Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FFW: Social Networking

As you may or may not know, I spent three days last week in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Festival of Faith and Writing. Wow. Words cannot describe... Three days of total immersion into every aspect of writing: creativity, faith, discipline, editing, promotion, networking, and on and on. I'm still reeling, but in a good way. I learned so much. And since I spend every Tuesday focusing on some aspect of writing or the publishing world, I've decided that I'm going to take the next several Tuesdays and share the best of the best of the information I gleaned from these amazing sessions. It'll be like you're there! Minus all the fabulous authors, the face-to-face contact, the buzz of excitement... Sorry about that. Oh, and it will also be minus pictures because I forgot to take my camera! What an idiot.

Today I'm going to talk about the first concurrent session I attended. It was called Facebook Revolution: How Writers Can Use Social Media to Build Their Readership. The panel was absolutely fantastic and consisted of: Jason Boyett (author and blogger), Greg Daniel (agent), Kelly Hughes (publicist), Jana Riess (editor, freelance writer, and reviewer), and Lisa Samson (author). Take a moment to check them out!

As you can tell by the title alone, this session was all about the thing I hate most: publicity. That's why I went. I figured it would be good for me. Why attend an interview with Wally Lamb or enjoy hearing Ed Dobson wax poetic on radical faith when you can learn all about successful strategies for narcissistic self-promotion? Okay, I'm being cheeky. Like I said, the panel and information were great... My publicity hang-ups are my own. The truth is, I learned a lot.

According to Kelly Hughes, social media is all about: presence, engagement, and authenticity. In this technological age, you need to use the tools at your disposal--more importantly, you need to get to know your potential audience and learn what they want and need. According to the panel, if you're not engaging your audience on-line, you've already lost the battle. Though I hate to hear those words, I can attest to their truth. Not too long ago, I heard about a book that really grabbed my attention. I eagerly went on-line to find out more about the book and the author. Much to my dismay, she didn't have a website. I felt cheated, and didn't buy the book. Honestly, if she would have had a website and an entertaining blog, she easily could have turned me into a fan for life. And I'm a fiercely loyal fan...

All the same, I'll admit that after an hour of listening to these bright, engaging people speak, I was tempted to crawl into a hole and stay there. Not that I'm such an introvert. In fact, I'm quite extroverted. But even after all these years I still cringe at the thought of "hawking my wares" (i.e. myself). It's just not something that I can get used to. So, where does this all leave me?

Right back where I started... As much as I enjoyed the session, after several days of mulling it over I've decided that I still need to be true to myself. Maybe I'd get more followers on my blog, friends on my Facebook page, or people who will buy my books if I start a Twitter account. But I'll also have less time with my boys, less time to write, and less respect for myself. Not that there is anything wrong with Twitter. But if I did it, it wouldn't be because I want to or because I feel compelled to do so. It would be because someone once told me that it would help me build a platform. Frankly, I don't want to build a platform. I want to write books. Good books. Books that people will hopefully love. And yes, I realize that no one is going to buy my books if I'm not actively participating in publicity. But I'm comfortable with what I'm doing. I like blogging. I like updating my Facebook page. I like meeting people. And I'd like to think that God is going to have his way with my life and my books--whether or not I turn into the Queen of Self Promotion. Which isn't going to happen. I'm content to live in the balance.

Your Turn: If you write, how do you feel about the prospect of self-promotion? And if you're a reader, how engaged do you like your authors to be? Is it a turn-off when authors seem to constantly be self-promoting?


  1. Wally Lamb!?! You passed up Wally Lamb?!? Sorry...had to get that out of my system. I absolutely LOVED his book: I Know this Much is True.

    Love your questions. They are definitely the "it" questions these days. I'm not really at a place where I have to worry about self-promotion yet. I have no published books. I have no fans who'd love to learn more about my life or my writing. So blogging/facebooking/twittering is much different for me than it would be for a published author. My goal is to connect with other writers and build relationships. That may change someday and I might have to start thinking about self-promotion, but until then, I'm content to blog and twitter with fellow writers for the sake of connecting and learning.

    As far as how I feel about other authors and self-promotion...

    Hands down, it's the book that's going to sell me. It's the book itself that will make me a fan. BUT (and this is a big but), I do like when authors interact with their readers. I once read a book I absolutely loved. I emailed the author to let her know how much I enjoyed her book, but she never emailed me back. I understand we're all busy and the email could have gotten lost. But there's just something really touching when an author takes the time to respond to their readers. Will I buy her next book? I already have. Because she's excellent. However, I might not rave to my friends and family about how awesome she is and how everybody's got to buy her books too.

    When an author takes the time to reach out to his or her readers, I think something special happens. As a reader, I feel appreciated, and I usually admire and root for the author even more.

  2. Oh my goodness can I ever relate to this post! The answer to that is yes. ;)

    Sometimes I get turned off when authors seem to self-promote like crazy. I like that word engage though. It makes sense.

    I was all set to attend the FFW, but had a major life change and had to cancel. It would have been cool to meet you.

    Honest thoughts about a pressing topic for authors.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katie. I agree with you--something special happens when authors and readers connect. It's one of my very favorite parts of the writing life. I adore hearing from readers and I have never yet (at least, not to my knowledge) failed to respond to an email that a reader sent me. To me, writing is a conversation, not a monologue. And since my readers are the people I hope to converse with, interacting with them is much like eating dark chocolate: rich and satisfying. Oh, BTW, I did see Wally Lamb speak in a later session. ;)

    Wendy, I'm so sad that we missed each other at FFW! It would have been great to meet you. I hope you major life change is a blessing and not something that has caused you pain or stress. Thanks for responding.

  4. Nicole - that's one of the things I've always loved about you. Your authenticity and your willingness to engage. Right from the beginning, I remember being very touched that you took the time to email me back.

  5. Katie, pretty soon I'll be touched when you take the time to email me back! ;) Any news...?

  6. Wow, I'm with Katie - I'm surprised you passed up Wally! I've never read any of his books, but I've heard he is a highly influential author, and there was this one book about Columbine - I think it was - that he wrote, that I'm really interested in reading. Anyway...I get kind of exhausted looking at an author who will promote their book nearly every blog post. I feel like it's obnoxious and in my face, and I'm a very "love my space" kind of person, and that gets annoying. If an author's blog interests me, I will most likely check out their book(s) based on the fact that I enjoy viewing their blog. I remember when I first read After The Leaves Fall I was enormously thrilled that you had a blog. I was extremely disappointed when, after I read Crow Lake I couldn't find a website, blog, nothing on Mary Lawson - except that she wrote a second book, which I went out and bought. I would love to know more about her and her writing, because she is so poignant and rigid in her stories. You should definitely check Crow Lake out if you haven't already. So, anyway, that's my two cents. This is getting pretty long, so I'll stop now! :D

  7. No news....still waiting. God is teaching me mucho patience. :) Thanks for asking, though!