Being a writer is a full-time job (though most of us only work at it part-time because we have paying jobs). It’s been said that we should spend 80% of the time (normally spent writing) engaging others, and the other 20% creating content. I confess I am backwards in this, because I never feel like I get enough writing done as it is; it is also quite easy to spend hours online, posting, tweeting, retweeting, commenting, reviewing, etc., and feeling like I get very little response back, besides a “follow” or a “like”. (Retweets are what I am after.) And often, I have discovered that one only follows me because they want a follow back, so never follow someone back unless their page interests you. (“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”)
So I was searching for sample “killer” query letters because I’ve had a novel I tailor-wrote for Harlequin romance (never heard back, even though I’ve heard they read every submission). I believe in the project, so I went to http://agentquery.com/ to pitch it to other publishers. Though I already had a query letter prepared, I wanted to make sure it was the best it could be; I started doing my research, and found two great posts that helped me with that:
However, I realized that I needed to reevaluate my writer’s platform. What inspired me to start a blog in the first place was an article I read in “The Writer’s Digest” more than two years ago about this very thing. Only within the last several months have I stepped it up by joining Twitter, which I think is a must for any writer. I’ve started promoting myself on there by having every WordPress blog post immediately publish to my Twitter page (in addition to my Facebook account, and once in a blood moon, LinkedIn); I strive to make all my tweets entertaining, rather than just self-promoting, which gets boring (author Amanda Patterson tweets great stuff). I will never spam people by private messaging them on Twitter, asking for them to download my e-book, etc.–that is what your newsfeed is for, and yes, sometimes things get lost in the virtual shuffle, and so I believe it is perfectly acceptable to retweet such a request no more than twice a week (the minimum number of times we should blog to be considered a serious blogger, according to most).
When I first started Twitter, I was tweeting snippets of poems, usually a screenshot, but didn’t add any hashtags (don’t do that; I add hashtags in the reply box). I’d also read that every blog post should have an image (we’re such visual people), but I rarely use any stock photography. I think most of it looks bad, cheap, and unoriginal (and the high-quality kind, like Shutterstock, is pricey). Try to take your own pictures. I, personally, do not believe we need images to make a post come to life. That is what the headline is for.
I got a lot of great ideas on how to promote myself/build my writer’s platform, some of which I’m already using. I revitalized my LinkedIn account by posting my college essays and publishing some of the scholarship essays I wrote (not the Zombie Apocalypse one, though; LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional site).
So I’m doing the social media blitz, even publishing the novelette (about an apostate Mormon missionary) that inspired my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley” on goodreads.com (see: https://www.goodreads.com/story/confirm_explicit/405523?chapter=0).
Here are some of the 12 ways of author promotion I found the most useful.
- Monetize. I had never thought of repackaging old blog posts and selling them as an ebook, and I’m not sure why someone would buy something they can get for free, but it’s a thought. If you’ve published a lot of poetry on your blog, this might be for you.
- Create a resource page. Share your list of resources on social media and with your email list. I do this on my Websites for Writers page: https://sarahleastories.wordpress.com/websites-for-writers/
- Learn and use appropriate Twitter hashtags. Here’s a great resource by Caitlin Muir at Author Media: http://www.authormedia.com/44-essential-twitter-hashtags-every-author-should-know/
- Set up your YouTube channel. According to Robert Lee Brewer, the “poet laureate of Writer’s Digest”, poetry is almost always better when read aloud. My brother wrote a melody to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”, and I could just imagine adding some desolate beach scenes to the audio.
- Invest in yourself. Find courses, books, conferences, and people that can aid in your learning and success. I am taking a Creative Writing class at the college right now, and will be investing a little money into getting a short story critiqued through Writer’s Digest before self-publishing it on amazon.com.
- Pitch a guest post. I’ve already pitched a motherhood/lifestyle article to the Huffington Post (no pay, but great exposure), and there are a few others I am considering. The main thing for me is posting at least twice a week on my own blog. If you do get published on a guest blog, you will want your reader to have something worthwhile to link to.
- Create some link love. People love being mentioned or quoted online. Take the time to email the author or blog owner and let them know they were mentioned in your article. They might possibly share a link to your article with their followers.
- Be everywhere. Or at least be wherever your ideal readers are. Consider incorporating one or more of these social media networks into your platform building strategy: Goodreads, Wattpad, Amazon Author Central, Pinterest, and Google+.
- Set up a social media schedule. Schedule time for activity on the social media platforms you are active on. I have found that just checking my notifications is enough Facebooking for the day (still working on making this an everyday reality); as for Twitter, set up a special list, just for writing, so you don’t miss valuable tweets (like calls for submissions) because someone else you follow loves to tweet (and retweet) a lot.
- Start commenting. If you already have a blog, you know how difficult–and how rewarding–it is to get comments on your posts. Take the time to add insights, ask questions, or provide feedback on other author blogs. A reblog is always nice, too.
- Create your Facebook Author page. I don’t believe I am quite ready for this. I feel I need to wait till I get something published to justify an author page (I could be wrong), and that means getting paid cash for my work, not just getting published.
- Setup your professional website. Having a .blogspot, .WordPress, or .Typepad in your domain name denotes amateur status. Before the end of the year, this is my goal. It doesn’t cost very much ($18/yr.), and if I can’t design it so it looks more professional, I will hire someone. I am quite frugal, so it has been hard for me to come to the point of paying for something I can get for free.