No longer can writers afford to be reclusive geniuses hiding away behind their typewriters. In the digital age, your voice needs to be as arresting as the words in the book you are trying to promote. The world of social media is a living, beathing entity where your message can be spread far and wide. Join Nina Lassam, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Julie Wilson and Anita Windisman as they give you top tips for using social media to market yourself and your work!
A quick panelest photo taken & tweeted by Anita just prior to us going onstage
The first thing that we all agreed upon were the top 5 social media tools writers can use. And although we all thought these were currently the top 5 (with a disclaimer that they are subject to change at a moment's notice), we mentioned a slew of other tools/platforms we use and also had unique perspectives on which of these five worked best in our own experiences.
5) Linked In
Of course, it's so easy to get hung up on which tools to use and how people are using them and lose sight of what the tools are for or why you're using them.
First of all, social media tools are for connecting with people. The same way in which we were all at Word on the Street to connect with people in person, the same way that doing book signings and readings and talks are ways to connect one on one with people, social media is yet another way to connect with people. Of course, sometimes it's in real time and sometimes it's a "message in a bottle" that you put out there one day and is discovered by someone days, weeks, months or years later.
Second, despite the fact our panel was called "Look at Me! Look at Me!" while you want to use these platforms to promote yourself and your work, the LAST thing you want is to be the annoying person who does nothing more than jump around saying "look at me, look at me."
Think of social media as a party where there are a bunch of people having a conversation. Thing about the blatant idiot who strides into the middle of a conversation at that party, interupts whomever is speaking to hand out his insurance business cards (especially when the conversation currently has nothing to do with insurance at the moment). If all you do in social media is cry "Look at me! Look at me!" without offering any value to the conversation or without being part of the conversation, you're being just as annoying as that guy pushing his cards on everyone. The last thing you want to be is that blantant idiot who is being a pushy sales-person. You need to be part of the conversation, you need to be genuinely involved in the circles/conversations/areas where your topic is of interest to the people who are connecting. Yes, it's work. Nobody said that writing wasn't work. Nobody said that using social media to promote your writing wasn't work. (Okay, somebody might have said those things, but it wasn't me)
Anita, Stuart, Julie & Nina chatting just prior to taking the stage
Another bit of advice we had is that there are so many social media tools/platforms/areas to engage in and that you can't be a part of all of them (not without losing time to do important things like actually write) - we suggested that you should experiment, test out one or two of them, see which ones you're most comfortable with, slide in and start listening. Like a party, perhaps you slide over to a conversation taking place and listen to it, start to understand what's being said, what's going on, then, if you have something that you believe will contribute, you introduce yourself and join in the conversation. Again, social media is just that -- a social thing, except, you're doing it online or via your mobile device rather than in person.
One of the other things we returned to was humility and making mistakes. We're all human, and one of the great things about social media is that it's a reflection of who we are in the real world. Sure, it can be a measured reflection, where a particular persona is being portrayed, but it can be an indication of the type of person you are. And most people want to connect with real people, not with slick marketing gimmicks. Showing the fact that you're human, a real person, offers potential readers a connection to you that is unique and interesting.
We talked about some Canadian authors who have done a great job of connecting with their audiences, such as Robert J. Sawyer who, through his blog and Facebook account has connected with and has ongoing dialogues with his fans. We talked about how Terry Fallis went from being unable to find an agent and publisher to using podcasting to build an audience of thousands and go on to win an award and secure a publishing contract with McClelland & Stewart. And we talked about how great it was that a long celebrated Canadian literary icon like Margaret Atwood could show her humility and playfullness so wonderfully through her Twitter account and connect with people on a personal basis.
There was only an hour to talk and answer questions about social media, and we barely scratched the surface of what's available and different strategies for connecting and promoting your work without being that annoying budinski jerk -- but it sure was fun, and I learned a lot from my fellow panelists as well from some of the folks in the audience.