You’ve written the world’s best book – but how do you get the word Out There? Read on to find out the answers from Zena Shapter, who ‘writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, creating what-if worlds, thought experiments, and close-to-reality books of the unexplained.’
Hi Felicity! Thank you so much for inviting me to talk on your blog. You asked about social media so I thought I’d address the most common queries I get from fellow authors about the subject. Although I’ve won a number of national writing competitions (ten, lucky me!), I haven’t yet published my novels – so author buddies often want to know why I have a larger following than they do. Some authors aren’t even on social media (*gasp*) so want to know what’s in it for them. Others just want to know my story. So, I’ll start by answering what’s in it for authors…
All An Author Needs To Do Is Write A Good Book, Right? Ideally yes, because I’d love to do nothing but write all day! Well, maybe write and read good books! However, today’s publishers need authors to be more than just writers, because they need our help selling and promoting books. Why? Because there are so many books out there! So we become marketers, bloggers, public speakers, teachers and trenders – we wear so many different hats, which can often be a shock for those thinking of writing as a career.
Writing is of course a huge part of being an author. It’s the best part, the biggest part, the part that gives us stories to sell, wins fans, wins awards and, most importantly, enables us to reach out to readers. But today’s readers also crave two-way dialogues with their favourite authors – they want insight into the creation process, to know about author appearances, new releases, giveaways, and sometimes just have a chat. Face-to-face events can enable such things, but travel can be costly and Australia is a big country. So getting online is a great alternative.
There are also a lot of people online! Approximately 14 million Australians visit Facebook each month, 6 million are on WordPress (blogs), 2.5 million are on Blogspot, and 3 million are on Twitter (socialmedianews.com.au). Not all these users are readers of course, but connecting with users online can dramatically increase an author’s readership, help their publisher sell books, and it can be fun too! For me, being a writer is all about connection, sharing stories, adventures, experiences and offering escape. The more readers who know about my writing, the better. So why wouldn’t I want to talk to readers online? Hello readers!
What Can Authors Do To Get More Followers Online? With all social media, your heart has to be in it for people to follow you – readers and writers who use social media regularly can spot the fakes. They can smell a lack of enthusiasm and laziness from far away. You really only get out of social media what you put in. So the first thing you should do as an author is check that the channel you’ve chosen suits you and your lifestyle. If it doesn’t suit, you won’t enjoy it, and that will show.
The second thing to do is make sure that friends and followers know your page or account is active. Email them the address and put it on business cards. Tell people you’re there! Next, ensure your page or account has fresh and interesting content. Updates about the progress of your latest writing project aren’t always enough… Talking about your interests is good for fans too. What television shows influence your writing? What books are your favourite, which characters? Do your fans like those books, character and television shows as well? Ask them! Engaging followers in conversation is a way to keep them coming back. It takes time, but then doesn’t anything that’s worthwhile?
Finally, and this is the step a lot of people miss, support and engage with others. Comment on posts on other authors’ pages and accounts, get involved in conversations outside your own platform, ask questions and invite people to ask questions of you, follow people first – don’t wait for them to find you! Social media is social. If people like what you’re saying, wherever they find you, they’ll follow the links to read more about you on your own pages. It doesn’t really matter if people are reading about you on your own page or on others – as long as they’re reading!
Has Getting Online Helped You As An Author? Definitely. Before I got online I was a full-time Mum of two children under two, deep in a world of drudgery, isolation and exhaustion. I loved my kids, but didn’t have any family nearby (I’m originally from England), money was tight, and all my Aussie friends were working full-time jobs. When the kids took their day-naps, I was writing, writing, writing. The rest of the time I was simply lonely. I craved contact with writing others – any contact! When I started seeing blog and Twitter links appearing in friends’ email signatures, I got curious and looked into it. I read some blogs, lurked in Twitter, and realised both offered great ways to connect with other writers. So I signed up to Twitter, started my blog, and fell in love with the currency of it all. Being online enabled me to find out about competitions and events promptly. As a Mum, any extra notification was invaluable. It meant I could get involved more and learn more. I had time to prepare for opportunities.
Knowing people on Twitter also made attending book launches, writing talks and festivals more fun – we recognised each other! Writing is a very solitary activity. But with social media only a click or two away, I’m never lonely now! Getting online also meant that when my writing started to take off, I had thousands of people with whom I could share my happiness. It made every success even more meaningful! People would read my stories and even send fan mail. I felt like a proper author!
The publishing world is also a cautious beast. You have to stroke it, coo pretty names at it and let it sniff the air around you before it decides whether or not it likes you. I can’t wait to be on the other side of being liked, with that happy beast called publication curled in my lap nuzzling contentedly. But until then I’ll enjoy sharing the short stories I’ve written with readers, talking and connecting with them. And when my novels are published, I’ll have plenty of readers to tell!!
Zena is the founder & leader of the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, committed to her local arts community and various literary-based philanthropic projects. She is a book creator, editor, writing mentor, social media consultant and creative writing tutor (for both adults and students). She is a Ditmar Award-winning author who believes that stories are about connection, adventure and escape. Reviewer Lillian Csernica has described her as a writer who “deserves your attention”.Find her on social media as ‘Zena Shapter’. Or check out her talks and stories on her website at www.zenashapter.com.
Check Zena’s websites: www.zenashapter.com; https://www.facebook.com/ZenaShapter; https://twitter.com/zenashapter; https://plus.google.com/+ZenaShapter/posts. Books to buy and read: http://zenashapter.com/bibliography/