2014 has been a bit of a wild ride.
In June, my first novella was published. In July, my second novella was published. And somewhere between those amazing, momentous events I was asked for my social media links by my publisher and bloggers.
I use a pseudonym for my work for a lot of different reasons, mostly because there are people in my life who might not enjoy being linked with the products of my spicy imagination. In my non-author life, the one where I am a mom, co-worker, teacher, and friend, I have a Facebook account with a ton of pictures on it. I have a very active Pinterest account with a LOT of secret boards that I am slowly migrating over to L.E. Chamberlin’s Pinterest account where they can breathe free. I have a defunct Twitter account. Somewhere I have Instagram, with pics of my friend Beth’s wedding as the last entries.
But as of June 2014, L.E. Chamberlin had none of these things. So I had to get it together pretty quickly and start building my online author presence. And the loveliest benefit of that online author presence was the immediate connection with other authors.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints on social media from authors about other authors. “Authors Behaving Badly” could be its own reality show, complete with review sabotaging, gossip-mongering, and lots of self-absorbed, tearful rants. Or so I hear. I don’t have any author friends who engage in “ABB” shenanigans, but I hear whispers down the line that make my blood run cold. (Get your shit together, people. Karma is a bitch.)
My homies are WAY better than that. And so far, they are the second best part of writing. (The first, of course, being the writing itself.)
What no one tells you when you’re starting out on this crazy journey is that your best fans are often other writers. I’ve witnessed this in my half a year as L.E. Chamberlin, and I’ve experienced it recently as my bonds with other authors have started to strengthen. It’s a sisterhood. (Or a brotherhood.) And that’s a fan base that means so much, because other authors know how fandom works. They know how important reviews are. They know how critical it is to retweet something you’ve worked hard on. A second spent by one of them to click “share” on Facebook nets new readers and widens your public reach. I learned how to be a good fan of other authors on social media, and that education has made me better at marketing myself, too. Win-win.
There’s a lot of advice kicking around for new authors, and since I still am one, I suppose I’m qualified to speak up. My advice is soak it all in. Watch what others are doing. Ask if you can sit at their big-kid tables. Be a fan, and experience for yourself what you want from your own fans, when the day comes. Listen. Imitate. (But do not plagiarize. Creative borrowing is good, stealing is bad.) Question things. Deconstruct the best-written and best-selling books in your genre and find out why they’re so well-received. Then do that. But work with other authors. They are not your competition. They are your support system.
Other authors know. They know what it’s like to lie awake at 2am, mind racing because you’re writing an entire scene in your head and you can’t turn your brain off. They know how it feels to wrestle a plot into submission, to kill your darlings, to craft a sentence so beautiful you feel like you can fly. They know the the joy of typing “The End,” the elation of a submission acceptance, that leap in your heart when you first see your book’s cover or read that first positive review. They also know the crush of rejection, the devastation of poor sales figures, the shock of hearing from angry fans or harsh critics. They’ve experienced folding publishers, bitchy bloggers, missed deadlines, Amazon glitches. They get it.
Think back to when you first went to high school or started your last job. Chances are, you were thrown together with people you didn’t know. You watched and listened and learned the lay of the land. When you felt comfortable (Day 1 for some, Day 85 for others) you made a few overtures, accepted some invitations. Laughed at someone’s joke. Asked where something was or had someone show you how to do something you’d never done before. Slowly but surely, you made friends. You fit in. You became one of them.
Being a new author is like that. It’s exactly like that. And it all plays out on social media.
It’s the easiest way in the world to scope people out and see what they’re made of. You can learn a lot about others from what they tweet or share on Facebook. (We won’t even talk about Tumblr.) Want to make friends with someone? Like their post. Follow their feed. Read their reviews. Comment appropriately. It happens organically and is the absolute best way to make the acquaintance of authors, bloggers, and readers.
Do not ignore social media. I can’t stress this enough. Because if you do, you’ll miss out on one of the best parts of the writer’s journey – connecting with other authors.