Social Media Workshop #1: Where to Start

If you attended Laura Whitaker’s “Dating 101: What makes YOU desirable to an Editor” session at last September’s Lucky 13: Make 2013 Your Year Conference and happened to look over my shoulder as she talked about the importance of writers having a strong social media platform … then you would have seen me scribble this in my notebook:

blog 1

You would have seen me show the note to Larissa, whose eyes widened as she nodded.

You would have then seen me show it to Susan, who also nodded and whispered I know!


I. Was. Freaking. Out.

See, here’s the thing.

I used to love social media. Like, a lot. Back when my first book, Beauty Shop for Rent, was coming out, I spent enormous amounts of time marketing, blogging, writing newsletters, mailing postcards, and crafting the perfect MySpace page. (MySpace, now there’s a blast from the past!) I threw my heart and soul into my platform, doing everything possible to make Beauty Shop a success.

But then I burned out.

I got sick of blogging.

I got sick of mailing. 

I got sick of the whole read me, follow me, love me routine.

And worst of all … despite Beauty Shop’s decent sales, I started to worry that none of my efforts did any good. That they were a total waste of time. That I should have been concentrating on my next manuscript instead in order to avoid my dreaded second-book-slump. As a result, I developed a new belief in regards to social media: That the best way to promote a book is to sell another.

So for my second novel, Just Flirt, I did very little promotion unless you count a panicked, last-minute ditch effort one month before it’s release. Instead, I threw myself into two other projects: a young adult fantasy and a mid-grade about girls baseball in the 70’s, both of which I deeply, truly, passionately love, love, LOVE.

After all, as long as you write an excellent, fantastic book that folks love, love, LOVE, publishers aren’t going to worry about how much you blog or tweet, right?

Well, wrong. So wrong.

This fact reached out and smacked me in the face when Laura Whitaker plainly stated that if a writer doesn’t have a social media platform, then they will not buy their book.

Holy crap.

Talk about an eye opener. My “just write an excellent, fantastic book” theory was total blown. For the rest of the conference, I walked around with a panicked, oh-my-God-I-have-so-much-work-to-do look in my eyes. (Raise your hand if you did, too!) And after having a conversation on the topic with another writer friend days later, I cringed when she said, “Well, yeah, publishers are always receiving excellent books. Which will they buy, the one whose author has a strong platform or the one without?”

So okay, my attitude toward social media has changed.

I realized that if I want to be successful – if I want to run with the big dogs and make some serious literary noise, then I need to take all aspects of publishing more seriously. I need to find a balance between writing, reading, continuing education, and social media. After all, we’re not just writers and illustrators. We’re business owners.

Allow me to repeat: Unless you consider writing or drawing to be a hobby and hobby only … You’re a business owner. I even named my business: Writing Without Reins Inc, and I created a twelve-month plan which–okay–might sound corny but is mentally effective. Because what must businesses do in order to succeed? They must advertise and a writer’s “advertising” is done through social media.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

For those of you who are embarking on your own social media quest, we are beginning a series of workshops with posts from Larissa, Susan, Shelley, and myself about our own platform journey. We will also have guest contributors beginning with an article from Veronica Bartles is coming Friday. But first, I’m starting with…

Where To Start

(I know, original title, right?)

But the topic of social media is overwhelming. I mean, there’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Blogging, Pinterest, YouTube, Goodreads, Google+, Linkedin, and God help us … MySpace is trying to make a comeback. Oh, and don’t forget to throw your own website into the mix. Yeah. It’s overwhelming. And when I get overwhelmed, I like to go back to the beginning.

So after the conference, I decided to start off my social media makeover with a cute, new notebook. (Heaven forbid you start a new plan with a dingy old one!)

blog 3

On the first page, I listed the many available components for a successful platform, most of which were mentioned above:

blog 6-001

Then I made a page for each component and spent a long, long day researching and reading many articles posted by writers on social media. Whenever I found good advice for each component, I added notes to the corresponding page.

blog 4-001

I’m now working on implementing these tips which will be shared in future, more specific posts. But first, another helpful step to take before starting … or in my case, re-starting their social media platform is to ask yourself the following questions:

What do I hope to accomplish with my social media platform and what do I want my online persona to be?

The last question is the hardest for me. I mean, it’s easy blogging here. This is SCBWI MD/DE/WV blog, not mine, so there’s a safely factor going on. But when it comes to my personal blog? Tweeting? Facebook? I’m still afraid to truly be myself, because God help us if I let my full crazy shine.

Something that has been extremely helpful is the Online Persona Workshop on the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog by R.L. LaFevers and Mary Hershey. (Sadly, Shrinking Violets closed shop in 2012 but Robin LaFevers is now contributing to Writer UnBoxed, an equally awesome site.) The workshop is from late 2010, but is still very effective in helping you figure out … well, you–who you are and what you hope to accomplish online.

I hope these tips help! This Friday, look for another addition to our social media series. Until then, please post any thoughts, advice, or questions in the comments below!

Happy writing, drawing … and socia media-ing, everyone! 🙂

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
This entry was posted in Social Media Tips, Writing & Drawing Exercises, Writing Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Social Media Workshop #1: Where to Start

  1. Sue Poduska says:

    Thanks for the great resource, Laura. Looks like it’ll take a little time to get through all this, but it looks well worth that time.

  2. Great post – thanks for the helpful suggestions. On Jan 1, I started a blog with an accompanying Facebook page ( – I’d love it if you all would visit!). My site still needs a lot of work, but I decided to take the plunge and put myself out there (if I waited until everything was closer to perfect, I would probably never have a blog!). So far, it’s been a great learning experience. You’ve inspired me to investigate other social media platforms as well – so much to learn!

    Any chance you might include your notes from your “Social Media Makeover” notebook as part of your blog posts in this series?

    Thanks again, and maybe I’ll see you out there in Social Media Land!

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Absolutely, we plan on several posts highlighting each component so I made a quick tweak above to reflect this.

      And congrats on starting your blog and FB page! (Veronica will actually be touching on incorporating your hobbies with social media on Friday.) Everything looks great, but something funky happened when I tried reading the comments – part of the text was hidden by your images. And I’d love to see some bio information in the sidebar! Otherwise, great start! 🙂

      • Thanks for checking out my site, and thanks for the heads up about the hidden text – I’ll try to figure out what’s up with that.

        I will definitely add some bio info and other categorical “tabs.” Maybe it will be there next time you visit 🙂

  3. Lindsay Bandy says:

    Thank you so much for starting this series of posts! I was definitely in the freak-out crowd that day, but after my initial panic attack subsided, I was so thankful for the kick in the pants to get moving with social media. Looking forward to more good advice and resources!

  4. I am freaking out right now!
    But I better get going–thanks for all your tips.
    I am in Beginning 101!

  5. This is great! I started blogging and tweeting right before the last conference… which was so wonderful…. and I decided to offer the sophisticated, highly knowledgeable kidlitosphere just what I have, which is my own opinion as someone who is a creative, accomplished adult but not really a professional writer yet (literally meaning I haven’t been paid). I think there’s room out there for all of us even if we don’t have a background as a teacher, parent, voracious reader, graduate of a children’s literature program, or amazing artist. Now I’m going to go visit the online persona workshop to see how I might be wrong!

    • Laura Bowers says:

      That’s fantastic, congrats on starting your blog! Resumes don’t matter – you have something no other writer/blogger in the world can offer … your own unique voice and perspective! You’re definitely on the right path and I absolutely LOVE the picture on your blog. Hilarious! Kudos for linking your name to your blog so ATEB readers can check it out, too. Next time, though, maybe include a link within the comment in case people don’t know they can click on your name. 🙂

      Good luck with the workshop!

  6. This blog was fantastic!!! Thank you for the great resources and for your insights. It is EXACTLY what I need right now. My debut children’s book, So Long Gnop-Jiye is being released Feb. 18, 2014 and I am trying to build my social media platform to help market it! I just created a website and facebook page (am getting ready to send out the links to all my personal contacts) to help promote myself as an author, and the book. It feels very strange to market myself….but you’re right…it must be done!! If you all want to check them out… (Website) (facebook page)

    I would LOVE any feedback. I was just talking to another new author about starting a twitter account (have never used it before, so I will be reviewing your resources closely!). Stay tuned for that!!

  7. Stacy Couch says:

    Thanks for the great, get-your-butt-moving post, Laura! I just got back on Twitter for the first time after the holidays, when I got all lazy and let it go. Totally forgot how fun/addictive it was, how funny the kidlit people I follow could be.

    Now I’m thinking of a blog–and thinking about it–and thinking some more. I’m definitely returning to your post…and all those lovely workshops…so one day I’ll be confident enough to do the dang* thing.

    *PB-writer swear.

  8. Great post– so glad I found this site. I can’t wait to dig in to those Online Persona Workshops. Thank you!

    Christine @ Better Novel Project

  9. Deb Dunk says:

    Thanks for the great post! As an illustrator I’ve always been intimidated by blogging/tweeting. I follow a lot of writer/illustrators and they have far more interesting and witty things to say than me! Your tips and links will be a big help as I try to figure this social media stuff out. Thanks 🙂

  10. Yesterday I started reading WordPress to Go by Sarah McHarry. The author explains – step-by-step, in easy-to-understand, non-technical language – how to build a website/blogsite. If I had had this book a week ago when I started my blog, I could have avoided a lot of frustration! I can’t say enough good things about this book. I highly recommend it if you want to start a blog and don’t have any experience doing so.

  11. Thanks, Laura. Your timing couldn’t be more perfect. I like the notebook idea and I’ll check out the workshops before I go to the NY conference this Feb.

    • Laura Bowers says:

      Oh man, JEALOUS, I’ve been wanting to go to the winter conference ever since I joined SCBWI!! Hope you have a great time and we’d love a recap to post with your thoughts and observations when you get back! 🙂

  12. Miranda McClain says:

    Thanks for this great post Laura! I want to start a blog as well and am definitely struggling with the on line persona bit. It’s always nice to feel like you’re not the only one struggling.

  13. Pingback: Baby Steps | EasternPennPoints

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