DIY: Expanding Your Online Presence
July 27, 2011 by Jon.Peters
Let’s face it: everyone from your great aunt Debbie to your co-worker in the next cubicle has a book to sell these days. In an age of media oversaturation, what’s the best way to stand out as an author among such stiff competition? Here are some tips on how to go beyond Facebook or Twitter to grow your audience.
1. Start a blog. Writers should be writing. In our heavily connected generation, any writer can create an online portfolio available to anyone at any time. Whether it’s Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress, the best way to get the word out about your writing is to write. Of course, everyone has their favorites. Jenny Yang, a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer, uses Tumblr “because it’s quick and relatively visual.” Tumblr may be worth a second look; the network of blogs hit record numbers this year, clocking more than 250 million visits a day according to Quantcast.
A blog has become much more than an online diary. Writer Lara Sterling, creator of the blog Your Plot Thickens, advises to keep the posts relevant and informative: “Don’t just write about yourself; you have to ask questions from your audience, or offer tips, as I do on my blog.” These samples will whet the appetites of your audience and attract new visitors to your site.
2. Reach out to other writers. Blogs are only a first step. Find other writers with an online presence and comment on their blogs. More often than not, they will reciprocate. Offer to write guest posts. Sterling writes that “I do interchanges where I write about other authors’ blogs and writing, then they might list my button [a link to her site], or write about me.”
There are social networks for writers that facilitate finding peers. Writer Paul Servini, who lives in the tiny French village of Dole, uses Goodreads.com to network with other writers and fans. “I am part of an online writing community and this really is a big help,” he says. He has reached out to writers from around the globe through the site, which provides more than simply book discussions.
3. Target your audience. Kendra Ramirez, a social media expert from Cincinnati, Ohio, offers this advice: “It always comes down to audience.” She adds that writers should ask themselves “What are you trying to accomplish?” For example, if you only write horror novellas, find the best vampire message boards. If you are a poet, seek out the popular haiku Twitter feeds to follow. Discover your niche and you can be sure to create a base of support for your work.
4. Nobody likes a spammer. Be careful. There is a fine line between growing an audience and spamming strangers. Make clear that the fans on your mailing list can opt out of your emails. Sterling writes that “I have found with my writing workshops that I was getting criticized as a spammer for posting stuff about the classes as they are for profit.” Remember, if you do not know the person you are emailing, it is probably spam.
5. The best social networks exist offline. Social media guru Ramirez confessed, “I don’t grow my business on social media.” It is the face-to-face relationships that count. Ramirez remarked that writers “are so good at what they are doing in creative mode…but not networking.” Find events in your area where other writers and readers congregate. The benefits of fans on Facebook or likes on Tumblr pale in comparison to human interaction with other writers, editors and agents. Even in this time of dominating online communication, shaking hands doesn’t hurt.
Visit Paul Servini’s page on Goodreads.com.
Listen to Lara Sterling’s informative radio show, which is designed for writers.
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About The Author:
Jonathan Peters is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in history. In addition to inReads.com, he is a contributor to LAist.com, as well as Next Step magazine. He blogs about screenwriting at http://alternatewrites.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter @jonpeters87