Content is Queen
Posted on May 4th, 2012
I have been vacillating on whether I should post this for weeks. But the Oatmeal did a hilarious and very true cartoon on the subject of Facebook likes and two friends talked me into it, and, well…it’s late at night and I do all sorts of crazy things late at night. Here’s the post.
I’ve recently looked at a lot of writers’ websites. And…there is a big problem with many of them.
I know many of them have been told by publishers they must have a blog! They must be on Facebook! They must be on Twitter! But — and I say this with love — I’m guessing no one told them how they should engage with social media.
Ah, they may be thinking (if they are reading this, since I don’t know if I’m similarly visited by writers), who the hell are you to tell me how to engage in social media? You’re just a lawyer with a blog who can’t generate an elevator pitch. Who cares what you think?
Fine, fair question. I have a secret. Not only am I bossy and judgmental, but I started writing copy for websites in 1996. One of my hobby websites turned into a book — albeit for a niche geeky market — for which I was paid real money. My first job out of college was writing copy for websites. I started blogging in 2003 — late by Gen X standards, but still, it’s been almost 10 years. I even ghost-blogged for lawyers and was paid (better) money, too. So I know a little of what I speak.
There is one rule.
You must have content.*
If, on your blog, you can only talk about yourself and your book, I will assume you are a bore and your book is boring.
If every tweet is an advertisement or about what you ate for dinner, or heaven forbid, a retweet of someone saying something nice about your book, I will assume you are a bore and your book is boring. (There is a way of doing this that doesn’t look gauche. Your tweet says: “Thank you, @niceperson, for your kind words about Myawesomebook! #MadeMyDay” — that ensures everyone that follows you sees the tweet, not just @niceperson. However, the people who are already following you probably already know all about your book, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it.)
If every Facebook post is about some wonderful aspect of your life or a glowing review of your book, I will assume — well, you’ve got it by now.
Content is not that someone loved your book.
Content is not that you went out for dinner.
Content is not that you have a perfect, wonderful life with your perfect, wonderful partner and your perfect, wonderful kids.
Content is not blathering on about yourself and then tossing a “What do you think?” at the end of your post, but asking for advice is generally fine. (In fact, that’s much like what it was like to talk to my parents, except they never asked what I thought.)
Content is about telling people something interesting, something they may not know, or something that will start a conversation. Content is telling stories. Content is providing a forum for people to interact.
Whatever is an extraordinary blog. I don’t read Scalzi’s books (Sorry! Gman does!), but I love the blog. He talks about all kinds of stuff, and most of it has nothing to do with his writing gigs.
That is content. Look at the people who comment! They engage with him, with each other, and they have a good time doing it. They comprise one of the most civilized internet forums in the history of the internet. Scalzi is a masterful entertainer. We should all study that.
Content can be funny stories, musings (although no politics, please), thoughts on music. Review books that aren’t in your genre, that your readers may never have heard of. Talk about your worst job ever. Offer advice. Talk about advances in science or stamp collecting. Write dirty limericks. Share funny or moving stories. If you have a contest, have a contest for something people want, like a gift card, or your very favorite book in all the world. (Note: it should not be your own book.)
So there you are. Be yourself — and be interesting.
And I will confess: I have never purchased a book or a song or a movie or anything else because the author talked about it on social media. But I have bought almost every new book of late because other people have talked them up. If you are interesting, if you are funny, if you engage — people will share what you say and word will get out.
*The corollary is you must have new content from time to time. It doesn’t have to be every day, but you need to keep things fresh, or people will forget about you or stop visiting your site. BUT! If you don’t have the will for that — then don’t. Have one static page that says everything people need to know about you. Make it fun to read. Have some useful stuff there.