Last week’s “Building a Writing Community Online + Off” panel event at BookCourt was a remarkable chance to hear six brand reps (Pinterest, Kickstarter, Tumblr, the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, BookCourt, and, of course, Book Country) chat about how each of their organization or platform can be an extremely useful tool for building up a writer’s network. Julia Fierro of SSWW and Maris Kreizman of Kickstarter were also able to speak to their own experience building a writing community as traditionally published authors (respectively of CUTTING TEETH, a Landmark Women’s Fiction Title on Book Country and SLAUGHTERHOUSE 90210, which we featured on the blog last week). As one panel-goer said on Twitter after the event, all these perspectives made for “Delicious brain food!”
We want to extend an enormous thank you to everyone who came out in the pouring rain to join in the conversation! For those of you who couldn’t make it or aren’t local, here are some takeaways from the event:
- Listen, watch, and learn . . . then join in. On Book Country, we give another writer feedback before we post our own manuscript for review. Want your local bookstore to host a reading or book launch party for you? Start by attending the store’s other events. Considering running a Kickstarter campaign? Donate to another writer’s campaign first. Julia now avidly uses Facebook to share news about her book and other publication with a large number of fans and followers. But she grew her following prior to her book deal by championing other writers she was reading. When it came time for her own book to come out, her network was excited for her, and those writers she’d spread the word about were and still are genuinely excited for to read her work.
- Writing community is strongest when it’s both online and offline. Many panelists mentioned that after live events like ours, they’ll get contacted via social media from audience members too shy to come introduce themselves in person. Getting involved with your local bookstore or writers’ workshop will give you exposure as a writer–and then social media allows you to keep in touch long after the event is over. Similarly, use social media and blogs to find out about events. Last week on our blog Andrew likened BookCourt to “a living, breathing MFA program.” Bookstore events are usually free–don’t pass up the opportunity to learn about writing from great writers in person when they pass through your city.
- Try new things. The landscape for writers and publishers is changing all the time. Danielle explained how Pinterest is really about a user’s future. People pin things they want to do or buy–including books and articles they want to read. The way Pinterest is designed means that content is evergreen and easily searchable. But how can a writer use that to their advantage? Danielle suggested some really creative ideas, like making a board with a map to pinpoint settings in your novel, or making a design inspiration board for a character’s house or authors. She also spoke to how popular quotes are on Pinterest. Why not play around with making some teasers with lines from your book? These are really different ideas for marketing a book than we’re used to, but they’re visually compelling, clickable, and best of all, positioned on a site where readers are already spending their time. When writers hear about Book Country, they sometimes don’t quite follow how it works until they log in and take our tutorial. But it’s easy to get the hang of it, and free. Having an open mind serves a writer very well.
- Data is helpful for writers! Social media such as Tumblr and Pinterest and online writing workshops like Book Country don’t just help you build your platform–they can also act as testimonials for reader response to your work. Maris’s book SLAUGHTERHOUSE 90210 started out as a Tumblr. The enthusiasm of her many followers made it clear to publishers and booksellers that if Maris a SLAUGHTERHOUSE 90210 book would be popular with a large audience.
Eager to learn more about these brands and how you can use them to build your writing community? Check out the following resources:
- Pinterest’s Best Practice Guide for Business
- Tips for Using Pinterest to Promote Your Book by Book Country members Jaycee Ford and Alex Rosa
- Ten Awesome Authors to Follow on Tumblr
- Tumblr for Writers 101
- Kickstarter’s Creator Handbook
- Upcoming Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop Classes
- BookCourt Event Schedule
- Indiebound Store Finder
- Poets and Writers Event Listings
- “Social media saved me from my fears: How Facebook brought me back into the real world” — Salon essay by Julia Fierro