Presence, Dear: Part 2
If you read my last post on the importance of an author’s ‘stage presence’, or how well they are able to read from and talk about their own work, you will know that it was about the recently-recognised importance of professionalising the writer.
There’s no getting away from the fact that many writers are natural introverts and may need help with the inevitable part of the job that asks us to interact with the public.
But author presence is not all about giving readings and creating exciting workshops. When I attended the 21st Century Authors training in London in February, I was astonished to find how many of the published authors there don’t bother with Facebook, twitter, blogs or any other form of social media. Yet this, I think, is equally important in building an author’s profile.
Now I can almost hear the backlash already – it’s trivial, it’s time-consuming, it’s exposing, it’s unnecessary. The first three accusations can be true, although social media doesn’t have to be that way. The fourth is a myth. These days, publishers expect their authors to have a social media presence, so I think we have to find ways to manage it and make it work for us, without selling our souls or baring our all.
It need not be trivial. It’s recommended to use 80% of your posts for sharing information – such as interesting articles on relevant subjects like writing. So no, you don’t have to post a picture of your breakfast. That’s your choice.
It need not be time-consuming. If you lack discipline, of course it can suck away hours of your time, whether it’s looking at pictures of cakes on Pinterest or just getting involved in slightly pointless online discussions. But: you can schedule tweets, Instagrams or Facebook posts so they go out regularly, but without you having to physically do it every day, thus limiting the time it all takes to stay active. Or you can use my trick, which is to allow ten minutes at the beginning and end of the day to do a little bit of posting, sharing, liking and retweeting. It’s enough to keep your profile active.
It need not be exposing. You’re in control, remember? Only say what you are happy for everyone to know. No one’s forcing you to talk about your family or your nervous condition. Keep it professional.
And finally: it can be fantastic. I’ve had offers of work via social media. Other authors are more supportive than you might imagine and you should not underestimate the power of a share or a retweet to reach people you could never otherwise do. Even better, I’ve made real connections with readers, who tell me what they think of my writing, and I don’t know any authors who wouldn’t find that useful and often, uplifting. To go back to the last post: if Dickens was around today, I feel sure he’d be on social media every day -and he’d be brilliant at it.
Are you on social media? What works for you? Do you think it’s essential for writers today?