Social media is not for everyone, but if you enjoy it, it’s a great way to connect with other readers and writers. Some of my closest friends in the community are people I first met through my blog, and it’s always fun to see familiar faces from Twitter and Instagram at events!
Since getting published last year, I’ve found that the way I use social media has had to change from the way I’ve been using it for the past decade. As public figures, authors are a lot more visible and accessible, and in particular, if you are a young woman of color, protecting your time, your privacy, and yourself is crucial.
So what are some ways in which I’ve navigated social media as an author? And what suggestions can I give to those who are new to the community?
– I try to use social media to connect as much or more than I use it to promote. The best way to be a part of the writing community is, well, being a part of it. I believe it is important to market your own work, but I also think it’s tiresome when an account is full of “Buy this! Buy that!” It doesn’t feel like I’m following a real person when all they want to do is sell me stuff. The accounts I enjoy most feel warm, genuine, and approachable, and they communicate with others rather than at them, and that inspires the way I manage my accounts.
– I try to be wary of dummy accounts formed just to harass me. I’ve talked about this before, but as a public figure, you will come across people who simply aren’t nice. Some of them will even have the time to create fake accounts to trick you into talking to them or goad you into anger. Here are some red flags to look out for:
- The account is brand-new.
- The account follows no other authors or book-related accounts.
- The account has all retweets or suspicious stock photo-like images.
- The account has upwards of 10K followers, but none of their posts get attention (a sign that the person paid money for fake followers).
- The account name has 8 digits, a celebrity or stock photo as their profile picture, and/or lots of emojis in the name and bio. Or, they have no photo or bio at all.
– I mute when possible, instead of blocking. People cannot see if you have muted them, but they can see if you’ve blocked them.
– I try to be professional. The book world is a small one and word spreads fast if someone is wonderful . . . or the opposite. For me personally, I write both YA and MG and I know a lot of younger readers (and their parents, librarians, and teachers) follow me, so I try to keep that in mind when I’m online.
– I no longer auto-follow. When I joined Twitter in 2009, I used to follow everyone back. I don’t do that anymore. I know this may hurt some feelings, for which I am truly sorry, but I have been burned too many times (Twitter DMs, much like Westworld, is where people show you who they really are) and my mental health comes first. Plus, in the era of this political trash fire, it pays to be careful who you’re allowing onto your timeline.
– I exercise my right to curate my social media. Your accounts are your accounts. Your time is your time. If someone isn’t nice, if they never interact with you, or you just don’t like what they have to say, you are not obligated to follow them. You are not obligated to respond to anyone. You are not obligated to justify or explain why you unfollowed someone. I think women in particular are held up to a standard of “You have to be nice all the time! You have to reciprocate! You have to be open and available to everyone,” which is harmful.
– I try to be careful with advice. When I share my experience, I word it as exactly that: sharing what I know, not telling people what to do, and recognizing that it is my experience only. It’s important to be humble and sensitive to other folks’ journeys. A close friend is coming up on seven years of querying, and recently she told me how hurt she felt when she saw people who had gotten an agent and a book deal within a year’s time, issuing advice and posting on Twitter about how long and hard they had struggled. It takes years for the vast majority of us, so be mindful.
– I am always positive about books online. This is a personal choice for me, but I find the idea of giving my fellow authors anything less than 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads or Amazon deeply uncomfortable. I just imagine coming face-to-face with them at a panel and having them think, “There’s that woman who hated my book.” (Yes, I consider 3 stars to be a bad review.) If I love a book, I shout about it, and if I don’t, I move on. But again, this is my preference and it is something you should decide for yourself.
– I do not encroach on readers’ spaces. I never read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads (though I still use the latter to track my own reading). I never read Instagram captions or blog posts I’m tagged in. Your mileage may vary, but I find I’m happier when I acknowledge that reviews of my books are not for me, and I want readers to share their honest feedback without worrying about me breathing down their necks!
– I switched from blogging to sending out newsletters. Back around 2010, when blogging was a big deal, I used to get hundreds of thousands of views on my website, but with the advent of micro-blogging in the form of Twitter and Instagram, that stopped. I love having a newsletter because your news goes directly to the inboxes of people interested enough to opt in. They don’t have to go to your website or search for your latest post; it’s right there in their email.
– Be yourself. Do whatever feels right to you. If you don’t like Twitter, deactivate your account and use another site if you want. If you don’t care about your Instagram being perfectly curated with a fancy aesthetic and color palette, post whatever photos make you happy. (That’s what I do!) Social media can help you find a great community, but if it makes you more stressed or unhappy than it’s worth, don’t do it. I have yet to see anything that proves that being on social media will guarantee you an agent or a book deal or great sales, so absolutely do not feel pressured.
That’s it! I hope that my thoughts and this glimpse into the way I utilize social media helps those of you navigating the online world as authors.
What is your opinion on using social media as a writer or an author? Do you use it, and how? Feel free to sound off in the comments!