I wrote this for the writers at EthnoTraveler, sharing how I spread my work around the internet.
Promoting my essays on social media or through my blog used to make me cringe. I felt selfish and boastful and I didn’t want to waste people’s time or interrupt their already harried days and brains.
But all that is ridiculous. What’s a writer without a reader? Sometimes journalists say they don’t care how a piece does, how many people read it, or what the response is to it. I don’t believe them. We write and, for all kinds of reasons, we want people to read our work.
We have to promote our work. There is an overwhelming amount of noise and chaos bombarding everyone. In order for anyone to find the essay you agonized over and care about, you have to break through that chaos and draw people to your work.
Don’t be demanding or manipulative and don’t buy readers. The numbers look great on the page, but these are not engaged followers, they don’t retweet, they don’t share, they aren’t forming community around the work. Don’t send out messages like, “I am the best writer, I am working on stories you must read, follow me now” to editors, magazine writers, or agents. They won’t follow you back and sometimes will even block you. Don’t shove yourself or your work down people’s throats. Promote, and let the work stand on its own.
Facebook – I have my personal page and an author page and I share my essays on both. On the day an essay is published I share it in the early morning on my author page and in the mid-afternoon on my personal page. An author page is a great way for people who are interested in your niche to connect with you. Share other stories and photos that you love and engage with readers, respond to comments, be generous with your likes and shares.
Twitter – I typically send out 3-5 tweets for an essay because tweets get easily lost down in the feeds. Sometimes I schedule more tweets to go out several days later, I don’t like the idea that a story might be read or shared only on the day it goes live. Same as on Facebook, be generous with your retweets of others’ work, too. Twitter can be a good way to find out what else is going on in the areas you are work in.
For posting on Twitter and Facebook, I use Hootsuite. This allows me to schedule posts in advance and all at once, especially useful for when I’m traveling. It means that I’m not always immediately available to respond to comments or tweets but I’m fine with that. I don’t want to be ‘on’ all the time.
Pinterest – Images do well on Pinterest, as do lists. Often writers will have a board on their Pinterest page titled some version of, “Published Works,” and pinners can specifically follow that board. Pinterest is also a good place to cultivate interest in your topics by pinning articles and resources from other writers. Become a go-to person on a handful of topics. For example, my boards include things I write about often like Third Culture Kids, The Horn of Africa, Travel Writing, Running, Travel with Kids, Spirituality…
Instagram – Images are a powerful way to get people interested and wanting to hear more and Instagram is one of the fastest growing online platforms in numbers and influence. Instagram can be a fun way to provide some ‘extra’ material or an ‘inside look’ at how you researched for a piece. Build interest in an upcoming article by posting photos and quotes in the days leading up to the pub date.
Tiny Letter – Email is out, 140-character tweets are in, right? Nope. In the last month I’ve read three articles in major publications declaring the death of Twitter. Of course, Twitter isn’t dying, there are millions of users, billions of tweets. But, Twitter has also devolved into a troll-loving, hate-mongering, cruel space at times. And lots of people are turning to newsletters. These can be used in whatever way you like – once a month, once a week, they can include lists or a story or links to published articles. I send a Tiny Letter newsletter once a month and it includes links to stories about news from the Horn of Africa, a little bit of my behind the scenes life as a writer and expat, and links to articles published in that month.
And finally, blogging. My blog is where I keep a record of all my published pieces so they can easily be found in one place. The day after a piece is published, I write about it, sometimes simply posting an excerpt, a photo, and a link, and sometimes I write the backstory, why I think this is an important story, or some funny or interesting things that happened in the writing and researching of the piece. People love this inside look at your process and journey in writing.
Other than publishing excellent content, a great way to build a following is to be a following. It is impossible to keep up with every writer or friend who writes, but choose a few that you enjoy and connect with them, build a community through your writing. Participate in linkups, comment on other stories. Be involved, be generous, don’t be afraid to promote your stuff, build a community around your hot button topics, engage with readers, and then get offline again and go out to research the next story.
What do you do to promote your work? Or, what bugs you about how authors promote their stuff?
Excellent info. Clear writing (as usual). Great stuff, Rachel!
I have to admit, I have grown tired of the constant chase. Some days, I just want to write and leave it at that. It seems, though, that I’m definitely firmly in the camp that writers deserve readers. It’s not an ego thing (I keep tabs on this via recovery), but I do firmly believe that I want to share the work I do.
It’s coincidental that I was *JUST* speaking with a fellow writer about wanting to write fiction again, but that I cannot seem to start because I’ve established myself so fully as a non-fiction writer (and then I read your blog post). He told me basically to get over myself and write in what gives me joy—so, off I go soon to enter into the fray once again! (PS: Can you believe it’s been five YEARS since our course at the Loft?!) Best, Dan Maurer.
You always seem (to me anyway) so confident in sharing your work, I’ve learned from that. And – I’ve often wondered what happened to your novel from those days. I’m reading Dakota right now by Kathleen Norris, it is so evocative of the region and made me think of your project. Write what you love!
This is great info. I am still learning instagram and need to become more comfortable; I don’t use Twitter nearly enough, I need to update the blog to include writing elsewhere, and I had no idea how to use Hootsuite – so great information. But to the bigger idea – it’s hard, isn’t it? There are those times when I think that I must be completely tiring people with my writing and my platform, and I go down the deephole of self condemnation as opposed to self analysis….! I need to do some thinking about how to change this.
Also – I can be an extrovert in real life, but in my writing world I am definitely an introvert. Thank you.
I think we have to remember that by sharing, we aren’t forcing people to read, we’re just giving them the opportunity, if they want to. And your stuff? I want to! So share away. I’m still working on Instagram, too.
I like receiving newsletters. All in one place once a week.
I usually share my blog post on Facebook and Google+ ..That’s about it. I know I should promote more(and write more!)
Your author page on FB gives me an idea to create one too….Thanks Rachel.
I’ve quietly blogged for years, to keep people back home interested in my years working in closed countries. Now I’m dipping my toes into writing more, and so necessitating some self promotion. These tips have come at the perfect time for me and are so very helpful! Very grateful to learn from you–thank you!
Rachel, thank you so much for this. I have written private newsletters and used social media for years. It is only in recent months that I am finally processing resources on how to branch out into more public writing as well as how to use different platforms to support one another.