Today’s letter answers an author-submitted question about social media. And elsewhere on the internet, the excellent Sara Zarr invited me to contribute to one of her equally excellent This Creative Life newsletters. Check out How to Read an Editorial Letter for Sara’s approach to editorial letters as an author, as well as my thoughts from an editor’s perspective. I hope you find it helpful! Now for today’s question:
Q: Hi Julie, How important is social media as an author in sharing one’s books? As an introvert, sometimes thinking about social media self promotion feels overwhelming. I’ve always been a private person. Losing anonymity is definitely challenging for me even if it means achieving my dream of having my stories shared and read by others. Thank you for your thoughts.
A: Thank you for this question! I agree—social media does often feel overwhelming, even before considering the pressure many authors and artists feel to market their work in a constantly-changing online landscape (What’s happening with Twitter? Should I be on TikTok or Instagram? What about Facebook? Do I need to learn about Hive, Post, Mastodon, or another new network? Will the algorithms even show my posts?). As a fellow introvert with a love-hate relationship with social media, here’s my suggested approach:
Start with a website
In my opinion, the most important online tool for any author or artist is a simple website that allows people to easily find you and your work. Your website should be regularly updated and include information like:
- Your name
- Your photo
- A brief bio
- A contact form or contact information
- Your social media links
- Any upcoming public events
- Details about your forthcoming or published work, including the cover, the title, a brief description, publication date, and purchase links
In addition, consider including a sign-up link to a newsletter or mailing list. Even if you rarely utilize it, building your own email list will allow you to easily reach readers about forthcoming books, events, or other news without relying on unpredictable social media algorithms.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel
Social media is constantly changing, but you don’t need to be familiar with every platform or type of post. Think about recently-published authors and illustrators you admire—what social media platforms are they using? What types of information do they share? If you’re already on social media, what accounts, posts, topics, or hashtags do you personally find most inspiring and engaging? Which authors, artists, librarians, teachers, and readers do you already follow and why? Considering the types of accounts and posts you’re most drawn to can help you refine your goals for your own social media presence.
Think about connecting rather than selling
If you approach social media with the sole goal of turning every follower into a book sale, you’re probably going to end up frustrated. As with any other decision, people are more likely to read books written or recommended by those they already trust. Building that trust takes time and will depend on your comfort level, personality, and style. As such, consider exploring social media and the online book community before you have a book to promote. Think about the type of information you’re comfortable sharing. Instead of sharing details that feel overly personal, you might talk about your creative process, online resources that you’ve found helpful, or your favorite recent reads.
Similarly, consider what platforms you’ll feel most comfortable using and where your book community is most likely to be. For example, if you’re a picture book creator, you might be more drawn to a text-based platform like Twitter or an image-based platform like Instagram than a video-based platform like TikTok. Twitter and Instagram have also previously had more members of the picture book community than TikTok, which has tended to focus more on young adult and adult books. Or maybe you enjoy posting funny videos, without the pressure of text; if so, TikTok might be more enjoyable for you, even if the picture book community isn’t as large as it might be elsewhere.
Ultimately, social media allows you to connect not just with potential readers, but with the larger creative community. While a strong social media presence is one way to make these connections, it’s certainly not the only way. If you don’t feel comfortable on social media, you might choose to put more of your energies elsewhere, such as participating in online or in-person events or sharing additional resources on your website.
Your Editor Friend,
P.S. If you found this letter helpful, please consider sharing it with a friend or subscribing to receive new letters straight to your inbox. If you’d like to say hello, share feedback, or submit a question that I might answer in a future letter, please email me! I’d love to hear from you.