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poetry organisations such as Apples and Snakes. ‘After an event I get a flurry of tweets and followers. I can have 40 new teenage followers after a school workshop,’ she says. It’s tempting to engage with everyone, ‘but it has to be poetry first, then Twitter’. With this in mind, she has decided to keep her Instagram account private, to cut down the need to be professional about a second time- consuming network. The lesson? Be strategic; stick to one or two networks.Twitter should be your first choice: it’s easy to master, and a favourite of the publishing industry. And your tweets and profile appear on Google search results, which is great for visibility. ‘Twitter helps writers get a better sense of what agents like, especially if they’re new to writing,’ says Shaikh. ‘It’s a fabulous listening tool. Learn the etiquette and use it little and often.’If you’re new to Twitter, set aside 30-60 minutes to grasp the basics (the hashtag #EdBallsDay explains why this is necessary), such as @-mentions, retweeting and building lists – and you’re ready to go.Claire Fuller, a novelist, artist and blogger (clairefuller.co.uk), prefers short bursts of activity: ‘When I’ve done a bit of writing, I spend ten minutes on Twitter and Instagram – that feels like enough’. Notice, just two platforms...Posts could include a new book you’re reading (@-mentioning the author), a bookshop you’ve discovered, or the treat you’ve awarded yourself for hitting your word count. Don’t post for the sakeof it. This isn’t a dinner party; there’s no awkward silence to fill.Blogging takes more time. Unless you area fluent and accomplished writer, crafting an engaging and informative blog post can gobble up an hour or more. And unless you’re careful, it can consume the energy you might want to save for your creative work-in-progress. So by all meanstry blogging, via WordPress or Blogger, but only if you’re genuinely interested for its own sake, and have some engaging content to offer. Blogging, like all social networking, should be fun and expressive. If you feel uninspired, just walk away.Claire Fuller blogs about the publishing industry – including interviewing her ownliterary translator. Establishing that niche was fundamental, she says. ‘Are you going to post about how you write, or review books, or interview other people?’ she says. ‘Make sure you post regularly and keep static pages updated. A blog that hasn’t been touched in months isn’t so inviting.’Fuller recommends blogging once a week – once you’ve established the habit it becomes easier. But if you can’t sustain that output, don’t panic. Aim to update a personal blog once or twice a month, and fill any gaps by bingewriting a few all at once and backdating them (a simple trick on WordPress).If you want to test the waters before committing to your own regular blog, try guest posting. If your book is set locally, approachthe websites of regional papers and magazines. Remember to keep all your content unique – it’s bad practice to post duplicate texts. Or pitchfor a Huffington Post blogging gig (HuffPostUK@ Huffingtonpost.com).Anne Cater is the founder of Book Connectors,a Facebook community linking publishedauthors with bloggers (she also blogs at randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.co.uk). She believes that interacting with your readersis essential: ‘Bloggers and reviewers absolutely love it when an author acknowledges a review; a re-tweet or a ‘like’ is lovely, but a personal message is wonderful,’ she says. Whether you reply to someone a day or a week later doesn’t matter; it’s the acknowledgement that matters.Twitter, Facebook and blogging are the key platforms for writers. Of the other main networks, I would avoid Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, which can be time-intensive and demanding (unless you decide to incorporate them in your creative output for their own sake – see p17).But you could still consider Instagram if youare interested in linking visual content to your writing. ‘I’ve noticed a number of publishers using Instagram to show off beautiful pictures of their books,’ says Sarah Shaffi, online editor at the Bookseller and book reviewer for Stylist magazine.It involves minimal effort to use hashtags on Instagram to reach others. Shaffi recommends #bookstagram; you could also look at #shelfie, #bookworm and #poetry.If you stick to a schedule, and limit yourtime online, it should be possible to prevent social media having a negative impact on your creative work. If you find yourself using social media to procrastinate, set up some specific obstacles. Untick the ‘keep me logged in’ box on your computer; reject push notifications on your smartphone or tablet; uninstall social apps for a few days (don’t worry, you won’t lose your profile).‘I know of writers who deactivate their accounts if they’re in the midst of writing, or at a crucial part of the editing process,’ says Shaffi. This is echoed by Abbie Greaves of Curtis Brown, who accepts that writers have to ‘go dark’ sometimesto focus on their work. ‘It’s easy to forget there is a world beyond social media,’ says Shaffi. ‘But there are plenty of other ways people hear about books: reviews, personal appearances and, of course, through word of mouth.’ ■THE PITCH FOR THIS FEATURE‘limit your usage to set times of the day, and plan how to use that time’Polly got in touch quite a while ago – in November 2015 – after contributing to oursurvey on social media (SM). She originally pitched an idea about SM addiction, which is something we’ve covered in the past and which has become something of a cliché. Butas she was clearly a professional SM wonk with lots of journalism experience, I wondered whether she could come at the issue from the opposite end, as it were: not advising an addict on how to cut back, but advising SM wallflowers (aka me) on the bare minimum she can get away with yet still have an impact. Polly was enthusiastic about the new approach and sent a sharp five-point plan for how she would tackle the brief. But I had already commissioned that issue, so the idea went onto the back burner – and didn’t come tothe boil again in my mind until December. By which time she’d lost sight of the ‘minimal’ aspect of the brief and came up with so many SM suggestions that I felt daunted rather than energised to get a grip. True pro that she is, she rewrote it practically overnight – and I am already planning an update to my woefully moribund website. DEBBIE TAYLORKEEP IT SIMPLEFocus on one or two networks only; choose those that are most likely to reach your target audience (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the most popular). Once you’ve mastered the platforms in question, you need only spend an hour a day maintaining your social media profile.WEEKLY► Either two to three Twitter sessions of 10-15 minutes each. ► Or one Facebook/Instagram session of 10-15 minutes.► Post your message, then interact with peers, readersand industry people. Set a stopwatch if you’re likely to overrun.► If you are blogging too, you can tweet to promote a new blog post.MONTHLY► One or two posts on your personal blog (allocate 45-60 minutes to write and upload a post).QUARTERLY► If you are guest posting, once a quarter is enough.mslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 53


































































































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