Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Google+. Instagram. Pinterest. Ello. Tumblr. Reddit. Blogger. Good Reads.
If you are confused by all the social media, join the club. No, really—join at least one. Or two or three. As a writer or illustrator, it’s essential that you have a social media presence if you want an agent or editor to take you seriously.
But there are so many that it’s hard to figure out how to keep up and which ones are relevant to you and where you are in your career. Fear not. Here are some pointers.
Why do I need social media?
Social media is how we generate buzz, whether about an upcoming title, public appearances, classroom visits, or any aspect of your public persona.
It helps you stay connected to your SCBWI chapter, other writers, illustrators, agents, editors, publishers, etc.
For example, you can follow SCBWI-MI on Facebook, Twitter, our email listserv, our website, and our new blog. (For more information about any of these, visit the website’s “On-Line Community” page here: http://michigan.scbwi.org/listserv/)
More importantly, agents and editors are inundated with submissions. Say you submit a stellar manuscript. It’s edgy, tight, and sure to be a best seller. But Agent Martha Moneymaker has twelve such manuscripts on her desk. Which to choose? She’s likely to choose the author with the strongest social media presence. Why? Most publishers expect the author to be an active participant in marketing the finished product. If you have this established network, you won’t spend the first few months post-release building it. You can spend your time marketing instead.
I get it. But how do I choose?
Figure out the best social media connections for your goals:
· Do you plan to blog regularly? Think about a website with an integrated blog (or just a blog). Encourage followers to subscribe so that they automatically receive notices when you update.
· Are you an illustrator? You may want a Tumblr account, which is more visually based, and is easier for followers to repost, further increasing your reach. Or try Instagram, another visual sharing platform. (www.tumblr.com www.instagram.com )
· Do you want to network with other professionals? LinkedIn allows you to network with other writers, illustrators, and even agents and editors. It’s like having your résumé online so that everyone can see what you’ve published, your background, etc. Plus, if you freelance, you may be able to find those opportunities here. (www.LinkedIn.com)
· Do you experience flashes of inspiration multiple times a day? Twitter keeps your name in front of your audience on a daily basis. When you update your blog, or post something on another platform, you can tweet a link to it. Plus, you can follow editors and agents to learn about what makes them tick. Keep in mind that it’s not a substitute for in-depth research, but merely gives you a starting point. (www.Twitter.com)
· Are you an avid reader? Good Reads is a wealth of information and networking. Find recommendations based on your reading preferences, post reviews of books you’ve read, connect with other readers, follow authors you like. This is a good adjunct to having your own blog or website. (www.goodreads.com)
Now that I know my goals, how do I get started?
Take the time to research these sites. Spend a few hours on each one (not all in one day or your head may implode). Compare the type of audience each caters to, and choose your best match. If you need a website, spend time doing it right. You don’t want to revamp everything after a few months (trust me on this one). Bookmark author/illustrator sites that you like and figure out why they work. Design your site with these things in mind. Hire a pro, if you need it. Remember—this is a reflection of who you are and your level of professionalism.
Plan your marketing strategy by combining your main social media presence (website, blog, Facebook page, etc.) and tie in complementary platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. But keep it simple. Don’t join every platform or you’ll never be able to keep up with your online presence and work on your writing or illustrating. Whichever platforms you choose, try to have a similar visual theme. You want followers to know they are visiting your page, feed, or website. Make your business cards fit the theme as well.
In short, think of yourself as a brand. If you do it well, editors and agents will see you as a brand, too. However, no media platform or branding strategy, no matter how well executed, can substitute for good writing, engaging illustrations, and the research to find your perfect match.
Jennifer Whistler has been a member of SCBWI for 10 years and is pre-published. In the meantime, she’s building her social media presence, and plans to knock it out of the park with her marketing prowess. You can follow her on Twitter @SwissWhis. She begs you not to visit her website yet.