Tips for Writers: The Dos and Don'ts of Selling Yourself Online

We’ve been talking to tech-savvy writers and publishers this week, finding out how they navigate the brave new world of promoting books online.

Today, we share some dos and don’t for writers, from Benjamin Law, Text Publishing, Paddy O'Reilly, Hardie Grant Books and others.

How do you use social media well? How do you avoid turning people off? And should you build an author website? We have the answers. (Or, some answers.)

Do

Be yourself - people want to know about your life and the work that you do.

Roxy Ryan, marketing manager, Hardie Grant Books

If you’re going to do it, do it enthusiastically - and committedly, much like writing; otherwise it won’t see many results.

Rebecca Starford, associate publisher, Affirm Press

For authors new to Twitter and Facebook, I recommend they start slowly. Twitter especially can seem hysterical and daunting for a newcomer, so I recommend authors just sign up and spend some time on there without necessarily interacting with others. Follow your publisher, see who they follow, see who follows those followers, etc. You’ll start to get the hang of it, and then you can take a breath and wade in.

Alaina Gougoulis, editorial and digital publishing, Text Publishing

Know how each social media platform works before you use them. Generally, Facebook is for friends and Twitter is for the public. If you have fans/readers, consider setting up a separate fan page instead.

Benjamin Law

Focus on fewer platforms, and do them well. Generally I would suggest using Twitter if nothing else, but if you’re not at ease in 140 characters, consider a blog where you talk about your research, writing process, events that you attend, whatever you’re excited about.

Catherine McInnis, digital marketing assistant, Melbourne University Press

As with most things, the trick is to try and be yourself, but also be mindful and respectful of the medium. I am very glad that Twitter and Facebook weren’t around when I was a teenager. That would have been a personal disaster in many, many ways.

Monica Dux

Be consistent. I don’t have a blog because I don’t have the time - and I never want to be the sort of blogger I see way too often, who posts four times in a week, then nothing for two months. That might work for other people, but for me it’s off-putting.

Kylie Ladd

Honesty is important. Don’t suggest you’re more accomplished than you actually are. Skilful achievement, however humble, is far more impressive than a well-polished facade.

Damon Young

Have a website with accurate information, so that if someone wants to interview you she can do her research and get the basic info right. I got my website for two reasons - my publisher wanted me to and, more importantly, there was a website at the time that had published wrong information about me that people had started quoting back to me!

Paddy O'Reilly

Having an online portfolio of work is super handy for editors ho might be interested in commissioning you. They want to see your track record. It’s good for readers who might be keen to read and share your old work. If you’re a blogger, try to keep your personal blog separate from the stuff you’d want editors to see.

Benjamin Law

I think all authors should have their own websites because in my other role as deputy editor of Meanjin (published by MUP), I’m always trying to contact interesting writers and it’s incredibly frustrating if they don’t have a site with their contact details on it. But that’s purely self interest.

Catherine McInnis

Don’t

Don’t sell your book too hard. By all means promote your book and your publicity, but a good online presence is more than just links to a book.

Roxy Ryan

Don’t forget to make it easy for people to find and purchase your books!

Catherine McInnis

Be rude. Civility gets noticed. Butting into Twitter conversations is cool. Doing so aggressively or sycophantically will not help your development as an author (personally or professionally).

Damon Young

Don’t take criticism to heart (ha!). No author I know can manage this entirely, but particularly online, where people are relatively anonymous, they will say anything. Many of our authors are politicians who haven’t used Twitter before, and they can find it a bit of a shock (again, the #auspol hashtag). Then again, we have books like Speechless by James Button - who is not on Twitter - that are universally adored by everyone who talks about it online. So you could be one of the lucky ones.

Catherine McInnis

The point of social media is the interaction, the conversation, and the immediacy of it: there’s no point in retweeting or reposting something that’s two weeks old.

Alaina Gougoulis

Don’t be discouraged - it takes time to build up an online presence. You have to enjoy it.

Roxy Ryan

Your say

If you have your own tips to share - and things you love or hate about interacting with writers and readers online - please let us know in the comments below.

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