Nobody Is Looking for You

Think people are going to find you by accident? Think again.

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Congratulations! You just wrote a thoughtful, logical, actionable blog post you know everyone is going to love. Amazing! You just finished the final draft of the novel you have been working on for six years. Surely people are going to adore your characters and appreciate your themes.

That is, if they ever read what you have written.

BUT THEY WILL! Won’t they? Because people are going to stumble upon your masterpieces while searching for the exact things you are going to provide within your words of wisdom … RIGHT?

Wrong.

Honestly, no one is searching for what you have to offer. It may be good – it may be the BEST thing that has ever been written on that subject in particular. But unless you are an SEO-obsessed robot (which I hope you aren’t), people aren’t going to find your work while searching for something else. And they aren’t going to sit down and think, “I need a new blog to read every day” and find yours. They aren’t going to, in their search for new books on Amazon, find yours.

So what’s the point of writing, you ask? That’s not the right question. You should be asking, what’s the point of writing if you aren’t going to spend twice the amount of time it took you to write the thing to get the word out about it?

Guest posting. Book marketing. Sharing your posts in writing groups on Facebook (sparingly – self-promotion is pretty much required yet frowned upon by all, so pick and choose wisely). If you think people are going to come to you and find the work you have done, you have it backwards. You have to reach out to others, not the other way around.

This does not mean, however, doing any or all of the following:

  • Commenting on others’ blogs asking them to check out yours, without first adding any value to theirs
  • Posting links to your blog in online writing groups asking people to check it out – instead, link to a specific article, again, adding value in hopes someone else will return the favor
  • Direct messaging people on Twitter asking them to buy your book
  • Mentioning people on Twitter asking them to buy your book
  • Asking people to buy your book in general – promote, do not sell; there is a difference.

To stand out, you need to have something unique to offer. This takes a lot of time and effort to get right. Everyone writes, in part, because they want to be heard. But don’t expect people to hear you if no one is around to listen. And don’t go out into the virtual world seeking attention, because that only drives potential audience members away.

Promote shamelessly, but with a purpose. It is not about you. It is not about your blog or your article or your book. It is always, and always will be, about the reader. If they do visit your site, it’s because of what you have to offer them, not because they are interested in who you are. That comes later. That comes once they can trust that what you are doing is valuable and worthwhile. If it isn’t, find a way to change that.

You very well may have written some amazing things. But sitting around and waiting for someone to notice is letting all that go to waste.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Your Progress?

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At this point, it’s basically impossible not to be involved with some type of social media. Social media, after all, doesn’t just include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Okay, so we’re going to have to get into more detailed explanations here in a second. This isn’t a social media blog, but social media does influence everything we do—including what, when, how, where and why we write.

Don’t believe us? What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you immediately pick up a book? Drag yourself downstairs to make coffee? Search for your running shoes?

A lot of us probably use our phones as alarms now. Which means, even without intending to, the first thing you might do when you wake up is check your phone. First to switch off your alarm, and then … what did you miss on Twitter after you went to sleep?

It’s great to connect with people online, especially if you’re virtually meeting up with other writers. But is your writing thriving, or suffering, because of it?

Social media vs. social networking

Okay, so maybe you’re one of the few who don’t check your Facebook notifications very often, are mostly silent on Twitter and can’t stand Pinterest or Tumblr. But do you receive any enewsletters via email? Visit any websites? Watch videos online?

If you do, you’re still interacting with social media, which is, according to Social Media Today, forms of online communication through which people “share ideas, information, personal messages, and other content.”

Yes. By reading this post, you are using social media. Boom.

In contrast, social networking is all about relationships. We create profiles on social networks in order to connect with other people, whether they’re friends, potential employers or just random people we have things in common with. Facebook and Twitter are social networks, where you might share an update or article (or a blog post you like, wink wink).

We use social media to learn new things and share our ideas. We use social networks to engage and go deeper. Which can be a great thing for aspiring writers. Right?

When does it help? 

Social media and social networking should always be used two ways: to talk and to listen. There’s plenty of strategy involved here, but we’ll get an expert on here to walk you through that (still promising). Browsing through taglines, article titles and just random posts from random people can inspire new ideas you may have never thought of otherwise.

It’s never a bad idea to promote your work and your accomplishments (in moderation), such as keeping your followers updated on your writing progress or announcing a new story that’s just been published somewhere.

You can also use it to connect with other writers and cheer them on when they’re hard at work on the other side of their latest tweet. Discussions with writers always somehow end up taking a turn for the awesome, especially if you’re the one to start one. 

When does it hurt? 

Honestly? When you spend too much time on it, use it incorrectly or use it for the wrong reasons. The first one is a no-brainer: the more time you spend mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, the less time you actually spend writing your own content, whether that be a blog post, chapter in your book or an article for some fancy magazine (go you!).

There are ways to use social media wrong, and using it for the wrong reasons is one of those ways. Yes, you should promote your work and be proud of your accomplishments … to a point. Don’t brag. Don’t make it all about you, all the time. No one wants to follow someone like that. Remember, you have to engage with other people, and approaching someone else only to talk about yourself is the same online as it would be at a dinner party. Awkward.

And for the love of God. #Stop. #Doing. #This. #In. #Every. #Single. #Post. You want to have a good reputation on social media. You don’t have to be an expert. But you need to at least try to act like you know what you’re doing.

How to find balance

It’s normal, probably even healthy, to spend a little time communicating with other people online. In some cases, it’s the only way you can catch up with friends and family who don’t live close. Checking out various forms of social media and hanging out on social networks can be great for generating new ideas, but it can also be distracting, and, if used improperly, damaging.

Always keep your end goal in mind. If your goal is to get published someday, treat your social media interactions the same way you would if you were interacting with an editor or agent. Keep your work and the work of your friends and colleagues at the center of your promotions, not yourself. Brand, but do it wisely. Be confident, but don’t be a snob.

We dare you to share this post on social media today. Share it with a fellow writer. Everyone’s presence online matters, and if you want to build a solid online portfolio to showcase your work, that includes your social networking profiles, too. There’s no way to escape it. Welcome to 2015!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.