Saturday, November 30, 2013
Networking isn't all about talking to people. It's about learning from them.
Last Wednesday I posted a nice little blog piece about social media (What Would It Mean to You if Social Media Stopped Existing Altogether) and how it had morphed over the years. I mentioned in the blog post how I did miss the way it used to be - more social interaction via blogging before social networks came on the scene. I do want to make a point that the social media we have today far surpasses what we had in yesteryear but it was the fact that I could personally relate to others via blogging more so than I could say through Twitter for example. They would comment on my silly postings and I'd do the same for them. I met so many nice people that way - whether they were struggling writers and we were holding each others' shoulders up or it was simply to read about life traveling in an RV. Man I really miss that blogger. But like everything, life changes and we either roll with the punches and make it work for us or give up altogether like this writer blogger friend of mine has done.
I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her blog post with all of you as she is a dear friend of mine, but she was one of those mentioned in my previous article about this (chick lit'ers). Here's her blog piece titled "Writers, Social Media, and Other Lies." I wanted to comment on her post but I couldn't find a place to do that so I'm taking it on over here. First, let me say this wonderful writer friend and I go way back and I'll tell you how far back - back when there was no chick lit and it was starting to get really huge much like YA is doing today. She joined a chick lit group online before I did and in fact that's how I met her. I LOVED this group, not only because it sounded like a fun genre to write and something I would love to do but almost all these writers who had gotten "deals" got these "deals" from *gasp* a NY publishing house. Joining the group meant you were getting inside info and that it might help you achieve what they achieved. She and I hit it off right off the bat and I became friends with lots of other talented authors as well.
Over the years, chick lit died down but not before a new genre popped up called hen lit. About the time that emerged onto the scene, I had a storyline and a whole book written just waiting to revise and I'd be ready to go seek agents as that was the thing to do back then. Self-pubbers still were scorned upon mainly because they were choosing vanity houses and it was those vanity houses that gave us all a bad taste in our mouths - you pay them and they publish all right, but they didn't do any editing whatsoever. If you self-published, it meant your work wasn't worthy enough of a contract from one of the Big Six (or it was Big Six back then, I think it's the Big Five now?). Later, we learned to do everything a publishing house could do and ended up selling thousands of copies (thank you Amanda Hocking, etc.) and the game plan changed.
Anyway, back to the point of this blog post. If you have already read my friend's post, you'll see where I'm going with this but if you haven't, go back and read about her frustrations. I don't know if I can help at all, but I felt I needed to say something because she's not just someone off the street that I don't know and I wanted to give her my opinion, from my own perspective as social media has been a big part of the way I promote my authors and will promote my own books.
Before I say anything, it's more effective to have someone else promote you than you. Think street teams. Word of mouth. However, that's not to say an author can't pull out all the stops and promote him or herself using the same tactics someone else would. What I'm thinking is this writer friend has probably been promoting via social media and wasn't getting feedback or results enough to satisfy her before she threw her hands and deleted her Twitter account. Man. I just wish she had said something prior to this and I could have talked her out of it. I'm not really sure why someone would give up on Twitter except maybe they started getting followers who she felt weren't interested in her book. You have to remember, she and I are from the old school where interaction meant actual comments. That was the only way we knew if someone liked what we wrote or not.
My opinion on Twitter is that it's not a fantastic way to connect like blogging can but it's a great venue to get the word out about your book. However, you need as many followers as you can get but...the kind of followers who would buy your book or at least want to retweet what you have to say. How do you find these kind of followers? Well. It's not easy. People sign up and you have no idea why. Are they following you for the sole purpose of getting you to follow them, then they unfollow you? You just never know, but I am not a big fan at all of the services where they will guarantee you followers. I believe that your followers must be those interested in what you do, what you write or who you are. The services who get you more followers - if you took a notice of someone who gets over 100,000 followers in a very very short time, take a peek at who followed them. Most don't even speak English and I have no idea where these services find these people but it's not the kind of people I would want to have follow me. The best way to get the right kind of followers is to search for those authors who write and read your genre, those book bloggers who review your genre and anyone else you think would be of value to you, the author - industry professionals, agents, social marketing experts (although this last one you gotta watch as there are a million of these so called experts out there who are only on Twitter to sell their product).
Back to my friend's blog post, she was online a few years before me so anyone who was online at that time grew into this new computer Internet thing a whole 'nuther way. But you know how technology grows at the speed of light. When Twitter just came out, I joined but I didn't think it was all that. I was used to networking via blogging. How can I get out what I wanted to say in 140 letters? I tried it, went away from it, tried it again and voila this time it stuck and grew to love it. I love coming up with different hashtags to get the word out. I love to see just which of my tweets result in better clicks. I am growing and learning and that's another thing I want to point out. Networking isn't about talking to people. Networking is about learning from people. If your tweet has just the right wording - something that people can learn from - they'll click on it.
Back to my friend who also cancelled Facebook. I know there are a lot of authors out there who are having success at creating a Facebook family. I have found that when I promote on my wall, it doesn't have the same effect as if I posted my every day life and that's cool. I try now to use my company page and my company group page for promo stuff and post on my wall things about me. I have found, though, that the stuff from my company page leaks onto my wall so I'm finding that I'm using my group page instead which doesn't or at least I don't think it does. I had an author on tour a few years ago who created quite a following and he ended up hitting the Amazon bestseller lists. I studied his online travels and what he was doing was using Facebook (and blogging) to rub elbows with book bloggers who were his devoted fans. So you can't say that Facebook has no value if done right and you aren't pushing your stuff up people's noses.
In my friend's blog post, she writes, "I’m not even sure about blogging anymore. I really enjoy it but the blogging world isn’t what it used to be when you had so many more visitors who would actually interact with you and you’d support each other and link to each other and offer blog tours for each other, etc. It’s morphed into 2 different directions: people hang out on Facebook and Twitter instead and the professional book marketers have taken over the friendly blog tours."
She's right on one thing. Back in the day, blogging was more popular because that was the only way we knew how to reach an audience. And it was fun. Really fun. When I went on my first blog tour back oh wow I'm forgetting when - hmm - maybe oh gosh it was before Pump Up so...2006. Whew. Brain fart. Sorry. Back in 2006, the followers to my blog were the ones I approached first to host me when I was promoting a how to sell a self-published book book. And I'm seeing this same thing still happening. Not all authors can afford someone to stage a blog tour for them, so natch they're going to go with friends to help out. And, yes, she's right - there are a lot of of professional book marketers (or really to be honest bloggers who want a piece of the pie) - out there now. When I first started out, there were only two - one who stopped doing them and one who was charging thousands of dollars which I could do for a few hundred to help save costs. Authors aren't rich.
It's a shame my blogging friend pulled the cord on social media, but you have to understand where she's coming from. And I do. Maybe it's a personal thing but I so know why she did it. Too much of a time waste and no sales as a result. Or not many. And I know this sounds cliche, but you can't give up. In time, it does happen. It's like my daughter when she gets frustrated that the tests are so hard (she's going for her RN). If everything were easy, everyone would be doing it. Those who have stuck it out on social media are the ones who understand how the game is played. You can't just tweet something once and sell thousands of books. It's back to what I said about networking. It's not just about talking to people and it's not just about selling your stuff. It's about learning from people. If I didn't have Twitter and Facebook, I don't know what I'd do. Twitter, for example, is a time saver not a time waster for me. Skip over the unimportant stuff and find those gems that will help you in whatever you are pursuing.