Social media can be a powerful tool for authors, enabling them to form meaningful connections with readers. But for many authors, trying to figure out the right approach can lead to a series of questions: What should I post about? What sort of tone should I use? How can I connect the conversations I am having online with offline events such as book tours? We caught up with Dan Blank, founder of WeGrowMedia and last month’s webinar speaker, to find out what advice he typically offers authors.
Dan, why do you feel it is important for authors to connect with readers even after they’ve bought the author’s book?
When you are an author, the power of your book can be much greater than the simple process of a reader making a purchase. Each person who reads your book is doing so individually, and what it means to each is personal. If your book has touched people’s lives and they want to talk about it, that’s a powerful connection. But every author has gaps or silence between books. So being able to continue the conversation between books gives you the ability to become a permanent part of your readers’ lives.
Many authors find engaging with readers a hugely enriching part of their writing experience. Take Anne Rice, for example. She is passionate and vocal about how much she enjoys interacting with fans on social media.
Why do you think some authors find social media overwhelming, and what can they do about it?
When faced with social media, some authors just see a landscape of too many different channels and a host of new technical skills they need to learn. Combined with other places they may need to spend their time and attention, such as libraries, bookstores, and book clubs, the challenge can seem overwhelming. However, the good news is that by focusing on your own particular voice, you can develop content strategies that can apply to any channel, online or offline.
There’s no rule about how many social media channels you have to be on. It’s much better to do one platform well than to spread yourself too thin on several. Think about where your particular audience is likely to be. For example, many YA authors find Tumblr works well for them, because it’s already a strong platform for YA. Look at what other authors with a similar audience are doing. But, most important, don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone, in terms of both trying a new platform and developing a distinct and honest way of expressing yourself.
What do you mean when you talk about an author voice?
Your author voice is how you express yourself publicly and how you connect to the challenges that your audience has. Your voice encompasses your own particular worldview and how you want to be seen. It’s present in the photos you share, the types of post you write, your language, and how you engage with others. It’s how you talk about all of these aspects of yourself in a human way.
The number one thing that readers are looking for is consistency. Readers are inevitably coming in to the conversation midstream, so it’s important that you communicate consistently—what you talk about, how you talk about it, and how frequently you communicate. It’s all about building familiarity and trust so that you become a valued part of readers’ lives.
Is it easier to develop a distinct author voice if you are a nonfiction author?
It’s true that nonfiction authors typically have an easier time selecting what to talk about. But they still have the challenge of crafting a new public voice that is entirely their own. It can be a lot of work—for example, Gretchen Rubin has done a great job of crafting a unique voice, but she’s been blogging since 2006. I estimate she’s created more than 2000 blog posts.
For fiction writers, a good approach is to think about a visceral way to focus readers’ attention. You and your books are a reflection of your readers’ aspirations and identities. A great example from a different sphere is Bruce Springsteen. People really connect with Bruce because he is the embodiment of a particular worldview, a type of story.
One mistake I commonly see is writers being too focused on the publishing process itself, too “inside baseball.” It’s better to think about the characters and stories you write and why they resonate with people.
In the webinar, you talk a lot about listening. If it’s all about an author’s voice, then why is listening important?
If you want to have a connection with your audience, it’s important to understand them. What inspires them, what are they reading, what are they passionate about? Think about social media as a conversation, not a sales pitch. Any great conversation starts with understanding the people you are talking to. Creating a moment or experience for your fans is much more important than trying to get more followers.
A good place to start is with a clear set of goals that reflect what you are about: this is what I believe, this is what I’m exploring, these are the types of characters and situations I’m interested in. Figure out who shares your worldview and bring them into the conversation. And bear in mind that what you leave out makes what you include so much stronger.
Thanks, Dan! For more examples of different authors and how they have developed distinct voices, check out the full recording of the webinar.
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He is the author of the forthcoming book Dabblers vs. Doers, which focuses on working through risk while developing a meaningful body of work. You can find Dan at http://WeGrowMedia.com.
Sophie McNeill is part of the Digital Marketing and Channel Development team.