Monday, May 9, 2016

The Importance of an Online Literary Presence

In terms of finding (and keeping) an audience, some of a writer's most important work comes in 140 characters.  ♦ 
When I was younger, all of my favorite authors seemed like these mysterious beings that I could only hope to get a chance to interact with. I loved to read, and it saddened me that the creators of these great works of fiction that I loved seemed so distant and unreachable.
   But things have changed dramatically over the last decade with the rise of social media, especially when it comes to younger authors, and within the last couple of years, especially, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the social media presence of up-and-coming writers. The first time I noticed how prevalent literature was becoming on social media would be when I started noticing the Kardashians posting poems by the writer R.M. Drake on their Instagram pages, and, as embarrassed as I am to admit that I follow the Kardashian social media pages, I have to say that I liked the Drake poems that they posted. They are usually very short, and sometimes a bit cliché, but overall pretty pleasant to read, and that lead to me to follow Drake's own page, which lead me to at least consider buying his poetry books. Poetry, in particular, does well in literary social media, because you can fit an entire poem in one post, and very short poems work great for microblogs such as Twitter. Self-Help books also do well on Twitter, because authors can easily post some of the “helpful tips” or “daily reminders” from their work in 140 characters or less. For example, I follow an author named Mandy Hale, who writes Christian self-help books for young women. She tweets short blurbs from her books all of the time, which is what led me to eventually end up purchasing an electronic copy of one of them.
    I’ve recently learned a lot about the importance of “literary citizenship” and how to be an ideal literary citizen. As a millennial, I realize that my social media presence as an author is a major key to getting my name and my own work noticed. But maintaining my social media account is no easy task. I’m constantly forgetting to log onto my “professional” Twitter, and trying to keep up with my blog is a full-time job that there just aren’t enough hours in the day for unless that is already your job. I’ve been trying to start following younger authors online, because I’ve noticed that a lot of older, more established authors are just not that active on Twitter or Instagram. Perhaps they’re busy taking care of their families, or maybe it’s because their work is notable and well-known enough that they don’t need to advertise it on social media, but, personally, I like being able to interact with authors online, or at least feel some sort of close connection to them, no matter how distant they may actually be.
    J. K. Rowling, of the most well-known authors of this day, is extremely active on social media and has a very influential presence amongst her fans, new and old. In fact, Rowling’s very visible and vocal online presence may be one reason why the Harry Potter series is just as talked about today as it was ten or more years ago; the author is constantly answering questions and addressing fan theories in regards to a series that was completed nearly a decade ago. Her social media interactions keep her in touch with her fans, and this is what keeps her work relevant and relatable to the new generation. Gaining new readers is important for every author, and we are in the age where your social media presence may just be the best way to gain those readers . . . but also where a lack of a presence could cost you readers.
    Last fall, for example, I attended a panel with an author whose poetry I was interested in. Just a few days ago, I tried looking up her work online, and got very few results. I immediately tried to look up her social media pages, to see when her most recent poetry book would be printed again, but she had no social media (at least not open to the public). I won’t go as far as to say that she lost a fan, but I definitely lost interest in reading more of her work because she didn’t seem to exist online, and I had no easy way of finding out how to purchase a copy of her work.
    In terms of social media, authors should really consider creating a Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram account dedicated solely to promoting their work. This way, their work can be separate from their personal pages, and with enough effort, you’ll eventually gain a following of people who are genuinely interested in reading and sharing your work with other readers. For shy writers, the beauty of social media is that you can keep things as anonymous as you like when it comes to social media. Consistency is key when it comes to maintain pages dedicated to your work. You don’t have to post multiple times a day if that’s not your thing, but it is nice for readers who visit your pages to be able to see relatively new posts on your pages. You never know who is reading your work, which is why having presence is so important.
    Ultimately, it’s important that writers of all ages become more aware of how valuable a strong social media presence can be. Whether it be tweeting writing advice, or Instagramming samples of your work, social media is becoming one of the best ways to make yourself known to a wide array of people.
  • About the Author
    Darice Chapel is a Journalism and Creative Writing double major at Miami University. She is also the president of Love You Like A Sister (L.Y.L.A.S.) and secretary of the Black Student Action Association.

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