Cristina Deptula serves as executive director of the green social enterprise Authors, Large and SmallShe enjoys a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, from Bill Bryson to Toni Morrison to Abraham Verghese, and believes there is a place and an audience for every book.
Developing Creative Content for Social Media Updates
Most independent authors are likely aware that they should set up websites, blogs, and Facebook and Twitter accounts. Those are all useful ways to help the reading public to find you and your book. However, plenty of writers get confused about what to say online once they have put out all the information about their projects.
It is crucial to keep updating social media and to engage with those who friend, follow, comment and read your online content. It's easy to skim over lengthy book excerpts or promo material on a website, but tougher to ignore a personal conversation with a writer.
Also, Facebook and other websites show your updates to more people when they are more recent and have received more comments and 'likes.' If you go a long time without updating, and don't ask questions or otherwise invite interaction on your posts, you risk dropping to the bottom of someone's newsfeed, where they may never see you. And, it generally takes multiple mentions of a new book to get someone to consider buying it, so writers benefit when they find original ways to remind potential readers of their work.
I recommend posting a two to three paragraph blog update once a week, posting a photo or link on Facebook two to three times a week and putting up a longer quote or excerpt or written status update once a week, and Tweeting once or twice a day. There aren't any hard rules about this, it's just a balance between staying current and regularly reaching your fans and not seeming to spam them. This is just what I have seen work best for authors of all sorts.
Here are some examples of the kind of content you can put out over social media, which we have suggested to some of the authors for whom we consult.
* Melissa Fritchle is a licensed sex and relationship therapist in the progressive beachside town of Santa Cruz, California. She's raising funds to create and publish a set of interactive workbooks for people to use to explore and better understand themselves and how they relate to others. She might consider including links to and comments on news stories and research findings related to intimacy, or tidbits of advice she would give to her clients. Also, I would love to see her craft posts that broaden the concept of what a sex therapist is and does. She has personally worked with celibate priests and nuns in Kenya to help them understand this aspect of human experience. Also, she has served those with varying gender identities, the disabled, older couples and those recovering from abuse and trauma. Examples of the work she does (with confidentiality protected) and what she has learned through her practice, along with her own personal goals and the journeys she undertakes to reach them, could be quite interesting and keep readers visiting her site.
Coming up with new content may seem easier for a nonfiction author, who can share information. Still, though, there are ways fiction writers can keep their pages fresh.
* Michelle Bellon, author of Rogue Alliance, a paranormal fantasy where a female DEA agent must face down her tough past while attempting to arrest a kingpin with the help of his former friend, a man biologically altered by secret government experimentation. What makes Rogue Alliance unique within its genre is its literary quality and complex character development, and Bellon could highlight this on her pages by posting excerpts and endorsements from well-known writers. Also, this tale touches on the ethics of DNA manipulation and official subterfuge, and she can post related news stories or scientific discoveries and facts. Photos and art inspired by the content or the aesthetic of her story, which is set within the Pacific Northwest, would also be great to include.
* Marie Bartlett, author of Pearl, M.D., a historical fiction piece based on the life of one of North Carolina's first female physicians. Her Facebook page currently includes a photo of a dinner setting from the late 1880s, referencing a scene where the main character and one of her best girlfriends share a meal. This is a great way of drawing readers into the story visually, and putting something on social media that differs from and complements what readers will get from the book. Links to medical research and thinking from the era, historical and medical facts, and photos of historical documents and places from the novel would all be great to post, as well.
* Michelle Carrithers, author of the thoughtful suspense novels Summer Justice and A Daughter's Worth. Summer Justice follows the struggles of a decent but naive young Black college girl who moves to an upscale and mostly white neighborhood, experiences prejudice and harassment, and eventually reaches an understanding with her elderly widowed landlady. However, when it seems as if her incarcerated brother's gang may have something to do with her landlady's husband's murder, she must decide what she truly believes and where her loyalties lie. For this novel, unique social media material could include links to news stories involving race and justice, poll results illustrating people's views of issues related to race relations, or stories from readers who can relate to plot points and incidents in the book.
* Rita D'Orazio, author of two family saga novels, Don't Look Back and Katerina, about a young woman's search for identity, friendship and love as she grapples with personal losses and the mixed legacy of her Italian immigrant family. Historical photos and anecdotes from real Italian immigrants from the 1960s, illustrating the culture, food, music, work, clothes and films of the era would be good on social media. Would be interesting to see how tastes changed over the years, how much different the daughter's world is from that of her parents. Also, D'Orazio could pick out episodes from the books and invite readers to share similar experiences, or invite immigrants from other cultures to share tidbits of their own journeys and compare and contrast them to the Italian experience.
* Joe Klingler, author of two suspense novels, RATS, dealing with modern international politics and taking readers into the mindset of a female sniper, and Mash Up, where an indigenous Alaskan detective moves to San Francisco to fight new forms of cybercrime with a much younger partner on the force. Klingler works in the tech industry and finds technology intriguing and full of potential for good as well as harm. Photos of and links to articles about new and interesting devices and developments would be great for social media, along with news articles about cybercrime, and quotes, ideas and short thought pieces from leaders and pioneers in the international relations and tech/security fields.
Hopefully these examples have provided some ideas for social media content for both fiction and non-fiction authors. Some basic ideas here are to balance quotes, links, images and written pieces online, to reflect and express what makes the book and writer unique and worth reading, and to put some material online that complements, but differs from, what's in the book, and vice versa.
Updating your own pages is only half of a social media strategy; the rest involves finding your audience where they are already gathering, engaging them, and maintaining a relationship with your community over time. I will discuss that more fully in a later column.