Social Media for Writers-building an online platform

image © Rawpixel via shutterstock.com

Daunting? Yes, a bit. What I expected? No. Worth it? Definitely.

This is not meant to be a definitive guide. It’s a look at what’s worked for me with regard to promoting my writing. If it helps you become better informed for doing the same, then that’s great. But I present it in the hope it’s interesting for its own sake.

Five years ago I published my first novel, Change of Life. But of course that wasn’t the end of the process of being a published author. It was merely the end of the beginning. The next stage was marketing.

I’d written it to be read. I wanted readers. The book was available as a paperback and as an e-book. It was available to buy online and in the few bookshops I’d managed to persuade to stock it.

But if nobody except me and my nearest and dearest knew the book existed, let alone anything about it, then it wasn’t going to be bought or read.

So how to get it noticed?

The advice on writers’ street was to get onto the social networks. Authors, it was said, needed a strong online presence. They needed a social media/online platform. Now, up until 2010, a platform to me was where you boarded and exited a train. So, I found myself at the foot of a learning slope of at least Ben Nevis proportions, if not quite Everest. And the slope would lead me to this virtual platform.

It was a bit daunting at first, but I did my research, assembled the necessary kit and set off.

EXPLORATION PHASE:

image © Rawpixel via shutterstock.com
image © Rawpixel via shutterstock.com

Although I was relatively tech savvy, I knew nothing of Facebook and its siblings. I’d heard of them of course, but being of a certain age, i.e. over fifty, they weren’t my natural habitats and the landscapes were totally unfamiliar.

WEBSITE: With my husband’s help, I got myself a domain name, a web hosting package and I set up a website. I furnished the site with home page and an about page. I included information about my writing and my novel and where to buy it.

image © 360b via shutterstock.com
image © 360b via shutterstock.com

BLOG: My first solo expedition was blogging. I chose WordPress as the host. I was impressed by both the clarity and ease of use, and the level of support it offered. I still am. So I claimed a spot and set up my online base camp there.

image © Gustavo Frazao via shutterstock.com
image © Gustavo Frazao via shutterstock.com

TWITTER: From there I visited Twitter. Nobody from my real life was on there and the land of 140 characters was completely alien. But gradually I got the hang of it. I followed people and people followed me. I got to know the etiquette, found some good Twitter mentors and some lovely Twitter friends amongst the other writers who are on there. I set up a link from my blog to Twitter, and from Twitter to my blog and moved easily between the two.

image © Twinsterphoto via shutterstock.com
image © Twinsterphoto via shutterstock.com

FACEBOOK: Encouraged by all of this, I then ventured out into the wilds of Facebook. I befriended the members of my friends and family who were already there and some of the writers who I ‘knew’ from my pre-publication days when I hung out at the writing peer review website You Write On. I also joined some Facebook writers’ groups and set up an author page. And, as I’d done with Twitter I linked my Facebook presence to my blog.

GOODREADS: It wasn’t until 2014 that I ‘decided’ to join Goodreads. I was sort of gently coerced there by another writer whose book I’d reviewed on my blog. This writer has a bit of a presence on Goodreads and was very keen that I post my review of her book there.

PINTEREST:  I enlisted on Pinterest around three years ago. This was following a suggestion by my daughter that I could make up storyboards of characters, settings, and plots solely for my own use.

LINKEDIN and GOOGLEPLUS: I have never visited either but both keep sending me emails to tell me I’ve friends there who want to hook up.

image © mama_mia via shutterstock.com
image © mama_mia via shutterstock.com

 

SETTLING DOWN – MY SOCIAL MEDIA HOMES:

So where did I eventually settle? Where did I chose to lay foundations and build my platform? Well,  it’s been a slow but steady journey of exploration. But I would say that five years on, and with another novel published along the way, I now have my own, well-established platform access points. There are two of them and they are here on the blog and my Twitter feed.

WHY MY BLOG?

As my own knowledge about blogging has increased, so too, I hope, has the quality of the blog. And you know what? I love it. I love WordPress, its friendly knowledgeable and helpful staff and its real community feel. I love posting. I love tinkering with the look and the feel of my blog. I love interacting with visitors and fellow bloggers, ­­most of whom I’ve never met, but who I count as friends.

I just love the whole blogging thing. It may have started out as a way of shouting into the darkness about my marvellous novel, but it very quickly became about so much more. It became my own personal magazine where I could express my news, views and current preoccupations. Although I have links to my novels in the sidebar, I only wrote posts about them at the time of their publication. The blog is not about selling, but it is about visibility and connecting.

And even if I never publish another book (which I hope isn’t the case) I will continue to blog for its own sake.

BLOG vs WEBSITE

My website, however is no more. It proved, for me and my lack of expertise at the time at least, to be too difficult to use. Adding and updating material seemed ridiculously complicated and, besides, nobody ever visited it – or if they did, there didn’t appear to be any way for them to contact me via the site. BUT time has moved on, so has website design, and so has my knowledge, so never say never. I may yet set up a website separate to the blog and make that the place that is exclusively about my books.

WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT TWITTER?

Being on Twitter is similar in effect to doing the blog. What began as a way of marketing my books, quickly became so much more. I now have a supportive network of other writers who all tweet and retweet for each other. Besides writers I also have tweet contact with all sorts of people, some of whom are readers of my books, but most of whom are not. Being on Twitter has gone way beyond shouting out ‘buy my book’ – a mistake lots of authors new to Twitter make – and is about networking in general. It’s about engaging with other people and giving and receiving all sorts of support, advice and encouragement. By using Twitter lists I’m able to keep the whole thing manageable and productive.

My blog is linked to Twitter so that when I put up a new post an alerting tweet also goes out.

As with the blog, I count several twitter friends as real friends even although we haven’t met.

FACEBOOK IS NOT FOR ME:

As far as promoting my writing, Facebook is not for me. I’ve tried it and it was just frustrating. I was bombarded by other writers wanting me to shout about their books, but who rarely reciprocated. My author page was full of other authors – again they just wanted publicity for themselves in the main – but no readers. So I’ve taken down the author page and keep Facebook strictly for real world friends and family. I visit less and less and would probably leave if it wasn’t that it’s a good way for me to keep in touch with my nieces and nephews who are scattered across the globe.

OTHER ONLINE PLACES:

I couldn’t get along with GOODREADS at all. It seems unnecessarily complicated and not worth the effort. I like PINTEREST but so far have just done it for fun although I’m coming round to exploring its possibilities for book marketing and publicity.

TO SUM UP:

So, what advice would I offer to authors setting up their online platform?

Take your time exploring.

Choose the networks that work for you and concentrate on them.

Be patient. Relationships worth having take time and effort to develop.

Share stuff about yourself and your wider life. Don’t just shout ‘buy my book’.

Return favours and support that others give to you.

 

And, ironically having said all that, I think I’ve found most of my small but loyal readership by word of mouth and by being in the ‘also bought’ bit on Amazon when readers are buying books that are in a similar vein to mine. That’s not to say social media makes no difference to your popularity as an author, but I think it’s more about visibility and relationships with readers rather than it having a direct bearing on sales.

 

And Finally:

There is a massive amount of advice out there on how authors, both traditionally and self-published, can, and indeed should, use social media to promote their work. A lot of it is good advice, but there’s a lot that’s really more about the person offering the advice raising their own profile, or trying to get money out of the unwary and less knowledgeable. There are many self-appointed experts. So do your own research, make informed choices and do what feels right for you.

Good advice and information can be found at:

  • The Alliance for Independent Authors website.
  • The B.R.A.G. website here. They have just done an analysis of how readers and authors find each other online.
  • Pewinternet here have also carried out research on the use of different social media in general, including by gender and age group in the USA.I found this particularly interesting as I suspect my target readership are not big social media users.

So there you have it? I’d be interested to hear your experiences of using social media to promote your books. Please do leave your comments.

 

 

Goodbye Write Enough, Hello Put it in Writing

English: A screenshot of the WordPress admin i...
English: A screenshot of the WordPress admin interface. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The blog and I have been on a four month sabbatical but we’ll be back very soon.

The break has given me pause for thought about how I want to proceed. My reasons for blogging have changed since I began almost four years ago.

At the beginning of 2010 I had just published my first novel. The word on Author Street was that a blog was essential for publicising myself and my writing. So I followed a self-compiled ‘Blogging for Dummies’ course, took a look at how some other folks did it, researched various blog hosting sites and plumped for WordPress – it’s simply the best.

It’s been not so much a steep learning curve as a vertical learning cliff.

I’ve posted almost every week until this break. I’ve blogged not just about writing but on lots of topics. I’ve done book reviews, interviews and had several guest bloggers. I’ve gathered followers and some have been kind enough to leave comments.

Recently I’ve been reading WordPress’s excellent tutorial posts on everything from how to attract readers to your blog, how to optimise your profile on search engines and how to customise your site – to name but a few.

And now I’m ready for a fresh approach. Out with the old…

So there’s a new look, a new name and a different format for the blog.

I’m going over to a magazine look and feel. I intend to publish monthly on the first Sunday of each month. Each ‘issue’ will contain posts on different topics. There will be both short and essay length items. Subjects will range through the personal, the political, the natural world, reviews, writing tips, and updates on my own writing projects. And I still plan to have guest items and interviews.

All my previous posts will still be there and I’ll probably reblog some of the most popular ones from time to time.

I hope all my loyal readers will approve and will continue to visit and I look forward to welcoming some new visitors. Thanks to everyone who has ever dropped in and I hope you like what I’ve done with the place…

Inaugural post will be Sunday 3rd November.

Come along, dress informal and BYOB.

Shock Discovery – Only Twenty Five Letters in the Alphabet

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted for the last three weeks. I was felled by the flu. But all better now – and it’s nice to be back. Regular readers will also note that I’m posting on a Monday! Yes – revolutionary, I know. Up until now blog day has always been a Tuesday. But for reasons I won’t bore you with blog day is going to be a Monday for the foreseeable.

I was at a bit of a loss what to post about so I went to WordPress’s Daily Prompt suggestion for today. The suggestion was to write a post entitled Twenty-Five Letters. The idea being that the post contains all but one of the letters of the English alphabet. I thought this was quite a neat suggestion – and I also decided to make the content about the Twenty-Five letters – so here goes.

Alphabets
Alphabets (Photo credit: Clicks Clicks)

Twenty-Five Letters

For the last thirty-four years, I’ve been teaching children to read. In my job as a primary school teacher, I have taught all ages of children– from four- year-olds to twelve-year-olds. Some children find it easier than others to decipher the squiggles we call letters and to put them together as words. But most of them do learn to read – even those with dyslexia. I’m very proud of the fact that in all the time I’ve been doing it, I have only failed to get one child functionally literate. That particular child had the most severe form of dyslexia I’ve ever come across. And I’ve taught in several schools in all sorts of areas – including some where the levels of social and economic deprivation were severe.

For the last eight years I have been a support teacher. A lot of time is spent helping those children who are struggling to read.

I still marvel at the human brain’s capacity to read. It’s a mystical, magical process. I love taking children from being complete non-readers to that moment when they recognise a word on sight. For some it’s a relatively painless process, for others it’s more of a slog. But for all of them we begin with the letters.

English: Alphabet pasta
English: Alphabet pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although there are officially twenty-six letters in our alphabet, there are only twenty-five sounds – because two of them sound exactly the same – those are ‘c’ and ‘k’ – not  ‘cee’ and’ kay’ but the sound they make in, for example, car and kite.

And it’s vitally important to distinguish between the letter names and the letter sounds when you’re teaching someone to read. I always teach the sounds first and leave the alphabetic names until later. This is because if a child is going to try to phonetically decode a simple consonant-vowel-consonant word such as cat, then it is the sounds of the letters that need to be known. Saying ‘see-ay-tee’ isn’t going to give any clues as to what the word says.

The first sounds I teach – all on day one – are ‘a’, ‘p’,‘t’ and ‘n’. This is because after learning just four sounds, the children can be encouraged to read them in words – for example – pat, pan, ant, tap, and tan. Then we (daily) add more letters in groups of three or four – always in combinations that will lead to immediate word-building.

New bed
New bed (Photo credit: – Annetta -)

To help children distinguish between ‘b’ and ‘d’ – which are easily confused by those new to these squiggles – I would say think of the shape (side on) of a bed  – a real one and the written form – the ‘b’ is the headboard and the ‘d’ is the footboard – and you could lie along the tops of the letters. If you reverse the letters you get deb – you couldn’t lie on a deb – the sticks on the‘d’ and ‘b’ would be in the way –so something’s wrong.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I introduce ‘q’, I always present it as the shy sound because it will never go out without its braver friend ‘u’. I explain that ‘q’ doesn’t need ‘u’ to say anything, it just needs it to be there.

I find that the almost all children are enchanted by the vowels and the job they do – i.e. making it possible to pronounce English words. And I find that the hardest sounds for the children to grasp are ‘v’, ‘w’, ‘x’ and ‘y’.

Most of my pupils enjoy learning about the vowels and the power these five letters have – and they love trying to say their own names – and those of others –  without the vowels

After the children have mastered single sounds, we then move on to the ‘partner sounds’ – such as ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’, ‘ee’, ‘ea’, ‘ai’ ‘ay’ etc, etc… This is where two sounds work together to make a completely new sound.

After that the children just need to be able to rapidly blend the sounds so that reading words becomes automatic and then of course there are all the non-phonetic words to master. And some of those non-phonetic words are amongst the most common words in the English language – ‘the’, ‘was’ ‘saw’ ‘they’

PHEW!

Like I say, for many children, learning to read is an awesomely, magically easy task and they scarcely need to spend any time on the above.

However, for a significant minority these 25 sounds are pesky critters. And that’s where I come in. I still relish the challenge even after all these years. I try to present reading as an adventure – a journey into the unknown – destiny -literacy

And, mostly, we get there.

 

P.S. which letter of the alphabet doesn’t appear even once in the whole of this post?

WordPress Wonders

English: WordPress Logo
 WordPress Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I want to say many,many thanks to WordPress – the hosting platform  for this blog. It’s high time I did.

I’ve been blogging for three years now and have put up 180 posts. I started blogging as a way of publicising my book but it rapidly became more than that. It has now become a sort of journal with posts about my writing life and real life, about art, nature, and any other stuff that interests me, winds me up, amazes me or just makes me stop and think.

'Write Enough' production centre
‘Write Enough’ production centre

I really enjoy writing for the blog and WordPress certainly make it a painless process. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s well supported. The Help Forums are tremendous if you do get stuck and are staffed by both WordPress techies and volunteer bloggers with expertise – something for which, as a bit of a technical numpty, I’m mightily grateful. There are loads of ‘looks’ to choose from for one’s blog and it’s very straightforward to get one set up. And the bods at WordPress are forever improving the tools and applications that are available.

WordPress recently sent me my 2012 report. This was so useful – letting me see such things as – which posts were the most popular – ‘Language as a Barrier to Communication’ was in the number 1 spot; which posts got most comments and who commented the most. Thanks to Anne Mackle – a twitter friend of mine – for the highest number of comments. You can visit Anne’s own very entertaining blog on (whisper it) Blogspot at http://cassam-isanyonethere.blogspot.co.uk

I follow several other WordPress blogs. One that I’m really taken with is written by another twitter friend and writer, Alison Wells. Alison’s blog is always interesting but is even more so just now. She is doing a series of posts on mental health with particular reference to writers. I can highly recommend it. See it at http://alisonwells.wordpress.com

Another blog I’ve just started to follow was flagged up by the folks at WordPress in their  look back at 2012’s successful blogs. I was taken by one called ‘Dar’s 52 Mondays project’ – where Dar aimed to brighten up Mondays with a weekly post. She has a lovely, bright, fascinating blog about ‘nature, creativity, art and more – hmm, sounds familiar 🙂 – and it can be found at http://darhosta.wordpress.com

So THANKS WordPress and here’s to another year of enjoyable, informative and well supported blogging.

AND THANKS to everyone who bothers to read ‘Write Enough’

P.S. a wee trailer for the 2013’s posts – there will be book, TV, cinema and art reviews, guest posts, posts about writing, about island life, social networking and other preoccupations of this subversive old bat.

Slainte Mhath/Cheers – to all who facilitate and who read this blog. I appreciate you.