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January 2014

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Social Media Workshop #1: Where to Start

*Here's something I wrote for As The Eraser Burns that you might enjoy!*

If you attended Laura Whitaker's "Dating 101: What makes YOU desirable to an Editor" session at last September's Lucky 13: Make 2013 Your Year Conference and happened to look over my shoulder as she talked about the importance of writers having a strong social media platform ... then you would have seen me scribble this in my notebook:

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You would have seen me show the note to Larissa, whose eyes widened as she nodded. Then you would have seen me show it to Susan, who also nodded and whispered I know!

Seriously.

I. Was. Freaking. Out.

See, here's the thing.

I used to love social media. Like, a lot. Back when my first book, Beauty Shop for Rent, was coming out, I spent enormous amounts of time marketing, blogging, writing newsletters, mailing postcards, and crafting the perfect MySpace page. (MySpace, now there's a blast from the past!) I threw my heart and soul into my platform, doing everything possible to make Beauty Shop a success.

But then I burned out.

I got sick of blogging.

I got sick of mailing.

I got sick of the whole read me, follow me, love me routine.

And worst of all ... despite Beauty Shop's decent sales, I started to worry that none of my efforts did any good. That they were a total waste of time. That I should have been concentrating on my next manuscript instead in order to avoid my dreaded second-book-slump. As a result, I developed a new belief in regards to social media: That the best way to promote a book is to sell another.

So for my second novel, Just Flirt, I did very little promotion unless you count a panicked, last-minute ditch effort one month before it's release. Instead, I threw myself into two other projects: a young adult fantasy and a mid-grade about girls baseball in the 70's, both of which I deeply, truly, passionately love, love, LOVE.

After all, as long as you write an excellent, fantastic book that folks love, love, LOVE, publishers aren't going to worry about how much you blog or tweet, right?

Well, wrong. So wrong.

This fact reached out and smacked me in the face when Laura Whitaker plainly stated that if a writer doesn't have a social media platform, then they will not buy their book.

Holy crap.

Talk about an eye opener. My "just write an excellent, fantastic book" theory was total blown. For the rest of the conference, I walked around with a panicked, oh-my-God-I-have-so-much-work-to-do look in my eyes. (Raise your hand if you did, too!) And after having a conversation on the topic with another writer friend days later, I cringed when she said, "Well, yeah, publishers are always receiving excellent books. Which will they buy, the one whose author has a strong platform or the one without?"

So okay, my attitude toward social media has changed.

I realized that if I want to be successful - if I want to run with the big dogs and make some serious literary noise, then I need to take all aspects of publishing more seriously. I need to find a balance between writing, reading, continuing education, and social media. After all, we're not just writers and illustrators. We're business owners.

Allow me to repeat: Unless you consider writing or drawing to be a hobby and hobby only ... You're a business owner. I even named my business: Writing Without Reins Inc, and I created a twelve-month plan which--okay--might sound corny but is mentally effective. Because what must businesses do in order to succeed? They must advertise and a writer's "advertising" is done through social media.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

For those of you who are embarking on your own social media quest, we are beginning a series of workshops with posts from Larissa, Susan, Shelley, and myself about our own platform journey. We will also have guest contributors beginning with an article from Veronica Bartles is coming Friday. But first, I'm starting with...

Where To Start

(I know, original title, right?)

But the topic of social media is overwhelming. I mean, there's Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Blogging, Pinterest, YouTube, Goodreads, Google+, Linkedin, and God help us ... MySpace is trying to make a comeback. Oh, and don't forget to throw your own website into the mix. Yeah. It's overwhelming. And when I get overwhelmed, I like to go back to the beginning.

So after the conference, I decided to start off my social media makeover with a cute, new notebook. (Heaven forbid you start a new plan with a dingy old one!)

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On the first page, I listed the many available components for a successful platform, most of which were mentioned above:

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Then I made a page for each component and spent a long, long day researching and reading many articles posted by writers on social media. Whenever I found good advice for each component, I added notes to the corresponding page.

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I'm now working on implementing these tips which will be shared in future, more specific posts. But first, another helpful step to take before starting ... or in my case, re-starting their social media platform is to ask yourself the following questions:

What do I hope to accomplish with my social media platform and what do I want my online persona to be?

The last question is the hardest for me. I mean, it's easy blogging here. This is SCBWI MD/DE/WV blog, not mine, so there's a safely factor going on. But when it comes to my personal blog? Tweeting? Facebook? I'm still afraid to truly be myself, because God help us if I let my full crazy shine.

Something that has been extremely helpful is the Online Persona Workshop on the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog by R.L. LaFevers and Mary Hershey. (Sadly, Shrinking Violets closed shop in 2012 but Robin LaFevers is now contributing to Writer UnBoxed, an equally awesome site.) The workshop is from late 2010, but is still very effective in helping you figure out ... well, you--who you are and what you hope to accomplish online.

I hope these tips help! This Friday, look for another addition to our social media series. Until then, please post any thoughts, advice, or questions in the comments below!

Happy writing, drawing ... and socia media-ing, everyone! :)

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