Authors and Social Media: Friends or Foe?

Authors get a lot of mixed advice when it comes to social media. Let’s talk about different author approaches and tips and tricks to make social media work for you. In this post, I’m combining notes from two panels.

From the titular panel, Francesca T. Barbini, Gareth Powell, and Georgina Kamsika discussed if social media was our friend… or our foe.

And in Social Media: Tips and Tricks, Brenda Noiseux, Stevie Finegan, Lydia Gittens, and Pablo Defendini shared their experience with us.

Top 3 Things To Know About Social Media

  1. Commit to the platform you’re most comfortable with
    • If you try to do them all — have a team
  2. Pay attention to what you’re looking for: connection or sales
  3. Be yourself. Be authentic.

Should You Have Separate Private and Public Accounts?

As I’ve mentioned before, and with all things writer-related: it depends.

If you have a business or family that you want to keep out of the public eye, it’s a good strategy.

Otherwise, it’s up to personal preference.

Some people don’t, some people can’t — their public life IS their private life, and some people… are glad to know where the split is.

You should look at your profile and see if what appeals to your current friends/followers is what appeals to the audience you want to build for your work. If they’re in alignment, you’re good. If not? You might want to consider a split.

Best Methods To Engage Others

  • Honesty
  • Offering help online
  • Feeding positivity
  • Twitter polls
  • Acting like it’s your own personal pub — and just chat with people
  • Quote and tag people who are talking about you!
  • Note: Things like #authorLifts (twitter hashtags, where you tag people and have a big follow loop thing) are going to find you writers — not readers. It’s a way to game your account. Most of the people on that hashtag are looking for followers, not friends. But! Many writers are also readers. Look to find your community and friends.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

On Instagram? Around 30

On Twitter? Around 3

On Tumblr? Only the 1st 5 show.

5 Tips To Make Twitter More Useful

  1. A tweet stays in a feed for 17 minutes on average. Tweeting every 2 hours (assuming you have something to share) is recommended. More before a big event to up your traction. People see more tweets from those they’ve interacted with recently.
  2. Pin a tweet with your intro/link to your latest book
  3. When you have more than 1000 followers, you’ll need to start making twitter lists to keep track of groups.
    • Suggested lists: Close friends, worklist, local emergency feeds, mentors (people you look up to), BookTwitter, Etc
  4. Curate your list. You don’t have to follow people who don’t interest you, who you don’t think will be interested in your product, your book, your blog. Don’t hesitate to block someone who is trolling you or thinks twitter is a dating site.
  5. NOTE: people don’t know if you’ve muted them. So, if you don’t want to hear them, but don’t want to offend them, this might be the way to go.

3 Facebook Tips

  1. Facebook Ads are more effective than boosts — but pick your target demographic carefully.
  2. Personal pages currently have better reach than author pages, even if you reach the friend limit, people can still follow you.
  3. Facebook is actively throttling crossposts – especially to Patreon or WordPress – it might be best to put the link in the first comment.

7 Newsletter Tips

[If you’ve been following, you might know I both hate email AND have an email newsletter. Some of you are reading this FROM your email!]

A mailing list is something that you own. If Facebook shuts down tomorrow, you could still get your content and news to these followers. ListServes, Myspace, even G+ are gone. Internet communities are never guaranteed.

  1. Email can be time-consuming but can be very rewarding
  2. Try not to send news more than once a month or quarter
  3. Email viewers skew to an older demographic
  4. Mailchimp is highly recommended [Note: that’s what I use!]
  5. Make sure you don’t use words like “freebies” in the title or the email system might dub you ‘spam’
  6. If you send too many emails yourself, the email system might dub you ‘spam’
  7. If you send them out yourself, DO use “BCC” (blind carbon copy), so none of the readers can see the other email addresses — or “Reply All” to them.

3 Snapchat Tips

It’s a way to connect, but not necessarily sell to your target audience. In case you are unfamiliar, it’s a chat program that’s mostly used to share pictures with filters and maybe added text. You can chat back and forth with individuals, spend a single snap to a group of people, or share it publicly as a ‘story’. A story will disappear after it’s been watched.

  1. Younger demographic
  2. Can’t schedule
  3. Stories can reach all of your followers

Stats To Watch

When you start doing social media, there are dozens of numbers for every site you’re working on. Analytics Pages – both for Facebook and Twitter, Youtube has one as well.

  1. Demographics – Currently, facebook is the older audience, instagram/snapchat are younger.
  2. Likes/Click Rates – see which types of posts do better and if there is a timing component. Try different things and see what resonates best with your audience.

Social Media Tools

There are tons of tools for social media. Everyone, from solo artists to corporations are using them.

A few hints on using tools.

  • If you’re going to schedule your social media, you should still comment and interact outside of the scheduled posts.
  • Remember to consider time zones and viewing habits for different platforms.
  • Try to sound just as personal and authentic in the scheduled tweets as you would if you where live posting.

Tools to try

  • TweetDeck – It’s a browser tool, not an app, but you can watch multiple feeds at a time, or a feed based on a single hashtag that’s trending. You can also use it to schedule tweets (like during twitter pitch contests) [I use on occasion.]
  • Unfollow tools are handy
    • Many people follow you, then unfollow as soon as you follow back to boost their own “follower-to-unfollowers” ratio. Making themselves look more popular. They’re users who forget you within a week. Feel free to unfriend them.
  • Hootsuite – great for cross-platform scheduling
  • Picmonkey – photo editing
  • Trello – project management tool [I’ve been trying this intermittently. Mostly when I’m juggling several projects.]
  • Slack – Chat website/app that can share files. Good if you’re coordinating a team
  • Falcon.io – Costs money but is very handy for a campaign
  • Canva – lots of free stock pics (and premium paid ones) [I use for my preview pics]
  • Facebook Groups have scheduling, as do Pages — but pages just made it an annoying option to access that’s easier done on the PC than the phone.
  • Old school – a folder with a bunch of pics, or a list of tweets to share later

4 Ways Social Media is Bad For Authors

Now, before we decide if social media is the answer, let’s acknowledge the downsides.

  1. It’s a huge time sink
  2. It’s so active, your feed is rarely still
  3. When you’re not feeling social — it’s draining. For extroverts, you might find yourself not wanting to go out
  4. You’ll find yourself comparing your progress to other writers’ successes. And that can be very discouraging

Should Authors Do Social Media?

If you don’t want to, don’t. The resentment of being forced to do it will bleed through and you won’t come across as genuine.

It can be a useful way to get to know editors and agents in the field. But remember this is a small field, everyone knows everyone, so be careful who you offend.

If you do, “Look after your name, and your name will become your currency.” Your brand IS your name when you’re a writer. Everything you do will reflect on you. Tweets from 10 years ago regularly come up in the news.

Debate if you want to politicize your career. Many people do. Many people avoid it like the plague. Decide if making a political stand is the right choice for you — and the choice you can live with.

If someone upsets you, and you have thousands of followers, be careful what you say. You don’t want to abuse your power and have all of your followers descend upon some small-time person with maybe 20 followers. You won’t come out clean — you’ll look like a bully.

Are you the type of poster/tweeter who shares rants? Or well-researched articles? Or both?

Only you can decide where you spend your time and energy. And what sort of image you choose to share.


Let me know what your favorite social media platform is and what tools you like!

Let me know if there’s anything I missed! Even with two panels, there was only so much we could cover!

Author Spotlight: Eric Hardenbrook

  • a fan, an author and an artist, usually in that order.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Eric Hardenbrook.

Image may contain: 1 person

Eric lives in central Pennsylvania with his gorgeous wife and daughter. He writes to get the stories out of his head.

When he’s being a fan he helps run Watch The Skies and assists in the publication of their monthly fanzine. He can be found (at least some of the time) at The Pretend Blog.

When not working on those things, Eric enjoys the occasional video or board game and is an old school role player.

Eric, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Ah… pets. I am not a pet person. I have nothing against pets or animals, I am simply not interested in having or dealing with pets.

I don’t freak out, I’m not allergic nor am I scared of pets – I just don’t want one. Yes, I know they’re “cute” or whatever word you’d like to put in there. Yes, I understand the bond that can grow between pets and owners. Yes, I know that statistically people with pets live longer.

I don’t care. I don’t want one.

No, it doesn’t matter how cute they are in your mind. If you’d like to have a pet, good for you. I’m glad you want to have that relationship. I’ll be fine without, thank you very much. Some consider this a short coming on my part, but most accept it and move on.

Being a non pet person DID lead to one of the best compliments I’ve ever had as a writer. It wasn’t phrased like a compliment and I suspect it wasn’t really meant to be one – but I’ll take it. A story of mine came out in Dogs of War as part of the Defending The Future Series from E-spec Books. The stories in the book are about our animal comrades in arms (military science fiction). I was interested in the opinion of somebody who reads a great deal, so I brought my copy of the book to her. She took a few minutes and read the story while I was there. She grinned at a couple of parts. She read it straight through. The part I considered a compliment arrived at the end. She finished the story and said (paraphrasing) “wow, it’s like you really love dogs…”

Most people wouldn’t take that as a compliment, but I write fiction. I like to tell a good story. If you believe it then I have done my job well. The fact that she knows me, knows the fact that I’m not at all interested in animal companions and still thought the story came off like it was written by a true animal lover is all the compliment I needed.

My life is currently petless. It is simpler, if not as happy or as messy.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write genre fiction. I know that’s a broad statement, but it covers things I think. My published work all falls under military science fiction and fantasy/humor at this point, but I love old fashioned sword and sorcery. I have also dabbled in urban fantasy, but that hasn’t really worked out.

As for getting started… I don’t really remember. I know there are lots of authors out there who will tell you about novels they wrote while in middle school and how many reams of paper they’ve got stashed away in a trunk. That’s not me. I have always loved telling stories, and somewhere along the way I figured out that you could write all those things down. My first story was published in 2006. I’d say I’ve been bumping around trying to make this work for around 20 years now total. I’m sure to be an ‘overnight success’ any minute now.

I hear ya on genre fiction. Growing up, I barely paid attention to the fat there was anything else. I’m so glad you figured out you could write your stories down, along with the rest of your fans!

What do you like to read?

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” and I was off to the races. If it was fantasy I wanted it. I grabbed it and devoured it. In the many years since then I have grown and my reading tastes have changed. I have learned to identify what I like about the stories I enjoy the most, but that’s more about character and structure than genre. These days I read a little of everything. I’ve got a translated horror novel, a comedy, a fantasy and a non-fiction book all in progress right now.

Fantasy’s home for me, too. But, there’s so much out there.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know

First, uh… stuff I ‘know’ isn’t that exciting. I want to believe it is, but my friends and relatives have convinced me that construction specifications are not exiting at all.

Second, who knows about space flight, sorcerer spell casting or alien biology? It’s not possible for you to ‘know’ that.

Third, and I think most importantly, in writing what you know you run the risk of info dumping your thesis paper into your story. I recently read a story where the author essentially lifted a huge amount of historic research and dropped it into the story with the names filed off and replaced for the fantasy setting. It was not fantastic.

Don’t write what you know, write a crazy amazing story!

So true! You can filter in what you know of people and emotions and logic. But, to make your world work and spell out every step in excrutiating detail? It’s really something that’s better hand-waved.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Read.

It’s vital. It matters. Look at authors you love and ask yourself how they do what they do. Read your favorite genre. Read outside your genre. Read non-fiction… just READ. The more exposure you have to the written word the more your mind will expand, filling your imagination with all sorts of amazing cross sectional material.

Indubitably. It’s the rare writer indeed who didn’t start off as a reader. It’s our first love. Many of us write simply to find out how this story in our head ends, since no one else can tell us. When it comes to reading myself, I’ve taken a step back from writing every spare second, and started tackling my massive to-read pile. It’s not just aspirational.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

In fact, I know a cool thing you can read! My latest short story is going to be published in the final edition of The Realm Beyond from Fortress Publishing. I also am thrilled to have a story in In Harm’s Way – more military science fiction from E-spec Books. There are some great stories out there.

If you’re into fan based stuff, you should also check out Watch The Skies. We publish a fanzine (for real – we’re Hugo eligible) every month other than December and we’re always looking for contributors.

Down the Rabbit Hole: The Appeal of Portal Fantasy

Portal fantasy has always been popular. From tales of fairy circles to Narnia, we’ve always enjoyed watching people from familiar places enter fantastic realms.

At the titular panel at WorldCon2019, Seanan McGuire, Vina Prasad, Genevieve Cogman, and Kathryn Sullivan discussed what it was about portal fantasy that kept people coming back for more.

What Is Portal Fantasy?

In a portal fantasy, the main character is transported from our world to another. This allows us to see the new world through the eyes of someone with our context. (NOTE: The Japanese version is called: Isekai )

Usually, the protagonist is either young and/or dissatisfied with their life and looking for an escape.

But, the portal to go home has to be hard to reach. If it’s like flipping a button, it’s just a story about someone who lives in two (or more) worlds.

But aren’t portal fantasies just big fairytales?

Well, while fairytales are a subset of folklore, in those, you know where the portal world is and how to access it. And you choose to go there (or at least risk it).

Portal fantasies, you stumble into, and you have to find out the rules as you go along.

Introductions to Portal Fantasies

  • Most of the 80s cartoons
  • Doctor Who
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Digimon
  • Narnia
  • own daydreams
  • John Carter of Mars
  • Irish Mythology
  • Dante’s Inferno

Favorite Portal Fantasy Tropes

  • When the main character tries to introduce something they know from their own world that seems obvious… and then finds out WHY things were the way they were.
  • The kids who go through the portal are never the cool or popular kids. It’s the weird kids. And? Whatever the kids’ weirdness is, that weirdness is the reason they succeed in the portal world.

What is the Appeal of Portal Fantasy?

  • Wish fulfillment – one day, as a kid, you wake up and realize that you’re not actually going to become a unicorn/space princess
  • Being the one with the answers – you go into the fantasy world knowing so much more about technology and mechanicals possibilities, that you can actually change society.
  • Different expectations – in a fantasy world, they can value something that is a detriment, or that nobody cares about in the real world
  • Teaching the value of home/what you already have – Sometimes, home sucks and you’re better off elsewhere. But, for most of us, being reminded to look at what we have helps us see, with all our struggles and issues, it’s not that bad.

Are you a fan of portal fantasy?

What are your favorite portal fantasies?
How do people get them right… and how do people get them wrong?

Let me know in the comments below and join me next week, for more writing tips and writerly musings
.

Author Spotlight: R.J. Garcia

  • a writer, wallflower, and Hufflepuff, who wants a re-do at the sorting hat. She is a wife and proud mom, too.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to R.J. Garcia.

R.J. Garcia earned her MSW and worked with foster kids, and the geriatric population. Writing has been her other great love.  Although faced with the challenge of dyslexia, she is publishing her second novel, The Call of Death with The Parliament House.

R.J., thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

In that case, why not go big. An elephant. I loved Rosie from Water from Elephants. I wouldn’t really want to keep a majestic animal like that as a pet, but it would be awesome to have her stop by and hang out and bond with her. They are such loyal and intelligent animals. In real life I collect some elephant figurines.

If I was going to choose a fantasy pet, I’d choose Hedwig, Harry Potter’s lovable snowy owl.

Both are excellent choices! You’re not the first to dream of an elephant. I’m sure you’d have a momma certain it can still curl up in your lap. And an owl-friend/companion would be so lovely.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I had a love/hate relationship with reading because it was a struggle for me as a kid. Yet I loved the covers and longed to escape in books. I remember reading The Outsiders by SE Hinton in the 8th grade. It was the first book that I completely fell into. I started reading all kind of books and loved how the protagonist didn’t quite fit in like me. It was like I found my people. After I was also writing short stories on cheap notebook paper. I have written stories ever since.

Oh wow! You really had to struggle to get into something that so many of us take for granted. Fortunately for all of us, and all your fans (present and future), you knew your passion and persevered despite your challenges!

What do you like to read?

I love to read suspenseful books and coming of age stories. Some horror reads and  YA, too. My Heart and other Black Holes was an incredible story. I also like to dive into some fantasy. I love the Harry Potter series and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I don’t read romance as a genre but need to have a little romance in the books I read, or a strong friendship to fully get into it. I love to discover some great Indie books from small publishers, or self-published reads sometimes. 

That’s a lot of what I enjoy (although, I sometimes do full-on romances), so now I’m adding a book or two to my to read pile.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Outline

A physical outline doesn’t work for me. I like to have a fluid outline in my brain. If it is written down, I feel more pressured.

Ah… so you’re a plantser, like me! A light outline, almost more in my head, and the willingness to ignore it to get the story out. #plantsersForLife

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Use beta-readers.

Beta readers are so important. I need someone to read my stories and always benefit from constructive input. Shout out to my teenage daughter, Sabrina, brother Kevin and fellow writer, Christine Dwivedi who read  everything I write.

Definitely! Having a second set of eyes (or third) to let you know that the story is coming across the way you intended. To ask all the details that you thought you’d put in. All of that is crucial for a writer.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

My debut novel, Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced is available wherever books are sold. I have a short story about The Axeman of New Orleans in a horror anthology titled, Masks from Filles Vertes Publishing. It will be released in time for Mardi Gras. I’m excited to announce that my new novel, The Call of Death hit shelves today.

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Priestly crashes into a terrifying future. She wakes up in her dorm room now knowing the name of an infamous serial killer, Norman Biggs. He will attack her in the future unless she and her three male friends can change fate.

Hannah is a suntanned, obsessive-compulsive California girl dropped off at an English boarding school by her celebrity mother. Hannah has difficulty understanding algebra, let alone her increasingly dark visions. Rory Veer is Hannah’s smart, easy-going and romantically challenged friend and school crush. When Norman Biggs unexpectedly appears in Rory’s reality, terror is set in motion. It is Rory who must acknowledge a past he has denied if the mystery is to be unraveled.

Pick up your copy today:
Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | Apple

In the Background: Class in YA Fiction

In the real world, the social class we come from can have far-reaching consequences into our lives: from the jobs we hold, to the things that worry us, to our long-lasting health. Getting class, and its consequences right, can be tricky to do.

In the titular panel at WorldCon2019, Marieke Nÿkamp, Avery Delany, Caroline Hooton, and Victoria Lee discussed the ways their class upbringing compared to their current social class, and the implications inherent in that.

How The Classes Differ

Most of us are not rich. But the differences between working class and middle class can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention.

When the working class is even seen by those outside it, it’s typically through a political lens: either the lazy bums, looking for a handout. Or the poor, unfortunate who needs charity.

Working class

  • Social mobility is rare
  • You don’t always know where your next meal is coming from
  • Your parents are more likely to need help with bills than be able to help you out in case of emergency (groceries, sudden bills, job loss, ER visits)
  • One bad week is the difference between a rented home and life on the streets
  • Accents and expected behaviors are different — and failure to adhere can cause people to discount you
  • Attendance at events that can help your career can easily be beyond your financial means
  • Health conditions, because of inadequate health care, not enough time to rest, and/or physically demanding jobs
  • Transport is either public, rides from friends, or a car that isn’t in great shape
  • Don’t always have hot water. Or electricity.
  • Accent and speech patterns are looked down on, and seen as something to hide when not home
  • Diverse

Middle Class

  • Social mobility — down or up (at least as far as upper-middle class) is normal.
  • When things are bad, you eat cheap non-nutritious meals
  • If something goes wrong, your parents can usually help. (Car repairs, rent, bail, or at least a bag of groceries)
  • Far more homogeneous

How Is Class Represented in YA?

Often, we’ll see either the aristocracy, the middle-class, or the temporarily poor. Almost always the main characters are able-bodied and cis-gendered (their gender matches what they were declared at birth).

The ending or resolution almost always involves elevating the main character out of the working class. Implying strongly that the character growth and work deserves an “improvement”. That the working class is not something to be proud of, to strive for.

And? After one or two snafus, the ‘uplifted’ character seems to fit in seamlessly. Not finishing their meals because they’re ‘stuffed’.

If there is a diverse character, they’re usually not intersectional. They’re not disabled AND working class AND a person of color. They have one token diverse trait.

Who Is Writing? And For Whom?

Books in general and YA in specific is written by those with the time and energy to do so. Books are sold by those who have the money and energy to promote their works. Leading to very few working class authors.

Publishers look at past sales and, if they don’t see any, they assume there isn’t a market and don’t buy working class author’s works. After the success of The Hate U Give, there’s been an upswing in more working class books. But, they’re seeing them as a niche, as an issues driven book. And publishers typically only acquire one book per niche per publishing cycle.

What agents and editors see as a neutral environment, in an industry run on unpaid internships and publishing companies that are a net loss, labor of love, isn’t. People without a social net don’t even have a chance.

Many of the guest speakers from working class backgrounds, only made it to WorldCon thanks to grants and school funding. Others were denied Visas, so couldn’t even be here for the discussion. Money talks, and without it, you’re left on the outside, not even able to look in.

Worldwide, there are millions of people without access to education, much less to libraries. Think of all the stories we’re missing, because those people never had the chance to share?

How Can You Help Working Class or Diverse Writers?

How can you help mitigate the class segregation inherent in the publishing industry?

  • Share their work
  • Promote their work
  • Leave room at the table for them
  • Buy their work
  • Borrow from the library
  • Review them on Amazon
  • Contribute to their Patreon
  • Donate money to con scholarships
  • Read more diverse works
  • Host a writing workshop for them
  • More paid internships — especially remote ones
    • New York and London are expensive and challenging, even for people with money and connections.

What YA stories have you read that explored class? What did they get right? And what did they get wrong?

Do you have any other suggestions on how to help encourage diverse writers?