Why Social Media Matters for Authors

These days, it’s easier than ever to publish your writing online, whether it’s on your personal blog or in an online bookstore. But it’s one thing to publish and another to reach your intended audience. With so many people sharing their writing, how do you get noticed?

Enter social media. Social media can help you carve out an online niche for your own unique voice and enable you to share your writing with readers across a variety of channels. Used well, it can develop into a powerful, self-propagating engine for generating widespread interest in your writing.

But which platform should you use? How often should you post? And what kind of content will readers be interested in? With so many options and approaches, it can be hard to know where to start.

Here’s a crash course on how to expand the reach of your writing by harnessing the power of social media.

Which Platforms Should I Use?

Meg LaTorre, creator of iWriterly.com, says it best

“The purpose of [your] author platform is to establish future readers for your books.”

This key insight is relevant whether you’re already published or just getting started. If you don’t already have completed works of writing out there in the world, you will someday. If your voice is consistent across all of your social media accounts, it will be easier for your target audience to find you, so consider your goals for the future as you craft your posts in the present.

With this in mind, take a look at how you can use each of the popular social media platforms below:

Where Do I Start?

Social media has different things to offer at different stages in your writing process, though you can benefit from a sense of community and accountability at any stage.

Beginner   🌱

If you’re just starting out in your writing journey, you can use social media to dip your toes into the worldwide community of writers, many of whom like to hang out online and encourage each other to get their word counts up. While all the social media platforms have their advantages and quirks, Twitter is a great place for beginners to start. Try searching for the following hashtags:

  • #WritingPrompts: Find prompts to get you in the creative headspace to move your plot forward
  • #WritingCommunity: See at a glance what other writers are working on

These hashtags are a great way to connect with other writers and get a dose of inspiration for your own work. Once you’re past the beginning phase of your writing journey, you may soon start longing for more structure to hold yourself accountable to a regular writing practice. At that point, try these hashtags on Twitter, which are some of our favorites for accountability:

  • #WordSprints: Get your words in for the day in focused bursts of writing ranging from 10 to 30 minutes
  • Monthly Writing Challenges: Aim for 500 words of writing every day and post your daily progress so other participants can cheer you on
  • #turtlewriters: If you prefer a slow and steady pace, join this community to stay authentic to your natural pace while being supported by others with a similar style
  • #10kWritingChallenge: On the other hand, if you’re looking to take your word count to a new level as fast as possible, you can participate in speed-based challenges where you aim to write a large number of words within a set timeframe, like the #10kWritingChallenge, wherein writers produce a whopping 10,000 words in a single day

Of course, we also provide online resources to keep you accountable and inspired at Shut Up & Write:

  • Online Events Meetup: Our global Meetup exclusively for online writing events, where you can connect with writers worldwide from the comfort of your own home
  • Monthly Writing Challenges: Prompts-based writing challenges lasting five to 10 days designed to kickstart your writing and allow you to share it with others on our online forums
  • Virtual Chapter: A community hub on our website where you can check in daily to report on your progress and optionally respond to daily writing prompts

Debut Author   🌳

If you’ve already finished a substantial writing project, you can consider yourself a debut author. At this stage, you can use social media to broaden the audience for your completed work. Twitter continues to be the most helpful platform once you’ve moved onto this stage. For debut authors, we suggest searching the below hashtags:

  • #AskAgent: Connect with literary agents by asking them thoughtful questions, and if you’ve got an ear for language and an impressive Twitter followership, you might even catch their eye in a way that leads to a contract for representation
  • #WritingContest & #LitMags: Apply for writing contests and chances to publish in literary magazines
  • #WriterLift: Drop links to your author profile or books available for purchase so that readers can follow you and/or buy your work

Established Author   🌲🌲🌲

You may be a veteran author with one or more published works already out there, but if you aren’t actively using social media, you may be missing out on a chance to expand your audience and boost sales. At this point, Twitter can still be incredibly helpful—mysterious Twitter user Duchess Goldblatt gained fame for her unique voice and original content, and is coming out with her first book later in 2020.

It may also be in your best interest to branch out and try a few other social media platforms. Writers like Rupi Kaur, Yrsa Daley-Ward, and Cleo Wade started out on Instagram, but over time, gained book deals and widespread acclaim from their followers. Try these hashtags on Instagram, YouTube and Goodreads:

  • #Bookstagram: Use this hashtag on Instagram to show off your published works, and optionally, go a step further by including photos and videos from your day-to-day life to connect with your fans on a more personal level
  • #AuthorTube: Share more about your process on YouTube, like how-to videos relating to craft or publishing, to gain subscribers who may convert into paying customers for your books
  • Goodreads Giveaways: Consider running Giveaways on the social media network for bookworms, Goodreads, to promote readership and increase the number of community reviews for your books

What To Write About On Social Media

Now that we’ve convinced you to log into that old Twitter account you haven’t used in three years, or perhaps create a brand new one, what kind of content should you be sharing?

Focus on a consistent and manageable posting schedule. Some people like to check their profiles first thing in the morning. Others will want to touch social media no more than twice a week. Figure out a schedule that will work for you and start there.

Learning how to write for social media will be a process of experimentation. Some of your ideas will gain more traction than others. Photos, GIFs, videos, and outside links can help create variety on your online profiles. But too much random content, or a profile that reads like a blatant advertisement for your books, may cause people to unfollow you.

Your followers are most likely to respond to original content related to writing, so feel free to experiment with the below:

  • Book reviews: Post thoughtful reviews of books you’re reading on Goodreads and post excerpts on Twitter and/or YouTube (use the hashtag #BookTube). For positive reviews, catch the attention of the author by searching for their profile and at-mentioning them, and they just might repost your content, leading new followers to your profile
  • Blog posts about your process: If you have a personal blog, use it to showcase your own writerly process, including tips and tricks as well as any quirks that make you stand out
  • Ask for recommendations: People love to gush about their favorite books, so go ahead and ask for help finding your next amazing read within your favorite genre
  • Post thought-provoking questions: Get your followers’ take on questions like “What makes a compelling villain?” or “What’s the hardest thing about writing a memoir?” 
  • Encourage other writers: Pay it forward by leaving encouraging notes on other writers’ profiles. It might surprise you to discover the friendships that can result from leaving a kind word on someone else’s post.

Remember to use hashtags like #WritingCommunity and #amwriting within your posts in order to boost the chances that they’re seen.

It may take a few months, but think of your social media engagement as a long-term investment. Post consistently on your chosen platform(s) and keep it authentic, and your readers will find you over time. 

Words of Caution

It’s important not to allow social media to distract you from your actual writing. The major social media platforms try to get you hooked through notifications-induced dopamine cycles, so creating a balance is key.

One way to find balance is to block out your writing times in advance and turn off all of your social media during those times.

Another is to schedule posts ahead of time using a free tool like Buffer, which acts as a management tool for posts across multiple accounts. There are natural ebbs and flows to how audiences check social media, and Buffer tracks these patterns in order for content to go out when you’re most likely to get views. You can spend an afternoon scheduling all your content for the week to go out at the optimized time slots recommended by Buffer. Planning ahead will save you time that you could instead use on writing throughout the week.

Finally, remember that the bigger your voice is, the bigger your impact will be. The social media controversies over the political opinions of authors like J.K. Rowling demonstrates that you can sink in your followers’ estimation in a very public way if you don’t pay attention to the impact of your words. Furthermore, content on the internet has a long shelf life, so you’ll want to ensure that you can stand behind whatever you’re putting out years down the road.

To summarize, assess where you are in your writing journey and choose one or two primary platforms accordingly. Then, invest in consistently posting messages that are authentic to who you are as an author. But, remember to create a balance so social media doesn’t distract you from why you wanted to become a writer in the first place.

Last but not least, know that using social media, in addition to providing accountability and an audience, can also be really fun! At no other time in human history have we been able to connect with each other across borders at such volumes. It can be humbling to realize that a person who lives on another continent is actually one of your biggest fans, or is consistently the one to lift you up after you’ve had a hard day. So, post away, and remember to enjoy the process!

Published by Lira

Shut Up & Write Community Manager Lira Samanta lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also writes speculative fiction and is currently at work on her first novel. Follow her on Twitter at @lirawrites.

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