I love to chat with Angelia Sparrow (wiki). She’s a professional author who writes male/male romance novels and short stories. Her genre isn’t something I would read but our conversations teach me a lot about the publishing industry and the writing process.
Because I’m a friend (and occasionally a pushy and selfish one at that), I want to help her do well. The best way that I know how I can help her to succeed is to suggest ways to harness social media. She doesn’t always follow my advice because she’s got a family, another job, is trying to write and doesn’t necessarily have the time nor skills to play the social media game effectively in order to do it successfully. She’s also writing for a niche audience that isn’t ever likely to make it possible for her to become the next megahit author. (If she does, I’d be the first to congratulate her.)
But even with out that, there are a few small things you can do which don’t require much time and effort that can help increase your visibility and she’s done some of them. First, she has a website. It is angelsparrow.com. The site has contests involving her work. These help increase her audience of people who might want free stuff and rewards her fans. She also has a blog which she updates pretty regularly. It includes announcements, reviews, etc. It also has rss feeds. (Hard to believe but some blogs don’t have rss feeds even now.) This means that her new posts show up on rss search engines, on Google’s blog search and Google will regularly check her blog for updates.
She’s also engaged in social media elsewhere, including on LiveJournal, a blogging community which has a large and active fan fiction community. She’s been there forever. This presence means that she can leverage her fan fiction audience for her non-fan fiction writing. The audience she built through years and years of involvement can be used to help her sell books and her short stories. LiveJournal (wiki) loves to celebrate its fan writers gone professional. Or even its professional authors who just happen to use the service. Plugging your work, asking for help or advice for your work, all of these fit into the culture of LiveJournal’s communities. No one is going to question her doing that. In fact, they are more likely to celebrate it.
I’m totally in love with twitter so I’ve spent a lot of time badgering my friends to use the service, even as I tell them it isn’t for everyone. Thus, last night I was happy to find out that Angelia Sparrow is on twitter. If you’re a professional author (or even a fan fiction author), twitter can be a great way to connect with your audience, to maintain relationships, to reward fans, to let them know what is going on. Her twitter follow list is small and she could probably do with having a few more replies at people she follows so she utilizes twitter for its strengths more… but that she’s on there? Great. It is another way to connect with her fans. Still, if you’re not looking to spend much time on twitter, what she’s doing is probably the right way to go about it until she has a better reason and more time to engage.
Another thing she’s doing right (but could probably do better at) is she has a FaceBook page, is planning to create (or has created) a fan page for her work and created an event on FaceBook for her book release. These don’t require much time and effort to maintain if you’re talking about only a small potential pool of interested people. FaceBook has a lot of people on it and you can connect with your personal network of alumni, professional acquaintances, former classmates, friends and fans. Those people are just there. The site might not be intended as a way to create or utilize your fan base but FaceBook gives you the tools to do just that. So use them to do that and connect. And Angelia Sparrow does.
The one thing that I like when I give advice to Angelia Sparrow is that for her, she’s selling a product: A book or a short story in an anthology. This means that she doesn’t necessarily have to obsess over where her traffic is, how many visitors she gets a day, taking traffic from FaceBook or Twitter and trying to convert those visitors into visitors to her site. And then having to make that sell in terms of clicking on ads or buying services on her site. Analytics aren’t the be all and end all. The end game is using the right social media strategy to help her writing and sell her books. (Which can be bought from a couple of places like her publisher or Amazon.)
She does what she needs to do. She engages in a way that allows her to make good use of her limited time in her busy life. She connects to her core audience. So while she isn’t a major player in social media, isn’t cutting edge with how to utilize social media to generate sales, she’s still taking the right steps, steps that anyone who is in a similar position should be taking. I don’t think she probably is aware that she’s doing that because I think she’s just doing what feels right for her. Awesome.