Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Social Media and Comfort Zones

It's easy to get in a rut in your reading. After all, when you find something you like, you want more! But there is a such thing as too much. At some point, the sparkle is gone, the shine is off. It might still be comfortable, but it's not as exciting as it used to be. So it's time to try something new.

I know this pain as a reader. Trying something new is stepping outside your comfort zone, and it's so frustrating when you try something new and you don't like it. When you get burned like that, it is that much harder to try something new. You want to hedge your bets, to know that you're going to like the new thing.

So, how's a writer to get new people to try her work?

Well, we'll have to step out of our comfort zones, too, and try something new. As a writer in that very position, here's what I've been trying.

An "easy" thing that most people try at one point or another is social media. Whether you use Facebook, Google Plus, Tumblr, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or some other platform, social media has several advantages for getting the word out there if you're a new author (and/or an introvert).

It's free.

It's popular.

It doesn't require that you leave your house.

But, oh dear, it can go badly when it goes badly. Cringing-ly badly.

Each of these social media platforms has their own aesthetic, their own etiquette and expectations. And a lot of excited new authors jump in with both feet, and their eyes closed, not looking around long enough to realize that they've elbowed someone in the chin flailing around like that. Hence you see feeds that have nothing but "BUY MY BOOK" or the same post with no alteration on several different platforms or worse yet, attacks or defensiveness about criticism. You make your potential readers uncomfortable or annoyed, and that can hurt not only one potential sale, but all your future potential sales to a reader.

Whatever platform you choose to play in, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Look around. Observe first. Make sure you understand how people typically use this platform. See what kinds of posts get positive response. Learn from what others do.

2. Do something there besides advertise. The users of all of these platforms aren't there to read ads. I mean, really, would anyone go anywhere specifically to watch ads (except maybe to YouTube to watch the clever Superbowl ads)? Don't forget the SOCIAL in social media. Make friends. Respond to what other users are doing. Post about something besides your work.

3. Always put the best version of you forward. We all have complaints, but these public forums are not the place. Save your venting for the private spaces in your life, among friends and colleagues. You don't have to be Pollyanna, but neither should you be Oscar the Grouch, hating everything. Be yourself, but with your filters on.

4. Pick a platform you enjoy. It's not necessary to be on *everything* or to drive yourself crazy trying to keep up. I probably do too many, but I'm an experimenter, and I use different platforms for different things. I like to try out new things and push myself out of my comfort zone. This will take some trial and error. You have to *try* something before you know if you like it, just like you're hoping people will give you a try as an unknown author.

For example, here's me trying video. I'm not very comfortable in the medium, but I like the idea of being able to give people a taste of what my book is like even if they can't make it to any of my events. I'm not ready to be flashy when it comes to video, but I could handle giving my phone to my sister and asking her to film me while I read at Con-Gregate.

5. Be honest. People don't like being lied to or scammed. If no one has reviewed your book yet, don't claim to have five star reviews. If you've sold ten copies to your friends and family, don't claim you're a bestseller.

That goes for your book advertising in other ways, too. Make sure your cover art and back of the book blurb give people a good idea what the book is about. People don't like bait and switch, and that's how it feels when you think you're buying a nice, straightforward romance, and suddenly a vampire descends from the ceiling. You don't do yourself any favors by getting people to buy your work under false pretences . . .they probably won't like it.

So, my author and other creative friends, what are you trying to get the word out about what you do? What's working or isn't?


  1. I was recently asked this question, how I go about reaching new readers, and my answer was that I occasionally admit to having written a book...but only if I'm asked a direct question and I don't think I can get away with a lie. I definitely don't do any of these things right...

    I agree that whatever social media platforms you use, you should do other things besides promote yourself and your work. That gets real old, real fast.

    I'm on all the sites you listed above, except for YouTube. There is no power in the 'verse that will get me to do that. I applaud you for trying it even though you're uncomfortable with it.

  2. Great tips here. It took me a very long time to find my footing in Twitter. I was so intimidated by the "speed" of the feed, it took a while to settle in enough to actually observe and learn. I would like to try Pinterest, but also fear it would turn into a diversion more than a tool because--ooh, pretty! Yeah, like a squirrel to a dog, that would be me with Pinterest. LOL.

  3. Excellent advice. I usually end up unfollowing someone who just posts 'buy my book' on social media or if it looks like they use something that's connected and aren't even visiting a certain site. I just see it as pointless because you're not there so how will you even know I've interacted?

  4. I'm on all the sitea you've mentioned. I engage a lot on Twitter and love using Pinterest to create story boards. But you're right about researching to find if a particular social media is right for you. And not to go all biy my book, buy my book, buy my book.