Because finding friends and followers is such a big part of the whole online presence thing, we'll be having a few posts on this topic. This week, we'll hear from Jennifer Hubbard, a long time Shrinking Violet, YA author, and successful user of social media.
Introverts Finding Followers and Friends Online
I once read an interview with Brent Hartinger where he said (I’m paraphrasing here) that our public presence should be about the readers, not the writer; that the question should not be what do I want, but what do they need.
I think of the blog, or any online site, as a way to give. I talk about myself on my blog, but I try to talk about the things I’m going through that I think will resonate with others. “Here’s what I’m dealing with—how about you?” is the main message of my blog. I share tips, quotes that I find interesting, links to other posts that I admire. A couple of years ago, I started a “Library-Loving Blog Challenge” because I wanted to use my blog as a force for a greater good (in this case, raising money for libraries). In keeping with the above principle, I don’t require my blog readers to leave money; all they do is leave a comment, and I donate money. I invite other bloggers to do likewise, and I celebrate those that do. I did not start the blog challenge as a way to beef up my blog readership or promote my book; I did it because I wanted to help libraries. And it turns out to be incredibly fun!
I do talk about my book, but I try to keep it to the occasional mention of my biggest milestones. I don’t want my blog or Twitter stream to be an endless list of my awards, my appearances, my foreign-rights sales. In his essays, whenever Andrew Rooney talked about himself and the details of his daily life, he often said something along the lines of, “I’m writing about this not because you necessarily care about this little aspect of my life, but because I believe it will get you thinking about this aspect of your own.”
The trickiest thing for an introvert in carving out an online presence is balancing the privacy and solitude that introverts crave with the “social” aspect of social networking. But we manage to do this in our writing, too: we share deep and intimate parts of ourselves with total strangers. Yes, we have the filter of fiction or (in nonfiction) selectivity and a specific narrative voice. But what we’re doing in books is what we can do online, too: share the inner parts of ourselves that will resonate with others.
I had an interesting situation with my original agent, Nathan Bransford, because he had a very popular blog on which he showed my book cover, posted a couple of guest posts and contests related to me or my book, and often linked to my blog. Also, I often link to his blog, not just because he was my agent, but because his posts about writing and publishing are excellent.
Because we both have online presences, some people assumed that my agenting relationship itself was public. But in fact, it was a very boundaried relationship, and here are some of the boundaries we observed:
--The information we discussed online was already public. My book cover, my release date, my blog posts, his blog posts: all of that was public before we blogged about it or linked to it online.
--I was okay with being mentioned on his blog. I know that at any time, if I’d decided to be a hermit and ask him not to mention me there, he would have respected that wish utterly. Similarly, if he’d become a hermit and erased his online presence, I would have respected that. Not all of his clients had online presences to the extent that I did. But I was quite happy to be featured on his blog.
--We never blogged about details of my works in progress, when my manuscripts were being submitted, where they were being submitted, what my offers were, or any details of my contract negotiations. He did not disclose that information about any of his clients, ever.
--We respected each another’s confidentiality. If we knew behind-the-scenes details about each other’s personal or professional lives, we did not reveal them online.
The thing for an introvert to remember is: you can choose what to say, when to say it, and to whom. The risk of revealing ourselves brings many rewards, but we can take those risks at our own pace.
Thanks so much, Jenn, for those terrific words of wisdom! And for this week's exercise, try and spend some time thinking about what you can give others through social media! All commentors will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi, which was nominated for a National Book Award! And it's an awesome book!
And this week's winner is Laura Ruby*! Laura, you win a copy of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Email me and I'll get that out to you!