Monday, April 24, 2017

When to Start Marketing if You’re Unpublished

You guys! NADINE BRANDES IS HERE!!!

I met Nadine almost a year ago at the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop, and she's a lovely person. We didn't have much time to chat then, but I've gotten to know her through social media. I'm in awe of her Instagram account, her blog, and just her as a human being.

When I asked her to post about marketing, I pretended like it was for you guys, but it was selfish. I really wanted to know what Nadine would say! She's a master, and you're going to love it:






Nadine Brandes is an adventurerfusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.

Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or nadinebrandes.com


Hellooooo teen writers! I’m popping my head in to the cool kid’s club to talk about…marketing. Maybe you haven’t really given much thought to marketing or you’re not sure what it is. Maybe you have given a lot of thought to it and you loathe/love it. No matter where you’re at with marketing, I’m here to tell you that 1) it can be fun (I love it!) and 2) it doesn’t have to eat your soul.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

When approaching marketing, you need to know that…numbers matter.

You also need to know that marketing is not about the numbers.

Confused yet? Sorry ’bout that. Let me explain. When the day comes for you to pitch to a publisher or click that “self-publish” button, you need an audience. (thus…numbers matter.) Otherwise how will anyone find your book?

But when you’re trying to build an audience and grow a following, it’s all about relationship and being totally you and totally real thus…it’s not about the numbers.

*rubs hands together* Now that that’s clear as mud, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Whether you’re published, unpublished, thinking about self-publishing or traditional publishing, you need to start marketing NOW.

I used to be intimidated by the idea of marketing. I’d start imagining me with a billboard or speaking in front of an audience or forking out advertising money. In other words, I pictured a whole bunch of bo-ring. And that made my little world-building brain want to run and hide. I avoided the word “marketing” or any marketing talk or classes like the plague…until I was published and realize, “Oh. Well…I should have tackled this sooner.”

Then when I tackled it, I ended up liking it.

What is marketing?
There are whole blog posts on this, so I’m going to give it to you in a cute little bow-tied nutshell: marketing is finding a “tribe” or following of people who are interested in what you write/do.

AKA: Marketing is finding virtual friends. Hundreds of them. And don’t worry introverts, you can still do this without having to become an extrovert!

What does this look like?
It looks like presence. Online. You need to be online, have a place to connect with others and grow a following. That could mean through having a blog, or through a Twitter, or a Facebook page, Instagram, an email newsletter, Tumblr, or even Snapchat. The fact you’re reading this post means you know how to use technology.

Marketing starts with being accessible. Building relationship with other readers, other writers, etc.

You need a constant place that is constant where people can find you and follow your shenanigans.

Example: Let’s say you hang out here a lot on Go Teen Writers. You connect with other commenters, you guys chat a bit. But if they don’t have your e-mail address or your Twitter handle or your snapchat code…how will they find you if they want to see what you’re up to or how your writing is going?

So pick a social media as your “base camp” of sorts. And then start directing people there.

Be real. Be you.
The #1 rule of marketing is be real. I know it’s tempting to create a façade in social media, but friends and readers like authenticity. As you grow as an author and as your books go out into the world and crawl onto other people’s bookshelves, your readers are going to be watching you. They’ll want to feel like they can connect with you, probably just like how you wish you could connect with your favorite author. You don’t want to meet a cardboard cut-out or a plastic smile. You want to feel like you know them.

And that’s what your readers will want from you. Authenticity.

That doesn’t mean sharing every single little thought or vent. It doesn’t mean exposing your entire private life and letting them read your journal. It just means being real. After all, don’t we all want to be accepted as we are?

When/How do you start?
Start now. Take a look at what social medias you’re on. One? Two? Ten? Try to limit yourself to 1-2 favorites and direct your focus there. Twitter and a blog? Be fully present and invite people in.

Comment on other people’s blogs. Like, retweet, reply to other people’s tweets. ENGAGE. Make friends and let them know what you’re doing. And your numbers will slowly grow. Then, when you tell that agent or that publisher about your book—they’ll see that you have a following and they’ll realize that you take writing seriously enough to interact with your readers.

A few tips
  •           Focus on 1 to 2 marketing platforms. If you try to be active on all of them, you’ll burn out.
  •           If you’re not comfortable with social media, start gathering e-mails for a quarterly newsletter to send writing updates to people. E-mail newsletters are gold! They grow slowly, but they’re worth it!
  •           Try to create social media platforms under your writing name. A Twitter handle like @Iluvbooooks45996 is going to get lost on the internet. And people won’t remember it. Use your writing name and start “making a name” for yourself. J
  •           Do what you enjoy! If you hate blogging, maybe don’t start a blog. If you love photography, jump on Instagram and join the #bookstagram community. If you like doing videos, start a Booktube (Youtube) channel.
  •           Read up on marketing. My favorite book on marketing is The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Leudeke. It’s short and BRILLIANT.
  •           Observe your favorite authors. What are they doing on Twitter or Tumblr or their newsletter that you like? Take notes.


What makes you nervous about marketing? Or, on the flip side, what makes you excited about it? (Pepper me with all your marketing questions!)

46 comments:

  1. Welcome to GTW, Ms Brandes! (I love your books by the way!) :D
    I've always struggled a bit with marketing, particularly with being 'present' on a regular basis. I find it tricky to come up with new content that is authentic and not put out there for the sake of it. I have a blog and twitter, but one question I've always had is, what sorts of numbers are publishers looking for? Is there some kind of magical amount of followers you need, or are they looking more at your interaction with your audience?
    Thank you so much for this post!

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    1. Hello Melissa! Awwww! Thank you! GTW is one of my favorite places in the history of the blogosphere.

      The best part about "being real" on social media is that you don't HAVE to come up with unique or life-changing content every time you post. You can just post about how you hate bananas or you dropped your book on your face when reading in bed (I've totally done that.) You can blog about how freaky (but exciting) the idea of college is or about how writing outside is basically impossible if you're doing it on a computer (because sun glares are the nemesis of all writers.) You're really just sharing bits of your life. And yes, if you new content like writing advice or book recommendations, then share that, too. But let go of the idea that marketing has to be all about coming up with "the next best idea" or "a series of advice columns." It's not. It's SOCIAL--just like if you were at a party and you were chatting with a new acquaintance. Does that help?

      As for publishers and what numbers they look for, every publisher is different. And really, they just want to see that you're growing your numbers and that you're interacting. It depends on the genre you're writing for and which publisher you're submitting to, but the book I recommended above (The Extroverted Writer) is written by an agent who KNOWS publishers. She knows exactly what they look for and she addresses the "numbers" question in her book. :)

      For the most part, though, keep striving to grow them. There's no magic threshold. One publisher might like to see 1,000 followers, another will be okay with a few hundred. The more the merrier, as long as it doesn't make you sacrifice authenticity.

      Does that help? :)

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    2. Yes, that's a great help, thank you! I will definitely have to check out the Extroverted Writer, and if their advice is half as good as yours, I'm sure it will be amazing! :)

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing these tips with us! I know I can't run from marketing forever, so these reminders are a great push out of my comfort zone.

    I guess the part that makes me most nervous is social media in general. None of the platforms interest me, and I never know what to share on them. All my interests are covered by someone else in a much more entertaining and knowledgeable way. So I feel stale, and my enthusiasm gets sucked down the drain lickety-split. Who wants to connect to a stale, enthusiasm-less girl? Not I.

    So should I just pick a topic/message, stick to it with sheer willpower, and hope boredom doesn't put anyone to sleep? :p

    -Samantha Ann

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    1. The first thing you need to do is adjust your thinking about marketing. You're asking if you should just pick a topic and message and stick to it out of sheer willpower. NO! The "topic or message" that you show on social media is YOURSELF. Your likes, your dislikes. It's called "social" media for a reason. A lot of times people treat marketing like you're walking on stage at a giant conference or something. When really, it's joining a party where everyone's new and awkward but ready to make friends. When you pop on social media, imagine that you've got a lemonade in your left hand, you're wearing your best outfit, a favorite song is playing in the background and you plop on the couch on one side of the room to just enjoy the party...and then someone sits next to you and says, "Oh my gosh, I have that same Narnia scarf!" or "Oh, you got lemonade? Did you try the butterbeer?" BOOM...fun. Chat. Fandoms. Likes and dislikes. It's natural and goofy and real.

      That's how you should approach marketing. Because people will be able to tell that you don't like what you're writing about if you're just doing it out of sheer willpower.

      As for none of the platforms looking interesting to you, maybe just start by giving one a try. I was VERRRRRY anti-Twitter when I got my first book contract. I didn't have an account (and I'd told myself I never would) but then, for the sake of being present online, I created one. I fiddle around, didn't love it, didn't totally get it...for several months actually. But then I started connecting with people, finding new friends, tweeting dorky things. And now I really enjoy it! I'm not on there all the time, maybe just a few times a week, but my following grew and whenever something fun or witty pops into my head I go post it and then chat with more new people. It's fun. It's not stressful. No one is hovering over my posts to see what I do.

      So give it a try. If you end up hating it still after six months, maybe try a different platform. :)

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    2. Thanks for the excellent advice! I've never had anyone explain it this way before. I'll give it a go. Thanks so much, Ms. Brandes, for taking the time to help! :)

      -Samantha

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    3. "New and awkward but ready to make friends" - that's such an accurate description of me and my new blog xD I haven't written any books yet, but I'm having a great time getting to know the amazing community of young writers. (And definitely fandoms bring people together. Even talking about what you're reading can start a conversation.) Just be yourself, talk about what you love, and other people will join in. :)

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    4. Thank you, Jem Jones, for chiming in! You both have encouraged me to give this a try. Plus, it doesn't seem quite so scary. :)

      -Samantha

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  3. This was awesome, Nadine! I was excited to see another post on marketing by you ;). At the moment, I only have a blog as my marketing platform (and I've only had it for about seven months at that), but I'll probably be starting up on Twitter at some point or another. What do you think are the most important platforms for an author/aspiring author to start building a social platform on? Thanks for your awesome tips!

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. I think the most important platforms are the ones that you enjoy!! Truly! That's the most important place to start. MY favorites are Instagram and Twitter. Some other people love Pinterest and Facebook.

      It's good, though, to think about your audience. I try to be on the platforms that I know readers of Young Adult books are on. So start by thinking about what you enjoy, and then ask yourself if your readership is there, too.

      The "best" platforms for an author to be on is a mesh of those two things. :)

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  4. Thanks for this article. I'm one of those people who has never really wanted social media. I liked not having any social media, but I see that it can be a great tool in the writing world. Thank you for helping me to see that. Have a wonderful day. :)
    ~PT

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    1. Oh I hear you! There are days when I think, "Ugh...I wish I didn't have to be on social media." And you know what I do? I take a break. I just don't go on it for a week. But I tell myself, "One week break and then I have to go back because that's part of the job description." And everyone still survives and then I return with renewed energy and I search for the things I enjoy in it. :)

      I've found it much more pleasant than I originally thought as long as I keep it balanced and don't let it eat up my focus. :)

      So glad this post helped! <3

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    2. Thank you so much for replying! I don't have any social media yet, but I plan to soon. Right now, I'm in the stages of letting my book sit for a few weeks before editing. I think once I get into editing, I might go ahead and use social media to my advantage. There probably will be many times when I take a break, but I know social media helps writers get their names out there.

      Thanks again for replying. God Bless and have a wonderful day. :)
      ~PT

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  5. Shalom? Like, the Hebrew word for "peace" shalom?
    I've been interested in starting a blog, but I've never been involved in social media before, so I have no clue how to get started. I've always wanted to build a following and be the shepherdess of my own little flock, but I've sold enough things for 4-H to know that I hate trying to get a buy. It would probably be different selling something that I made myself and believe in, though, and marketing my skills the way you described doesn't sound so scary. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. The good thing is, social media is not about "trying to get a buy." Marketing USED to be about that, but no longer. It's just about being present and being you. Building virtual friendships.

      I'm glad my description of marketing doesn't sound so scary. It's not! Like you, I hate sounding like a traveling salesman. I hate trying to get a buy. And the good thing is that I never have to do that when I'm on social media. When I share about my books, it's sharing through my excitement and people see that and no one sees it as a sales pitch. It's like telling my family, "Guys! My book is out!" instead of telling a giant crowd of strangers "Go buy my book."

      I hope you brave the waters and step in! :)

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    2. And yes, shalom like the Hebrew word. But it means a lot more than "peace." :D You'll see shalom as a theme through my books. :)

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    3. I'll definitely have to check out your books, then. ;)

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  6. I guess I'm already doing some of this. I started a blog for my writing last year and have been posting fairly regularly, and I've gotten better about actually commenting on blogs and not just stalking. The blog is my only real "social media platform", though, as I don't care for Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or pretty much any other one. I'm part of Kingdom Pen, an online group of Christian writers, but that's not really a marketing platform as such --- it's more for critiques and articles and general encouragement. I'm thinking of starting an e-mail newsletter once I get enough blog followers.

    My question has to do with "finding a tribe". I started out writing fantasy, like a lot of us, and most of the writers I interact with online also write fantasy. But in the last few years I've found my niche in historical fiction. So I should be trying to find historical fiction authours, or it would make sense to, except I don't know that many. A lot of them also are not very active on the Internet (it's a genre with a lot of middle-aged people in it), so that makes it harder. So, I guess, how would I go about finding other writers and authours specific to my genre? Oh, and another difficulty is that I tend to go for the periods that hardly anybody writes about.
    Thank you for offering to answer our questions!

    https://ofdreamsandswords.wordpress.com

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    1. I think a blog and an email newsletter are fantastic ideas!!

      Regarding a tribe among authors, it would definitely be beneficial to reach out to authors who write in your same genre--they can provide insight and encouragement that other authors can't. But there's something to learn from every author. I don't think you need to find someone who's writing the exact same time period and the exact same historical type of book you're writing. Try to find people who can relate to the process of writing historical. Authors who have to do a lot of research, or authors who enjoy stepping into the past, or readers who like that sort of thing, too. You can start by reading historical novels that you enjoy, then seeing if those authors are online. If they are, maybe connect with some of their online followers because those followers would probably be interested in your writing someday, too.

      Does that help? :)

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  7. HI NADINE!!! So excited to see you on GTW, and talking about such a great topic! Can't wait to see you at the SW again this year.

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    1. HI CATSI!!!! :D I can't wait to see you at SW, too! Counting down the days!

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  8. This is so great! Thank you so much for doing this. I'm honestly very scared of marketing and scared that no one will buy my books except for the people who I know, and then I'll sell like five books a year. But if I can get people to read it... I really hope I can. I no longer need to make it to the big leagues, but I do want to get my words into the hands of people who will read it and share about it.

    thefloridsword.blogspot.com

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    1. I'm checking out your blog, Faith, and I love that you're doing film reviews! Right on! You may have just gotten yourself another follower. ;)

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    2. I also checked out your blog and saved it in my favorites. I liked a lot of stuff you pointed out about some movies. I also liked when you interviewed your characters of your WIP. The book you're writing sounds awesome. I'm currently working on a dystopian as well.

      Your blog is great. Have a great day. :)
      ~PT

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    3. This method of "natural" marketing will be right up your alley. You say you're scared that no one will buy your books except the people who you know...well the key to being real online and having social media is to just grow the list of people you know! ;-) And then those people will read your book and recommend it to friends and thus the ripple effect begins. :)

      From the comments, it seems like your blog is really striking a cord with a lot of your readers. You're already in the process of building a following. :)

      Don't be afraid. Your book is written for a reason. It will reach the readers it needs to reach.

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    4. Thank you so much, Nadine! I really appreciate it when adult writers are willing to invest in me. It makes me think maybe I have a chance to get published.

      I'm fond of growing my list... maybe I'll end up doing a blog tour or something when I finally get a book done XD

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  9. I used to think creating a newsletter and keeping it up would be impossible for me. Then I saw author's Sarah J. Maas's newsletter. Hers was so personal and even had what she was listening to and reading. It was not just here's my book come read it. Really loved that and planning to have a personal touch when I set mine up. Twitter is my big love with social media. Thanks for these lovely tips.

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    1. I love Sarah J. Maas's newsletter! Hers is one of my FAVORITES for that exact reading! So glad you're getting inspired by hers--that's a good one to model yours after. The personal touches are everything!

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  10. Go Ravenclaw!
    (Sorry, house pride...)
    I am in no social media accounts at all. Thankfully, though, I'm nowhere near marketing... Maybe in about ten years or so. :)
    ~Mila

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    1. Woot! Woot! House pride! ;-)

      And it's good that you're even thinking about marketing or making a plan at all right now. Then when you DO start, you'll know HOW to start. :)

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    2. I still don't really understand about some things, though... Like, if you just post on whatever social media platform, "Hey guys, I'm writing a book and I'd like support", that's not going to get a whole lot of people to support you. So what kind of stuff do you need to do? Like I said, though, I'm nowhere near to marketing- I've never even finished a first draft! (Although the book I'm working on now might do it...)
      ~Mila

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  11. Loved this post, Nadine! Honestly I really look forward to marketing. At this point my parents don't allow me to have social media other than a private blog so I'll have to wait another year or two :)

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    1. Understandable! I know that's common. :) At least you have a blog! Yay! That's a great start in and of itself. :)

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  12. Great post, Nadine! I'm going to include it in my weekly list of YA links for writers on the Adventures in YA Publishing website.

    I was wary of social media, but I found that the best approach is to dive in. I've been on Twitter for a few years, but I just joined Pinterest and Instagram recently. I'm trying to be kind to myself about having very few followers because I know it takes time to develop relationships. Your post was a good reminder that numbers don't matter...people matter. Thanks!

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    1. Why thank you! :) So glad this post could serve as a reminder and an encouragement. I find that I max out with about two social medias. I have most of them, but I'm only active on two at a time so I don't completely dry up. :P If you find yourself overwhelmed, cut back. I love that you're trying all of them!

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  13. Welcome to Go Teen Writers, Nadine! Thank you so much for sharing with us. I love your authentic self!

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  14. I love social media! I love meeting and interacting with other writers. The literary community is so encouraging and amazing.

    I started with a blog, which many years ago was just a hobby. In the last few months, though, I became serious about it, blogging routinely and visiting/supporting other blogs. Then I added a Facebook page. I was positive that would be it. I always used to say that the only way I'd join Twitter was if someone forced me, kicking and screaming =) The problem was... I didn't UNDERSTAND Twitter. When my writer friend recommended I join, claiming it was an incredible way to meet other writers, authors, & agents, I gave it a try. Honestly, I've made some incredible connections on Twitter (including with you, Nadine! Yay!). For now, I would say my blog and those two social media platforms are enough.

    I guess my only question would be: How do you grow your tribe? How have you, personally, grown a following? What does it take to not only get likes and follows, but active engagement? It isn't just about numbers (like you mentioned above). The person who has thousands of followers but never engages with them is worse off than the person with 100 dedicated fans who care about and support them. Even so, there is still that goal to grow your following, even organically and genuinely. How can we accomplish this?

    Thank you so much, Nadine! It was great to have your expertise on this tough subject!

    ~Caitlin @ Quills & Coffee
    www.caitlinlambert.com

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    1. Ha! I was the same way about Twitter! For the same reason! I'm so glad we've connected on Twitter and I'm so glad you're on there! How else would I have found you? ;-)

      Tribe building is quite a process and I'm actually starting a marketing series on my blog that will dig deep into that very thing. It all starts with being authentic and real in your social media. Your followers and friends on there will become your tribe when it's time to share about your book. For now, just start with being present and being real. Interacting and sharing life. And keep an eye out for my blogs on Tribe-growing. :)

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  15. Eeee thank you so much for this post! So many great things.
    Over the past year since I started my blog, I've stuck with it and Twitter, with the occasional dabbling in bookstagram (i.e. not consistent XD) but I wanted to ask your opinion on Facebook. I don't have a personal Facebook and I never have, but I know most authors have Facebook page as a platform. Do you think it's necessary, or with how social media is growing could I get by without it?
    jeniquablog.wordpress.com

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    1. Facebook is a "staple" in the marketing world simply because it was one of the first social medias out there. So everyone has one. To be honest, it really depends on what audience you're writing for. I think Facebook is mainly used by an older generation. Ages 30 and up. Maybe 25 and up. I know that teens still have one, but I don't think they use it as much as they do other platforms.

      So I think you can get by without it, especially because a FB professional page grows very slowly and is hard to keep active. Then, maybe once you're published, you can start working on it. But I don't see it as a must.

      The only downside to not having a Facebook is if you want to hold events like Facebook parties. There's also a "live chat" video option on Facebook that has been pretty hot with authors and readers lately. So there are advantages that it has that other social medias don't have. Still, I think you can get by without it...at least while you're still growing your platform and pursuing getting published.

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  16. Thanks for this post! I tend to be scared of marketing too, even though I'm an extrovert who tells about every single person I come across how my book's going. :) I guess that's marketing already, in a way. Like someone else mentioned, I seem to just have trouble knowing what to share with my 'following'. I want to post regularly, but then I end up scratching around for something worthwhile to tell everybody. I only really want to broadcast what I think is important (like finishing another draft), and those events only happen about once a month, sometimes less. I don't want readers to be bored, like, she's STILL working on that same thing, nothing new. But I want to be present. I guess I'm saying that, as a writer, I feel like I want to write things that are worth my readers' precious time. Is that something I just need to get over when it comes to marketing?

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    1. Word of mouth is TOTALLY marketing! And since you're so comfortable talking about your story, that's what you can share o social media. It can be personal, it can be sharing the woes of writing (or the joys). Just sharing the process of life is all you need to navigate social media in an authentic way.

      I hear you on your desire to write things that are worth your readers' precious time. For social media (Twitter, FB, Instagram, etc) you're not EXPECTED to have a perfected and informative Tweet or post. That's where they go to see the personal side. For things like blogs and newsletters, you should definitely have part of a plan going into those and make them purposeful (while staying personal.)

      So...I think the key is learning where you can be a bit more relaxed (social media) and where you need to be a little more planned (blogging, newsletters)

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  17. This post (and the entire comment section) is GOLD. Thanks so much for offering your advice, Nadine. I just started following your blog a couple weeks ago, and I haven't yet read your books, but I've been wanting to for quite some time. Based on the enthusiasm of your tribe, it's easy to see that you've put your own advice into practice--and it's working! :)

    This post helped validate the more "life-y" things I post on my blog. I'm always wondering where the line between professional and authentic human being is, and sometimes I think sharing about the ordinary things I've been doing/reading/watching is selfish, better left to a journal or conversations with face-to-face friends. (And I do both, not to worry!) So it's reassuring to hear that people WANT that authentic connection. It doesn't always have to be about the books. Thanks for that! :)

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    1. Awww my pleasure! So glad that this helped and encouraged. You're right, it doesn't always have to be about the books! Everyone craves authenticity and being an author means being in a place to provide that. :)

      All the best with your writing and blogging and social media-ing! ;)

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