No matter where you are on your career path, one of the best ways to connect with readers and fellow writers is through social networking. But we are all different. Some of us are apples, some are oranges, some of us are plums, some are kiwis…
The way you present yourself through these venues is undeniably important. It can either help or hinder your fan base and industry connections. But how do you show who you are — what makes you unique, why others would be interested in you — without going overboard and pushing people away? How do you know which parts of your personality to put on public display and which to keep hidden?
The short answer: It takes time to find what works for you. It takes trial and error to establish your comfort zone.
For the long answer, I asked a couple of authors at different career stages the following questions: In your writing career thus far, how have you been true to yourself in the public eye, what makes you, you? What have you allowed yourself to compromise, either with a good or bad result?
Both authors have shown themselves to be quite adept at social networking, through more than one venue. How do they approach it?
From upcoming debut novelist, Roni Loren:
One thing I learned about myself early on in life is that I’m a terrible liar, and I’m even worse at “faking it” in social situations. This hasn’t always served me well. After all, high school is like the center of the faking it universe. And don’t even get me started on how bad of a waitress I was. But I think it set me up well for knowing how to be myself wherever I am. I never went into this social media thing thinking about what I wanted my “brand” to be or how I wanted to “appear” to others. I just got on and acted like myself. And I think that’s the only way to be successful with this social media thing—just be you. You are the brand.
Like anyone else, I’m not one-dimensional. I’m a wife, a mom to a preschooler, a person who loves blogging about the writing craft, but I’m also an erotic romance author. So it’s been interesting trying to share all those facets when the nature of the books I write has potential to offend some of the more conservative people who follow my writing blog. When I got my book deal and realized I needed to branch out from just reaching other writers, I was in a bit of a quandary as to how to go about it.
My compromise has been that I now have two blogs (one on writing craft and one on more romance/pop culture topics) that all feed into my website. I also have a 18+ Tumblr site where I post sexy inspiration photos I find online. That way people can pick and choose what kind of stuff they want from me—writing craft only, sexy pics of male celebrities, all of it. So I guess if I had any advice for someone just getting their social networking up and running, I would say make sure you stay diverse. Don’t just give people one side of you—“the writer”. Show them the well-rounded you so that you don’t paint yourself into an “image” corner that you may want to break out of one day.
Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, releases from Berkley Heat in January 2012. Visit her at www.roniloren.com or find her on twitter.
From bestselling novelist, Allison Winn Scotch:
This is a great question and certainly one that a lot of authors, as they come up in the world, need to consider, but my first instinct is to say that I haven’t wrestled with it too intensely. Why? Because I think that readers have a pretty high BS-detector, and they can sense when someone is putting on a persona and when he or she is being her true self. What I mean by that is that honestly, it’s never occurred to me to be anything less than transparent with my life – at least my writing life – and I think, because that’s just sort of my point north – I’ve lucked into reader response.
I’ve been blogging for five years now, and I saw very early on that readers like to know that regardless of your success, that you are fallible, just like them, and that there is no shame in failure. And I saw this because I was putting out my own failures for everyone to read. :) I think that readers like to see that you’re human and that whatever is happening in your life resonates with whatever is happening in their life, and I’ve tried to honor that, in terms of how I correspond with readers and what I discuss with them. So I guess that’s what makes “me, me,” at least in terms of the public eye. I do believe in pulling back the veil, and saying, “hey, this aspect of my career was really tough but this is how I made it better. And if I did it, maybe you can too.”
Now, I definitely HAVE made a distinction in terms of what I expose professionally and what I expose personally. On Facebook, for example, I had to draw the line and only accept requests from people I personally know. I just felt too exposed opening up my life – pictures of my kids, jokes from college, or whatever – to strangers. While I maybe don’t accept every request on FB, I certainly will engage in long conversations on Twitter or my blog or Google+ or wherever. I try to answer all of my emails. I think things like that go a long way, and besides, I really enjoy that aspect – it’s a lot of the reason why we write – to engage with others who might share our story.
I think the important thing is to know where you draw your line: for me, it’s protecting some aspect of my family’s privacy – I won’t write explicitly about my marriage, for example – but then to do everything you can beyond that line (and within your comfort zone) to foster relationships and put forth your genuine self.
Allison Winn Scotch is the New York Times bestselling author of three novels, including The One That I Want, which was released in paperback this June. Her next novel, The Song Remains the Same, will be published in April 2012. She lives in New York with her family.
Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing your experiences!
Here are a few more author examples of how you can be yourself through different areas of social networking:
Natalie Whipple (upcoming debut novelist) through blogging
Tahereh Mafi (upcoming debut novelist) through blogging
Myra McEntire (debut novelist) through twitter
Hannah Moskowitz (veteran novelist) through twitter
John Green (bestselling novelist) through vlogging
Also worth checking out if you’re just starting to find your feet in the blogosphere, some tips from Angela Ackerman, co-founder of The Bookshelf Muse:
The bottom line? I think this quote from Jael McHenry‘s THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER sums it up nicely:
There is no normal. There’s only what’s right for you, and being honest.
Whether you’re an apple or an orange (or something even sweeter), how have you found comfort in your own skin?
photo courtesy of KidnapBunny on deviantart