Social Networking: A Lot of Work, But Worth It
Written by
Regina Y. Swint
November 2011
Written by
Regina Y. Swint
November 2011

Social networking has evolved into a process that literally includes the act of "working the Net," especially for up-and-coming/unknown authors like me.  It's a lot of work, but it's necessary.  I know most of the writers here have day jobs and families that take up a lot of time, but in order to make a real go of marketing, publicizing and selling our novels, networking must be done. 

At least this is what I believe.  I'm no best-selling author, but I'm sure I've sold more books than I would have if I didn't reach out to people to make (and nurture) those connections.  Some of these connections became friends.

Some of these friends bought books.  Some told friends and family, and they told other friends and family, and I ended up in two bookstores, having a successful book launch, and selling a few hundred copies.  Not bad for an up-and-coming unknown.

I shared some of these thoughts on another discussion board, and I'd like to offer them here.  

Social networking is not just "collecting" friends, and then spam-blasting them with updates about where to find your latest book.  It's not just about maximum exposure, but how you expose yourself.  Not just your book.  Yourself.

It's making true connections with people, whether you've met them in real life or not.  Potential customers, and not just those buying books, like to feel valued.  Yes, everyone is short on time, but the truth is that people need to feel connected to you in order to care about you. 

It's a challenge, but it's necessary for up-and-coming unknowns to build a network first, and a fan base second.  If the only time you heard from someone is when he/she wanted you to buy something, would you feel valued or appreciated?  I wouldn't.

Posting random information about ourselves is transparent to anyone who's been on social media for more than a month. Spouting off drive-by facts about ourselves and calling it a bio, hoping people feel like they know us better is futile.  It's not going to make people want to buy our books.  It smacks of a 20-Questions Tag.  Heartless and empty.  If our bios are heartless and empty, how can we expect our potential readers to believe that our books won't be? 

To communicate effectively we must share info.  That means that if you do a Q&A, you should be asking questions that you actually care about getting the answers to, and responding thoughtfully.  Answer questions honestly.  Give thoughtful and consistent answers.  Really share.  Anything less comes off as insincere, and any reader who is half paying attention will pick up on that.

Never imply that your time is more valuable than your readers'.  It comes off as arrogant.

When you become successful to the likes of J.K. Rowling, Terry McMillan, or Stephen King, or that lady who writes the Twilight books, with legions of fans, then it will be understandable that you can't respond to every comment or question.  They should understand that they're not going to be your closest, best friends in your inner circle.

But now?  Why not interact with a few dozen or couple hundred followers, fans or friends?  It's not like every single one of them comment and ask questions every single day, anyway.  I think it's fair to carve out some time for the ones who do.

I believe that most "overnight" successes take years, or at least months, to build a fan base, get read, shared, and seem to go viral.  Add to that, nearly every publicist I've contacted has campaigns heavily dedicated to social media marketing.

This craft is mentally and physically exhausting to me, but I know it requires our willingness to care, pay attention, make sacrifices (time, money, sleep, relationships, etc.), and to accept and analyze criticism.  Then we make adjustments accordingly.  (Or not.)  After which, there will be more attention, care, sacrifice and criticism.  And so on.  All that, and I still love it.  And sometimes, it loves me back.

I'd love to know what others of you think and what seems to have worked for you.  To me, it's all a part of networking, and even though it's hard work, it seems to be working for me.  Something about when people feel like you care about them in some way, they show that they care about you in other ways, including supporting your book.

Let's be friends

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