-style photos for profile pictures. Stop that. Get a good one. Sure, it can be funny and weird. But at least get a high-quality shot of the funniness or weirdness.

And bios? Yowzas. Avoid buzzwords (“creative,” “expert,” “hacker,” “hustler,” etc.). Use fresh language. Be authentic. Tell what you do, not who you are.
Or be funny. People dig funny.

Want examples? @PhilipPullman. @TomHanks. @jcbaggott. @neilhimself. @RL_Stine.

Borrow from the best

USA Today best-selling thriller novelist Don Bruns has 111,000 Twitter followers. How did he do it?

“I simply copy followers from other genre writers,” he admits, which is a great idea for novelists to try. Then he adds, “And I got a three-book deal because of Twitter.”

Here’s how that happened: He added a Severn House editor as a Twitter follower. At some point, she noticed that he hadn’t released a book in a while, so she wrote to ask what he was working on. “I called my agent, and she sent [the editor] Casting Bones, a New Orleans police procedural,” he says. “Two weeks later, we had a two-book deal. One year later, they bought a third in the series. I was over 100,000 followers when she noticed me.”

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Don’t try to love something you hate

I hate Instagram. Maybe I’m a digital dinosaur, or something’s weird in my brain, but I don’t get it. It doesn’t speak to me. So I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and my blog instead.
Yes, Instagram is great for some people. But not me. And I’m totally OK with that. You should be, too. Don’t waste time doing something you despise when you could be starting conversations on platforms you actually enjoy.