Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tooting Your Own Horn on Social Media--Part Two

Disclaimer: This post is the result of a panel discussion I took part in for Albacon (the NY Capital District SFF convention which took place at the beginning of March). However, the concepts expressed here are solely that of yours truly, and may be taken with or without a grain of salt--or a dose of aspirin... This is the second in a two part series. Last month I looked at what not to do in the tricky environment of social media. In this month's column, I examine how to make connections in the emptiness of cyperspace.

As a writer who’s interested in tooting your own horn and letting people know that a) you exist; and b) you’re in the process of writing, querying or publishing a book, you need someone to toot that horn to. You need to make connections. And you’re determined to Not Be That Guy (see last month’s post ) So where do you find all those people to engage with?

Well, first off, your current friends, family, co-workers. Are they online? Connect with them. It’ll give you a base to work from. And they might just connect you with some of their friends as well. They may not be your target audience, but it's a place to start.

Second, and much more importantly: find a community.

There are numerous groups targeting writers on LinkedIn. I’m not a huge fan, but they’re out there.

There are also many writer-focused groups/pages on Facebook. To name a few:

a)      Indie Writer and Book Self Promotion (closed group)
b)      A Path to Publishing (open group)
c)      Writer Unboxed (secret group)
d)      Neurotic Writer Support Group (secret group)

And many others—you’ll just need to look around a bit. When you find groups you think you’d be interested in, join up. Get involved, engage with folks. Ask questions. Post quotes from you favorite authors. But. No. Cat. Videos. Can’t stress this enough.

On Twitter, the writing community is HUGE. Check out hastags like #amwriting, #amreading, #writerslife, and #writingtips to meet some great authors—both published and trying-to-be-published. Get involved in games like #1linewed or #2bitTues (a couple of my favorites). There are multiple games every day of the week. Most are weekly events which post a theme—you then post a line or lines (as long as it fits in a tweet w/ the hashtag) from your WIP which correlates to that week’s theme. This is a fabulous way to meet people and engage with them, not just in the game, but as a writer. It also allows a lot of folks out there to see and appreciate your work. They’ll retweet lines that are good. And when you’re retweeted, you’re connecting with a whole ‘nother group of people who might find you interesting/amusing/thoughtful. But remember—it works both ways—you’ll want to retweet lines you find awesome to your own followers. Be engaged. Be that nice guy.

If you’re an author who’s looking for an agent or publisher, get involved in contests. There are some amazing contests on Twitter that allow writers with completed, polished manuscripts to pitch their work to agents and editors. Some of these contests allow unpublished authors to work with mentors to polish their work, and then go on to pitch it. It’s kinda like a dating service for authors. And it works. This is how I connected with my publisher, and I’ve seen so many success stories from the contests that I’ve participated in (and still follow).  

And even if you’re not looking to connect with an agent or publisher, you might want to get involved as a contest judge/mentor/reader. It’s a fantastic way to gain additional credibility and exposure. This is something I definitely plan to get involved in as soon as I have a chance.

And yeah, that’s tough. You’re trying to market your existing book. And work on the next one. And stay involved. And keep your family from stringing you up by your toes until you wash the dishes, pick up your underwear and socks off the floor where they’ve been for the last six weeks, and put out the baby and change the cat. It’s a balancing act, with a lot of plates in the air. Nobody ever said this was gonna be easy.

But a big part of the games, and the contests, is not necessarily that you toot your horn, or that you move that much closer to publication. It’s that you connect. You find people looking for critique partners. You find people who’re in the same boat as you. You’ll make some amazing friends—people who, when your book is published, will shout out about it and buy it and review it and tell their friends. Because you’re interesting and amusing and thoughtful and insightful and helpful and they enjoyed your lines and you’ve critiqued each other’s pages and they think you’re pretty darned cool—and a nice guy to boot.

Keith W. Willis is the author of the fantasy/adventure TRAITOR KNIGHT, now available in both ebook and paperback.