In the present day, the importance of social media is ever-present. Used not only for its original purpose: social media now enables the cult of the celebrity to pervade so many aspects of people’s lives. The place of celebrities and well-known authors has changed significantly in recent years taking them from revered from afar, to continuously in the spotlight with little privacy. Being able to follow the life of a favourite author through social media is a very exciting prospect for many who wish to see the person behind the words, and authors are encouraged to post personal updates and thoughts alongside promoting their professional lives.
It is important to consider what kind of content you are posting, whether you have a high following or not. Potential buyers may be out off buying a book if the author posts a highly controversial or offensive tweet for example. What’s more is that this could also be harmful to their career if a future publisher or agent also finds it inappropriate.
Many authors can reach new audiences and expand on their own following by becoming part of a supportive web of similar individuals. A group of authors who retweet and promote the new releases of others in their network reap the benefits of reaching the followers of their colleagues as well as their own. The way that many celebrities or authors gain a large media following is through discovery: testing out what platforms, times and content get the best reaction from followers and adapting their posting to best suit the audience.
Whilst authors use social media to promote their own new books, book tours/appearances and collaborations, some also use it to hold their followers’ interest between publications. Author of Breath of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss uses Twitter to reassure his followers of his progress writing future novels in the time between publications. Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, Good Omens, The Sandman etc. has amassed 2.7 million followers on his Twitter account and uses it for many purposes. He is incredibly active in responding to followers and regularly tweets locations of his signed copies (usually when he visits airport bookshops), but he also uses his platform to promote charities and raise awareness of issues he considers important.
J. K. Rowling has over 14 million Twitter followers, a person of her status clearly does not need to use her social media for self-promotion but she uses it for personal tweets and to use her influence to promote charity work. For very well-loved authors like Rowling, personal tweets and replying to fans are the most important aspects of her social media presence because they allow her to be relatable and allow fans to feel closer to their idol.
What does this mean for emerging authors with little or no following? For less well-known authors, social media can be a way to gain followers of their works and career. The internet is practically limitless in its worldwide reach and allows authors to gain followers from every part of the world. It also performs this role for networking inside the publishing industry and could be the platform to link a publisher with a new author. The publishing industry is especially active on Twitter and this social media platform does seem to be the most used by industry professionals. This could be due to a high response rate, free promotion via book bloggers or the ease of use making it widely available for all. This being said, many authors and publishers utilise multiple social media platforms to have full coverage if a potential collaborator or buyer searches for them on one. It is advisable for authors to have as many ways to be reached as possible.