This is the first in my advice series for building customer engagement with readers as an author.
Disclaimer: I’m still very new at this business in particular so I expect this advice will date quickly. That said, I have been doing professional social media for various companies for almost a decade on and off and I know a bit about engagement.
Before you do anything else, you need to think a bit about how you want to come across to a total stranger. You need to plan your brand.
I’ll admit, if someone asks me what my brand is, my mind blanks out. I don’t like the idea of reducing my entire self to a few words, and I hate the idea of selling myself as an idea. But when it came to a pen name it became easier for me to get my head around it.
When I came up with Jaxon Knight for the Fairyland romances, I knew I could leverage off my love for theme parks, fluffy happy stories, romance and food, as those are all things which feature in those books.
For a more hypothetical example, if I have a pen name to write science fiction stories about spaceship battles in space, then that pen name should have a brand concerned with military tactics, spaceships, physics and all things space. If I was to be posting on social media for that pen name, I could do things like retweet NASA and share photos from the International Space Station. Basically you want to connect to your readers on the things that they’re into and you are too.
In terms of politics, it’s important to decide early on what you’re willing to get into. A lot of authors will recommend not being political at all, just stick to the books and the fun stuff. I think this is impossible, frankly. Nothing you write or release exists outside of politics. The choices you make around what to write and what not to, is political. But that doesn’t mean you want to go on twitter and start fights with politicians as your author persona. Just be mindful of what you choose to share.
I, personally, am okay with complaining about transphobia as my author persona, because I write trans and gender diverse characters, and if people are following me for my books then they’ll know that. If someone who disagrees with me unfollows me as a result, that’s okay because they probably wouldn’t like my books anyway. The upside is that if there’s someone, somewhere who looks up to me as an author and identifies as trans or gender diverse, then they’ll know I’ve got their back. Trust is super important.
Keep your voice authentic to you. Don’t make up a bunch of lies that you have to keep track of, because people will catch on, catch you out and assume you have something to hide. Trust lost! You don’t have to be posting photos of yourself and sharing details of your life, but share enough to show you’re a real person. For example, my Jaxon Knight instagram features a lot of food I’ve made, because I put a lot of food and cooking scenes in my Jaxon Knight books.
So what I’m saying, basically, is that you should think a little about how you want to come across before you get stuck into social media as an author. Think about the kinds of things you can share on your social media, decide how much of your true self you’ll share and what you’ll omit from your real life, and have a think about politics as well.
Take a look at what some of your favourite authors are doing, on their facebook pages and twitters you’ll notice it’s not just ads for their books. They’ll be sharing articles and retweeting people etc.
Take a look at what other authors in your genre are doing as well. Obviously, don’t just copy them, but the more you immerse yourself in the community the more you’ll get an instinctive feel for how to interact in a way that works. Watch and learn, and then do your own version of it.
Don’t fake it, if you don’t actually care about the stuff you share, it will read as dull and flat. Be yourself, but be a refined, targeted version of yourself.
Phew, okay. Apparently I have quite a lot to say about brand and voice, despite finding those terms a little cringey. Please comment if you have any insights or extra stuff to add! In this series I’m going to do some specific Twitter, Facebook and Instagram advice and whatever else occurs to me. If you’d like to see me tackle something in particular please let me know!