As we all know, being a writer … or really doing any profession, has changed a lot in recent years.
Social media has turned our world upside down, allowing us to share our thoughts with the world immediately, and without censorship. As fans, or readers, Twitter, Facebook and blogs give us a whole new arena of access to our favourite stars and authors, and as authors we have various new forums in which to broadcast our ideas and showcase our work.
I’ve talked before about the benefits of community offered by social media, but recently I’ve come across some media which has made me question exactly how much, as an unpublished author, I ought to be using the social media.
I guess I’ve become comfortable in my role as is …. I think I can talk in a relatively useful and knowledgeable way about life as an unpublished author, and so that topic has formed the basis of my blog. Occasionally I’ve used the blog to showcase samples of my writing, and the opening chapters of all three of my complete novels can be found on the site, but other than that, as an unpublished, and currently unsigned, author, I haven’t really felt confident to do much more with the site.
As for my Twitter account, I mainly use Twitter to publicise links to new blog posts, and the only thing I use Facebook for with regards to my writing is to draw my friends’ attention to any new posts I’ve written. I follow people on Twitter I don’t personally know, and likewise am followed by people I don’t know, but Facebook is a site I use exclusively to communicate with people I know in person, outside of my life as ‘C-C Lester, the author’.
Now, I’m not saying any of this is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, because one of the main things about plotting a career as an author is that there is no ‘set route’ to success. It’s not a graduate recruitment milk round role. You don’t have three interviews and a vacation scheme and land a £50k job! Everyone’s path to publication, success, notoriety, or whatever it is they are craving, is completely different, and I think that’s one of the things which most appealed about the career. However, having recently come across a fellow Young Adult author , I’ve found myself wondering if I ought to be doing more!
Very recently I stumbled upon another unpublished author in her twenties, however her approach to social media and publicity is very different to mine. So different, in fact, that I’ve always thought some of the approaches she’s using were better suited to life ‘PBD’ – Post Book Deal!
I guess the question is whether publicity can help you secure a book deal, because as an unpublished author, signed to a well-renowned literary agent, that’s the next hurdle.
Do publishers Google a new author when a manuscript appears on their desks? Does he or she search out the author’s Twitter, read her blog, and scrutinise how many Facebook fans she has? Or do they just base their decisions on the text itself?
I guess the traditionalist in me assumed all the publisher would be interested in would be my writing, and me ‘as a package’ – ie my age, my background, the story behind my writing, my marketability.
But does my Social Media presence affect all that?
I suppose I’ve always seen social media as an extension of your ‘author package’ – something you apply the package to, rather than a part of the package itself. But perhaps in today’s society the lines have shifted, and social media can be as much a part of the package as your academic background, background story and general appeal as a person.
If you can write a blog that brings in hundreds of subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of page hits, or update your Twitter regularly and interestingly enough that thousands of strangers follow your ever 140 words, then perhaps this can add to your marketability as an author. It can help you become the whole package.
The author in question, who I stumbled upon this week, Retweets posts from publishing houses and book devoted websites. She @mentions publishers and publicists in her comments, drawing their attention to her work, and regularly demands strangers visit her personal website and ‘Fan’ her on Facebook. She even goes so far as to canvass local schools, promoting her currently unsigned books, and gaining fans before she even has a finished product.
Is this genius, or simply jumping the gun?
As unpublished authors, are we audacious to claim we have ‘fans’, and to actively campaign for readerships? Are we being intrusive and ignoring etiquette by contacting publishers and publicists so brazenly? And should these be things we ought to wait to do ONCE we have book deals …
Or by sitting on our hands, and thinking all we’re good for are blogs about waiting to get published, are we missing a beat, and stalling in the starting blocks?
Let me know what you think!