Friday 25 May 2012

Networking For Writers

To my surprise I was listed as a top publishing industry tweep (aka Twitter person) by The Bookseller even though I don't think I'm much good at networking and am hopeless at technology. This makes me think that if I can do it, anybody can.

Twitter is best thought of along the same lines as a drinks party.  At this party it's socially acceptable to eavesdrop on conversations and join in if you've something to say even if you don't know the people talking, but generally the party operates on the usual lines: only the most socially inept people bang on about themselves all the time, conversations are about give and take, and no one likes being sold things at a social event.

At this drinks party you wouldn't suddenly tell people you'd just met all about your private life, nor would you feel obliged to speak to absolutely everyone present.  And you certainly wouldn't badger people just because you thought they might be useful for your career.

The sort of things you'd talk about would be things you thought might be either amusing or informative.  You might indulge in a bit of moaning about, say, a tradesman who hadn't turned up when they said they would or if things weren't going brilliantly, but you wouldn't start ranting or being mean.

In general, behave as you would at any real-life social event and you won't go far wrong.

Blogging is different.  With that you have to think about what you offer a potential reader, such as entertainment or information.  Blogs that are basically Me Me Me don't pick up many followers unless 'Me' already has a following.  I think it's quite hard for a writer to have an interesting blog unless they blog about craft because what else is there apart from your personal life?  I'm not happy with blogging about my own life - and frankly, it would make for dull reading as I don't do much except read, write, teach and trundle up and down the A30.

If I was unpublished so didn't feel confident about dishing out advice about craft (not that that stops some writers) I would concentrate on the business of publishing from a new writer's perspective and book reviews.

What I don't think blogging or Twitter or Facebook do is sell books, at least not directly.  They are about networking - building up contacts with people who are active in publishing (or whatever industry you choose to get involved with), which in turn raises your profile and that may lead to other things such as speaking at events or free books (especially if you do book reviews), or may help to find an agent or get an article published.

I started blogging and being on Twitter because my publisher told me I 'had' to, and then I found I liked it so have carried on.  If I didn't find it enjoyable I would have quietly drifted away.  There are lots of authors who have very successful careers without bothering and if I had a choice between writing a good book or spending time on social media, writing a good book would win out every time.


Giles Diggle said...

Like at parties, the best company on Twitter, are the listeners who only speak when they have a response to something said or have something to say.

I keep a narrow focus with Twitter - writing and the SW birding community. It's great for exchanging information, opinions and finding interesting avenues to explore. Twitter has been an enriching experience.

I have a humble (not humbling) 67 followers and I follow 22. Enjoy, don't become obsessed! I don't expect it to impact on my success as a writer in anyway.

Actually, Tweeting is quite a good discipline, because it requires an economy of style - few words; high impact.

Coffee finished. Back to revising the book.

Jim Murdoch said...

I struggle with Twitter. I struggled with Facebook for years and I still don’t enjoy it but I recognise it as a way of ‘touching’ people without getting into anything, a wee reminder that you’re still there and when people pass a comment or ‘like’ what you’ve done then that’s them giving you a ‘smile’ back. Occasionally I learn something useful in the groups I’m a part of but you do have to wade through so much so discover these things and I must miss more than I notice but that’s fine I suppose. But Twitter loses me. It’s the 140 characters limit. I cannot say anything meaningful in 140 characters or less especially if I’m including a hyperlink. I could follow your tweets but I’m already following your blog and we’re friends on Facebook (I think we’re friends. I really have no idea who my friends are on Facebook) so what else do you have to say on Twitter? And how do you find people to follow? Anyone I’d want to follow I already read their blogs. Like you nothing really exciting happens in my life to write home about—oh, if we were all Stephen Fry and doing something interesting every day—but I don’t and so I’m not sure what I could possibly have to say that could help or interest people. Some site I ticked a box on months ago sends a tweet when I write a new blog—seriously I have no idea how that happens or how to stop it—and that’s it. Some guy whose site I posted a comment on said he was arranging a debate or a conference or something equally unbelievable on Twitter and he’d let me know when. I said nothing and hope he forgets about me because I have no idea how to follow it or join in or anything like that. The mere thought of it make me ill. I’ve used chat once about fifteen years ago with my wife and the pressure to think of something to say and rattle it down was horrible; I hated it. I’m a writer because I get to reread what I’m going to say, tweak it and then reread it, tweak it a bit more and then read it again before posting it. The few tweets I’ve posted off my own bat—not sure who I was talking to but doing what I thought I ought to do—probably took me a good ten or fifteen minutes to write and then edit down to the required number of characters. And I can’t say I was happy with any of them. You can reduce loquacity and verbosity to ten letters apiece but that takes all the fun out of them.

Jill Paterson said...

A great post, Sarah, and so true.

DT said...

Amen! If it isn't advancing your writing career or fun to do, I can't see the point of social media - other than using up valuable editing time. :o)

Mrs Dubai said...

Good advice, thank you. I love the idea of Twitter as a cocktail party, though I do find I can stay up later on Twitter, long after I'd have called a cab in real life!

Sarah Duncan said...

Giles, I've found Twitter to be enriching for exactly the same reasons as you. And I find the 140 character limit an interesting discipline too.

Jim, I think we are friends on Facebook but I don't 'gel' with Facebook, haven't been on for ages. You don't have to Tweet to be involved with Twitter - I think about a third of people who are on it never post anything themselves. They use it as a source of interesting info.

Jill, Thanks!

Derek, of course some of us use it as an excuse not to spend time editing...

Mrs Dubai, oh dear me yes...I used to be the same but now I use an egg timer so I don't spend toooo much time on Twitter.