Social Media for Authors

Social Media for Authors

I was a writer before I was a blogger. I started my personal blog, Surrender, Dorothy, in 2004 when I was out on maternity leave with my daughter. I’d received my MA in English from the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s professional writing program in 2002 and couldn’t concentrate enough in my new-baby fog to write my usual short stories and poetry. I took up blogging as a way to keep my writing alive, and for me, blogging turned into publishing.

outdoor bookshelves

Credit Image: addeddentry on Flickr

After two years of blogging, I was so in love with it I decided to put together an anthology of my favorite posts on parenting. It was a labor of love, and I’m still shocked I was able to convince twenty-five people to throw in with me considering I didn’t have an agent or a publisher at the time. As I worked on what became SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK (Chicago Review Press, 2008), I continued to blog at Surrender, Dorothy and became a contributing editor for BlogHer.com. At BlogHer I’ve both written about publishing and done editorial management for the BlogHer Book Club. My job has brought me close to other authors and their publicists, and I’ve learned a lot about book marketing and author branding.

My first bit of advice: Start immediately. Don’t wait until your book is ready for publication before you have an identity online. It might seem counter-intuitive, but you don’t want your online presence to be only as an author, you want it be fundamentally as a human being –- and hopefully an interesting one at that. I’ve talked to many new authors who worried about how they should approach The Facebook or The Twitter and who do I have to tweet at and how often do I have to do it, etc. I think it’s much more important what you say than how often you say it and with whom you interact than how often you interact. There are more people out there calling themselves social media experts than I can count, but the truth is social media is still evolving. Don’t worry about the details as much as getting out there and being yourself.

If you don’t already have a presence on Google+, Twitter and Facebook, pick the one that feels most natural to you and set up a profile and connect with some of your real-life friends there. Watch to see how they use it –- you’ll pick up the social mores of each medium faster than you think just by paying attention. If it feels forced to you, it will feel forced to everyone else, so focus on what seems normal to you.

Who is your favorite author on social media? I follow a lot of authors, but by far the most entertaining to me is Maureen Johnson.

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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