pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

Hashtag WritingCommunity: Emma Lombard on Building an Author Platform

 

Photo of writer Emma Lombard in her post on social media and followers

When I ventured into the Twitterverse, I was terrified. Having witnessed how quickly situations could turn toxic on social media, I didn’t want to involve myself in this world. But a huge part about being an author is putting yourself out there and social media plays a big role in that these days.

I resurrected my Twitter account in 2018 (dormant since 2010) and I most fortuitously tripped across the #WritingCommunity.

Tentatively Venturing into Social Media

I spent months fumbling my way around Twitter, feeling insecure and unsure about what to do – or more importantly, what not to do. I didn’t want to step on any Twitter toes. I started posting Twitter Tip threads that garnered a lot of thanks and praise from those still learning themselves. I ended up with so many Twitter Tips threads that I decided to put them together as my first blog, TWITTER TIPS FOR NEWBIES. It has turned out to be a big hit with folks, as have my follow-up blogs in the series.

I’m no expert in social media, in human relations or in the publishing industry – I have a little more knowledge than some folks and a whole lot less knowledge than others. I share my own experiences. Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey and that others are experiencing similar challenges.

Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey. Click To Tweet

 

Figuring Out How Social Media Ticks

I research blogs and online marketing sites for advice. Social media is an evolving platform, so I figure that reading the most up-to-date news about its functions from those in-the-know is the way to go.

Interestingly, I found some marketing websites better and easier to understand than Twitter or Facebook’s help sites. The best sites for me are the ones with pictures or videos. Bless all those guys and gals who know how to record this info and upload it!

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. I don’t do this to encourage folks to play the numbers game. I do it because Twitter analytics don’t seem to give any traction to the posts of those with fewer than 1,000 followers. This came from my personal experience – I found that once I tipped over the 1,000 mark, I popped up on people’s feeds and they interacted with me more.

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. Click To Tweet

 

Taking Care Not to Be Overwhelmed by Social Media

pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

One huge job for me is screening new followers on Twitter to decide if we’re compatible. I don’t blind follow (I made that rookie mistake in the beginning). As part of my daily Twitter housekeeping, I do a quick screen for bots – they’re easy to spot – and I block them instantly. For everyone else who’s a real person, if they interact with me on my feed and I see that they are following me, I screen them for compatibility and if we’re a good fit, I follow back.

This process keeps me supporting and following new folks while not being overwhelmed by a large number of followers. I realise I’m in a fortunate position and I can only thank the lovely peeps in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity for making this happen.

I’ve taken my time about building my author platform, only extending myself into new areas once I was comfortable with a certain niche. I began with Twitter, then branched out to blogging and my most recent endeavour is my Facebook author page.

 

Should Writers Have a Large Social Media Following?

Hoo boy! This is a loaded question with so many varying opinions, including from editors, agents and publishers! From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish or if you are going down the traditional publishing route with non-fiction. The jury is still out in my court whether a large following is essential if you’re planning to be a traditionally published fiction author – some agents say you do, some say you don’t.

From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish. Click To Tweet

I think folks need to do what they are happy and comfortable with. Not everyone is comfortable with having thousands of followers because they don’t feel they can connect with that many people, while others feel it’s important to have that broader base to work with when it comes to their marketing strategies.

barefoot person sitting on a big pile of books readingHowever, I will add that I’ve not yet seen a hard-sell marketing campaign on Twitter succeed in any sales; but I have seen dozens and dozens of books bought by folks who have a relationship with authors. The key factor, whether you have 100 followers or 100,000 followers, is positive engagement and interaction, which is integral for building those relationships.

 

Lift Others Up


Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in – it’s like anything in life really. If you are only in it for the numbers, most people will spot you from a mile away. I believe you
earn your true followers through engagement. Having thousands of empty followers isn’t going to make people buy your books, read your poetry or sign up to your blog.

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in. Click To Tweet

I’m not on social media to compete with other writers, I’m here to share in their journey and share mine with them. By lifting other writers up in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, I have been lifted, supported and loved tenfold by so many wonderful folks.

 

What the Pros Have to Say

That’s my rookie two cents’ worth. Here’s what the publishing pros have to say about building your social media platform as a writer:

  1. A great Twitter thread from Megan Manzano (@Megan_Manzano), YA Editor & Book Blogger – Agent Apprentice @CorvisieroLit – 1/5 of @WriteCraftQuest and #Pitchwars Mentor: tips and tricks to help build your social media platform
  2. A one-hour-long vlog from @WriteCraftQuest – A collective of #editors supporting writers on their publishing adventure @Maria_Tureaud @SouffleLumiere @Megan_Manzano @Justine_Manzano: Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Writers

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Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa – calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years – before settling in Brisbane, Australia nearly 20 years ago. She writes historical fiction and keeps platform-building authors on their toes as the #WritingCommunityMum

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Getting Started with Facebook

SmartInsights.com tells us that ten years ago, 7{f1791e21317150ef16b724493368daace7010ce61c13caaf39cf91ea8f458df6} of the US population used one (or more) social media sites. In the past decade, that figure has jumped to more than 65{f1791e21317150ef16b724493368daace7010ce61c13caaf39cf91ea8f458df6}. That’s right, well over half of the US population is active on social media.

The largest and most well-known social media site is Facebook, currently with more than 2 billion (yes, with a “B”) active users. Three-quarters of US social media users visit at least once a day.

Several of you have let me know that you don’t care for social media and especially dislike Facebook. And, while I feel your pain, that’s an awful lot of prospective readers to walk away from, isn’t it?

Trienah has asked me to teach her about establishing an author presence on the world’s largest social media site so we’re going to have that conversation here — within this post and its comments. Watch this space. (And feel free to join us in the comments.)

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Online Etiquette

What are the rules of the road for being social? There are plenty. Authors online can be your greatest allies. After all, unless your ideal customer will only read one book, other authors are not competition.

There’s a lot more to say about this… but not right now while I’m repairing the site. Stay tuned!

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Serene and Social

 

Once upon a time, I got frustrated with waiting too long and paying too much…

so I figured out how to build my own website. And, while I can’t always make it do exactly what I want it to? Most days I come pretty close.

Once upon a time, I got frustrated with waiting too long and paying too much... Click To Tweet

The other day I got to help a fellow author launch his blog and, through more trial and error than I had hoped for, we got it up and running. Apparently, if I’m going to remember how to do these things, I’m going to have to use some of the skills more often.

The other thing that complicates this particular learning curve? App developers keep making things better and, generally speaking, this is a good thing… except when I only know one way to do something and the ability to update it has expired. Pfft.

This point was driven home earlier this week when I realized that only my old parenting posts were working their way over to my Facebook page. I guess that’s OK… but I’ve been writing about other topics and wanted to share those posts, too.

Long story short? Evidently, it worked. So, instead of the usual “test post” I decided to celebrate with a picture taken at our former home in New Hampshire. I’m not sure my friend Nancy believed me when I told her we used to live “smack in the middle of nowhere.”

I decided to celebrate with a photo taken from our former home... smack in the middle of nowhere! Click To Tweet

Please enjoy a post celebrating the serenity I feel every time something technical goes well. And providing photographic evidence for my friend the meticulous researcher and award-winning author? That’s just a bonus.

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Never Made the Oprah Show

She laughed at me

Several years back, at a publishing conference, I had an opportunity to speak with some industry veterans.  One was gracious enough to take a quick look at the marketing plan I was working on. I was encouraged… until she laughed. My inner critic went a little bit nuts. I wanted to crawl under some furniture or run from the room.

Fortunately, she noticed and said, “I like you. You may be the only author in America whose plan does not include the words ‘Get on Oprah’s show.'”

[Tweet “You may be the only author in America who’s not trying to get on an Oprah show.”]

I know why so many people wanted to do that: marketing an indie book can be h*ll on wheels. Granted, some of this is as a result of self-inflicted wounds caused by lack of feedback from beta readers, editing, and proofreading. But even excellent work has a hard time getting through the avalanche of media and promotional material readers see every single day.

My Inner Critic is up to no good

Personally? I need to take a closer look at the role of my inner critic in all of this. While I’m able to harness her powerful warnings to complete writing projects, she’s still pretty shrieky when it comes to self-promotion. (“Get your ego in check!” “It’s not polite to talk about yourself.”) She has gotten a little sneakier and has a New Age-y approach as well: “Stop bothering people. If they’re meant to find you, they will.”

Thank goodness for readers and other writers who help share about our books, our blogs, our events and our news. You are truly a gift.

[Tweet “Thank goodness for readers and other authors who share.”]

And, if you’d like to be part of that giant online support group but don’t know where to start? Here are two small actions that are a huge help.

Reviews. Especially on Amazon and GoodReads. They don’t have to be long to be meaningful. “The author presents helpful information with a light touch.” Or, “I found the story captivating.” Expert tip: If you are personally acquainted with the author please don’t mention that in your review. It’s a red flag for “fake review” and could cause problems for the author. BIG problems. Also, if you’re a relative… especially one with the same name? DON’T POST A REVIEW. (See previous example.)

Facebook page likes and engagement. Have you ever seen the “invite friends to like page” feature on the right-hand side of your computer screen? If you “like” an author (or any page) your friends are more likely to follow suit — if you ask them to. And once on a page? Participate. Comment on and share posts.

You rock. We love you

Genuine interaction helps get attention for our work, keeps authors motivated, and lets the inner critic of self-promotion know it’s OK to go somewhere and take a nap!

What’s your favorite way to help amplify an author’s message? (Please share in the comments section. Every little bit helps!)

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Still struggling with your Inner Critic? Click to download 3 Reasons to Stop Fighting Your Inner Critic and find out what about something you can do instead.

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Giving Away Golf Clubs

Giving Away Golf Clubs

What if you had a beautiful gift to give away?

Let’s pretend it’s a brand new set of golf clubs. Instead of “going viral,” you have the feeling people are avoiding you like a contagious illness… like the flu. It’s  around us, every day, in e-mail blasts, Facebook posts, and tweets; since I follow a bunch of some a few authors, I call it the “buy my book bug.”

Some authors post about their topics, their writing process, their pets, their partners, their projects and their progress. I love reading their stuff. I feel connected to them, and, because of that, I enjoy their success. When they post about a new release, event, or sale? I gladly retweet it or share it on my page. There’s a relationship.

There’s a Relationship

Then there are the others. I “like” or “follow” someone new, hoping to find out about them and enjoy some good, fresh content. But, instead, I get the automatic, one-size-fits-all private message “inviting” me to connect with them (and see the identical content) somewhere else. Ugh. (I solved it by eliminating DMs (direct messages) from my Twitter account — so, if you’re a friend and I haven’t gotten back to you now you know why.)

The second group doesn’t get it: social media is not for selling. It’s for creating and developing relationships. And, as Bob Burg says, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”

Social media is not for selling. Click To Tweet

I’ve taught social media basics to authors and other small business owners for a while. It breaks my heart to tell them, “Nobody cares about your _______ (book, restaurant, service, store or product).” I feel like I kicked a puppy, even when I tell them it’s not personal: most people don’t care about mine, either.

What do people care about online? The same things they care about in real life: themselves, their families and their own lives.

So why should authors and small business owners have an online presence? That’s where our readers are. Part of our job is to make it easy for them to find us. Another part is to let them know we care about their lives, too. Writing, tweeting or posting on Facebook… it can’t “be about” you.

What about those golf clubs?

A lot of people would be thrilled to get a brand new set of golf clubs for their next big occasion. I’m not one of them. I don’t play golf and have torn both rotator cuffs; my chances of becoming a regular, happy golfer are pretty slim. If you offered me golf clubs I’d know you don’t know me well…  But, if you kept trying to give me golf clubs? I’d start to wonder what was wrong with you.

There's nothing wrong with you; I appreciate your generosity Click To Tweet

There’s nothing wrong with you; in fact, I appreciate your generosity. There’s nothing wrong with golf clubs, either. They’re just not something I want or need right now.

And, if you stop trying to give me golf clubs and, instead, try to find out what I DO want? I’m a lot more likely to stick around… and share your message with the golfers in my life.

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