Orange Rinds and Apple Peels – Finding Comfort In Your Own Skin

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:

Creating the Breakout Blog

Blogging Tip: Be Yourself

 

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

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About Lydia Sharp

Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) is a YA novelist and an Assistant Editor with Entangled Publishing. She has been a contributor to Writer Unboxed since 2010. For all the places you can connect with Lydia, and find her books, please visit her website.

Comments

  1. says

    Great post.
    I am a coconut. Thick hard outer skin that gives no clue as to what there is inside. I rarely reveal anything about myself because as a former teacher I have learnt through experience that the more you reveal the more vulnerable you can become if someone wants to be unpleasant. Having said all of that I am also ex military so I have a great sense of humour and I rarely take anything seriously.

    I think online we have to be careful. A good principle is to consider what is the worst case scenario if I posted these photos, sent this email, tweeted this opinion etc? The worst case may never happen but if you could not live with the consequences of the worst case don’t do it.

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  2. says

    I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed by all of the avenues out there to interact with people. (Google + just about pushed me over the edge.) But after a few deep breaths (and a temper tantrum) I realized that not only do I not have to do it all, but the people with whom I interact don’t want me to do it all.

    There’s some great advice in this post and I love how you summed it all up with Jael’s quote. Thank you!

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  3. says

    Lydia – thanks so much for having me on WU! Erika, I agree: Google+ pushed me over the edge and made me almost resentful at the time I was putting in online. The good news is that it’s actually forced me to step away a bit – I don’t check my phone as often, and I’m consciously trying to do things OTHER than be at the computer – and I feel like I’m starting to get the balance back.

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  4. says

    Love this post. As I dig deeper into my writing career, I realize that writers, at least writers who are working to get novels published, have not nearly the amount of control as people assume. If a novelist cannot control the title of her book (just as an example) then, jeez louise, what can she control?!? That’s where this blog post comes in handy . . . we CAN control how comfy we feel in our skin. No reader, publisher, agent, mother-in-law has control of how we feel in our fruit-skin.

    I think I’m an organic blueberry. Or maybe I just feel like an organic blueberry because I ate my weight in them yesterday.

    That said, if I’m going to stay in this biz, I do understand that I can still be a blueberry, but I need to jump inside a coconut every now and then (love that, Christopher!) so I don’t get myself squashed. I stepped on a blueberry yesterday. It wasn’t pretty.

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  5. says

    Great post!
    As I’m working through the patch-things-up draft of my WIP (adding things I realized I needed, deleting things I didn’t) I’m finding that my new blog is adding quite a bit of fun to my life. Being able to create in a very non-linear way, including photos and video is such a nice break from the structural work I’m doing on my book right now.

    I will say though that, although most of my posts are about writing, not all of them all. Even after reading all kinds of advice about narrowing the focus of a blog, I just couldn’t do it completely. Finally, I decided not to worry about it. I’m a pretty scattered person, naturally, and if my blog reflects that at times…then so be it.

    Also, although I do mention having a family here and there on the blog, I have no intention of bringing family stories there…at least not ones that would embarrass anyone. My kids are annoyed enough that I’m on facebook-ha!

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  6. says

    Interesting post… Dovetails nicely with several recent discussions on promotion and media.

    I had a blog before publishing The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken. At first it was for my own entertainment, then I realized people were reading it. Sometimes regularly. So now there’s an ad on my blog where readers can click to buy the novel. But I don’t want to turn my soapbox into a book hawking shop. What to do? New blog for my author persona? Not enough hours in the day.

    I also have a tough time promoting myself on FB. Yes, I shared the link and announcement of my novel, but I see authors who constantly update their statuses about where to buy their books, etc. And frankly it turns me off.

    Are paid ads the way to go? Then people know they’re viewing an ad. I don’t think (or hope?) social media’s highest use is to network a bunch of personal “stores.”

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  7. says

    You always find a way to say it best, Lydia :)

    I agree that being yourself is a must when online. I love how Roni’s managed to diversify her online presence to reach different groups of people. What she needed to do was a challenge yet she found a way, and it’s a great lesson for all of us on how to reach and add value to all types of audiences.

    I also think that with the inclusion of Google+ to the SN outlets, we need to more carefully decide what we want to use each for. If we use FB, Twitter, blogging & Google+ for the same things, are we really maximizing our opportunities to reach all of our intended audiences? This is what I’m currently trying to decide.

    Thanks for the mention here, too. :) Great post!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  8. Lesli says

    My problem is being a little too honest. I had to stop blogging because I was ranting at people who only write for fun and have no intention of publishing. Sure, I can’t understand them, but that doesn’t make them wrong. (Of course I’d never admit that on my blog!)

    And my posts were a bit meaner when the moon was new.

    But early on, I realized my writer’s voice was only accessable when my characters and I were being completely honest, in my writing and on the internet. It’s paying off.

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  9. says

    These comments are all made of WIN.

    I can relate to a lot of you in that I’m constantly adjusting what works for me and what doesn’t. Personally, I have yet to touch FB with a cyber version of a ten foot pole. But Twitter has worked wonders for me from the minute I signed up.

    As for my fruit? Honestly? I feel more like a fruit *basket* most of the time, rather than just one fruit. Not to be confused with a “basket case”, though, just saying. ;-)

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  10. says

    Great post Lydia! I’ve worried about this because I have a lot of different sides to my personality and it’s hard to figure out sometimes what you should be presenting online. Do I be my off the wall, different every minute self or do I choose an aspect of my life to share? And if the latter, what is most appropriate for the readers and followers I will be interacting with? It’s definitely taken me some time to find a comfortable balance and it’s still a question I re-assess every once in a while to make sure I’m still comfortable with my choices.

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  11. says

    Well you know I’m all about the fruit, Lydia, so this post spoke to me at a biologic level. ;)

    I have no idea about what is *effective*, but in terms of authenticity and boundaries, I’ve had a little practice with this in my former career. I’m grateful for that, because I think it’s saved me from a few faux pas.

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  12. says

    Lydia, thanks so much for inviting me over here! :)

    And Angela, thanks for that comment. I’ve been stressing over my approach these last few weeks, so I’m glad to hear it works for you.

    And I second everyone who’s mentioned the overload now that Google + has popped up. I’m on EVERYTHING but really–if I’m just on say, Facebook because I feel like I have to be, is it really adding any value for anyone? I think we’re all going to have to be really careful to keep things streamlined for ourselves so that we don’t get crazier than we already are, lol.

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  13. says

    I’m suddenly craving a coconut-and-organic-blueberry smoothie.

    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.

    This is great advice, Roni.

    Re: Google+, I’ve had the same reaction that many of you have had. It’s pushed me into a social-media corner and for the first time I’ve felt a strong resistance. For me, Google+ is going to be a new LinkedIn–at least for now. I really don’t want or have time for it to become more than that. Finding personal limits and then respecting them is important. Because we are all writers, and we have to make time to actually–ya know–write.

    Thanks for this post, Lydia, and thanks to Roni and Allison for fab contributions.

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  14. says

    My advice is to focus on writing, writing, and more writing. I figure, once I have a novel I believe, in my heart, is a bestseller (the public will be the final judge), THEN I can concern myself with social networking. I can have hundreds-of-thousands of blog followers and be following just as many Twitter writers, but until I have a novel FINISHED, it of no avail. Until then, just enjoy being social…with no agenda. Write, write, and write. That, I believe, is what we writers should be doing. -James Mayor (www.jamesmayor.com).

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  15. says

    When we are using the social media for building the self ‘brand’, we are under a misguided belief that hiding certain parts of who we are lead to accept us more readily. To maintain that socially acceptable rosy mask, all the time we have to be paid some extra attention and be cautious.

    With this great blog, Roni bringing us a great advice for relieving us from that unnecessary burden which we are supposed to carry with us throughout our career, for the sake of that ‘brand’.

    “Never think about what ‘You’ wanted ‘Your’ “brand” to be or how ‘You’ wanted to “appear” to others. ‘You’ just got on and acted like ‘Yourself’…..—just be ‘You’. ‘You’ are the brand”

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  16. says

    I love everything about this post. The challenges are huge, especially considering our ‘brand’ in today’s world as authors is US. I appreciate all the suggestions you’ve provided here. Favorite line of Roni’s interview: ‘high school is like the center for faking it.’ so true.

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  17. says

    Great post, and I very much agree with this: “The short answer: It takes time to find what works for you. It takes trial and error to establish your comfort zone.”

    I started blogging/tweeting with some fairly unrealistic and naive points of view — of course I’d never done it…and I’ve realized that it definitely is an evolution, and that I (each of us) am my own brand, whatever that is.

    And as for what fruit I am…. maybe a guava?

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  18. says

    Social media is all the buzz in my little brain:) I have to remind myself that writing great books is the first priority.

    I enjoy blogging as the foundation for my writing platform. Add Twitter and Facebook, and I have an even larger appetite for this business!

    I’m learning and loving every minute of it.

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  19. says

    @Ms. Scotch: Had you considered locking your private Facebook account so that only people you wanted to find it would be able to? You could then have created a public “page” to support your writing. (Of course, I understand being overwhelmed by all the social media options out there. There are too many, and they all wax and wane in popularity, but it seems like most are waxing right now.)

    Thanks to both of you for your post. I figure in the long run it’ll be easier to just be authentic. If I have to remember how I’m supposed to act, it’s going to be one more burden on my brain, and I’d rather devote that energy to creating.

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  20. says

    Very nice, Lydia!

    At first glance, it’s quite obvious that I’m an ugli fruit. Hideous to behold on the outside, equally hideous on the inside…

    No, wait—that’s not me. Perhaps I am a kiwi; fuzzy on the outside, on the inside,green with little seeds that get stuck between one’s teeth and never seem to come out, no matter how much one brushes or flosses and always make people say “Have you been eating pepper?” whenever one smiles…

    Well, regardless of what kind of fruit I may be in my basket, I’ve stayed true to myself through my use of humor, self-depricating (see above) and otherwise. The world is a very funny place to me, and I’d like to think that people like me and what I have to say because, even through the sarcasm and cynicism that I find so endearing, they can see that I’m actually a ridiculously optimistic person.

    On the other hand, I could be completely mistaken, and perhaps I’m a tomato, which is technically a fruit, but never gets put into those “Welcome Neighbor” fruit baskets…

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  21. says

    I loved what Melissa said before me about being a scattered person. I took a class from Kristen Lamb and she asked us to write 100 words to describe ourselves. Now I take those words and blog about one of them each Wednesday. It may seem “scattered” but it’s a reflection of the total me.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking blog.
    Patti

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  22. says

    Perhaps the best way to go about social media is to feel out what YOU need through a process of trial and error. I’m a new blogger, and right now what’s working is a tumblr for pretty bookstore pictures and writing-related quotes and (more importantly) a blog about balancing writing and the young life. If I’m feeling adventurous, in the next month or so I may add a Twitter to tweet great articles and blog posts (like this one).

    These venues re-energize me and I have fun with them. But I couldn’t imagine adding anything else. We can only be in so many places at once (and for me, Google + is definitely not one of them) before we start to pull apart at the edges. And for now, my two blogs are where I need to be.

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