Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Social Networks are Important for Writers

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When I first began writing I naively believed that all it entailed was for one to write a book, send it off to the agent/publishing company of their choosing, and then reap the rewards of sweet publication. After all, how many millions of other books are there out there on the shelves already? Of course, with experience comes wisdom and with rejection comes the harsh reality: I may never be least, not by conventional methods. Thankfully, we live in a time where new authors have many more options available to them. Their voices can be heard and the works they believe in are no longer silenced by a simple form rejection letter. As a writer, I feel blessed to be alive during this time and shudder to think about all those other aspiring novelists born decades ago who never had the opportunity to be heard in a society hampered by the limited technology available at the time. Who did we miss out on reading? What epic story was never told? We truly live in a time of limitless opportunity.

In the forefront of this technological boom social networking sites emerged. Like many, when I first heard of social networking sites, I immediately thought of their less productive uses: chatting with friends, playing games, catching up on gossip, venting frustrations, looking at cute photographs of babies, and listening to others brag about their lives. I didn't understand their instrumental and flat-out necessary role in launching a new author's career nor did I get why having your own blog was essential. My how a lot has changed. The truth is, in order to be a successful writer, you must also possess an ability to market yourself. This is especially true if you're self-published. Since most of us budding authors don't have a Trump-sized bank account, the best medium for us to get our names out there consists of the use of the universally accessible and affordable world of social networking.  Not surprisingly, this is not the only reason why social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, and MySpace are useful. Every day, writers are finding more and more uses for these forms of technology. I've outlined some of the more popular uses below:

Networking--I'm one of those people who believes that everything they do needs to have some level of productivity attached to it whether minuscule or not (anal, I know).  So, when I joined Twitter I decided  I would make my account solely to network with other writers, authors, publishing companies, agents, and whomever else was associated with creating/marketing the written word.  Networking is one of the most valuable tools there is for anyone looking to promote themselves or get their name out there. It can open doors for you or point you in the direction you need to take to get you where you want to go with your work.  Through networking, I've met individuals from publishing companies who've invited me to send in my novel, beta readers to assist with editing, resources to submit short stories for publication, contact information for agents, and many, many other wonderful writers.  I've connected with people who've I've come to consider friends and of whom I know will be there to lift my spirits or knock me back down to reality when I really need it.  Get out there.  Network. Follow those people with similar interests as you and talk to them.  You'll be surprised at how close you may become with them or what vital doors may open up for you through their advice.

Maintain a Healthy Level of Sanity--Let's face it, there are times where you need to remove yourself from sinking plot lines you just can't salvage, dialogues that don't seem to be going anywhere, or from starring at a blank screen after a serious bout of writer's block rears its ugly head. This is a good time to connect with those writers you've been networking with to share your innermost insecurities (as they most likely share similar ones as well), gather advice, or just not talk about writing at all.  Losing yourself in the social aspects of social networking sites is sometimes just as good as therapy in that any mental break at all from something that's causing you strife tends to recharge your inner battery allowing you to find clarity and insight where it didn't seem to exist before.  It's also always good to know that you aren't alone and that there are other individuals out there who share the same insecurties as you do.  In a way, this often has the ability to help you regain you own confidence so you can tackle your own obstacles head-on.

Getting your work out there--Before the advent of social networking sites and the Internet in general, if a writer wanted to get their work read, they were at the complete mercy of the publishing companies.  If their work was rejected, it wasn't heard outside of the writer's own social circle.  It was as though an invisible gag was being placed over their mouths, silencing all their hard work.  Today, be it a short story, epic novel, or a couple of mindless sentences, a writer has the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people through a click of a mouse.  For those who lack confidence in their writing this can prove to be quite a booster as well as a learning experience from the feedback of those who read your works.  Writing was meant to be shared and with social networking that's now more of a possibility than ever before.

Promoting yourself--Unless your last name's "Kardashian" you probably have no idea how in god's green earth to promote yourself and/or your work.  You're a writer not a marketing entrepreneur after all.  Well, it's time to wake up and smell the reality show because there's more to writing than just actually writing (as any writer who's experienced instant recognition of which they were totally unprepared for will tell you).  For those of us who aren't lucky enough to have an agent, publicist or army of people assisting us with our every step, there's the wonderful world of social networking.  Social networking sites have made everyone from Justin Bieber to Amanda Hocking household names.  Aside from counterproductive gossiping machines, they're also useful tools to get your name out there to the world and to showcase your talent.  Think of them as free advertising to a wide variety of prospective readers and those who's attention may benefit you in future projects.  In order for your voice to be heard, people have to first know that it even exists.  Make them aware of it by promoting both yourself and your work.  Just return the favor for those who help you spread the word.

Learning/Improving yourself--Sharing your work naturally welcomes feedback.  Feedback is like manna from heaven for writers.  It brings all of your strengths and weaknesses to light (and trust me, there are plenty of writers/readers out there who are just aching to give you their opinions in that regard).  Social networking sites connect you with both your biggest critics and your most devoted fans.  They can humble you while also serving to inflate your ego.  By gaining these different perspectives, your abilities will grow and your eyes may open to crucial errors that you may have otherwised missed. 

Aside from sharing your own work, these sites also allow you to read the writings of other aspiring authors.  Reading the works of others is extremely beneficial as, like fingerprints and personalities, everyone has their own unique writing style and ways in which they tell their story.  Studying how others write can teach you a lot about your own style serving as a form of research tool  for you to hone your craft (not to mention it's just plain fun to read the work of others).

Ideas--I've learned quite a bit about how to market myself and my writing (as well as how not to) along with how to set up my blog as well as a plethora of other useful information about the industry through social networks.  Seeing how successful authors market themselves and interact with others in this profession has been incredibly helpful and the knowledge I've gained will greatly come in handy when the time comes for me to start marketing my own book.  Whether your publishing through conventional methods or self-publishing, there's always something that can be gained through others on social networking sites.  Look at the profiles of other authors; read their blogs; follow them on Twitter.  Go straight to the horses mouth for all the questions brewing in your mind as opposed to turning to Google for all the answers.

What are some other useful ways you've discovered to use social networking sites?

As promised, I'm ready to announce my first ever giveaway winner! I've been promising a giveaway since I was at a mere ten followers (or so it seems) as a way to bribe/plead with y'all to join my blog and it seems as though it worked!  By utilizing a purely scientific, highly mathematical equation (a/k/a pulling a name out of a hat), I'm happy to announce that the winner of a $10.00 Barnes & Noble gift card is Erin!  Congratulations, Erin!  I'll be in contact with you soon!

Thank you again to all of my followers.  Without you I'd just be talking to myself.  Since this one was so much fun, I'll announce another giveaway when I approach 200 followers!


Joseph said...

Great post! Very in-depth and I loved the snipe about the Kardashians!

Eldon Sarte said...

Excellent post, Sara, and quite insightful and comprehensive, in such a small amount of space. Books have been written about what you've just covered in a few paragraphs. :)

One more use you may want to add, although I guess it could in a way fall under your "Learning" and "Ideas." And it is...

Book Research. Particularly with using Twitter, and pretty much for NF books. Follow a bunch of folks who tweet about a particular key word or hash tag. Get a tool that collects all tweets to allow you to browse through them at your leisure, and in many cases in just a few short days, you'll have enough "material" for a book.

Have fun!