When I published my ebook, The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day, the thing I dreaded the most was marketing.
Like so many other writers, I longed for the (nonexistent) days when a writer sent her work into the world and retreated to a nice, remote cabin where the royalties would be delivered by carrier pigeon.
I know this is a really bad idea; most writers do not have the luxury of depending on other people to promote their work, and haven’t for a while now. And thanks to social media, it’s no longer necessary to buy expensive print ads and mailers that end up in the recycling bin.
Still, I felt as though the world of social media was asking something of me that I did not want to give: personal details, an “in” to my private life, a nebulous online connection with thousands of strangers. I’m not on Facebook because I don’t like random people seeing photos of me.
I had to join the conversation
After numerous and marketers told me to engage with other people to find my readers, I started a Tumblr and revived my dormant Twitter account. But I couldn’t figure out what to write about.
I tweeted random observations of the weather in Seattle mixed in with announcements about my ebook. I posted haphazard observations about my experience publishing. I didn’t feel enriched or engaged, and I had an overwhelming fear that all of my (two) readers hated me.
Finding my social media voice
My breakthrough came a few weeks in. My publisher and best friend, Kelly Rizzetta of KMR Publishing, helped me make some short videos about topics related to the book just for fun. We chatted about our favorite chick lit books, our fatal flaws as characters in a chick lit novel, our thoughts on chick lit and feminism, and our writing and editing processes.
Making those videos was probably my favorite part of the entire publishing process. I loved talking about myself in them — it felt like being interviewed, only I was being interviewed by my best friend, so I didn’t have to worry about any tricky questions.
Shazam! After posting these videos, I realized that I had found the key: treat all my online interactions as if I were being interviewed. The videos I made were social media, and they were fun to make because I was pretending to be an expert. Of course, I am an expert — in my own personal experience of publishing an ebook for the first time. I decided to treat Twitter and Tumblr as a talk show where I got to make up the questions and the answers.
Suddenly, social media became a lot more fun. It was easy for me to pretend-interview myself!
Making social media work for me
I don’t know about you, but I imagine someone famous, like Terry Gross, interviewing me all the time; I make up questions that she would ask me and then I mentally respond. Sure, it’s a little crazy, but I can spend an entire commute perfecting my answer to: “Where did you get the idea to use cupcake-making as a theme for your ebook?”
Now, I have a place to be my own Terry Gross. Instead of sharing how cloudy it is again out here in the Pacific Northwest, I can share on Tumblr my perfect, polished answer about why I chose a cupcake theme. I can tweet things I wish I’d known going into epublishing. I can share the ups and downs of working with another person on my book.
By keeping in mind the simple mantra “Act as if you’re being interviewed,” I have also stopped feeling guilty about not sharing elements of my personal life that I don’t want everyone to know. No one expects writers to talk too much about their personal lives on NPR, and you don’t have to put your life on the Internet unless you want to.
Personally, I want to live most of my small life in privacy, and I still refuse to join Facebook. But I am more than happy to act the part of a successful author with knowledge to share with my fellow readers and writers. The Internet has leveled the playing field for new writers like me, who, although new to publishing, have plenty of experience that others could benefit from.
After all, if Terry Gross called me tomorrow, I’d definitely say yes.