Everyone makes mistakes—even writers—but that's OK because each mistake is a great learning opportunity. The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them early in the process. Note: The mistakes in this series aren't focused on grammar rules, though we offer help in that area as well.
Rather, we're looking at bigger picture mistakes and mishaps, including the error of using too much exposition, neglecting research, or researching too much. This week's writing mistake writers make is not having an online presence.
Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence
I’ll be honest: As much as I’m addicted to consuming content from social media, I don’t do a lot of posting myself. I have a LinkedIn I made when job hunting, a Twitter just for my work here at WD, a Facebook to keep in touch with relatives, an Instagram to post photos of my dog, a Tumblr strictly for fanfiction, and a TikTok solely to watch animal facts and ADHD brain hack videos. And don’t even get me started about Pinterest, Spotify, Duolingo …
It’s … a lot. And it can be overwhelming to keep up with just for personal use, let alone if you’re using it to market yourself and your work.
But there’s a lot to be said for having a “brand,” especially if you’re planning to publish. As funny as it is to think about, these days, authors are a commodity. If you hop on the socials of some of your favorite writers, you’ll probably see sneak-peek announcement posts, photos from book signings, reblogs of other authors they’re excited about … the list goes on!
Even if you’re allergic to social media, establishing yourself online can be an easy way for literary agents and other industry professionals to get a feel for you and your work—and if you’re already at the stage where you’re releasing publications, it can be a place for fans to find you and share your work with their followers.
But how can you tackle such a prospect?
Mistake Fix: Set Boundaries
Ever since reading Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab, I cannot stop talking about boundaries! They’re good to have to protect you from people and situations that might cause you undue stress, but they’re also so healthy to have with yourself. And creating boundaries (and sticking with them!) can up-level your writing career, let you use your time more wisely, and help you avoid potential burn-out.
To get you started on your social media boundary journey, it might be worthwhile to ask yourself some questions:
1. How much time do I want to reasonably spend on social media?
This is important to establish first because it will dictate how you move forward. If you know for a fact you don’t have (or don’t want to spend) more than, say, two hours per week to dedicate to creating and posting on social media, you’ll be able to hold yourself to that.
If you find that you’re going over your set time, ask yourself how you feel about that. Is it eating into time that you’d rather spend writing or with your family? Or do you find it rewarding? If it’s more of a burden than it should be, then you know it’s time to trim down the number of posts you’re doing.
2. With my timeframe in mind, how many platforms are reasonable to have?
If you only want to spend about 15 minutes a day fiddling with social media, then you’re probably not going to want to be posting on five different platforms. One or two would do.
Even if you love social media, it’s probably a good idea to start smaller and grow your online presence so that you don’t overwhelm yourself.
3. What social media platforms are I most comfortable using?
This one is important because it’ll help you factor into your budgeted time. For example, if you love taking photographs, then Instagram is probably a great choice for you. But you’ll have to factor in the time it takes to make graphics or do small photo shoots to keep your engagement high.
If you’re not a social media user and you’re not sure what kind of platform you’d be comfortable with, it’s worth it to create an account and get familiar with it as a user. I recently joined TikTok to see what the fuss was about, and while I love watching animal videos on it, it’s not something I would ever make videos for myself. But how would I have known that if I didn’t familiarize myself with the content and community?
4. What kind of posts would I like to post on these platforms?
This is a good one because it will help you plan your posts. If you’re just going to be posting about your work to market your projects, great! But if you’re also interested in audience engagement by posting things like craft talks, book recommendations, and blog posts, this will pad out the amount of time you’re spending on your posts.
Again, it’s really important to start small. If you just want to begin by reposting posts from other writers and sharing books you’re excited about, that’s great! It’ll still give you an online record and help you develop a sense of community on the platform.
5. How can I best utilize my time on these platforms?
Remember that there are several components to social media, like planning posts, actually posting, and engaging with the community online. It could help you to fire out how much time you want to devote to each so that you don’t get sucked into the time warp that is the internet. If you’re more interested in engagement than you are in posting, don’t be afraid to set small goals, like “10 minutes per day reposting and commenting on other author’s posts.”
These are just some small recommendations to get you started. But in this ever-changing digital landscape, it’s good to remember that the way you present yourself online can help to build a community of friends and fans and keep you apprised of important topics within the industry. And, as always, have fun with it!