On Networking & Social Media

Monday, February 20, 2012

DISCLAIMER: I am not and have never been any kind of social media expert. My observations are just that. Observations. 

Last year, in September to be exact, I jumped on a bandwagon at Goodreads. It’s a group which allows Indie authors to meet and help each other with marketing books. I joined, knowing that I probably wouldn’t be able to do what is required, that is, spend more time I don’t have making the rounds on the internet. 

Right now, I’m on Facebook, Linked in (finally) and Twitter. I joined IAN - there are a few of them and I can’t even find which one I joined :O - and the WoMen’s Literary CafĂ© and a few other networks that are supposed to be helping me market my books while I help others market theirs, but again, no dice. Too much going on, you know?

To go back to the business from September, I picked a dozen writers/bloggers from the list and decided to visit each. I read what was posted, left what I thought was a sensible comment and to date, not one person bothered to return my visit. I should amend that. Maybe they did check me out and found nothing to comment on, but I thought that in keeping with the aim of the group (making connections) that it would be a good thing to make those initial links.

Now I know writers have a lot going on. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what I had to do once my book was accepted by a publisher. The Marketing/PR shoe finally dropped when my publisher had a teleconference with all her writers and ran though a list of things we could do to sell books.  Up to that time, I didn’t realize I too had to hawk my books. Silly me.

Since then, I’ve been learning what a difference networking can make to the lonely writer. For many of us, the people we network with become of our friends. I can’t stress enough the importance of having support among the writing crowd.

It’s foolish for the Indie/small press writer to think he/she can exist in a bubble. Sure, we sometimes don’t have a clue as to what to do to sell our work and for people like me,  I just let things slide when I have pressing matters, like a novel that needs to be edited into submission. But over time we can learn so many things from others that we can put into practice.

I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so I’ve read everything I can get my hands on re book marketing, and I also observed what other writers have done.  The number one thing I’ve realized is how important it is to find people of a similar mindset. I’ve learned to:

Develop meaningful relationships – Most, if not all, of my online friendships  have  come from writing networks, taking part in some kind of hop or challenge or just simply visiting other people’s blogs. Even if I don’t visit every day, there are some bloggers I think about every so often.  These friendships extend to email exchanges off the blog that tell me ‘hey, you’ve found a real friend here.’

Give of myself & offer help – even when people don’t ask directly. If a buddy of mine puts out a call to help someone in need, promote a book, or just to stop by and comment, I try to respond. Our presence oftentimes has nothing to do with what we can gain and everything to do with just being there for someone else. What I think of as a small assist has given me unexpected gifts, in that I’ve become part of several groups (including Triberr) through which my work is seen by a lot more eyes. These benefits have come because of the kindness of other bloggers.

Never be afraid to ask for help – Last September, I made my self-publishing debut. In typical fashion, I did nothing to build a hype for that short story collection. I put out an S.O.S. for people to help me with getting the word out and was bowled over by the number of blogger friends who offered to help. I haven’t taken up most of those offers yet – Yes, I’m a slacker – but I know that when I have a need, I can ask and my friends will show up. Sometimes the help I get, eg. awesome covers, outweighs anything I’ve ever done for my buddies. 

I hope I never get to the point where I become so busy that I forget to say howdy to friends, or pay random visitors the courtesy of checking out their digs. Nothing turns me off faster than a blogger who never shares anything of themselves, other than ‘how to’ comments when they respond on their blog. Unless you’re Nora Roberts or Stephen King, when I take the time to visit, I don’t expect to be talking to myself on your blog.
Kinda reminds of the one-sided conversations we have with God, asking for this or that thing, but never really putting our heart into a relationship.

I didn’t mean for this to be an essay, but it’s not my intention to change the way anybody thinks about social media, networking or platform building. The Lord knows I can barely keep up, but the little that I do has given me more than a ten-fold reward.

To me, the key thing is to treat ‘networking’ not as an obligation or something a writer must do to succeed, but as a way of being part of a community and to grow as a writer and a person.

What say you?