My first book, A Heart to Mend was published via Authorhouse in December of 2009. Before then, I had started my blog in August and started advance publicity for the book a couple of months later. Setting up an active blog and publishing my book served a double purpose for me; finding out the target audience for my kind of writing and building a platform too. If not for the social networking channels, A Heart to Mend would never have gone viral the way it did. And for that, I will always be grateful for the vehicle that social media provides to a writer and self-published author like me to get my book out there.
It was through the support of bloggers that I did my first blog tour for A Heart to Mend with the attendant publicity. By the end of that blog tour, I was getting requests for interviews and features almost daily. I put up chapter one of the book on a free reading website freado.com and it became a massive hit. It remained in the top 10 for three consecutive months! The publishers of the website did an interview with me and featured it on their front page.
The beauty of social media was that I could remain in my work room with just my laptop and an internet connection, and meet up with these dozens of interviews. As time went on, I continued networking with other writers and self-published authors and I as I shared what I had learnt, I picked up some good nuggets from them too. I set up a Twitter page and opened up my Facebook profile for use with my pen name. As I became more adept at using the word-of-mouth tools on those two sites, the visibility of A Heart to Mend quadrupled. I learnt how to interconnect these media, how to set up scheduled tweets or how to update Facebook via RSS feeds, etc.
After noting these advantages of using social networking, the challenges has to be pointed out too, and the major one is distraction. For me,Facebook has proved the most addictive. I find that sometimes while updating my pages, I may stray into something else entirely and so on, thereby wasting precious time that could have been put to better use. One day I took a break from writing and as usual, the first point of call was Facebook. The site was down, and I kept refreshing it for almost five minutes before it dawned what I was doing. I laughed at myself, left a message on Twitter about my addiction and went to check some other things. I had to really think that day but it is what it is. Apart from work, Facebook is also the only place I can keep in contact with all my family and most of my friends.
Finally, I think the reason social networking worked so well for me as a writer and publisher is because I am a social person. I enjoy the company of other like-minded people during the times I am not writing, and being able to use the internet and social networking to connect to more and more people becomes a pleasure. At the end of the day however, I have to ensure that my internet use is purposeful and linked to my writing, and also set out a specific time for my writing without any distractions. That is the only way I can get a lot of writing done while remaining in the social circles.