You’re a solo writer and it’s a lonely life, isn’t it? Can social networks help? Could online groups and communities help you share ideas and sell your books? How do today's writers, especially those newly published or pursuing publication, benefit from building communities of virtual friends? Author Sally Ember, Ed.D, is an avid user of social media and gives us ten proven tips for getting the best out of online groups.
There are now thousands of online communities a writer can join. Some are only available via membership in existing social media sites, such as Goodreads, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. Others are stand-alone groups that have their own websites and memberships.
Then, there are the chat rooms or forums one can join, lurk on or contribute to on Yahoo, KindleBoards, Smashwords, Bublish, Authonomy, Jukepop Serial, Wattpad, plus hundreds more. Add to that professional sites, such as Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc.
Is your head spinning, yet?
But if you’re a fiction writer and you don’t have a PR firm to market your books, you need communities to get your "brand" known, to find readers, attract followers and fans, to get "pingbacks," to improve your Alexa rating, your Klout or Snap scores, to get a Google Page Ranking for your website....
So how does a busy writer make the most of all these opportunities and still have time to write?
Here are 10 ways to choose online communities that will repay your time:
1. Pay for membership or stick with free groups?
Some groups are free; some start out free or have a free level but change into paid memberships that provide additional services or opportunities to those who pay.
If you have an unlimited budget or favor one or more of these groups, go ahead and become a paid (upper-level) member. Some of these groups' upper levels really do offer useful services; some just say they do but the “services” are not much more than occasional tweets.
Beware of those that over-promise, do not deliver, or are vague about what paid membership really offers.
How can you discover all that before you pay? Research them: search for the group's hashtag or tweet handle and then privately message someone (not the leader) about specific ways that being a paid member has benefited them.
So far, the most I have paid to “belong” to a group or purchase a marketing service was $15 and it wasn't worth it.
2. Participate in “review swaps”?
As a newbie desperate for reviews, I found these groups so tempting.
They seemed so supportive. They offer reviews, sometimes in great quantity, sometimes with rankings and votes as well. But, free or not, these review exchanges come with several “prices” and I decided the prices were too high. You might agree.
For one, I am not comfortable providing pre-arranged and necessarily positive reviews for books I haven't yet read in order to get the same for my own books (which the “reviewers” may or may not have read either). And I was too honest. I got into trouble for daring to critique the books I read for being under-edited, overwritten, poorly constructed, badly plotted, shallow, etc.
Second, and more chilling, if you participate in these groups you run the risk of having any or all of your reviews removed from Amazon.
Third, some social media sites (Goodreads, for one) monitor members' activities and send messages to those members they believe are abusing the site. What is abuse? “Buying” or “trading” votes on Listopia, for example, or providing “fake” 5-star reviews for too many members' books.
You’ll soon discover that most sites' Terms of Service say they can suspend your account permanently and remove your books' reviews, rankings, votes, etc., often with no warning and no recourse.
I joined some of these groups and discovered the penalties later. Then, I removed myself. I never paid to join.
But if you’re comfortable with the risks and conditions, go right ahead.
3. Participate in blog hops or tours?
Some blog tours are great and worth doing. Others, not so much. Visit a few, comment, see what happens. Then decide.
4. Join a “Tweet team” or use group hashtags when posting?
A tweet team is where authors agree to tweet about each others’ books. This is highly recommended by some, disregarded by many. When someone posts nothing on Twitter but lists of others' handles and the group's hashtag, no on cares. Don't do that.
But, if your group actually retweets, comments, replies, shares, engages with each others' tweets or posts, that is worthwhile and those groups are worth joining
5. Become a regular responder or stay in the shadows (e.g., lurk but don't comment or “like”)?
I highly recommend lurking on a Board or community forum before posting yourself. Get a feel for the culture of the group: the tone, the topics, the length, the repartee, the community purposes. See if these resonate with you. If they do, go right ahead and join the conversation. If not, move on.
Do not join a group to argue, criticize, lambast or attack!
Remember: the internet is “forever”. If you get into a flame war, your readers, fans and even publisher can find it years later. (A tip: perhaps use a pseudonym for controversial posts.)
6. Become a “help offered” or “help requested” type of participant? Or both?
You can become a resource to others on many sites (such as Quora, Ask an Expert, Reddit, etc). Or request help yourself.
Respect, assistance and expertise are admired and often reciprocated. Whining, complaining, false information or bragging are definitely not.
7. Join under your own name or under that of your brand, books or website? Or use a pseudonym?
Beware: everything you post becomes part of your "brand" unless you use pseudonyms.
Pseudonyms are highly recommended, particularly if you write in vastly different genres (say, children's books and erotica). Or you want to comment on controversial topics but not affect your brand.
A tip: become a “content curator.”
What’s a curator? Someone who offers information and help that’s consistent with their brand. People love it! Then you can post or comment as yourself. Get to know and be known by the members. Become a fan or follower of several. Then if you mention your current book launch, in passing, people will take notice.
I belong to several groups whose members and I are becoming virtual friends. We support each other's efforts. These are the groups worth joining and being active in, even when you have little time. Dump the rest.
8. Join a genre-specific group, even if it’s small?
If you are a “genre” writer, then, yes: join those groups. They may be small but they’re highly specific to your genre and usually very active. (Needless to say, be sure to follow each group's posting guidelines to avoid getting disliked or kicked out!)
9. Offer giveaways or run contests?
If you have print books or swag, go right ahead and offer them. I highly recommend that you think of what you have to offer and start offering (e.g., free PDFs of writing tips, samples of your writing, free passes, discount coupons) whenever you can.
I have a blog and an almost-weekly Google+ Hangout On Air (CHANGES HOA), so I can and do offer my guests blog opportunities and star spots. I am also a series ebooks novelist, so I offer the first book in my series as “permafree,” i.e. always on sale at $0. I highly recommend you do that, once you have subsequent books for sale.
10. Pay for marketing services?
I decided early on not to pay for marketing. These are my decisions and not everyone agrees with them.
Some groups or suppliers offer a combination of free and for-sale marketing services, so you can decide which you want to participate in. I have met several great people and had excellent experiences in some groups in this way.
You have to decide for yourself. However, if you are considering paying for any service, please research it thoroughly. There are a lot of scams on the web!
Have you found any groups that writers should join? What great ways have you found to get the most from such groups? Are any author marketing services worth the price? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Every comment is guaranteed a fast, helpful response!
Sally Ember has been passionate about writing since she was nine years old. She’s won prizes for her poetry, stories, songs and plays. She began meditation in her teens. Now she delights fans of paranormal and romance by blurring the lines between fact and fiction in ebooks that depict a multiverse of multiple timelines, often including exciting elements of utopian science-fiction and Buddhism. The Spanners Series; Volume I, This Changes Everything, is free. Born Jewish on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, Sally's life has been infused with change. She blogs regularly, hosts a Google+ talk show, CHANGES, on most Wednesdays, and lives in St. Louis where she meditates, writes, swims and reads.
She has a big presence on the web. Find her website at http://www.sallyember.com. She’s an Amazon author. Visit her Boards on Pinterest. Please follow the Spanners Series at Facebook. Sally's YouTube channel includes the CHANGES HOA videos, book trailers, and author readings.
Posted by Sally Ember. Posted In : Guest Posts