Social networking is the controversial topic this week. Why controversial? Well, some people think it's a great idea for business and others think it's a colossal waste of time. I believe that almost everything connected to the Internet is an invaluable tool, one in which learning to use it properly could set you apart from your competition in achieving success.
When I launched my business page on Facebook last spring, I did so with no preconceived notions of what was considered right or wrong. I filed my applications with Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime a few weeks earlier using my pen name. I'd been exchanging crits with strangers for a few weeks and posting my work on Writing.com for over a month.
I'd received a ton of mixed responses to my present-tense style and thought, "Why not ask readers what they think?" After all, how else would I know if what I was writing would appeal to anyone? It was the best thing I ever did, and yet a decision most fellow writers told me was wrong and a mistake —except for a rare few who listened, watched and tried it.
They said publishers wouldn't care how many "friends" I had. Wouldn't care how popular I was, and wouldn't like that I posted so much of my work online for public consumption. They said Facebook, Twitter, blogging—all of it was a waste of valuable writing time.
I ask you this: how many times have you read a book jacket to be disappointed that the story didn't measure up? Or read an excerpt only to realize the author chose the best possible passage to post and the rest of the book didn't appeal to you?
It's happened to me and I've spent more money on books I've never finished than I care to admit. And you can bet your sweet-patootie I didn't spend money on that author again. Why not post a good chunk of your story and see what readers thought? If they liked the fifteen to twenty percent you posted for free, why wouldn't they care for the rest of your work? If you give part away, they'll gladly buy the rest when it becomes available.
Think about it like buying a car. Wouldn't you take it for a test drive? Or would you read the sticker only and say, "sure, I'll buy that! Where do I sign?" Think of your sample chapters as that test drive.
I chose Facebook because I could put an age restriction on my page to block out the underage kiddies, post my chapters on the Notes tab where comments could go underneath for feedback, and make connections with REAL people who will become my reader base once I can get that magical and ever-elusive publishing contract.
A business page on Facebook is not like in Field of Dreams: "build it and they will come." You need to work it, big time. I gave myself a budget for a set period of time—some days it was $2 and some days it was $10—and advertised on Facebook. Think about what the average author spends on hiring someone to build a web site ($350 to $1,500), professionally edit their work ($5-$10 per page), make a book trailer ($250 to $2,000), and then promote themselves ($100 to $1,000) prior to their book being released. Did you think the publisher pays for that stuff? Maybe they will if you're a proven author but not if you're a newbie like me.
I've been in sales for over fifteen years, and most of those early years I was scraping to get by. The old adage is very true: "to make money you must spend money."
I spent money from my two-year budget on Facebook ads to attract readers to my page, but they stayed and became fans because they like my work. Not because they're my friends. I've met some incredible people online, a few terrific dreamers like myself, and received invaluable advice that helped in shaping my story. I have always known the direction the book would go, but my readers helped me make it just that much better, so that it would appeal to them even more.
Will it help to get my book published? Time will tell. Tune in here to see.
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