Columns > Published on September 11th, 2020

Managing a Professional Author Online Presence

Laptop image via Karina Zhukovskaya

Writing is hard. We all know that already. In addition to writing, there is everything that comes with it: marketing, establishing an online presence and managing it, growing an audience, and more. Many writers grow their audience through various means, including newsletters, convention appearances, bookstore signings, and their social media presence. There are multiple social media platforms, with various strengths and weaknesses. For my author presence, I use only two social media platforms, Twitter and Instagram. I also have my website, which I should be updating more frequently, and that is a personal goal of mine (and should be of yours, too) moving forward.

I have learned to use Twitter in a way that I feel benefits me and my professional goals. For example, when I want to post a specific piece of writing news I can do so. I also don’t make myself feel like I have to respond to each and every comment at that time. I can do so throughout the day or at a later date. I also designate specific times throughout the day to scroll through social media and respond to friends and peers. 

Now, for my Instagram I have two separate accounts. I have one Instagram account that is specific to my friends and family, that only has a handful of followers. That account is set to private. In the bio there is a link that allows users to find my author Instagram account. My author specific Instagram is dedicated to author updates, with more impactful visuals. I’m trying to grow this following and this presence as best as I can. Two social media accounts for my author presence is more than enough for me to manage.

I try to keep my author life completely separate from my family life and my non-writer career life. It works better for me this way. I am able to keep communications for my author profile more targeted, and thus of higher value for my audience who is most interested in my writerly updates.

If you as a writer feel and believe that activism is an important part of your online presence, then of course it is something you should embrace and champion.

Now, what types of things do I tend to post on Twitter or Instagram? On Twitter, I like to keep my tweets specific to three categories; my writer updates, the writing community, and myself. I aim to give these categories equal weight, a third of my tweets aim to be personal writer updates, a third of my tweets aim to be writing community updates, and a third of my tweets aim to be about myself. I do this for several reasons. First, I like to tell my audience what it is I am having published and when it will be available. Secondly, I am a strong believer in supporting the writing community. Finally, I like to tell my followers about my life so they feel like they know a little bit about me, thus making social media exchanges more personal. Instagram is often a repeat of my writing related news with visuals.

Now, in saying that, I have set some personal boundaries for myself in what I communicate online. I aim to avoid tweeting about politics, or opinions about companies or brands, for several reasons, including non-writer career related reasons. By day I am a business psychologist and have nearly completed my PhD in Psychology (I just need to complete my dissertation), and so I have a pretty clear understanding that not everyone is going to agree with me on everything, and because of that, I do not want to give energy defending my beliefs to strangers. I have a firmly set understanding of biases, both implicit and explicit, and know that for many people their opinions cannot be swayed. As a researcher, I am also fairly well aware of the time that we are living in. This is an unprecedented moment in our history, one with a lot of fear and uncertainty. Also, this is a time of great polarities in terms of politics. We see it, we read about it, and many of us have family members who have completely different social, religious and political opinions than us.

I do believe that activism is important. I prefer to keep much of my activism private. If you as a writer feel and believe that activism is an important part of your online presence, then of course it is something you should embrace and champion. However, we have to remember that not everyone will engage with us in a civil manner. We also know that there are accounts that are programmed to incite discord (bots), and one should take caution with these fake accounts.

There will always be people online, and in person, with whom you disagree with, and/or who may disagree with you and may decide to engage with you. There will also always be people who may not like you, give you poor reviews, and speak poorly of you. Choose what you want to give your energy to.

One of my old bosses gave me one of the best pieces of advice ever. He told me if you put something in writing, assume and expect that it has the possibility to be shared with anyone and everyone. On Twitter, who you follow, your likes, tweets, and responses can be seen by all. Your direct messages can be screenshot and shared widely. Your emails can be forwarded. Your text messages can be shared. Be cautious of who you communicate with and what you communicate.

As an author, frame what it is you want to present to the outside world in terms of your brand and style of communication. There are some authors who only tweet about writing. There are some authors who tweet about writing, and just a little bit about themselves. Then, there are some authors who tweet about their work, themselves, and are very active in social and political causes online, engaging opponents, and being vocal overall. What image are you trying to present? Think about it and frame yourself as such.

There are of course great tools to limit abusive behavior, namely blocking. You have the ability to block individuals from having access to you on every social media site. I use the block feature nearly weekly. If someone engages with me in a way that feels threatening or abusive, I don’t engage. I choose not to give my energy over to anyone who has met me with negativity. I block and focus on my positive interactions.

So overall, these are just some of the strategies that I use for my online professional author presence. Is this the correct and only way? Of course not, but these strategies have helped me create a positive online presence and a positive engagement experience with my users.

I would love to hear strategies that you use for your professional author presence in engaging and growing your audience. Let me know on Twitter: @cinapelayo. Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram: @cinapelayoauthor

About the author

Cina Pelayo is the author of Loteria, Santa Muerte, The Missing, Poems of My Night, short stories, poems, and more. 

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