For some reason, self-promotion feels like a tricky concept to navigate when you’re a writer, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s because a lot of us can be introverts. I’m not totally sure… But I know that when I started getting published online, I didn't have my own website and I didn't have any professional accounts on social media, because I thought I didn’t need them.
Unless I had planned on writing on my own blog regularly (which I didn’t at the time), I didn’t think I needed a website. And I didn’t think there was any chance that people who didn’t know me would want to follow me on social media.
But what I very quickly realized was if I want to be considered professional, and want to get published more and more often, and ESPECIALLY if I want to write a book and promote it one day, I absolutely need to consider my ‘personal brand’ and promote myself.
As writers, whether we realize it or not, we're trying to market ourselves. We want people to read our words. Marketing and promoting ourselves and working on our personal brand is how we do it.
Full disclosure: ‘Personal branding’ was a term that used to make me kind of gag. I was against the whole idea of it. Why would I need it if I wasn't a social media influencer?
Again, I soon realized that whether you want one or not, you have a personal brand - and it can help you get published online and will help you if and when you want to write a book, or get your writing out there.
These days, the most common way to make an impression is online.
It’s important to be aware of this as your build your online profile as a writer. Here are a few tips to help you get started or keep you going if you've already started in this phase.
Create a website
One of the main reasons you should probably have your own website is because you will own it. If social media all goes away one day, you will still own your website—and it can be your little hub where you store all your writing. You can use it as a portfolio, or to promote your book. You can update a blog regularly, and you can eventually use it to gain email addresses and subscribers if you choose to do so.
Use your name as your URL
When possible, set up your URL as janedoe.com, for example, so if someone googles your name, your website will be easy to find. If your name is too common or already taken, you can always try something like janedoewriter.com or janedoewrites.com.
You may want to also set up a new email address to coordinate with your website. ‘email@example.com’ or ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, for example.
Choose 2 (maybe 3) social media platforms to focus on
It can be tough to keep up with all the social media platforms out there, so instead, try thinking about where your audience is. If you want to get a book published, a lot of fellow writers, authors, editors and literary agents are on Twitter. (I know. I thought it was dead… but not for us writers apparently!) It’s a good place to be. I still think Facebook is a good place to be, and it’s where most of my audience was initially. It’s also where my closed group for writers is. (Shameless plug! I’m getting good at this self-promo thing!) And something I’m hearing more and more about is Pinterest. It’s a great place to pin about books you want to read, or great writing quotes. And it can be a great spot to house all your work as a portfolio. For example, you can start a board called “Jane Doe Writing Samples” and pin your articles to it.
Be aware of what you share
Whatever you choose to post on social media or your website, you should try to keep in mind that it should be something you’re comfortable with anyone from your potential audience seeing. Basically, try to be kind and be helpful. You’ll never go wrong with being a good person.
Use a similar (and preferably professional) photo across all your platforms
You don’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of money on fancy headshots. But if you can get a professional-looking photo taken and use the same image or a similar shot from a series for all your profile pictures and on your website, it will help you have a consistent-looking brand.
Also try to use the same name on all social media outlets
Again, it’s good for consistency. I chose @heatherdixonwriter for my Facebook and Instagram accounts, but was already @hezdixon on Twitter and couldn’t change that. I also decided to use my name in my Facebook group (Writerly with Heather Dixon) to keep it similar with my website (heatherdixon.ca) and my social media accounts. They’re not all exactly the same—but they’re similar and again, it helps with keeping a consistent brand.
So that’s it! These are just a few tips to help you get started if you haven’t created all the parts of your online presence yet. What else would you add?