Tweets, blogs, posts, comments … social media can become overwhelming. But writers, whether they like it or not, are in the business of book sales, and few businesses can thrive without an online presence. Social media apps are more than a means to connect with friends, they’re a valuable marketing tool.
I’ve heard unpublished writers ask whether they need to be online. Yes. Besides access to valuable information about the craft of writing and how to pitch, a social media presence gives agents and publishers confidence that you have a connection with the public. Once published, whether traditionally or independently, you will need this avenue to promote your books.
Over the next couple of posts, I’m going to discuss the most popular social media forums. Note, I am not an IT or marketing expert, this is a layman’s guide to the mechanics of setting up and using accounts and the benefits for writers.
Purpose: This is your online resume, a base from which to give a brief biography and promote your books, blog or other writing.
Priority: Nice to have prior to publication, essential after. Note: if you don’t have the time or money to set up a website, an author page on Facebook can work as a substitute. See next week’s post.
Time commitment: There are hours of work in setting up a website, but once it’s up and running, maintenance is minimal.
Degree of difficulty: There are many website building apps available (eg. Wix, Godaddy, Squarespace, WordPress) which are intuitive to use if you have modest computing skills. If you aren’t computer savvy, hire a web designer. The site requirements are more challenging if you want to be able to sell books directly from your site, but if you refer site visitors to a book seller, such as Amazon or Booktopia, it’s simple.
Include the facility for a blog even if you don’t plan to write one initially. It will save time and money if you decide to start one later and doesn’t matter if you don’t use it.
Once up and running, updates are straightforward and are only required for changes such as a new book, events or blogs.
Setup Cost: If you pay a web designer, the cost can vary from $100-1000s depending on their experience and your requirements. If not, the setup is free.
Ongoing Cost: There will be an annual subscription fee for your website app, which should include the use of a domain name (eg. http://www.yourname.com). The entry-level cost is low, (eg. $100 per year) but increases as you choose options such as removing advertisements, accepting payments and so on.
Purpose: To express yourself, connect with readers and display your writing skills. Your blogsite can become your website if you don’t already have one.
Priority: Only if you’re serious and prepared to invest the time for regular posts.
Time commitment: As above, there are hours of work in setting up a website. Ongoing time depends on how often you post and how quickly you can write. I post a new article every week or two. From the idea, through writing and editing, to taking/selecting and editing a photo or other visual, it takes me 4-8 hours per post.
Degree of difficulty: Use a purpose-built site such as the website builders mentioned above. If you don’t have computer skills, hire a web designer. I use WordPress, which only stumps me occasionally. The set up takes time, but once up and running, posting is easy. It’s the writing that takes thought and care.
Setup Cost: Similar to a website.
Ongoing Cost: Similar to a website.
Websites and blogs are only useful if readers view them. IT/social media experts can give you clever tips about how to maximize hits on your sites through the use of keywords, landing pages and other techniques. In the meantime, you need to build a following on social media apps such as Facebook or Twitter, as these give you somewhere to post your blogs.
Note: Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, as I’m sure there is much to add to this discussion. I am happy to update the blog with reader input.