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Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Dirty Stuff

The Dirty Stuff. And yes, when it comes to the dirt, Twitter reigns supreme.

In the spirit of the new year, I guess there's no time like the present to discuss the dirty stuff. After all, once that's done we can sweep it under the 2013 rug and walk away.

The dirty stuff I'm talking about isn't the smutty stuff. I'm certain we'll talk about the smutty stuff at some point, but not this time. No, we're going to talk about the dirty stuff that goes along with Becoming An Author (see how I made it all regal and noble with the caps?). Specifically, self-promotion. More specifically, social media.

As a kid, I pretty much thought that becoming an author meant sitting down and writing a lot and then handing it to somebody else and tra-la-la'ing away. I wish, right? Turns out that there's a lot more to it, unless you somehow manage to become one of those awesome and totally trope-ified Recluse Authors a la J.D. Salinger.

But odds are, that's not going to be an option for you. One of the obstacles to that approach is, of course, the much maligned and discussed editing process. But the other obstacle to this is that your publisher is actually going to want you to promote your work. Even before you get to a publisher, just having some credentials to feed to an agent in your query is a good idea.

But -- ew, right? Ugh and no thank you. I prefer the aloof approach. This whole thing is, to me, the ugly side of the business: the self-promotion, the pandering. I would rather leave it all behind.

It doesn't have to be all bad, though. I have some suggestions and tips to make it all easier.

Tip #1 - Find something to talk about that feels natural to who you are.
So you're not somebody who wants to constantly talk about yourself and what you're doing? Fine. Then don't. Nobody said that self-promotion means you have to become one of those social media users who takes photo of every food item you've ever eaten.* If you are that person -- cool. Food pictures get a disgusting amount of traffic and attention, so you're probably all set on the audience thing in terms of numbers. But better than becoming a social media oversharer is becoming an information source. Find something to write about that you enjoy writing about. In a stroke of post-modernism sensibility that does not come naturally to me, I realized that I like to write about writing. And in this post I'm writing about liking to write about writing. WHOA.

Tip #2 - Don't be afraid to use autofeeds.
Taking on social media is an ordeal, because the beast is BIG. I mean, even just the obvious ones are a lot to handle: Facebook, Twitter, the blog itself. But then you've got Tumblr and Pinterest and Google+ and LinkedIn and ... and ... a lot of others, I'm guessing.
Let me clear something up right now. I am NOT a social media expert. I am talking about this all as a user and writer who is figuring this all out. Don't come to me for the expert advice. Come to me for the newbie, "Here's what I've encountered so far" advice.
Back to the point. There are a lot of social media platforms out there, and it can get overwhelming fast. Which is why I recommend If This, Then That. It can take care of the maintenance stuff for you. I use it to update my Twitter and Facebook automatically when I have a new post. I'm also setting it up to feed my posts to a Tumblr as well. It is a great tool for getting information out there without giving yourself too much to do.

Tip #3 - Don't only use autofeeds.
It's annoying and it doesn't garner trust or interest from your potential audience. When everyone Tweet or post is just an obvious spam from an autofeed, it's going to make people wonder why they even bother. If they want to subscribe to your blog, they will. They're don't need to follow you on Twitter or friend you on Facebook for that. If they follow/friend you then they're looking for more or new information. They're trusting you to share more with them, and that's part of your responsibility on social media.

Tip #4 - If you don't know what to say, don't be afraid to look around.
"But I don't know what to Tweet about!" Me neither, reader. Me neither. But that's when you do some research. If I'm not tweeting about something happening around me (Polar vortices**, my kitten knocking shit to the floor for no reason, etc.) then I'm tweeting my take on an issue other are talking about, or asking a question, or sharing a link or blog I enjoy. Look at what others are doing or talking about, looking at trending tags, really just keep your eyes open and bounce off of someone else's idea. You're a writer - you have plenty to say.

Tip #5 - Network.
Not the annoying "exchanging business cards" kind of networking. What I mean is, finding a community of people to interact with. One of the best ways to build success in social media is to be a consumer as well as a producer. Find people who share information that interests you, whose work or voice you enjoy, or who want to talk about the same things you do. And then, follow them. Friends them. Interact with them. Link them. There's no better way to get love than to spread it around yourself.

*I feel like I know way to much information about what your bowel activity is going to be when you do this. And nobody wants that.

**Vortices? Vortexes? Vortexi? Vortexim?

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