Do publishers really give a [Tweet] about a writer’s social media presence?

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, a weekly writing feature heralded by Master of Horror® Stephen King as “A rare combination of writing advice and rabies…” and by 50 Shades author E.L. James as “My literary yardstick, which I’d like to break over someone’s…”

But enough accolades!

For those who might be visiting for the first time, I should explain that my NWOW is when I gather the writing wisdom I’ve gained through 15 years as a columnist and offer it to you, much like a coffee baristo preparing your favorite latte, except without all that annoying screeching and frothing. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

This week’s NWOW topic was actually suggested by talented writer, mom and blogger Michelle at MamaMickTerry, who asked:

Dear Mr. Hickson: Does having a blog help or hinder getting published?

She followed this up a short time later, after what I’m guessing was a glass or two of wine, with a more specific question:

Listen here, Neddy-O: Do you think publishers really give a [TWEET] about a writer’s social media presence? DO you? And hey, is it just me or does Thor’s hair need some de-tangler?

The short answer to Michelle’s question is that, while there are certainly arguments for and against the merits of the exposure one gets from traveling between worlds, most women wouldn’t care if Thor was bald. Ok, no woman really cares.

The long answer, as you might’ve guessed, is a little more complicated and actually has nothing to do with Thor’s choice of hair products. Though I realize that most women have stopped reading this post to Google Chris Hemsworth — Fine, all women — I still plan to answer Michelle’s question regarding the value of social media in the eyes of publishers who, coincidentally, almost never look like Thor.

On the surface, the advantages of establishing a blog and linking it to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, MySpace and others seems pretty obvious. The bigger your presence in the cyberworld and the larger your following, the more likely your book will catch on and be embraced in the world that truly counts: The buying world.

For those who thought I was going to say the world of “Asgard,” I really need you to close that Chris Hemsworth window on your monitor.

Keep in mind that, particularly for a writer without a previous track record, a large online readership can get a publisher or agent to at least raise an eyebrow after reading a well-written query letter or email about your book. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to include direct links to your blog and other active social media sites at the end of your query, as well as a link to a sample chapter online. Unless specifically requested, don’t ever include an attachment with your emailed query; emails with attachments that actually make it past SPAM filters are routinely deleted. Even if you know the recipient is a female and you type “Thor” in the subject line.

While having a large online presence certainly doesn’t hurt, publishers also know that pushing the “like” or “follow” button is fast becoming a conditioned response which, more often than not, happens without a visitor even thinking about it. This obviously doesn’t includes anyone who visits THIS site, but you get the idea: Having 3,000 followers does not translate into 3,000 book sales.

However, there is another “plus” to building an online presence that tends to get overlooked but can be especially encouraging to an agent. Sure, having a large readership may or may not be a true reflection of the number of actual devoted readers you have, but the quality of your writing and regularity in which you post will speak for themselves. Notice I didn’t say “frequency” in which you post. An agent or publisher isn’t as interested in how often you publish as they are about your adherence to posting quality work on a regular basis.

My blog is an obvious exception to this rule.

I’d like to thank Michelle at MamaMickTerry for suggesting this week’s topic. I’d also like to thank Chris Hemsworth for giving me yet another reason to keep my gym membership.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

85 thoughts on “Do publishers really give a [Tweet] about a writer’s social media presence?”

  1. Wow, I’m practically the first to leave my conditioned like! I guess everyone else is still googling Chris Hemsworth.
    (Now that I’m done with the comment, i’m free to google him myself.)

  2. There is a theory on goal setting, or a theory of some sort that I’m going to do no justice as I try to recall it, that suggests not announcing personal goals to the world because there is evidence that stating a goal gives just enough sense of accomplishment that you may be less inclined to follow through with it because there is already a feeling of having done it. For example: I’m going to run a half-marathon. The idea is that I’m now psychologically satisfied enough with that decision that I don’t actually have to run anywhere, or even stand up from this chair, in order to feel accomlpished.

    At this point you are asking yourself why I’ve written so much on a seemingly unrelated topic. And you are mousing over to click back to that Chris Hemsworth tab, but hold on! The connection is that I have my own take on this goal stating theory that says when a person clicks “Like” or “Follow” or “Fave” on one of the social media or blogging sites it is essentially the same satisfaction as if they actually carried out whatever it is the thing they are liking or following is asking them to do. Put simply, your articles are asking to be read, but chances are some people read the first paragraph in the WordPress reader or on a social media site and they might click like without reading the rest of it, planning to read it later when they have more time maybe. Or when you post a link to your new book and people click like but never click the actual link to even read it’s description on Amazon. I suggest that clicking like is as satisfying to us psychologically as actually following through a link and reading the article or considering purchasing the book.

    Maybe someone has already studied and proven this, or it’s just so ridiculously obvious that it doesn’t need to be said. Either way, as your official unlicensed blog psychologist I want to add my witness to your observation that clicking “Like” or “Follow” is a type of conditioned response. A response that satisfies any feeling of obligation to take the next step and generates a sense of accomplishment.

      1. Thor and I have our own, special thunder, Ned. It’s a distinct sound made especially for me. My husband calls it delusion. Pfff… okay, honey.

        You men…

                1. (laughing) It was our daughter’s idea when she was 4. She initially wanted ‘Cheesy’ but Erik stormed all over the house and said, “I’m NOT fricking calling the cat Cheesy.”

                  Now we just call him buddy or turkeybutt.

                2. Syd’s an only child so Daddy-O and I try to make it fun for her. She and Erik are upstairs, as we speak, playing ‘Skyrim’ the most awesome PC video game ever.

                  Ned, I can’t imagine your house boring.

                3. Three teenagers, two dogs and a cat? Yeah, “boring” isn’t a word used often to describe out home. Unless you’re a cage fighter or something.

  3. I am a redhead, an Aries, stubborn and pretty much all the other stereotypes that go with being a redhead, and add in perimenopausal so it isn’t all that often I hit the like button.

    1. TMT is a lot of fun, and a great feature on your blog. Benze on books sounds like a nice addition that will add a nice variety along with Share Your Week.

      Keep it up and I look forward to the new review posts 😉

  4. I couldn’t agree with your more that having a presence established – hopefully in multiple arenas – does help when you have something to sell. My former career (and current efforts) involved a great deal of marketing. It’s a win if someone thinks they may have heard about you or product whether or not they actually had any interaction with you or it. It is important that anyone can verify that you are in fact out there. There’s a crap-load of psych reasoning in it, but I won’t bore you with all of that. That’s what my own posts are for. :p

    So, yes, applying regular effort to ‘being out there’ matters. In my world I ask people, repeatedly, if they’ve ever heard of Coke. They always say, of course, everyone’s heard of Coke. Then I ask them so why then, do they think Coke spends all that constant time and money on world-wide marketing? In simpler terms, out of sight, out of mind – no matter how big something’s become.

    1. That’s a great analogy about Pepsi… I mean COKE! Sheeesh! Their marketing people really need to bring things up a notch.

      Seriously, though — what you’re saying is so very true, and part of trying to establish yourself beyond the constant white noise out there.

    2. I make take issue with that well known truism – Chris Hemsworth’s biceps will never be out of mind, no matter how large they become…

  5. I was with you all the way until you said “regularity.” Then I started thinking about poop jokes…Now, what were you talking about? Oh well.

    *Presses Like button*

  6. I’m glad to hear that my 350 blog posts weren’t a waste of time! I started writing to build a writer’s platform even though it took me a year or two to understand what that meant. I’m still editing my first novel and hope at least a couple of followers buy it so I don’t have to sell them out of my trunk in a Walmart parking lot….

  7. You had me at detangler! AND, since you wrote Thor into almost the same paragraph as me, well, that just means he’s mine. Claimed! Ha! (In case Jennie from Daisies reads this)

    What a fantastic article! Actually, it’s completely opposite than what I thought and was relieved to see your advice. My online presence doesn’t even sniff of being huge, but I was starting to feel “invasive” of my family and friends in their facebook space and hopped over to Twitter and Instagram to give them a break and still find new readers. Turns out (in addition to your advice) that the Amtrak writer’s residency is also looking for a diverse online presence and it’s in a writer’s benefit to have several venues to display their work. I learn so much from you and your writers. Next, I keep hearing I need to learn about SEO. Heck–I’m still getting the formatting features and spell check figured out!

    I’m a little worried about poet Paul though…two words, really? 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to hear you liked the post, Michelle! I debated about including the “quotes” from you, but had a feeling you’d be OK with it. Glad my hunch was right. And I’m also glad no one heard me debating with myself.

      I have to admit, I am severely technically challenged. I have no idea what a SEO is; it just sounds like someone calling a pig in proper English…

  8. I appreciate your take on this, by which I mean the detangler, though the social media part was all right, too, I guess. Heading to a writers conference tomorrow that features “speed dating” with agents who couldn’t line up a less pleasant procedure for a Saturday morning, like a colonoscopy.

  9. Sooo, what you’re really saying Ned, is I should actually read all that stuff BEFORE I hit the LIKE button, not like I mean to later on when I’ve got the time…hmm, you might be onto something there, mate.

      1. You know the one I love is when they comment and it’s obvious they only got as far as the title which coincidentally has little to do with the actual post…I always struggle with not starting a comment stream with those ones.

  10. Like I was telling a date the other night, there’s just something not right about someone who can’t be electronically stalked in 2014.

No one is watching, I swear...

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