Social Media to the Max!

July 8, 2010

There’s a cartoon showing two Native Americans standing on a mountain looking at another mountain from which clouds of smoke are rising. One says to the other: “Makes you wonder how we ever lived without it.”

One editor at a major house went from loving Twitter and editing a book about it to ignoring it because of the signal-to-noise ratio. His interest was worn down by the gap between the number of tweets he saw and their value.

Delivering Value

Using social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and author communities like Red Room to build an online network of people interested in you and your books is essential. Building and sustaining that network requires you to get people to know, like, and trust you. This will take time, patience, and persistence. How can you transform noise into signals and earn the respect of potential book buyers?

  • Delivering value with the information you provide and the information of others you share
  • Being responsive to those who contact you
  • Being creative by offering what only you can provide
  • Being consistent 
  • Separating personal from professional communications by having a fan page on Facebook and a personal address on Twitter
  • Balancing the time you devote to social media with your other efforts 

The more valuable you make yourself to people, the less you will have to sell what you create. Your online community will know that your books will be worth their time and money, and worth letting their online community know about.

What Social Media Won’t Replace

Social media can enrich your life, but it can’t replace

  • Writing books that deliver
  • Meeting you; readers want both kinds of connections, and the relationships that your books will lead to will be best enjoyed in person
  • All of the other growing number of  ways you can connect with readers online that I’ve mentiond before, including: a blog, posting to blogs, articles or short stories, videos, podcasts, and a Web site
  • All of the ways you can connect with readers off-line such as talks, teaching, other events, bookstore and media appearances
  • The private pleasures of experiencing your books in whatever form works best for your readers around the world:

              * the feel, smell, and beauty of a well-designed book

              * an audio book or MP3

               * an E-book

                * serialization

 I hope you find the wealth of possibilities for sharing your ideas and getting responses to them inspiring and exhilarating. Someday you’ll wonder how you ever could have lived without them.

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Engaging Your Readers for Life

June 9, 2010

New York is a city where something exciting is going on all the time, most of it unsolved.

–Johnny Carson

Elizabeth and I are back from BookExpoAmerica and meeting editors in New York, and solving the mystery of why we go is easy. May in Manhattan heats up by the end of the month, but it’s a delightful time of year to be in the Big Apple.

The cozy, funky basement apartment we rent in a federal brick building on a quiet, tree-lined street in the West Village makes an enjoyable oasis from which to visit editors, promote our conferences, and meet with friends and family. (We also saw the wonderful production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music with Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta Jones.)

Going to BEA is the only way to get a sense of the state of publishing in one place. In addition to booths on the floor of the huge Javits Center showcasing publishers’ fall books, there are signings, free galleys, talks by authors, and panels on subjects of interest to publishers and booksellers.

Thanks to our marketing director Barbara Santos and the BEA, we had a booth for the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference (November 13-14, 2010; keynoters: Dan Millman and John Robbins; www.sfwritingforchange.org), and the San Francisco Writers Conference (February 18-20, 2011; keynoters: Dorothy Allison and David Morrell; www.sfwriters.org).

BEA was more upbeat this year than last, reflecting the improving economy. Even with 22,000 attendees, the convention is an annual reunion, because there are people, including out-of-New-York editors we only run into at BEA, as well as the unexpected pleasures of meeting people from around the country in a line, at a panel, or at an author breakfast. Booksellers and publishing people are in the business because they want to be, so their shared passion unites them as members of the family of the book.

Attending BEA, at least once, is a valuable experience for writers. It gives you a perspective you can’t get elsewhere on the business and the enormous flow of books into which yours will merge.

When we first went in the late sixties, it was held in the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. on the steamy Memorial Day Weekend. The holidays have always been the most profitable time of year for booksellers, so publishers used the convention to promote their fall books. Publishers had book jackets spread out on tables and special offers for  booksellers who ordered at the convention. I remember the air conditioning failing, but it was a bustling, relatively small event that gave independent booksellers the chance to meet with publishers.

The word from this year’s convention that stuck with me and will help you is engagement, because building communities has become as essential as writing, promotion, and having a platform. The web enables you to become engaged with potential book buyers who see whatever you choose to send forth into cyberspace: your site, your blog, your articles or short stories, your videos, your podcasts, and your profile and comments in social media and elsewhere.

Engaging a growing community of people you want to read your books is one of the web’s greatest opportunities for writers. Go get engaged. Your readers are waiting for you. Some of them will become life-long fans.