Yesterday, I asked the online community I coordinate for what would be useful to them in a blog post. I wasn’t surprised when people said they’d like to hear how to pitch editors, agents, and publishers – I get asked that question a lot, and I always refer people to Jane Friedman because she has great free resources and is available for consultations on those topics. I don’t pitch much anymore since I indie publish, so I just don’t have much to say there.
The other topic the community members mentioned was online presence – everything from blogging to social media, and because I indie publish, I have a lot to say about having an online presence since my online presence is pretty crucial to my business as a writer, both as an editor and an author. Hence, this quirky, acronym-focused post on online presence for writers.
The Three Online Things You Need as a Writer
I am totally in agreement with Kirsten Oliphant on online presence in that I think you need three things:
- a website, even a really basic one that people can find through a search.
- a place where people can sign-up to get your regular (more on regular below) emails about what you’re doing and more
- a social media presence in at least one of the major platforms. Pick the one you like best.
You can do a whole lot more – and maybe you want to – but starting out, these are all the necessaries: website, email list, one social media spot. Bingo, bongo!
Then, Follow the CATS Method for Building and Maintaining an Online Presence as a Writer
Once you have those three things, I believe you need to have some general principals to guide you, and here’s where the CATS come in. (Picture kittens if that helps alleviate anxiety. Picture puppies if you prefer, too. Whatever works.)
C – Consistency – Whatever you do, be consistent. If you decide to blog*, do it regularly– every week, every two weeks, whatever. Same with social media. Set an expectation about when you’ll be around – every day, every couple of days, every Sunday at 2pm – and then post then. Be consistent, and your readers will not be disappointed or frustrated. It’s hard to become a fan of someone when you feel disappointed in them, and readers do feel disappointed when we don’t deliver what they expect us to deliver. (Note, you can’t fulfill every expectation, but writing what you say you’ll write when you say you’ll write it is a basic.) And if something has to change – you’re on vacation, kid are home for the summer, etc – tell your readers that you’ll be MIA for a while. They’ll get it, as long as they’re informed.
A – Authenticity – Be you. Always. Don’t try to post or schedule or create like anyone else. Do what is authentic for you in your voice. If you like to incorporate poetry in your Twitter posts, do it. If you talk politics on your FB page, go right ahead. If you love to Insta cross-stitch in the midst of your wordish things, go to it (and follow me because I love cross-stitch and will follow you back.) Pithy. Verbose. Super serious. Whimsical. Whatever is you – and that may change over time too – just do that online, and your people will find you.
T – Topical – Pick a lane and stay there. Do be authentic, but also focus. Don’t create an Insta about cross-stitch and books and then start incorporating quirky coffee mugs you find in thrift stores as well as your grandfather’s favorite sayings and your favorite billboard designs from your road trips. That’s too much. You could start an Instagram feed for each of those things (and do that if you can be consistent with them all and still write), but you need to niche down a little to help your people know what to expect from you. I made the mistake of not following this advice on this blog for a long time, and it took me far longer than necessary to find my readership. Don’t do what I do. Do what I say. 🙂
S – Sustainable – Do What You Can, and Do It Well. Honestly, we could all be online all day every day if we wanted, but then, when would we write. We have to find some balance – even though that balance shifts all the time. Here’s the bottom line – you need to do what you can maintain and enjoy while writing and doing the rest of your life. For most of us, that means we can’t have active social media presences everywhere. Pick one, maybe two. Do those well. For many of us, that means blogging less frequently than used to be the norm. (I blogged EVERY DAY for five years.) We may need to pick an hour (or less) a day to do our social media work. We may need to take social media off our phones so that we actually write. Whatever we need to do to write well, keep a consistent presence, and enjoy our time online – that’s what we need to do, and “that” is different for everyone.
Tell me, then, what sort of online presence fits the CATS principles for you. What social media do you like? What blogging schedule suits your needs, if any? What is the hardest thing about an online presence for you as a writer? I’d love to hear.
*Honestly, I wouldn’t invest much energy in blogging unless you’re selling things through your website. I still blog because it brings people to my site, where they can find out about my editing services and buy my books. I don’t blog to build an email list or grow a following. Blogs just don’t really work for that anymore because people are overwhelmed with messages. If you have to choose, build an email list – Kirsten Oliphant has some great resources on that – rather than blog.
A quick update on my quest to sell 1,000 copies of Love Letters To Writers by year’s end. As of today, I’ve sold 238 copies – an uptick of over 20% since last week. I’m now 23.8% of the way there. So we keep pushing.