Two Years of Whirlabout

Whirlabout started in September of 2011, but the idea started a few months earlier. I studied Book Publishing at Portland State University, in the Ooligan Press graduate program, and when you graduate, after you’ve turned in your portfolio and your final paper, you sit and drink tea and eat sweets with a select group of your professors, and talk about the future.

My talk culminated in a call to action. There was a need for someone to teach authors how to set up and manage their social media presence, and I really couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do for a living. A few months later, Whirlabout New Media was born. I worked with two other friends on and off in the beginning, but ultimately Whirlabout is my baby, and I’m happy to say that I’m still here over two years later.

I really believe in the power of new media to connect the reading community. I believe, because I’ve seen it in action. Many of the most successful and influential YA authors right now have very active online lives. They maintain blogs and websites, are constantly interacting with their fans through Facebook and Twitter, and are paving their own way through the internet with sites like Youtube, Tumblr, and Goodreads. I also know that everyone is different, and not every website appeals to every person. Here at Whirlabout, we take a goal-oriented approach to social media. I aim to work directly with authors (established, new, and even prospective) to help figure out what strategy works best for each of them.

Social media is just that, social, which is why I teach my clients to manage the sites themselves, instead of doing the maintenance for them. There’s nothing wrong with hiring someone to handle your marketing and social media efforts, but many of us don’t have the money to invest in that kind of long-term position, and I feel social media is most effective when it comes from the authors themselves. Social media is about connecting directly with your fans, and who can do that better than you?

If you’re feeling a little lost amid all the sites out there, have a publisher requesting you establish a presence on specific sites, or are looking to set up an online platform while you query your novel, I can help. To see the different services we offer, check out our Services page, and for pricing information go to our Packages page. You can also browse our Tips for Social Media, to get some free ideas.

-Lucy Softich
Founder

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Quick Tip #3: Set a Schedule

Photo by hang_in_there via Flickr.com.

Photo by hang_in_there via Flickr.com.

It may seem a little odd to set a schedule for something as casual as Facebook or Twitter, but if you’re using social media as a professional author, you need to be diligent about it. Remember: this is a part of your job now.

It’s a good idea to update your blog, if you have one, ever week or every other week, to keep readers coming back. If you’re keeping a static website, it’s a good idea to go review your site monthly to make sure all the information is up to date, especially if you have any ongoing events or tours.

For sites like Facebook and Twitter, you of course update whenever you have something note-worthy to share (news about your next book, your tour schedule, or you new blog post, for example), but you should be interacting between updates as well. With Facebook, every few days is best, but twice a week is a good minimum. With Twitter, the more the better really, but I advise aiming for at least one interaction a day; it can be an original tweet or  a retweet, but it’s important that you keep yourself visible.

This may sound a little overwhelming, but you don’t need to schedule social media time every day. Using sites like Hootsuite and apps like Tweetdeck, you can set up tweets and Facebook updates ahead of time. You can designate a few hours on a specific day each week, and spend that time creating the updates for the week ahead. Of course, you can always pop your head in during the week to actively participate, but you don’t need to feel like you have to be constantly online.

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Social Media Spotlight: Tumblr

Tumblr-IconTumblr is another one of those sites I get questions about a lot, although I don’t actually see a lot of authors using it. Although basically Tumblr is just another blogging site, much like WordPress or Blogspot, it encompasses features from a lot of other forms of social media. The commenting system is more like Twitter, where you comment by re-posting instead of leaving a comment directly; and like Pinterest, it’s more focused on images and less on text.

There are upsides and downsides to Tumblr. As blogging sites go, it isn’t as rubust as WordPress, and it’s not something you would use to create a blogsite or main website. Although Tumblr has a rich community, I’ve always found the commenting system a little cumbersome. While it’s great for image-only posts, Tumblr isn’t ideal for embedding images in a post that is primarily text.

Many people really like Tumblr, but much like Pinterest, it has very specific niches. I’ve mainly seen Young Adult and genre authors using it, so do some research into your market before deciding to give Tumblr a go. It’s definitely more casual than WordPress, and has its own unique culture. I don’t recommend Tumblr to authors who are new to social media, or who are looking for one primary outreach to fans, but it can be a great addition to a complex social media campaign.

Looking to set up a blogsite? Check out my Spotlight on WordPress.

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Social Media Spotlight: Pinterest

pinterestI’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about Pinterest, and there’s been a lot of buzz about it over the last year. Usually Pinterest is described as being a digital bulletin board—but I like to think of it more as a visual collection of links.

On Pinterest, you collect (“pin”) images in different folders, to be shared with your friends. You can find the images from within Pinterest, but you can also pin images from most other websites as well. This is where things get interesting. Say you find a recipe you really like, and you want to not only save the link, but share it with your friends. When you pin an image from the recipe onto Pinterest, it keeps track of the source—the url of the recipe—and anyone who clicks on that image will be taken back to the original recipe. This is one reason why I like Pinterest better than a lot of photo-sharing sites, like Facebook or Tumblr.

Pinterest is a really cool site, but it definitely appeals to specific niches. Although it has a variety of users, Pinterest is very heavily used by people keeping track of recipes, gardening tips, interior design, and DIY projects. While it has its uses for authors, you should research your audience heavily before deciding if Pinterest would be a good fit for you.

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Quick Tip #2: Pace Yourself

photo by Don DeBold.

photo by Don DeBold.

Your editor is insisting you start a twitter account, you just picked up a wonderful book on Facebook, your cousin won’t stop talking about Pinterest, and you hear Tumblr’s all the rage right now. You know that many authors are out there, utilizing all these sites, and you want to be one of them. It’s easy to throw yourself into three, five, or even ten sites, trying to launch them all at once in a flurry of motivation. But it’s also really easy to get burnt out.

Unless you’re already really comfortable with another site, I always recommend starting small with just Twitter, Facebook, and a blog or website through your chosen platform (I prefer WordPress). Make that website your priority, because once you have started putting yourself out there on social media, you’re going to want an easy place to send people to learn more about your book (and what better than your own website?).

If you’r starting with Facebook, make sure to create an author or book page separate from your personal page, so you can keep your personal life (and your family’s) in a different space from your author life. You can do this from your personal account simply by typing “pages” into the search bar at the top of Facebook, and selecting “Facebook Pages.”

Many people don’t like Twitter, but it’s a great tool for getting to network with other members of your genre’s community, and it can be a fun way to interact with fans. Don’t be afraid to just watch twitter for awhile. Make an account, follow some authors you like or know, and see how they use it. Once you feel ready, start interacting with them. And be sure to update both Facebook and Twitter whenever you update your blog or website!

Once you’ve gotten a few sites under your belt, you can start to experiment with other ones. If one site really doesn’t work for you, don’t stress about it; move on to something that sounds more fun. It’s important to utilize the sites out there, but if you’re not having fun, your fans won’t be, either. (Remember Tip #1?)

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Social Media Spotlight: WordPress

wordpress_big

To be an author in our current culture, a website is a must. You don’t have to have an active blog, but at the very least you need a place to announce upcoming events, releases, and opportunities. Your website is like the nerve-center of your online presence; all your other social media efforts branch out from it, and ultimately lead back to it. There are a few different platforms out there to use, but WordPress is my favorite.

I like WordPress because it gives you a lot of behind-the-scenes control, and can grow as you grow. You can start out with a free WordPress site, and easily upgrade to your own hosting later, giving you more control and more complex features. Even with a free site, you can add a custom domain for a very low fee (about $20 a year).

WordPress provides a number of well-designed, simple themes for your blog, so you don’t have to stress over the design, and it’s as easy to update as writing in a Word document. Although it can be a little overwhelming, it’s pretty user-friendly, and most people I work with are surprised at how quickly they pick it up.

Use WordPress to:
-act as your “home” on the web
-follow other blogs
-share your writing process, anecdotes, and news through your blog

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Quick Tip #1: Have Fun

red balloons

photo by technicolor76.

For many authors and aspiring authors, social media can be an abstract goal. You know it’s important for building your platform, you know your publisher or agent or writing group is encouraging you to do it, and you probably know there’s a difference between personal social media, and professional. But you may not know how to actually go about finding your audience, and engaging them.

My first, most important piece of advice is: relax, and try to have fun with it. Find the sites you like and that you feel comfortable with, and if a site doesn’t work for you, it’s ok. Move on. Focus most of your energy on the sites you do enjoy being on. Social media is meant to be a way of connecting with your audience and your fans in a fun, genuine way; if you’re not having fun with it, your audience will pick up on that, and it won’t be worth it in the long run. It’s hard to keep doing something if you’re not enjoying it, and frequent use is important with social media. Experiment with new sites, but when you find what you really like, run with it.

I find that my clients have the most fun with their Facebook Pages and their blogs.

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