There are many tips for writers about how to cope with rejection but few on how to deal with success and, more specifically, how to deal with it on social media.
If you have decided to become a professional writer, you likely will have some successes in your writing career even though it often doesn’t feel like it. These successes may come in the form of grants, publications, launches, readings, interviews, and awards.
It’s important to promote yourself and to let your peers and other people in your field know what’s going on. To be so humble that you never share any of your successes can be counter-productive and a little annoying for your publisher or event organizers.
But one thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that some writers are better at sharing their good news on social media than others. Depending on the tone of the post, I can find myself either irritated with a writer or happy for them. Sometimes this may have to do with my own mood and issues and sometimes it has to do with how a writer has framed their good news.
Writers who successfully share positive updates about their writing career without alienating their followers, friends, and peers have a clear understanding of audience. They find a way to make social media not all about them and their good news. And they consider who might be on the receiving end of their posts.
These tips are intended for those who are just getting into publishing or publishing their first books and might want to use their social media accounts to connect with readers. Much of this advice is derived from my own missteps along the way.
Sharing Grant News
As a young writer fresh out of grad school, I learned an important lesson about audience when I was awarded my first writing grant. I was so excited to get the grant that I called up all the writers I knew to tell them the wonderful news. This, of course, was before social media when humans actually talked to other humans on the phone. Much to my surprise, my happy news got a frosty reception from some of my writing friends. At first I was hurt and then I thought about it and realized that my good news was not necessarily their good news. My newfound, albeit temporary, financial security likely brought up anxieties about their own careers and financial security, but I didn’t think about that, I just thought about how happy I was. It’s not that you can’t tell your friends when good things happen, but you might want to think about your approach and consider what it’s like to be on the other side of your good news.
Being awarded a grant is really fucking exciting. A group of your peers have deemed you worthy of a big pot of money to work on your project.
What could be better? Nothing!
What could be worse? Not getting a grant.
I suggest (and some may disagree) that social media isn’t the place to discuss your grant money because there is no takeaway for your “audience” other than you got a bunch of money and they didn’t—especially if they are struggling writers who also applied for that same grant.
The best place to share grant information is in a cover letter to a potential publisher or agent as it may spark their interest, or on your CV, or in casual conversation to another writer if they ask what you’re doing for the summer (if you really feel the need to share this information).
So I offer no tips for grant bragging because I don’t think writers should do it.
Sharing Literary Magazine Publications
So you’ve had a story published in your favourite literary magazine, and you want everyone to read it!
Yay! We want to read it! We’re excited for you!
Do you know why?
Because there is a takeaway for us (your audience) which is the story or poem or article.
You’re not simply bragging, you’re giving us something to read.
Indicate in the post, whether on Facebook or Twitter, that the story you are sharing is yours. If you don’t, then people in your feed might not click the link or check it out.
If the publication is in a print journal, consider taking a picture of it or sharing the cover. If it is an online journal share the link and make sure there is some kind of picture attached if you can. Text-only posts tend not to do as well.
While this is your moment to shine, consider thanking the editors or publisher or acknowledge some of the other writers who are in the issue with you. This way the post isn’t just about you but becomes an opportunity to give someone else a nod.
Share on different social media platforms at different times to maximize the exposure of the piece, but try to avoid over-saturating.
Sharing Your First Book
These tips are mostly intended for small press writers who don’t have publicists and who are publishing book-length manuscripts for the first time.
Oh my god! You got a book published. Your dream has come true!
How could this have happened? It’s so amazing, so exciting, so wonderful!
All your hard work is paying off (except if you don’t get shortlisted or win any awards and your book ends up in the published book graveyard—but, hey, let’s not burst that bubble just yet, it’s still super fucking exciting to have a book out).
But you know what?
There are still a lot of unpublished writers out there who would die to have a book like you. So try to be a little considerate of them when you are constantly talking about and updating information about the new book.
And there are people in your feed who could care less about book publishing, so think about them too.
Chances are, with the exception of your friends and family, no one is going to buy your book because you tell them to. All the stars you give yourself on Goodreads will not make your book more appealing to strangers.
Reviews, reading opportunities, literary festival invitations, contest nominations or wins, or recommendations from well-known authors, editors, or publishers are often what gets your writing out to new audiences. Therefore, these are the kinds of things you might want to share.
Sharing Your Launch Events
As you are gearing up for the publication and the launch of your book, you’re going to have to do self-promotion on social media, and for a little while it’s going to be all about you. You can offset this by helping to promote the work of others, or sharing interesting articles or posts that have nothing to do with your writing career.
But even still if you have a new book that you’re bringing into the world and especially if it’s your first book, you must promote the events, readings, reviews, etc.
Your launch is an important event to share on social media because you want people to attend and buy your book.
The good news is that your launch is an audience-friendly event because there’s a takeaway: the launch.
You’re not bragging—you are inviting people to your book party. And you’ll want to share the event at least three times before your launch—once when the event comes out (usually a month or three weeks before) and then two or three times during the week leading up to the event.
When posting about this event, be clear that this launch is for your book and list and tag the other writers who are launching with the press.
Don’t feel shy about promoting launches, readings or talks. This is not bragging—it’s inviting, and it’s important to help out promoters, your publisher, and event organizers by sharing as widely as you can.
If it’s a Facebook event, many people who want to support you will say they are attending. Don’t feel sad when half the people who said they would come don’t show up. This is pretty common for Facebook invites. If you want to ensure that people come to your events, send out email invites to friends and peers—better if it’s not a mass email but a personal invite. This is time-consuming but much more effective.
If your book gets a review in a big paper or magazine, the chances are high that other people in your feed will share it on your behalf, so you don’t have to. This is great because good news is swirling around and you didn’t have to lift a finger.
But what if you write poetry and the review is in a well-respected but relatively unknown publication? Then you may have to share it yourself. This is fine. Lots of writers share reviews because reviews can get readers excited about their books.
However, it can be off-putting when a writer quotes the praise of their book in the post or when the writer evaluates the reviewer by saying they are brilliant or intelligent because the review is positive. What? Would they be an idiot if they didn’t receive your book so well?
I suggest just thank the publication who published and paid for the review, thank the reviewer, and share the link.
Likewise, if the review is negative and you still want to share it, avoid putting down the reviewer. A writer I deeply respect once shared a negative review and still thanked the reviewer for taking time with his book. Negative reviews can also get you readers. There’s no shame in having a negative review. It’s just an opinion.
Sharing Award News
Although contests, awards, and nominations may seem like they fall into the category of grants because they involve money, they are actually different because they offer social proof that can result in book sales should a writer be fortunate enough to be honored with one.
Most of these awards are announced on social media and like good reviews at big outlets your peers will often share this on your behalf. But if you want to share a post about an award win or nomination you’ve received then thank the jury, thank the award foundation or publication, and give a shout out to the other nominated writers.
Awards are hard to come by and so writers will generally be happy for you on this front and will understand your motivation for sharing it.
Thinking About Audience
All of this advice essentially comes down to thinking about your audience--your friends, family, colleagues, and readers.
Ensure there’s something in your posts for your audience—an article to read, a book to buy, an event to attend, or some really great news to congratulate.
Keep blatant bragging without a takeaway to a minimum and avoid talking about money which makes most of us feel terrible.
Thank whoever is propping you up and spread the love by propping up someone else.
And finally when you need to promote yourself, think about how you would feel to be on the receiving end of your good news on your shittiest day, and write your posts with that in mind.
Writing tips, prompts, and resources.