The writing life is a lot different in 2013 than it was in the past. You could sit down at your typewriter (remember those?), work away, send your manuscript off and then your publisher would handle much of your publicity. But that was then, and this is now: Blog hops, Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook pages, Google+, forums, email lists, and a whole list of other important services that you “should” be on. When you get right down to it, all the work can be downright overwhelming. But, fear not, let’s go through some helpful steps to keep you on target and get you better connected.
If you’re not signed up on LinkedIn, head on over and sign up for a free account. LinkedIn is a great place to start building your network one contact at a time. In July 2012, more than 175 million people had created accounts on the service. Sign up for an account, put your online resume there and then start looking up people to connect with. Send them invites and begin networking. It’s easy to do and free. The point here is that it’s a good idea to strengthen your online rolodex so that not only can you have easy access to the people (writers, editors, cover artists, copy editors, etc.) you work with on a regular basis but you’re willing to show the world who you have in your network. That’s important because when people do a Google search on you, one of the first results that will pop up is your LinkedIn account.
Make certain that your profile is public and that you have a good listing of the type of work that you do. Breakdown your day job responsibilities and role as well as your writing experience. That way you’ll have a wide range of connections available. After your profile is created, you can list projects you’ve worked on, associations and groups you belong to and begin recommending people you’ve worked with over the years.
Putting together your profile is going to take time and isn’t a set it once and forget type of task. Each time you complete a project, go back into your account and update your profile, network with more people and share more of what you’re up to as you’re working. Having an updated profile will not only help your writing career, but it’ll also help you with your day job in case you’re in the market for finding another job.
The Power of Twitter
Twitter is an amazing resource and is well worth your time and energy in getting to know. Twitter has an estimated 500 million users who have accounts with more than 200 million active users. Many people are often overwhelmed with using Twitter, but there’s a secret to it: You’ll never be able to read all the tweets out there. Instead of seeing Twitter as a service that you’re trying to get your arms around, why not think of it this way: Twitter is an ever-flowing river. When you make time (more on that in a bit), simply put your foot in and feel the water flowing by. When you’ve had enough, step out and move on.
Again, you’ll not be able to read all the tweets you might want, but if you focus and work on engaging a core group of writers, you’ll do fine. Start small and build up over time. To begin, create a Twitter account, put your headshot there and a catchy few lines for your profile. If you’ve a personal website, list that link, if not, then drive people to your LinkedIn public profile.
After your Twitter account is created, visit Hootsuite and create an account there. Hootsuite allows you to organize tweets and enables you to best keep track of conversations you’re interested in. Not sure how to use Hootsuite, then follow these instructions. The purpose of using Hootsuite is simple: Create different streams (columns of tweets) that you can easily follow on your smartphone or through logging into Hootsuite via the web. Here are some recommendations on what type of columns to set up:
- Fellow writers you follow on Twitter (not sure of who to follow, then think of a writer’s name, search for him/her on Google. Example: “John Doe Twitter”
- Follow readers on Twitter and engage with them. Let them know about the writing you’re doing, when a new book is coming out or share with them your writing process (picture of your work desk, type of music you listen to while writing, etc.). Be creative and share with people.
- Lists. On LinkedIn there are your connections and on Twitter there are lists. A list is a public or private listing of various people you wish to follow. Here are instructions on how to create Twitter lists. What type of lists might you wish to have? You could create a list of writers you wish to follow, readers, clients, celebrities, politicians, publishers, companies–whatever you can think of (if they have a Twitter account of course).
By creating these streams in Hootsuite, you’ll have columns of tweets that you can easily scroll through. In the screenshot below, you can see that I follow the hashtag #amwriting, followers of the TV show “Once Upon a Time” and have a column that shows me any time someone on Twitter mentions me. You can have up to ten streams on Hootsuite and can scroll left and right through those columns.
Managing Your Time
A quick word of advice: Relax. Building a network takes time. The advice in this article will help you get started. After you’ve been doing this work for some time, you could choose to expand to Goodreads and network with other readers, blog hops (with the other writers you’re talking to on Twitter) and learn how best to manage your writing career. The trick is to find a healthy balance between networking, writing and living your life. That difficult to find work/life balance. It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible. I would recommend setting up priorities in your life:
- Family and friends
- Work (full-time job)
- Writing (second full-time job)
This might sound too simplistic, but it’s important to schedule time to write and to network. You also cannot work all the time or your family and friends won’t be too happy with you. When it comes to time management, carve out a small bit of time throughout the week. The importance of networking is to build up your own personal portfolio over time and to be friendly. Engage with people. Promote other writers’ books, share the articles they write on your Twitter feed or send them a quick note when you see that they’re down in in the dumps. With readers, be human. “Buy my book now because it’s on sale” isn’t a tweet that you set up five times a day in Hootsuite and think that that’s going to sell your book. It won’t. Trust me. The rule of thumb is to send 9 tweets out about other people or topics you’re interested in and one to promote your work.
Think of your online presence as a conversation. You’ll not be able to monopolize the discussion, but will need to listen and respond as a real person. You’re not a spam bot, but are building your brand through the type of content you share online. Just remember to be accessible. Help others out and they’ll help you in the future. Navigating the online services to network does take time, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Be sure to look me up and say hello.